Category Archives: just a thought.

Golden Rules of Accumulator Gambling, 2015

Placing a bet this weekend? Here’s my Golden Rules of Gambling, live by these and you’ll do alright….

  1. You haven’t lost what isn’t yours. When you bet it, you lose it, no team has let you down – you have simply “given away £5”. You haven’t “Lost £5,000”.
  2. Don’t touch the early game, or the late game. Keep it on all 3pm kick-offs.
  3. A derby game is a bookies’ paradise, not yours.
  4. Avoid betting on your own team as emotions get involved.
  5. Ride the trends, not the history. 2012-2014, Brighton, Blackpool, Dundee United & MK Dons were dead-certainties to score and concede in every game. Don’t let nostalgia fool you into thinking under new management their traits will remain.
  6. Don’t talk about betting – You tweet your bet, you lose your bet
  7. Stay true to your gut. Late changes will cost you. Don’t be a penalty taker who changes his mind last minute, you’ll kick yourself when you miss.
  8. Peterborough will let you down, every single time. Give them a wide berth.
  9. Bet against a new manager with caution….
  10. Big clubs don’t win games – Good teams win games. I’m looking at you, Leeds United.
  11. The Turkish Süper Lig has the highest percentage of home wins in UEFA governed football. Food for thought.
  12. Away wins are where the money is.
  13. Adding value to your bets always adds in tears. Don’t keep adding ‘certainties’ to your slip thinking it will boost your winnings. You’re only giving the bookmakers more chance to take your earnings.
  14. Don’t listen to “That Mate” – You know who I mean, the one who convinces you that St Mirren are FLYING at the minute and you have to back them to win at Aberdeen.
  15. Hold a grudge. The only thing worse than a team letting you down, is you backing them again – and losing again. Trick me once, shame on you – Trick me twice, shame on me.
  16. Never chase your losses. You place a £10 bet on, it flops, there’s 3 late matches on… Re-dig into the pockets and find yourself redemption? No.
  17. Explore how you bet: Heinz, Goliath, Lucky 63, Canadian. If you don’t know what they are, find out. Finding the right betting format is just as important as spending 20mins staring at the League Two table.
  18. Whatever you think you know about football in a different country, you don’t. You really don’t.
  19. Head over heart, people. Once you’ve picked your selections, remove the ONE you think is most likely to let you down. This will serve you well.

Remember, on a Saturday at 1330pm – Bookmakers  are given a list of the top 12 most backed results from the weekend’s fixtures. You know how many times in the last 3 seasons all 12 have won on the same day? 13 times. The most recent being Saturday the 17th of January, 2015. It’s rare, so don’t go mass-hunting favourites like it’s a flawless plan.

Bet wisely…

Over and out.


January, to buy or not to buy? That is the question…

I’m back.  

Shameful really, but with a new job and a busy life, I haven’t had the luxury of time to write a blog post recently. In spite of that, I’ve found time to keep up with the farcicals of football right now.

Since I left; Suarez has been banned for racism, rightly so, should have been longer in my opinion; John Terry has been charged by the police for the same offence; Arsenal find themselves with their worst point total after 22 games in all of Wenger’s tenure, and Tottenham are flying. 

It’s been a funny few months, but can we expect change?

Here are my views:

On January transfer expectations, after a dire display against Manchester United, subsidised by a manager seemingly hell-bent on having them in the Europa League, you really must wonder:

“He’s had no full-back’s fit since the Olympiakos game (December 6th) – where he played his only fit player in a game which was literally meaningless – since then he fumbled through December knowing he would be without a recognised full back until February.”

1) Why didn’t he highlight a defensive target and get a loanee cover in place?

2) Why hasn’t he ensured that funds were in place to make sure he could sign the loanee quickly? 

No-one knows but him.

We all know the results though; Arsene is being punished for his arrogance, losing a hat-trick of games, and they’ve now taken seven points from the last 18 available. Arsenal’s form is the joint-second worse in the league, and it’s single-handedly his fault. Of the goals conceded in the last three games, six of the seven have come directly from a mistake at full back. Could it be that a reluctance to spend £4m on a loanee will cost him £40m for the Champions League? And that’s excluding the player exodus that may happen should they fail to qualify.

If Arsenal don’t panic-purchase like they did in August, forget about the top four, they won’t even finish fifth.

You just feel for the fans who are paying an extra 6.5% on tickets when the performances are, at times, laughable. 

On Liverpool:  Liverpool have suffered the negative fates of the January window. Buying Andy Carroll (the worst signing in the history of world football) for such a high price will always bring pressure, but they’ve spend £75m on Downing, Carroll, Henderson and wrapped them up on such long contracts, that no-one is going to want to buy them. Additionally, they have no more funds to improve the squad. Between the two they end up with a team deep in limbo. This presents  worrying times, and it’s no wonder Liverpool were eager to swap Carroll for Tevez; it’s hilariously desperate. It’s like me attempting to trade my girlfriend for Zooey Dechanel, unlikely.  

So back to my Gooners, there’s some good in the window, a few fantastic purchases over the years. Arsenal utilised January back in 2009, signing The Lazy Magician; Andrei Arshavin for 15m, a signing which ensured a strong finish to the season. Since then however, the purchases have dried up.

On Arshavin: I’m a fan of Arshavin, even now. My theory is; Just because Wenger plays him at Left-Wing, it doesn’t make him a Winger.

Arshavin has always been creative. For Russia and Zenit he was instrumental playing in the CF role, linking up with the midfield, beating players, shooting at will and assisting in the plus 10’s.

Arsene, likes to play a 4-2-3-1, and because of this, he plays Arshavin out of position, instead of creating a ‘false number 10’ like Barcelona do, and playing a system which suits everyone.

Expectations are different for a winger. Arshavin’s not someone who’ll work hard without the ball, nor has he any intentions of tracking back, when you have full-back’s like Arsenal do, bombing on and hitting the by-line. You really have to wonder the tactical knowledge of Wenger when he insists on playing him at wide-left.

4-3-1-2 is needed, in my opinion. The back 4 picks itself, as does the goalkeeper.  Midfield 3 of Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Arshavin just behind; RVP and >Insert Striker here<.

Who should the striker be? Benzema, Olic, Kerzhakov. Anyone really, but it needs to be someone who’s an old fashioned STR. So that RVP could link up and wander around as he pleases. Dzeko, in a heart-beat.

On Gervinho I’ve defended Arshavin, so let me just revoke some of my previous comments on the wonderful; Gervinho.

Things I’ve said:

“Gervinho is the worst signing of Summer 2011”
“Gervinho is the worst player I’ve ever seen live”
“Gervinho is the worst finisher at the club”
“I would rather have Bendtner back, and as Club Captain, than need to spend another penny watching Gervinho”
“Gervinho makes Almunia’s contribution to the club look worthy of a Ballon D’or” 

Gervinho puts the ball wide.

SOME of the above, may – just may – be slightly harsh, so despite the fact he’s missed 9 one-on-ones, got himself sent off and single-handedly cost us games…. I want to just applaud his defensive work.

In recent weeks, due to Wenger’s reluctance to buy a replacement full-back, Coquelin and Djourou have been forced to adopt a make-shift role – where Djourou has been exposed, the LB position has always seemed that little bit safer. Why? I think Gervinho’s work-rate going backwards, is a lot more effective than he’s given credit for. Granted, it’s not his job, but it’s useful nonetheless.

That aside he’s still an atrocious finisher, and he’s pretty low down my personal preference of wingers. In-fact, with a full fit squad, I’d have him playing at Underhill with the reserves.

On the whole, Walcott and Gervinho are simply not good enough, but I’m supportive of a 4-4-2 type midfield with wingers, Wilshere next to Song for games that need width and fluidity. This is where Wenger needs to be more adaptable. 4-2-3-1 may work at Anfield, but it won’t work at home to Fulham. My 4-4-2 would probably feature Gervinho and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Both of them give more protection to the back-line which allows us to have 2 strikers.

But as always, we’re second guessing Arsene.

A repercussion to his arrogance and deliberate nature to not do something, solely because someone has told him too/when it’s been advised. It could literally define ‘frustration’, and that’s how the Gooners feel.

January 2011: Arsenal need to buy a defender.

Wenger doesn’t buy one, he perseveres with what he has and the club manage to finish 4th in a 2 horse title race, get knocked out of 3 trophies in 4 weeks and lose our 2 most creative midfielders.

And for this reason I justify my critics on twitter. He is too wrapped up in himself, he does value his own stubborn ways over what’s best for the club, he is obsessed with HIS concept of value, not the market price.

He’s still playing a formation based around a player who’s gone.

He’s refusing to listen to the players, this was shown in Van Persie’s frustrations recently; He’s not respecting nor appreciating the fans, and opponents don’t fear Arsenal. They’re seen, rightly so, as frail, weak, uncertain, like at 2-0 down you can still win because one bad decision and they crumble.

A disgruntled Captain, is rarely a long-standing one.

Teams relish playing Arsenal because they know they can get something from the game.

I’m ready to move on from Wenger, Ivan Gazidis too, Peter Hill-Wood as well. The only scenario where I think I’d re-unite my faith in Arsene would be if David Dein was to return.

On boo boys;  

Fans pay their money, they have a right to boo, jeer, cheer and clap whomever they please.

I dislike it when fans boo during the match, i.e, the Blackburn fans booing Yakubu for celebrating a goal with the under-fire Steve Kean.

Blackburn's Boo-Boys.

I dislike fans ousting individuals, like the booing of Walcott, Eboue etc. There needs to be more support for a player having an off game.

I agree with fan booing a bad result, a poor referee or a horrific decision from a manager – Like taking off your best player at 1-1, ensuring that you lose the game, Arsene. However, there is no right or wrong way to be a fan, just like there is no right or wrong way to support. At one end of the scale there’s the ever-green “nothing is ever wrong” fans, who follow the notion that everything has a silver lining and will always talk about ‘next year’; and then there are the cynics who disagree with everything and hate everyone.

But I think booing serves a purpose. Wenger needed to know that taking off A.O-C for the sake of it, was wrong. Manchester United is not the game to ‘test’ players, to ‘give them a run out’ or to bring on a favourite out of sheer nostalgia. It’s the kind of game where you play to win. Especially at a club like Arsenal.

On fans

With all due respect, there’s “Fans” and there’s “Associates”.

The associates are those who have only been to one game, will watch a game if it’s on sky, and will get one shirt every three years. To these people; you are not a fan, you’re a follower. You enjoy them winning to feel part of a cult, or tribe, but you don’t adhere to the literal abbreviation of fan-atic.

The true fans are those who know the under 18s; those who remember the awful players who had six months and three appearances, and those who put up with Bulgarian commentary on a dodgy link just so they can see the game. It’s these same people who hit a solid 10 games a season, and never miss one unless it’s unavoidable.

My point? I’m starting to notice the difference between the two groups more and more. How the fans are being supported by other fans; whereas the associates are sharing and supporting the views of one another. The two are clashing.

I think when you have an actual passion, you have a right to voice your opinion, and but it’s usually the ‘Associates’ who think they have a right to silence the paying ‘Fans’ for being outspoken. Which in essence is a lead on from my point on ‘right or wrong way’ to be a fan, no-one has the right to tell someone how to support a team, but it seems to be the ‘associates’ who feel they have the right to.

 On how the season will finish?

 Premier League – Manchester City.
Carling Cup – Liverpool.
FA Cup – Tottenham.
Champions League – Bayern Munich (Arsenal semi-finals)

What a season we have left, though.

As always I welcome the debate, so get in touch with me on twitter on leave a comment below;

Over and out.

Traditions making way for a new a generation in football, a round up;

My last blog piece was written quite a while back now, and for that I need to say sorry. Since my last one I’ve got a new job, and a new flat too. It’s been a busy time. I’m writing this in a rather informal notion, so excuse my disregard for proper sentence structure or journalistic skills. It’s more about opinion, and for that – I want to see responses.

In football terms, Arsenal appear to have turned a corner. Those who follow my twitter-feed (see top) will know I was cautious about ‘counting chickens’; as the form and ability of the opposition was as questionable as the Gunners themselves. As it stands, a thumping win at Stamford Bridge and topping their Champions’ League group thus far, I believe as long as Arsenal are in the top five come January they’ll finish in that lucrative top 4 spot. If they’re smart enough to strengthen well, I even think 3rd place is do-able. With that thought in mind, I’ll stick to my prediction from my transfer blog in Summer;

Manchester City – Champions.
Manchester United – 2nd.
Arsenal – 3rd.
Liverpool – 4th.
Chelsea – 5th.
Tottenham – 6th.

Though, I must admit, Tottenham have been relatively impressive; I just think the further they go in the Europa League, the more it will harm their chances.

Thursday/Sunday seasons can be cursed for any side. Liverpool and Spurs could swap places; I do firmly believe Chelsea will fall behind but it will see a major haul in personnel at the club for the 2012/2013 season.

Back to Arsenal, and my worry is in their ability to do transfer dealings. Wenger won’t want to halt the growth of his young stars, but he needs some star quality. Mikel Arteta has been good, as has Ramsey and Song. Three solid players, but a Hazard type of character would really shake up the team – Mind, so would Arshavin if he found form. Though how is Arsene supposed to justify buying another CM when he already has arguably seven/eight possible suitors? It’s very hard to justifiably strengthen a side full of good, but not Ballon D’Or, players.

Next I want to talk about the Championship strugglers; Doncaster Rovers. With a lack of funds and an inability to compete on their field, they have invested in a new look strategy with the help of one of football’s real pantomine villains;

Willie McKay – I know you know the name, and now you’re thinking: “Wasn’t he that… uh… um… Hmmm.. He knows Redknapp, doesn’t he?”, Well McKay is a football agent, and perhaps would of the most media watched of them all after the police and political enquires into his transfer involvement with Jean Boumsong, Benjani and Amdy Faye. Most notably; “The Steven’s Enquiry” in 2007, which was the fall out of his arrest, and subsequent house raid as police investigated alleged corruption in football, all at the time Harry Redknapp was at Portsmouth, the club Amdy Faye then played for. For McKay, with current clients like El Hadji Diouf and Joey Barton, he’s always going to be interesting.

Willie McKay (right) at Doncaster Rovers last week.

Doncaster Rovers have hired Willie McKay on a 2-year deal in the role of ‘Transfer Consultant’; an advisory role. This is perhaps the most interesting story of the late-2011.

‘So what does that mean?’ – Basically, he is in charge of any ins and outs in the club and, with his various contacts in football, he’s got a fantastic plan up his sleeve to generate income for Doncaster. It’s a short-term plan with a long-term goal.

McKay has promised to bring in star names on short contracts, taking unwanted players from big clubs around Europe to put them in the shop window ergo selling them on to a club more befitting of their talent, and he (McKay) will get a cut of Doncaster’s profits. A relatively win-win situation: no? So far, Doncaster have signed Diouf, Chimbonda and McKay has even claimed Zinedine Zidane and Mahamadou Diarra are due to sign in January. Amazing.

So, from one club that’s fighting to keep itself competitive; to another commercially setting the tone in not only domestic, but international, sport. The brand, the PLC: Manchester United. In a previous blog, I expressed how impressed I was that they’ve secured sponsorship of their training kit via DHL – yes, training kit, for £40,000,000. That was enough money to secure the signings of Phil Jones and Ashley Young. In recent activities, Manchester United have now secured Zong as their ‘Official Pakistan Telecoms Sponsor’, their 15th worldwide communications sponsor, in stark contrast to their commercial rivals Arsenal, who have one, British giants: O2.

That’s enough commercial activity for one club, right? Wrong. Manchester United also have plans to launch a Worldwide Social Network, aiming to target, link and give content to their estimated 500 million fans. Man United are positively exploiting their global brand – another business lesson for the competition.

So to my next point, and I’ve been thinking this for a while so I just wanted to get my thoughts immortalised into the black-ink of the internet so when it happens I look like a genius;

Manchester United will ‘franchise’ a football team in the USA.

There are so many different catalysts which are pointing to it, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I know football – it seems a commercial and operational feasibility.

In 2003 Manchester United went on their first tour to the USA, the players were able to walk the streets of the busiest cities without as much as an autograph. Now, it’s 2011 and United sell-out the 61,500 strong Soldier Field for their pre-season clash with Chicago Fire.

Manchester United line up on their USA Tour 2011.

American businesses are pushing to be associated with Manchester United. After losing the MLS kit rights to Adidas, Nike (Man Utd’s manufacturer) are using the brand of the Red Devils and the Premier League to propel themselves as the face of the MLS game. Furthermore, American business multi-service providers ‘Aon’ spent £80 million – 4 years ago – to sponsor the United playing uniforms: with 6.5 million fans apparently based in the US. Those numbers explain why the likes of DHL, Audi, Epson and Singha are determined to pay handsomely for association with Manchester United too.

Next David Beckham has admitted this week that he is looking into the possibility of owning a MLS franchise after he finishes playing football. Given his allegiances with Manchester United, it seems a feasible ending. As for where; I could imagine them being based in Seattle (where Nike has their flagship store) or Chicago. Both cities Manchester United have utilised as a base on their US tours. Watch this space.

Next, and tying into the Manchester United universal brand and the USA Franchise Idea: Rio Ferdinand.

The twitter #movement of the England Centre-Back has propelled him to fame; his online ‘banter’ with CNN’s Piers Morgan has got him into the American eye, and he’s one of the most recognised English starts with American fans. Recently, he’s fallen out of favour with Sir Alex in favour of bleeding Phil Jones into the team, and with Chris Smalling and Evans progressing it seems he’s undoubtedly ‘over-the-hill’.

Next bold statement; He will be at Chicago Fire by 2013.

His children are 5, 3, and <1. It seems a good time to move, get them settled into the US life, increase his image and could see him becoming an international ambassador for the English game, as well as Manchester United. Right now, LA Galaxy and The New York Red Bulls are both seen as the two dominant forces in the MLS; no coincidence that these are both teams who have invested in ex-European stars. Chicago, the next most famous US City after the two already named – would love to get their hands on one themselves.

In having Ferdinand in the USA, and Beckham looking to buy a club, a Manchester United franchise is gaining momentum as a feasible idea.

The final big topic of recent times – and this a slight tedious link on from Ferdinand > Old Players getting toward the end of their top flight career – is John Terry.

The England Captain is at the centre of a police-led enquiry into alleged racism towards QPR’s defender, and Rio’s brother, Anton Ferdinand. Allow me to just offer me opinion on this, for me, in the trial-by-youtube case it does appear that Terry is saying: “You blind c***”.

However, when lip-reading, the words ‘blind’ and ‘black’ come across similarly, but Anton Ferdinand seems to be aggrieved enough to have launched a formal complaint with the Met Police and the FA.

Following the Wayne Bridge and John Terry fiasco 18months back, I think the FA have had it in for Terry. At the end of the day, the playb0y actions of the Chelsea Skipper put the sport, the reputation of the English game, and the name of football players to embarrassment. Because of this, I think the FA are going to use this Race-Row as an excuse to completely throw the book at him.

John Terry and Anton Ferdinand exchange words.

8-15 game ban; something really serious. I think you’re going to feel half of it for the crime of racism, and half of it for the FA to well-and-truly get him back for the Bridge-gate.

How on earth do you wrap up such monstrosity of a blog-post? I’m not really sure, but I would really love to hear your views on anything I’ve spoke about. So tweet me or comment below.

This was very fun to write, by the way.

Over and out.

Blatter’s ignorance to a plea of help. The referee’s paradox.

So, we have a week off from the ups and downs of the Premier League, but the joys of being a football fan does not stop there, oh no.

It’s the turn of the Welsh and the Scots this week to bemoan the poor officiating which has cost their side dearly in the international break; Wales, playing at Wembley, trailing 1-0, see Aaron Ramsey play a pass his old captain would have been proud of,  to the sprinting Gareth Bale, the Tottenham winger controls the ball and is ‘1 on 1’, only to be flagged offside, wrongly. What could have been. Mind, Rob Earnshaw had a chance to make amends had he not blazed a complete sitter.

3 days previous, at Hampden Park, Scotland suffer in the ‘tale of two penalties’. At 2-1 to the hosts, Czech striker Jezek dives under the presence of Wilson and is awarded a penalty, converted by Kadlec. 2-2. Then 50 seconds later, Christophe Berra has his ankles taken and nothing is given. A very costly draw for the Tartan Army’s chances of Euro2012 qualification.

So the argument was re-ignited; do referee’s need help?

I think the world of football is crying out for it.

Hawk-Eye, used in Tennis to determine boundary decisions.

Sport as a whole has always been surrounded by an aura of controversy, but with the development of technologies in the social and media universe, other sports have developed with the advancements; ensuring whilst the referee has final say, he is in a position to use the media to review the incident. Rugby uses the video-ref, tennis has hawk-eye, in American Football you “go upstairs”, and any race, be it horses/cars/humans there is photo-finish and in-race conduct being monitored.

Football is being left in the dark ages, held by the stubborn-ness of a Swiss dictator refusing to budge over the pressing issues. These decisions are literally re-writing history; Spain, won their first World Cup in 2010, however, in the Semi-Final vs Germany, Germany should have been awarded one penalty, and could easily have had a second. Costly in a game finishing 1-0. Furthermore, in the final, Dutch winger Robben had broken free of the Spanish defence only to be pulled back by Puyol as he attempted to shoot, could have been a game-changing red card in extra time.

The cynics will argue that it takes power away from the referees; but I feel it empowers them to officiate in a fair and proper manner. Referee’s will still be able to put their personalities onto a match; the leniency of Webb, the pro-penalty-giving nature of Dean. But the integrity of the sport will remain, and the ‘buck’ will ultimately stop with the referee. Under current rules, referee’s are being blamed for incidents in which they really cannot be expected to know for sure.

Frank Lampard’s shot clearly crosses the line, but officials didn’t spot it.

Take Germany vs England, for example. Whilst the Lampard phantom goal was blatantly obvious for us to see at home, one must consider; we had an elevated angle, we also had the benefit of a replay for clarification; it would take the 4th official a matter of seconds to confirm the correction to the ‘1st official’ and the goal would have stood. As it stands now the referee’s are so bound by dated rules that they can’t even use the replays on the stadium monitors to be sure, regardless if the fans can see an injustice: (Argentina v Mexico, WC2010, Arsenal v Everton BPL 2011).

Sepp Blatter: “The International Football Association Board is of the opinion that football will remain, for the time being, a game for human beings with errors on the field of play. We will try to improve referees but you will never erase errors completely.” – A categorical ‘no’ to the thought of video replays.

If it were up to me, I’d have a system which incorporated both the Tennis and Rugby practises. And here’s what and why;

Mr Blatter argues that video replays would make the game inconsistent, and the stop-start nature of the game would deter fans. My first argument is; football is already more stop start than everyone realises, with every corner/throw/goal kick etc taking an extra 15/20 seconds. Last season, the average ‘game-time’ of teams, i.e., the time that the ball was actually on the field and in motion, was around 75mins. With the lowest team being Stoke City FC. Averaging around 68mins per match. I think Rory Delap can have 5/6 of those minutes himself. My 2nd argument, and my solution, is; 3 unsuccessful challenges per side. The same as used in tennis. Assuming all challenges are used, at an average of 30 seconds for the 4th official to confirm/deny, that would only add 3 minutes to a game. Which is hardly an inconvenience for the sake of a fair result.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA.

Next, Mr Blatter wants to avoid scenes of players crowding the referees for every tedious decision. My solution to that would be taking a spin on the Rugby system of communication with officials; Only the captain/manager can request use of a challenge. Additionally, the sinned/sinned against player can too, in events of penalties/red cards etc, but captain must be present on field.

Enforcement of these rule changes would take the controversy out of the game, which would apportion the blame inexcusably onto the referees. Which would bring me to my final suggestion on the matter;

This is perhaps the only time in my life I may do so, but I agree with Tony Pulis;

Pulis told BBC Radio 5 live: “Every club should have one vote [annually] and mark referees after every game. Then they have a chance of being relegated to the Championship. It would be a great system.”,

He went on; 

“If the top three [referees] in the Championship got the opportunity to work at the top level, I think it would certainly clear a few referees’ minds.”

What. A. Brilliant. Idea.

….But…..with a few tweaks; whilst rating referee’s will be averaged I think it needs to be weighted; i.e. 25%, home manager, 25% away manager. 50% by the match assessor. That would counter the ever-moaning managers; Wenger, Ferguson, Pardew. And also protect the opinions of certain managers who never seem to complain too much; O’Neill, Bruce, Martinez.

Additionally, I completely disagree with the small pool of referees in the Barclays Premier League. In my opinion, this causes familiarity; which is detrimental to the chances of a fair referee. For example, how many times have you heard the phrase “he’s not that type of player”?

My point being, if Joey Barton makes a late tackle, all of a sudden all his previous misdemeanours are poured onto him and a collaborated decision is given. On the other hand, Theo Walcott, a player with only 2 yellow cards to his name in his Arsenal career, if he makes the same tackle… Are you trying to tell me that you’d give the same decision? I doubt it.

Furthermore, players and referees begin the get friendly, an unhealthy relationship to be had when a game is worth as much as it is. Notably, and perhaps only known by Everton fans, Mark Clattenburg is banned from officiating Toffee’s games after this incident;

Notice how Clattenburg takes a yellow card out of his pocket, then following an exchange of words with the Liverpool skipper, he changes Hibbert’s punishment to a red card. Worrying.

There are 18 referees with Premier League status, or to give it the proper name, 18 are full-time members of the ‘select group’, appointed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL). With Jon Moss and Neil Swarbrick sharing a part-time status after both officiating 2 PL games each last term. This means, that there is on average less than 1 full time referee per team, from that, in 2010/2011 it varied from Phil Dowd refereeing 30 games, and Anthony Taylor officiating 13. Moreover, and I hope you’re keeping up!, ‘high profile games’, between top 6 sides, bottom 3 sides, or derby games, go to the referee’s said to be the best; Dean, Webb, Dowd, Atkinson, Foy, Walton. Which can only mean familiarity for the top sides. Which is leading to fans accusations/predictions, and pre-emptive conclusions of ‘the unfairness to come’, all before some games have even started; I.e. Mike Riley had given Man Utd 8 penalties in 8 games at Old Trafford, Webb has given Man Utd 3 penalties in 6 games vs Arsenal, Atkinson is said to bias toward Chelsea, 13 games unbeaten under him. And Webb is said to always lean toward the home side. Meanwhile Dowd has a habit of placing himself at the centre of controversial results, comebacks, game-changing moments, etc.

Phil Dowd dismisses Chelsea skipper John Terry.

The thing is, the more help referees can get, to enforce the laws of the game, the easier the whole process becomes. A referral system gives the referees a chance to make a confident decision, and it takes away the curtain if the decision is wrong. Therefore it makes the individual accountable, which will lead to punishment, which will mean the referees that are the best, are officiating at the highest level. It’s a conclusion that everyone wants.

I am 100% Blatter and Platini; Out. They are corrupt, elitist and racist (in their constant ignoring of the monkey chants at Camp Nou, yet chasing trivial issues).

Whatever happens in the future – and, who knows, football might end up embracing technology as other sports have done – criticism of referees is unlikely to subside completely, but at least football will be rid of the blatant injustice which is currently crippling the sport.

Over and out.

Leg Breaks; Dirty or Mistimed?

I’m going to begin this blog piece by sending out my best wishes to Chung-Yong Lee of Bolton Wanderers FC, on 30/07/2011 he suffered a double-leg break (tib and fib, not both legs) in a pre-season friendly vs non-league Newport County, after a reckless tackle by Tom Miller. Lee will be out for around 9 months, but as many Arsenal fans know, with the case of Eduardo, in some examples the individuals may struggle to find form again.

So here we go;  Tackles. Are footballers under-protected or are safety conscious viewers attempting to remove physicality from the beautiful game?

I must add, and this is a key point from myself. I do have an element of hypocrisy in this blog post, given I’m a proud Rangers AND Arsenal supporter, it would seem ludicrous that I support crunching tackles in Old Firm encounters, yet slate wild attempts to injure Arsenal players, perhaps there’s no continuity in football. I’ll try to maintain an element of neutrality, but I’m not promising anything.

Scenario; ‘a player is coming towards you with the ball, he’s quicker than you, he’s technically superior to you, and you’re a CB who’s found himself out of position beyond the half-way line, you swing a boot in a scythe-like motion, completely missing the ball and leaving your young opponent lying on a heap in the floor, with his leg and ankle shattered.’ Ouch. If your mind is struggling to invisage this, check the inbedded video, below. The victim of this ‘tackle’ is sidelined for the next 9 months, in some cases – longer. The attacker serves a 3 match ban and then is available for the remainder of the campaign. How does this sit with your moral  conscience Mr/Mrs.Reader?

Okay, that’s my dig at Ryan Shawcross out the way.

In my opinion, cases like this should see the player who breaks his leg, be suspended for the time it takes the victim to recover. So; 9 months.

It seems harsh, but is there any other way to stomp it out?  – excuse the pun.

Let’s dive deeper; my only issue with my initial punishment is that where do you confuse recklessness with lack of skill. Many have argued that Shawcross’s attempt was a 50:50 and that to alter the rules, thus removing the physical edge, would turn the game into a non-contact sport? Or, in this case, alter the rules to suit Arsenal’s style of play? I think it’s fairly common knowledge for English Premier League supporters that; “To beat Arsenal, you kick them off the park”, – except Manchester United, who just absorb and counter – but kicking them off the park can lead to injuries. And with Diaby/Eduardo and Ramsey all suffering leg-breaks in the last 7 years many Gunners’ fans are beginning to worry at the tactic’s instructed which may lead to this. – Let me back up this point with a good example;

…You all remember being 14/15 years old, you’re playing for your local or school football team and the coach tells you; “First tackle you make, make it a hard one! Make sure they know they’re in a game!”. Well, I happen to think that’s very similar instructions to what some <8th place sides get when they face Arsenal. Of course I’m not suggesting they’re encouraged to attempt to injure, but surely if you’re encouraging hard, crunching tackles, then injuries to your opponents are a potential by-product.

Holden and Evans contest a ’50:50′

Further more to this point, since the take-over of Owen Coyle at Bolton Wanderers, many bloggers and media alike have noted the style of play exhibited at the Reebok, and have commented on their new-found notions of passing, moving and playing a better game. Their style of play has become a far cry greater than the Allardyce days and I believe Europa League is not outwith their abilities should they secure a few more signings. So, and I think you know where I’m going with this, since Christmas, Bolton have had 2 leg breaks, the fantastic and highly rated Stuart Holden, and now Chung-Yong  Lee. Is this a coincidence?  Perhaps not.

Though I do find the irony in Trotters fans tweeting in out-cry at the same reckless tackles they were happy to cheer on during Allardyce’s tenure.

There currently is a panel, set up by the FA, to look at red card incidents and decide on if these are worthy of an extension to the 3 match ban imposed automatically. – Most notably in the case of Ben Thatcher vs Pedro Mendes. However, this is the same panel who happened to deem Wayne Rooney’s elbow on James McCarthy as okay.

Which brings me nicely on to the topic of this blog entry’s title. How do you distinguish between dirty and mistimed?  

Nolan challenges Victor Anichibe of Everton, leaving the Toffee’s man out for months.

The fact of the matter is, it’s difficult to. Every coach and team-mate will claim “he’s not that type of player”, and I’m sure he’s not malicious at all off the field, in fact… I’ve been told Mike Tyson is one of the nicest people I could ever meet, still doesn’t alter his sporting personality. Dirty tackles are an everyday occurrence, so I would say that the only way to distinguish between tackles and punishments is the severity of the out-come caused, and a harsher view upon this by the governing panels in situ. Cause at the end of the day, the intent behind this (Wayne Rooney vs Portsmouth) and this (Karacan vs Liverpool) is the exact same, it’s merely the contact, and the effect is what should determine the punishment. Similar to driving a car, if you are speeding; 3 points. If you speed into a residential area and kill someone, slightly more than 3 points. Similar system…..ish.

So I guess the jury is out, this blog piece has been a build up of entirely my own opinions, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right or wrong. I guess this is one of the few times where, in my eyes, the responses I get are just as valuable as the original piece.

Get voting on the poll, give a good overview without needing to read through everyone’s comments!

Follow me on twitter, link below, and if you guys have your own blogs please let me know so I can check them out and hopefully add them to my ‘recommended read’ section!

Over and out.

The loan market, un-cut diamonds ready to add value.

Pre-season, and the transfer embargo’s of many clubs are already drawing to conclusions. In my opinion, smarter clubs like Manchester United are the one’s who get their dealings done early, Young, Jones, De Gea all in for around £60M but the USA Tour has given them an opportunity to bond and integrate themselves into the side.

Liverpool and Sunderland have also seen some wholesale changes, Newcastle finally addressed their STR issue in plenty of time and the wheels on the Aston Villa wagon are finally beginning to turn.  

However, teams throwing money around is not always where the real gems can be unearthed. For this, we have to look at the shrewd skill needed to navigate the loan market. And where better to turn than to the Principle of the ‘grandest finishing school in football’ – Bolton Wanderers FC’s; Owen Coyle.

2009/2010 season, Jack Wilshere leaves a boy, and comes back a man – now he’s one of his countries best talents and looking a contender for the Arsenal arm-band one day.

2010/2011 season, Daniel Sturridge is out of favour at Chelsea, who over-look his abilities in favour of a £50M star-buy. An impressive run of 8 goals in 12 games has seen him return to Stamford Bridge as a real threat to the established front force and I see Drogba’s future looking bleak as Torres will be expected to fulfil his price tag and Anelka was, in my opinion, their only stand-out player during their poor Winter 2010-2011.

Additionally, Kyle Walker of Tottenham and Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck all gained plaudits by effective loan spells in the Premier League.

So who next? In my opinion, Owen Coyle’s brand of football makes for an attacking option to be the most likely, STR’s are needed, as is width, so if I was the manager of one of the big clubs (Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal) I’d be building a relationship with O.C. and hoping to turn potential into value. “I always felt it would be a win, win, win situation in both cases,” says Coyle, players are able to get that much-needed match time, when they’re not quite sharp enough to challenge at their respective clubs, and the club who receive the player are able to bolster their options and nurture young talent.

Here’s a list of my; “loans to look out for” from the bigger sides;

1) Henri Lansbury; Gunners utility midfield man, can play anywhere across the 4, though personally, I’d play him on his least favoured LM. His timing of runs into the box means he could prove an effective goal-scorer though his crossing would need to improve to fulfil that role. In other news, he kept a German u’20 side at bay from GK after a pen (conceded) and RC for the starting GK Jason Steele, and already has himself a trademark celebration, doing; ‘the dougie’ at Elland Road after scoring for the Canaries. I think it’s time he was at a Premier League side.
I’d suggest; Bolton, Wigan, WBA. 
Compare him to; Freddie Ljunberg.

2) Josh McEachran; I’ll put his weaknesses aside first, he’s a bit weak and he’s still very young, 18. However, once you get past this, he’s a very composed, and an incredibly clever central midfielder. He has an incredible first touch for his experience levels, and finds himself space similar to the style in which Luka Modric does – presumably both players are conscious of their physical limitations so utilise technical skills. He also has a key eye for a through ball, and knows how to weigh a pass better than some of his team-mates. I’d say, the PL may be a step too much at this point, but playing in a Championship CM along side a strong holding midfielder, or a midfield 3, could be his best option;
I’d suggest; Portsmouth, Southampton, Peterborough, Brighton being his best options.
Compare him to; Luka Modric.  

3) Federico Macheda; Struggled to live up to expectations after his heroics in 2009 vs Aston Villa, but he did show promise of what he can be. He’s strong and powerful, he’s a player who is comfortable with his back to goal – a trait he stands alone with compared to other Manchester United strikers. I feel he would play best in a formation which incorporated an attacking midfielder, but I feel he needs a strike partner too. His loan spell out at Sampdoria proved ineffective, however I don’t believe they really got the best out of him, nor did they invest enough time in him as a player. In order for Manchester United to effectively cash-in on his potential, an English PL club would need to take him on.
I’d suggest; Newcastle United, QPR, Sunderland.
Compare him to; Francesco Totti.

4) Vladimir Wiess; intelligent, quick, strong, and is able to ride a tackle. Perhaps more importantly, he is a ‘big game player’ – He was effective during the World Cup for Slovakia and tormented Celtic in Old Firm games, his imagination and clinical nature created Nikita Jelavic’s winner in the League Cup final in March 2011. He’s a natural winger, but due to his work rate he makes an effective LM too. In Jan 2010 he had a rather poor loan spell at Bolton, but largely used as a substitute and without the ability to gain momentum. Personally, I’d love to see him return to Rangers but his ambitions and ability are far above the SPL. A loan spell could be effective to advertise his skills to other PL clubs, given Man City’s buying policy it’s unlikely he has a future at The Etihad Stadium.
I’d suggest; Leeds, Swansea, Newcastle, Leicester, West Ham.
Compare to; Aidan McGeady – without the needless step-overs.

5) Danny Wilson; I’ve been vocal of Liverpool’s spending policies in the past, and I think Danny Wilson is just another example of how they have a habit of wrecklessly spending, and over-paying for talent, which leads to expectation, and at such a young age, often can lead to failure. The simple matter is, they bought Wilson aged 18, and should have loaned him back to Rangers until he was 20, in order to let him fulfil his potential and gain experience. Instead, they’ve sat him on the bench, behind the likes of  Sotirios Kyrgiakos, and his growth has suffered. He’s a technical footballer, who doesn’t dive in and uses his physical strength to dispossess attackers. At the same time, he has a gritty side to him when needed, and really can assert himself when he needs to in derby games or when playing in big matches. If it weren’t for Ryan Shawcross’s inability to time a 50:50 without attempting to end the career of his opponent, I would compare the two, as their playing styles are very similar. His real value is around £4M in my opinion, but given the right coaching he could go on to great things.
I’d suggest; Blackburn, Wolves, QPR, Sunderland, Rangers.
Compare him to; Alan Hansen.

So there we go! Keep an eye out on those players and while I’m giving out advice, check out Genoa’s youngster Alexander Merkel, I’m a massive fan. Additionally Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze is another fabulous player that this season’s Champions League will give us a chance to view.

Let me know what you all think, or alternatively, and perhaps preferred, tweet me your opinions or any ideas to what you’d like to see written about in the future.

Over and out.

Transfer Season – Part III

So, after a 13 day absence my internet is re-working, my degree is completed and I’m back in business. I’m 2 parts through my 4 part transfer saga and looking to wrap it up before any more movements. 

Further news, the list of Premier League free agents was publicised today, with a few big names out of a club; Lee Bowyer, Patrick Vieria, Seb Larsson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Owen Hargreaves, Jonathon Woodgate, Mathew Upson make up just some of the names who could have clubs, particularly bottom-half vying for their signatures.  

West Bromich Albion; (last season, 11th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available – £25M
Highlighted positions; Utility men, CF, CB, LB, CM.

Despite finishing the season as one of the form teams, Hodgson will be under no illusions, WBA’s priority next season is to stay in the Premier League. Personally, I am a massive fan of Chris Brunt, I genuinely believe his ability of passing, technique and accuracy is of a level of Charlie Adam, however perhaps slightly behind when compared directly. I feel they need a ball winner in CM to compliment him, Hodgson could look back to Fulham or steal from the twelve CM’s at Liverpool. Ideally, perhaps someone like Guy Moussi at Forest could be a steal, or Craig Conway of Dundee United could be suitable along side if WBA could out-bid Glasgow Rangers. My steal for WBA, and appears a non-brainer, Emilie Heskey. Peter Odemwingie made my Alt-TOTY (below) with 15 goals, a link up man link Heskey could see him score more and with Heskey seemingly out-of-favour a smaller club may help him get back on track. Finally, and raiding the free-transfers once more, Matthew Upson would provide experience and cover should he be acquired.  
If I was Roy Hodgson, I would sign; Upson, Heskey, Moussi, Reo-Coker.

Newcastle United; (last season, 12th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available; Available? £40/50M, what will probably be given? £15M.
Highlighted Positions; CM, CF, CB, STR.

My opinion of Newcastle United has changed the most dramatically in the time between the initial planning of this blog and the transfers/movement that have happened since. The in-ability to keep Kevin Nolan to a Championship club is nothing short of embarrassing, you must wonder what he knew about the club that made him lose the faith in their continued growth. More, the expected departure of Joey Barton is leaving their mid-field looking rather bare, and without that core ‘fight’ which allowed them to pull out key results last season, particularly away to Arsenal and their home Dowd-assisted recovery from 4 goals. Newcastle simply must keep a hold of Cheik Tiote, had a fantastic debut season, they need a complimentary CM too, with a bit of creation. Perhaps signing Mark Noble, or Barry Ferguson could aid their midfield cause. They need experience and composure, in my opinion. Ben Arfa will provide flair going forward so a CF and an out-and-out striker are needed to put the goals away; Demba Ba looks prime to join the Magpies but someone quicker to play off him could be the ultimate compliment. Jay Bothroyd is a free-agent and Cameron Jerome has a price on his head. Matthew Upson at such availablity is at least worth an enquiry too.
If I was Alan Pardew, I would sign; Ba, Upson, Ferguson, Bothroyd. And Mike Ashley wouldn’t even need to dig deep into his gambling money…

Stoke City; (last season, 13th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available; £25M
Highlighted Positions; Full backs, CF, CM.
Stoke City finishing 13th is perhaps a poor reflection of them as a team, and their campaign as a whole, with the FA Cup final as an obvious distraction, and never looking a contender for relegation, one can forgive them for ‘taking their foot off the pedal’. That said, I think they are an incredibly balanced side, with no real weakness. However their over-all quality and additions of real class is what needs to be addressed to carry them forward. I can see the re-addition of John Carew on a permanent basis being very likely and I expect them to chase two established full backs as like for like replacements as well as acquiring a solid CM performer. Nigel Reo-Coker could be thrown into the frame, as well as pickings from the recently relegated; Ferguson, Vaughan, Bowyer, Gardner, Noble. I think another CF could be beneficial to help them all round, but someone a bit different from their usual ‘big/strong’ frame. Dj Campbell perhaps, free agent – Jay Bothroyd, or a lower-league raid.
As much as it pains an Arsenal fan to say, Stoke are making great strides to shake off their anti-football label, the FA Cup run has played a huge part aswell as the signings of more natural footballers like Carew, Jones, and the two wide men.
If I was Tony Pulis, I would sign; Ferguson, Bothroyd, Bougherra, Upson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Carew (massive strengthening).

Bolton Wanderers; (last season, 14th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available;
Highlighted positions; STR, CDM, CAM – Replacement for Cahill if sold.
Bolton, similar to Stoke are a side who can be forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal late in campaign. After the smashing at Wembley in the hands of The Potters, Bolton found themselves deflated and with nothing left to play for. As a side, they’re relatively well-balanced. Stand out players being; Cahill, Holden, Davies. They essentially just need a bit of class around with some effective passers to work with Holden’s technical abilities. Joey Barton at Newcastle is seeking the exit and Owen Coyle could have the man-management skills to bring out the best in him. An audacious bit to steal Stan Petrov from Aston Villa is another option they could look at, but it would take a lot to prize him off his captaincy, Jonny Evans has slipped down the pecking order and Liverpool have a silly number of CM players. Manchester City look to be the favourites to sign Gary Cahill, but the out of favour Nedum Onuoha could be involved in some deal, also the inclusion of any of their strikers would also be beneficial to them. City currently have over 8 out-and-out strikers and would be looking to trim the squad for the new season. A Scottish raid of David Goodwillie could be cost-effective and welcomed by the young Terror’s player.
Additionally, one cannot rule out Coyle’s ability to enroll students to what must say is the greatest finishing school in the country; Wilshere, Sturridge so who next? Carlos Vela, Henri Lansbury, Jay Spearing, Josh McEachren could all possibly enter the fray.
If I was Owen Coyle, I would sign; Vela, Upson, Goodwillie, Evans, Barton. As well as a proven striker, a big bid for Shane Long could be hard for Reading to turn down.

Blackburn Rovers; (Last season, 15th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available – £25-30
highlighted positions; RB, CF, CM, CB,
I really fear for the future of Rovers, they escaped relegation when really Robbie Keane (West Ham) and Manchester United should have put them in trouble in fixtures 36 & 37 of the season. They didn’t, and fortunate Rovers live on. Roque Santa Cruz has returned to Man City, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Chris Samba  are looking to move on, and transfer speculation for incoming players is quiet. Blackburn simply have too much to do, with a manager who isn’t good enough and not enough funds to make it possible. The Venky’s are wealthy, but they’re not the Indian monetary force of Tata. If they are to make a healthy account of themselves, they must strengthen the positions mentioned above. RB, Salgado is far too old, every week he’s skinned by anyone with a hint of pace, Alan Hutton is available after a breakdown in relationship with Harry Redknapp at Spurs and Kyle Naughton could be available as a youth investment or as a loan alternative to purchase. CB looks like Upson could most realistically move here, the set up is the most similar to how he is used to playing, but the likely success of WBA is the major competition.  If Robbie Keane puts his ego aside, and Celtic do not review their interest he could be a key addition to the side, as well as a lower league raid or moves for an out-of-for striker. Roque Santa Cruz will probably return but ultimately it won’t be enough.
If I was Steve Kean, I would run a mile. But If forced to stay, I would sign; Alan Hutton, Upson, Roque Santa Cruz, and enquire about Kevin Thomson.

Will be back soon with my conclusion to my transfer preview, hopefully my internet issues are a thing of the past but I do appreciate the enquiries I got from my readers on twitter about when the next one will be!

Follow me on twitter

And of course post below or on twitter with your thoughts on part 3!

Over and out.

A brief Play-Off Final rant. One for the Royals.

Sorry to break up the transfer embargo with Play-Off-Final nonsense, but, I keep getting into arguments with people about it. So I just want to give a reference that explains my points as to why Swansea had it so easy due to Phil Dowd’s style of officiating. And no, I wasn’t just slating Swansea, congrats to them, I just felt they got rub of the green in all 3 play-off matches. Oh, and briefly why I don’t like Dobbie.

Swansea’s play; dominating, control the ball, technical, through balls, incisive passing.

Reading’s play; pressing, when they get the ball, be direct, channels out the Kebe or long to well, Long.

My point is, you could tell the only chance Reading had, was if they stopped Swansea having the ability to outplay them, as Swansea were the technically better side. To do that; it’s all about early tackles, firm tackles, getting ‘stuck in’. Phil Dowd stopped that from happening.

As Phil Dowd went on a one-man quest to book the Reading back line, he took away their ability to press and be more aggressive. Rightly or wrongly. Andy Griffin makes a firm, fair tackle, and is booked – I couldn’t see why. Borini then goes in late on Federici (booked) then theatrically throws himself to the ground when confronted by Khizanishvili (god love google – spelling, but lets call him ZK), to me, Dowd quickly got word in his ear that he shouldn’t have booked ZK, hense why he was perhaps wrongly saved from the walk at the penalty incident. However, had ZK and AG not been on bookings, I think the CM would have been crunched in the build up to the pen, and they’d of took a fair booking then – This is my point.

However, in the bookings to the back line, your 2nd goal was made possible, because as Dobbie turns, he’s allowed to do so because the defenders have dropped deeper, and became less aggressive – Something I think was a tactical change because…….. Dowd kept booking people for nothing challenges! – Therefore….

Dowd booking people = less aggressive defenders = Suits Swansea’s style of play more.

Reading only pulled their goals back because at 3-0, they didn’t care about being booked, were getting desperate. Swansea couldn’t handle the fight they had and looked nervy.

As for Dobbie, I seen him asking for people to be booked on 4 different occasions, I don’t like that.

However, Swansea are a very good football side! And I much prefer them to Cardiff. A very good backing story too rags to riches and they have a brilliant football philosophy. Perhaps too close to Barcelona for my likely with the antics of Dobbie, though.

So yes, there you go Swans and Royals. A disappointing season finale by poor reffing. I think this is further evidence for a promotion/relegation system in Football League/Premier League.

Just a rant, but it’s been annoying me for a while. Reading were unfairly treated. AND, everyone who knows me, and my blog knows I have no loyalty to either side. Just a mere neutral.

Best of luck to both clubs though.

Over and out.

FC Barcelona. “Mes Que Un Club”? You bet.

Mono. Spanish translation for ‘Monkey’, can be used as a derogatory insult towards someone of black origin. Barcelona Football Club know this, Marcelo at Real Madrid knows this, god, most of Western civilisation is aware of the hatred caused by racism – So why is it when Sergio Busquets is caught on camera during the Champions League Semi-Final 2011 abusing the Madrid full back with this phrase do UEFA not deem punishment necessary?  

I’ll let you make up your own mind if you can spot it;

To me, incidents like that should see a 5 match ban for Busquets, UEFA themselves have pressed hard the “Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football” initiative in recent years, and backed heavily Nike’s “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign. So why has Busquets been cleared to play in the Wembley showpiece at the end of the month? Surely actions, or lack of, by UEFA undermine the aforementioned efforts to eliminate racism from the game? Admittedly, Spain has it’s problems with racism, English fans need to only look back to 2004 to remind themselves of the abuse Shaun Wright-Phillips & (C)Ashley Cole were subject to in Madrid, and that went essentially un-punished.

Now, if everyone is thinking; “Hang on a minute, hasn’t Busquet’s been in the firing line before for his sporting conduct?”, well…. You’re right. Last season Inter Milan were reduced to 10 men in their match with Barcelona following this incident. Thankfully, it didn’t effect the outcome of the tie, but looking further back down the line there are a list of examples of Barcelona being the beneficiaries of officiating. More later.

So, are FC Barcelona favourably treated by UEFA? Jose Mourinho seems to think so.

And he just might have a point.

Everyone who watches Barcelona play can see they are a footballing wonder. They dominate possession, they can be clinical, their first touch, incisive passing, ability to close the ball down defensively too. On their day, they are capable of beating anyone.

However, when it’s not their day, and particularly noticeable in The Champions League, they tend to get the ‘rub of the green’.

2011 Champions League Semi-Final vs Real Madrid (first leg), whilst Di Maria was arguably guilty of similar offences, the players of FC Barcelona continually play-acted, feigning injury. Most notably Daniel Alves in his quest to see Pepe red carded. Video replays show that Pepe, whilst being high, did not make any contact with the Brazilian, yet Alves rolled around the ground like he had broken his leg. At the same time, 9/10 outfield players, + goalkeeper Victor Valdes sprinted to the referee, demanding to see a red card – An offence FIFA outlined at the World Cup 2006 was punishable by a yellow card for unsportsman-like conduct.

2011 Champions League Round of 16 vs Arsenal at Camp Nou (second leg), with the tie poised at 1-1 (3-2 to Arsenal on aggregate), the Londoners were positioned to go through to the Quarter Finals. Van Persie, already on a booking is sent through on goal and lashes his shot sky high and wide. In the build up, Van Persie had been flagged for offside, the referee then deemed Van Persie shooting as an act of dissent, punishable by a yellow card, his second of the match. Replays showed that Van Persie had enfact shot 0.6 seconds after the whistle was blown, a whistle the Dutchman claimed to have not heard due to the 90,000 crowd’s atmosphere. Reducing Arsenal to 10 men allowed Barcelona to bring the full backs into play more, and ultimately the Catalans ran out winners. Looking further back, there’s evidence to suggest Barcelona’s equilising goal in 2006 Champions League final vs Arsenal was offside, too.

….. There’s a pattern developing.

Back a further few years to 2008, to what Jose Mourinho described as ‘a scandal’ in his post-match Bernabeu interview (2011, above), and Champions League Semi-Final vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (2nd leg), Chelsea being eliminated by the away goals rule thanks to a sublime Andres Iniesta strike late in the match. But the controversy came in the refereeing decisions once again; now, I’m by no means a Chelsea fan, enfact, I rather dislike the club as a whole, but I can see 3 penalties for them in the 2nd leg, ask many Chelsea fans and they claim they can see 10+.  Again, please, make up your own mind with ITV’s highlighted 4.

Is it UEFA? Whilst refereeing decisions have the benefit of replaying to analyse, the Sergio Busquets racist comments were put to a panel and dismissed – Can they be serious? Have they bottled making such a big decision which would affect such a big outcome? In 2008 when Darren Fletcher was wrongly red carded late-on vs Arsenal in the Semi-Final, missing the Final – UEFA upheld the decision then, (meaning Fletcher would not feature against FCB) in my opinion, wrongly. Different club, different rules?

Is football elitist? – I think we all know that’s a yes, particularly whilst Blatter and Platini are at the head of their not so respected governing bodies. My personal quarrel was the decision to seed the World Cup European Play-Off draws for the first time in 2010, coincidentally the year in which France did not qualify automatically.  

Is it a question of culture? Does Spanish football simply have no shame in cheating in order to gain the upper hand? It would appear not, but my question needs to be of Pep Guardiola, having played in successful Barcelona sides which had an aura of commanding authority, who played fairly and out-skilled their opponents, why wouldn’t he alter the on-the-field actions of his players? Barcelona clearly know that reducing their opposition to 10 men increases their chances of passing through them, is getting a player sent off a game plan? They are surely conducting themselves outwith the desired nature of the game?

During Mourinho’s post match interview from the Champions League Semi Final, he praises the footballing abilities of Barcelona, but questions the need for such a great team, capable of such great things, to be handed the upper hand in matches when things aren’t going well for them. To that point I agree.  Therefore, despite my Premier League dislike for the club, for similar reasons, I will be supporting Manchester United in the Champions League Final, because what they have achieved, who they have beaten – Fairly – in order to earn the right to play at Wembley, is far more deserved of my support.

Barcelona are a good team, at times they have the ability to showcase not only what I like about watching football, but what I aspire to in playing football. But for every Dr. Jekyll there’s a Mr. Hyde. And until they can win a Champions League trophy not tainted in scandal (and should they beat United I assure you that will not be one), they will not have my backing.

This debate in particular is close to my oh so opinionated self, so any comments/feedback etc will all be published regardless. I welcome your input. 

Over and out.

Are Blackpool F.C. to be taken seriously?

So now that my footballing thoughts are being cascaded onto the blogging scene and I look into the depths of my writings, trying to determine if I am doing a good enough job to merit the huge response from day 1. I feel the relegation scrap is as good of a place as any to further discuss the goings on in the Football world.

Blackpool F.C. were odds on to go down in August 2010, they currently have the English record of being the only team to be promoted through all 4 tiers via the play-offs, a stadium which some League 1 sides would feel is in-adequate and their finances, in which their combined squad wage budget couldn’t afford some of their opponents individual ‘stars’.

So why oh why, when many ‘experts’ predicted they “wouldn’t score 10 goals” this season, do they find themselves in a position where they could earn a second crack at the big time?

The answer, in the opinion of many, is the lovable Ian Holloway. In many aspects Ian Holloway incorporates the working class man, with an honest opinion and a straight-shooting-no-nonsense approach to the media which has seen even the FA show leniency in his post-match reviews. His on-the-field tactics come with the same entertainment, only a bore 0-0 whilst hosting Stoke has seen a clean sheet (by either side) at Bloomfield Road this season, and their “we’ll score one more than you” attitude has led to them pulling off some surprise away results, too.

Holloway’s team’s strength is focused around play-maker Charlie Adam, whom most of their play channels through, his long diagonal pass to the flank or over the shoulder of DJ Campbell has created numerous chances throughout, and his midfield partner Vaughan has been pivotal in winning the ball for him to distribute. With 53 goals after 37 games, they have scored the 2nd most goals outside the top 6 in the Premier League, and if the campaign was more like last season, their 39 points would have seen them finish 14th already, and be safe weeks ago.

So with such free-scoring ability, why do Blackpool find themselves going into a nervous final day? Their problem is their defence, though they have been free-scoring at one end, they have also let in 37 goals at home, and 37 goals away. An average of 1 a game, a stat which should frighten Tangerine’s given League Cup winners Birmingham, who will be fighting for their survival on Sunday too, won their last 3 matches before the Fulham defeat by a single goal, and have the resilience to hold a lead which sometimes Blackpool lack. The problems lay with the centre backs, and I think Holloway is all too sure that the signing of James Beattie from Rangers in January may have been the wrong area to strengthen. Kyle Bartley from Arsenal was available who’s young/quick/strong and at the time Jonathan ‘Sick-note’ Woodgate was looking to gain some match fitness, as well as Bamba (Hibernian) moving clubs in the same window. Holloway should have bolstered.  

Cathcart/Eardley & Evatt do not have, in my opinion, what it takes to be Premier League defenders. Too often have they been caught out by the simple ball through the middle, their pace being exploited throughout. Less noticeable when Blackpool play deeper I must add, but the nature of their game plan calls for a higher line in defence which can sometimes leave 40-50 yards of green grass to run through.

Blackpool FC are entertainment personified, they are not afraid to have a go at teams, securing a memorable ‘double’ over Liverpool – I believe the only other side to do so is Tottenham -, scoring some memorable goals and giving us some memorable Holloway moments. But as for the Premier League, I think should they lose Adam, and probably will, they may only receive 20M for him, tops. With that they would need to add 15M to get two centre backs, a full back, a C.A. replacement and a back up striker. Which would take some serious bargain buys considering I think only Norwich City will be shorter odds to go down, and their stadium, atmosphere doesn’t upkeep with the flashy footballers lifestyle so many are accustomed to. If they avoid the drop, securing a 3rd season without Adam may be too much to ask of them.

Perhaps the drop could be kinder for them? The parachute payment could be re-invested into the club to install undersoil heating, erect a permanent stand to increase capacity, and to develop a youth academy which could bring through sustainable talent to aid a future Premier League adventure.  

I’ll put my neck on the line, I think they’ll get a draw at Old Trafford.

  • Manchester United 1-1 Blackpool.
  • Wolverhampton 2-0 Blackburn.
  • Tottenham 3-1 Birmingham.
  • Stoke 2-0 Wigan.

Which would be enough to see them retain Premier League status for another season.

Looking at all aspects, I think they’re a lovable club. Very fairy-tale-esque. Their manager speaks on behalf of the people watching at home. Their football comes with an unpredictablity which typifies the Premier League. Their stadia represents a slightly FA Cup feel, in which you see them as a small club that makes you nervous of an upset. Their fans bring a colour, similar to the Brazilian carnival effect at a World Cup. 

Cast your opinions in the comments section below and/or vote here;

I’ll leave you with my favourite Ian Holloway quote, enjoy. The man is just brilliant.

Over and out.