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Friday, August 30, 2002

Champions? League

The usual cry from the manager who wins the Premiership each season, ‘The Champions League should just be for Champions’. While I can see the point being made, partly smugness and partly simple understanding of the word Champions — I think it already is just for champions. What do these clubs have in common; Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Barcelona, AC Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow, Celtic, Shakthar Donetsk, Sturm Graz, Sporting CP and Rosenborg?

Answer? They have all won their domestic league at least once in the last 3 years, making them all Champions (albeit not this year) in my eyes. Each of these clubs did suffer a penalty for not winning last year though, they all had to qualify for the Champions League (some did win and still suffered). I've always thought the format of Europe's finest competition lends itself to being a long term aim, most of the time the title has been won by a team that didn't win their own domestic league that year — which is surely worse than winning it the year after you didn't win your league?

Real Madrid only finished third in La Liga last year, can you be the best club in Europe but not in Spain? When they won the same trophy in 99/00 and 97/98 they only managed 5th and 4th place respectively, they wouldn't even have qualified for the Champions League had they not won it! Barcelona failed to win La Liga in 96/97 and Juve failed to win Serie A in 95/96. The only recent exceptions that come to mind are Manchester United's treble achievement in 98/99 and Bayern Munich's in 00/01, which makes them all the more special.

Looking at the draw there are some humdingers as always in the first round. I certainly wouldn't fancy being in Bobby Robson's shoes and poor Lens may spend a lot of time being consoled in the coming months. That said, there's no reasons the smaller clubs in those two groups won't hold their own, and that's what makes them such thrilling prospects. With Newcastle facing trips to the Ukraine and the Stadio Delle Alpi though, away points in Holland will be needed as well as some good results at St James' Park. If there's any set of supporters that can intimidate away teams its the followers of the magpies though, and I fancy them to sneak through at the expense of Feyenoord.

As for the other English clubs, it's no surprise to see Manchester United drawing the easiest of the four — Leverkusen wont be the same team this season without Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto, arguably their two best players.

Arsenal may be in for a surprise with Borussia Dortmund, who recently signed the talented Torsten Frings and have the man mountain Jan Koller leading the line. Likewise PSV have two of the most touted footballers of the summer in Mark Van Bommell and Kevin Hofland, as well as the highly rated but strangely named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. There's no doubt that PSV's forward line is one to be reckoned with too, Mateja Kezman and Arnold Bruggink both have a fantastic record and are likely to cause the Gunners' slightly wobbly defence no end of problems. The less said about Auxerre's French prodigies Djibril Cisse and Phillipe Mexes the better.

In Liverpool's group, Valencia's European record is fantastic, and the away game at Moscow will be tricky no matter how good the Russians are at football. I do however fancy them to get through — it could be four up for England in their first season of entering a quartet into the most sought after club trophy in the World.


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Monday, August 26, 2002

Something for the Weekend?

Well, weren't we spoilt this weekend. Chelsea vs Man U and West Ham vs Arsenal were both absolute thrillers (and coincidently, both ended in the same score). Friday's game was great pub television — end to end football, great goals and tantalisingly close to call. Chelsea fans will be relieved to see the likes of Zenden and Petit turning out creditable performances and United fans will no doubt welcome a return to form for England captain David Beckham.

Both sets of fans will surely be equally worried about the state of their defences. For Chelsea Desailly looked out of sorts and Babayaro was seriously lacking in any real positional play. For United John O'Shea seemed a mixture of accomplished and foolhardy — as did Silvestre, setting up a goal well but so often caught out. The less said about Phil Neville the better but I can't think of another side in the Premiership he would start for.

As for West Ham, does anyone know what happens to them when they leave Upton Park? Against Arsenal the Hammers were sublime, pace, power and precision passing tore into the North Londoners and gave them a shock they nearly didn't recover from. Joe Cole tainted an otherwise excellent performance with his theatrics in the area; though Seaman kept the Gunners in it with a fine penalty same. Thierry Henry's thunderous goal was the highlight of the match and one of the best I've seen from him or anyone else and Joe Cole managed a pretty decent one too. It's hard, almost impossible, to believe that this West Ham team was the same one that lost 4-0 at Newcastle a week ago — not many teams will take 3 points from Upton Park this season.

Darren Huckerby (a ‘speedboat with no driver’ according to Andy Townsend) was everywhere for Man City as Kevin Keegan faced up to his old club at Maine Road and deservingly picked up their first three points of the season. City swarmed Newcastle for the best part of the first 45 minutes but the second half saw the Magpies take the game to the promoted club. Kieran Dyer missed the biggest sitter of the weekend and wasted another good chance, the finishing will have to improve if Bobby Robson's team want to improve their abysmal recent away record (they've only won 2 of the last 9).

Liverpool coasted to a home victory over Southampton, and though goals seemed to be on tap, one thing has caught my attention. However much stick I've given Emile Heskey, Liverpool's weakest link up front recently has been Michael Owen. I thought he finished last season unspectacularly and had a dissapointing World Cup, lets hope for Englands sake he bucks his ideas up before the Euro 2004 qualifiers. There's no doubting that the headlines for this game belong to Senegalese forward El Hadji Diouf, who contributed two goals.

Sloppy defending and a simple lack of class in their own third cost W.B.A. the game. With Lee Bowyer and Harry Kewell providing a cutting edge as sharp as a razor for Leeds, the truth is that the Yorkshiremen cruised to a victory. Birmingham too were overwhealmed on St. Andrews' first Premiership home game, a strong David Dunn inspired Blackburn team won through a Dwight Yorke goal. The Trinidad and Tobagan striker had taken a fair bit of stick from the home fans due to his history with the claret side of England's second city, making the goal even sweeter. It's good to see Andy Cole still missing the odd sitter too, proves he's still got it.

Everton's Richard Wright will no doubt be delighted to have a great game on the back of his nightmare last week and his team taking three points from the Stadium of Light will no doubt cheer him up even more. Another player who's put a bad performance last week behind him is Middlesbrough's Massimo Maccarone, who scored twice for Steve McLaren's team and put in an impressive performance all round. McLaren will not be so happy with the way his team capitulated and threw away the two nil lead that Maccarone provided them with, though it would be fair to say Fulham deserved something out of the game. Tottenham took a good three points at home to Aston Villa through a Jamie Redknapp strike — Villa really should have won though and if the truth be told, Graham Taylor's Villa are a lot better than you might think.

Time for the awards...

Performance of the Week goes to Man City for a commanding performance against Newcastle. Superb performances from Benarbia, Berkovic and Huckerby simply destroyed the team who beat West Ham 4-0 five days earlier.

Goal of the Week is awarded to Arsenal's Thierry Henry for that unleashing that EXOCET missile masquerading as a shot against David James. Not just a great goal but an extremely important one for a team two nil down.

Player of the Week is awarded to Liverpool's El Hadji Diouf. If there's a way to endear yourself to Liverpool fans there's few better than by scoring twice and trying to nutmeg players with a backheel. A great home debut and an inspirational performance from the Kop's new hero, Robbie who? Emile what? Micha…

Team of the Week ;

Richard Wright
Everton
  Richard Rufus
Charlton
William Gallas
Chelsea
Steve Howey
Man City
 
David Beckham
Man U
Claus Jensen
Charlton
David Dunn
Blackburn
Harry Kewell
Leeds
  El Hadji Diouf
Liverpool
Massimo Maccarone
Middlesbrough
Darren Huckerby
Man City
 


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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Simplicity is Genius

And with those prophetic (read ‘baffling’) words Sir Bobby Robson celebrated topping the Premiership at the end of the first round of fixtures. In all fairness the scoreline flattered the Geordies but no one can deny they deserved the win. Lomano Lua Lua played a crucial part in only his 9th start for his club (he has made more than 40 substitute appearances), contributing two goals and setting up the Magpies' third.

As I've said, West Ham were not four goals weaker than Newcastle, but that's not to say they deserved more than nil points. Without Kanuté or Di Canio the Hammers looked toothless up front, Defoe was lively but wholly unsupported by the overworked Joe Cole. Debutant Edouard Cissé looked useful and Sébastien Schemmel was typically industrius down the right flank, but Newcastle's attacking options were simply too much for the eastenders. Viana, Dyer and Jenas were compentant but not spectacular, it was the combination of Solano and Lua Lua that was West Ham's undoing.

The Season's Not Started Until...

…the first all things footie awards of the 2002/2003 season are here.

Performance of the Week goes to Fulham for their four goal demolition of Bolton, worth every goal.

Goal of the Week is awarded to Arsenal's Sylvain Wiltord for his stunning solo effort against Birmingham. He may have done most of the hard work but the breathtaking counter attacking play preceeding Wiltord's run is also worth a mention.

Player of the Week goes to Birmingham's Darren Purse. Practically saving a humiliating result for his team single handedly, Purse was outstanding all day for Birmingham and I've never seen a string of blocks and last ditch tackles like his in the final ten minutes.

Team of the Week anyone?

Russell Hoult
W.B.A.
  Dominic Matteo
Leeds
Darren Purse
Birmingham
Paul Williams
Southampton
 
Sylvain Legwinski
Fulham
Patrick Vieira
Arsenal
Roy Keane
Man U
Boudewijn Zenden
Chelsea
Steed Malbranque
Fulham
  Wayne Rooney
Everton
Lomano Lua Lua
Newcastle
 


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Monday, August 19, 2002

Business As Usual

Don't Saturday afternoons just feel right again? It has to have been the first Premiership weekend without a shock result that I can remember (unless you consider Fulham whipping Bolton a shock), but there was still plenty of action on offer.

Ole Gunnar Solkjær scored his 100th goal for Manchester United against a stubborn West Bromwich Albion side. To begin the new season with a point at home against a freshly promoted club would not have been acceptable for United and once again the Norwegian saved the Red Devil's blushes. Albion cannot be accused of trying to play football and United had to fight hard to break down their stubborn resistance. It's going to be a long and boring season for the Baggies if they carry on in this fashion and if a team score early against them it's going to be cricket scores.

Birmingham City however, cannot be accused of the same thing. They really played football against Arsenal yesterday, and despite losing 2-0 they had the better of the play for patches of the game. That said, Arsenal were a class apart when it came to making possession count. With Arsenal turning defence into attack in a matter of seconds, Birmingham were torn to pieces by the pace and power of Gilberto Silva, Vieira, Wiltord and Henry. Had it not been for some exemplary defending from youngster Darren Purse it could have been a much worse day for the Midlanders. Whatever Birmingham agreed to pay him over the summer it was worth it on this evidence.

The sending off of Blues' Senegalese midfielder Aliou Cisse was extremely unfortunate. Though he arrived late at Ashley Cole, he ran straight past the England defender, who caught him as he played the ball — definitely NOT a foul. It would be unfair to accuse Cole of diving (as he is getting a reputation for) as I'm sure the collision, however innocuous it looks on television, probably came quite sharp. It's difficult to really know and it's one of the problems I have with TV replays. It's easy to forget that a player who looks to simply brush past someone is actually the best part of 12 stones of muscle, running at high speed, making contact with someone stationary and unprepared. Cisse himself had this to say about the challenge that got him sent off;

“I am certain that there is no way that Ashley Cole dived to try to get me sent off. He jumped to avoid my challenge, that was all.

“I do not blame Cole. He was only trying to get out of my way.”

Last season's first Premiership goalscorer was Michael Ricketts in a 5-0 demolition of Leicester City at Filbert Street. You would have gotten good odds on him repeating his feat (as he did against Fulham on Saturday) but the outcome of the match couldn't have been more different. It was a battle of two midfields and the destructive power of Sylvain Legwinski and Steed Malbranque was simply too much for a Bolton midfield lacking in fitness and invention.

An amazing turnaround for Chelsea saw them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the Valley. It looked as though Charlton were going to keep up their excellent record against Claudio Ranieri's team but goals from Franco Zola, Carlton Cole and Frank Lampard ended Chelsea's run of poor results against Alan Curbishley's team. Zola looked as sharp as he ever has, and proves that age will never get the better of talent and Carlton Cole looked every bit a Premiership player.

Richard Wright carried on for Everton where he left off for Arsenal — at fault for the both of Spurs' goals — the young 'keeper's luck doesn't seem to have gotten any better at his new club. On a more positive note for Everton, 16-year-old Wayne Rooney's debut was a promising one. Though he didn't get on the score sheet he laid off a goal for Mark Pembridge and looked sharp and dangerous for the rest of the game. Another striker on his debut, Massimo Maccarone was less impressive for Middlesbrough missing a number of good chances, but like Steve McLaren I still have confidence that he will make a huge impact on the Premiership this year.

In the battle of ex-England managers it's good to see Kevin Keegan keeping a level head. Shaun Wright-Phillips is going to be an England regular, Nicolas Anelka is the best player he's ever worked with and Man City are going to qualify for Europe. Losing 3-0 to Leeds (which Kev thinks was ‘unfair’) on the opening day isn't a sign that he is going to get three out of three.

With one game still to go it would be unfair to detail the all things footie weekly awards just yet. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the highly rated Portuguese star Hugo Viana in action for Newcastle against West Ham tonight. 8:00pm, Sky Sports 1.

Finally, good luck to George Best who has been re-admitted to hospital after picking up an infection following his liver transplant operation.


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Friday, August 16, 2002

Not So Keane

How predictable. A rant against Roy Keane.

Firstly I refuse to base my opinion of this situation on a few (possibly misquoted) comments in The Sun. That said, it is perfectly believable that Roy Keane intended to cause Alf-Inge Haaland harm when he scythed the poor lad down a couple of years ago.

I won't point out the fact that — seeing as it was in fouling Haaland that Keane became injured in the first place — it wasn't even the Norwegian's fault — oops I just did. I will however say that if Keane did go out to hurt Haaland; the book, bookcase and all related fixtures and fittings should be thrown at the thug. The spineless yes-men at the FA will not punish Keane with anything other than a paltry fine and his club will probably not even acknowledge he's done anything wrong.

I remember the last time a United player said something controversial in a book and whatever you think, Jaap Stam was a crucial to the team's cause as Roy Keane is. If Ferguson has the bottle to stand up for the integrity of the game as a whole and take severe action against Keane, I will say on record that my respect for him will increase exponentially. I do doubt it very much though.

Sticking with United, it looks like more trouble at the back. With Wes Brown out for a few weeks at the least, United now have a first choice back five consisting of… Carroll, P Neville, O'Shea, Blanc and Silvestre …not one to instil great confidence in even the most stoical supporter. The signing of promising French full back Julien Escudé will have to be hurried through — and with the player refusing to train for his club Rennes, it looks like a forgone conclusion.

Wright Move?

Sunderland have completed the signing of Liverpool's Stephen Wright for a fee in the region of £1.5m (not, as widely reported £3m) with further cash payable on completion of a number of appearances for club and country. If I was a Liverpool supporter I would be interested to know why Gerard Houllier felt it necessary to get rid of the player, he seemed to be breaking in to the Reds' first team towards the end of last season and progressing well.

With only Abel Xavier and Jamie Carragher covering his position (and regarding the latter I would hardly count that as stiff opposition) it's not like Liverpool can't offer the England U21 international a chance at first team football. Maybe Houllier wasn't impressed with Wright's contribution last year? (I actually thought he did alright for a youngster). Or maybe it's because he looks like Luke Chadwick's long lost brother? (the better looking one). Only time will tell.

High? Lowe!

My hat goes off to Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe, who has effectively introduced a wage cap at the club. Refusing to be held to ransom over players' egotistical valuations of their services, he has applied a strict embargo on ‘sky high’ wages. Speaking of an unnamed 23-year-old that the club recently attempted to sign, Lowe expressed his feelings on the subject quite succinctly.

“The player had an unrealistic view of what he should be paid. If people don't accept our culture, it's better they play somewhere else.”

And if everyone was a sensible as that, no-one would cave in to the demands of self important players and football would make sense again. The only thing that's really surprising is that it's taken such a small club (no offence intended to Saints fans intended) to make the stand.

On practically the same subject, a club with a bit more money at its disposal has also made a similar decision. Arsenal have refused to pay desperately needed goalkeeper Fabian Carini's high wages and it looks as if the player will be on his way back to Juventus (‘I am not optimistic’ — Arsène Wenger). The Premiership champions desperately need a 'keeper to back up the ageing David Seaman and time is running short. Rüstü Recber (the Turkish international) has yet to make his post World Cup ‘big move’ but I doubt he'll be willing to play anyone's second fiddle. Which leaves the Gunners in a bit of a pickle.

Sticking with North London and Tottenham's latest bit of bad news; it's a shame to hear about Gus Poyet's knee injury. One of the game's few genuinely affable, honest and pleasant personalities — it would be sad if this latest injury (possibly to the same ligament that he injured a few seasons ago at Chelsea) ends his career. It sounds drastic but if it is as bad as some sources report it could go that far and if it does all things footie would like to wish Gus all the best.

TA — Be The Best

While I'm feeling all emotional (and old), goodbye and best wishes to the finest defender of his generation, the legend that is — Tony Adams.

After 20 years of dedicated service to one club, battling well documented personal problems and playing under just about every style of coach and manager; it's only fitting that Arsenal Football Club has retired his number 6 shirt . A trend popular with our American cousins (I heard of an ice-hockey team where the lowest shirt number available is 28) and in some parts of Europe, this is the first time an English club has bestowed this honour.

Never the most graceful or elegant of defenders, Adams was given enormous credit by all of his managers for his instinctive reading of the game and no nonsense style of defending. I can't bring to mind another player that has served 20 consecutive years at one football club, let alone spending 90% of that time as a guaranteed first team player. For that alone, the example of Tony Adams should not be forgotten — and certain young footballers could learn a hell of a lot from the way he's dealt with his personal problems.

Take it easy Tone.


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Monday, August 12, 2002

Anyone for a Maccys?

I'll try to sum up the ludicrously titled FA McDonalds Community Shield (would they get a bigger trophy if they payed 30p extra?) as succintly as possible.

Sterling Buy

On the subject of the last point, Arsène Wenger can certainly claim to have dealt very shrewdly in bringing in Gilberto Silva. A World Cup Winners medal, an impressive pre-season, a very tidy first 45 minutes of Premiership level football and a goal to boot; all this from a defensive midfielder. Sometimes I think they call themselves ‘defensive’ midfielders in Brazil just to sound different. Perhaps a youth coach screaming ‘you can't all be strikers dammit!’ is responsible. The partnership that the World Cup Winner forms with (previous World Cup Winner) Patrick Vieira will be an interesting one to watch.

Another member of the Brazillian team that triumphed in Japan and Korea had a less enjoyable weekend. Middlesbrough's golden boy Juninho sustained a cruciate ligament injury in a friendly with Italian side Modena. There's no clue yet to the severity of the injury, realistically it could mean anything from two to nine months.

Talking of injuries I may be calling in a bet I had with a friend, that Rio Ferdinand doesn't play at Elland Road this season. What initially started out as an injury that will keep him out until the first week of September has now been extended an extra seven days or so, meaning he will (conveniently) miss out on United's visit to Yorkshire on the 14th of the month. I bet he's gutted.

Going Down Gracefully

In the first and probably last of a short series, all things footie will be taking a quick look at last seasons relegated clubs' progress in the Nationwide league. First off, worst team in the history of the Premiership Leicester got off to a winning start in the Walkers Stadium, beating Watford 2-0. A fabulous attendance of 31,022 were there to witness the first competitive game in the new ground (the highest since Leicester beat Man U 2-1 in 1976) and it was a day for Record Breakers.

Brian Deane (the player to score the Premiership's first goal in 1992) scored the first goal (and incidentally, the second) in the new home of the Foxes. Arguably Leicesters best player was winger Nicky Summerbee, incredibly playing for free — putting theirselves in the shop window. As likeable Leicester boss Micky Adams says, there are upsides and downsides to the situation…

“I am asking two players to put themselves on the line and risk serious injury and not get paid for it. As a manager you feel slightly embarrased by that but I understand the club's financial situation.

“…I gave them the facts. There is no money chaps but do you want to sit at home watching the teletext or go out shopping with your missus, or do you want to come and play football?”

I want to play football Micky!

East Midland rivals Derby also got off to winning start, Fabrizio Ravanelli starring in a 3-0 demolition of newly promoted Reading. Malcolm Christie also underlined his importance to the side with £30m worth of debt and a £17m wage bill. The unfortunate (for Derby fans anyway) situation is that the club would be delighted to lose both of those players, Ravanelli to cut the wage bill (he's on £40,000 a week) and Christie to bring in a lump sum. My tip is to keep an eye on the Rams' young midfielder/striker Lee Morris, he just gets better and better.

The best side to get relegated and the only Nationwide side playing in the UEFA Cup (via the Fair Play ticket), also started promisingly. The Tractor Boys of Ipswich beat Walsall 2-0 in a fairly uninspiring game, though they are my tip for the first division title.


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Friday, August 09, 2002

Spending Spree

There must be a few worried executives at ENIC. With Spurs signing Rivaldo and Fernando Morientes from Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, there's going to have to be some penny pinching over the next twelve months. Fans will be delighted to see Glenn Hoddle respond to Tim Sherwood's criticism with such aplomb, making the two biggest signings in the clubs' history. The £19m fee for Morientes and his extortionate wages (to compensate for moving from the European Champions to a perennial mid table Premiership side), coupled with Rivaldo's £100,000 a week demands will have the accountants tearing their hair out I'm sure.

And meanwhile — in the real World (as opposed to the one a certain mental ex-England manager lives in) — Leeds have signed a bargain basement Nicky Barmby from Liverpool for £2.75m. It looks like a case of a manager bringing in old mates, because I can't really see what Barmby will bring to the squad. With Harry Kewell operating on the left flank and youngster Harpal Singh ready to break through it looks like it'll be another couple of years on the bench for Barmby (injuries permitting).

A Disgrace Unfolds

Wimbledon (the club that used to be Wimbledon) have submitted a planning application for a temporary 12,000 seater stadium in Milton Keynes. Charles Koppel (or Beelzebub as he's known in some parts of the country) hopes to have the stadium, built in the National Bowl, operational by Christmas. How many people will turn up for the curtain raiser I wouldn't like to say, but I'd guess that more of them will be shouting and holding placards than watching football.

I think the whole situation is absolutely deplorable and should be taken notice of by every football fan in the country. This is how far it can go people, be warned. It would be wrong to assume the Wombling spirit is dead though, thanks to Ivor Heller, Kris Stewart and the people at Sports Interactive (who make Championship Manager), AFC Wimbledon were born last month. If you live anywhere near Kingsmeadow then get yourself down there and support a real football team.


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Monday, August 05, 2002

The Season Cometh

And to help ease everyone into the swing of things, the preseason rant is uploaded for your enjoyment.

The official all things footie desktop wallpaper for the new season is also up and downloadable in the stuff section. Here's a sneak peek, just click on the image (or the link above) to go to the download page.

click to go to the download section

There's also a couple of new buttons that, if you're feeling generous, you can download and put on your website to help show your support for this site.


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Sunday, August 04, 2002

He Was a Mile Offside!

This season he will have to be. As if to make it even harder to explain to your girlfriend, a tweak to the offside rule will be implemented on August 17th. From now on, for a player to be given offside there will have to be ‘clear air’ between him and the last defender. Any overlap and he will be onside. I don't need to tell you this is playing into the hands of any pacey forwards and seriously diminishing the effectiveness of any defender who isn't 100% alert.

The idea is to make the game more exciting and I can see the logic. Less stoppages in play and more goals = a more enjoyable match — right? Well, the more cautious of teams (and with what's at stake financially that's about everyone) will want to make sure their defenders don't get caught out. The only way to guard against this effectively is to defend as deep as possible and consequently adopt a more defensive formation.

Who knows? It may work. When the backpass rule was introduced we were all up in arms and it took a while to adjust, but I certainly think it improved the game. Anyone who watched a lot of football last season knows how many close offside decisions were given against the likes of Thierry Henry, Michael Owen, Nicolas Anelka etc, and it will be interesting to see how the game adapts itself without handing the likes of those players an extra 20 goals a season.

The wording of the amendment is odd — exactly how far ‘offside’ do you have to be before ‘clear air’ is visible. I suspect the vagueness is deliberate, the subjectivity designed to eliminate any argument against a decision. This is quite a risky approach though, as most people's major problem with officials is the lack of consistency. How can you be consistent when the law is open to interpretation on a fairly significant scale? Maybe that's the idea, all officials are consistently inconsistent. I'm getting confused now.

Just an extra note to let you know the official all things footie season preview will be up very soon so keep checking back.


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Thursday, August 01, 2002

All The Best

With the good news that legend George Best is out of intensive care following his liver transplant operation, all things footie would just like to add to the get well soon messages. I don't think anyone really knew how serious the situation had gotten (apparently pre-op Best had only a few months left) and hopefully this should help keep the great man in shape for a lot longer.

I Find Football in Contempt of Court

Nationwide clubs will find out soon if they are to be offered any compensation over the ITV Digital fiasco. A High Court Judge is set to deliver a verdict on the case, where Carlton and Granada television could be liable for up to £178.5m or walk away scot free.

If I'm being honest I reserve my sympathy for many clubs in financial difficulties. The sense of not spending money before you've got it is fundamental, and those who've ignored the premise deserve everything they get — the fans involved do not. Mismanagement and board/directorial incompetence is endemic in the Nationwide league and the ITV Digital situation has just highlighted the naïvety and over-ambition of many of the clubs involved.

Not all clubs are in as dire straits as Bradford (who've just had a rescue package agreed by their creditors) and this is not down to better luck or a bigger fan base. It's down to being sensible with what little cash is available and knowing your place. A team needs to be well established in the Premiership before agreeing to pay a player like Benito Carbone £30 000 a week. It doesn't work the other way round. The less said about the sense in paying Ashley Ward similar wages the better.

Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan said of Bradford;

“If they had gone bust, it might have shocked a few people into looking at the way clubs are run.”

I really hope there's a hint of sarcasm there. If not it seems that a neon billboard at every Nationwide ground screaming ‘you're a mess, sort yourself out!’ is the only way forward. Then again, if it needs a club to go under before so called businessmen realise they're in trouble; I fear they're already lost.

Injured yet?

Peter Schmeichel, Gus Poyet, Robbie Fowler and Steve Finnan are the latest players confirmed to be missing out on the first couple of months of the new Premiership season. Schmeichel and Poyet are out for around 3 months with knee injuries, Fowler is out for 10 weeks after a knee operation and atf team of the season 2001/2002 right back Steve Finnan will be out for 2 months.

Why… Is preseason training too intensive? or not intensive enough? are too many friendlies played too early? or have the players spent too much time on the beach and not enough in the gym?


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