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Monday, October 29, 2001

The Premiership (online edition)

Chelsea scramble a draw with Derby, Sunderland scramble a draw with Arsenal, Villa top the table, Fulham finally pick up their second win of the season and United only pick up a point, better than they did last week anyway...

It's some kind of miracle that Sunderland managed a point on Saturday (they call him Stefan Schwarz I think). Arsenal were undone—not for the first time—by a poorly missed penalty, unusually from the otherwise superb Patrick Vieira. Another perfectly legitimate penalty was also denied (although penalty=goal is a questionable assumption), for the first time in a while Arsenal were saved by an excellent offside decision—ruling out a Sunderland goal in the last few minutes.

Trusty Steed

Amazingly (not if you read my season preview) Fulham picked up only their second win of the season on Saturday against a poor Southampton side. Steed Malbranque was excellent and combined running the midfield with scoring both Fulhams goals—even if the first was just a tap in. I just love that headline.

Man Utd vs. Leeds was meant to be the showpiece game of the weekend and it didn't disappoint to a great degree. Robbie Keane should have been sent off in my opinion (either that or Paul Ince should have his red card rescinded), and David Beckham finally put in an England class performance for United. Rio Ferdinand and Dominic Matteo put in superb performances for Leeds, but I have to say something about the Van Nistelrooy best striker in Europe claim from Sir Alex. Raul, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gabriel Batistuta, Francesco Totti... the list goes on of strikers more worthy—both through statistics and performances—than RVN right now. He has a long way to go before he is even close to any of the above.

NOTE I've just learned that United/Leeds referee Dermot Gallagher will be relegated for not sending Keane off against United. Full Story Here. I would like to know exactly what action is going to be taken against Steve Bennett—referee of the Derby/Chelsea game yesterday—Marcel Desailly and Ravanelli both raised hands and only Ravanelli was even booked.

The Boy Is Back

And what better way to announce your return than to carry on as before. A superb goal and the indignity of being flagged offside when he was in his own half topped an efficient, if not spectacular win for Liverpool. Gerrard Houllier must be shaking in his hospital bad with the red's stringing together result after result and with Jamie Redknapp returning to fitness (but for how long....)—strength to strength springs to mind.

Derby certainly gave Chelsea a scare yesterday, only a typically emphatic scorcher from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink saved Chelsea's skins—minutes after Fabrizio Ravanelli should have put Derby 2 up. Both teams could legitimately claim to have deserved three points, a string of fine saves from Mart Poom and Mark Bosnich kept their respective sides in the game.

Lofty Villa

In a move that's almost more unlikely than Bolton being top, Aston Villa are now looking down on the rest of the Premiership after a somewhat fortunate win over lively Bolton. Once again Michael Ricketts scored a brace and Bolton were a bit unlucky to get nothing from the game—a very dodgy penalty separating the two.

Good wins for West Ham (over Ipswich) Newcastle (over Everton) and Spurs (Middlesborough) made up the fixtures, with only the routine thrashing of Leicester to come tonight.

Here we go...

Performace of the week : Leeds vs Man Utd
Player of the week : David Beckham (Man Utd)
Goal of the week : Stefan Schwarz (Sunderland vs Arsenal)
Team of the week :
Mart Poom
Derby
Andy O'Brien
Newcastle
Rio Ferdinand
Leeds
Dominic Matteo
Leeds
Nigel Winterburn
West Ham
David Beckham
Man Utd
Gavin McCann
Sunderland
Steed Malbranque
Fulham
Juan Pablo Angel
Aston Villa
Nwankwo Kanu
Arsenal
Michael Ricketts
Bolton

What do you think? Owen should have been in? Bosnich better than Poom? Vieira deserved a place? Just leave your message by clicking on ‘have your say’ below (it will ahve changed to ‘x comment(s)’ if someone has already mouthed off!

NEWSFLASH : any Newcastle fans may be interested to know that Laurent Robert and Andy Griffin have had a fight on the training ground. Big Bobby is not impressed.


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Thursday, October 25, 2001

Pilgrims Progress

Tuesday saw United guarantee their progress to the next stage with the closest 3-0 victory I've ever seen. After a tense game in which Olympiakos came close on more than one occasion—and United's attacking threat looked strangely subdued—it almost looked as though they may lose their third home game on the trot.

Not to be however, as professional substitute Ole Gunnar Solkjaer turned the game with his introduction, scoring within five minutes of his appearance. The Greek team crumbled, letting United in to score a further two goals and run out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Apart from nearly asphyxiating on the tube, delayed by a bomb scare at Kings Cross, I have to say yesterday evening was both enjoyable and relieving. The first half was a microcosm of Arsenal's season—dominating the play and playing some beautiful football—but trying to walk the ball into the net and not finishing the good chances that came our way.

Patrick Vieira was superb as were Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg—working tirelessly in a three man midfield (I'm still not convinced Gilles Grimandi ever left the dressing room). Thankfully Sol Campbell has finally had his first excellent game in an Arsenal shirt and Gio Van Bronkhorst is finally settling in, though he is definitely better used in midfield. To be fair there wasn't a player that didn't do himself justice (bar Gilles) and Thierry Henry's class showed through when he coolly finished under an enormous pressure in the 93rd minute to put Arsenal into the second group stage.

Liverpool meanwhile battled to a 1-1 draw at Boavista's Estadio Do Bossa, leaving it until the match with Borussia Dortmund next week before their fate is decided. A win for Dortmund (and for Boavista against Kiev) would leave Liverpool in third place and the UEFA cup. If they can manage a point against the Germans however (which they should do) they will join....

AS Roma
Real Madrid
Panathinaikos
Arsenal
Juventus
Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen
Deportivo La Coruña
Manchester United
Sparta Prague
Bayern Munich

... in the second stage.

The Premiership games also threw up a few interesting results.... Aston Villa beating Charlton 1-0 courtesy of Hassan Kachloul's 9th minute goal, to move up to third in the table—Arsenal above them on goal difference. Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season—away to West Ham, Michael Carrick and Freddie Kanute providing the goals. Meanwhile a six goal thriller at St Mary's gave Southampton their first point at the new stadium—Ipswich sharing the points.

Home and Away

A quick note about the Australia/France vs. big football clubs debate. I think that Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Fulham, Juventus, Leeds, Manchester United, Marseille, Parma, Real Madrid and Roma are perfectly within their rights to request that disruption to their seasons is kept to a minimum by asking that only one player is called up for a friendly.

Australian Soccer executive Ian Holmes is missing the point when he accuses clubs of treating Australia like a ‘subservient penal colony’, the point is that a friendly means nothing — Premiership, la Liga, Serie A and French league games are of great importance to the people who pay the players wages. When Ian Holmes' federation are paying Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell 30 000 a week to play football then they can dictate the players' appearances but until then I think it's perfectly acceptable for Leeds to request their players don't travel half way around the world and back in the middle of the season.


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Monday, October 22, 2001

Le Saux'nly A Matter of Time

There's got to be a point when somebody realises that just because he's educated (though eductaed for a footballer could mean he reads Dandy rather than the Beano) - he's no better than your average Chelsea thug (Dennis Wise, Jody Morris etc). I'm not Danny Mills' biggest fan - he's dirty even for a dirty Leeds player - but even I felt sorry for him after Graemella nearly snapped is legs in two from behind (his favourite angle of attack I suspect).

To be fair to Chelsea, though they should have had 10 men for the most part, they did well to not only hold for a draw but arguably deserve a bit more. Two goal line clearances aside I thought they had the more dangerous posession and Manu Petit striking the crossbar in the dying seconds nearly put Arsenal top :).

Rickety Defence = Rickety Goals

And what a way to extend United's Southampton-esque home form. A blinding goal from youngster Kevin Nolan who's just getting better - and another superb finish after Wes Brown misjudged a long ball from Michael Ricketts. United were mediocre, but Bolton were superb. The defence worked tirelessly - new boy Bruno N'Gotty was superb as was old boy's Simon Charlton and Gudni Bergsson. There were few players not deserving of praise and Ricketts was superb - he had two opportunities to change the game, a wonderfully cushioned header for Nolan to latch on to and a one on one with Fabian Bathez which he thundered over the Frenchman into the United goal.

Another English youngster put in a superb performance on Saturday too, David Dunn was outstanding against Arsenal, making Patrick Vieira work twice as hard as usual and still not keeping up with him. Two goals and a polished all round display from the England U-21 captain underlined just how bright Englands future can be. On the other side, Robert Pires put on one of his best displays yet for Arsenal and between him and Dunn the six goal thriller must have been quite a spectacle.

Other displays of note, Peter Schmeichel showed Barthez how to play the maverik like a professional, scoring a rasping half volley from a corner against Everton who ran out 3-2 winners. Inspired by Thomas Gravesen who ran the game from start to finish, running around like a man possessed and playing some superb football.

Spurs ran over a sorry Newcastle side - with Darren Anderton being touted for England, I for one hope that the past is confined to the past (unless he fancies playing on the left wing). A right hook from Luis Boa Morte aside, Ipswich's visit to Craven Cottage was a fairly formulaic affair - if you were going to put money on a draw then that would have been the game. West Ham compounded the misery of a poor Southampton side and cost Stuart Gray his job, the Red Dwarf Gordon Strachan is taking over where the rookie left off.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Leicester, you are SHOCKING.

Jason Euell won't forget his Charlton debut after scoring a scorcher looping over the 'keeper to cancel out Ravanelli's early strike. Just a mention for Preston striker Jon Maken who scored from the edge of the centre circle to beat Man City 2-1 at Deepdale - spectacular son, he's caught my eye more than one and the ex-Man Utd reserve should make a big impression if he gets his Premiership chance.

Now for the All Things Footie weekly awards...

Performace of the week : Bolton vs Man Utd
Player of the week : David Dunn (Blackburn)
Goal of the week : Kevin Nolan (Bolton vs Man Utd)
Team of the week :
Jussi Jaaskelainen
Bolton
Bruno N'Gotty
Bolton
Simon Charlton
Bolton
William Gallas
Chelsea
Nigel Winterburn
West Ham
Thomas Gravesen
Everton
Manu Petit
Chelsea
Robert Pires
Arsenal
David Dunn
Blackburn
Michael Ricketts
Bolton
Robbie Fowler
Liverpool

Disagree? Think Mike Ricketts deserved player of the week glory? All you have to do is click the link below and you can leave your comments here.


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Friday, October 19, 2001

Have You Noticed?

To save going to the forum every time you want to comment on all things footie or football in general, there is now a comments system (look underneath the post). Click on the 'have your say' link to post a comment, keep it clean or the system will have to be removed. enjoy!

I have also been listed on soccer-links.com and I would really appreciate it if you could rate me to help me up the list. Thanks a lot everyone.

What About The Football

Absolutely! It's been quite an eventful set of midweek fixtures - with the exception of Ipswich vs. Helsingborgs.

To start at the start, a professional performance by Arsenal saw them through the crucial home tie against Panathinaikos - bizarrely ranked as the best team in Europe. A superb performance from Thierry Henry takes him above Highbury legend Ian Wright as Arsenal's all time top scorer in Europe. Wrighty's scoring rate is superior though 15 in 19 games; whereas Henry has managed 16 in 30.

I've settled on a new pet hate.... now the era of United seems to be on the way out (ask Fabien Barthez) a new breed of supporter is crawling out of the woodwork. Anyone who was between 5 and 15 in the eighties and had a couple of crown paint Liverpool shirts are emerging as die hard, 'You'll Never Walk Alone' singing, 'I watched the '89 final so I've supported them for years proclaiming', Champions League TV hogging gits. They did well to beat Dynamo Kiev I'll give them that.

And now the bit I've been waiting for.....

'Bonjor Fabian - Ou est le ballon?'
.....It was always going to happen M Barthez. The best goalkeeper in the world? Schmeichel is still better - as are quite a few others. To be fair to United, they were poor - and I thought Deportivo deserved the win even if two goals were due to amateur goalkeeping.

Chelsea were punished tonight for a poor performance though some account should be taken of the fact that a number of players stayed at home. It was their choice though and you can't take anything away from Hapoel Tel Aviv who deserved both goals and it was a miracle it took until the last few minutes before they scored. A routine victory for Leeds was spoiled by conceding two goals at home and making for an interesting away leg.

Remember if you want to comment on any of my ramblings just click on the link below...


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Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Weekly Awards

A quick note before the all things footie awards, Leeds are on the verge of signing Derby's Seth Johnson for 7m ;

Performace of the week : Blackburn vs West Ham
Player of the week : Luke Chadwick (Bolton)
Goal of the week : Ryan Giggs (Man Utd vs Sunderland)
Team of the week :
Matteo Sereni
Ipswich
Abel Xavier
Everton
Rio Ferdinand
Leeds
Sami Hyppia
Liverpool
Christian Ziege
Tottenham
Luke Chadwick
Man Utd
David Dunn
Blackburn
Patrick Vieira
Arsenal
Robert Pires
Arsenal
Craig Bellamy
Newcastle
Darius Vassell
Aston Villa

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Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Hammered

Blackburn are not a bad team, in fact they show a lot of promise and should at least consolidate their promotion with a mid-table position. West Ham, so we are continually told, have a selection of Englands brightest young talent; Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermaine Defoe as well as gifted world class forwards Freddie Kanuté and Paulo Di Canio. Which one scored seven goals past the other then, and which one should have? you decide. There's something rotten at Upton Park.

Fulham seem to be lacking some of the star quality they were supposed to bring to the Premiership. 11m man Steve Marlet didn't look nearly as effective as 2m ex-Bristol Rovers striker Barry Hayles and the cottagers defence was a shambles, Rufus Brevett being a major offender in my eyes. It would be wrong to take anthing away from Aston Villa, who were excellent - Peter Schmeichel who looks ten years younger than his birth certificate would suggest. Darius Vassell looks increasingly competant and I may have to withdraw earlier statements about the lad being a complete donkey.

Bolton had a very off day at home to Newcastle and it would be easy to see them dropping their heads and continuing the run of bad form. If Sam Allardyce is any kind of manager though he'll get them back to playing some of the superb football that made them such an interesting part of the opening few weeks.

NEWSFLASH :: Leicester are absolutely shocking.

In the words of Southampton manager Stuart Gray the Saints were on the end of a '2-0 drubbing' from an Arsenal side showing excellent form ahead of the crucial Champinos League game against Panathinaikos tonight - Robert Pires turned out yet another superb performance, and thankfully Sol Campbell looked a little more assured than he has done so far this season.

Some really boring nil-nil draws, Charlton-'Boro & Ipswich-Everton plus Sunderland outclassed by United and Derby by Spurs. A tense score draw between Liverpool and Leeds, Leeds the much better team but overshadowed by Gerrard Houllier suffering some kind of heart trouble - an 11 hour operation later and he seems all right, get well soon from All Things Footie M. Houllier.

In brief other news ex-Sweden international Roland Nilson has been confimed as the new Coventry City manager, he's done well since taking over from the Red Dwarf so why not I say. Spurs have lost 3.5m in the year to 30th June and have rearranged the board to see who's going to be responsible for Glenda wasting their money in the next 12 months.

Blackburn midfielder Jason McAteer looks to complete a move to Sunderland by the end of the week, probably on a free. Miserable, ungrateful git and Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepard has refused midfielder Rob Lee's request for a transfer - the midfielder cannot agree terms for a new contract and after eight and a half years faithful service you would have thought the club would give him a break.

Expect the All Things Footie weekly awards later tonight....


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Friday, October 12, 2001

Please Sir... Can I Have Some More?

10m is not enough for the most useless man in football. Gordon Taylor is surely the biggest waste of money in the game, the highest paid 'union' boss in the land and a condescending git to boot - he really gets my hackles up. It's true that player who have to retire early and old pro's in the lower leagues need support from the union - it's also true that last season the PFA spent just 766, 000 on 'ex-players and hardship cases'.

So what is the other nine and a quarter million for Gordon? what... you want 25 million! so (assuming a 50% increase on spending) you still have 24m to spend..... on what exactly?

You can't play the sympathy card and then stab them in the back - when the chief executive's yearly salary is nearly as much as the money spent on the entire workforce he's supposed to be fighting for - there's a definate sense of double standards. Help these poor, poor people you nasty money hungry men, say's the man earning 10 times their yearly salary and 'representing' them.


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Tuesday, October 09, 2001
"What a great finale.."

"yeah, especially towards the end.."

- alan hansen and mark lawrenson

To start with, I'm not going to jump on the backs of everyone but Beckham. There's no laying off the midfield though (except old Golden Balls himself of course).

Steven Gerrard's passing was abysmal, having an off day? fair enough. But there is no excuse for trying 60 yard balls for an hour of the game when every time they failed to get anywhere near their intended target (if there was one). What he needed to do was show a bit of maturity and learn from his mistakes... 'the long ball's aren't working today, better just keep it simple until I get my rhythm going.' Paul Scholes at least did a lot of running, again his distribution was poor and he got too frustrated with himself - at least he got his head down and tried though - definately not a performance he'll wish to remember. I'm not 100% sure why Nick Barmby turned up - no desire, a serious lack of ability and completely ignoring his placing on the left side of the pitch were his main downfalls. If he stayed where he was told he may have helped out with the serious problem on the left - even Emile Heskey managed to help Ashley Cole out with handling the excellent Christos Patsatzoglou.

I'm going to be controversial and say that I thought the defence didn't do too badly. There's no ignoring Ashley Cole's culpability for the first goal, however it must be said that it was a superb bit of football by the Greeks and a stunning finish (which I though Nigel Martyn should have at least got a glove to). The second goal was a shambles but off a set piece the designated defenders aren't the only people responsible for keeping the ball out of the net. Given the lack of cover from midfield - balls slipped through them stones through a wet paper bag - and a superb man of the match performance by Giorgos Karagounis - I thought the defence did well to keep the goals down to two. Nigel Martyn did well in the second half after some shaky 'keeping in the first 45 minutes, a couple of spilled stops and some dodgy positional play. Rio Ferdinand made a superb saving challenge in the second half, although he hardly covered himself in glory, and Martin Keown didn't do all that badly - he worked hard and covered the ground he needed to cover. It's unfair to heap too much blame on Ashley Cole for the first goal, and the complete absence of anyone to cover him (Nick Barmby spent half the match wandering around the centre circle) when Greece mounted a prolonged 3 man attack down the wing was inexcuseable on Barmby's behalf (unless Sven told him to go inside - in which case its a tactical error).

Robbie Fowler joined Barmby on the 'should've stayed at home' list, no invention, desire or fitness. Emile Heskey was better in the second half, when all he had to do was get in the way but Sven surely has to realise soon that Heskey is not of international pedigree. Too many time his touch, imagination and reading of the game let him down - and anything he did well could have been done by a first division player.

More than enough has been said about David Beckham - one of the all time greats and no exaggeration.

All Things Footie man of the match - Giorgos Karagounis sorry Becks, but you've got to remember that Greece were expected to lose (some though quite heavily) and they didn't. In fact they were unlucky to only get a point and outplayed their opponents away from home. My only choice was to give it to Karagounis or goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. Well done Greece.


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Thursday, October 04, 2001

It's ohh so Quiet...

It's been a fairly quiet week for football, the only news seems to be the endless circulating of the England squad's injury problems, or lack of them. Seaman, Gerrard and McManaman are all fit but (and what a loss) Nicky Butt will miss the clash.

A distinct whiff of double standards has been in the air at the England camp though. With Sven Goran telling us Frank Lampard is not in the squad because of his foolish drinking spree - Erikssons moral standpoint must be commended (or ridiculed depending on your perspective) - but for no equal punishment to be dished out to Steven Gerrard is a bit unfair on Lampard in my opinion. In case you didn't know, Gerrard was out on the lash on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning until the early hours - hours before joining up with the squad for training. Just because he's better than Lampard it doesn't make his behaviour any more acceptable.

Best wishes to Watford (and ex-Arsenal) players Paolo Vernazza and Andrew Douglas who were injured (stabbed) whilst disturbing an intruder at Vernazza's home in London. Paolo was injured in the thigh and Douglas had to undergo emergency surgery on chest wounds. Get well soon and lets hope they catch the ......unpleasant person...... responsible.


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Monday, October 01, 2001

Cliché's

And never was the most used one more apt than Saturday at White Hart Lane. Oh how I laughed seeing United losing 3-0 to a moderate Spurs side. Oh how I cried with laughter slowly watching them humiliate the home side in the final 45 minutes. Oh yes, it really is a game of two hal.....

It would have been easy for Glenda to say that United would have knocked five past anyone, but he resisted (just). The truth is that United were superb, and played some beautiful and effective football. It is also apparent that Spurs defence was venturing into chocolate teapot territory - there's no excuse for a defender being beaten to the ball in the air once, let a lone three times. If there's one thing ex Highbury hero and former espionage agent at White Hart Lane George Graham would never have let happen it's three headed goals at home.

On the down side for United, Van Nistelrooy still looked like poor value at 19m and Veron's lack of willingness to accept his defensive responsibilities was partly to blame for the shocking first half. Paul Scholes was excellent though, and his energy and talent will undoubtedly be vital for England in Saturday's crucial game against Greece.

And The Rest?

The rest of the day's action went on regardless and Saturday/Sunday proved to be pretty exciting all round. From Everton conjuring up 5 goals against a very poor and dispirited West Ham, to Southampton managing a win.... and away form home too! It was against Middlesbrough though, who really are in the mire now. Maybe Steve McLaren will join his former international managerial partner on the coach for hire bulletin board.

Leicester chairman John Elsom really didn't have a choice when it came to sacking Peter Taylor after 15 months and 2 wins in the last 17 league games. The only worry for his successor (be it Harry Redknapp or maybe Craig Brown?) is that no money will be available - yes he'll have to work with Ade Akinbyi.

I think I better get the weekly awards sorted now....

Performace of the week : Man Utd vs Spurs
Player of the week : Thomas Gravesen (Everton)
Goal of the week : David Beckham (Man Utd vs Tottenham)
Team of the week :
Thomas Sorensen
Sunderland
Jamie Carragher
Liverpool
Sami Hyppia
Liverpool
Matthew Upson
Arsenal
Ian Harte
Leeds
David Beckham
Man Utd
Paul Scholes
Man Utd
Thomas Gravesen
Everton
Kevin Campbell
Everton
James Beattie
Southampton
Thierry Henry
Arsenal

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