27 September, 2007

Obscure South American del la Semana Tres

Name – Vágner Silva de Souza a.k.a Vágner Love

Affiliation - CSKA Moscow, aka Sneeze Moscow

Reason for coolness – He has blue braids. Looks like he's got a deal going with Death Row. Gangsta.

Reason for Obscurity – As with last week’s Fenerbahce’s duo, the Russian national league is somewhat off most people’s radars, although Moscow’s exposure in the Champions League over the last couple of years has raised his profile throughout Europe.

Mr. de Souza garnered quite a reputation for himself within the Brazilian league before moving to Russia, but more for being something of a Don Juan than a great footballer, and unsurprisingly owes his nickname to his womanising ways. In fact, five years ago, he was thrown out of Palmeiras’ youth team squad after being caught with a girl in his room on the eve of an important game. That’s just how he rolls though, ladies love him, and the kiss-and-tell tales of his antics had the press gleefully dubbing the youngster “the Marksman of Love,” while the late night hood-rat shenanigans continued with increasingly regularity. He even has the class to still acknowledge this reputation by celebrating ever goal he scores by blowing kisses to women in the crowd.

However, while a lesser man might’ve succombed to the sirens’ calls, Vagner Love’s pimp game never interfered with his playing progress and still as a teenager, he was a fixture in Palmeiras’ first team, notching up 19 goals in the 2003 season as the club were promoted into the Brazilian top flight. Having started the following season is as good a form, Vagner got the call-up into the Brazilian Under-20 side, and it wasn’t long before a move was touted. Russia is never an easy place to go to, but he has settled well, adapting to the tighter style of play and posing a constant threat to defences. He now averages almost a goal every other game for CSKA, and his tally includes the third goal that sealed CSKA's 3-1 victory in the 2005 UEFA Cup Final over Sporting Lisbon

Perhaps harder to adjust to though, coming as he does from Sao Paulo, is living in the desolate, icy kremlin that is Moscow. This blow has been softened however by having his entire family brought over to be around him, including his mother Jaira, father Neto, sister Irma, brother-in-law Marcelo, and of course the 35 illegitimate children he has fathered over the years. Vagner says: “I know only a few words of Russian. I communicate with most of my team-mates with gestures, but it's working out.” Presumably he’s found a much easier way to communicate with the Russian ladies though.

Word on the street is that AC Milan are sizing him up for a January transfer window swoop, having been impressed with his performances during Brazil’s victorious Copa America run, so don’t expect Mr. Love to remain obscure for much longer…

While you ponder your lesson of love, enjoy this tribute video, which draws parallels between Russian football and West Coast hippity-hop:

26 September, 2007

Fernando Torres and His Immaculate Hat Trick

The concept of squad rotation is one of the real mysteries of the modern game. Surely, if they are fit and available, you always play your best 11 players? I have a lot of time for Raphael Benitez, but leaving someone as exciting and potentially match-winning as Fernando Torres on the bench in two consecutive Premier League games is simply baffling. The theory of squad rotation is a debate for another time, but I think it is safe to say that last night Torres forced his manager’s hand by making himself ‘undroppable,’ in a master-class performance that included everything. To give them their dues, Reading were no pushover, equalizing twice and causing the Liverpool backline all sorts of problems despite a massive personnel change themselves. At the heart of their defence they had Michael Duberry and Andre Bikey, both decent players in their own right, and each easily outweighing Torres by a good couple of stone. Despite taking a shoeing in the first minutes of the game, Torres picked himself up and got on with the task at hand, something he would have to do time and time again throughout the 90 minutes as Reading struggled to keep up with him. Not once did he throw his toys out of the pram and have a Christinao Ronaldo-esque hissy fit, the sign of a true professional and an overall class act.

Anyway, this is turning out to be pretty masturbatorary so I’ll just leave you with video footage of the three goals, each showcasing the variety of skills he has in his locker. The pace, composure, strength and technique are all sublime, and you can’t help but feel that if he actually gets the time on the pitch, Liverpool have the thoroughbred 25 goal-a-season striker they’ve been searching for since Michael Owen went off the boil 5 years ago. I admit, I might have a slight man-crush on him…

Mascot of the week 6

Name – Barney Owl

Affiliation – Sheffield Wednesday

Animal – Owl

Colour – Brown

Level of Ridiculousness – 4

Most common missile pelted with – Genuine hatred. And sharpened cutlery.

Scare Rating (sponsored by Rob Zombie’s re-make of ‘Halloween’) – 9

Clearly here at STT headquarters, we like mascots, and I think generally, your average football fan likes them too, or at the very least tolerates their banal half-time amusement. Not so for poor Barney Owl up at Sheffield Wednesday, who it appears is universally hated by the home support, having usurped the previous trio of owl mascots, Ollie, Ozzie and Baz, at the start of the 2006 season.

Supposedly, Barney was always the brains behind the owl operation, choreographing each game’s entertainment down to the second, but due to crippling stage fright was never able to actually appear on the pitch himself.

Much speculation followed this dramatic change at the historic club, with rumours abounding of an epic power struggle behind the scenes between the four owls that mirrors the fall off the Roman Republic. Others have pointed to a drug-induced psychosis within Barney Owl (look at his saucer pupils) that made him finally crave the limelight, and that tragically ended in murder when he thought that the famous trio were going to leave him behind and try to crack America by themselves.

Since the disappearance of Ollie, Ozzie and Baz, Sheffield Wednesday have tried to ease the transition into this new age by producing a truly bizarre promotional video, which supposedly was written and directed by David Lynch:

Many fans however still crave the old owls, but all investigations into their disappearence have simply lead to dead-ends and now, over a year later and the forensic trail dead, the worst is feared for the three lovable rogues. Even Ollie, Ozzie and Baz’s parents have been dragged into the case by local police forces, pointing to a feather found at a nest they allegedly built a month after their kids’ disappearance, but thus far still no-one has been charged. All we can do unfortunately is remember them as they were and pray that one day this mystery reveals itself

Also, no post involving owls is complete without a bit of Kevin Day and Paul Whitehouse:

25 September, 2007

Top 10 Nasty Kits

10. Chelsea Away 2007-08

As the Stamford Bridge faithful rush to Sunglasses Hut, we at STT consider the more eccentric football kits of recent decades. Surprisingly this terrible new Chelsea effort only just makes the top ten worst strips of all time. In fact Chelsea's lollipop lady-esque number appears rather tasteful compared to the rest of our list, and only actually makes it in the countdown because of the sheer number of pikey kids currently roaming around London looking for trouble, permanently wearing this fluorescent abortion.

9. Oxford United 1992-93

Looks like a magic eye picture randomly generated on a 1988 Spectrum computer, and probably is.

8. Birmingham City 1992-93

What was it about the 1992-93 season? Again presumably the product of badly designed computer programming, this one looks like something a toddler might draw on Microsoft Paint. Count yourselves lucky that there's no better picture of this monstrosity on the internet.

7. Bristol City 1996-97

Lime green and purple? Nuff said.

6. Mexico Goalkeepers Kit 1994

5. Any other Jorge Campos Kit 1988-2003

Jorge Campos appears to have had a real penchant for horror kits, either that or he just used to lose a lot of bets. Anyways, the eccentric Mexican, who almost certainly used to get dressed in the dark, almost deserves his own competition. As such, we didn’t feel like we could really leave any of these out, so Campos makes the list at both five and six with these two efforts that look like someone’s swallowed a load of highlighter pens and been sick.

4 Coventry City 1976

I’ve always said that brown was the perfect complimentry colour for a ginger ‘fro, short shorts and a pained expression.

3. Sevilla 3rd kit 2004-05

Really, really conspicuous…and not at all gay. Muy muy macho!

2. Hull City 1992-93

Grrrrrrr.....Another classic from the golden age of shit football kits. Looks like a Scouse hooker’s hand me down leggings. Handy if the team ever got stranded in the jungle though.

1. NASL Colorado Caribou 1978

A brown and tan kit, including a strip of leather across the chest and tassels. Perhaps proof that the beautiful game was never meant to be played in the USA. As far as bad kits go though, surely any football shirt that actually incorporates cowboy ‘fashion’ simply has to be number 1?

Think you’ve been unfortunate enough to see any worse kits than these? If so, send them in to STT at the usual address and we will try to run a follow up piece in the near future... sniffingtt@hotmail.com

24 September, 2007

Gameweek 7 – ‘Five! What you waiting four?’

Happy Monday, hope everyone is feeling nicely rested after the weekend. Couple of absolute thrillers this weekend from perhaps unlikely sources, as Fulham and Middlesbrough hosted great advertisements for the Premier League. Similarly Arsenal put on a pretty good display against struggling Derby, scoring five but it genuinely could’ve been a cricket score. Elsewhere, Benitez’s tinkering once again baffled everyone, with Torres starting on the bench for the second Saturday running, meaning they dropped points at home to a resolute Birmingham side. Meanwhile, Everton continue their fall from grace and looked like they couldn’t hit sand from a camal on Sunday, against an excellent Villa side who are slowly working their way up to the business end of the table. Finally, Manchester United comfortably beat Chelsea in a fairly underwhelming game which saw the ‘new look’ Blues play flop miserably in front of their owner and his special guest Marco van Basten. Don’t get too comfortable Avram, your “long-term” appointment might get cut short if things don’t dramatically change soon.

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

Keeper – Steve Harper (another superb all round display)

Defence – Matthew Upson (despite the result, he was excellent at the back and a constant threat from set pieces), Charles N’Zogbia (basically a perfect performance from the winger turned left back), Steve Kelly (dealt with everything and kept Babel very quiet down the flank), Ivar Ingimarsson (another confident display from the underrated Icelander)

Midfield – Cesc Fabregas (it’s getting boring saying how good he is), Martin Petrov (two sweet goals capped off another flawless performance from the Bulgarian maestro), Gary O’Neil (quality showing from the ex-Pompey man on his home debut for Boro), Gabriel Agbonlahor (pick of the bunch in another great display from the young Villa midfield)

Up Top – Mark Viduka (the big Aussie legend oozed class and reminded everyone that when he’s in the mood, he’s still up there with the best), Emmanuel Adebayor (Thierry who?)

Weekly Awards:

Nutmeg of the Week – Shevchenko gets Evra so bad that the French wing-back fell over and even took Vidic down with him.

Goal of the Week – Abou Diaby for skipping past two Derby men effortlessly and rocketing it into the top corner.

Save of the Week – Petr Cech for clawing out Rooney’s early effort / Brad Friedel for his immense double save from Kanu.

Skill of the Week – Ryan Giggs for his delightful outside of the foot cross for Tevez’s opener at Old Trafford.

Effort of the Week – Fernando Torres for his incredibly athletic bicycle kick. If it had been a foot lower, we’re talking goal of the season.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Supposedly Frank hasn’t stopped crying since Jose’s departure so unfortunately couldn’t make the game this week. Would’ve made all the difference though I’m sure.

Horror Movie Extra Audition of the WeekBorja Oubina bellowed in agony after twisting awkwardly and rupturing his cruciate ligament. No-one needs that.

Haircut of the Week – Charles N’Zogbia for a shaved pattern that can only have been produced a child’s Etch-a-Sketch.

If-Ronaldinho-Can-Do-It-So-Can-I Moment of the Week – Dave Kitson gives the Wigan defence the eyes, and slips a beautiful disguised pass the other way through to Harper for Reading’s winner.

Fight of the Week – Young skinheads Grant Leadbitter and Lee Cattermole get stuck into each other, Northern-council-estate stylee

Miss of the Week – Obafemi Martins dances round Rob Green only to hit the side netting. He’ll be grateful Newcastle were already well over the finishing line.

Sniper in the Crowd of the Week – Louis Saga takes one in the spinal chord to buy Manchester United a last minute penalty.

It’s-A-Long-Drive-Home-For…of the WeekDerby fans, management and players. Thanks for turning up guys!

Vampire of the Week – Once again the excellent shot-stopper Kaspar Schmiechel proves how terrified he is of crosses.

Quote of the Week – Former Chelsea captain Ray Wilkins tries to win the competition of saying ‘win’ as many times as possible in one sentence: "I'm absolutely astounded at what's happened…Winning football matches is what the game's about and (Jose) is a winning manager who puts a winning mentality in players' heads and they go and win things."

Hero of the Week – Arsene Wenger for handling the departure of a certain Mr. Henry so impressively as Arsenal look out of this world at the moment.

Zero of the Week – Avram Grant unfortunately; Chelsea were pretty dire yesterday, but the clincher is that his wife once drank her own piss live on Israeli TV. Not even for a bet or anything.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Wes Brown whiting himself up after sliding face first across an apparently very freshly painted dead ball line at Old Trafford.

23 September, 2007

Obscure South Americans de la Semana dos

Name – Deivid de Souza a.k.a Deivid and Alexsandro de Souza a.k.a Alex

Affiliation - Fenerbache, the team from Istanbul that isn't Galatasaray

Reason for coolness – The truly incredible bright yellow and black home shirt, and the fact that they are managed by Brazilian über-legend Zico, himself clearly one of the coolest players ever. Also, Deivid’s nick-name is ‘The Hulk’ and he wears the number 99 on his shirt. Not as good as 69 I’ll grant you, but still…

Reason for Obscurity – Weekly coverage of the Turkish national league is hardly high on anyone’s list of priorities. Apart from perhaps those of player’s parents, but only if there’s nothing else on.

Deivid is an ex-Santos striker, where he played alongside a young Robinho, who has just started his second year at the Turkish club with something to prove to both the support and the management. Technically as good as you’d expect from a Brazilian forward, his final product at Santos, Sporting Lisbon and now Fenerbahce has never really done him justice. However, a bright start to the current national season and a wonder-goal against Inter Milan in the first group game of the Champions League has shown what he is capable of. Quietly Zico has assembled an excellent squad at Fenerbahce, attracting the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ghanaian captain Steve Appiah and ex-Chelsea man Mateja Kežman from Spain, and if they manage a decent run in this year’s European competitions, Deivid will be the man to spearhead the attack.

Alex on the other hand has already proven himself at every club he has played for, winning literally countless awards throughout South America before his move to Fenerbahce in 2004. Since then, he has been voted most valuable player in Turkey for the last 3 years running, averaging more than a goal every other game from midfield. Furthermore, Alex has actually scored 21 goals in 67 appearences for the Brazilian national team, but for some reason hasn't played for them since 2005. Once again, if Fenerbahce are successful this season in Europe, it will be Alex pulling the strings, cast in a similar role to Steven Gerrard as talisman and match-winner. To see how immense his game truly is, enjoy this clip montage and pray your favourite team snaps him up soon:

22 September, 2007

Chamipons League Roundup Week 1 - Shaky Start

Tuesday’s action saw a somewhat stumbling start by all three British teams involved, with Chelsea and Liverpool securing nervy 1-1 draws, and Celtic being truly out-classed by Shakhtar Donetsk, going down 2-0 in the icy Ukraine. Both Chelsea and Liverpool had chances to win their games, but as did their opponents Rosenborg and Porto respectively, so perhaps secretly neither manager will be too disappointed with the results.

Benitez especially should be satisfied with a point, after Porto flew out of the blocks and took an early lead from the penalty spot after Reina misjudged a dive at the feet of Sektioui.. Kuyt leveled things just 10 minutes later, but following the sending off of Pennant after almost an hour for two stupid yellow card tackles, Liverpool were kept on the back foot by an exciting Porto team, staring the tricky winger Ricardo Quaresma, with whom Liverpool were actually linked this summer.

I’m sure Mourinho too will have been surprised at just how much fight Rosenborg brought with them, again taking a relatively early lead against the former English champions. Chelsea were patient however, and a somewhat rejuvenated Shevchenko equalized eight minutes into the second half, meeting Malouda’s beautiful cross to head his first of the season. Towards the end of the game Chelsea appeared to be turning the screw, upping the tempo and throwing men forward, but it wasn’t their night as the Norweigans held firm, despite Kalou and Malouda rattling the woodwork. On a side note, there was an interesting fancy dress competition going on at Stamford Bridge last night; 17,000 people appeared to have come to game dressed perfectly as empty seats. Those crazy west Londoners…

Elsewhere, in Celtic’s group, defending champions AC Milan got off to a winning start against Benfica, defeating the Portuguese club 2-1, with Pirlo and Inzaghi grabbing their goals. Real Madrid also won 2-1, against Werder Bremen at the Bernabau, with Champions League stalwarts Raul and van Nistelrooy netting for the Spanish giants, while the other game in their group, between Olmpiakos and Lazio, ended 1-1 behind closed doors. Finally, David Villa helped poach a victory for Chelsea’s next opponents Valencia at Schalke, while in Liverpool’s group, a thankfully recovered Djibril Cisse netted for new club Marseille, sporting a truly horrendous orange and sky blue kit, as they comfortably beat Besiktas 2-0.

Wednesday meanwhile saw a much more successful night for the British teams involved, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Rangers all recording solid opening victories. Rangers came from behind to win 2-1 against Stuttgart at Ibrox, with Charlie Adam netting a superb equalizer before Jean-Claude Darcheville held his nerve to put the Scottish side ahead from the penalty spot.

Christiano Ronaldo enjoyed a happy return to the club that nurtured him, Sporting Lisbon, scoring the only goal (a diving header no less) in tough contest that saw Edwin van der Sar twice making miraculous saves to keep Manchester United in the game. Again, the English champions didn’t look entirely comfortable, but recorded their fourth consecutive 1-0 victory, and the club’s first away win in Europe for quite some time.

Arsenal on the other hand, oozed class and totally dominated Sevilla, the Spanish side who came so close to challenging Real Madrid to last season’s La Liga title, and winners of the last two years’ UEFA cup. I think many people expected more from the Spaniards but to be honest, I don’t think they were given the chance to really get into the game, despite a couple of half chances dropping to the permanently boo-ed ex-Spurs hitman Freddie Kanoute. Again, Fabregas was at the heart of everything Arsenal created; his shot was deflected in for the first goal, and his passes set up both Robin van Persie’s second, and late substitute Eduardo’s icing on the cake just before the final whistle. Whether Arsenal can go all the way this year is obviously hard to predict but based on this first round of games, they surely have to be amongst the favourites. Wenger was said to be pleased.

Elsewhere, in Rangers’ group, Theirry Henry scored his first goal for Barcelona as they romped home 3-0 winners over French champions Lyon, who were certainly not at their best, but did cause a few headaches for Frank Rijkaard in the second half. Deco and Xavi were as superb as ever in the midfield, but it was Messi who really shone.

In Manchester United’s group, Roma breezed past Dynamo Kiev 2-0 to set themselves up nicely for a return to Old Trafford in a fortnight’s time, keen to not suffer another defeat as humiliating as last year’s 7-1 drumming.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s next opponents Steaua Bucharest went down 2-1 away to newcomers Slavia Prague, in a perhaps surprisingly high quality game in the Czech Republic.

Finally, in Group G, last season’s Italian champions Inter Milan went down 1-0 away to Fenerbahce in an exciting tie where the Turkish side could quite easily have scored four or five, and PSV Eindhoven also got off to a winning start, defeating CSKA Moscow 2-1 at home, with Danko Lazovic and Kenneth Perez putting the Dutch team out of sight in the second half.

Goal of the Round – Charlie Adam for Rangers, expertly finishing after Alan Hutton had run through basically the whole Stuttgart team. Deivid’s acrobatic volley for Fenerbahce’s winner is a close second though.

Player of the Round – Lionel Messi who was as usual just a pleasure to watch

Surpirse Package of the Round – Fenerbahce, who have quietly amassed a very decent squad and played, an admittedly understrength, Inter Milan completely off the field

19 September, 2007

WAGS are Fun!

It has been a long time coming but finally, after many hard nights of research, STT would like to present our official compilation of the hottest WAGs currently sapping the bank accounts of your favourite European stars. Rather than try to rank them in any particular order, what follows is simply a list because quite frankly, they are all just unbelievably hot. Also, we have deliberately not included the two most famous WAGs currently on the circuit, namely Posh and Cheryl, because well, Posh looks like a bucket of melted lego these days and everyone already knows that Cheryl is literally the perfect woman. Anyways…if you feel the need, please send us some more pics to review of your personal number one to the e-mail address below, and if we missed anyone vital out, please do not hesitate to bombard us with as many photos of them as humanly possible! Enjoy, and don’t let anyone ever say that STT has never done anything for you…

Deco bought Jacaira Manda at a flea market back home in Brazil and isn't letting her go

Francesco Totti gets married to fiancee Ilary Blasi every day, just to show her Mob Boss father how much money he has

Luis Figo recently upset his missus Helen Svedin by asking her to run Mancini a bath. Her clothed photos are hard to find on the interwebs

Giselle Santa Cruz wishes she were as cool, or as hot as her husband Roque. She owns a range of pimp cups

Elisabetta Canalis is as likely to be penetrated by Rob Schneider as Chritian Vieri these days

Kaka is a true gentleman. The guy believes in God and all that no-sex-before-marriage-thing, so we don't blame him for this sort of behaviour, even if it is in front of the paps. Oh, she's called Caroline or something

David Trezeguet couldn't hit water from a boat these days, but it's lucky that some women, such as Beatrice (pronounced Bee-ah-tree-che) are more interested in money than talent

Anders Svensson needs to keep this one close to his chest. Anine Bing has a much better rack than name

And back down to earth we come with a bump. As if Kovac's fizzog wasn't enough to put you off your toast, his wife Anica saving grace is that she looks like a low-currency Eva Longoria

Gianluigi Buffon's ladyfriend Alena Seredova is renowned throughout Italy for her patience. For it is she who applies Gigi's pomade every day. She also makes Italian Match of the Day more watchable

Aida Yespica is a world famous model, from a region of Venezuela famed for its beautiful women. Why she has anything to do with Adrian Mutu is a mystery

Christian Karembeu always looked a bit like a cartoon lion and now he's setting the world on fire by scouting for Harry Redknapp. He makes up for such shortcomings by having an amazingly tall and attractive wife called Adriana

Last but not least is Abigail Clancy. Her on-off relationship with Liverpool joker Peter Crouch regularly comes up in the red-tops, but she couldn't care less. An old fashioned girl, she and Crouchatron communicate solely by fax. Just because it's got an X in it doesn't make it sexy

17 September, 2007

Gameweek 6 – ‘You’re Gunner Have a Good Time’

Happy Monday everyone, and after the exciting international break we are pleased to be back down to regular business. Firstly though, a shout out to the England squad and backroom staff, nobody can really argue with two 3-0 scorelines, even me. Secondly, also a massive big up to everyone involved in Scotland’s glorious win over France midweek, any victory over the French is surely a victory for football in general.
Anyways, another interesting weekend, with two of the big 4 held to goalless draws, and Man City further solidifying their place as serious contenders as they sit second in the league table. In other news, this season’s first North London derby saw a comprehensive victory for Arsene Wenger’s kids, heaping even more pressure onto the strained looking Martin Jol. Its ok Martin, we still like you, just go chill out with a smoke and a pancake and everything with sort itself out soon!

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

Keeper – Brad Friedel (several world class saves from the ever-impressive Yank)

Defence – Glen Johnson (handled the very differing threats of Crouch and Torres well), Jaime Carragher (immense as ever), Leighton Baines (impressive both in defence and attack), Danny Higginbotham (confident transition back into the top flight)

Midfield – Cesc Fabregas (ran the game and notched up his fifth goal of the season already), Sebastien Larsson (excellent general play and top drawer set-piece delivery), Papa Bouba Diop (strong and positive throughout), Martin Petrov (Michael Johnson may get all the plaudits but it was Petrov who was behind everything City created)

Up Top – Emmanuel Adebayor (fantastic all round performance, topped off with an early contender for goal of the season), Kenwyne Jones (involved in every attack and caused real problems for an already ragged-looking Reading)

Weekly Awards:

Nutmeg of the Week – Arbeloa getting Benjani with a timely back-heel

Goal of the Week – Adebayor’s cracker of a second goal; sweet first touch to tee it up and then his inordinantly long right leg did the rest
Save of the Week – Dynamite penalty save by Pepe Reina from a rather casual looking Kanu, who was otherwise excellent

Skill of the Week – Didier Drogba's attire on the sideline was sublime. He neatly rounded off a cream blazer with a back to front New-Kids-On-The-Block style cap. Jackass.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Another big performance by Frank, marshaled the midfield to a thrilling scoreless draw at home to Blackburn. What would they do without him? Additional kudos for still having the appetite for the club game after the pressures of two crucial England performances in a week

Wrestling Move of the Week – Papa Bouba Diop unleashing a running clothesline into Benayoun’s face

UFC Move of the Week – Shevchenko delivers a perfect T.K.O. kick to the head of Samba

Can-We-Have-Our-Money-Back Moment of the Week – £16.5 million pound Darren Bent jogs on with Tottenham 2 – 1 down at home to Arsenal, what better way to win over the home fans than with a goal? Ball drops to him on the edge of the box, no defenders in sight…slices it off for a throw-in. Nice one.

‘Try Saving’ tackle of the Week – Toure spreads his legs (easy now) to prevent Berbatov putting Spurs 2 – 0 ahead, after the Bulgarian had already rounded the suspect Almunia

Blow for England of the Week – Heskey limps off early with a suspected broken toe (never thought I’d genuinely consider the loss of Heskey detrimental to anything but how times have changed)

Best Advert Slogan That Sounds Like a Porno…of the Week – Nike’s new phenomenally titled “Put it where you want it” tour. I’m not gonna say anything, it’s just too easy

Whinge of the Week – Mourinho throwing a TV monitor in the general direction of the fourth official after Kalou was given offside from Belleti’s cross, even though he was actually behind the Brazilian full-back when the ball was played. Interesting. Here’s Jose to clarify: “I could feel immediately the movement, somebody that understands the game and feels the football, smells the situation…it was easy to see, it was obvious.” Er, what?

Quote of the Week – “The team with the best players tends to do the best.” Good to see that years of inexplicable hyperbole haven’t blunted Andy Gray’s powers of deduction.

Hero of the Week – Got to be Dean Ashton for bagging his goal since the FA Cup Final 2006, well done fella, nice to have you back amongst the goals. What is with the haircut though, did you lose a bet?
Zero of the Week – A few candidates for this one but I think it might have to be Shevchenko for yet another apparently clueless performance. It’s almost like he’s been possessed because he seems to have literally no memory of how to even run, let alone kick a ball. Either that or he’s laughing all the way to the bank at the ridiculous wages Abramovich is prepared to give him.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Seeing an old-fashioned contested drop-ball in the Portsmouth match, and would you look at that, no-one got their legs broken or their eyes gauged out. Can we have more of them again please?

15 September, 2007

Obscure South American De La Semana Uno

Name – Frederico Chaves Guedes a.k.a ‘Fred’

Affiliation – Olympique Lyonnais a.k.a ‘Lyon

Reason for coolness – Upon moving to France, the president of Lyon recommended that Fred cut his hair before his first game. After a successful debut with his new stream-lined look, he agreed with the recommendation: "I am lighter, and I score more goals!" Also, his favourite food is barbeque.

Reason for Obscurity – When you heard the name Fred, you thought it was just the guy that helped you with plumbing the dishwasher in last year. Or Fred Dibnah. See also: Cris (Lyon) and Alex (Chelsea, formerly of PSV Eindhoven).

For some reason, as a Brazilian, if you don’t play for one of the major Italian or Spanish club sides, it is just assumed that you can’t really be that good. But as Fred is now a mainstay in the national team’s forward line, ahead of the likes of ‘Big’ Ronaldo and Adriano, and has won back to back French league titles with Lyon, it’s clear that he can play a bit.

Beginning his professional career at América Mineiro in his native Brazil, Fred held a formidable record of 34 league goals in just 57 matches, also famously scoring the fastest goal ever in Brazilian football after only 3.17 seconds against Vila Nova Futebol Clube. Check it here, and prepare a smile for his unique celebration -

Following a further successful spell at Cruzeiro, in December 2005 Fred was named winner of the prestigious Brazilian Bola de Ouro (Championship Player of the Year) after scoring an incredible 40 goals in 43 league matches for the traditional old club. This feat obviously raised a few European murmurs, and it wasn’t long before he crossed the pond to link up with fellow Brazilian maestro Antônio Augusto Ribeiro Reis Júnior, a.k.a Juninho, at the increasingly impressive Lyon.

Since joining Lyon, Fred has continued his prolific scoring rate, averaging almost a goal every other game alongside the exceptional talents of Juninho, Malouda and Carew as Lyon romped to their fifth and sixth consecutive French league titles.

Finally, if you think that Fred doesn't deserve STT's inaugural 'Obscure South American De La Semana', then wrap your eyeballs round this:

Sorry about the frenchness. I think you'll find it's worth it.

12 September, 2007

Mascot of the Week 5

Name – Cyril the Swan

Affiliation – Swansea City

Animal – Swan

Colour – White (with an orange bill)

Level of Ridiculousness – 7

Most common missle pelted with – Sheep and Leeks (Swansea’s in Wales right?)

Crime Rating (sponsored by 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records) – 8

Officially voted ‘Best Mascot’ by readers of the journalistic juggernaut that is Match of the Day magazine, Cyril the Swan has led a fascinating life, dipping his beak in many people’s back-garden ponds over the years. His career can be characterized like any great zeitgeist icon; a rise to the top, a subsequent fall from grace due to violence and depravity, and then finally an attack of the social conscience leading to altruism and returning adoration.

The story of how Cyril came to call Swansea home is the stuff of legend. Abandoned by his mother, and bullied by his siblings for his unusually small beak, the young Cyril the Signet left nest at just 1, and for many of his formative years, flew meaninglessly around the south coast of England, turning cheap tricks for bread and Doritos. At the turn of the 1990s however, he discovered a small Welsh coastal town and set up a new nest on the roof of the East Stand at Vetch Field. Drawn to the mesmerizing football on display, Cyril quickly earned enough cash to buy a season ticket for Swansea City and attended every game, becoming somewhat of a cult figure amongst the home support.

It wasn’t long before word spread that he was the chosen one: the return of the mythical Swan of Swansea…the Parousia, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the…well you get the idea. Obviously he was press-ganged into making this talismanic effect official, and became the club’s Mascot shortly after Christmas 1990. His rise to success was meteoric, and the late 1990s saw him both release the uncompromising rap anthem “Nice Swan Cyril,” and also star in his own stage adaptation of “Aladdin,” where he quite beautifully played both Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.

Like so many before him however, fame took it’s terrible toil on Cyril and by the turn of the Millennium, he was addicted to prit-stick and sleazy rent-ducks, while living in a pizza box behind the Crobar club. Cyril finally snapped during an FA Cup match against Millwall, pouncing on Zampa the Lion and ripping his head clean off, before drop-kicking it into the stands. He was so tweaked at this game that when the final whistle blew, he even led a one-bird pitch invasion to celebrate his brutality. A further string of incidents followed, including accusations that he had inappropriately grabbed a referee, pushed the director of Norwich City, and even thrown a pork pie at West Ham United fans. As such, in 2001 he was hauled before a Welsh FA disciplinary committee, fined £1000 and handed a touchline ban; the kiss of death to any mascot.

His reign of terror continued off the pitch however, as a dark cloud descended over the usually upbeat Football Furlong Mascot Race in 2001. Witness reports are sketchy, but many place Cyril as the only large white bird at the scene of the crime, as an innocent woman’s wrist was injured during a furied assault on the race-course. Police are still baffled, but to this day the woman (who cannot be named for legal reasons) insists that it was Cyril who attacked her, muttering the sinister words “I told you you’d go down bi-atch” as he cackled uncontrollably.

After an extensive stay in the Zippy-Ford Clinic for Outsized Animals, Cyril was re-introduced into society in 2002, and immediately announced plans to run for Mayor of Swansea, buoyed on by H’Angus the Monkey’s success in becoming the Mayor of Hartlepool earlier in the year. Unfortunately his campaign was subsequently sabotaged, but Cyril no longer holds a grudge, instead turning his attention to securing the post of England manager before World Cup 2010…

Modern Dream 11

Peter the Pirate loved his parrot so much he even put it on his shoulder when it had been cremated

Peter Schmeichel – For years it was like Manchester United had simply bricked up their goalmouth, such was the superhuman ability of the permanently red-nosed Dane. Never in my lifetime has any ‘keeper dominated in the way Schmeichel did, with 42% of his Premier League starts ending in clean sheets. It goes without saying that he also won countless titles with Man United in the 90s (including the incredible Treble in 1999) and the European Championships in 1992 with his national team, Denmark. More than that though, he even managed to notch up 11 goals throughout his career - that’s more than Emile Heskey!

Paulo Maldini – What is there to say about Maldini that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before? He’s the most capped Italian international ever, has played the most games in Serie A ever, has played in the most Champions League finals ever (equaling Francisco Gento’s tally of 8 last year) etc etc. He’s just a legend, and still going strong at 39 having recently completed his 22nd season for AC Milan.

Tony Adams – Amidst all sorts of controversy about drinking problems and fighting, its easy to forget just how great a player Adams actually was. International success did not always follow however, as, to be perfectly honest, England were generally pretty terrible for most of the time Adams spent in the side, but he still captained the side bravely to mediocrity throughout the 90s. At the end of the day, how can you not respect someone who openly admits that his pre-match routine was regularly a Friday night out involving a curry, 14 pints of lager and then another curry?!

Cafu – Nicknamed ‘The Express Train’, Cafu is a legendary figure both in his native country and also throughout Europe, where he’s enjoyed much success at Roma and AC Milan. The most capped Brazilian of all time, never seen without a smile on his face, Alex Ferguson once said of him : “If Maldini plays for another five years then I am quitting, but with Cafu you never know, I think he has two hearts." Rumours that this is the result of him mastering that weird voodoo thing from the Indy movie Temple of Doom are yet to be substantiated however…

Stuart Pearce – Apparently, upon his transfer to Nottingham Forest in 1985, Psycho was so unsure of his footballing future that he actually advertised his services as a trained electrician in the match-day program! Little was he to know the national hero he would become, embodying the fight and determination that characterized the English game throughout his long career. Probably the most fired up player I’ve ever seen, who can forget the lion-esque roar of pleasure upon scoring his penalty in Euro 96? Blessed with a fiercesome left foot, Pearce also scored more than 70 top flight goals in his career from left back, further proving his worth in any side.

Zinedine Zidane – Quite simply the greatest player I have ever seen.

Ronaldinho – Yes he might have gone off the boil recently but the Brazilian is still the best player in the world at the moment. His trickery is consistently breath-taking, his vision sublime and his shooting explosive with either foot. Christiano Ronaldo wishes he was this good. And this attractive.

Kaka’ – Probably the only player currently active with a chance of eclipsing ZZ as the best footballer of modern times, Kaka’ has simply got better and better and better over the last few years at Milan. Its got the point now where if he doesn’t single-handedly win a game, you’re almost disappointed, such is the collection of wonder-goals/passes he has in his locker. Add this to the fact he models for Armani, cites The Bible as his favourite ever book, and has one of the hottest wives of all time, you really should hate him. However, he’s simply too good for hate. Look up ‘mercurial’ in the dictionary and you’ll find his picture.

Diego Maradona – Remarkable for so many reasons but mainly for the fact that he just does not look like an athlete in any way. Short and a little bit stout, Maradona had no right to be probably the best dribbler of a football ever. Surrounded by controversy since early in his career, no-one could ever say he’d led a boring life, as, now free of cocaine addiction, he has re-invented himself as a TV host back in Argentina. Many will remember him for the wrong reasons, but no matter what anyone says I don’t think his 1986 goal against England will ever be bettered.

Marco Van Basten – Probably the first player that really made me sit up and take notice of what could actually be done with a football, Van Basten is undoubtedly one of the best strikers of all time. He had everything; pace, strength, vision and a spectacular strike. Behind the aforementioned Maradona masterpiece, his 1988 volley in the European Championships final against the old Soviet Union is the second best goal I’ve ever seen.

Eric Cantona – Perhaps the most talented player ever to play in the Premier League since it’s inception in 1993, Cantona’s talismanic effect at Manchester United lead them to 4 titles in 5 years, including 2 Premier League and FA Cup doubles. While his kung-fu kick into the crowd at Crystal Palace in 1995 is what he will most likely be remembered for on these shores, he also scored some of the best goals you will ever see; sublime chips and volleys that match those of anyone else on this list. After a somewhat dramatic relationship with the French national team, tragically Cantona never played in a World Cup, but despite this his ability was never in question. Outspoken and individual to the end, Cantona retired at the relatively early age of 30, choosing to focus to Beach Soccer and acting instead of the game that left him ultimately frustrated. In the words of the great man himself : "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown in to the sea."

Cheers Gav! Any more Dream Teams can be shipped to us via sniffingtt@gmail.com

11 September, 2007

State of the League - First Impressions

And so here we are. Five games into the 07/08 season, with the transfer window shut and a proper league table for the code-monkeys amongst you out there to analyse. The ongoing international break gives STT a chance for some much needed breath-catching and also some sage reflection on events so far.

It's great that any team has looked capable of beating anyone else, if the first few rounds of matches are anything to go by. Manchester United and Chelsea have started the season as shadows of their former dominant selves, while early pace-setters Everton and Manchester City have been playing some truly exciting football, establishing themselves as real forces to be reckoned with.

However, as good as Man City, Everton and Aston Villa, among others, have looked, is there really any genuine competition for the ‘big 4?’ Short answer is ‘no’ with a ‘but;’ long answer is ‘yes’ but with a very big ‘if.’ I feel that the rivalry around the remainder of the top half of the table though might produce the most entertaining matches this year, as Portsmouth, Newcastle and Spurs will all similarly fancy their chances of a top 6 finish ahead of the aforementioned fringe sides.

The biggest question has to be: Can Liverpool go the distance and secure the Premier League crown this year? And, if at Christmas time it looked like they were in with a real chance, would they choose league glory over another possible long-running Champions League campaign? It should make for fascinating viewing, as Liverpool has started by far the brightest with Torres and Babel especially looking like thrilling prospects, and full-blown match-winners too. Everything just seems to have come together under the newly goateed Benitez; defensively they are sublime, the choice of central midfielders is to die for, and the huge range of attacking options ooze pace and potency.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea look decidedly limp in comparison. While Liverpool have netted 11 goals in their opening 4 games, Manchester United have struggled, admittedly with injuries and suspensions, to just 3 in 5 games. With the return of a traditional striker in Louis Saha however, they look a much better team, with his sterling hold-up play and instinctive positioning creating more chances in one game than in their previous 4 combined. As much as I rate Tevez, Nani, Ronaldo, Rooney etc, none of them are old-fashioned centre forwards, and someone with this natural awareness and eye for goal is still the key to success, at any level.

Looking towards the opposite end of the table, unfortunately a few teams already appear seriously adrift from the rest in all areas. Newly promoted Derby and Birmingham have looked out of their depth defensively, leaking easy goals and making mistakes that will consistently get punished at this level, while Sunderland have been undoubtedly competitive, but I just can’t see them scoring too many goals with the options they have. The remainder of the bottom six are currently Bolton, Fulham and Reading, and I fully expect the latter two teams to still be in the drop-zone come May. Bolton on the other hand have played relatively well and not got what they perhaps deserved out of a couple of games. Plus, in Anelka they have one of the most dangerous forwards in the league, just leaving Sammy Lee the problem of keeping him and partner in crime Diouf interested throughout the season…

Wise opinions to recycle to your friends:

- Blackburn have been thoroughly impressive this season and have been playing decent football, despite Wenger continuing his slur campaign against any physical contact whatsoever on the pitch.

- Portsmouth will do well this season after a horrible opening set of fixtures; they have proved themselves more than able to compete against Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal, deserving more than they got from each game.

- Mikel Arteta is proving himself to be the most under-rated player in the Premier League, and if Spain don’t want him, surely we can find him an English great-great-grandfather or something so he’s eligible…

- England’s future is looking bright, with Micah Richards, Michael Johnson, Mark Noble, Steven Taylor and Ashley Young, among others, all making very impressive starts to the season.

- Many of the new imports we highlighted at the start of the season have settled in nicely; it’s good to see guys like Babel, Utaka and Bianchi shining, as well as the obvious Torres-shaped big hitters.

- Spurs must be the most frustrating team to support, but everybody loves the Big Guy. He lovesh hish playersh too.