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Friday, February 28, 2003

No excuses

Just a very busy time at the moment. Sorry everyone.

I didn’t watch Liverpool progress in the Euro-Worthington last night and from what a Liverpool supporting friend of mine has told me that’s a good thing. I suspect that no amount of hype will make the quarter final ‘Battle of Britain’ any more watchable either. At the moment the only chance of them playing in Europe next season is by winning the thing.

Meanwhile United have strolled into the knockout stages of the ‘Champions’ league, as they admirably do every season. They often make it look so easy because they’re drawn with pub teams from Lithuania, but this year they’ve had what looked like a very tricky group. It seems that the European adventures are almost an escape from their increasingly worrying league position.

The team that’s making fools of Premiership defenders every week but can’t quite keep a clean sheet are oddly the team who’ve conceded least in the Champions League and scored fewer than ten other sides. Though Arsenal’s difficulty in finding the net in Europe will dog their progress. Still top of their group I’m confident they’ll progress, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Gunners look a little uncomfortable playing teams who refuse to be intimidated by some of the best players in the world. The swagger and casual arrogance seems lacking in all but Thierry Henry’s European performances.

I still haven’t decided if I’ll watch the Worthlesston Cup on Sunday, it has the potential to be quite exciting — it also has the potential to be a dire, dire game that neither team wants to lose and neither team care all that much about winning. Then again, Liverpool do seem to get themselves up for mickey mouse competitions so maybe they’ll have a go at United. All Things Footie prediction? Nil-nil at full time, a couple of posts hit in extra time and a Man Utd win on penalties.

One more quick word for Newcastle United. I really hope they get themselves through their group in the CL. It’s not going to be easy, sure they’ve beaten Leverkusen twice — but so will most of the other teams in the group. Best of luck Bobby.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Temper Temper

I’ve been trying to think of something to write that might make Ferguson’s boot hoofing, Beckham bashing shenanigans funnier. I’ve had to admit defeat.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that there’s a piece missing from the Jigsaw. There’s no doubt that Beckham has been deliberately drawing attention his stitches, and it’s common knowledge that he and Ferguson don’t see eye to eye on most issues. There’s certainly a mutual respect between the two, but not the same bond that exists between, for instance, Ferguson and Roy Keane.

Could this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? How much longer does a player of Beckham’s sensibilities want to be pushed around and abused by an angry, moaning, red faced Neanderthal when there are any number of more civilised managers World wide who’d take him on in a shot and be happy to make him the centre of attention. I don’t think Beckham will leave, but what happens from now on will give us a good indication of where Man Utd Plc’s priorities lie.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Ferguson is furious at ‘an Arsenal player’ who witnessed the incident for leaking the story to the press. Now I'm not one for spreading incredulous rumours (*cough*) but there’s strong talk from Arsenal related sources that Ashley Cole was the player in question. Whilst visiting the United dressing room to talk to his England team-mate and personal friend Rio Ferdinand … I quote from the source (who will remain un-named) …

‘Ferdinand quickly ushered him [Cole] out saying that there was a major row. Apparently Rio told Cole that Ferguson was giving a Beckham a right going over and said to him, “Ashley Cole made you look a right c***.”

‘Beckham replied “well, Wenger has made you look a bigger c***, yet again.”

‘With that Ferguson picked up a boot and fired it at him. When Cole walked in to the dressing room, Neville and Scholes were holding Beckham up against the wall and a couple of others were holding back Ferguson.’

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not entirely credible, I can’t see Ashley Cole just popping along to the United dressing room after beating them 2-0 (at Old Trafford too), but it’s certainly more interesting than it being an accident.

On an entirely different subject, thank God for the Champions League. I’ve never been a fan of Tuesdays, without the freshness of a Monday but still closer to the weekend gone than the weekend that has yet to pass (I’m sounding like someone out of Lord of the Rings now). The last three months with nothing but Eastenders to look forward to have contained many a lifeless Tuesday, but now there’s some top notch football on offer I feel rejuvenated, like Tuesdays have a point again. Not for the first time, football saves the day.

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Saturday, February 15, 2003

It’s a beautiful day

I was going to go easy on United. I thought that seeing as United put arsenal to the sword just a couple of months ago, I’d not rub in their 2-0 hammering at Old Trafford today. Then — as I was walking away from the ground (keeping my head down with nothing more than a slightly smug grin on my face) — this greasy, stinking, rat faced, monkey headed, mancunian fuckwit nicked my scarf. Expecting him to realise he was being a childish little tit I turned, tilted my head and offered a (reasonably sympathetic I thought) ‘come on mate’. At which point a short, fat, middle aged, red-faced little turd asked me if I’d dare to try and get it back. Fuck off you prat.

I’ll start with that other miserable, middle aged, red faced, arsehole — the one that manages the losers. I arrived home just in time to catch his comments after the game;

‘It does ease the program for us … I thought we may have taken on too much.’

There is nothing I can say about that comment that would make it any more hilarious. As I was making a mental note of the first comment Fergusmoan came out with this gem — and I paraphrase, as I was too busy laughing to remember it word for word. On Arsenal’s reaction to the five or six ludicrously over the top challenges by United players in the first ten minutes;

‘I didn’t think the Arsenal players handled the referee well. They were surrounding him in numbers and it just creates havoc. Our players didn’t do that.’

I can only assume he’s complaining about a copyright infringement. Aside from the fact that United got just about every decision (how Van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes weren’t sent off I don’t know, and Arsenal were also denied a clear cut second half penalty), nobody bullies refs more often or with greater ferocity than Moan Utd.

To sum up the game; United shit - Arsenal great. Roy Keane past it - Vieira best midfielder in the World. Rio Ferdinand overrated, waste of money - Martin Keown still one of the most committed and hard working centre half’s England have ever produced. Ruud Van Nistelrooy, couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo - Thierry Henry, helps his team from the bench more than Van Nistelrooy does on the pitch. David Beckham would love to think he was as good as Robert Pires.

It’s even funnier when you think that Arsenal also left out Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Gilberto Silva. You only need the reserves to stuff United these days.

The truth is that when you rely on Phil Neville playing brilliantly to win against a good side, you’re in trouble.

I’m going to get very, very drunk now.
Keeeown, there’s only one Keown

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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

As You Were

Despite United dropping home points against Man City, it’s the same as last week at the top of the Premiership — courtesy of Arsenal failing to take all three points at St James’ Park. On the subject of which, I think the usually pragmatic Bobby Robson owes Dennis Bergkamp an apology. Far from trying to get a player sent off, Bergkamp was just trying to keep a wonderfully open game flowing by taking a short free kick to Thierry Henry. Kicking the ball away afterwards didn’t help either. Unnecessary? yes. Cheating? no.

If one thing really struck me on Saturday, it was Wayne Rooney sitting on Everton’s bench as they were defeated at the Valley. Particularly with Sven watching after his inclusion in the England squad. I’m hesitant to suggest that a manager of David Moyes’ knowledge and experience would jeopardise three points for the sake of making a point, but I do wonder if he wasn’t just testing the youngster’s temprament.

I’m optimistic about the squad Eriksson has selected for today’s friendly with Australia. I still think you might as well pick a weeble as David James, but hopefully ‘calamity’ won’t start. Seeing the likes of Sean Davis, Paul Konchesky, Jermaine Jenas, Francis Jeffers and Wayne Rooney in the squad only gives me hope for the future.

Leaving Arsenal may have halted Matthew Upson’s hopes of picking up any medals in the near future, but like Richard Wright before him, it’s done no harm to his England chances. It’s obvious why Arsenal have so few English players, no one wants to sacrifice their place in the England squad. Just think, if Sunderland had bought Ray Parlour last year England could have won the World Cup.

Finally, if you're a gambling man (or woman) I’ve just been sent details of a selection of special bets for tonight’s game, for details take a look at my betting page. With odds like 7/1 on Beckham scoring a free kick I think I may have a flutter myself.

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Monday, February 03, 2003

Prolific, Moi?

I guess I'll have to take all the bad things I’ve ever said about Emile Heskey back. Three in three clearly shows his unrivalled goalscoring prowess and a certain pick for England’s friendly against Australia a week on Wednesday.

Talking of England, with Sven announcing his squad on Thursday, I for one expect some fresh faces called up for action. None of this Trevor Sinclair nonsense. With Chris Kirkland injured and David Seaman playing so well it's unlikely that either will be included so I for one would like to see Russell Hoult given a go. It’s unlucky for him that it’s taken until now for him to show how good he is, but at thirty years old he’ still worth a shot as far as I'm concerned.

On Radio Five’s 606 phone in last night, I heard a baggies fan claiming a southern bias on England squad selection; citing David James’ perpetual inclusion despite the fact he’s dodgier than Del Boy. If Russell Hoult is not included and James is, then I would have to say (much as it pains me) that I agree with him.

Continuing the Midlands theme is a difficult one for me; if there's one footballing trait I've inherited from my Dad (a United fan) it’s his dislike for sides from England’s second city. Taking that into consideration, discussing England without mentioning Gareth Barry is nigh on impossible. Graham Taylor (great bloke who's taken far too much stick during his managerial career) has done an excellent job of reshaping Villa, as well as reviving Barry’s career. After making the left side of midfield his home for club, I have every confidence he can do it for country too.

John Terry is at least as good as Marcel Desailly and currently playing better than both Rio Ferdinand (who seems to average about three nutmegs a game) and Sol Campbell (who’s not having a bad season, just not one of his best). Why has he yet to win a cap?

If James Beattie, and to a lesser extent Wayne Rooney, aren’t in Sven’s squad then there’s something seriously awry. Only Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Alan Shearer are up there with Beattie’s goals/game this year, and Henry, Beattie and Shearer lead the Premiership goalscoring charts by some margin (with 17, 16 and 14 goals respectively). If anyone can convince me that Emile Heskey is a better choice for a starting place then I’ll change my name to Edward Sheringham.

England’s problem is that they’ been playing too much like Liverhoof; aimless long balls and strikers who can’t hold it up. Passing, moving, counter-attacking — all the things that Liverhoof used to be good at — are what Sven should be aiming for. Ban anything over head height in training. Even though he likes playing that kind of ball Beckham would cope, because he’s class, but I’d like to bet Steven Gerrard would be utterly lost.

I know everyone has already slagged them off enough, but West Ham. Ohh lordy. I don't think I’ve seen a poorer defence in ten years, and the best one of the lot all but retired yesterday. Nigel Winterburn will be out for eight weeks and is leaving West Ham at the end of the season — which effectively means he’s kicked his last ball for the club. At 39 years of age, despite wanting to play on; it’s unlikely he’ll find another club (best of luck to him though). I wouldn’t be surprised if yesterday marked the end of the playing career of a legend. We’ll miss you Nutty.

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