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All Things Footie | Tuesday, January 27 | Jordan

Cuptastic

Have I told you I love the FA Cup?

Gutted for Scarborough, a truly heroic performance against a near full strength Chelsea side and they only lost out on a replay through some very dubious refereeing. You won’t see many more blatent handballs than William Gallas’ in that game, and you won’t see many more teams in this competition who can hold their heads as high as the players of Scarborough Town FC.

One team who can though are Swansea City, and more specifically, the mercurial Lee Trundle. If you know anything about football outside of the Premiership then you must know of Trundle—a legend in Rhyl, Wrexham and Swansea; and about a stone short of being a Premiership player. He has the same awkward style of running and effortless control of Robert Pires, the way he opens his body up and moves with the ball at his feet is fantastic. He’s that rare breed of footballer, like Jay Jay Okotcha, that’s both an entertainer and an effective player on the pitch. The only thing holding Trundle back is his fitness and his age. To play at a higher level in modern football, particularly in the Premiership, you have to be in top physical condition. He’s got everything you can’t learn, so it’s a crying shame that he’ll never play at the highest level (never say never and all that, but I’m just being realistic).

United and Arsenal cruised through to the next round against vastly inferior opposition. If I was surprised by the scrappiness of all United’s goals, I was just as surprised to see young Arsneal forward David Bentley try that audacious chip from the edge of the box, let alone pull it off. It’s difficult not to draw comparison’s with Bentley’s two idols, Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp (he was a United fan as a boy), but we all know the damage of expecting too much, too soon. He’s still just 19 years old (though I remember when he started his Icons weblog at 16), and there will be a few years of development to come before he can begin to realise his full potential. It’s an exciting thought though, for Arsenal and England.

The only goal that could contest Bentley’s for goal of the round is Laurent Robert’s thunderous free kick against Liverpool. It wasn’t enough to see his side through, with two Bruno Chey-who? goals giving Liverpool the edge in the game. I watched some of it actually (though I managed to miss all three goals first time round), and I was surprised at how sharp Owen looked. He executed one beautiful slight of foot, dropping his shoulder, turning away from goal from a cut-back and swivelling to get a shot away—all with two defenders around him—probably the neatest trick I’ve seen Owen pull off since he was 18.

West Ham did well against a buoyant Wolves, and you have to give credit to Telford for holding off Milwall. Sunderland did well to progress, as did Burnley, who’s disappointing position in the first division table belies the quality they have in the team. I suppose credit must go to Birmingham for dealing with Wimbledon, and I find it difficult to have any sympathy for the club, but I thought that the players deserved more than a defeat.

Surprisingly there are only three all premiership ties for the fifth round draw, and it’s clear which one draws the eye first. This time last year, Arsenal drew Manchester United at Old Trafford, and once that match was out of the way, Chelsea at Highbury. The repeat of this quarter final is undoubtably the highlight of an otherwise rather dull fifth round draw:

Man Utd v Man City/Tottenham
Tranmere v Swansea
Telford/Millwall v Burnley
Sunderland v Birmingham
Sheff Utd v Coventry/Colchester
Arsenal v Chelsea
Liverpool v Portsmouth
Everton/Fulham v West Ham

If Telford get through, they’re ‘rewarded’ with another first division (or should I say, Football League Championship) side; Lee Trundle and Swansea are handed an away trip to Tranmere and—with the exception of a possible Manchester Derby (though I have a feeling Spurs ill beat City in the replay)—the rest are, on paper, a dull bunch at best. On the positive side, there’s a real possibility of seeing Swansea in the next round.

I can’t sign off without saying something about the war of words between Sir Alex Ferguson and his ‘frined’ John Magnier. The bottom line is that Magnier is using his 25% stake in Manchester United to put pressure on Ferguson regarding disputed ownership of the race-horse Rock of Gibraltar. The retired horse is worth a fortune (up to £200m) in Stud fees, and Ferguson wants slightly more than he’s owed for it, 50%. Even to a man like Magnier this is a lot of money, and the Irishman has the power and the resources to take Ferguson to the cleaners if he has to. Make no mistake, if this goes the whole ugly way to court, the United manager will lose.

In order to keep it out of the courts (but not the back, and front for that matter, pages of the daily rags), Magnier is threatening to expose some of the dodgy transfer deals that United, and more specifically Ferguson and his son Jason, have been involved in over the last few years. The price that United have paid for many players recently have been astronomical, when compared to their value. Just ask yourselves how Arsenal had agreed a £5m deal for Ronaldo last summer before Ferguson exercised a special ‘first-refusal’ clause with Lisbon to take the Portuguese forward to old trafford—only for £7.2m more. Bear in mind that in the signings of David Bellion, Kleberson and Eric Djemba Djemba, payments of over half a million pounds (or one Kolo Toure) were made to non FIFA sanctioned ‘agents’, most of whom know Jason Ferguson.

Louis Saha would have done anything to get a move to United, he said it himself, so why did it take a payment of £750,000 to an agent to ‘persuade’ him to move?

These kind of dodgy deals and payments happen at every club, and practically every transfer, but most people privy to the information know that it is in their best interests to keep schtum. Revealing all clubs’ indiscretions would embarass the business’ and the managers, not to mention bringing to light what filthy, bloodsucking, parasites on the game your average football agent is. In Magnier’s case, his best interests are served by making sure Ferguson gives up on Gibraltar and gets on with managing Man Utd, and many Utd fans may agree.

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