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Monday, March 31, 2003

ohhhhhh rocky rocky

RIP Rocky.
Give some free support.


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Sunday, March 30, 2003

Embarassing

Let us get something clear right from the beginning. A 2-0 victory over Lichtenstein — particularly in the way England achieved it — is nothing other than an embarassment. An embarassment and nothing more. Anyone who thinks differently has been brainwashed by gormless BBC punditry about the importance of claiming three points. While I’m on the subject of the bloody BBC studio (and they’re getting on my nerves more every time I watch them); how are we supposed to get an honest appraisal of the performace by ‘Liverpool through and through’ Alan Hansen and Jamie Redknapp? Liven up BBC, lets have some unbiased punditry. It would have been great at half time to hear some honest views from people who didn’t know half the players personally.

‘Well Gary, I thought that first half was thoroughly wank. Luxembourg scored three against them, so how come we only managed one? and we were lucky not to concede! Southgate was awful, Emile Heskey has got the grace and first touch of a hippo that’s had his legs chopped off and if Steven Gerrard hoofs the ball aimlessly forward once more I’m going to go down there an d poke him in the eye. I’d also like to know why we’ve managed to have three players nutmegged so far, it’s meant to be us taking the piss.’

In my opinion, Paul Scholes is certainly England’s most technically gifted player, as well as being hard working, dangerous and a lethal finisher. I would go so far as to say that Scholes has the potential to be our most important player, and the one who could be key to bringing home a trophy to England. Have you ever seen Paul Scholes play well for England under Eriksson?

Just as I think that Alex Ferguson’s major mistake over the last couple of years is marginalizing this wonderful player for a lazy, over-rated Argentinean, so Sven could end up regretting not making Scholes more important. Aside from whatever's going wrong with Scholes, I still think it’s a criminal waste to put the best English midfielder this season in the nowhere left wing spot. Drop Gerrard, put Dyer through the middle.

What the hell was the point in bringing Nicky Butt on? Shore up the midfield? Keep it tight? (If you’re not laughing now, you should be. Think about it.) Why leave it until the 80th minute to bring on Wayne Rooney? (who created more, had more shots on goal and looked far more entertaining and lively in his ten minute cameo that Michael Owen and Emile Heskey have in their last 5 matches combined).

I’ve just been watching a programme about Sven Goran Eriksson. If you missed it, here are the highlights.

Early in his managerial career, Sven Goran Eriksson was accused of killing IFK Göeborg by forcing them to play boring long ball football. In the last game of the 1986 Seria A season Sven’s Roma team needed a home win against already relegated Lecce to claim the Scudetto. They went a goal down just before half time, and failing to motivate his players sufficiently during the break, the team slumped to a 1-0 defeat with the title handed to rivals Lazio.

Am I the only one seeing a pattern emerging?

Sven is a lifelong Liverpool fan and — with the exception of David Beckham — builds his team around Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen, regardless of form. Despite being England’s worst ever goals per game striker; and generally being one of the most technically inept and poorly refined professional footballers I’ve ever seen, Emile Heskey is still practically guaranteed a start.

Back to Eriksson. Sven’s wife Nancy Dell'Olio is a racist and a member of the Italian Fascist party; she even stood for election in 1998. Sinisa Mihajlovic is a violent, fanatically racist close personal friend of a Serbian war criminal. Sven Goran Eriksson counted Mihajlovic as one of his most important players and categorically defended his repeated calling of Patrick Vieira a ‘F*****g black monkey’ in the 2000 Champions league match in the Stadio Olimpico.

To be perfectly honest, I think there are a number of people I’d rather see in the England job. There’s absolutely no doubt that England have a collection of some of the finest footballers in the World; technically gifted, committed, hard-working and tactically more astute than many other country’s representatives. So why are they performing consistently awfully for their national team? Don’t give me this rubbish about highly paid players not caring about playing for their country. What absolute tosh. Negative, defensive long ball football is killing the English national team; we don’t even feel we can try and play football against a mickey-mouse team of builders and wine makers.

If Turkey don’t hammer us on Wednesday it will only be because we bore them to death.

Oh, and Clive Tyldsley is a twat.


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Sunday, March 23, 2003

Reds and Whites

I don’t mean to sound bitter here — and I’m certainly not trying to take anything away from Ruud Van Nistelrooij’s magnificent second goal yesterday — but I think that the elbow that the big Dutchman planted squarely on Sylvain Legwinski’s nose was a wee bit out of order. United deserved a win and Van Nistelrooij deserved his hat-trick, but it’s got to leave a sour taste in the mouths of Arsenal fans who’ve just seen Dennis Bergkamp fined £7,500 and warned by the FA for a very similar incident involving Lee Bowyer (except that Bergkamp ‘hit’ Bowyer with the palm of his hand).

Following the West Ham game, Robbie Earle couldn’t stop chastising Bergkamp on The Premiership. On Saturday night, he brushed off Van Nistelrooij’s elbow as ‘a bit of rough and tumble’. It’s not United’s fault that the media, the FA and Referee’s (the ‘penalty’ Solskjær won in the first half was an atrocious dive) are on their side — it’s just that incidents like this may help United fans realise why so many people loathe the former Premiership Champions.

Just to make it worse, the papers this morning are calling for video evidence to be used against Bergkamp (again) for a wholly innocuous challenge on Alan Stubbs. Van Nistelrooy’s elbow was (surprisingly) ignored because Jean Tigana didn’t complain about it:

‘Van Nistelrooy was accused of using his elbow to evade [I can think of another word for it] Legwinski, who had been fouling him [better not forget that, it wasn’t Van Nistelrooy’s fault remember], and even though the Fulham physio was called on to patch up the Frenchman like a prizefighter’s cuts man, there was no complaint from Jean Tigana over the defeat.’ — Sam Wallace The Daily Telegraph

‘Bergkamp was involved in another controversial challenge when he caught Stubbs on the calf [lucky he didn’t elbow him in the face then]. Referee Alan Wiley took no action but play restarted with a throw in which leaves the door open for the Football Association to have a closer look.’ — Christopher Davies, The Daily telegraph

With England’s game against Liechtenstein coming up, I was giving the team selection a bit of thought the other day. I was listening to an interview with Kieran Dyer — a revelation for Newcastle this season domestically and against Europe’s finest — when the subject turned to England’s problematic left side. Dyer looked a bit distraught when talking about his preferred role in the middle of the park, though he’d be happy to play out left. Every time I’ve seen Dyer play for England stuck out of position he’s looked lightweight and lost.

Solving the left sided berth is simple as far as I’m concerned. Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry and Graeme Le Saux are all just as comfortable in defence as midfield; the question is, are Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard really that indispensable that considering someone else in the central role is heresy? As for Wayne Rooney, the boy’s class, full stop, and makes the idea of selecting Emile Heskey even more ridiculous than it already is.

A quick word for John Terry too, best centre half in the Premiership since Christmas and this chance to shine on the international stage is long overdue. If he wasn’t such a complete muppet in his spare time I’m certain he would have played far more games for his country.


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Saturday, March 22, 2003

Firstly

I’m not going to give the hairy arsed, cretinous imbeciles that inhabit the Mestella the satisfaction of berating their offensive, narrow-minded, backwards behaviour. They may have to enter the twenty-first Century at some point soon, and it’s the responsibility of the club to do something about it, or be punished properly.

As for Arsenal, while fans of the club are laying in to Pascal Cygan, it’s perhaps worth them remembering Thierry Henry’s poor first season at Highbury. Cygan may well be as atrocious as he’s looked so far, but it’s a bit harsh to judge him definitively before he’s had a full season in the Premiership. Adjusting to the pace is difficult for most people, but imagine if you’ve got all the natural va va voom of an arthritic hedgehog with a twisted ankle.

For want of a more tasteful analogy, Thursday’s ‘Battle of Britain’ was a rather intriguing match, and raised some interesting questions. Many of us (me more than most) have mocked Celtic’s core of Premiership nearly-men, but are John Hartson, Neil Lennon and Alan Thompson really good enough to play for a top Premiership side? Or are Liverpool even more average than I thought?

and more importantly

It’s not really the place of this website to comment on the conflict in the Middle East, and to be quite frank I find the forthright stance of many similar websites a little tiresome. All I would like to say on the matter is to wish the best of luck to all the coalition forces, and to hope that loss of life on both sides is as minimal as is humanly possible.


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Monday, March 10, 2003

Encore!

The prospect of a repeat of Saturday’s thrilling FA Cup Quarter-Final at Highbury is certainly one to whet the appetite. Of course this time it’ll be down the road at Stamford Bar and Grill; as well as disturbing a Sven-Goran Eriksson party, congesting an already rather hoarse fixture list and making a 30,000 people late for work on a Wednesday morning.

And the World’s oldest and finest cup competition is worth that twice over.

It was a cracking game on Saturday for neutrals and partisan observers alike; I also think even the most ardent Gooner would concede that Chelsea deserved something from the game. The boys in blue played out of their skins — even fat Frank looked reasonably impressive. Two of the game’s most talented and affable characters had rather mixed days; after impressing early on, Gianfranco Zola was substituted at half time after his influence on the game began to wane, but Thierry Henry was no-doubt near his breathtaking best.

It’s quite incredible how one player can look literally twice as fast as everyone else on the pitch; but to combine that with the strength, touch and poise he possesses makes him truly unique. I’ve never seen a player quite like him, and doubt if I ever will again. Like Maradona, Cruyff, Pele, and George Best before him, I suspect that anyone who has had the pleasure to see him play will be telling tales of his feats to future generations. And like the greats before him those tales will be told by more than just Napoli, Ajax, Santos and United fans.

Though my vote for February’s goal of the month goes to Jon Harley and his sweetly struck thunderbolt for Fulham, I challenge anyone to find me another player capable of scoring Thierry Henry’s majestic two touch masterpiece against West Ham. Anyone.

Francis Jeffers may have dived, but before casting the first stone consider: Michael Owen, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes, Robbie Keane, Harry Kewell, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Kieran Dyer, Joe Cole, Nicolas Anelka, Darius Vassell, Ruud Van Nistelrooy. And so many more.

Congrats to Sheffield United in ending Leeds’ cup run too. Nobody likes Neil Warnock (or so I’m told) but I don’t like Terry Venebles, so there. Winning goalscorer Steve Kabba is an Arsenal fan too.

Next round. Chelsea put in probably their best performance of the season against Arsenal on Saturday, and anything less will no doubt see them out of the Cup. Whatever the outcome (and I won’t bother stating the obvious by saying I think Arsenal will prevail, oops — I just did) the winners face a trip to Brammell lane, whilst Watford will face Southampton at Vicaridge Road. So it’s a Southampton - Arsenal final then … or is it?

Deliberate mistake. The games will of course be played at neutral venues, not Brammell lane and Vicaridge road, well done to a total of zero readers that spotted this. My guesses would be Watford vs. Sheffield at Villa Park (or maybe Stamford Bridge) and Sheffield United vs. Arsenal/Chelsea at Old Trafford.


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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Worthy Cup?

I spent yesterday reading eulogies of Liverpool’s ‘magnificent’ performance in the Worthlesston Cup. I read how the magic of the cup once derided as ‘worthless’ is now back. I even read how this game alone bought prestige and honour back to the competition.

Am I the only one that fails to see this? From where I was sitting the game was dire for half an hour until a lucky deflection put Liverpool ahead. This was followed by 60 minutes of constant attacking pressure by Manchester United, who only failed to win the game due to a magnificent performance from Jerzy Dudek. I nearly spat out my cup of tea reading a Sunday newspaper’s comments about how Houllier’s faith in Dudek won the trophy. What!? Is this the same Gerard Houllier that saw Dudek drop a couple of clangers and dropped him until his replacement was injured?

Houllier has made a right mess of Liverpool, and I’m sure the fans won’t be naïve enough to think that a mickey mouse cup (or two) maketh a man. The truth is that Liverpool were outplayed in Cardiff — they’ve spent the whole season being outplayed by the likes of Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Sheffield United. The team has descended in to unattractive, long ball tactics; I can’t imagine what it must be like for those fans who had the pleasure of watching the great Liverpool sides of the seventies and eighties. Shankly and Paisley must be turning in their graves.

For those of you that think I’m being a little harsh, take a look at all of Liverpool’s good results this season and tell me, in how many of those matches has Jerzy Dudek or Chris Kirkland been man of the match?

Certain readers in particular will know that any admiration or affinity I have towards Alex Ferguson must be very well buried, but I must say I enjoyed his comments after the two bob tin cup final. Particularly when he was asked by Chris Kamara how it felt to lose when he’d made it a priority to take home the trophy …

‘Priority!! You must have misunderstood something there mate. The Premiership and the Champions League, they’re our priorities.’

Don’t forget the FA Cup Alex. Oh sorry, I forgot.


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