30 April, 2008

What's all this Aboot then?

It’s a pretty well known fact within football that if Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger let a player leave their club, there is probably something wrong with them, whether it’s a recurring injury or the fact that they’re just a complete prick. The one man in the last five years that breaks this rule however is David Bentley, and you can guarantee that Wenger wishes he still had Bentley’s services, after a couple of seasons now where he has been about 20 times more effective than all of Arsenal’s wide-men combined.

Anyway, today we have had a hot tip from our thoroughly trustworthy friends over at The Spoiler concerning the true story behind Bentley’s bizarre departure from Highbury two years ago:

“When Bentley was at Arsenal, he kept putting in transfer requests which were rejected. He went on loan at Norwich, came back, and the same thing happened again.

By the summer of 2005, he was completely fed up, so had some special boots made. On one was written ‘English and proud,’ and the other, ‘So I’m never picked.’

The next morning at training, he called Arsene Wenger over and showed him.“The next day he was moved on to Blackburn.”

Every single bone in my body hopes this is what happened, because it’s an absolutely perfect way to flip Wenger the bird. It’s a scientific fact that he was actually born without a sense of humour, and with the stroppy strictness of a mid-40s private-school Headmistress who hasn’t got laid in two decades, he played to form and pointed straight to the door. One can only imagine the size of the smile that brought to Bentley’s face.

I Thai-ed My Best

This guy Thaksin Shinawatra is a bit of a slippery customer to say the least. Surely being ousted as the President of Thailand by a military coup was a bit of a red flag to all Manchester City fans that he perhaps doesn’t fly straight, but recent talk now suggest that he’s completely lost the plot at Eastlands. After just one pretty impressive season, the word on the street is that manager Sven-Goran Eriksson is to face the chop in the summer after failing to produce instant results and presumably winning Premier League. Admittedly the Sky Blues have suffered a post-Christmas slump, and a couple of Sven’s big money signings haven’t come to fruition, but for a first season Sven has done remarkably well to mesh together a group of players who’d never played together before, even scoring a historic double over local rivals Manchester United. As The Telegraph perhaps rightly pointed out today, this is a sign of not being fit to run the club, as surely just ignoring the fans completely shows how little idea some foreign owners have of the passion within English football?

Now however furious players are lining up to follow the Swede and quit City. Club captain Richard Dunne will be among them, as will his defensive partner Micah Richards, and promising young English midfielder Michael Johnson. Playmakers Elano and Martin Petrov will also be looking elsewhere, after joining the club basically only on Sven’s desire to sign them, and the ex-England coach’s reputation. Eriksson’s long-time colleague Tord Grip confirmed today that they will definitely be out at the end of the season: “I don’t think the owner has been patient enough. We think that we have done it well. It hasn’t been that good after Christmas but there is always ups and downs in football. The Premier League is like a marathon. It takes time to build up a team that will be competitive in the Premier League.” According to The Sun, the normally cool Sven had a blazing row with Shinawatra in a meeting on Sunday, apparently sparked by Shinawatra’s refusal to allow Eriksson any say in the summer’s transfer dealings, a state of affairs which contradicts his contract with the club.

It is not just players who are pissed off though, with a fans’ revolt potentially on the cards should Shinawatra attempt to install a puppet in the summer for him to pull the strings of. Obviously all the usual names such as Rikjaard and Scolari are being thrown around as potential replacements, with STT favourite Slaven Bilic’s name also in the ring, but chances are none of these men will satisfy the mutiny should all of the above players leave. Head of this loose collective is famous City fan Noel Gallagher, who said Shinawatra must be “living in cloud cuckoo land” if he thinks sacking the manager is a good idea.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Gallagher continued:

“To get rid of him after the best season I can remember is ridiculous. It can't be for any footballing reasons. For a club that's been going nowhere fast for the last 25 years…he turned it around and gave us a bit of style and dignity and grace. He bought some great players. The fans have got pride back in the club… I just think it's beyond a joke.

“This guy Shinawatra has come in and he seems like a bit of a nutcase. The only thing that will get him off the hook is if he's got Mourinho lined up. Apart from Mourinho Eriksson's the best thing out there. I'd be amazed and appalled if I met a City fan who thought getting rid of Eriksson was a good thing. They all love him up there. I'd give him a big kiss and say, ‘You know what, you take them to the cleaners.’”

Chicks with Dicks

It’s one thing being busted by the filth for getting a suckjob off a street-walker in Sainsburys’ car-park, but it’s a whole different kettle of fish being pinched with prozzies who are actually men. We’ve all been there, and you just have to laugh it off, but alas, if you’re in the public eye, that’s not really an option. Spare a thought then for Brazilian megastar Ronaldo, who was this week caught up in a sex tornado with three cross-dressers in his home town. Having dropped off his girlfriend at her house in Rio de Janeiro on Monday night, the injured super-striker did what any man does when his bird is surfing the crimson wave and picked up a few prostitutes. Just the three mind, which is unusually restrained for players of his name, so presumably the big guy was feeling a bit tired.

However, when they all booked into a really upmarket motel in Rio’s slum district, the AC Milan forward had a bit of a Crying Game moment when they flashed him their meat and two (six?) veg. Now according to local police reports, he alleges that the trannies then tried to extort money from him, to stop them from revealing what happened to the press. Rio police superintendent Carlos Augusto Nogueira said Ronaldo “reported that Andreia Albertine had taken his car documents and demanded $30,000” for their safe return, along with the group’s silence. Nogueira added that “Ronaldo admits the facts. He said he just wanted to amuse himself, that's not a crime. To pay to have sexual relations isn't illegal,” concluding that, “there's a strong chance that Ronaldo has been the victim of extortion.” Brilliantly, under Brazilian law, being a pimp on the streets or running a brothel are both illegal, but the actual act of prostitution itself is not, so Nogueira finished by saying that, at worst, Ronaldo was being “immoral.”

On the other hand though one of the prostitutes, Ms/Mr Albertine, who you definitely wouldn’t guess was born a man, was quoted in the Brazilian press yesterday as saying that Ronaldo had threatened to hit her/him when he discovered that he was a victim of false advertising. The merry band have also cooked up a bit of a drug scandal too, claiming that Ronaldo was both on drugs, and also trying to score more drugs off them. In a statement released today Big Ron denied ever using narcotics of any kind, and further reiterated that he was a victim of extortion. Earlier in the year, he was also a victim of a car-jacking in Rio, when strangely his bright red Ferrari attracted some attention from the local hoodlums. He was robbed at a traffic light, but upon realising who he was, the pint-sized gangsters apologised and returned his phone, but still sped off in the hot wheels.

Moral of the story is that Brazil can be a bit dicey, even if you’re a national hero; keep your hand on your wallet at all times, and always check your whore has the right gear downstairs before paying her.

29 April, 2008

You Bunch of Muppets

Lock, Stock and all those other shite cockney gangster movies have a lot to answer for; not least the introduction of the word ‘muppet’ into every East End wideboy’s common vernacular. STT personally prefers the word ‘mug’ for pseudo-Del Boy posturing, but that’s beside the point because today it reached press attention that David Beckham has actually officially made the Hollywood big-time by hanging with the muppets. You know, the actual muppets: Kermit, the Cookie Monster and posse.

D. Beck’s quest for street respect has seen him talk slippers with Snoop Dogg and even talk to some actual latinos in LA, so it seems fitting that the Holy Trinity is completed with a guest appearance in the original hood, Sesame Street. The ex-England captain filmed an illustrious cameo alongside host Elmo, to introduce a new word to the fluffy red lothario and the millions of youngsters who watch at home. Renowned intellectual Beckham resisted the temptation to go for something humorous like ‘clitoris,’ and instead chose ‘persistence’ as his word of choice. Apparently the irony of Beckham teaching children vocabulary was lost on Americans.

An unknown source (suspected to be Count von Count) told us today: “David has always been a huge fan of the show. When he was a kid he watched it, like a lot of people, and knew all the characters. He was more than happy to go on. He loves dealing with kids and thought it would be a great way to get through to them. He has developed a great understanding speaking to children with his own boys and through his coaching at the Beckham soccer schools.” Beckham even chimed in with this lucid comment: “I had a great time filming it, a real laugh.”

Beckham now joins a long list of Hollywood luminaries who have appeared on the show, which has now broadcast more than 4000 episodes in close to 40 years on the air. The likes of Michael Stipe, Jamie Foxx and even Robert de Niro have all kicked it with Bert and Ernie in the past, so this was undoubtedly a shrewd move by D. Beck to raise his profile and show what a lovely chap he is. The show will be broadcast in a couple of weeks time Stateside but alas we won’t be getting the feed over here, as we have our own shit English version of the show, but you can rest assured that when shown, we will have a youtube link for you as soon as humanly possible. On an unrelated note, here is a random picture of Posh indulging Beckham’s muppet fetish by dressing up as Elmo. Apparently their collective excuse was ‘fashion.’

The Battle of Bridge

If things weren’t tense enough during the match on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, matters took a somewhat more sinister turn after the stadium had emptied, as several Manchester United players were involved with a pretty fierce confrontation with Chelsea ground staff during their warm-down routine. A Blues groundsman perhaps asked one of the United players if they caught the game and could remember the score, to which the response was understandably far from positive. Now things have got way out of hand with the FA deciding to act for once, requesting the CCTV footage from the Chelsea ground after allegations of racial abuse have been thrown around. United have themselves been asked to submit a report to the FA, while Alex Ferguson has been quick to maintain radio silence since Saturday night, even forbidding Cristiano Ronaldo to collect his PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday night in person.

The story is this: a group of United players, including Patrice Evra, Park Ji-Sung, Gerald Pique and Paul Scholes, were warming down after the 2 – 1 loss when they were asked to move by ground staff who were eager to paint lines, water the grass and do whatever else they do. This then sparked a row as presumably the request was made with some provocation, as suggested earlier. As such, Manchester United players have accused the Chelsea staff of starting the brawl, with Carlos Tevez saying “Patrice (Evra) received a grave insult from a member of Chelsea’s staff, he demanded an explanation and, from that moment, these men just wanted to attack Patrice.”

The conclusion being jumped to is that a “grave insult” means something racialist, and given Chelsea’s reputation as a club with a historically very white and nationalistic core fan-base, people seem pretty keen to align themselves with this. Tevez continued to explain the situation: “Obviously it’s normal that we tried to defend our team-mate but within a few seconds all of the United players were surrounded by stewards. I think that the security cameras will show the provocation we received. I have never seen anything like this in my career, if the FA opens an investigation, we will co-operate and happily give our version of what happened.”

The Mirror reported yesterday that United have now distanced themselves from any claims of racist abuse following a phone conversation between their chief executive David Gill and his Chelsea counterpart Peter Kenyon. As a sign of ill-feeling between the clubs though, United refused last night to sign up to a joint statement outlining the events proposed by Chelsea after their ground staff were all comprehensively interviewed. Lawnmowerer(?) Sam Bethell responded to claims that he gave Patrice Evra a black eye by saying: “I've not lost my job. I'm back at work tomorrow morning. It was handbags really.” The saga as they say continues.

On a somewhat lighter note though, this wasn’t the only fracas at Stamford Bridge after the final whistle blew. It seems that Rio Ferdinand, even eager to merc people, accidentally kicked a female steward while venting his frustration on a brick wall as he walked of the pitch. How you can lash out like that and not notice that what you’re kicking is in fact not an inanimate object but a person is beyond me, but who are we to analyze exactly what goes on in the man’s head? “Unfortunately a lady was stood by and I accidentally brushed her with my foot,” Rio explained. “I apologised profusely and went back to make sure she was OK. I have arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be sent to her.” I don’t know about you but I never realised it worked like that. I mean, I knew girls liked flowers, but I didn’t think they enjoyed them enough to let you actually hit them in exchange for a ten-pound wrap of roses from a petrol station. Once again Rio, you have shown us all the way.

UPDATE - A Jerky Benny Hill-like video has been released by Sky News, who also provide some lacklustre commentary and uninformed debate:

28 April, 2008

Gameweek 36 – ‘Heatwave’

Happy Monday then faithful readership, and with just the two games left of the season, things continue to twist and turn both at the top of the pile and also down at the bottom. Chelsea heaped further pressure on Man United by beating them fairly comprehensively actually at Stamford Bridge and moving level on points with the defending champions. United once again looked a little out of sorts, and as with their game at the Nou Camp midweek, struggled to get any extended periods of possession. Goal difference will still carry them to the title should they finish on the same points as Chelsea, but any slip up from the Reds and the title could head back over to West London to make three titles in four years for Mr Abramovich.

With the abyss of relegation on the horizon for plenty of teams, many have started to find some form late in the season, and now it is looking like any two from Fulham, Birmingham, Reading and Bolton will be faced with the glamorous prospect of Championship football next season. Second-bottom Fulham came from two behind to miraculously beat Manchester City with three goals in the last 20 minutes to make next week’s clash with third-bottom Birmingham about as crucial as they get. Bolton and Reading earned themselves draws and may well feel safe, but as Bolton play Chelsea on the final day of the season, truly anything can happen.

Finally, the mini-league for fifth place seems to have been all but settled now with Everton safe by three points, but just below them, Villa, Pompey, Blackburn and Manchester City can certainly take plenty of credit this season for playing some great attacking football. As ever though, consistency is the key and while the other contenders have all experienced form slumps, the Toffees have been perhaps overall the best side throughout the months.

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

Keeper – Marcus Hahemann (several fantastic saves, including a superhuman change of direction to keep out a Michael Brown shot that was deflected)

Defence – Ryan Taylor (solid tackling and couple of vital blocks), Joseph Yobo (great positioning), Ashley Cole (credit where credit’s due), Brett Emerton (decent covering work)

Midfield – Michael Ballack (match-winner), James McFadden (tricky), Jermaine Pennant (excellent again), Steed Malbranque (consistent attacking threat)

Up Top – Diomansy Kamara (saviour), Obafemi Martins (pacey and always dangerous), Michael Chopra (alert and sharp)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Sebastien Larsson’s cracking free-kick at St Andrews, a sweet strike from the most accurate free kick taker in the league:

Nutmeg of the Week – Diomansy Kamara bags Fulham’s first comeback goal via a rather large gap between Joe Hart’s legs.

Save of the Week – Hart restored some credibility not long after though, miraculously clawing a point-blank David Healy header over the bar.

Skill of the Week – James McFadden’s sweet juggling over Martin Skrtl’s head (see it at the start of the above Larsson video).

Miss of the Week – The normally lethal Dimitar Berbatov wastes a glorious chance to beat Bolton late on by making a proper mess of a free header from the edge of the six-yard box.

Attempt of the Week – Jimmy Bullard nearly moves his total for the year on another tick with a cracking long range effort that just dipped too late and grazed the cross-bar.

Gaffe of the Week – After a great season overall Ricardo Carvalho was the villain of the piece for a while at Stamford Bridge after blindly gifting the ball to Wayne Rooney with a free run at goal.

UFC Move of the Week – Steven Taylor clearly doesn’t like Freddie Ljundberg’s ambiguous sexuality very much so decided to stamp on his neck and chest for it.

ASBO of the Week – Didier Drogba with a text-book rising knee straight out of Street Fighter into Nemanja Vidic’s face. The Serbian hardman had a mouth-full of blood, and a tooth through his lip, but he still could’ve killed you with a spade if you cussed him.

Broken Jinx of the Week – Fulham gave themselves a further boost for survival by winning back-to-back away games for the first time in four and a half years.

Playground Theatrics of the Week – Drogba and Ballack had a little tiff about who was taking a free-kick that made the former especially look like a teenage girl crying because someone else was wearing the same cardigan as them. Or something equally gay.

Poach of the Week – Greek star Stelios bags a tap-in from about a yard out that even Gary Linekar would be proud of with his first touch on Saturday.

Statistic of the Week – David James missed his first Premier League for more than four years, breaking a chain of 166 consecutive appearances.

Karma of the Week – Radhi Jaidi receives some justice from the universe for his goalkeeper-distracting antics by deflecting a tame Benayoun header into his own net.

Controversy of the Week – Michael Carrick’s handball at Stamford Bridge, a decision which Ferguson called “disgraceful” in the press afterwards. In reality it probably was a fair decision, but as ever consistency is key, and Stylian Petrov was hit in almost exactly the same way yesterday from a Lee Carsley drive and yep you guessed it, no penalty was awarded.

Whinge of the Week – Carlos Queiroz takes his turn to see what it’s like being Arsene Wenger with this quote talking about Ballack’s man-handling of Cristiano Ronaldo in the second-half: “It must be necessary for a player to bring a gun and shoot one of our men in the box for us to get a penalty!” He went on to raise previous ghosts: “We are not in the FA Cup final because of a bad decision when we should have had a penalty against Portsmouth. Against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, there should have been three penalties but only one was given. Something is wrong with football.”

Hero of the Week – Diomansy Kamara just about pips Michael Ballack this week by somehow inspiring Fulham to another crucial win after the Cottagers were 2 – 0 down early on at the City of Manchester stadium.

Zero of the Week – With no win in three games, this is as close as Man United get to a ‘crisis,’ so I guess it has to be Alex Ferguson. After one frustrating draw against Blackburn, and two games in the last week where they barely had a kick, this week’s Champions League second leg, hosting Barcelona, is basically a make-or-break game for their season. Another loss and all of sudden both the Premier League and the Champions League could be out of their grasp.

Personal Highlight of the Week – A fantastic Old Firm clash which saw Celtic take the plaudits and beat arch-rivals Rangers in a riveting game with end-to-end attacks and a large proportion of local Scottish lads impressing.

PFA Awards

Unsurprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo scooped the PFA Player of the Year award last night, and given the stats of his season, there’s absolutely no way anyone can argue really. The Portuguese winger has continued his exponential rise into the history books, surpassing even last year’s wondrous season as he closes in on 30 Premier League goals. Due to the somewhat controversial post-match histrionics at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, it was deemed inappropriate by Sir Alex for Cristiano to put on his sluttiest little black dress to accept the award himself, but we’re assured the necessary orgy back in his jizz-cuzzi still took place anyway.

Ronaldo also made the PFA-nominated Team of the Season too, of which strangely only David James and Ashley Young were not drawn from Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United. Conspicuously absent altogether though are Chelsea representatives, which would almost seem to suggest that perhaps, I dunno, every other player in the country hates them and thinks they’re all shit. I find that hard to believe, maybe all the votes for their players were just lost in the post…recount anyone?

What’s most bizarre about this somewhat self-congratulatory tradition though is that the voting is actually finalised by the end of January so hypothetically had, say, Emile Heskey scored 20 goals in February, March and April he still wouldn’t have made the cut. We will be doing our own Team of the Year in a fortnight’s time when everything has actually finished, but in the interim, here then are the PFA’s picks for August – January:

David James (Portsmouth)
Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd)
Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd)
Gael Clichy (Arsenal)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd)
Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal)
Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

It’s hard to argue with the majority of the list, but interesting The Spoiler have suggested various updates which attempt to take in the season as a whole up to this past week. It’s hard to argue with some of their suggestions, but obviously no subjective list can ever really capture the true spectrum of a full 38 match season. The likes of Ferdinand, Clichy, Fabregas, Gerrard and Adebayor for example have dropped off significantly since January, while other early season potential nominees such as Man City’s Elano have similarly diminished a touch. Several Blackburn and Portsmouth players particularly deserve recognition for their graft this season, each side succeeding without really flashing the cash of some of their rivals, but obviously each have also had their ups and downs. Also there has to be some consideration of pay-pack and reputation, with many unsung heroes attached to the bottom few clubs (such as Wigan’s Paul Scharner, Birmingham’s Radhi Jaidi and Reading’s Marcus Hahnemann, just to name three) never likely to get a mention.

Anyway these lists are always primarily to generate debate, so drop some of your suggestions into the Comments box and stay tuned for our hopefully conclusive Team of the Year coming after the dust has settled in a fortnight’s time…

New Kid on the Block

It was only a matter of time before little Theo Woolcott got himself a bird and she starting opening her mouth to the press. However she seems to already have real delusions of grandeur because, at just age 19, she feels she can break the WAG mould. Almost two years now, speaking to the News of the World before World Cup 2006 where she helped Theo make the team sandwiches and drinks at half-time, she was clearly keen to make friends, and said of the WAG patrol: “They're all lovely girls who just want to have fun and support their men.” When asked to speak on the so-called leaders of pack, she went on to describe Posh as “definitely a role model and someone to look up to,” Cheryl as “very beautiful and friendly,” and Frank Lampard’s fiance Elen Rives as “the funniest woman … always coming out with mad things and she’s really good fun.”

Now however she has an FHM shoot under her belt, and has had a sudden and dramatic change of heart. In the accompanying interview, printed in the June issue of the magazine, she says: “I hate the stereotype - the shopping all day long, the short dresses and massive sunglasses. Advertisement

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"I would never want to be associated with those women.” Miouw! The illustrious Ms Slade then went on to say she doesn’t want to “wear designer clothes and have expensive haircuts and manicures, (but) do my own thing.” So instead of helping Alex Curran and Coleen buy diamonds, she’s planning to go to St George’s University in London to study physiotherapy; a noble attempt to pay lip-service to the fact that with Theo’s pay package she actually has to work.

She continued to even slam the fringe girls in a display of unforeseen vitriol: “The wannabes who are so desperate to sleep with a footballer have no respect for themselves, no ambition, nothing. And I don't see why a footballer would want to be with them either.” Well Melanie, footballers want to be with them because they’ve got big cans and put out if you buy them dinner, but you can kinda see her point here. As much as we like watching Chanelle and her other Big Brother slag-bags tart themselves around, you can’t help but feel it’s a little bit sad. Only a touch mind, because at the end of the day I’d rather watch them have a bitch fight in essentially just lingerie than listen to this Melanie Slade moan. She went on to say that the couple are so snobby towards the WAG scene that “when we have an argument Theo accuses me of being waggy, a real insult.” With this kind of unprovoked rage, something is up so I give it less than a year before she’s broken up with Woolcott and is caught snogging Danielle Lloyd in the toilets at China White.

25 April, 2008

Going Down? Give Us Your Players then!

As the season draws to a close, several promotions and relegations throughout the four leagues have already been decided, so it’s time to start looking ahead to next season’s Premier League in some ways. How will the dynamic change without Derby, Fulham, and say Birmingham, and potentially with West Brom, Stoke City and Hull? What’s always funny at this time of year is the way that players who previously pledged their full commitment to a club suddenly bolt faster than women and children off the Titanic as soon as the drop is confirmed. Prestigious and big-name signings drafted in for that final push for safety, all of a sudden start looking elsewhere, and let’s face it, where better for decent wages and the old big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome than the newly promoted sides? Here then is our guide for who to look out for (as well as their estimated price-tag) as the promoted Championship three suddenly find themselves covered in money, and faced with the daunting prospect of scoring past Petr Cech, and keeping Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring double figures.

Now there will always be players who bridge the gap between the two top leagues; guys like Robert Earnshaw and Kevin Phillips for example, who have been basically too good for the Championship, but just nowhere near good enough to really cut it in the Premier League, all their careers. As they look set to each swap places once again, with Derby certainly down and the Baggies all but certainly back up, we’ve decided to pick five players each from the other five teams, from which two will definitely be facing the exciting prospect of Swansea away next season. Not only will the three newly-promoted teams be vying to get their hands on some of these, but also established Premier League sides have courted the likes of Kevin Nolan for years, so should these teams suffer relegation, you can guarantee some of the big-boys will be casting their eyes on this shopping list too…


Roy Carroll – solid keeper but given so little help this year at Pride Park that a move is surely on the cards (£2m)

Tyrone Mears – athletic young defender who has a big physical presence, and alongside a more experienced head, could well form a decent central partnership for someone (£1.5m)

Giles Barnes – exciting prospect who shone last year, attracting the attention of plenty of Premier League clubs. A season plagued with injury has done nothing but lower his stock, however the potential is definitely still there at only 19 years old (£3.5m)

Robbie Savage – now an experienced pro, Savage would be a valuable addition to most sides’ midfield, despite struggling for form at Derby. A big price-tag might put off the Premier League new boys though (£3m)

Kenny Miller – Proof that Scottish league success doesn’t translate into the Premier League, Miller has failed to really make an impact this year, but in a confident team he will almost certainly still get goals (£2.5m)


Brian McBride – the talismanic star at Craven Cottage, McBride is physical and passionate, always giving you 100% effort. His future has to be in doubt, but the chance of a big-money move back home Stateside might be more likely should Fulham go down (£5m)

Clint Dempsey – stepping into the breach in McBride’s absence this year, the man also known as Deuce is a grafter in every sense of the world, and a potentially great addition to any squad (£4m)

Eddie Johnson – the final part of the attacking American trio at Fulham, Johnson is young and raw but a confident runner and ball-carrier (£2m)

Jimmy Bullard – a class act on the pitch and top draw joker off it, Bullard would be a great coup for any promoted side with the likes of Pompey and Villa also keen. Injury problems however in the past might prevent any of the big boys risking his signature (£5m)

David Healy – lethal at International level but unable to hit water from a boat in the Premier League, under the right management Healy could still forge a career in the top flight (£2.5m)


Sebastien Larson – former Arsenal trainee that was fantastic last season and in patches this season, but is perhaps a little lightweight for the highest level. An excellent young flare player though on his day (£3m)

James McFadden – David Moyes has already said he regrets selling the Scottish starlet, so don’t be surprised if a top-6 team picks up McFadden in the closed season should the Blues drop (£8m)

Mikael Forsell – Used sparingly this season but has still continued to deliver at St Andrews when called upon after years bench-warming at Stamford Bridge. Guaranteed goals if he stays fit and happy (£2.5m)

Radhi Jaidi – a hulking physical specimen who has impressed at the centre of Birmingham’s defence this year. Would be an experienced and commanding addition to any promoted side’s back-line (£3m)

Cameron Jerome – perhaps not as successful in the top flight as his early season form might’ve suggested, but Jerome is still an exciting prospect who’s capable of the match-winning spectacular (£3m)


Kevin Nolan – inspirational captain, often courted by Liverpool in the past, who will almost certainly move to a top-6 club if Bolton go down (£6m)

Gary Cahill – cracking young defender who has improved dramatically throughout the season; big, strong and reads the game like an old head (£4m)

Ivan Campo / Stelios Giannakopoulos – both bit-part players this season, but each have the experience to add both creativity and also some calm to a newly promoted midfield lacking top-flight history (free)

El-Hadji Diouff / Kevin Davies – Diouff is wanted by several other Premier League sides so I guess he’s worthy of mention, but for me Davies is the pick of the whole team for a newly promoted side looking to add graft, experience and gamesmanship to an attacking line (£5m/£2.5m)

Matty Taylor – a strange decision to move from Pompey all along, Taylor will definitely be looking to stay in the top flight if Bolton get relegated as he’s still young (£3.5m)


Ivar Ingimarsson – a rock in the centre of defence that has protected keeper Marcus Hahemann almost single-handedly at times this year (£3m)

Stephen Hunt – the tricky Irishman has had an impressive couple of years, and while he’s struggled to have the impact of last season, would still be a decent buy for almost anyone in the top flight (£5.5m)

Dave Kitson – the gentle ginger giant has been consistently good this season, but with Reading as a whole failing to score many goals, Kitson’s tally perhaps doesn’t reflect his work ethic and ability (£4.5m)

Kevin Doyle – after last season’s incredible haul Doyle was always going to be hard-pushed to match it this season. Injuries clearly haven’t helped matters, but given a good run in a side again next year you can guarantee the goals will come back (£5m)

James Harper – has made impressive progress this year in a somewhat flat Reading midfield who severely missed Sidwell pulling the strings. Also loves to get forward, and has chipped in with some vital goals for the Royals (£3m)


Chris Kirkland – a keeper for the future a couple of years ago, but a serious knee injury halted his career from reaching the highest levels and maybe even International caps. Still a superb shot-stopper though (£4m)

Emile Heskey – knows the league and will always do a job (£2m)

Wilson Palacios – highly-rated South American who has the pace and the trickery to play for almost anyone in the league (£5m)

Antonio Valancia – alongside Palacios, the strongest stock Wigan have to trade off should they go down; Liverpool and Manchester United are supposedly interested in the young pair (£5m)

Paul Scharner – the team’s unsung hero for the last two years, Scharner is as versatile as he is underrated (£2.5m)

Henry Has no Tyne for King Kev

Poor Kevin Keegan. No-one decent wants to join his fun little ice-cream party up at St James Park, and certainly not Thierry Henry. Having once again declared his desire to bring the troubled Frenchman back to the Premier League with Newcastle today in the national press, he’ll perhaps wish he’d have waited to see the linked BBC interview with the Barcelona star that’s due to air tomorrow on Football Focus. The ex-Arsenal captain stated that he would definitely like to return to the Premier League before the end of his career, but that there was only one team “in his heart,” and I’m sure you can all guess which one.

Thankfully The Spoiler have taken the time to transcribe the important part of his chat to save me the tedium of doing it myself, so for those of you too busy to watch a three minute video, here are the nuts and bolts of what Mr Henry had to say:

“I’m happy - I don’t regret leaving Arsenal. But there’s only one team in England for me. Everybody knows the love and affection I have for Arsenal. I was so into it, I became a fan.”

So will we be seeing Henry back at the Emirates next season? The rumour mill has been running on overdrive in recent weeks, spitting out a whole range of stories suggesting that Henry has been transfer-listed at the Nou Camp, and that Arsenal are looking to solve their captaincy problems with a mysterious choice out of leftfield. It would seem to be a strange move for both parties, but given how each have faired since parting ways, a romantic reunion might just be what’s needed to rejuvenate Arsenal back into winning ways, and ensure that Henry ends his career back on top rather than a pale reflection of former greatness. In short: don’t bet against it.

The Rich Get Richer

This week has seen the publication of two very important annual lists: one sexy, and the other not so much really. Unfortunately for you though, it’s difficult to really weave a football-related story around the FHM100 Sexiest Women (trust me; I only got about 30 words in over an hour) so you’ll have to just check it out for yourself without our usually insightful commentary. The release of Britain’s Rich List on the other hand is yet another display of the escalating wealth of our country’s footballers, with the Beckhams’ in particular sitting on a quite depressingly large pot of gold.

Their fortune has reportedly sky-rocketed by £13million in the last year alone, taking their collective net worth up to £125m, and making them the 616th richest Brits in any (legal) industry. Unsurprisingly their recent move to the States has seen the coffers truly open, with D. Beck’s endorsements and sponsorships adding to his already ludicrous wage from the LA Galaxy. Posh on the other hand has really contributed too, supposedly re-inventing herself as an ‘actress’ and ‘fashion designer,’ presumably in the same way she was previously a ‘singer’ and a ‘quantum physicist.’ To put their fortune in perspective then, other loaded British couples on the list include Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose bank balance reads £185m, Madonna and Guy Ritchie, whose combined wealth is reportedly £300m, and The Osbournes, with £110m. Fellow football pair Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin also make the cut as the richest celebrity couple aged under 30 with £35m, the same amount apparently held by Princes William and Harry in their trust funds.

Thelondonpaper however also published figures for the richest players based in the Capital, and just for the record, seven of the top ten are Chelsea players, each sitting on a rainy-day-find of more than £10m. ‘Super’ Frank Lampard heads the list, having made some shrewd property investments and sponsorship deals on top of his wages, to help amass a net worth of £19m. Does being able to literally swim in money (like childhood hero Scrooge McDuck) help ease the pain of potentially another trophy-less season for the Blues superstars? I should think it probably goes quite a long way, yes.

24 April, 2008

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Catfight

It’s funny how just a day after we mention former Big Brother expand-a-chest Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace fir the first time on STT, she gets her beak wet supposedly fighting one of our favourite regular WAGs, the delectable Abbey Clancy. In case you didn’t get the e-vite, yesterday was Peter Crouch’s birthday party, and unhampered by the prospect of actually playing any football in the near future, he was free to party down here in London at the swanky Valmont Club in Chelsea. It was riotously boozy affair by all accounts, with it kicking off just after midnight as Ms Clancy ended up in tears after allegedly getting involved in a nasty slanging match with the horse-faced Aisleyne. An unnamed source reportedly heard the normally-serene reality TV contestant hurl the following insult at our Abbey: “I'll kill you, you fucking flat-chested cock-sucking spastic horse-fucker,” but this might just as easily have been made up on the spot for pure comedic value.

The histrionics continued, according to another anonymous fellow clubber: “Abbey was really drunk and stormed out into the smoking area in tears. Crouch also looked a bit worse for wear and followed her in an attempt to calm her down, though she reacted badly and was not at all happy with the striker.” By “reacted badly” this informant actually meant, she slapped the Liverpool-bench-warmer-but-England-starter in the face (presumably borrowing a step-ladder or at least a stack of Yellow Pages) and left via the club’s back entrance, but as the accompanying pictures show, the pair seemed to have patched things up by the time a taxi arrived to whisk them off to the Ritz, or wherever footballers stay in the City.

Abbey’s faithful gal pals were overheard by staff questioning her about a heated conversation she was see having with Aisleyne, who apparently set her sights on the 6’7” striker just one day after snubbing 5’6” midget Jermain Defoe in favour of boxing type David Haye. It was this confrontation that apparently led to the red mist descending for Abbey, and as Aisleyne was leaving the club, a girlfriend of hers was recorded shouting: “I can't believe Abbey Clancey was trying to fucking start with you.” It’s pretty articulate, and leaves us wondering to the exact meaning, but the implication seems to be that Aisleyne is ready to throw down if Abbey gets up in her grill again. Almost as much as I’d like to Jermain Defoe put through a window by The Hayemaker, I’d quite like Abbey to unleash the Scouse eye-scratching beast on Aisleyne. I’d say she’d ruin that pretty face of hers, but that would just be a lie; any above-neck damage Abbey could inflict would undoubtedly be an improvement.

Champions League – Semi-Finals 1st Leg

It was expected to be a week of heroes, but bizarrely it will more likely be remembered for two men characterized as villains: John Arne Riise for tragically netting an own goal deep into injury time at Anfield, and Cristiano Ronaldo for missing a penalty after less than three minutes at the Nou Camp.

Starting then at Anfield with what many neutrals were actually dreading a little after a collection of tepid-to-say-the-least encounters between the two sides in recent memory. If anything the game was less cagey than last night’s supposedly free-flowing affair in Spain, and Chelsea genuinely demonstrated some attacking intent throughout the first-half despite struggling to carve out any clear-cut chances. Joe Cole wasted Chelsea's best opportunity of the match when he was found delightfully in the area by Lampard around the half-hour mark, but he failed to realise the amount of time and space he had, and the chance was snuffed out. Steven Gerrard signalled the Reds’ attacking intent after just seven minutes, but his ultimately tame shot was straight at Cech, before Kuyt's control let him down just after, having been put clear by Xabi Alonso. The Spanaird, alongside the fantastic Javier Mascherano dictated the midfield all game, with Lampard doing his usual invisible man impersonation (admittedly though, probably his mind was elsewhere with his sick mother, R.I.P.), and Ballack clearly lacking match-fitness. As the half reached its climax, Torres was put through with a class through-ball from Gerrard, but unusually El Nino failed to find the net, taking perhaps a touch too many to allow Cech to brilliantly smother the danger. The humanoid brick-wall was powerless to stop Liverpool taking the lead three mintues before the interval however, as Chelsea were caught out by Alonso's quick free-kick. Lampard failed spectacularly to clear on the edge of his own box, and Kuyt stole inbetween Makalele and Cole to latch on to Mascherano's sliced pass to coolly steer through Cech’s legs.

The goal understandably gave Liverpool a further injection of confidence, and they dominated most of the second half, with the impressive Ryan Babel fizzing a 25-yard shot just wide just before the hour mark. Chelsea grew into the game again during the second half though, with Malouda and Kalou almost contributing for the first time this year with probing runs at the Liverpool full-backs. Still though they failed to create much, with Drogba more concerned with pouting and shrugging his shoulders rather than making any decent runs. With less than ten minutes left on the clock, Liverpool were resurgent again, and Cech needed to produce two world-class saves, firstly to turn Gerrard's vicious volley over the bar, and then to block an injury-time strike from Torres after the Blues failed to clear a corner. In the 95th minute, the unthinkable happened though and Chelsea got that vital away-goal. Kalou's whipped cross from the left sparked uncertainty in the Scouse defense and Riise, under pressure with Anelka behind him, sent a spectacular diving header into the top corner in front of the Kop. Critics might suggest that a confident two-footed player might have dealt with it with his weaker right foot, but I guess that’s irrelevant now. Bentiez refused to blame Riise afterwards, only directing this at the match officials: “You can’t blame the referee for the own-goal. But the time? One minute in the first half, four in the second. It’s difficult to explain.”

Across to Spain and one of the world’s greatest stadiums then, itself the stage of Manchester United’s glorious victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions Legaue final. We billed it yesterday as the meeting of the world’s two best players, and in some ways it failed to really excite in any way at all. Before we talk about Messi and Ronaldo though, the story of the game is that Barcelona enjoyed more than 70% possession, yet still struggled to really create many prime chances. Manchester United were gifted the perfect start with Gabriel Melito handled Ronaldo’s goal-bound header, but the Portuguese star proved he is human by slotting the spot-kick high and wide of Victor Valdes’ goal. This spurred Barce on, and as the game progressed they became more and more camped in United’s half, dominating our Champions in a way that they certainly are not used to in the Premier League. Yaya Toure and the excellent Xavi bossed the midfield with ease, leaving the likes of Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes barely even passengers as the match unfolded. The choice openings fell predominantly to Eto’o, and the best chance saw him firing just wide after a stunning interchange between the Cameroon international, Deco and Messi put him through on goal. Kudos must go to the Catalans’ forward for staying on his feet in the second half when Rio Ferdinand recklessly crunched him from behind though, but in keeping his stride and not going for the penalty, the chance was essentially lost. Henry too looked bright when introduced, drifting in from the left to find the target in trademark style, and hitting a free-kick that was ultimately bread and butter to van der Sar.

So to the big face-off, and like we said yesterday, a chance for Ronaldo and Messi to prove if they can really do it on the grandest stage of them all. Big things are rightly expected of big players, and as has often been the criticism in the past, Ronaldo lacked anything approaching the penetration expected of him. He has to learn to do the simple things well, and realise that there is a time for back heels, and a time for straight-forward passes to feet. Looking at the truly great players of the past, Zidane for example never felt the need to do the spectacular in every match, but you could bet your mother’s life on him slotting away from the penalty spot yesterday, rather than trying to find the top corner for the cameras. Messi on the other hand was breath-taking, and despite not playing for several months, was instrumental in every attacking move Barce put together. His movement, footwork and passing were sublime, and it took a top-class performance from Patrice Evra to keep him even remotely shackled. Without Vidic, the United defence looked suspect centrally, and it was this space between midfield and back-four that Messi thrived in, zipping the ball about with so much time and space. Put simply, United must employ Hargreaves in this gap at Old Trafford to snuff out any danger of an away goal, and in Anderson they have a gifted ball carrier who will also provide the necessary steel to upset the Barce play-makers.

Ultimately, it is United and Chelsea who will be happiest going into the return legs next week, with homefield advantage, and without any deficit to surmount. However, Liverpool and Barcelona undoubtedly have the European pedigree, and will not be phased in their playing style of the prospect of an away fixture. It might not have been the most exciting brace of games but everything is very nicely poised for next week’s return deciding legs…