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All Things Footie | Monday, January 28 | Jordan

Transfer Natterings

Just a quick roundup of the agent's whispers in dark alleys…

PSV defender and Manchester United target Kevin Hofland has apparently been asking close friends about Arsenal, he's very impressed with the set up and the 22 year old is looking to a £15m move. His team-mate Marc Van Bommell will probably move at the same time if — as looks increasingly likely — Patrick Vieira moves to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Man Utd again; Dwight Yorke will be moving to Middlesbrough if they can agree wages, which is proving a bit of a stumbling block (around £60000 a week.) Speaking of financial stumbling blocks, Lazio aren't keeping up on their payments on Jaap Stam's fee, the Italian clucb are yet to pay Valencia for midfielder Gaizka Mendieta either.

Liverpool are very interested in Southampton's impressive left back Wayne Bridge, with a fee of around £7-8m being talked about. The deal may be financed by the sale of Sami Hyypia to Inter for around £16m.

Ex-Rangers centre half Joachim Bjorklund has moved to Sunderland for a fee of around £1.5m from Venezia. Juan Pablo Angel may be moving to Spain (before the transfer window closes on Thursday) for a fee of around £11m, Valencia being the most enthusiastic suitors.

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All Things Footie | | Jordan

Money For Nothing

Firstly I'm going to get Jamie Carragher's moment of madness off my chest. In my opinion his act of unashamed stupidity was no better than Eric Cantona's infamous kick at an abusive supporter. I would even go so far as to say that Cantona was more justified — at least he knew he attacked the right person. Carragher could have hit a child in the eye, or a pensioner does it matter? the point is he could easily have caused serious damage to a perfectly innocent party. The idiot that threw the coin is of course partially to blame, but in no way can this excuse Carragher's behavior.

I somehow doubt that Carragher will receive comparable censure to Cantona though, he's not French is he? For the record I also think that Carragher's act is just as bad as anything John Terry and Frank Lampard have done — the coin throwing incident also tells us something about the player's ability to conduct himself in the proper manner on the field.

No surprise that the self-obsessed idiot Gordon Taylor has called for more protection for players, with barely a comment on Carragher's behavior other than an appeal not to punish him more than for his sending off. I'm not too convinced about the sincerity of the Liverpool player's apology either, compare and contrast if you will…

“He let himself down, his team-mates down and his club down and I've told him that”
— Phil Thompson

“I let the club, the fans, my team-mates and myself down”
— Jamie Carragher

Clearly words from the heart. At least it shows he listens to his manager.

As for the other sending off's I thought Martin Keown probably deserved to go. You could (if you were a cynical old dog) say he sacrificed himself knowing that Owen would reach the ball, and seeing Wright in no mans land. I personally don't think he would be that stupid and although Owen did react to the faintest of touches, that's all that it takes.

I thought Dennis Bergkamp was very unlucky. Mike Riley had build up a head of steam and had gotten it into his head that the game was about to descend into an orgy of studs up challenges and if he was lucky, he may even get to send Patrik Vieira off. If you watch the incident (slow motion or TV speed) Bergkamp was about to challenge Carragher, when the Liverpool man played the ball. As Bergkamp was changing his footing to turn and chase the ball Carragher pulled his feet out of the way. I can't remember whether he made a big deal of it (I don't think he did) but Bergkamp certainly didn't make contact with him and I don't think he ever intended to. Very harsh.

Diego Forlorn

The Uruguayan must have been a bit puzzled watching his chosen team play the circus act in front of the side he snubbed. That's not to suggest for a moment that he would be having second thoughts about his move to United. I'm sure a more weighty pay packet and a house in a slightly less arctic location are very welcome; an opportunity to form a partnership with Ruud Van Nistelrooy, play in Europe and the big boon of a squad place at United — a guaranteed place in the International team (ask Gary Neville about that one.)

Just as things looked like they were getting better for the Champions, they have to play a decent team and a tricky cup tie; d�j� vu anyone? It's do or die for United now, the defence really are going to have to stop making a mockery of the team if they want to win anything this season. It's quite a unique situation in recent times, teams are often weaker in one area of the pitch but never has the contrast been as great as it is at Old Trafford right now.

Beckham, Giggs, Veron, Scholes and Keane are five of the finest midfielders in the world and contrary to popular opinion they've not been playing badly this season. Van Nistelrooy has proven to his doubters (me included not many months ago) that he can score goals and his teamwork and dedication has been second only to Roy Keane. The problem is that for all those players' hard work breaking down defensive teams, and picking locks with some stunning passing and moving, the defence is barely Premiership standard.

For every great United goal this season there has been a defensive disaster, for every clinical finish by Van Nistelrooy there's been a fluff by Blanc or Barthez, the togetherness of the midfield is perfectly contrasted by the profound inability of anyone to communicate at the back. Teams in the first division genuinely do have more solid, talented and hard working back lines than Manchester United — West Bromwich Albion for one (you can't argue with only 18 conceded in 30 games, just 7 at home.)

Other notable results include third division Cheltenham overcoming division one high flyers Burnley 2-1, Manchester City overcoming Ipswich 4-1 in an enjoyable game last night and West Ham coming from a goal behind to draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. West Brom will be happy with their efficient 1-0 win over Premiership Leicester City and how much did we all want Peterborough to beat Newcastle? Not that I have anything against Newcastle, but the sight of Barry Fry running down the touchline after David Farrell scored a wonderful equaliser, was a true FA-Cup moment.

Some tasty ties in the next round, I'm looking forward to Keegans return to St James' Park and Walsall against Fulahm at the Bescot stadium. Here's a round up of the fifth round ties;

Tottenham Hotspur
or Bolton Wanderers
v Tranmere Rovers
Newcastle United v Manchester City
Arsenal v Gillingham
or Bristol Rovers
Chelsea
or West Ham United
v Preston North End
Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers
Everton v Crewe Alexandra
Walsall v Fulham
West Bromwich Albion v Cheltenham
 
To be played on the weekend of Feb 16 - 17

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All Things Footie | Thursday, January 24 | Jordan

The Horse Gallops

It's taken its time coming (nearly three years), but Oleg Luzhny's first decent performance in an Arsenal shirt went a fair way to ensuring three points for the Gunners at FIlbert Street last night. It was a night for firsts, ‘The Horse’ — as the Ukranian is affectionately known — whipped in a dangerous looking cross in the 32nd minute for Giovanni Van Bronkorst to top an otherwise unspectacular performace with his first Arsenal goal. It surely has to be the first time Leicester have ended up with ten men on the pitch not through a fault of Robbie Savage.

So United are top by a point, Arsenal are second with a game in hand, Newcastle also have one in hand and could overtake United and Leeds could level with their extra fixture. Who said the PRemiership was ging to get boring.

The cup's are throwing up a bit of excitement too, you have to wonder what is going through referee Mark Halsey's mind this morning — as he realises he sent off the wrong player and profoundly affected a volatile cup semi-final (even if it is only the Worthlesston Cup.) You've got to be looking forward to this Sunday's FA Cup tie though. Two title contenders both a bit out of form, to be honest anything could happen.

If you need a reason to get excited you could always open an account with Sporting Odds (damn that was a slick link.) Seriously though, promotional rubbish aside, they're running a great offer for anyone who registers and puts a £5 bet on the game — if a penalty is awarded for either side they'll give you £20. If a penalty is missed they'll give you another £10. On top of that, they'll give you a free £10 bet on first goalscorer. You can't argue with that can you? Check out the betting page for more information.

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, January 22 | Jordan

Same Old, Same Old

Just as you thought the Premiership was about to get exciting...

There is a crucial difference between Manchester United and the rest of the Premiership — if Laurent Blanc was swan diving for anyone else he'd have been booked — especially with notoriously card happy referee Uriah Rennie officiating. But sometimes things go that way (usually for the current Premiership champions) and Ruud Van Nistelrooy took advantage of the opportunity with a marvellous penalty.

Blackburn are entitled to feel a little hard done by, but the game was there for the taking and they have only themselves to blame. The move that led up to Craig Hignett's goal was as good an example of passing and moving as anything United produced, a similar move in the second half left Damien Duff one on one with Barthez, only for the Irishman to fire it into the keeper's body. Hignett is in sparkling form at the moment though, and could have made it two himself on another occasion, only to strike it straight at Barthez.

Somebody also needs to get in touch with the boffins at the Oxford dictionary for the adjective irresistible needs to be re-defined. No longer does it refer to a thing of beauty but a scrappy goal by a big ugly Irishman (according to Ron Atkinson anyway).

Liverpool are looking less and less impressive by the week, something needs to be done to shake them up if they are to mount a serious challenge in the closing weeks. It's not just a matter of unlucky results or not taking chances — the usual ailments of a fading title challenge — but they're simply just not playing well enough to beat relegation battlers. Heskey is not a fitting partner for the World Class Owen, I don't think Anelka is right in the head and Litmanen's talent is fading fast. The truth is that Liverpool sold a World Class finisher and one half of, in this writers humble opinion, the most frightening strike partnership in the Premiership.

Every time I watch Liverpool I'm struck by the wastefulness of Steven Gerrard. At times he is inspirational, but somebody needs to stop remembering the one great pass a game and bear in mind the 10 or 15 wayward long balls that cheaply surrender possession. The truth is that a striker like Owen doesn't need or want balls over the top to chase. Owens first touch is not perfect, but he can do a lot more with it if the ball arrives at his feet and he can use the skill he was born with to beat defenders. Phil Thompson needs to get Gerrard to cut out the aimless balls that give opponents so much possession — or send him on a months loan to Wimbledon.

Arsenal are another team losing their lustre, a few more dire performances like those against Leeds and Liverpool and they can kiss the title goodbye. Chelsea on the other hand are flying, but who would bet on them to be consistent and beat Spurs tomorrow?

Having said all that it's all to easy to forget that it's just part of the season, every team has a bad patch, Uniteds came at the start, Leeds' is yet to really appear and Arsenal and Liverpool are currently in the slump. No one has yet had a patch nearly as bad as United's start — they've had to win the last nine game sin a row to get where they are — and I don't care what anyone says, they won't keep it up for the whole season. I think there's some life in the Premiership yet.

Performace of the week : Chelsea vs West Ham
Player of the week : Robbie Fowler (Leeds)
Goal of the week : David Weir (Everton vs Tottenham)
Team of the week :
Paul Jones
Southampton
David Weir
Everton
Martin Keown
Arsenal
Frank Sinclair
Leicester
Wayne Bridge
Southampton
Muzzy Izzet
Leicester
Roy Keane
Man Utd
Chris Marsden
Southampton
Andreas Svensson
Southampton
  Marcus Bent
Ipswich
Eidur Gudjonsen
Chelsea
 

Finally condolances to friends and family of West Bromwich Albion hero and singing star of Baddiel and Skinners ‘Fantasy Football’ TV show, Jeff Astle. He always seemed like a great chap, didn't take himself too seriously and he wasn't a bad footballer either — 59 is too young.

Jeff Astle (left) lifts the FA Cup with team-mate Bobby Hope

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All Things Footie | Friday, January 18 | Jordan

I'm Alive

Before anyone wonders where I've gone, I've just been really busy this week. There's some cool stuff to come very soon so I will make up for it. I see Diego Forlan will be signing for United today all being well. The question for me is if he's that good, why is it only United and Middlesborough fighing for his signature?

There's more Patrik Vieira speculation abound after he (well his agent, the evil Marc Roger) allegedly visited representatives of Real Madrid this week. The mercurial Frenchman definately seems to have had something on his mind this season, the quality of his displays has been dropping by his high standards and it would be better for all parties if the situation was sorted out as soon as possible. Real's proposed situation seems to be a World Record £50m deal completed before January 31st (the end of the Spanish transfer window). Arsenal are likely to refuse any offers but if Vieira wants to leave there's not a lot going to stop him. It's a very odd situation though and I for one would not like to predict the outcome.

NEWSFLASH!! I've just read that both Real and Arsenal have denied any knowledge of the ‘talks’, Vieira will be offered a new contract at the end of the season and if he does leave the fee will be more like £30m.

If Vieira does leave Wenger has Dutch midfielder Marc Van Bommel lined up as a replacement. From what I've seen of him Van Bommel loks a fantastic player — strong, agile, a great shot and strong in the tackle — which begs the question why doesn't Wenger buy him anyway? At £20m he wouldn't be overpriced in today's market and Arsenal aren't short of a bob or two, signing a player of his ability may even convince Vieira to stay. There's no doubt he needs a partner now, because with all due respect to Ray Parlour, Giovanni Van Bronkhorst and Gilles bloody Grimandi, it's a weak spot in the side.

I know it's Friday and time for the next set of fixtures but here are the scandalously late — weekly all things footie awards,

Performace of the week: Newcastle vs Leeds
Player of the week: Kieron Dyer (Newcastle)
Goal of the week: Tugay (Blackburn vs Charlton)
Team of the week:
Shay Given
Newcastle
John Curtis
Blackburn
John Terry
Chelsea
Sami Hyppia
Liverpool
John Arne Riise
Liverpool
Kieron Dyer
Newcastle
Roy Keane
Man Utd
Paul Gascoigne
Everton
Freddie Ljungberg
Arsenal
  Craig Bellamy
Newcastle
Louis Saha
Fulham
 

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All Things Footie | Sunday, January 13 | Jordan

Bobbie Dazzler

Apart from the state of the pitch, there was not a lot for Mr Robson to complain about after yesterday's superb win over Leeds. Little was wrong with the Toon's performance from Bobbies point of view — so what did you say to the players at the break?

“I said to the players at half time…
there was nothing to say at half time.

It's surely time for someone to do something about Danny Mills, how about just sending him off before kick off? strapping his elbows to his sides? I personally thought his elbow to the face of Laurent Robert was the clincher although kicking out at Craig Bellamy was almost as bad. England material? you must be joking. If that was a tense World Cup Semi-Final and he got himself removed from the field of play it wouldn't be unfortunate (like a certain Mr. Beckham in 1998) but a typical Danny Mills moment.

Another two cautions for diving in the match as well — it's becoming quite the fashion. It didn't look as though Bellamy dived, though he did seem to look for a penalty, arm waving and eyeballing the ref. As for Viduka I thought he was fouled but at least the ref was consistent in booking the Australian for ‘attempting to deceive.’ On the subject of discipline, I wonder if David Batty has averaged a booking a game over his career, his hideous challenge on Andy O'Brian was a typical Batty, nay typical Leeds challenge.

The true star of the game was the dynamic (for no other word sums up his contribution better) Kieron Dyer. An clinically taken goal and a delightful ball to Bellamy — who was also superb — for the third, topped what would normally be described a match winning performance. I say normally because the rest of the side were so instrumental in the win it would be unfair to heap an unequal amount of praise on one player.

Typical Chelsea performance at the Reebok, Eidur Gudjonsen's superb finish was cancelled out by a great goal from Michael Ricketts — almost Kanu-esque in the way he delayed his shot while he stepped around Carlo Cudicini. The star of the show was the outstanding prospect Kevin Nolan a surefire prospect to be shortlisted for young player of the year (probably alongside his team-mate Ricketts.) How Bolton hung on during a goalmouth scramble towards the end I don't know, Simon Charton the goal line clearing hero.

Claudio Ranieri is an enigma. He somehow mixes his passionate Roman outbursts with the view of an entirely impartial observer. Most managers when asked about a poor (if you consider yourselves title contenders) draw at Bolton would have had a different instinctive reaction to the question; ‘What did you think of t he game?’

“Second Half it was a BRILLIANT game!!”

A bit enthusiastic Claudio, did you think it was a good point?

“No! No! not a good point. Not at all.”

The post Christmas tractor boys are closer resembling the team that took the 2000/2001 Premiership by storm. A convincing 2-1 win over Glenn Hoddle's faltering Tottenham side puts them only a point from safety. Marcus Bent in particular is looking like a superb buy. Though Andy Cole finding form at Blackburn has made his departure look less of a loss than I think it actually was. Four stunning goals for Blackburn earned them a deserved victory over Charlton at Ewood Park.

There's no doubt the two matches today will throw a more realistic shape on the Premiership, a win for Arsenal will put them top with a game in hand on everyone in the top 6. Goal difference is tight between Arsenal and United (17 and 20 respectively) but if United win today it is likely they will lead the table points in the bag being worth more than games in hand and all that. Arsenal's ‘spare’ against Leicester has been re-arranged for the 23rd of January so going in to that weekends FA Cup fixtures a level Premiership playing field will be restored.

Check back tomorrow for the team of the week and roundups of today's two clashes.

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All Things Footie | Monday, January 7 | Jordan

Upsets and Setups

I think the shocks just about balanced the predictable results over the cup weekend. There were a series of fairly routine and predictable wins for Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd (only joking), West Ham, Ipswich and even Leicester. These were countered by a draw for Chelsea at Norwich, very unexpected wins for Bristol Rovers and Cardiff, Sunderland exiting early via West Brom and Blackburn being held to a draw by Barnsley at Oakwell. It's a shame that the most unexpected of results — Leeds' humiliation by Cardiff — was bathed in controversy and unpleasantness. It does seem to follow the Yorkshiremen around.

I was surprised to hear David O'Leary defending Alan Smith after his sending off at Cardiff — it wasn't that long ago he was administering the young striker with a verbal slap on the wrist for a similar offence. Smith seriously needs to sort his attitude out if he intends on spending much more time at a top club.

The game was always going to be a fiery encounter, with Sam Hammam proclaiming Cardiff as ‘potentially much bigger than Leeds’ and thus wanting the Millenium Stadium for the day. The FA of course refused his request but it set the ball rolling nicely and fired up his players and supporters enough to rattle Leeds. Maybe the Premiership side were jinxed from the beginning…

“I do not doubt that if they had a team worthy of the Premiership, they would fill a 40,000 stadium, but at the moment they haven't got that.”

— Nigel Martyn

It is a shame for Cardiff that such a wonderful result will be overshadowed by the pitch invasion and violence at the final whistle, call yourselves supporters?

Derby's humbling at the hands of a troubled Bristol Rovers was another typical cup upset, a poor Premiership side gets beaten by an underperforming lower division side — don't be surprised if this finally gives Bristol Rovers the kick up the proverbial and gets their season going. Three years ago Bristol's hat trick hero Nathan Ellington was playing in the Ryman League (for Walton & Hersham since you ask), magic.

The tie of the next round is easy to pick (if you were wondering what the ‘setup’ from the title was alluding to). It must have been fixed that Sunday the 27th will host a replay of last years final, more accurately a replay of this Sunday's showpiece game, and not dissimilar to the match at Anfield on the 23rd December. In just over one month Arsenal and Liverpool will have clashed on no less than three occasions — can one team win all three? unlikely, there'll be an upset at some point then.

The other intriguing story of the weeked for me is the enigmatic Paulo Di Canio's (allegedly) imminent move to Old Trafford. I'd be careful what you believe on this one though, the confirmed facts run thus;

  1. West Ham refused a bid from Man Utd on Friday.
  2. All recent comments attributed to PDC were taken from interview's months ago.
  3. Paulo is not happy one bit about the Sunday papers blowing the transfer talk out of proportion, he has this to say on the subject;
“I feel sorry for reporters that invent and recreate old comments to sell their newspapers. They have no real value of life and must be very lonely people without any real friends. I think they must have brains the size of a pea. When the truth does come out they will be made to look foolish.”

And that's just the parts I can print, the full article is very interesting indeed and can be found on his personal website, hosted at icons.com; you have to register first (it's free and they don't SPAM you).

There's no team of the week this week, there are too many teams and players I didn't get to watch so instead I'll leave you with Aki Riihilahti's Christmas list…

- red matchbox toy car
- getting the good form back again
- giving us the promotion
- more dishes without cellery
- decent group for next qualifications
- another red toy car
- health
- more girls to south london
- couple of goals
- better stories to www.akiriihilahti.com
- that the jodling old man wasnt every morning in the same tram
- happiness and joy to everyone

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All Things Footie | Thursday, January 3 | Jordan

Almost Forgot

To wish you all a very happy New Year, I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted for Christmas.

Just a quick post to let you know about a couple of things coming soon. Firstly any of you that like accumulators, multiples and the like take a look at my betting page, Sporting Odds are offering to refund your stake if one (only) of the bets in the multiple loses — I thought it was pretty nifty anyway.

Secondly in a couple of days all things footie will be adding a little competition, simply predict the outcome of major sporting events (FA Cup, Premiership, Tyson vs Lewis etc) and at the end of the year there'll be a prize for the person with the most points. I know it's blatently ripping off the prediction league in the Telegraph but who cares?

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, January 2 | Jordan

Team of Christmas

Due to the heavy fixture schedule at the end of December there's no team of the week; instead I've compiled a pick of the best players from the last three or four games (boxing day onwards). Not an easy task I can tell you, performance of Christmas — Southampton beating Chelsea 4-2, West Ham thrashing Derby, Charlton coming from two goals down to beat Ipswich — one result stood out for me though. Who was it said Ipswich were going down?

At least picking the best goal was easy, I'm guessing we may see Trevor Sinclair's wonderful effort a few times this season. Player of Christmas is a tricky one though, Roy Keane has been instrumental in stabilising the shaky ship United and Robert Pires has been spellbinding for Arsenal. The man that looks to be worth every penny of his seven figure transfer fee is the outstanding candidate for me though. No more messing around, here are all things footie's picks of the festive season…

Performace of Christmas : Ipswich vs Sunderland
Player of Christmas : Robbie Fowler (Leeds)
Goal of Christmas: Trevor Sinclair (West Ham vs Derby)
Team of Christmas :
Carlo Cudicini
Chelsea
John Arne Riise
L'Pool
William Gallas
Chelsea
Jorge Costa
Charlton
Ashley Cole
Arsenal
Robert Pires
Arsenal
Roy Keane
Man Utd
Kevin Nolan
Bolton
Ryan Giggs
Man Utd
  Robbie Fowler
Leeds
Eidur Gudjonsen
Chelsea
 

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  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything