Thursday, 31 January 2008

Can Fans Save a Club?

People are idiots. A person can be a fine, fully operational individual with positively genius ideas, but people as a mass, talked of as one entire organism, become a lumbering moron devoid of rational thought. After Mike Ashley made the mistake of becoming one of ‘the people’, he listened to mob idiocy rather than basic sense and appointed Kevin Keegan.

Now, Liverpool seem to be going one step further as fans of the club may well decide to take over the entire team. 100,000 of them. 100,000 Mike Ashley’s with £5,000 investments. Good God, the thought of it. Mark’s post on Ebbsfleet United last November pointed to some of the difficulties but also some of the excitement that can come when fans take over a club. Admittedly, the Liverpool supporters concerned will not be picking the team, and are investing far more than those involved with the Ebbsfleet project, but to me the plan sounds just as far fetched.

The people involved - football business lecturer and Liverpool fan Rogan Taylor, former director of communications at the Premier League Phil French, and lawyer Kevin Jacquiss (who is listed by the BBC as “an expert in launching co-operatives”) – all sound like reasonable individuals to start off the investment. But it all has the air of floating on the stock exchange about it. In the long term that model didn’t work for Spurs or any other club that I can think of.

Right now, it’s claimed this model would have more in common with the Barcelona system of ‘membership’ whereby everyone who pays a yearly fee gets first dibs on tickets, a membership card and a vote in the elections when a new president is being decided. Is this really the way Liverpool wants to go?

To have the club involved in Spanish style club elections where presidents make ludicrous claims of signing the biggest players in the world to sway the voting fans? The kind of tactics that has often left Barcelona in a mess (they’ve had plenty of barren years in amongst their success due to internal turmoil); the kind of politics that left Real Madrid having to be saved by the Spanish Government who bought their training ground for an insanely inflated fee?

David Moores and Rick Parry certainly have to take some blame for where the club is now – on the brink of collapse on the field; turmoil off the field and little hope of any more money coming in for signings. The two scousers spent several years trying to bring investment into the club, turning down many ‘unsuitable’ bids in the process. That’s why when they settled on Hicks and Gillett most Liverpool fans felt they were in the right hands. We had good reason. Surely after years of searching, Moores and Parry had gotten an indication that these were the men to bring the club forward. Both, I feel, are culpable for the massive mess the club now lies in.

All of this has led to this morning’s news about the fan takeover and such headlines - such absolutely outrageous unworkable ideas – show how low the club is feeling at present. At this rate, I’d stake a fair few quid on Liverpool beating United’s 27 years without winning the league. They may even hit 30. After spending the guts of a decade looking for the right fit, Moores and Parry must take a share of blame at least for setting the side back for possibly a further ten years.

Later, JJ
Okey Doke Football Podcast tonight where we discuss football jailbirds, Defoe and Cashley's ugly birds on the side as well as much, much more. Subscribe here:

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Ranieri & Sissoko

Ranieri. The Tinkerman. And Sissoko, the erstwhile defensive midfielder.
Now fate has combined to bring them together. For £8.2 million.

Momo made his first senior appearances for Valencia when Rafa was at the helm and subsequently followed him to Liverpool becoming an anchor in midfield, the new Patrick Vieira with the disciplinary problems to match. His career gathered pace until he suffered an unfortunate eye injury in match where he was kicked in the head by Benfica player, Beto, in February 2006 but returned sporting Edgar Davids style goggles.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Sissoko has since only looked half the player since that incident. His passing is woeful, way below the standard one would expect at that level. His overall game has also gone backwards, and now looks like a slightly better version of Djemba Djemba. In truth he hasn't been helped by Javier Mascherano's arrival at Anfield, meaning he has been 'rotated' to within an inch of his life by Rafa and is now off to Juve, only 6 months after signing a 4 year contract.

Claudio's career has followed a similar pattern. He earned plaudits early on for leading Cagliari to Serie A from Serie C1 (88-91), and getting Fiorentina promoted and winning the Coppa Italia in 1996. Joining Valencia he laid the groundwork for their future success with some canny signings and youth development and arrived in England (via Atletico Madrid) to take charge of Chelsea.

Just like Sissoko, Ranieri settled quickly, with probably his best achievement being finishing 4th in the League in 2003, despite having Sam Dalla Bona and Enrique Lucas, an even more ineffective version of Jesper Gronkjaer, in the team.

Roman Abramovich took over and despite some progress in the league cups, it was ultimately failure for a man who splashed an initial £120m that summer. In his last season, Claudio got it spectacularly wrong in the CL semi-final second leg against Monaco.

Ranieri went onto to fail at Valencia by taking Rafa Benitez's double winning team (league and Uefa Cup) buying crap players, losing loads of games and getting the sack in Feb 2005. He and Giuseppe Rossi kept Parma in Serie A in 2007 and he somehow wound up replacing Deschamps at Juve last summer.

So now Momo & Claudio are together, dreaming of better days together after their ultimately unsuccessful England stints. Claudio is on his last chance at a big club, and the way Momo is regressing, this could be his last chance too. With Agnelli's millions, Claudio has every chance of success, while Sissoko only has Tiago as competition for defensive midfield chopper. Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship?

Okey Doke Football Podcast is available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Return of Random Monday

Well folks, where better to start this Monday than at the soccer circus itself – Newcastle United. Hot of the presses comes the news that, and I quote, “Leeds United boss Dennis Wise will be offered a role in Newcastle's coaching set-up, BBC Leeds understands”. BBC Leeds understands eh? Why does the BBC, in Leeds or anywhere else for that matter, always have to assure us that they “understand”? There’s just something about the choice of that word which I don’t like.

But moving on from my odd obsession with news-speak and on to the story itself…

Wise of course has a solid record with Leeds this season, a blistering start obliterating their 15-point penalty for the financial mish-mash they ended up in last year. Currently they sit in fifth place in League One, 12 points adrift of Swansea at the top, but within two points of second-placed Nottingham Forest. Yes, yes, I know they’d be top without the points’ penalty but then again, had the whole saga not started – thereby putting a freeze on all financial transactions last summer – they would have lost most of their squad before the end of the August transfer window. They forfeited the points, but they kept the players to win them back.

Wise, like Paul Ince at MK Dons (who are topping League Two), has taken the route of going down the divisions to build a solid reputation. One that, coupled with Premier League experience as a player, should comfortably see both of them into a top division job within the next few years.
Wise and Ince could well be disasters at the top level, but even though we hate both of them at ODF, you have to give them some credit for the job they’re doing in the lower reaches of the game. Certainly it’s a route that “man’s man” Alan Shearer is a little reticent to take.

I can’t see Wise taking the job, whatever it may be, mainly due to the little Londoner’s ego issues. Wise sees an opportunity to establish himself at a club with a huge (and hugely battered) reputation. Being number two at Shambletown United on Tyneside would seem like a step down to him I would say.

Moving on and we’ve just had the FA Cup draw with Man United pitted against Arsenal in what we can only hope is not a repeat of their 2005 final. Dear god that was an awful game and should serve as a reminder to all that neither Arsenal nor Man United have stuck to any policy of ‘always entertaining the crowd’, especially when it comes to big games. When it calls for dour, they both do it with aplomb (ah aplomb… now there’s a BBC word I like far more than this ‘understands’ bullshit).

You’d have to pick United what with this game coming in the middle of Champions League and Premier League fixtures. In these circumstances, United’s superior squad, plus their home advantage, should ensure victory. The full draw reads like this:

Bristol Rovers v Southampton: Eh, I’ll go for a win for…. (insert flip of a coin here) Southampton.
Cardiff City v Wolves: Right, where’s that coin again? I’ll go for good old Mick McCarthy to keep the backside off the bacon slicer and win this one. Away win.
Sheffield United v Middlesbrough: Start crying into that Guinness Bryan. Boro to go through.
Liverpool v Barnsley: Pool to stumble onwards. The club get more embarrassing with each passing week and will most likely choke in the semi finals.
Manchester United v Arsenal: Please let it be good. Please don’t let Jonathan Pearce be commentating. Man U win.
Preston v Portsmouth: Interesting one, I’ll go for the draw, with Pompey to take it in the replay. I’d like to see Portsmouth win the cup this year actually.
Coventry City v West Brom: Eh… going on Championship form, an away win.
Chelsea v Huddersfield Town: Foregone conclusion. Home win.

After those exciting predictions, what could be more fun than, yep you guessed it, more predictions. The Premier League gives us a midweek blast of games so here’s a quick rundown of what I expect to happen in Tuesday games (I’ll leave Mark to stick his neck out for the Wednesday matches)

Arsenal v Newcastle: Little Keggy Keegan couldn’t really have asked for a worse start to his reign. Playing against the anti-football of Bolton, then facing the total football of Arsenal and now he has to face Wenger’s men again. Hopefully he gives a better team talk than the rumoured one on Saturday, but I can’t think it’ll make too much difference. 4-1.
Bolton v Fulham: I have a feeling that Fulham might win this one, or at least get a point. It’s one of those predictions that has no basis in fact or form, but I’ll go for 1-2.
Middlesbrough v Wigan: Home win here I’d say, with Boro boosted by their cup win at the weekend. 2-0.
Sunderland v Birmingham: Sunderland to take an early lead, Birmingham to equalise, Sunderland to win late on. That’s what I would have thought earlier in the season. Now though, I think McLeish’s men may have too much for Sunderland. Split the difference and I’ll go for a repeat of the early season 2-2.

That’s 12 predictions in one post. This is going to end horribly.

Later, JJ

Okey Doke Football Podcast is [usually]available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Arsenal's Wheels & Juande Ramos

Arsenal's Wheels

The discussion has lately reared its head , will Arsenal's wheels come off? They've kept to the pace at the top of the Premier League, to the 4th round of the FA Cup and the Second Phase of the Champions League. So they are having a great season, so far, and one terrible defeat to Spurs shouldn't change that. But much more so than United or Chelsea, the Arse' have the ability to implode and fall away in the league. Wishful thinking? No.

Wenger, despite sitting on millions of pounds, will not spend any money on the squad during the transfer window, seemingly in the belief that various never-will-be's such as Senderos, Hoyte and Walcott will be enough to get them through a tough league and cup program until May. Gilberto looks finished, suffering either from poor fitness or motivation. If the over-achieving Flamini gets injured, who comes in, Gilberto, Diaby, Song? At centre back, the problems have long been known. Gallas and Toure have been good together, but Senderos is a waste of space and Djourou doesn't seem to have made any progress despite his loan spells.
Similarly, up front, Bendtner has shown flashes of potential, but more is needed. Walcott needs to apply his talents, Van Persie has had a litany of injury problems which only leaves Adebayor and Eduardo up front to score the goals.
So, that's a fair amount of weaknesses in the squad, which Wenger will not address, and I have the feeling that it will be their downfall this season. Ok, they won't finish fifth, but I feel they won't win anything either.

Juande Ramos
After their disastrous start, Spurs have achieved a UEFA cup place already this season, by virtue of qualifying for the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea.
[EDIT - the losers of the Carling Cup final will not get a UEFA Cup place, if Chelsea win, and they have already qualified for the CL, then the place will go to 7th in the league]
It's a bit too simplistic to say that Jol's team would have blown it, but Ramos has impressed so far. If the serious Spaniard can get a top half finish and a good run in the UEFA Cup, it will be an excellent platform to build for next season. How different things could have been for Jol if King was fit....


Okey Doke Football Podcast is [usually]available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

JJ is off on his working holiday this week, a supersub hasn't been found, so I'm afraid there will be no podcast this week, but we'll back next week with more lame jokes, obscure Anchorman, Seinfeld & Father Ted references and tales of bold footballers from the tabloids...

In the meantime, check out the Irish minister for Sport showing off his football skills in Africa, at least he is better than Tony Blair, but neither will live up to the excellent Boris Johnson in a seniors 'friendly' against Germany

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Steve Finnan – underappreciated, under-used, understandably sick of it

If one sight during Steve Staunton’s reign as Ireland manager made my blood boil ever so slightly it was the treatment of Stephen Carr. Basically, the over-indulgence of a moody git whose best days were long since behind him.

I know it’s easy for people to pick on Carr as his lack of media interviews mean whatever pre-conceptions you have about the man can stay in place due to a lack of evidence to the contrary. None of his team-mates ever have a bad thing to say about him true, but you don’t hear anyone screaming off rooftops, telling the world to lay off Carr because he’s a decent bloke either.

Carr decided when Stan took over that he would return to the fold and help out the Irish team, a noble thought if ever there was one. But the knock-on effect of this was that once again Steve Finnan was treated like a piece of crap that could be thrown around a starting eleven because "he wouldn’t mind sure".

Finnan, a superb defender who never performs at a level of anything less than seven out of ten, has won a Champions League medal and FA Cup medal to boot. He’s handled the finest wingers and strikers in Europe on a consistent basis and is rarely the victim of Rafa Benitez’s rotation policy.

Yet, for years he has played on the left or on the right wing for Ireland. Then, back in late 2005, when it looked as if he would finally get the right back spot as his own, along comes Carr to ‘save’ the day. Carr, a man who could be accused of treating the national team with contempt due to multiple retirements and lackluster performances, decided to grace us with his presence and Finnan was shoved aside.

There was never any logic to this decision. Though of course, Carr is one of the old boys who Stan loved so much and the petty Dundalk man thought he could do what he liked with the consummate professional Finnan. Carr was first choice right back; a decision that on form alone would not have been made by any other coach I can think of. Fat boy with an attitude versus dependable right back who delivers as many assists in Europe or the Premier League as any man in his position. No contest in the logic stakes, but then logic was never Stan’s strong point.

Even when Carr was injured, we then had the John O’Shea at right back with Finnan on the left fiasco. The poor ‘Pool defender was treated with continued disregard by a manager who, rumour has it, Finnan said taught him less than any other coach he had worked at in any level of professional football.

Remember Finnan has played in every league from the Conference up in his time. That’s a pretty damning indictment. If that rumour is true of course, but it has a ring of truth about it to me.

It came as no surprise yesterday when Finnan announced his retirement from international football, having been used as a human Swiss Army knife by Ireland for too long. He wants to prolong his career at the top level and fair play to him for it. I doubt there’s a football fan alive who would begrudge him that.

However, I still think the way this world class defender was treated by Staunton, and to a certain extent Brian Kerr and Mick McCarthy, was horrendous. And all simply because he wasn’t one of the old boys network. Before a new man even has the chance to reassure him of his place he has decided he’s had enough with the FAI and their woeful choice of coaches. Perhaps personifying the frustration many fans feel with Irish football over the last few years.

A fine player. If only those managing his country appreciated him.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Weekend Reaction

Man City 1-1 West Ham

Things I thought I'd never say, pt1. Carlton Cole scored a fabulous goal to help West Ham to a draw. City have started to drop points in the league and need to keep with the pace if they are going to get Champions League. At the moment, it doesn't look good.

Wigan 1-2 Everton

Joleon Lescott is a fantasy football team's dream. He scores a lot of goals and helps keep Everton tight at the back. The cup competitions may distract and tire them in the coming months but on current form, it should be a battle for 4th.

Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea

Chelsea really rode their luck on this one. That the useless Pizarro scored the winner was rough justice. The machine rolls on and there hasn't been a whimper from Grant about injuries, in contrast to his illustrious predecessor. When Anelka starts scoring, and Drogba returns there should be a 3 way battle for the championship, especially as Arsenal and United have to go to the Bridge.

Blackburn 1-1 Middlesbrough

The forgotten Derbyshire rescued a point for Blackburn. Middlesbrough have their problems but they are successfully bringing youth through to the first team - in Wheater they have a highly promising centre back (and goalscorer). The contrast is Derbyshire's bench warming in a queue behind Santa Cruz, McCarthy and Roberts. Excellent last summer in the under-21 Euro Championships, Maceo Rigters is nowhere to be seen.

Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
How good is Clichy as an attacking full back? He's the equal of Evra at least

Newcastle 0-0 Bolton
It had to happen didn't it? Things I thought I'd never say, pt2 - Keegan in bore 0-0 shocker. Hands up who still thinks it was Sam's fault....

Portsmouth 3-1 Derby
Wayhey! 3 home goals. Against Derby. There is tougher work ahead for Pompey who have slid down the table. Their loss of momentum, and their ANC players unavailable make this a crucial few weeks in their quest for Europe

Reading 0-2 Man Utd
Again Reading troubled United, but superior finishing got the points. Van der Sar is showing some inappropriate rushes of blood to the head, just like the tail-end of last season

Tottenham 2-0 Sunderland
Playing Huddlestone at centre back was one of those decisions that could have back fired massively, he's even slower than Jaap Stam and milk would turn quicker. His passing ability is top drawer but where to play him? In defence where he could make a costly mistake or in midfield where the pace is high? Ramos will deserve his money if he figures that one out. Tom - head off to Spain or Italy


Saturday, 19 January 2008

Podcast Fixed - Sorry About That

Sorry about the podcast difficulties, there was an issue with the company we use to host the mp3 files

You can download it now:

Everything should be fine now....


Friday, 18 January 2008

ODF 18 Jan Online

Hi All,
Our latest podcast is online now.

We discuss:

Results & Fixtures for the FA Cup and Premier League

Pub Talk - the news of the week - Keegan, Owen, Ashley, Lita, Souness, Wenger, Bangura watch, Transfers, Campbell's human rights and Van Basten's astrological chart

Featured Section - We Hate Alan Shearer

And we finish with some comments.

Download it:



Thursday, 17 January 2008

Dodgy Tattoos and Weekend Preview

I once met a Geordie with the Newcastle crest tattooed on the top of his bald head and the Newcastle Brown Ale star on the back of his noggin to boot. To put his general state of mind in perspective, I only found out this information after he walked into the pub I was working in and took off his sombrero. His name was Kev. Anyway Kev liked to drink and I couldn’t understand a word he said. Leading me to ask his children to translate his conversational points; with the general response being ‘eh he’d like another beer please’. All in all though, a decent fella.

I don’t really wanna talk much about Newcastle today so instead I’ll just assume that this morning Kev woke up a happy man. Most likely a hungover man as well, but a happy bloke nonetheless due to the return of Kevin Keegan. Personally, I think it’ll be a disaster, and there is a bit of a suspicion that beyond the leery fans BBC caught on camera last night welcoming ‘King Kev’ home, there’s still plenty of people in that area who think this is a ridiculous appointment. Good luck to them and thank god that story is at an end.

Elsewhere in the news today, we have the excellent story of Rocky Baptiste and Havant & Waterlooville heading for Anfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup. They might get hammered but at the very least, this story, along with Luton’s initial draw with the lumbering Liverpool, have made for a decent start to the competition.

Okay, once your side goes out (and sometimes while they’re still in the competition), FA Cup weekends are unbearable (though the odd bet tends to liven things up). Instead of watching decent Premier League action you’re faced with watching Coventry and you hear the word ‘romance’ related to 22 men and a soggy pitch far too often. Actually, yeah… come to think of it, I hate the FA Cup… so down with Havant! And down with Waterlooville too! The poor man’s Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking towards the weekend, thankfully there is no FA Cup in sight but instead a rerun of the fixtures from the first week of this season. United playing Reading away in what could be a tricky assignment; Arsenal are away at Fulham without the threat of Jens Lehmann throwing a few goals in David Healy’s direction; and most intriguingly Spurs face Sunderland.

The latter two produced a horrendously poor opener to the season, only lit up by Michael Chopra’s goal in the last minute – the goal which proved to be the beginning of the ugly, mishandled end of Martin Jol’s reign at Spurs. What’s that coming over the hill Roy? It’s a fucking pasting. I’m predicting a huge win for Spurs here; at least three nil. And after that outrageous prediction, here’s a few quick ones to follow up.

Birmingham v Chelsea: Hmmm…. After last week anything is possible, sod it I’ll go for a draw 2-2.
Blackburn v Middlesbrough: Blackburn back on track and Boro’s form usually dips after any decent result so 2-0.
Fulham v Arsenal: Continuing on this week’s theme of teams managed by guys called Roy losing… 1-3
Portsmouth v Derby: If Portsmouth don’t win this game, they may never score a home goal again. They will though, 2-0
Reading v Man. United: Solid 1-2 win, though that Reading one will be a late consolation. I state this as fact.
Tottenham v Sunderland: See above.
Newcastle v Bolton: The return of… ah forget it. 0-1, just to piss off romantics everywhere.
Wigan v Everton: 1-1 (bad, bad game)
Man. City v West Ham: 1-1 (might be better than last night’s bad, bad game)
Liverpool v Aston Villa: 1-1 (bad, bad times for Pool)


Podcast this evening folks where we’ll be discussing results, this weeks’ fixtures, Pub Talk featuring Cookie Coleman; Lusty Lita; and eh… Simple Souness. Then, oh yes at last, we’ll be hating Alan Shearer. In fact I think we should do a three week series…

Week 1: Hate Alan Shearer
Week 2: Hate Alan Shearer Harder
Week 3: Hate Alan Shearer with a Vengeance

I can see us finding a wide audience with that. Anyway, it’ll be online tomorrow morning so until then folks.

Later - JJ

Okey Doke Football Podcast is available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The Bookies' Favourite

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Yes, just like the movie, I've had it up to here with Bookies' Favourites. I guess my fixation started early on in the season when Sammy Lee got the boot from Bolton. I kept an eye on the 8 managerial changes in the Premier League and the 3 changes on the international scene - England, Ireland & Scotland.

News broke today that Didier Deschamps is the fifth bookies' favourite in a week. A week! This ludicrous situation has alternated between Houllier, Keegan, Redknapp, Hughes and the Water Carrier - all with the ominous presence of Alan Shearer lurking in the shadows. Let's hope that farce ends soon.

Those from Ireland will be aware of the long, long search for an Ireland manager that seems destined to enter a fourth, maybe even a fifth month. The 3 man selection committee (Don Givens, Don Howe & Ray Houghton) seem to be mostly concerned with leaking stories to the press! The old reliables have been mentioned - Venables, Houllier, Deschamps, Jewell, Billy Davies, Big Sam, every former Irish international, TV pundits and the tea lady. And all have been favourites at some stage.

Now, during the week a conspiracy theory came to me. Consider the facts - tabloid paper X needs an "EXCLUSIVE" story to run with. The paper's journalists are no good at getting scoops, preferring to copy it from the wires. So they hit on a cunning plan, as cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University, let's make a favourite.
For the sum of a few hundred pounds or euro, which is a pretty big wager in the small betting market of 'Next manager will be...' they can at least create momentum for a candidate in the market. The bookmaker notices a large bet has been placed and cuts the odds. Punters notice that the price has changed and pile on. Result - a new favourite.
The first edition of the paper then creates critical mass and legitimacy at the bookies. Read the story closely and it will contain the phrases:
Sources close to...,
It is believed...,
was wagered on...,
million salary...

So, I propose an experiment in which you send me money, and I'll make a new favourite for the Irish job, which of course you can read about exclusively on this blog. I can guarantee no money will be syphoned off for personal gain* and look forward to your donations,


*not a guarantee

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Shambles ahoy!

While we’re in a quiet midweek for actual football, the news headlines have kept things moving along nicely. If it’s not Rafa Benitez threatening legal action against Tom Hicks (of course he isn’t but don’t let that get in the way of a decent rumour), then we have Gerard Houllier lining up his second stint as a joint manager – together with Alan Shearer at Newcastle.

Considering that Geordies’ memories seem to centre on the period of the mid-to-late nineties, this move for Houllier and a joint manager isn’t actually too surprising. It was back in 1998 that Houllier and Roy Evans took their Liverpool side to St James’ Park and beat the home team 3-0 with a Michael Owen hat-trick.

Look at all the elements: St James’ Park; victory; Houllier; joint managers; and Michael Owen. Newcastle can surely bring happy times back to their grim home by re-creating this magical combination from a bygone age. Well, no they can’t. Anyone who could think that signing up Shearer or Houllier, never mind the two of them together, would be a good idea needs a lie down, shock therapy, another lie down, some stiff drinks and… what the hell, some more shock therapy.

A far better choice would be Mark Hughes, whose name is worth mentioning alone for this clip which Mark sent on to me earlier. The somewhat tedious search for Newcastle’s latest messiah is of course only a trial run for the real media hoopla when Rafa Benitez vacates the managerial office at Anfield this summer.

Despite Hicks’ remarkable admission to a Liverpool Echo reporter regarding talks with Jurgen Klinsmann, I don’t expect to see Benitez walk the plank until the end of the season. Over the horizon, if he can keep his grip for a few more weeks, is the Champions League and two enormous games with Inter Milan.

Yes the Italians are in the kind of form that would frighten the 1970 Brazil squad; yes they have a depth of talent that far outweighs Liverpool’s; and yes they have the points cushion at home to allow them to concentrate on Europe. But somehow you get the feeling Benitez may well pull off yet another great European result to keep him in charge a little longer.

But that won’t stretch beyond the summer, and barring a collapse of River Phoenix proportions by Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea to present them with the league title it appears even a second Champions League win won’t be enough to save Rafa. Although what with change of ownership rumoured as well as Jose Mourinho circling overhead there may be a few more twists before the season is out.

Good god, when it’s got to the stage that Liverpool fans take comfort in the fact that ‘at least Newcastle are more shambolic’ then things must be really bad.

Irish manager watch – day 1,058

Meanwhile, in a secret location in the hills of Bulgaria, Agent J. Tiberius Delaney sorted out Ireland’s qualification programme for the 2010 World Cup. Mission failed? Well maybe. Two nice trips to the eastern block to start; a massacre in Italy on April Fool’s Day and an ominous looking away day in Cyprus at the business end of the campaign.

In fairness to Delaney he was in some difficulty due to Croke Park’s unavailability during September and the strength of the campaign depends on many factors – new manager, bringing players through, keeping players away from injury et cetera. Let’s hope for our sake though that Delaney was too far away to hear those rumours of the Shearer/Houllier combination lest he decided that at last he has found the solution to Ireland’s problems. The search continues to day 1,059…

Here’s the full details of the qualifying games…
Sep 6 v Georgia (a)
Sep 10 v Montenegro (a)
Oct 15 v Cyprus (h)
Feb 11 v Georgia (h)
Mar 28 v v Bulgaria (h)
Apr 1 v Italy (a)
Jun 6 v Bulgaria (a)
Sep 5 v Cyprus (a)
Oct 10 v Italy (h)
Oct 14 v Montenegro (h)

Later, JJ
Okey Doke Football Podcast is available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

Monday, 14 January 2008

Weekend Reaction

Hi All,
So, after my fabulous predictions, a round up of the Premier League results:

Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham - a surprisingly lack lustre (like an empty can of pear halves) performance from the Arse but it's clear McLeish has done a good job so far.

Aston Villa 3-1 Reading - The away side's defence is a shambles, and a last minute goal took the bad look away form the result. Do Reading have any ambition? The modest Madejski needs to spend money in the summer

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham - Once again Spurs capitulate to a bigger team. Belletti's opener may ahve been a bit of a fluke but he had all the time in the world to waltz through the acre of space Spurs afforded him.

Derby 0-1 Wigan - Steve Bruce, much maligned by ODF, is doing a surprisingly good job at Wigan and is keeping their survival hopes alive

Everton 1-0 Man City - the battle of the best of the rest make it clear that Everton have more strength than City. Are we allowed criticise Sven yet? He can't seem to buy a decent striker and his little and little combo up front didn't work. Exiling Elano to teh right wing was another crucial mistake

Man Utd 6-0 Newcastle - From bad to worse for Newcastle, United displayed the ridiculously good attacking football teh Magpies would kill for. Whatever Ronaldo's failings, 22 goals by January is a startling amount for a striker, never mind a winger. Fergie's option if injuries hit up front is clear, play him as a striker.

Middlebrough 1-1 Liverpool - the bounce back I expected did not happen. The 'Pool players seem to want to get their manager sacked. Only a takeover by DIC will save Rafa.

West Ham 2-1 Fulham - What will West Ham be like when they are all fit? Probably about the same, they have too many average players. Fulham are now 5 points from safety, Hodgson has had no effect so far and he needs to get his act in gear.

Sunderland 2-0 Portsmouth - how different Sunderland's season could have been with Richardson and Edwards fit. Pompey slip to 9th and are underachieving.

Bolton 1-2 Blackburn - McCarthy was terrible and was deservedly subbed for Roberts. Roberts has many failings (scoring, for example) but his electric pace won the game. A lively game that Bolton didn't deserve to lose but Hughes has arrested his team's slide.

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Friday, 11 January 2008

Weekend Preview

Welcome folks to Lawrenson's... I mean Vance's predictions column for the Premier League

Arsenal v Birmingham
Lawro's gone for the Arse, and although they have a good few players missing, I'll have to agree with the genius himself. Birmingham are looking a bit better under McLeish but they are still short on quality. Long odds bet - Djourou, if fit, to score an own goal for Brum.

Aston Villa v Reading
Villa blow hot and cold, and have yet to add quality in the transfer window but they'll score here against a fragile Reading defence, especially as they are missing Bikey, but with Doyle, Kitson and Hunt they could get a few too. Lawro says a Villa win, I'll go a 2-2 draw

Chelsea v Tottenham
Spurs were close to beating Arsenal's reserve team, but I wouldn't hold out much hope for Spurs if Anelka plays. Common sense says it is a good time to play Chelsea, but Spurs are too brittle mentally as yet. Chelsea win, 2-1, Lawro says draw.

Derby v Wigan
Derby won't win this, Bruce has done well with Wigan so far, a 0-0 looks likely. Lawro plumps for Derby.

Everton v Man City
This has draw written all over it from two teams never afraid to be pragmatic. Everton will find it hard to break down City's mean defence, whilst Elano & Petrov have lost some sparkle. 0-0 - Lawro disagrees again and says Everton to win.

Man Utd v Newcastle
Dear Bookmaker,
I bet 1 mortgage on Man Utd to win,
Yours thankfully,
Mark & Lawro

Middlesbrough v Liverpool
It's all set up for Boro to cause another upset but, like Lawro, I fancy the 'Pool to come out of their torpor and scrape a win

West Ham v Fulham
Poor home record vs Poor away record = draw. Lawro goes for the Hammers but he can't have seen their miserable performance at home to Reading on St Stephen's Day

Bolton v Blackburn
Hardly a thriller in prospect but I think Blackburn will come out of their slump, especially as Anelka has hit the road, Blackburn to win, Lawro reckons a draw

Sunderland v Portsmouth
Sunderland are terrible, and I can't see it changing in this match. Their only hope is Pompey will be destabilised by the African Nations but it's a long shot. Away win, Lawro disagrees again and says a draw!

So, the battle is on, I feel fully confident that I will do better than any of JJ's predictions

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Thursday, 10 January 2008

ODF 10 Jan Online

Hi All,

Our latest podcast is online now.

We discuss:

Results & Fixtures: FA Cup & Premiership

Pub Talk: Big Sam, Alan Hansen, African Nations Cup, and lots more

Featured Section: Some of the worst footballers to win the highest honours in football - World Cups, Champions League, European Championships. Did we forget any? Email

We hope you enjoy the show.

Download it:




Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Magic Beans

Fabio Capello talking about the Italian psyche in 2006: “We’re convinced we know more than the next guy.”

Okay, it might be a little cruel but I couldn’t help but think of this quote when I looked at this picture of oul’ Fabio and Stuart Pearce having a chinwag about the England players. True enough, he does preface this with the words, “We Italians are over critical and arrogant, all of us”, but still you’d have to wonder how much of what ‘Psycho’ is telling him really hit home with Fabio?

This is a man with a startling managerial record talking to a fella who managed one of, if not the, most boring Premier League side ever not to get relegated. Last season’s Manchester City were a disgrace to football, and while Pearce’s stock rose somewhat after the U-21 European Championships in Holland last summer, no one really believes he’s a top class coach. Certainly not in the Italian mould of great thinkers anyway.

Capello apparently is still searching for an Englishman to compliment his backroom staff but that search may prove as difficult as the grand charade that is the hunt for a new Irish manager. Think of an Englishman with tactical nous (god I hate that phrase but alas, it fits). Anyone leap forward? If this was ten years ago the unfortunate truth is the choice would most likely have been Howard Wilkinson; in Sven’s wisdom he hired Steve McClaren and Sammy Lee. Therefore finding a suitable man for this role has never been, and will never be, an easy choice.

My candidate, should Capello really want someone English-born to run ideas by, is the man he beat to the job – Harry Redknapp. An Englishman who understands good football, loves talking tactics and from an early age (check out The Times podcast interview with him from a few weeks back) has understood how out-thinking an opponent is worth as much as pace or power.

While I doubt Redknapp would take the job, I’d still see him as the outstanding candidate so it’s back over to Capello and his background staff to persuade the Portsmouth manager or someone of similar knowledge (though I can’t think of anyone) to get on board.

The phrase ‘slim pickings’ defines the search for the Ireland manager at present, or at least in those linked with the post in the press. The same names recycled again and again. Today the Irish Independent led with Gerard Houllier as the choice of the three man committee of Don Howe, Roy Houghton and Don Givens. Last Wednesday it was Kenny Dalglish. Mick McCarthy has even had to rule himself out. At this stage, the committee have been in business for several weeks and the question has to be asked – who exactly have they talked to?

Terry Venables confirmed last week that he’s had no approach. Graeme Souness too has ruled himself out due to no approach (in fact he thought the job had been given to Venables… surely something that could have been cleared up with Houghton during the ad breaks on The Premiership’s Saturday night show on RTE?). So who have they been speaking to? Howard Kendall?

We now know that it will be up to FAI president John Delaney and another blazer to negotiate Ireland’s fixture list for the World Cup qualifiers at a meeting on 16 January. It’s a dark thought and the image of Delaney coming back to Abbottstown with a bag of magic beans and 10 away ties continues to crop up every now and then.

Capello’s search is certainly the easier one here as he’s really only making a conciliatory move to appease the FA and the English media who still, quite unbelievably, question his credentials to manage a side going nowhere. Ireland’s three men committee you’d suspect are merely seeing how many hotel lunches they can get on the FAI cheque book before anyone actually asks what they’re up too.


The Carling Cup semi finals began last night. They continue tonight. End report.


Okey Doke Football Podcast is available every Friday morning, subscribe here:

Cheers - JJ

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

More Money Than Sense

Well, the transfer window has rolled down to let some hot air out once more. It's amazing to me how the people with their fingers round the purse strings release frivolous amounts of money to managers who they will sack in a few months time.

I can imagine that Al Fayed is pretty pissed off right now (not to mention Chris Coleman). For an outlay of about £25m on transfers in the summer, including £6m for Diomansy Kamara, Lawrie Sanchez left them second bottom of the table, and got a nice payoff for being sacked.
We went through some possible transfers on last week's podcast and while doing some research for this week's show, I came across some further examples of managerial genius.

Roy Keane has vowed not to pay over the odds for player, in direct opposition to his policy last summer when he spunked over £30m on generally average players, such as Chopra for £6m. Leroy Lita (1 goal this season) is expected to join shortly.

After Sven's excellent £40m spree last summer, we expected more top quality is on the way, but not according to reports - Manchester City have had an enquiry rejected by Marseille for 'striker' Djibril Cisse. I would have thought their squad was complete with strikers who don't score any goals - they already have Samaras and Vassell, while Bianchi has hardly set the world alight. Lyon's talentless, Brazilian, no hoper Fred, is also heavily rumoured to join, about whom only one thing needs to be said - Gerard Houllier thought he was worth £10m.

Alan Curbishley and West Ham are so far keeping a low profile - with good reason too. Last summer, despite a good recoup in player sales, good oul Curbs managed to waste money on Bellamy (injured), Dyer (injured), Ljungberg (injured) and Flaubert (injured) so I would imagine the Icelandic bosses aren't too keen for another dip into the market with the Boring One at the helm. My bet for the latest washed up, injury prone player to make his way there? I'll have a punt on Mickey Owen....

At Birmingham, you'd imagine things would be better now that Bruce has left, but McLeish seems intent in following his predecessor - another talentless Lyon player, Milan Baros could be on the way to provide the, ahem, firepower up front, along with Georgios Samaras.

And at Villa, despite O'Neill's generally good transfer record, they want to add a '
prolific goalscorer' to the squad - what, Harewood and Carew can't do it? Serial under-achiever Jermain Defoe could be on his way....

And Newcastle, I won't even get started on the catalog of transfer disasters that have befallen on the club, while another basket case, Spurs want Tal Ben Haim for £8m, and Tiago for £9m. It's no fun to blame Ramos or Jol though, mysterious fool Damien Comolli is the man who also thought Kevin-Prince Boateng was a good bet.

So, in a roundabout way, that's the transfer gossip, my hatred of having to write anything to do with the Carling Cup led me here....

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Monday, 7 January 2008

Classic Colombia and the Rocky Horror Show

Seeing as how romance has been the theme of this weekend’s football – along with heart, grit, giant-killing and pretty much every quality in football aside from skill and technique – I thought I’d draw attention to a video that deserves plenty of views.

For those who didn’t catch it on the Guardian’s website this week, this is a brilliant ten minutes detailing Colombia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifier victory in Buenos Aires back in 1993. They beat an Argentina side that still had many faces from the team that reached the World Cup final of 1990, not to mention some of the biggest rising stars in World football at the time.

Whatever their squad though, Argentina were perennial favourites against the Colombians. Despite the fact that they had similar populations, Buenos Aires’ heavy British influence of the late 19th and early 20th century resulted in a country obsessed with the game. Colombia were always minor players in South America. Indeed, they only entered qualification rounds for the World Cup from 1958 onwards, while Argentina had a record that stretched back to their 4-2 defeat against Uruguay in the inaugural final of 1930.

But, as many of you might be thinking, history smishtory. This was a game between two of the glamour sides of the early ‘90s. The insane brilliance of Asprilla, Rincon and Valderrama against the guile of Batistuta, Redondo and Ortega. Beats an Andy Townsend versus Paul Ince midfield battle any day.

It was the scoreline rather than merely the victory that made the headlines across the globe. At last Colombia were associated with a major story in this part of the world that didn’t have anything to do with cocaine or kidnapping. Of course we all know what came next, from Pele’s prediction they’d win it all at USA ’94 through to the disastrous opening defeats and of course Andreas Escobar’s grisly end outside a nightclub.

Whatever the aftermath though, this is still remembered in Colombia as their finest moment. For us it’s Ray Houghton against Italy in the Giants Stadium (or perhaps any of Bonner v Romania; Houghton v England; or Keane hat trick v Faroe Islands… well maybe not the last one). For Northern Ireland it’s Gerry Armstrong against Spain in 1982. But frankly, this was a 5-0 win with style against a dirty Argentinean side in their own backyard with Maradona looking on in amazement. Therefore, it plain beats the shit out of anything we’ve ever done. Viva Colombia indeed Carlos.


As for the FA Cup, I avoided the results on Saturday and managed to quite enjoy Match of the Day. Coventry’s win over Blackburn and Everton’s defeat at home to Oldham were obvious highlights. The fact that a guy called Rocky delivered a last second knock out blow was also most welcome.

Liverpool, as anyone with eyes will tell you, were absolutely atrocious yesterday. I vented my disgust at Dirk Kuyt over at Mal’s blog earlier so I won’t go over it again. Fair play to Luton though. Crap town (and yes I have been there so it’s not just random nastiness here) but great fans and they fully deserve the replay. Anyone who can remember the classic 3-2 win over Arsenal in 1988 will always have a bit of soft spot for them anyway.

Okay, before I get washed away in a sea of nostalgia, I shall sign off.

Later, JJ

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Friday, 4 January 2008

ODF 04 Jan Podcast Online

Hi All,

Our latest podcast is online now.

We discuss:

Results & Fixtures: Premiership & FA Cup

Pub Talk: Barton, Wise, SWP, Ashley vs Robson, Paul Sturrock, Cassano and Amauri

Featured Section: Transfer Rumours - we sort out what could happen

We hope you enjoy the show.

Download it:




Thursday, 3 January 2008

Totaalvoetbal, Bloody Divots

Try as I might, the sight of one particular goal still turns my stomach every time I see it. You can watch it here after about two minutes of nostalgia and The Pogues. It’s a simple looping header from Wim Kieft at Euro ‘88, one with a wicked bounce, as well as another Dutchman standing in an offside position out of shot.

But it’s not the injustice of the linesman's decision – after all Alan McLoughlin was standing three yards offside when Kevin Sheedy blasted home against England at Italia ’90 – instead it’s just the sickening amount of time it takes to go in. Ireland slowly but surely seeing a semi final berth slip out of their grasp.

The flight of the ball barely makes sense, some odd divot is hit and football history follows. How many times have you seen Marco Van Basten’s volley in the final? At least a hundred if you’ve even a passing interest in football, near a thousand if you happen to actually like the game. No divot, no volley, no Marco Goalo volley of the century.

Kieft’s goal disgusts me to this day. I can’t help it.

The path of Dutch football rarely makes sense, be it to do with divots, lunch time seating arrangements or even the sheer oddity that is Dirk Kuyt. Therefore, Ireland’s exit at Euro ’88 to that goal should just be chalked down as another oddball moment in the history of a nation that’s usually too busy rowing to win tournaments; despite the fact that they’re often technically the best side on show.

There was a book released a few years ago by football writer David Winner, entitled Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, which I picked up again recently. When I say ‘recently’, I mean out of a desperate attempt to do anything with Christmas other than drink, eat, eat, eat, drink… oh, and avoid generally awful Christmas TV (I include nearly every live Premier League game over the festive period in that too – cheers Sky for not showing Chelsea v Villa).

It did the trick. When you see a chapter on how the ‘Provos’ changed football you generally associate it with terrace violence in Northern Ireland’s top flight in the late seventies. However, in Winner’s book he’s referring to a 1960s group of Dutch anti-establishment protestors. Their tactics for social reform basically revolved around annoying the police with clever non-violent protests and pranks to such a point that the only logical conclusion was that they would end up getting a good kicking. Public support and press headlines followed.

The book itself is about the “idea of Dutch football” rather than the Dutch national side or even their club teams. The spirit of total football, so goes the argument, comes in part from inspiration such as the Provos, who managed to free themselves from the post-war conservatism of their home country. It’s not just them though; it’s their architects, painters, anarchists and the petty differences of the middle classes that make up the nature of Dutch football.

National identity it seems, dictates the national style of football. Does the argument stand up when you take a look at other nations? Seeing the almost drunken fashion in which the FAI have gone about stumbling from one failed conquest to another in the ‘race’ for Ireland manager, our administrators certainly resemble some of our fine nation on a Saturday night out. But actual footballing style?

The grinding nature of the Charlton era matched some very hard financial times; much like the flair players of the ultimately unsuccessful ‘70s side resembled the ramshackle trad music bands that delighted home crowds but often struggled abroad when it came to making the big breakthrough. Now we’re a nation who relies on foreign workers to prop up the workforce; should a decent continental coach get the job he will sit well with our mercenary friendly attitudes.

England’s style of play? Is there one? If there is, it resembles their white van man fan-base (try saying that ten times in a row) rather than the country as a whole - not subtle and can be accused of being brainless at times. Perhaps instead of protesting Provos, Fabio, Capello could look to Have I Got News for You for how to handle genuine talent in a large, often misguided organisation. Joe Cole as England’s Paul Merton? Privately educated Lamps as Ian Hislop? Owen Hargreaves as the anchor? It could work. It won’t, but it could.

Then there’s Spain; where Civil War pretty much defines their current squad and any in living memory. There’s also the slow method of carrying out their day (how many meals and breaks do they have anyway) that matches the patient build up of their football sides.

There’s gotta be some decent masters degree in the whole subject – after all if they can give college lectures on the science of superheroes then national football identities should have some of Mensa’s finest working on this topic.

Winner’s tale of the Dutch is a great read anyway… though I still wish that Kieft’s header had bounced harmlessly wide.

Anyhoo, had to write on something other than the Premier League above as we have been battered over the head with it over Christmas. But much like Sam Allardyce’s wife (ref: Okeydoke Football’s entirely non-libelous Awards Show) we’re back for more so give us your best shot!

Tonight we’re podcasting and discussing the events of the Christmas period (winners: Chelsea, Arsenal; losers: Liverpool, Derby, and Newcastle). We’ll also have Pub Talk and comments.

Until then, belated Happy New Year, JJ

Okey Doke Football Podcast is available every Friday morning, subscribe here: