Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Half term report of sorts… and some quick predictions involving tasteless alcoholics, a vest, an exploding head and hair gel

Alright folks,

Initially when I sat down to write this blog I thought I’d have a run down the Premier League table for a half term report in four fairly brisk parts, taking five teams in the table at a time. There was to be some (most likely premature) conclusions, random facts, tears on my keyboard at Liverpool’s mostly wretched season, and far less praise for Birmingham than other mid-season reviews. The final point would be due to the fact that I haven’t seen a bit of them beyond the odd set of highlights this season, well there was their game at Anfield of course but that was 90 minutes of meltdown for all Pool fans so I didn’t notice much about their general play.

Just to note, I’m fairly certain most pundits who are paid to watch the league haven’t seen much of Brum either and are as surprised as anyone as to where they are. Hence filling columns with the phrase ‘hard working’ repeatedly hoping nobody notices that they aren’t the greatest experts on all the goings-on at St Andrews.

But anyway, that notion has been left behind as when I started thinking about the season thus far I realised that at ODF we’ve certainly got our cards marked with a ‘could do better’. We’re Wigan essentially. The odd decent performance but always capable of a 9-1 hammering.

While it’s been an up and down and very unpredictable season thus far – though Villa’s last two games and Spurs patchy form points towards yet more failed top four ambitions – I have to say that the last six months have been something of a footballing nadir in my world anyway and the lack of blogs attest to that (Mark meanwhile has embraced the NFL this year such is his fuhbal disillusion and indeed most Sundays at Vance Towers he can be seen jabbing a foam hand in the air screaming ‘Go Broncos Wooooo’).

Pool collapsing has been a huge disappointment on my side obviously, particularly in the Champions League as repeating last year’s league performance was always going to be difficult. The wind has really been taken out of my sails (as it has for half the nation) by Paris in November though.

Yes, I’m digging that up but it’s the last time. Ireland has done wonderfully well in other sports this year but let me just put this in perspective for any end-of-year sports specials on RTE, Newstalk, The Irish Times or elsewhere. Putting it bluntly, for a very, very large section of the population we could win five Grand Slams on the trot, have six world boxing champions, win every major horse race going for the next decade while Padraig Harrington could win all four majors with a series of trick shots while moonwalking and it could never, ever make up for the deflating events that culminated in Richard Dunne somehow resisting the urge to punch Thierry Henry after that smug git decided to get some good PR in the wake of his handball.

Then we all have to deal with the British press who are obviously obsessed with the World Cup as we enter 2010, meanwhile sports calendars are being released with every Sunday paper with the focus of their attention being that magical month of football next summer… it’s still all a bit much for me and for many out there. Ireland should be there and we are not. We are left only to boo two sides instead of one this time around as some sort of comfort.

A new year is arriving though and with it a great title race, a fantastic Champions League draw and some entertaining sides – West Ham and Portsmouth – spicing up the race to the bottom. I’m legally obliged to care about the FA Cup and Europa League this year to boot so frankly the batteries are starting to charge again. All of the previous details points towards an excellent five and half months before the World Cup. Rehab for those in the midst of football hell.

So, with a... lets call it ‘informative’ few months behind us here’s a few predictions for the New Year.

* Broncos to go out early in the play offs and Mark to fall in love with football again and as Nani leaves Unireh.
* Chelsea to sneak the league by two points on the last day.
* Champions League places to Arse, Unireh and…. Spurs (they always let me down so go reverse psychology baby!)
* Relegation for… Hull, Portsmouth and Bolton. Stoke to go a lot closer to the bottom this year and West Ham to escape with a week left to ensure another meandering article from Russell * Brand in The Guardian. ‘Mark Noble, he’s like a investigative sardine him... etc etc’
* David Moyes’ head to explode Scanners-style following a bad decision from a linesman.
* Tony Pulis to dress down even more and turn up for games in a wife beater vest, a Boddingtons baseball cap and some jeans with elasticised waistband. The latter were borrowed from James Beattie (bah-dhum-tish!)
* Rafa to begin speaking only in mobile ringtones. After victories he will use that awful Black Eyed Peas song about “good good nights” that alcoholics with little musical taste and idiots in general seem to love; while he’ll rely on ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the face of defeat in order to appeal to the fans emotions.
* Newcastle to spend €60 million on Zlatan after promotion only for him to lose both legs on a night out with Joey Barton.
* Real Madrid to win the Champions League against Man United, Ronaldo to cry for 40 minutes solid alternating between anguish and delight, stopping midway through to check the quiff.

Later, JJ

Friday, 18 December 2009

What a great set of balls... in the draw


What a draw for the Champions League.

Inter Milan v ChelseaLyon v Real MadridAC Milan v Manchester UnitedOlympiakos v BordeauxFC Porto v ArsenalCSKA Moscow v SevillaStuttgart v BarcelonaBayern Munich v Fiorentina

Mourinho back should he not get fired beforehand, Goldengimp heading back to the Theatre of Wolves Reserves and Karim Benzema huffing and puffing on the bench back at Lyon.

There’s some excellent ties and – mini prediction time – I’m going to go for the shock being Barcelona losing away to Stuttgart. Now, they’ll probably hammer them back at Camp Nou Nou Camp Stadium Megadrome but I fancy the Germans to really put it up to that bunch of insanely talented munchkins from Catalonia.

Elsewhere, Arsenal should progress, but the Bayern/Fiorentina and CSKA/Sevilla games look quite close calls. All in all an excellent set of fixtures plus they’re being spread over four weeks rather than two to get in maximum TV coverage. Phat Pat Dolan may be able to afford that reinforced lazyboy chair after all.

All in all, a good start to the day, now for the Europa League draw, the real business end of things... and Pool get Unirea Urziceni.

Well, I think we know the game all Europe will be watching that week then.

Later folks, JJ

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Performance Art Predictions

This week I will be mostly doing predictions in style of characters from a major budget fantasy epic. (Note: This may run out of steam early on – the bits where I crowbar in Mark Noble and Scott Parker’s names may be too much for some for instance, so feel free to skip to the actual predicted results, then ignore, place bet, win money).

Hull v Blackburn: (Courtesy of frightened villager): “Argh!! Fear the demon of Hull… he has the face of some minion of the devil, look away from the beady eyes! Look away from this demon who disguises himself under the cloak of a poorly trained jester – fear that Jimmy of Bullard, fear him and his wagging finger… (calming down) Thankfully he’s knacked his knee so there be only the strange mystery of ‘The McShane’ to fear for Hull this weekend, his curse is to be consistently confused as to which side he fights for, poor idiot boy. Hopefully fate is kind and he only costs them a few of these things that fancy folk in Sky Sports Towers call ‘points’. It’d be 1-1.”

Man Utd v Aston Villa: (In the style of noble wizard) “Beware the realm of the red nosed dark lord and his wicked cry of ‘theresnodouaboutha’. Placate him first with some mead, then… well more mead. Should this tactic work for the army of Villains led by the paranoid Irishman, they may yet sneak some solace for the theatre decked in shellfish… it usually ends in defeat for them here though, and dark times may be ahead for the cursed Sir Steve ‘Forever Ginge’ of Sidwell… 3-1.”

Birmingham v West Ham: (Shakespearean actor as an evil king) “Release the Bowyer!” (insert crowd gasping and several men vomiting at the sight they see in front of them) “Ah yes, cower before the horrid sight that no Noble man nor oddly haired nosey Parker can stop in its tracks. Behold the ugly face of this game of ball and foot.”
**(At this point the director yells cut and the Shakespearean actor reveals his true Cockney accent) “But then again their defence is shiiiiiiiiite innit, farck it, get down the bookies and put 20 quid on 1-2 West ‘Am.”

Bolton v Man City: (Shakespearean actor as a good king) “Release the Brazilian trickster who so plays with his people’s emotions. Let him run this O’Brien fool back to whatever corner of Kilburn he came from. Victory to the New Kingdom! 0-2.”

Burnley v Fulham: (As shouted by a commoner army general made good) “On my wuddy command, welease the Duffer, the bwundering Viking and the unpwedicatable Zamowa on these Buwnwey ‘alf wits.” 1-2.

Sunderland v Portsmouth: (As told by a Norse god-fearing monk) “O’Hara, Boateng, Kanu, can you hear me Kanu, can you hear me? Repent, repent! Give up this earthly need for riches and play for Portsmouth instead where we do not trifle with monetary gain and play merely for rewards beyond gold coins. I speak of such things as Danielle Lloyd, pleasing the peasant fanbase and... and… ah… line… (in amongst struggling for another positive he admits it’ll most likely be a home win, 2-0)

Chelsea v Everton: (Courtesy of American actor who can’t do a decent English accent so doesn’t bother and has Arnie-esque one liners thrown into the script as he can’t remember words with more than two syllables). “Repent this, asshole… 3-1”.

Tottenham v Wolverhampton: (Courtesy of American actor who couldn’t do a decent English accent before but who’s now two months into the shoot and making a vague effort). “Hear the words of Robertus Keaneuss and fear his shiny shell-suited wrath, he will have his revenge on his former kingdom… asshole! Four-zip, get my latte.”

Liverpool v Arsenal: (As told by a wizard who believes he’s above this whole production) “In this ancient home of victory, now doused all too often in defeat, look towards the top corner lair of the silver-suited Redknapp Boy. Once a promising warrior, who succumbed to injuries resulting from armour three sizes too small for him; when he says ‘top top’ not for the first, not for the second, but for the third time it will be the signal that battle will commence.
The gypsy Russian will have to be watched, the babbling home centre back who speaks in tongues may well find him too much to cope with. The only hope perhaps for the home nation is the two foreigners chiselled from glass, Torres and Aquilani. 2-2 I predict, 2-2 and Redknapp’s knees to burst from lack of blood at half time.”

Later folks, next week's predictions will be in the style of a latter-career Steven Seagal movie. Expect about 150 words then.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Back with a bang, well a headbutt…

Alright folks,

Well, that took longer than expected – after a few weeks of generally being fecked off with football (Blatter breaking his tiny balls laughing at Ireland, everyone else having difficulty holding on to their pints while laughing at Liverpool) alongside a bunch of pre-Christmas work and selling the story on Mark’s Tiger Woods affair to the highest bidder (headline: Tiger Hits Blogger Bogey), the blog has been left to gather dust.

Though, in fairness ye shouldn’t give a rat’s arse about the above, so I’ll march on and try to keep up a better ratio of blogs this month, which should be easy enough considering stories of Premier League Christmas parties usually involve enough material for a book never mind regular 500-word updates including links back to John Terry/Rio Ferdinand/Jermaine Defoe’s previous discretions.

It’s a solid tradition of highly paid professional athletes embarrassing themselves upon going within 100 yards of a beer for the first time in months. Liverpool’s fancy dress party has seen all manner of idiocy over the years, from David Burrows deciding the world was ready to get over that whole ‘holocaust thing’ by dressing as a Nazi to Jamie Carragher’s contretemps with a stripper also made for funny reading. There was also Man Unireh’s genius ‘ten women to every man’ party planning genius of a few years back as well so hopefully the festive season brings a few gems such as these.

This year, Stoke got things running earlier than expected as manager Tony Pulis apparently nutted James Beattie in the dressing room at The Emirates as the latter bitched over having to work on Monday morning after the players’ Christmas Party on Saturday. Ignoring the fact that this must rank as a certain form of achievement in getting the Christmas party scandal out of the way before the actual party itself, and ignoring the bigger fact that Beattie always comes across as a complete cock in interviews, in this case I think it was the player that was right.

Pulis, a manager who prides himself on appearing to be a no-nonsense, sensible man manager may well have lost the dressing-room having attempted to behead last year’s top scorer; the £3.5 million punt that covered up his enormous ginger failure Dave Kitson. With Beattie seen as somewhat of a leader in the Stoke side (well that’s according to several news reports anyway) Pulis now finds himself trying to placate the talented frontman or else get rid. The latter may see the side struggle towards the end of the season and Steve Coppell can tell him all about second season syndrome resulting in relegation if Pulis fancies a chat.

How the whole situation plays out in the Christmas period – where Stoke face both Aston Villa and Man City - will be interesting. Beyond their travails though the collected mishaps of Christmas parties across the Premier League are most likely coming to a dirty redtop rag near you soon.

Any guesses as to what Terry, Lamps, Ledley ‘can someone help this man to the door’ King and Steven ‘he wouldn’t play me Phil Collins la’ Gerrard will get up to?


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Undone by a Wire quote…


To say last night took the wind out of my sails is a vast understatement. I felt physically sick at the end of the game, a feeling not helped by the vision of a horrid triumvirate of egos smiling away on our screens in the bowels of the Stade de France as Sarkozy, Domenech and… sorry, just had to hold off from vomiting for a second there… Ged Houllier laughed about how the plucky Irish had been undone by cheating.

Good god, can we not catch a break?

Despite the earlier post, and despite the fact that right now I hope France crash out of the World Cup in the first round with a spate of injuries and diseases along with one, possibly two of William Gallas’ legs amputated along the way, most likely those feelings will pass with time. Henry did what most players would do, or least most players as clever as he is would do; it’s horrible that it happened but begrudgingly understandable. His reputation will be tarnished well beyond next summer though, and for a man as evidently egotistical as the Barcelona man, you’d imagine that will hurt.

One thing that won’t pass in a few months or decades even, is the feeling of disgust at Martin Hansson and his assistant referee. In amongst all of game’s aftermath what really makes me ill is the image of Hansson – who in fairness had a top notch game otherwise – pointing to his side, treating the Irish players like children and claiming he was “100 per cent certain” there was no handball involved. He wasn’t. He lied.

A man paid very well do to a job that has huge financial implications told a lie in the middle of the biggest moment of his career. His linesman bottled it to boot. They refused to go against the flow of an 80,000 strong crowd, and if they say anything else that’ll be more lies. As Trapattoni said today, it was the referee who should have sought out Henry, not the other way around.

The game, the cheating, and the frankly disgraceful officiating have been covered elsewhere and let’s face it we all have the same opinion – even the readers of Le Monde have the same opinion – Ireland deserved to go through, but as Snoop said in The Wire, “deserve ain’t got nothin to do with it”. And unfortunately, Snoop is right.


There’s something about Miriam… and Gilesey

After the match of course came the TV dissection and one thing it proved is that if there’s one man alive who wishes that the internet had never been invented, it has to be Johnny Giles.

After 30 minutes of going through the mechanics of our missed chances, whether Henry ‘meant’ it and what would we say if the ‘ball had been on the other hand’ as it were, Billo piped up with an email they’d just gotten in from a woman named Miriam who said that Johnny’s views were “patronising”; that Henry (or “Anrae” as Johnny pronounces it) coldly meant his handball that lead to the French equaliser.

Johnny rolled his eyes and wondered how he could politely tell Miriam that she was wrong. Indeed, you could see him wondering how we had come to a time when Miriam was allowed to even get involved in a conversation between a Leeds legend, a Liverpool legend and… well Eamon Dunphy. Anyone who has listened to Gilesey’s guffaws at some short-sighted fans’ opinions during his Newstalk slot on Thursday nights will know Johnny has little time for fools.

“Miriam right” said Eamon, unsure of what she was right about but seemingly delighted that this might goad his colleague into a reaction. Giles, vaguely agitated but seeing Dunphy’s bait for what it was, just told people to listen to what he was saying. A complaint from Maurice in Churchtown followed, aimed this time at Souness, leading Dunphy to inquire, like a spurned lover, “is nobody complaining about me?”

Back to Miriam though, and as much as she has a right to her views you’d have to hope – and Giles certainly does – that RTE don’t go down the road of Sky and others by putting weight into the opinion of emails and texts from irate fans. We tune into the national broadcaster’s soccer coverage because of the expert opinions it presents us with. We may not be going to the World Cup but with this team in place we’ll still be entertained for a month solid next summer.

Miriam, Maurice and Martin Hansson can go elsewhere if they don’t like it.
Later folks,

A sample of the hatred Henry has coming to him… and he very much deserves it

Howdy folks,

Well, it’s only early doors but already it’s becoming clear that forever more Thierry Henry will be known as a vile cheat on these shores, a man worthy of every ounce of disrespect he receives in the coming days, months, and years ahead not to mention – oh yes I hope it’ll be written when it happens – in his obituary. ‘Thierry Henry: noted cheat and razorblade hustler, passes away’.

Alright, that’s over the top and there will be some perspective in a blog later, but for the minute I thought I’d pass these on.

Later, JJ

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Le final countdown…

Well people,

Many moons ago the start of Sports Stadium on RTE 2 was heralded each Saturday by the opening bars of The Final Countdown. In amongst the opening montage of sporting highlights (scoring the odd point against England in the rugby, Charlie Haughey ‘winning’ the Tour de France with Stephen Roche, Eamonn Coghlan looking absolutely fecked and Pat Spillane looking more red faced than usual) there was that wonderful image of Gerry Peyton, number 22 in that gloriously grey Irish keeper’s jersey, rushing to celebrate with the rest of his teammates, joining the mountain of bodies surrounding David O’Leary after he’d secured our place in the World Cup quarter finals in 1990.

We’re an odd footballing nation – our greatest tournament performance involved five games, two goals scored and no wins – but the possibility of repeating those scenes from 19 years ago may need to involve our oddest twist yet. Can we change from defensive pragmatists to eager goal getters on a huge night in Paris? Well, maybe.

First off, like nearly everyone else who watched the game at the weekend I’d be happier if there was less of a reliance on the long ball game. As I mentioned to a friend the other day who was also lamenting the manner in which our full backs gave the ball away constantly in Saturday’s defeat, it seems that the long ball isn’t even about building a quick attack. Instead, it seems to be a quick route to creating a 50/50 chance of a foul being given against a defender going for the header, creating a dead ball chance for us.

It’s great if it works but most of the time on Saturday, France either won the long ball or the referee waved away the appeals of Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane when they went to ground. The less long ball the better but while I’m sure Trapattoni will ask his side to remain a little calmer, I fully expect to see a more than a few punts up front as the 90 minutes pass.

All in all, I don’t really have any complaints about the defence; that we can’t produce a natural left back is a concern for another time. In midfield, Andrews and Whelan were unspectacular but hard working, words which no doubt be passed down through generations when discussing their partnership, and in fairness to them they played an awful lot more football in the first leg of this tie than they have done in previous outings when they seemed to operate merely as defensive shields. They’re growing into international football and hopefully that growth gathers a burst of pace in Paris.

Liam Lawrence however looked knackered after 50 minutes, the pressure of creating chances while trying to keep up with the greyhound on two legs that is Patrice Evra clearly getting to him. It looks like he’ll start but hopefully if McGeady comes on it’ll be a little earlier to make a real difference. Duff too looked tired but you get the feeling that there could be one huge performance from the Ballinteer man to come on Wednesday night. Too often the frustrated bystander, this may be Duff’s chance to seize the moment and hopefully he can create a few chances for the front two.

And with that we move on to Robbie and Kevin. While Jim Beglin may never speak to me again (though, he’s been avoiding me for about 30 years thus far so it won’t be a major life change), and while it’s far more fashionable to pick on Robbie Keane’s moaning and missed chances, Kevin Doyle just has not been doing enough up front for Ireland of late. I can’t remember this supposed physical dynamo holding the ball up all that often, winning too many high balls or even – and remember what his job description is – testing the bloody keeper in any internationals of late.

Doyle needs a big performance, but not a toiling one where he sweats, gets clapped off by the crowd but has no highlights reel expect for some willing running. In short I suppose, if we are to have any chance of getting our first win in Paris since the 1930s, all our big players have to have big games.

Yes the head says Paris will celebrate the French going through, but there is enough of a chance there to be hopeful. Not confident, just hopeful. Cheesy as it sounds, nothing is impossible – remember Bulgaria in 1993 winning in the French capital. Remember any number of football miracles in this decade and indeed French collapses on the big stage (’02 v Senegal, ’04 v Greece, ’08 v everybody). It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.

Just remember Gerry Peyton lads, all he did was run from the centre circle slower than anyone else and he’s remembered still (even if it is only by unashamed obsessives like me and always to the finest tune of a dodgy hair metal band).

Make some chances, make some history, make Lassana Diarra cry, make Ireland very, very happy.


Friday, 6 November 2009

Chelsea v Unireh…

Alright folks,

There may be other fixtures this weekend, and there may be plenty of other issues up and down the league but when I sat down to do a predictions blog for this Saturday, Sunday and Monday three words stopped me in my tracks. ‘Fat Sam’ and ‘Lawrenson’.

Scanning through a fixture list that looks odds on for a few one-alls, the odd thrashing and Phil Brown losing his job once James Beattie scores for Stoke I thought it best to leap over the Lawro-isms and get on to the big business of the league’s top two sides battering each other on Sunday afternoon. (Also, trying to predict a Liverpool game is too weighty on the soul at the minute).

Just the word ‘Blackburn’ turns my stomach now, with images conjured of the ugly, bullshitting, bad tempered, mildly disfigured koala that is Sam Allardyce picking yet another needless fight in his press conferences, alongside the similarly horrific-to-look-at football they play. Let’s just say I hope they get beaten heavily by Pompey and that Sam ends up in the lower leagues ASAP.

Not that the Chelsea and United always play beautiful football of course. Both of these sides can get hugely robotic when they want to and, in both cases when confronted by other big sides (both with Barcelona last season for instance) they can be as quick as an elderly Italian manager who shall remain nameless to revert to a safety-first game. There is however, something brilliantly compelling whenever these two meet. Well except for that dead rubber league game involving Chris Eagles a few years back.

The Champions League final of two seasons ago is a perfect example and, mainly due to the concentration on John Terry’s wonderfully poetic penalty miss, it’s a game that is often overlooked as one of the best ‘major’ matches of the decade. Finals, semi finals and huge clashes between big sides are often woeful affairs.

I’d put that game alongside Barcelona’s three-all (Messi hat trick included) against Madrid a few seasons back, Italy and Germany’s immense World Cup semi final in 2006, Istanbul in 2005 and a few more as one of the most complete games of the decade but unfortunately not even Didier Drogba’s stupid sending off is remembered as “Terry’s Tears TM” dominate any flashbacks.

Chelsea, the home side on Sunday, have to be favourites due to Rio Ferdinand’s injury problems and United’s shambolic defensive display on Tuesday. Add in an in-form Drogba, the excellent Anelka, and the ever reliable Laaaaaaaaaamps and they should score a goal or two, though considering their problems at set pieces Vidic may well score as many as Drogba come Sunday.

Carlo Ancelloti has a 100% record at home in the league, and the last two times he’s locked horns with Ferguson he’s won out over two Champions League legs in ’05 (with a little help from Roy Carroll closing his eyes in case a Pirlo shot hit him in the face) and handsomely in ’07, winning the second leg three-nothing at home having been very unlucky to lose to a last minute Rooney goal in England the week before.

For United, considering everyone else has been calling time on the careers of various players so far this season (Carragher, Ferdinand, King) I’m going out on a limb to say Paul Scholes will never make a difference for United in a big game again. Yeah, yeah he scored on Tuesday and bedazzles Stoke and West Ham whenever he plays them but in this type of game I think he’ll be lost in the slipstream of Chelsea’s midfield with possibly his only hope being Deco to start, so that the ginger nut won’t be the only once great, now not quite great midfielder who can’t tackle on show.

Now while all this should be the cue for Scholes to score twice, set up another and solve a murder mystery during Sunday’s game I’m sticking to my guns. I’m going for United’s midfield to get their arses handed to them even more effectively than Lucas and Mascherano did a few weeks back and the home side to win 3-1.

Enjoy the weekend folks, JJ, ODF

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Solace in the random

Alright folks,

It does seem a long, long time ago since Lucas was in that happy place I referred to in my previous post. First up, and before I get on to my main point, last night, as I watched Liverpool meander towards a draw when they should have won, I tried to think when I last had such little confidence in a player as I do in Andriy Voronin.

From the way Monster Masch shouted consistently at the oddly-haired Ukrainian I doubt there’s many men who turn up for training each day at Melwood who have any confidence in him either.

A free transfer okay, but the club still has to pay his wages and after who knows how many thousands into his bank account this week and the past few years as well, the best thing about him is that he looks like a vaguely sound bouncer at a metal bar. In fact, himself and Sotiris Kyrgiakos – so very much at fault for the Lyon goal – could easily prop up their wages turning away underage Amon Armarth fans from somewhere called ‘The Rusty Hole’, ‘The Full Metal Whack It’ or something similarly woeful.

In plenty of pages today you’ll find run downs on Liverpool’s faults so I won’t go over them here – indeed I’m becoming aware that due to the less regular nature of the blog this season far too many of the posts have concerned the team I support. So I’ll move to the opposite end of the field last night.

While it’s horrible to admit this less than two weeks before Ireland play off for a place in the World Cup with France, Lyon and fellow countrymen Bordeaux, are proving that there’s life outside of La Liga and the Premier League yet, with Marseille challenging Madrid and Milan in their group as well, French football is on a high. Stuttgart’s showing against Sevilla was also a good kick in the nads for the Champions League.

Even the strength of Meeeelan (copyright James Richardson) against Real Madrid was a another boost for those that think this may be a good year in the Champo Leaguo. A peculiar semi final line up (ie only one English side included) could be in order and frankly, it’s what the competition needs.

Tuesday at the San Siro was hardly David against a hairy Russian boxer but it was a big confirmation of a return to form for one of Europe’s great leagues. With Pool all but gone from the competition, as a (soon to be) neutral the more newbies and odd names that stay in the competition the better.

Back soon folks, have a good one,

Monday, 26 October 2009

Lucas in his happy place … and welcome to crisisville Man City

Alright folks,

Well at least The Apprentice is on this evening as, after a heroic amount of Smithwicks yesterday, I’m good for nothing other than ordering pizzas and flicking channels. What will the Breffmeister get up to this week eh?

Back to the football and beyond the Pool game – as most of the papers have dissected that thoroughly and I feel the pictures above and below sum up my reaction to the win for the home side – both Arsenal and Man City lost two goal leads yesterday and both are lucky their capitulations have been relegated to minor reports in today’s sports pages. However, while the Gooners can count themselves a tad unlucky, City’s expensively assembled defence continue to look very ropey and should be a huge concern to Mark Hughes.

There’s the outrageously overrated Joleon Joleon Joleon Joleeeeonnnnnnnnnn Lescott, the formerly outrageously overrated Micah Richards, alongside the distinctly average pair of Wayne Bridge and Kolo Toure; the more you see of them together, the more they don’t look like a defence that will help them into the top four.

They’ve now gone seven games without a clean sheet and surely the leadership of Richard Dunne, so brilliant in the past few years for City and continually excellent for Ireland, would have made a difference yesterday and indeed as the season moves onwards. Playing for two managers with absolute faith in him – Martin O’Neill and Giovanni Trapattoni – Dunne has excelled.

There was the suspicion that it was the owners of City rather than Hughes that wanted to usurp Dunne with Lescott; trading an established international centre back for a player who struggled whenever Everton went into Europe and who was a cause for alarm any time he touched the ball in most England appearances. Like Beckham-era Real Madrid, Louis van Gaal’s Barca and other teams have proven in the past, sides that spend money almost exclusively on banner names, with little thought to knitting a side together, tend to win precisely feck all as the season wares on.

As Pool’s season gets in to gear (he said with fingers crossed), as Chelsea kick back into action, United get a wake up call and Arsenal, well continue to be Arsenal, City may find themselves a few more dropped points away from being the new crisis club in the league.

Right, where’s that pizza menu….

Later, JJ

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Quick prediction for today…

Good god it’s hard to be positive for any Pool fan after the last few weeks but there’s something about this that reminds me of an eight game spell without a win before heading to the Theatre of Prawns and winning one nil earlier this decade.

It was a Danny Murphy lob that, what with fate being an absolute bastard, kept Gerard Houllier in a job for two seasons longer than was necessary.

The losing may stop today again, winning though… a bridge too far perhaps and I’d still stick with Benitez no matter what the result is today anyway. I’ll go for an entertaining 2-2… and Michael Owen will score. He will celebrate. And he is, as today will confirm, Satan in Sports Casual.

Enjoy, JJ

Monday, 19 October 2009

Danger Here? Maybe not…

France it is then, full blog later but initial thoughts are that we can beat them over two legs – I can see Ireland scoring once in Paris against a suspect defence but the home leg will be huge, need a win there.

At the very least it means we get to hear Johnny Giles' unique pronunciation of 'Henry' (“we need to watch Enrae Bill”) a lot over the coming weeks…

Later, JJ

Who’s it to be?

The ridiculously cool Rooskies?

The pikey Portugeezers?

The jammy git Grecians (sic)

Or Raymond the mentalist and his band of moody men….

Bring on 1pm.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Saturday predictions…

Hey folks,

Right, after that minor rant on the ridiculous notion of the Atlantic League here’s a quick few predictions for Saturday’s Premier League games…

Aston Villa v Chelsea: Hmmm, Villa have been somewhat of a bogey team for Chelsea – the defeat that sent Mourinho pretty much on his way a few seasons ago, a few nil-all draws, one four-all draw - and coming after an international break I think Martin O’Neill’s side may have a chance here, especially with the game taking place in Birmingham. I’d say Chelsea will only get one goal so I’ll go for 1-1.

Arsenal v Birmingham: See the Blackburn game a few weeks back for reference. 3-0.

Everton v Wolves: The slow start is out of the way for Everton but Wolves are an absolute bastard to predict thus far. Every time I think it’s an easy ‘Wolves to get an absolute belting here’ they seem to eek out a point or three. I have a feeling this time they may just do some damage as well and I’ll go for 2-2 with a late equaliser from the away side. Cue 4-1 Everton.

Man Utd v Bolton: No Rooney but Berbatov did get a hat trick during the week… then again that was a hat trick in a meaningless game and the great criticism of him at United thus far is not getting important, game-breaking goals, as opposed to the fourth of five against Spurs, Wigan etc. I’d expect United to get all three points whoever scores though as Bolton won’t get a goal. Easy enough 2-0.

Portsmouth v Tottenham: ‘Arry’s back innit. I’ve just stuck Jermaine Defoe in my fantasy league team so I’m hoping he does to the Pompey defence what he’s done to so many Zoo cover girls over the years and pillages and plunders to his heart’s content. Portsmouth had the great misfortune to get that one win away at Wolves just before the international break and may have lost all the momentum that result could have given them in the weeks since. I’ll say 1-3.

Stoke City v West Ham: West Ham have to click into gear at some stage this season – and if they had of beaten Liverpool last month I suspect that would have started them off on a decent run. They might just dent Stoke’s home record come Saturday. 0-1.

Sunderland v Liverpool: The heart says away win, the injury sheet says a draw. No Torres, no Gerrard… but then again Pool did beat United last season without the pair as well (except for a ten minute cameo from Gerrard). That however, wasn’t in a week where Lucas and Mascherano flew all around the world, only arriving back on the day before the game. I could actually see Aurelio starting in midfield and I can also see Benayoun being the fulcrum of play. Fuck it, I’ll be confident… 1-2.
Have a good one, JJ

Good idea/Bad idea

Hi folks,

Regular readers will know that myself and Mark have a frankly shameful lack of knowledge when it comes to the League of Ireland. It’s something I’ve been meaning to address and I’ve caught a few games this season on the TV, watched MNS and listened to the LoI banter on Off the Ball. It’s a shabby effort, but like Kevin Kilbane, I’m trying, plus a break from the relentless Premier League machine is welcome every now and then.

I know this is a Johnny-come-lately thing to say but, while the league has plenty of faults (years of poor promotion around the country, overstretching themselves in the boom years with players’ wages etc), one of the great moves of the last decade anywhere in European football has to be the change to summer football in this country.

Starting the season in direct competition to England and the rest of Europe stopped making sense some time ago and since it was brought in it can’t be a coincidence that Irish teams have performed relatively strongly in Europe (well in comparison to previous years) as well as the knock-on effect of players hitting the ground running when they make the trek across the water to sign for English clubs in Premier League or Championship pre-season, which is of course mid-season for Irish players. Keith Fahey and Kevin Doyle are two examples of an admittedly rare breed but it’s a good trend nonetheless and one that is likely to continue.

All in all though, summer football is definitely a good idea. However, the only reason I bring it up is that football organisations so rarely get major decisions right. From bans to fines to TV deals and much more there is usually a great amount of bungling that goes on in the halls of footballing power around Europe and beyond.

Here is one very bad idea though, and one that could only have been dreamt up by men running the game who know as much about football as a blind goat. I give you the Atlantic League.

Set to include the Celtic and Rangers it has been backed by clubs from Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, and it’s now all set to be presented to the talking heads at UEFA as a serious prospect.

How much longer do we have to deal with these awful attempts by the Old Firm to divorce themselves from their own league? Admittedly Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell last branded the whole a "Frankenstein" concept, but you’d suspect if UEFA gave them the green light they’d jump at the chance, while over at Rangers (where old men tell fantastical tales of transfer budgets above £6,000….) they badly need any cash on offer.

The Atlantic League idea has been floating about in some form or another for a decade, while we’ve had a good 15 years of both Celtic and Rangers banging on about how they’d like to join the Premier League. Both clubs of course blissfully ignore the facts that (a) nobody in the Premier League wants them to join and (b) the three tiers behind the Prem would rightly be outraged should such a merger happen. Usually only resurrected as an emergency topic when a journalist has nothing left to say to Walter Smith, these days the English dream of Scotland’s two biggest sides is pretty much history but this new idea is gaining pace.

Its major problem though is that, unlike the very good idea of summer football in Ireland, this is a very bad, very, very, bad idea. Hugh Grant 'hmmm I wonder if I drive down there can those ladies give me some directions' bad.

It’s an idea that will, most likely, cause immense damage to the leagues in each and every country that takes part yet Dutch giants Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Belgium’s Anderlecht, Danish side Brondby, and Swedish club AIK Stockholm all want this. One voice of reason has been FC Copenhagen who are said to “believe the competition would compromise Champions League ambitions”. Club secretary Charles Maskelyne said: "If you are qualifying for the Champions League group stage then when can you fit in an Atlantic league? It is not really an option for us."

And therein lies the problem, sides like Celtic, Rangers, PSV and others listed above watch the Champions League (well Rangers will watch it once they’re fucked out of their group before the real competition gets going) and feel that they belong in this company as well. That they should be part of a league that will excite Europe, create revenue and be seen as a league where the best players in the world will want to ply their trade.

If the revamped UEFA Cup can’t do this for teams outside the Champions League tier, then the Atlantic League hardly will. Will anyone anywhere want to watch Rangers vs Brondby? Hardly. Yet these clubs are all willing to sell their own leagues up the shitter for a few extra euro, all in the quest to, irony of ironies, eventually gain enough revenue to compete in the Champions League before dropping the Atlantic League like a bad habit as soon as possible.

It will be a vicious circle full of desperate clubs who, rather than looking at UEFA or other leagues to sort out their problems should just get on with promoting the game locally, getting in young talent and trying to compete as best they can. It’s not the ideal solution but it’s certainly the least destructive when compared to the notions of the money grabbing blazers across Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Scandinavia. The shoddy gits.

Later, JJ

Monday, 12 October 2009

Schoolboy errors off screen and on...

Afternoon folks,

Watching an Ireland game has often involved baring witness to schoolboy errors. Certainly the entire regime of ‘The Gaffer’ was filled with them while the early days of Brian Kerr – which coincided with John O’Shea’s patchiest period in the green jersey and the fading careers of the majority of our then-midfield – had its fair share of them as well. However, on Saturday it was me who managed to make a basic, but crucial, error during a World Cup qualifier.

Having taken a seat in my local, all of maybe seven yards from a large plasma screen TV, myself and a few mates watched the first few minutes quietly impressed with how Ireland were going about their business when, just as Liam Lawrence was about to swing in a free kick we heard a massive roar from the other side of the bar, then looking back to the plasma screen in front of us we saw Glenn Whelan latching on to Lawrence’s deft pass to put Ireland one nil up.

The dreaded analogue v satellite curse had struck. And we were in satellite land.

There was a good two seconds difference. While the commentary running through the pub was in sync with the Sky feed of RTE coverage that we were watching, on the other side of the bar, where there was a grainy projector-style screen and no bloody room to sit down, there was RTE’s analogue coverage showing those gathered around it a window into the near future.

The executive decision was made to stay in place (we’re lazy, lazy people) and, yep you guessed it, we heard groans before the Camoranesi goal, a huge cheer when St Ledger scored that excellent header and finally we heard a sound that resembled 40 people having their souls popped simultaneously when Gilardino poked the ball past Shay Given.

Beyond this basic mistake on my part to pick a pub that, with the bar in the middle, has to have two separate screens, therefore opening myself and my mates to the possibility of such an event, I thought Ireland ticked a lot of the right boxes on Saturday. You’d have to hope that the experience of letting in that late goal will keep concentration levels up when we face one of Europe’s other top sides in the play offs.

There is of course, that argument that we should have learned that lesson already though. Against Bulgaria, twice, we lost leads only to draw. In Cyprus we were heading for campaign meltdown after losing a lead again only for Robbie Keane to pop up with a lovely finish. Both Bulgaria goals came from individual errors, while the Cyprus goal was just a decent finish so there’s no point picking over that too much.

The play offs too will be very different games to Saturday’s, as Italy happily sat back once the game went to one each. Indeed, predicting anything for a two-leg tie where our opponents haven’t even been drawn yet is fairly fruitless. For now, we should remember that this is definite progress, and while it’s progress that I’d certainly feel could do with Andy Reid’s presence on the bench, that’s another story.

On the positive side, we have Lawrence’s promising form, Dunne’s uniformly excellent display, the front two looking like they’d be a handful for any side and a quality contribution from the bench from Stephen Hunt.

In the negative column there has to be St Ledger’s slack defending for the second Italian strike, O’Shea’s for the first (and Given didn’t cover himself in glory on either goal), while McGeady’s continued lack of a final ball may prove crucial in play off matches that will, by their very nature, be extremely tight affairs.

We are there though, in a position that many would have doubted at the start of the campaign. Hopefully, the luck of Trap will continue and we get Greece in the play offs, but for now let’s hope more fringe players get a chance on Wednesday and McGeady begins to find a final touch.

I, on the other hand, will be far more careful when picking a bar stool for the play offs.

Later, JJ

Friday, 9 October 2009

Before the big game, a word on egg chasing

Alright folks,

I was going to do a blog on tomorrow’s game, with my selection for the side but I forgot that Il Trap likes to get in his selections early. So, while I will blog on the game tomorrow I thought I’d throw open the floor to a psychological question today, and one that doesn’t have anything really to do with football. However, it’s a subject that I think most of you will have an opinion on.

The big question. What is it that makes some Leinster fans so utterly, utterly annoying? I emphasise the word ‘some’ here as many aren’t horrendous individuals. Not many, but some. They play London Irish this evening and I don’t wish defeat upon them but I wish infernal pain among some of the number.

I’m from Dublin, and in general I like a lot of the players who play for Leinster due to their exploits with Ireland and whenever I’ve heard of anyone meeting fellas like Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll, they’ve apparently been absolute gentlemen. But the fans…

There’s something about the fans that just makes me think sport as a whole would be better if this entire Leinster franchise – and if there’s one sport that deserves the word franchise it’s rugby considering that it is a game that has evolved into a professional one in an era that is all about marketability, kit sales and Sky Sports deals – would just limp off into the distance supping Maximuscle Viper Energy Drink.

Walking through south Dublin city in the last week I’ve spotted people that, in the manner of many a Leinster fan, just strike me as folk who don’t actually like sport. It’s never sat well with them. Hurling and gaelic football were sports to be patronised during the summer. Soccer is just the thing on in the background of the pub until there’s an actual bandwagon to jump on (2002 for instance).

But rugby sits well with them. Or rather, Leinster rugby does.

The home stadium backs onto the disco where they all got drunk as 14 year olds, the players speak in the same accent as them and there’s now a successful team there. Sure, there were crowds in D4 years ago but nothing like the last two seasons when the side began to flourish.

But, all in all, I feel that a lot of Leinster fans just don’t get sport as whole. They wouldn’t watch aussie rules, NFL, the Olympics and any form of soccer because they just don’t like sport. They like a specific team in a specific sport at a specific time – it’s a scene more than a sport. Some would say there’s nothing wrong with that, but despite this just take the accent, the ignorance and Johnny Come Lately ‘lifetime’ fans and that’s enough for me to pass judgement.

And while we’re on the subject – be you someone from Leinster, Munster or anywhere else there’s another phenomenon that has to be addressed. One that proves rugby to be an inferior sport to soccer for one, and inferior to many others as well.

Throwing rugby balls to each other – and you see blokes of all ages doing this in some parks around Dublin – what in the name of greek buggery is that all about? You’re a grown man. A grown man playing catch. I don’t care if you put spin on the ball. You’re playing catch, a game mastered by every four year old known to man. You’re just holding up a sign saying ‘I know my rugby’ and it’s an odious sight.

In essence then, some Leinster fans… you never needed sport before, sport doesn’t need you, let’s hope this whole mad love affair comes ripping apart one way or the other soon. Your thoughts folks?

Yours in rant,

Friday, 2 October 2009

Hold that infobar!

Hi folks,

Over the past year or so I’ve had a bit of an addiction to the BBC Gossip column. Every morning I’ll trawl through the page to get the latest transfer rumours, exaggerated headlines (anything with the word “fume” in the headline never actually relates to anything approaching real rage) and pint-sized versions of some of the better football stories of the day.

In that time though I’ve begun to realise that while this slimmed-down version of what’s in the papers is less of a chore to go through than the F365 or Guardian versions, it is nonetheless, a bunch of nonsense in it’s own right.

Here’s a selection of today’s tales along with what the stories actually mean… after a year of reading the thing day in day out, you get a feel for reading between the lines.

Storeeeee bud: Manchester United and Real Madrid are both keen on Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic, who scored twice against Liverpool in the Champions League this week, but the Italian side are set to offer the Montenegro star a new five-year contract. (The Sun)
What it actually means: The Sun had never heard of Jovetic until this week, despite World Soccer Magazine and numerous other publications flagging him as a potential star for two years now. The Sun saw him score two against Liverpool. The Sun wonders which clubs can they can drag into the story and puff this out with discussion of previous battles. The Sun remembers the good old days when they could mention the ‘Ronaldo to Real’ story punctuated with all manner of bullshit for weeks on end and get away with it. The Sun digs up all this shit again to create another ‘Unireh versus Real’ story.

Storeeeee bud: The Premier League is ready to take over at Portsmouth to stop the club from slipping into administration. (The Independent)
What it actually means: If several – possibly hundreds – of events happen, along with some alignment of the sun, the moon, the earth and Fratton Park, this might happen. So it won’t. But The Independent like financially-based football stories as they have no actual contacts within most major clubs. Example – Jason Burt who did one interview with Oba Martins when he joined Newcastle and insisted the Nigerian was joining Arsenal at every chance for the next two years. That’s Wolfsburg’s Oba Martins.

Storeeeee bud: Football Association chief executive Ian Watmore has called for a crackdown on "hostile and abusive" chanting as part of a campaign against disorder in football grounds. (The Times)
What it actually means: Ian Watmore means nowt to no one. Every six months this story trots out and a party-line prat is sent out to say the right things but nothing happens. Gary Neville will one day be the Ian Watmore of the PFA.

Storeeeee bud: Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov admits he has been a failure at Old Trafford since his £30.75m move from Tottenham in August 2008 and says his poor form caused him sleepless nights. (The Sun)
What it actually means: It hasn’t caused him one bit of bother. If there’s one thing you can’t imagine Dimitar Berbatov struggles with at all it’s sleeping. But using this line for some local reporter might save his reputation in some United fan’s eyes for a few more weeks.

Storeeeee bud: Liverpool forward Ryan Babel says being dropped by the Netherlands ahead of next summer's World Cup finals has scared him into trying to salvage his Anfield career. The 22-year-old has struggled since joining the Reds for £11.5m from Ajax in 2007. (Daily Mail)
What it actually means: Scared is a ridiculous word to use. Ryan Babel is an odd, odd man and a hugely frustrating player to watch but being ‘scared’ into salvaging his career is rubbish. He had no choice. He can’t get a move until January. Essentially, when someone asked him about the World Cup he most likely said he’d hate to miss out – he’s hardly going to say ‘well I was thinking of heading to Courtown for three weeks during and get wild on Dutch Gold so who gives a shit’. This is turned into some mini-horror story where words like ‘scared’, ‘feared’, ‘sweated over’ and more overblown nonsense gets brought out to fatten up a non-story. Hello double-page spread.

Storeeeee bud: Hotels in South Africa are raising their prices by up to 440% for next summer's World Cup finals. (Daily Mirror)
What it actually means: No shit Sherlock. Irish hotels raise them 300% for a bloody bank holiday. Anyway, a 440% rise for a South African hotel means they’ll cost around 60 yoyos for the presidential suite.

And finally… (possibly not as accurate on my descriptions here…)

Storeeeee bud: Gillingham boss Mark Stimson says referees would get less stick if they went back to wearing black rather than multi-colour outfits. Stimson said: "They get enough abuse as it is. As soon as they walk out with pink shirts on, people laugh at them." (The Sun)
What it actually means: Mark Stimson finds Graham Norton funny and he’s worried this may be the start of something life-transforming.

Storeeeee bud: Preston legend Sir Tom Finney has told National Football Museum bosses that he wants all his memorabilia back if they leave Deepdale to move to Manchester. (The Sun)
What it actually means: There is no Tom Finney. Football didn’t exist before 1992.

More infotainment soon, later

Monday, 28 September 2009

"There’s a physical courage Bill, and then…"

Hey folks,

Johnny Giles better save up some moral courage to get over this one. Apparently, according to Leeds fans, one Tony Yeboah – he of two cracking goals against Liverpool and Wimbledon and little else – was a better player for the club than oul’ Johnny, who spent 12 seasons in Yorkshire.

Still choking on his RTE canteen coffee at this betrayal by his former club’s fans, Gilsey won’t like hearing that in addition to being beaten into fourth place by the Ghanaian in a poll to discover Leeds’ greatest ever player, a certain Lucas Radebe ranked second only to Bill Bremner when the final tally was counted.

Perhaps it was the genuinely wonderful achievement of making Dominic Matteo look vaguely decent alongside him, but it still is a little surprising to see Radebe’s name so high up all the same.

This is all part of a ‘major’ Sky Sports online poll that a mate pointed out to me yesterday, where they attempt to find out the best players of all time for each of the 92 league clubs as well as the clubs of the SPL. Though, how seriously you can take the whole thing when the Leeds page starts with the words “you have voted in your thousands…” before listing the total number of votes as 1,209, is up to question.

Elsewhere, Robbie Savage somehow made it in at number two in the Birmingham poll (don’t those fans hate him), while in the Liverpool section, Luis Garcia got more votes than Graeme Souness (who may well choke on his TV-licence funded frappuccino beside a gasping Johnny Giles were he to be told of that). Garcia also got more votes than Fernando Torres… and Jamie Carragher… and John Barnes.

Obviously, this is all just more Sky bumf to fatten their website, grab a few more hits and possibly form the basis of a cheap as chips TV show for the Christmas period. What it does quite brilliantly though, is illustrate just how pointless such polls are*.

You can’t rely on people, people are idiots.

That was a public service announcement brought to you by OkeyDokeFootball. The announcement refuting all this and making the case for Tony Yeboah and Luis Garcia will most likely be made by Declan Ganley in the coming days**.

Later, JJ

*I obviously exclude all vaguely ‘poll’ related posts from ODF (even any on Graham Poll) as I’m a fantastic hypocrite. Plus we tend to just ask for the most hated players/managers – which are far more realistic votes – as well as other solid categories like managers who look most like crack addicts (David Moyes will just not let that title go). We’ll stand over all these results any day.

**Beyond any harping on about a yes or no vote this week; that bald git just gets on my nerves and anyone who has their vote swayed by his arguments should be vaporized in an Iranian ‘power plant’ experiment and have their ashes scattered across the grounds of Ganley’s enormous home.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Weekend ahead

Alright folks,

A few quick weekend predictions to pick over, then obviously mock heavily come Monday morning. On a separate topic just how is it that Gillette can so consistently make Thierry Henry, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer look like such tossers in their adverts?

Just saw one there. All three dressed in black, laughing at whacking a ball at a bloke, just generally looking like a triumvirate of absolute prats. It’s exceptional work and it’s even managed to carry on into a new version where Federer and Woods are animated characters and Henry steals a razor from them.

Perhaps they should take a few acting lessons from John Barnes. But not from Jamie Carragher.

Anyway, we’ll trundle on

Portsmouth v Everton: It’s kicking off pretty soon and I can see Pompey picking up their first points of the season. Well, point. 1-1
Birmingham v Bolton: Hello puke football. Hello Kevin Davies header at the far post to win it. 1-2.
Blackburn v Aston Villa: Villa have won four on the trot, Blackburn have been sluggish so far this season but I’d say this will end up a draw. Most likely 1-1.
Liverpool v Hull City: I’ll go for 2-0, Phil Brown will have had to have drilled the importance of this game into his side considering the pressure he’s under at the minute. Now, while some would urge Hull to throw this game in order to get rid of the only man to have ever used Jeff Winter as a style guru, I’d say they’ll hold out for a while here but Pool should have enough to pull clear late on.
Stoke City v Man Utd: Owen and Rooney confident, Fletcher kicking every opposing midfielder out of the game (yes, I’ll admit usually within the rules) as well as Giggs and Scholes playing decent football for men aged 46 and 78 respectively. Unireh win, 76th minute goal, followed by one in the 99th. 0-2.
Tottenham v Burnley: Burnley have been woeful on the road this year, they were horrendous at Stamford Bridge, laughably poor at Anfield and against a Spurs side delighted to playing someone outside the top four up against them I can’t see their record on the road getting any better. 4-1
Wigan v Chelsea: Six wins on the trot, a good few lucky wins along the way, I think Chelsea will run into an obstacle here and draw 1-1. I am, of course, wrong, but at the minute this result makes sense to me.
Fulham v Arsenal: Fulham won this game last year and this could be a cracking game. Fulham half time (1-0), draw full time (2-2)
Sunderland v Wolves: Sunderland should get back on track here. 2-0.
Man City v West Ham: City’s home form last year was amazing and that’s carried through to this year while West Ham have been pretty well… meh. They might give City a few problems but not enough to get anything. 1-3.

Later, JJ

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The headlines… ODF: Not Dead; Sol Campbell: Hilarious; Steven Ireland: Dead to ODF

Howaya folks,

First off, we’re not dead, which is a bonus to our mind.

I had intended to do a piece on the ‘fackin shit innit’ trend of hooligan movies we have to endure from idiotic English directors who somehow think these stories are important, along with a review of the weekend and indeed a preview of it and in fact about five or six different pieces in the last few weeks… however, I had to edit a decent paying magazine on something so trivial it would make your eyes bleed to read it.

Such is the life of a freelancer. It’ll keep me in pints and all the horrendously over-priced Superquinn vegetables a man could desire for a few weeks though so had to be done. Anyway, seeing as how very few people are employing me this week I’m back in the game baby…

Where better to start than Sol Campbell. A man now called Judas by the fans who knew him for longer than any others, this time he didn’t even give himself time to build a good, bad or indifferent reputation with Notts County supporters. But just what could have driven Campbell out the door so quickly?

I am a man to jump to conclusions so I’ll put it right down to him not fitting in at County to such a miserable degree that he thought about his holiday home in France/Spain/New York and then thought about the team bus on the way to Lincoln come Saturday week. With that, he made the choice that any man in his position would have made. He got the fuck out of dodge.

This morning he apparently chucked his most likely shit training gear back in the locker and got in the only car to compare to Sven’s in the car park. Campbell is at an age, and at a club, where he of course can call the mistake himself. It’s a rare enough situation. Dozens of players (not an exaggeration) who signed for Roy Keane at Sunderland must’ve known within two training sessions and a reserve game that they would either get zero Premier League playing time, or indeed just plain well hated Sunderland.

Yet, most were young blokes still making their cash and going to a club to hand in a resignation would only result in a lawsuit or three, other clubs thinking you’re a trouble maker and, most likely, a straight choice of a loan move to Dundee or Dundee United. Given those options, keeping the head down at training and playing out your contract until a move comes up sounds a decent bet.

Campbell however, having played at the highest level, as well as Spurs, was facing into misery he didn’t need. So, while at times he does strike you as being a little batshit crazy (indeed nearly approaching Tony ‘Quote the Raven’ Adams levels of crazy at some moments), all in all this seems a sane decision. Especially as the move – along with comments such as "I think eventually I'll play in the Premier League again - who knows? By the end of my fifth year, who knows? Player manager, or player coach, who knows?" – sounded so monstrously stupid in the first place.

Campbell has seen sense, now I only hope that ‘Arry Redknapp signs him for one final, hilarious chapter in his playing career.

The playing career of Stephen Ireland though is finished in many Irish eyes though, he’s now just the bald git in the middle of a team of tits at Man City. I meant to get to this before now but his comments over the weekend that Trapattoni’s “arrogance” has driven him away from the national side brings two things to mind.

Firstly, that Ireland retired from international football for the first time at about the age of 15 having been upset by Brian Kerr’s decision not to play him for his country at a tournament in Cork, so looking at bigger picture we shouldn’t be surprised at this stage that the poor little fella’s feelings are so easily hurt.

Secondly, and most importantly, Giovanni Trapattoni has won the Serie A title twice as a player and seven times as a manger; won the European Cup twice as a player and once as a manager; the Uefa Cup three times as a manger along with league titles in Germany and Portugal to boot.

How could he be so arrogant to a man who won Man City’s player of the season award when they finished 10th in the Premier League last year?

There’s only one person getting above their station here and it isn’t the Ireland manager.

Later folks, JJ

Friday, 4 September 2009

Ireland to get over that Cyprus hill (sorry)

Afternoon folks,
About 30 seconds after Ireland conceded their fifth goal on their last trip to Cyprus I finally shook myself out of my silence, looked across the room at my housemate and asked a simple question:

“How can we be beaten five-two by a bunch of peasants?”

Now, while there’s a hint of casual racism there (it was in jest for feck sake… plus very few of them probably have a decent MP3 player, and the lack of one of them marks anybody out as a peasant in my book) I genuinely couldn’t believe that as a footballing nation we had sunk so low.

Even after being beaten by Macedonia 3-2 in the mid-nineties you felt the team could recover, but that night there was just a sense of hopelessness. There were plenty of games left in Stan Staunton’s ill-fated attempt to get us to Euro 2008 but we knew the jig was up that night.

Fast forward to today, on the eve of a game that could hugely strengthen Ireland’s position in Group 8 – with Italy having a bugger of a double header involving a game away in Georgia and then back home to face Bulgaria on Wednesday not to mention a visit to Croke Park to contend with next month – and any current woes seem very, very mild indeed.

Okay, so Liam Miller is in the squad and Andy Reid isn’t. Okay , there’s still no Stephen Ireland. Alright, the defence has looked shaky in the last two games, or to put that correctly, Kevin Kilbane has looked positively dumb as a doornail in his last few outings at left back. But even so, this team should beat Cyprus.

Most likely it’ll be in the same tight manner that we inched past them at Croke Park last year, when one Damien Duff shuffle and neat cross for Robbie Keane early on was the difference between the two sides. The only thing that may hamper any type of result is the concession of an early goal, but even so there’s no chance of the type capitulation Staunton oversaw simply because of the level of organisation built into Trapattoni’s style of play. It’s rigid, but it’s also seen us go undefeated thus far in the group.

Cyprus have five points from six games with only one win under their belt, drawing at home to Montenegro last time out having been two up. They also ran Italy close at home but lost out to a late goal. In short, keep it tight and they’ll blink first.

Prediction: 1-3

Dis, dat, and de udder

Hiya folks,

First up, apologies for the lack of blogs of late – work, a number of recently bought DVD boxsets, laughing at Chelsea and, let’s face it, beer have all got in the way of getting some thoughts down on the ODF pages.

However, like I said the last time, it’ll never happen again.

So now, a quick run through of the big matters before an international preview later…

First off, John Terry must be absolutely disgusted that he’s signed a new deal. With all the leverage that a transfer embargo brings he could’ve got that nine-year contract he wanted a few seasons back, along with a guarantee of becoming manager, a diamond-speckled ivory hook for where he puts his shirt in the changing room, the biggest car in the world and possibly several sections of Russia.

As it is, Terry, like the rest of the Chelsea squad will have to make do with the incredible amount of power the ban on Chelsea buying players until January 2011 brings them. If it remains, and it should considering all the underhand dealings that got John Obi Mikel as well as who knows how many other young, promising players to Stamford Bridge in recent years, Carlo Ancellotti will find himself as the only big name in danger of being shipped out of the club should all go wrong in the Premier League or Champo League(o). Of course, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and several other English sides have been guilty of this kind of crap for years (why Spain hasn’t changed it’s laws to stop the top English sides poaching guys like Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Piqué and Daniel Pacheco is a bit of a mystery though) so it may just be the first example of such a ban but for now, laughing at Chelsea’s plight is great craic.

One upside may be the promotion of some of the Chelsea youth squad, though Gael Kakuta, the French youngsters at the centre of all this, may find himself not quite the cult hero when his time comes. One other bright spot may be some real changes in how Chelsea are run, and here’s hoping the Champions League-winning walking paper weight that is Peter Kenyon gets moved to his rightful place fixing the photocopier.

Arsene Wenger’s contention that the heavy Scots contingent at UEFA influenced the decision to single out Eduardo’s dive against Celtic the other week is sounding more plausible by the day such is the frankly Clouseau-esque approach to the incident. Players dive, they have in vast numbers since the early ‘90s and it’s become an accepted part of the game. It’s wrong, it’s bad for the game, down with this sort of thing etc, but this piecemeal two-match ban is not the way to stop it.

The seemingly subsequent decision to stop the punishments with the Croatia international’s ban is UEFA reverting to type and revealing themselves as having zero balls when faced with the prospect of creating real change. It’s this kind of attitude that has left Scotland ruled by England for thousands of years I’d say – the odd attack but full scale revolution? Not for them. Loser Celts, that’s all they are*.

If UEFA were to realistically say it’s not a witch-hunt they should have a panel set up to punish all divers from now on. As it is, it seems that whenever Andy Roxburgh, or whichever Scot it was, gets a little miffed, UEFA will bow to their wishes, but will stop short of bringing justice for all by not setting up a full time deterrent to place judgement on all Champions League and Europa League games from now on. Typical upper level mismanagement from a football governing body.

Nicklas Bendtner was wanted by Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. No. He. Wasn’t. Actually, I think I’m actually starting to warm to how deluded he is.

Back with an international preview later on. To finish now, a (shit) song.

Later, JJ

*I am of course joking there, and it could be worse lads, ye could be Welsh, they never even got a movie where William Wallace pinned the blame on the jews… :o)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Opening day blues cur(b)ed

Hey folks,

Well after Liverpool's pretty dire start to the season (not to mention a sloppy start for my Fantasy League team) I had the wind somewhat taken out of my sails, so luckily the above picture has come to light. Season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm is reuniting the cast of Seinfeld which is a very, very good thing.

However, should Pool lose tonight I may turn to six per cent cider and lots of it, as there's only so much joy that Michael Richards finally getting a job can bring into one's day.