30 August, 2007

What if..................

With the season not even two weeks old, people have already been muttering those immortal footballing words ‘what if…’: “What if Liverpool had taken three points against Chelsea?” “What if Healy’s goal for Fulham had stood?” and so on. If either team’s ultimate fate this season is decided by a point or two either way, then fans will definitely look back on these big decisions when in retrospect the officials got it wrong.

Here at STT though we’re not about finger pointing (unless it’s a WAG-related ‘wardrobe malfunctions’), so the co-ordinates of our What If Machine (patent pending) for this first instalment take us back to a time when cruel fate was the perpetrator of England’s downfall in the 1996 European Championships on home soil.

What if ......... Gascoigne had connected with Shearer's pass and scored the deciding golden goal (England vs. Germany - Euro '96 semi final)

Ok, so an obvious place to start. But as young boy I seemed to spend my entire spare time day dreaming about England winning a major international trophy, and I refuse to believe I was alone in kicking a ball into a empty net at my local park, screaming “Sheeearer” and wheeling away as if I’d just won the European Cup in the last minute. We’ve all done it, because it means everything. And the closest England have ever come in my lifetime was Euro ’96 so this is without doubt my ultimate ‘what if…’

In the few years prior to the tournament, England’s record had been poor to say the least. Euro ‘92 saw the team fail to progress further than the group stage; managed by Graham Taylor, and boasting players of the calibre of Carlton Palmer and Tony Daley, it was hardly surprising that we exited at the hands of a Tomas Brolin-inspired Sweden. And then, just over a year later things went from bad to worse as England failed to even qualify for World Cup ‘94 across the pond in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

By the time Euro ‘96 finally came around, the nation appeared to have lost all faith in the team, a fact no more evident than in Skinner and Baddiel’s pleading anthem ‘3 Lions’ : “thirty years of huuuurt, never stopped me dreeeaming!” To further set the tone, England also only entered the tournament as the bookmaker’s fifth favourite, unheard of for a seeded home nation. Even worse though, the team itself did little to inspire confidence when it was reported that Gascoigne, Sheringham and McManaman amongst others, had partaken in the famous ‘dentist’s chair’ incident on the team’s recent Far East tour. So to summarise: we were a load of drunken losers, only in the tournament in the first place because we were hosting it.

But something was happening that summer. Buoyed by a continuously sold out Wembley, and driven by the inspirational Terry Venables, the team somehow found itself in the semi-finals against the Germans; old enemy and the tournament favourites. To reach this dizzy height, England had beaten Scotland 2-0, with a sublime goal by Gascoigne, and destroyed the Dutch in a display that highlighted the effectiveness of Venables’ infamous Christmas-tree formation. But perhaps the most important point to note is that against Spain, another pre-tournament favourite, England had actually won a penalty shoot-out. The demons of the previous six years had in theory, been exercised, and the team entered the match mentally capable of anything.

England took a third minute lead through Shearer latching onto a Gascoigne corner, before the aptly named Kuntz equalised on 16 minutes. Unlike any previous World or European Tournament, a golden goal would have been good enough to see either team through after 90 minutes, and it was Gascoigne’s despairing attempt to reach a Shearer ball that came closest; failing to connect by no more than the length of a bottle of hair bleach. But IF Gascoigne had made that slight touch, England would’ve been flying into the final against a solid but far less talented Czech team, where inspired by the victory over Germany, they surely would’ve won their second major trophy.

The knock-on effect would have been palpable.

England wins the European Cup, as a team who had not only beaten the Germans on merit but perhaps most importantly, a team who had won their last penalty shootout. The Gareth Southgate stigma doesn’t exist and England enter the ‘98 World Cup in France with the nucleus of the winning side from Euro ‘96. Hoddle, unable to drop the hero of Euro ‘96, includes Gascoigne, who starts the match against Argentina in place of David Batty. Gascoigne, as a natural penalty-taker, steps up and coolly slots home to take the shootout into extra time. Both sides, struggling to find players willing to take penalties, look to defenders. Argentina place faith in ageing centre-back Nelson Viva’s, who chooses power over precision and blasts his shot straight at Seaman. For England, Gareth Southgate boldly steps forward. Knowing no different, Southgate chooses to place his penalty to Carlos Roa’s right. Roa, having chosen left in four of the previous penalties, sticks to his guns and fails to prevent Southgate’s rolled penalty finding the net…

Would England have beaten the Dutch? Perhaps not. The Brazilians? Certainly not. But after two major tournaments, England hold a 2 to 1 record in penalty shootouts. Given the psychological element of penalties though, a team’s past record can be half the battle, as demonstrated in our recent failed effort against Portugal at World Cup ’06.

So, in a grand statement of pure speculation: just six inches have determined an entire decade of international disappointment and heartbreak for English football…sorry Gazza!

29 August, 2007

Mascot of the week 3

Name – Paisley Panda

Affiliation – St. Mirren

Animal – Panda

Colour – Black and White

Level of ridiculousness – 5 (the use of a panda as a mascot for purely alliterative purposes is admirable but simply stealing a WWF animal outfit and putting a home shirt on him is lazy at best)

Most common missile pelted with – Actual knives

Crime rating (sponsored by 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records) – 7

As well as being home to the 8th worst university in the country, according to the Times Good University Guide 2007, Paisley is also the residence of the once-notorious Paisley Panda. Now a much tamer beast, the Paisley Panda’s on-field antics caused uproar amongst rival fans and resulted in the St. Mirren mascot becoming the most infamous in Scottish football.

Well known for doing absolutely anything to wind up visiting fans, the Panda’s moment of infamy came in 2003. After being warned for whipping Queen of the South followers into a frenzy by pretending to shag an inflatable sheep in front of the rural supporters, Paisley Panda finally went too far in the eyes of his employers when he stole a Falkirk strip from the visitors’ dressing room prior to the game and proceed to pretend to use it to wipe his arse in front of the enraged Bairns fans. Complaints to the police ensued, leading to the resignation of that particular incarnation of the Paisley Panda.

A special mention ought also to be made of Paisley Panda’s spectacular hard work in baiting followers of Greenock Morton. The rivalry between the two clubs has always been fierce, with those from Greenock being stereotyped as stinking soap-dodgers on the social (with some good reason), and this provided the Panda with particular ammunition. Emerging in front of visiting Morton fans at St. Mirren’s Love Street home armed with a bar of soap and long-handled brush, Paisley Panda proceeded to “wash” – presumably to teach them how to do it themselves. On another of Morton’s visits, he even produced a giant pine tree air freshener which he placed in front of their supporters, almost sparking a brawl with Morton’s own mascot before the police intervened. No one-trick-pony, he also been known to dance in front of the visitors with a banjo whilst playing the theme from Deliverance, and join in with Morton’s warm-up to lend a disruptive hand.

Though no longer as wild as he was once, mainly thanks to the advice of the local constabulary, Paisley Panda is still present at the Buddies’ games, along with his ‘son’ Junior P. His inspirational deeds have passed into St. Mirren folklore, and thus surely earn him his position as Mascot of the Week.

28 August, 2007

Gameweek 4 – ‘Time 4 Sum Aksion’

Happy Tuesday everyone, and apologies for the delay in weekly update but we at STT utterly respect the sovereign sanctuary of the Bank Holiday from all activities that aren’t sitting in a pub beer garden. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves over the cracking three-day weekend and big up all those people who reached Notting Hill Carnival, a lot of Red Stripe got drained and a lot of chicken got comprehensively jerked.

Anyways, back to business as all the big 4 win in the same weekend for the first time and Bolton get back to winning ways. Excellent weekend of action with Tottenham vs. Manchester United a particular early season highlight. I still cannot believe that the Spurs board is actually considering sacking the coolest manager in the Premier League after just four games. Ok so they were abysmal in the first two games of the season but the performances against Derby and Man U were top notch, especially from Berbatov and Gareth ‘the next big thing’ Bale.

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

Keeper – Craig Gordon (many great saves that he had no right to make…might be Scottish/Competent goal-keeper oxymoron that Keane was hoping for all along)

Defence – Sol Campbell (immense as ever), Rio Ferdinand (solid at the back and few decent efforts from corners), Pascal Chimbonda (superb pace and positioning), Jlloyd Samuel (excellent performance as Bolton kept their first clean sheet of the season)

Midfield – Cesc Fabregas (ran things and topped it off with a superb goal), Florent Malouda (a constant threat going forward, always wanting the ball), Eddie Lewis (consummate performance from the American), Gareth Barry (inspirational as Villa took all three points)

Up Top – Cameron Jerome (caused constant problems, but manages to keep a straight face when he's getting his, as above) Nicolas Anelka (powerful and dangerous throughout)

Weekly Awards:

Nutmeg of the Week Scumbag Gareth Barry on professional scumbag Paul Konchesky.

Goal of the Week – Has to be Paul Scharner for his one-two punch of an unreal overhead kick and a sweet bleached Mohawk, but special mention to N’Zogbia, Voronin and little Nani who all scored crackers too. They all have ultimately shit haircuts though.

Save of the Week – Tim Howard clawing away David Dunn’s long-range effort that was homing in on the top corner.

Skill of the Week – Mikel Arteta’s beautiful 360 Maradona spin.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Deflecting a dangerous looking Drogba backheel past D.J. Ok so he’s scored 3 goals in 3 games this week but literally what else does he contribute???

Fashion Statement of the Week - El-Hadji Diouf’s spectacular combination of beige jacket, light blue shirt and brown tie. He is just blinded by the size of his diamond earrings to the extent where he basically gets dressed in the pitch black?

Best TagTeam/Potential-Rap-Duo-If-Their-Careers-Go-Down-the-Pan-Anytime-Soon of the Week – El-Hadji Diouf and Nicolas Anelka

Rumour of the WeekAdriano joining Manchester City on loan from Inter Milan. His agent has completely ruled it out which means it’ll almost certainly happen in a day or two…watch this space…

Superman of the Week – Ashley Cole goes full length to head Hreidesson’s late effort off the Chelsea line.

Action Hero Cameo of the Week – Amazing to see Steve Finnan run off his grueling latest mission undercover as Jason Bourne to still play this weekend.

Jinx of the Week
Fulham’s bizarre record of playing in four games this season where the first team to score first has eventually lost 2-1. If you need a good exorcist down there guys, give me a shout cos I know a superb ex-Voodoo Priest who works weekends. He’s local too.

Effort of the Week – Kasper Schmeichel heading just over the bar in an effort to further replicate his father’s greatness.

Referee's Blunder of the Week – Howard Webb for somehow failing to see Wes Brown’s handball on the line to prevent Berbatov’s bundled effort putting Spurs 1-0 up at Old Trafford.

Ex-Colonial Gent of the Week – Mark Viduka for his sublime goal and class at not actually celebrating it in front of the Middlesbrough fans who idolized him for so long.

‘The Tony Warner and Jens Lehmann Award for Gaff of the Week’ Martin O'Neill; not only did he get sent to the stands at half time for berating the ref, but he had serious communication difficulties. Having tried shouting, semaphore and carrier pigeons, O'Neill had to enlist the help of a burly steward to operate a walky-talky for him.

Hero of the Week – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; ok so technically he didn’t do anything but the little poaching scamp announced his retirement today, due to persistent knee problems, so it’s more of an honorary award this week. 130 goals are not bad for someone who looks so convincingly like a pixie and rarely actually started a game in 11 years!

Zero of the WeekUnfortunately it has to be Billy Davies, who has until the close of the transfer window on Friday to buy at least one striker capable of getting the ball in the net in the Premiership. Their 3 goals so far have come from Matt Oakley (midfield) and Andy Todd (defensive midfielder).

Personal Highlight of the WeekBlackburn's classy away strip of black and red halves. A throwback to their Premier League-winning-season away strip of the mid-90s, even Robbie Savage looked good enough to not get booked.

Ashley's ride is too hot for Cheryl

'bit to the left love'

Poor Cheryl Cole. It's bad enough being married to a footballer on £80,000 a week, but it's going a bit far when they expect you to accept ostentatious gifts. She refused Ashley's offer of a £150,000 Bentley, claiming she didn't deserve it. Why not? What does she feel like she's done, or hasn't done? Just being a celebrity beard is effort enough, I think. Or just maybe there weren't enough diamonds in the ashtray and not enough gold in the paintjob.

Still, we support her dogged determination in the face of such aggressive gift giving, but we here at STT feel like we could offer Cheryl a more... er ... suitable ... er ... ride. I've got a clapped out old G reg nova with no MOT and plenty of rust under the arches. Oh, and some wee Jakey's pinched the windscreen wipers and the hubcaps. And one of the wheels. It'd remind her of the estate back home.

24 August, 2007

The New Wembley Chronicles

It’s not often that I agree with anything Gary Lineker says, but two days ago in The Sun something he had written actually made me chin-stroke and nod along sagely in agreement, drawing some pretty strange looks from people around me on the tube.

He said we need to turn this New Wembley into a fortress, and make visiting teams fear comingover here to play us again: “We rarely lost there in my time — and this new stadium does have to start feeling like home for England, otherwise we won’t qualify for the European Championships.” And he’s dead right. We may need to win all of our remaining games to dig ourselves out of a hole to actually qualify, and this will only happen if home games are as close to guaranteed victories as possible.

I couldn’t really care less about international friendlies, so only saw a few of the highlights two nights ago, but the general consensus from guys that went to the game I spoke to was, “same old England.” A lot of promise but no final product. 90,000 fans under-whelmed by the team yet again and even out-sung by the pockets of traveling German supporters.

Yes, it was a friendly and no, we didn’t have our full strength team and we were unlucky and blah blah blah. Irregardless of the final score, Lineker’s point still holds. Any opposing team that steps out into our national stadium should be greeted by a huge wall of noise, towering above them in the incredible surroundings. Not only that, but if anything is going to inspire our team to actually perform anywhere near as well as we’re constantly told they can, then surely it’s that kind of epic crowd noise and support. Remind them they’re playing for their country and what it means to everyone else in that stadium. And no, that doesn’t mean whistling and booing during the German national anthem for fuck’s sake.

23 August, 2007

Hot New Imports - Manchester Edition. Watch out ladies!

Nani (United)

With a Government name like Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, it’s no wonder that this young Portugeuse scamp has stuck with his nickname. He has shown a great deal of flair in his 3 appearances this season, coupled with a cool head and decent temperament, made even more impressive when you consider how much of a little whinger Christiano Ronaldo was when he was Nani’s age 2 years ago. Nani has already been deployed on the left and right wings for the champions, showing a real eye for goal, but has yet to hit the back of the net in the League thus far. For pre-season-related goodness though, check this immaculate chip against Far Eastern titans Guangzhou FC -

The promise and willingness is certainly there, but will he start if Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez are all fit?

Anderson (United)

Another United starlet with a long name, Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira has not had nearly the same level of early season exposure as Nani. The Brazilian’s favoured role is that of attacking midfielder, a position where United are not exactly lacking, but given Rooney’s injury, he looks perfectly poised to step into the metaphorical breach. With less first team experience than Nani, and a history in the more open, slower Brazilian league before moving to F.C. Porto, he isn’t a dead cert to work in the Premier League, but if he can perform any of the tricks he does here, then he really could prove to be something a bit special. Bears absolutely no resemblance to ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway?’ presenter Clive Anderson by the way. Or surgically enhanced, home movie star Pamela for that matter.

Valeri Bojinov (City)

This 21 year old Bulgarian spent the formative years of his career in Italy before his transfer to the sunny North West, scoring 29 times for Lecce, Fiorentina and Juventus in Serie A. He holds the records for youngest foreign player to take the field in Serie A, and also the youngest foreigner to score in the league, but he’s got a girl’s name, so…call it even?

After decent performances for City in the opening fixtures, he unfortunately injured knee ligaments as the blue side of Manchester won the derby last weekend:

Rolando Bianchi (City)

‘Rolandinho’ is considered one of the brightest Italian striking talents and had a great showing for Reggiana last year, scoring 19 goals in Serie A, more than any English striker managed last year. When travelling to his first training session for City, he got confused and ended up at United’s facility in Carrington where much teen-movie hilarity ensued! He was subsequently removed from the facility after stripping completely nude and being sick on Sir Alex’s feet. He has since made up for this accidental slight however by scoring in City’s first game of the season, tapping in Elano’s measured cross against West Ham.

Javier Garrido (City)

The dreamy Basque has started at left back for Real Sociedad in La Liga since he was 19, giving him 3 full seasons under his belt in the top flight at the age of just 22. He now looks to be the starter at Man City for the foreseeable future, after Chris Coleman accepted that Sociedad’s relegation last season was too much for the promising Iberian to endure.

Geovanni (City)

Geovanni Deiberson Mauricio dribbles, runs and shoots like a true Brazilian, and has been the key to City’s early success this year. His goals against United and West Ham were decisive, and he has been instrumental in the new slick passing game on display at the City of Manchester stadium. When he first moved to Barcelona, he didn’t cause a storm, but it was his strong play for Benfica in domestic competitions and the Champions League (especially against United) that must have caught Sven’s eye. He was known as ‘sleepy’ by his Benfica team mates, due to his laid back nature, rather than his pace, but I’m sure the City fans will come up with a much cleverer nickname for him. Something catchy like ‘that well good Brazilian. No, not him, the other one.’

Elano Blumer (City)

Part of the new generation of Brazilian talent, Elano has already been singled out by national coach Dunga as a future world superstar and who am I to argue with the great Hawaiian-shirted legend? Following a relatively slow start at FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Elano has since established himself as a truly exciting ‘hole’ player, who could have an instrumental impact in the English top flight this season, pulling the strings for City, if the team can continue their great run of form.

Vedran Ćorluka (City)

Given the daunting epithet of ‘the most beautiful Croatian footballer,’ Ćorluka has always been a promising talent, beginning his career in the Dinamo Zagreb youth team at the tender age of just 8. After just two seasons of regular football with the Croatian champions, his £8 million fee might seem extortionate, but with a full international debut now under his belt, the 21 year old full back is certainly one to watch for the future.

Martin Petrov (City)

Not to be confused with fellow Bulgarian Stiliyan Petrov, Martin has been dubbed 'the new Hristo Stoitchkov' because of his fiery temperament and a powerful left-foot. An attacking midfield player capable of setting up or scoring a goal out of nothing, Petrov has blistering pace as well as good close control, proving himself over two excellent seasons at Athletico Madrid. Desite being sent off after just 8 minutes in his international debut, and crying about it, he now has an impressive 15 international goals in 66 appearences earning him the lofted prize of Bulgarian Footballer of the Year 2006.

21 August, 2007

Big love at the U-17 World Cup

I was unaware of the Under-17 world Cup taking place in South Korea, until I read that USA was beaten by the might of Tajikstan, much to the dismay of the American author. This tournament does not appear to be a great showcase for future talent, although the highest goalscorer in previous tournaments has been Fabregas in 2003 and Anderson in 2005.

'Who gives a shit?' I hear you ask. Well, it turns out that a tournament solely populated with players born in the 1990s can get a little immature at times. Enjoy this highlight from the recent Peru vs. South Korea game:

I'm not too good at Asian languages. I'm only guessing it's Japanese, because one of the commentators says 'Hi!' in response to what sounds like a question. Whatever the language, their change in tone is unmistakeable when they realise that our Peruvian nino is taking the slitty-eyed piss. That's what you get when you cross Claudio Pizzarro with Lee Bowyer - racism and poor heading ability in one.

Championship England 11

With yet another pointless set of midweek international friendlies almost upon us,
what comes with it is the usual tirade of abuse from Premier League managers,
criticising the England Head Coach for risking their valuable players for what
amounts to nothing more than a casual kickaround.
Not wanting to sound cynical, but was perhaps the thought of 90,000 punters
shelling out for £4.50 pints/pies and £10 programmes, on top of actual ticket
prices, too much for The F.A. to resist?
Anyways, finger pointing aside, STT has come up with a solution to the player
problem, and simply suggests a blended McDonalds extra value meal in one
hip-flask and pure ethanol (available from basically any school science store-room)
in another, as a way to get round the extortionate amenity prices:
Why not field an England team drawn exclusively from The Championship, a.k.a
The Real League? This would save the ‘priceless’ Premier League players from a
fourth game in ten days, and let's face it, given the already make-shift squad chosen
and lack of any real significance, they probably wouldn't do any worse. Here then is
STT selection, and for the record it was actually harder than you might think...
Steve Simonson (Stoke City)
Jon Otsemobor (Norwich City), Danny Higginbotham (Stoke City), Leigh Bromby
(Sheffield United)
Michael Kightly (Wolves), Kevin Nicholls (Preston North End), Stephen Clemence
(Leicester City), Rohan Ricketts (Barnsley), Michael Tonge (Sheffield United)
Jamie Cureton (Norwich City), DJ Campbell (Leicester City)
Non-playing Captain:
Teddy ‘the first 10 yards are in his head’ Sheringham

Have we missed out your club’s shining star? Have we picked a absolute clown
shoe? Is McDonalds not the best fast food to blend and subsequently drink??
As always, submit your comments, suggestions and abuse below…

Mascot of the week 2

Name – Captain Canary

Affiliation – Norwich City

Animal – Canary

Colour – Yellow

Level of ridiculousness – 7

Most common missile pelted with – Delia’s “gourmet” pies

Keeping it Championship in the hunt for the country’s greatest football mascot, this week we travel down into the “English Riviera” (East Anglia) and meet Norwich’s most famous son (apart from Alan Partridge), Captain Canary!

The association between Norwich and canaries is a somewhat bizarre one, to do with the early 20th century popularity of small bird rearing, but no matter: Captain Canary’s huge and yellow and here to stay.

Like Pottermus last week, the Captain is actually a bit of a ladies’ man, having made an honest bird out of local ‘IT girl’ Camilla. I mean, as the only two 7’ tall yellow birds in East Anglia, everyone always said they’d end up together, but the courting period was rocky, and a love-triangle developed between the two canaries and Cardiff’s Bartley the Bluebird. Bartley’s dream was to produce a super-race of huge green birds, who could be camouflaged against the green grass of a football pitch for practical joke purposes, and naturally saw Camilla as the best potential mate. The Captain refused to stand for this, and following a bloody duel at a service station on the M5, finally proclaimed his love for Camilla in 2002…the rest, as they say, is history.

Finally, if his inclusion in this column was ever in doubt just watch this incredible penalty (performed using the classic Maradona trick, the ‘rabona’ and subsequent acrobatic celebration! Captain, we at STT salute your bravado:

20 August, 2007

Gameweek 3 – ‘Demolition Derby’

Happy Monday everyone, and what an interesting weekend of football we’ve had. The first ‘Super’ Sunday was indeed ‘super’ with Man City turning over another toothless Man United side, and the first meeting of the ‘big 4’ ended as only they can…with controversy and a lot of Spanish-Portuguese antagonism.

Anyways, I’m not sure if anyone else is getting this feeling, but for the first time in years, the Premier League seems almost wide-open. Fast starters Everton went down at Reading, the previously-appalling Spurs finally started to play, and of course Sven’s City are the ones currently at the top of the pile setting the pace, not their Manchester rivals for a change.

One serious comment on the weekend’s action though; now I know it’s been going on for years and they certainly aren’t the first team to do it, but Chelsea constant harassing and mouthing off at the referee has to stop. Yesterday was pretty bad with even the usually collected J.T. getting involved in official intimidation. Jose apparently encourages his players to do this, but should it be acceptable?

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

KeeperNewcastle’s Steve Harper (quality throughout and a more than adequate replacement for Shay Given)

DefencePascal Chimbonda (dangerous attacking option), Andre Bikey (immense again), Matty Taylor (solid at the back and constantly good set piece delivery), Micah Richards (I could basically have picked the whole Man City backline but he was the stand-out for me; superlative reading of the game for such a young lad)

MidfieldSteed Malbranque (2 nice goals and decent movement throughout), Stephen Hunt (excellent overall performance), Mark Noble (another great game from one of the England's brightest young hopes), Steven Gerrard (inspiring as ever, vital tackles in his own box and then what a pass to unleash Torres)

Up TopJohn Utaka (justifying the price tag already?), Fernando Torres (sharp and caused problems, not afraid to get physical, plus a fantastic goal on home debut)

Weekly Awards:

Nutmeg of the Week Stevie G on Ashley Cole at the edge of the Chelsea box.

Goal of the Week – John Utaka, latching on to Kanu’s offload and running half the length of the field before rounding a sprawled Jussi Jaaskelainen …maybe he was worth that hefty 7 mill price tag after all?

Save of the Week – Tony Warner making amends by clawing David Wheater's acrobatic overhead kick around the post.

Wrestling Move of the Week - Hermann Hreidarsson expertly body-slamming Nicola Anelka down on the halfway line in the build up to Pompey's opener.

Skill of the WeekFew nice tricks from under-rated trickmeister Patrice Evra, but check this cheeky little flick from French superstar Frank Ribery for a Bayern Munich goal at the weekend.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the WeekApparently was so memorable that even England manager Steve McClaren forgot about him in his half-time spiel about all the international players on display. Did come on for about 30 seconds to slot away the rather contentious penalty though.

Best Impression of a Horror Movie Extra - Brian McBride’s blood-curdling scream upon scoring Fulham’s opener; more than understandable though given the horrendous kneecap dislocation that prompted it.

Sniper in the Crowd Moment of the Week - Kanu to win Pompey's penalty.

Superman of the Week – D.J. for his heroic photo-friendly full-length save from Gary Speed's towering header.

Team that were Most Confused about what Sport they were Playing of the WeekSunderland; it’s not rugby lads (conceded 2 penalties but could've been about 8).

Place I would least liked to have been of the Week – No doubt the Sunderland dressing room at fulltime.

Miss of the Week – Clint Dempsey expertly slots wide of the open goal from 5 yards. Still, kudos for being actually called ‘Clint.’

Referee's Assistant Blunder of the Week - I was about thirty miles away from Fulham at the time but even I still saw David Healy's last minute effort cross the line.

Speculative Effort of the WeekCroatia’s “most beautiful player” (not my words) Vedran Corluka's 40 yard screamer flying only just over the bar

Oh shit I’m going to die moment of the Week – Torres needed a change of underwear when John Terry got all up in his grill

Best Tag Team/Potential-Rap-Duo-If-Their-Careers-Go-Down-the-Pan-Anytime-Soon of the Week – John Utaka and Nwankwo Kanu

Lie of the Week – Jose Mourinho : “We do not have any divers, no violent people, we do not have any nasty tackles. It's a pure team.”

Quote of the Week – Pre-game interview with ‘fox in the box’ Michael Chopra: "It’s always great to start with a great start." Astute as ever.

‘The Tony Warner and Jens Lehmann Award for Gaff of the Week’Tony Warner and Jens Lehmann again. Maybe they should start being sponsored by ‘Gaff of the Week’…in fact…

Hero of the WeekSteve Coppell for guiding Reading to an excellent 4 points from daunting opening games against Man United, Chelsea and then-league-leaders Everton.

Zero of the Week Referee Rob Styles for gifting Chelsea an unbelievable penalty; their only shot on target in the entire game.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Only Chelsea out of the ‘big 4’ being in the Top 6…it really would be nice if someone other than Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal won the Premier League this year…

19 August, 2007

Old-school world 11

We asked you a couple of weeks ago to submit your all-time world 11. Here is one of our more 'seasoned' reader's choices. See if you can work out what team he supports. It's well cryptic.

Gordon Banks, England - Who else. He's just the best there ever has been in his position and he an ex-Stoke player too. Remember the save from Pele in 1970; the save from Geoff Hurst's penalty in the 1972 League Cup semi-final was better.

Paolo Maldini, Italy - Paolo of course! Total professional an ex-captain of Italy. Total class, 8 Champions League finals and 126 caps for Italy gets you respect.

Franz Beckenbauer, Germany - 'Der Kaiser' was an amazing leader on the field. He swept forward from defence and was a great passer of the ball and had fantastic vision for a pass.

Bobby Moore, England - Cool as ice in defence, a great marker and reader of the game. Bobby was the consumate player of his time and was equal to the best forwards in the game at that time. He also did his part for the world of booze promotion and reminded us to look in at the local.

Stanley Matthews, England - The true entertainer in his day and another ex-Stoke player. Beat full-backs for fun and then beat them again and those were the days when they could really tackle hard from any side. Turned the 1953 Cup Final on its head. A true model pro who looked after himself and played his last competitive game at age 50. I was there!

Michel Platini, France - This guy had everything. It's difficult to imagine the current Chairman of FIFA in his heyday but he could seriously play.

Zinedine Zidane, France - He is simply the best creative midfield player in the last 20 years, since Platini in fact. He could pass, shoot, head, he had vision and was strong enough to withstand the physical side. He was soooo good in his prime. The Ferrari Enzo of footballers.

Alan Hudson, England - Huddy won only 2 full caps in the days when there was a wealth of creative midfield talent in England. At his best he was superb and he was simply unplayable when he wanted to be. In todays market he would be worth more than Ballack and Shevchenko put together. Another ex-Stoke player ...follow the theme?

Johan Cruyff , Holland - Don't get the father confused with son Jordi ex-Man Utd. Dad was the real deal, the complete footballer. Check the original Cruyff turn on video. Great goalscorer from any position and he could pass too. Won two European Cups with Ajax and around 50 caps and 30+ goals for Holland.

Ferenc Puskas, Hungary - Small fat man who looked like a Toby Jug but was a ballet dancer on the field. Played for the great Real Madrid team of the 1960s which won 5 European Cups. See him in action for yourself.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Brazil - Simply PELE. He was the best; 92 caps and 77 goals for Brazil. Played in 4 World Cups, the first in Sweden when he was 17. The game has changed but this guy would have been the best even in the modern game. Slightly harmed his street-cred with those ads for erectile disfuntion.

Ruud Gullit, Holland; Midfield/Forward
Ronaldo, Brazil; Forward
Marco Van Basten, Holland; Forward
Carlos Alberto, Brazil ; Defender
Dino Zoff, Italy; Goalkeeper

Cheers Rob! All other submissions to sniffingtt@hotmail.com

17 August, 2007

Dogging poll results are in

Over the past week, thousands of you have voted for the footballing icon you would least like to go dogging with. It looks like you fancied a bit of voyeurism with Vinnie Jones (1 vote) and did not object to some car park action with ex-liverpool hitman and fire extinguisher enthusiast Stan Collymore (3 votes). In fact, Stan could show you the ropes.

When it came to the big hitters, it couldn't have been closer. In the end, the bespectacled Swede beat the spitting Senegaleezer by one vote. What can we conclude from this? Very little of anything of any significance.

Oh, and when I say thousands, I actually mean 21 of you. Do better.

Enjoy the Ronaldo-less weekend!

16 August, 2007

Gameweek 2 – ‘Its Never 2 Early for League Tables’

Happy Thursday everyone, and welcome to the midweek wrap-up of all things Premier League. After just two matches is it too soon for patterns to start emerging? Here at STT we embrace generalizations as much as possible, but yes, it is too early to comment on anything significant really. Instead here are a couple of gentle observations before we get down to the nuts and bolts of Gameweek 2’s action:

- Chelsea are already 4 points ahead of Manchester United and they don’t tend to drop many cheap points at all throughout the season

- The 3 newly promoted teams look like they can more than hold their own so far

- Big up to Reading for valiant performances against last year’s top 2 straight out of the gate

- Middlesborough, Wigan and Bolton look like they might be in real trouble this year

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

Keeper – Paul Robinson (he might still be a vampire…terrified of crosses…but made up for it with 3 incredible saves to deny A.J. late on)

Defence – Joleon Lescott (proof that not all guys called ‘Julian’ live in San Francisco, posing in muscle Ts), Andre Bikey (scored with his first touch and was excellent at the back), Paul Scharner (solid in defence and still a danger going forward)

Midfield – Mikel Arteta (amazingly never capped for Spain, can someone find him an English passport please?), Paul Scholes (not for the first time in his career, the best player on the pitch), Jason Koumas (inventive and energetic in a generally pretty flat Wigan team), Alexi Smertin (great form to start the season), Michael Johnson (was the standout in a superb team performance, out-shining all the big-money foreigners)

Up Top – Michael Chopra (caused problems throughout and poached his second last minute goal in two games), Didier Drogba (a constant threat, and his goal was a cracker)

Weekly Awards:

Nutmeg of the Week – Nani on about half the Portsmouth team.

Goal of the Week – Michael Johnson; superb move and unreal finish the outside of the foot.

Whinge of the Week – Pizarro’s pathetic theatrics to get Cisse sent off for “a stamp.”

Save of the WeekBirmingham’s Colin Doyle with his incredible change of direction to keep out the wickedly deflected free kick that lead to Chopra’s equalizer.

Wrestling Hold of the Week - Roy O'Donovan falling on Colin Doyle after his heroic free-kick save and quickly locking him into an arm-bar submission Kurt Angle would be proud of.

Skill of the Week – Take your pick from the entirity of Arteta’s performance against Spurs. He’s the most consistant winger in the league; might not score the number of goals Ronaldo does, but his delivery is always world class

Worst Haircut of the WeekBirmingham’s Garry O’Connor for managing to combine both a terrible Mohawk and a bushy mullet.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Getting a shit new ‘tough-guy’ haircut…also, deflecting Drogba’s dangerous 35 yard header past Hahnemann for Chelsea’s opener. Looks good in highlighters.

Nickname of the WeekManchester City Chairman/overthrown ex-Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra asking people to call him ‘Sinatra’ instead. Geddit? It rhymes! What a cock.

Re-incarnation of the WeekCaspar Schmeichel appears to actually be his father, its uncanny…the positioning, the shot-stopping, even the screaming at defenders and glove-spitting. All that’s missing is the bright red nose, which’ll come either from the forthcoming bitter Manchester winter or too much partying with Pete Doherty.

Gaff of the Week – It’s a close call, because Cech expertly bowling over Sidwell and Ben Haim for Bikey’s goal was pretty special, but Tony Warner dropping the ball at Helguson’s feet like a bar of soap takes some beating. He wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a prison shower.

Hero of the Week – Paul Scholes; just lost out to Johnson for goal of the week, but takes this prize for becoming Man United’s highest ever league goal-scorer, bagging his 96th Premier League goal last night.

Zero of the Week – Its gotta be Ronaldo I guess. It was a frustrating game all round for Man United but you just can’t react the way he did, regardless of how much contact there actually was. Looked like he might cry as he walked off. It's good to know that Richard Hughes's single contribution to this season was a good one for Pompey.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Roy Keane telling it like it is, calling out WAG-whipped primadonnas:

“A couple of years ago I nearly went to Juventus, and people spoke to me about Turin saying it's this and it's that, and that Milan would be nicer, and I said ‘I'm not going for the bloody shops, I'm going because it's Juventus.’ Football must be your priority…If a player doesn't want to come to Sunderland because his wife wants to go shopping in London, it's a sad state of affairs.”

Speak on it brother Roy, speak on it!

Oh, and in other news, Liverpool and Arsenal both won their first leg Champions league qualifiers, while Celtic earned a decent draw away at Spartak Moscow. Apologies for the lack of coverage but until the actual group stages start a-proper, we at STT have bigger fish to fry. Small shout out to Alexander Hleb for proving me wrong though, good performance last night fella.

Frank's thinking of giving up his day job

Congratulations this week to Mr Frank Lampard for becoming the world’s first footballer to have his own personal TV channel, imaginatively called ‘FrankTV’. Those unlucky enough to subscribe to Orange mobile contracts can now suffer through 50 minutes of Frank “at home, with team-mates and at training” on their 3G phones. Particular highlights in this first thrilling installment (more are threatened throughout the season) include scenes of Frank wrapping Christmas presents, Frank playing with dogs and Frank cooking Brussels sprouts. Now we at STT have heard of some masturbatory and self-indulgent projects in our time (Tom Hanks’ Castaway anyone?) but surely this takes the crown?!

Future program ideas include:

  • “Frank’s rub-n-tug tour” where he highlights the best ‘massage’ parlours in poor European countries
  • “Frank’s ulti-burger van” where attempts to cram, and subsequently eat, as many cooked fillings between two halves of a bap as physically possible
  • “Frank’s invisibility challenge” where he offers his own personal take on the ‘Where’s Wally?’ series, but throughout the entirity of Chelsea’s Champions League campaign
  • "Frank on gangs", where Frank emulates everyone's favourite sausage-in-a-shirt Grant (or is it Phil) Mitchell, as he explores the seedy underworld of criminal gangs. He finds out that nobody in his family has ever been connected with organised crime. Not even Frank Snr. Or his uncle Harry
  • "Frank on Crank" where he gets hooked on Meth-amphetamines and ends up having to 'service' wierdos under various West London bridges to pay for the habit. Co-hosted by Fergie from the Black Eyes Peas and featuring Rio Ferdinand in a mentor role