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Thursday, January 30, 2003

Liverpoor

If Emile Heskey was the best player on the pitch last night, I'm a scouser. What the f*ck does man of the match mean now? might as well give it to a substitute.

The muffled silence of all but a small section of Anfield (specifically the Anfield Road end, lower tier) last night at least confirmed that the Liverpool fans aren't kidding themselves. This is the worst Liverpool side I've ever seen and probably the worst top five team I've seen in the Premiership — that’s assuming they finish in the top five. Whether Gerrard Hoofier is the root cause or simply inferior players, there’s no way a long ball side can win the league. Especially if your two forwards couldn't hold on to a ball if it was tied round their ankles.

The Scouse fans celebrated a home draw last night like a team fighting for points to stay up, not like a team who thought they had a chance at winning the league a month ago. In a sense I’m glad they wont be in the Champions League next season, English clubs are still tarnished with the hoof-it-and-hope brush and this current Liverpool side do nothing but enforce the stereotype.

For those of you that know my footballing allegiances, don’t get me wrong. Like the Murphys, I’m not bitter about the result. Gutted that a poor decision and some slack defending cost us two points, but not bitter. I was delighted with Arsenal’s performace and I feel privileged to have seen players like Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Vieira and Gilberto all in the same team. There was some superb football played (just by one team mind) and it was really end to end stuff, four goals and lots of incidents. Cracking game.

West Ham (2nd Feb), Middlesbrough (8th Feb), Auxerre (20th and 27th Feb) and Birmingham (23rd Feb) fans, warm your voices up, coutesy of the guys from the Arsenal Mailing list;


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Monday, January 27, 2003

FIX!

The FA would never ensure the meeting of certain clubs in a competition they desperately need to make exciting after a round seriously lacking in upsets … would they?

FA Cup Fifth Round Draw
Ties to be played on the 15th/16th February

They might as well have left the remaining 14 balls in the hat hadn't they? For me the situation harks back to 1999, when following a tight FA Cup replay and an extra time winner from Ryan Giggs, United went on to win the treble. It's certainly not impossible that the winners of this match could go on to lift Europe's three most keenly competed for trophy's. After winning the league there last season and with the Champion's League final held in Manchester this year, Old Trafford could well become Arsenal's second home.

The only bad thing from TV's point of view is that the Arsenal media blackout enforced so effectively this weekend may have to be lifted. Who do you think'll get the tie though? BBC or Sky? As far as I'm concerned neithre of them deserve it so I don't much care. I never thought I'd hear myself say this but I'd take ITV over the pair of them, especially that smug, crisp advertising prat Lineker. Give me big Ron anyday.

However things play out, two of the most important games in the rest of Arsenal and United's season are to be played against each other. I know I'm looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, what's David Dickinson doing to Igor Biscan?


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Friday, January 24, 2003

GSOH, seeking football news

With only that silly tin-pot trophy going on in the week and West Ham’s impending relegation getting ever closer, there’s not been a lot happening. Some talk of Arsène Wenger signing a dodgy South American keeper when he’s already got England’s number one, a promising young English talent and a nineties Ragga star (Mr Loverman …).

This is probably the first Worthlesston Cup final for ten years that I’m almost looking forward to, it should be feisty, but with two long ball sides meeting each other I’m not expecting any pretty football. It’s a bit miserable to stop a first division side having a crack at a European place, but I’m going off the premise of giant killing anyway.

To paraphrase the Telegraph’s Giles Smith, the reason England performs disastrously in just about every sport we compete in is our desire for the underdog to prevail. Contrary to a widely spouted thought, first division sides beating Premiership teams is not a show of how strong English football is; it merely shows that our top teams aren’t strong enough. I for one hope Farnborough get a damn good hiding, and not just because they’re playing the Arsenal.

What the hell are a conference side doing spending a week in La Manga? Oh yes, the news love it. Look at the brickies and tree surgeons training at Europe’s most advanced sports training ‘resort’, £20,000 a week. I know they’re coming in for a windfall, half a million depending on who you believe, but isn’t it just a slight insult to those league and non-league outfits that are going bankrupt to go and needlessly waste a players yearly wage? I think it’s called tact, and I’d like to bet that Farnborough Town will have a few more enemies in their own league after this trip.

14-0.

Here's a couple of links I've been meaning to let you all know about. Firstly, for all of you budding Ronaldo's out there, why not become a TV personality at the same time. You’ll almost certainly get to meet PJ and Duncan too. Soccerstars has arrived. Secondly, I know you all like voting for things, so why not take part in the UEFA team of the year poll. Representing the Premiership are: Ashley Cole, John Arne Riise, Rio Ferdinand, Sami Hyypiä, Patrick Vieira, Freddie Ljungberg, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooij. So get voting.


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Thursday, January 16, 2003

Warning! Arsenal related rant

After being inspired by the writings of arseblogger, I feel the need to bring a certain set of injustices to a wider audience. I'm not the FA’s biggest fan most of the time, least of all when they go around banning Arsenal players for using naughty words. There's a line though. A line that can only be crossed by a bunch of disorganised, inconsistent and downright incompetent idiots.

When I usually think of people in these regulatory jobs, referees and traffic wardens for instance, I try to tell myself they're just doing what they have to do. It's not their fault that the rules are archaic. Following things to the letter of the law may be annoying but at least it's consistent. When you start bending that law for some people and not for others though, one wonders …

Thierry Henry. A downright nice guy by all accounts and someone who is a joy to watch and an absolute credit to the game. As you may be aware, the Frenchman recently passed a goalscoring milestone for his club and to celebrate he requested permission to show a commemorative T-shirt — as is his penchant. Instead of giving Andy Gray and Martin Tyler something to discuss — what on earth did this new shirt mean, who it was referring to? — the miserable shits denied Henry's request. He's been warned before and he would be in trouble if he did it again.

So then Mr FA Tosser, please explain James Beattie ‘getting away’ with showing a shirt against Spurs? Not that I think Beattie should be censured. I don't think anyone should. Who cares if a player displays a humorous message to celebrate a goal?

Last season Dennis Bergkamp was told that he couldn't appeal against his red card (versus Liverpool) because cards for violent conduct are not rescindable (is that a word?). On a number of occasions awful refereeing decisions — against just about every team — are not rebuffed because ‘if the referee saw the incident and took appropriate [or at least what he deemed appropriate at the time] action’ there is no way the video panel will look at the incident again.

So how come Carlo Cudicini has had his red card, for violent conduct, examined by the video panel and rescinded?

If I was more of a crusader I'd write to the boys in charge (Dear Mr F*ckwit) but I'm not. It's not like they'd listen anyway, they'd have to take the cotton wool out of their ears.


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Saturday, January 11, 2003

moving to a lower rung

I believe that if Lee Bowyer had got his head down, kept his mouth shut and his personality problems in check; he could have recovered from what is politely referred to as his ‘high profile court case’. As it happens, he's gone from bad to worse; his sizable European ban for stamping on a players head is testimony to that.

I do sympathise with Hammers fans, I've always had a soft spot for the club and I will not criticise any of them for defending Bowyer, it's only natural in the heat of the moment. I'd like to think however that if they look back on this in ten years time they'll realise that their club did the wrong thing.

On one hand you don't want your team to get relegated, and the addition of a committed, hard working and talented midfielder to your team — who also just happens to be a fan — definitely helps. On the other hand, a week ago you'd have called him a racist thug who had no part to play in modern football. You weren't wrong.

There are many worse individuals in this country; more violent, more racist and more unpleasant. There are few of them held up to be role models and few of them with their name on the backs of eight-year-old kid's shirts. How can a club promote acceptance and anti-racism if — though not openly condoning his behaviour — they are willing to pay his wages and the best part of £4 million for his services? I'd like to bet the club hasn't spent that kind of money on ‘community relations’.

I still think West Ham will go down. If they had dropped with the team they had a week ago, it would be with dignity and with almost all neutrals respecting the attitude of the club, the players and the manager. Personally I don't know if I want them to stay up, there are certain issues that I feel are more important than football. By signing Lee Bowyer, Glenn Roeder has effectively said to all West Ham fans that the club tolerates violence and racism.

I love Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Paolo Di Canio and Jermaine Defoe. Great footballers and by all accounts I have read, great guys. I had a lot of respect for Glenn Roeder, and unless the decision to sign Bowyer came from above, a lot of that respect has now been beaten up in a dodgy nightclub and kicked in the face until totally unrecognisable.


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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Sky. Lark.

Sky Television really couldn't stoop any lower than shafting a conference side becasue they won't put thousands of fans lives in danger. It was nothing but common sense to switch the tie to a larger ground, more people get to experience a truly unique experience that epitomises the spirit of football.

When was the last time the cup holders and/or league champions played a non-league side in the fourth round of the FA Cup? Never? Didn't think so (If anyone can prove me wrong please leave a comment below). Games like this come along once in a lifetime—if you're lucky. It's the ultimate David & Goliath, little & large, Prince and the Pauper. Like Shrewsbury vs Everton in the last round, they're what football is worth supporting for.

Why aren't the BBC televising it? What if there was an upset? I know it's next to impossible, but if there was, someone would get the sack at Sky. I'm appealing to that person to see a bit of sense, there's still time to bring an historic tie in the World's oldest football cup competition to an audience of millions. Don't be a twat.

Which neutral really gives a toss about Gillingham vs Leeds?


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Monday, January 06, 2003

magic

There is simply no other word to describe the Football Association Challenge Cup. After listening to a despairingly average Wolves side bore me to death on the radio, in a match in which they (fortuitously) ran out 3-2 winners, I was ready to give up on the FA Cup. Dull, Dull, Dull.

But the joys of the giant killers; Shrewsbury, Farnborough and (potentially) Dagenham and Redbridge, coupled with West Bromwich Albion's breathtaking victory over Bradford, inevitably meant that the soccer scrooge within me was beaten down. And the draw for the fourth round is even better.

Oh to be a Farnborough fan. Or player for that matter. I'd like to bet that when they embarked on their FA Cup Odyssey back in October against Molesey they wouldn't dare dream of meeting the Premiership and FA Cup holders in the Fourth round. I doubt it was little more than hope that they'd get this far. It'll surely be moved to Highbury and probably pay all the players wages for the next year. I'm absolutely delighted for them.

That's not to say there aren't some other crackers on the cards though. Chelsea meet Shrewsbury, there's the prospect of Blackburn - Bolton and Sheff Wed - Leeds derbys and Manchester United get to play the team that knocked them out of this very competition, in this round, two seasons ago.

Here's the draw in full, is anyone else looking forward to the last week in January as much as me?

  • Norwich/Brighton v Plymouth/Dagenham & Redbridge
  • Southampton v Cambridge/Millwall
  • Walsall/Reading v Wimbledon
  • Blackburn v Bolton/Sunderland
  • Rochdale v Cardiff/Coventry
  • Fulham v Charlton
  • Sheffield United v Ipswich
  • Shrewsbury v Chelsea
  • Stoke v Bournemouth/Crewe
  • Brentford v Grimsby/Burnley
  • Farnborough v Arsenal
  • Manchester United v West Ham
  • Gillingham/Sheff Wed v Leeds
  • Wolves v Leicester
  • Watford v West Brom
  • Crystal Palace v Liverpool

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Saturday, January 04, 2003

Do I not like that

The FA Cup; like. Live football on terrestrial TV; like. John Motson instead of John Champion; like. That bloody scouse ‘poet’ who the BBC insist on wheeling out to introduce match of the day and tell us about the ‘magic of the cup’ at this time every year; I do not like.

For the first time in years I (and I suspect a few others) saw two superb football matches in one day. Despite the one sided scoreline, I thought Harry Redknap's Portsmouth gave a really good account of themselves during their 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford. If an awful miss from Nigel Quashie and a disallowed goal had gone another way it could have been a very different story. David Beckham's freekick was absolutely breathtaking though, if you haven't seen it make an effort to.

Terrestrial TV gave us a treat this evening with Southampton demolishing Spurs 4-0 at St Marys; and this one was as one sided as it sounds. Southampton were fantastic. They've looked good all season and this was almost a culmination of their efforts so far, Anders Svensson and James Beattie in particular were superb. I don't know how James Beattie can be left out of next England squad, I really can't think of a better English centre forward — and not just on form (apart from maybe Alan Shearer).

It made me think too; seeing as Spurs season is now finished, why doesn't Steven Carr just get it over with and move to Arsenal now? He might even join Sol Campbell in the jump-a-postcode get-a-league-medal club…

At 3pm I wondered why on Earth Radio 5 had decided to concentrate on the Shrewsbury - Everton game, do you think they knew something we didn't?

Do you think I Need an Albanian Centre Half?

Just when football's getting a bit predictable — Lee Bowyer being a prat, Gerard Houllier moaning — the one and only Bobby Robson come out with this gem, when being asked about frantic agent activity now the transfer window's open;

‘I've been offered two defenders I've never even heard of, one plays in Italy and the other in Albania. Do you think I need an Albanian centre half? His agent obviously does.’

You can just hear the next line: ‘and the Italian fella's this bloke called Maldini?! who do they think I am, father Christmas?’

The statistics say that without fail, there's a 60% chance of a cup upset. With so many Premiership - Premiership matches I would have thought that this would be reduced a fair bit, but that won't stop all neutrals hoping for a giant to topple. I'm off to the pub in a couple of hours to hope that Portsmouth manage it, but the smart money's on Cardiff to beat Coventry at Ninian Park. You heard it here first.


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