Monday, 30 March 2009

Anybody else think the booing on Saturday was a disgrace?

The headline says it all really folks, Ireland were booed off by sections of the crowd on Saturday and to be honest I think that was fairly petty. Okay, it was an atrocious performance from many of the team; and alright there’s always the excuse that ‘people have paid their money so aren’t they entitled to… blah blah blah’, but really on Saturday, it was the last refuge of the idiot.

The one thing most people get confused about when it comes to the Staunton era – and in particular when the side were booed off after the home draw against Cyprus – was that the majority of this anger was rooted in fans being tired of being taken for a ride by the yokels in the FAI. Hiring the Stan and Bobby show and pretending they had had a ‘world class’ team instead the more truthful ‘cheapest option we could find’ pissed off the nation and well it should.

Saturday was not a great showing by the side but booing McShane because he’s shite is hardly fair. Shout at him during the game, fuckin blog about him after if you feel the need but booing this time around was uncalled for.

The sad fact of the matter is that the people who did most of the booing were most likely the same fuckwits who tried to start Mexican waves throughout the many lulls of the game. And people who start the whole wave rubbish generally know as much about football as a deaf hedgehog, and the same goes for people who boo everything that displeases them rather than saving that displeasure for times when it’s actually warranted.

“People,” as Jerry Seinfeld said, “they are the worst”.

Later, JJ

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

José Mourinho to play Zod?

Versus old...
A little less threatening than the originals perhaps but the son of Jor-El will pay for crossing this lot. Wait a minute… powerful Jewish guy unceremoniously gets rid of an uppity know-it-all and his cohorts, the parallels are starting to appear all over.

Apologies to non-Superman geeks. Brief explanation part (a), and the far more obvious part (b).

Later, JJ

Monday, 23 March 2009

Robbie Keane: Moody? Cold? Shy? Fashion Guru? Buffoon?

Top, top photo for Jamie Redknapp’s Icon cover this month. Robbie Keane doing his best impression of Wilfrid from the Bash Street Kids.

All Along The Watchtower

Howdy Folks,

JJ has been hogging the blog for a while, in part due to my crisis of faith, my chronic indifference to football for the past 2 months. However, after a barnstorming sporting weekend, my faith in sport is re-energised*

It came from a stonking rugby performance, a boxing world title and thrills aplenty in the Prem. A thing that concerns me a lot in sport is nerve (or as Tim Flowers would say, "....and you can tell Alex Ferguson that this team has got bottle. Every one of them has the bottle to see this through...").

There were some splendid examples this weekend. Ireland have had at many stages, excellent players and excellent teams, but lacked that collective strength of will to win championships and grand slams. This weekend, they overcame that lack of belief, and deservedly won. It must be said, though, despite their best efforts not to.

Bernard Dunne, a loud mouthed upstart, whose last title shot had him knocked out in 90 seconds, overcame two fifth round mishaps to eventually pummel his opponent.

And in the Premier League, United, Liverpool & Villa illustrated things perfectly. Firstly, let me be clear about one thing. Nerve is linked to ability, but it supersedes it. All top players have plenty of it, demonstrated by the ability to perform week in and week out in front of millions. To back up my point, consider all the players who don't make it. We all know 'that guy at school' who scores 5 goals a game, who can dribble the length of the pitch, who can bamboozle any opposition. Who now works as an electrician.

So, starting with Villa then. Any team can get a hiding, can have a day to forget. Unfortunately for Villa, this is not the first time. Bet you wish you had the Uefa Cup now Martin? Villa are on a horrific run of form, but why? I discount the tired players notion. Undoubtedly some are tired, and out of form, it is the manager's responsibility to rotate them. And when did this start, February, the wobble month. And where were they - alernating between 3rd & 4th. As Arsenal were imploding, Villa were starting to believe, and with the seeming certainty of it, they crumbled. They are no more tired now than they were then. Some have pointed to Heskey's signing as changing the formation, others to Agbonlahor's goal-shyness, and others to Laursen's injuries. The real question is - were they good enough to get fourth? I think yes. Have they bottled it? Yes. Who is to blame? O'Neill and the players.

Onto Liverpool, who are a fascinating case study. How does it change, how do you get 'bottle'? Great in the cups, where Benitez is swift to seize upon the underdog tag, they flatter to deceive in the league. They hammer Barca, and lose to Boro. They haven't yet shown they have the nerve to win the league. But maybe that is changing. Yesterday, the Liverpool of a year or two ago, would have drawn or scraped a win, this year, they destroy Villa. Looking at the fixture list, all their opponents are beatable. Pool could, should, and crucially need to win all those games. Chelsea, Arsenal & United have, over the years, produced stunning form at this stage of the season, and these next weeks will tell if Liverpool have it in them.

Meanwhile, at Fulham, United implode. Scholes panics under pressure, Rooney blows his top and gets rightly sent off and Ronaldo sulks. They've gone from a potential 10 point lead to a 1 point lead in little over a week. Are they losing their nerve? They had plenty of it last season, holding their Permier League lead all the way, and winning the Moscow shoot-out.

Only a few short weeks ago, they won the Carling Cup shootout. So what's gone wrong then? It ain't tiredness either. I think it was over-confidence. Every press conference for a few months had loaded questions about the 'best team ever' and the 'quintuple'. They started to believe their hype, while simultaneously feeling the weight of expectation - a potential quintuple and 3 premier leagues in a row! Who wouldn't be overwhelmed.

So have I made sense or have been getting rusty during my lay off? Am I feeling the pressure? Could there BE any more question marks?


*(Though it must be said, 50% of that energy came from the Battlestar Galactica finale, which
not only was the one of the best shows of the past 20 years, it also had killer music.)

And then all this happened… which was nice


Plus this...

Plus this...

And this...

Well it equals a hell of a lot of bandwagons, but feck it what a weekend of sport. I was at the O2 for the Dunne fight after shouting myself hoarse in an oul' fellas pub during the Fulham game and then the rugby. What's more, along comes a Pool performance where Dirk actually passes the ball to his team-mates. Whodda thunk it, great stuff all round.

Later, JJ

Friday, 20 March 2009

Weekend kicks, Ghost Dog and Champo League draw

Whattup homz(s)

First off, one of the surprising elements of the blog of late has been our status as a bizarre update service on The Expendables starring Sylvester Stallone and every major action star of the last 20 years. I’m guessing it’s because most of our readers have Predator, Terminator and Tango & Cash amongst their top 20 movies of all time. And I salute that.

Well maybe not Tango & Cash but some manner of Stallone vehicle anyway (though obviously not Over the Top or Oscar either). So it is with a heavy heart that I report that Forest Whittaker has left the project. Yes Ghost Dog has left the building. We can only hope Inspector Todd from Beverly Hills Cop takes his place; that’s if the DA hasn’t been all over his ass to close the Tandino murder.

Moving on though…

Frankly this weekend should kick all manner of arse with the amount of sport on our screens. Egg chasing and boxing add to a fairly decent line up of Premier League games and here’s a short bash at predictions before getting on to that shocking draw earlier today…

Blackburn v West Ham: 2-1, Blackburn need the points and, apparently, if you scan down this page you’ll see that they think they’re worth it. Fat Sam’s sisters doin’ it for themselves eh.
Fulham v Man Utd: Hmmm… what I want to happen, 1-1. What will happen, fuck it, 1-1.
Newcastle v Arsenal: Arse get a rude awakening up north… for 20 minutes. Then romp home 1-3.
Portsmouth v Everton: Not a hum dinger by any means. Not anything really. 2-0.
Stoke v Middlesbrough: ‘Boro to get another win to move slightly up the table. 0-1.
Tottenham v Chelsea: Come on blobby Robbie, get another screamer against Chelsea this year. Okay, you’ll lose but anyway give it a lash. 1-2.
West Brom v Bolton: The Ginger Mourinho pulls it out of the bag again (careful) against his old club. 0-2.

Liverpool v Aston Villa: Home win, just. 1-0.
Man City v Sunderland: Home win, by a mile. 4-1.
Wigan v Hull: Football loses. Nah only kidding, Hull against Arsenal was great entertainment before it was over shadowed by the world’s most unlikely streetfightin’ man, Cesc Fabregas. Wigan meanwhile do play some decent football when given the chance. The JJB, soon to be renamed the DW Stadium (yippee more reasons to hate Dave Whelan) has to be the ugliest ground in the Premier League though. Real Madrid’s 1960 side would look like hoofers playing on that shite surface. How did I end up talking about this game so long… anyway, eh 3-1.

And then came this…

Villarreal v Arsenal
Manchester United v FC Porto
Liverpool v Chelsea
Barcelona v Bayern Munich

I had planned on writing some attempt at in-depth analysis of the ties we have been presented with but frankly I think the words ‘shit on a stick’ have never been so apt. It’s a terrible draw, a terrible one. Maybe an entertaining game between Bayern and Barca but despite the Germans huge score against Sporting Lisbon in the last round, they could blitzed in the first 20 minutes here, in fact I think they’ll be embarrassed over the two legs. This folks, is a team being left in Andriy Voronin’s wake. I think that says it all.

Keeping Bayern’s Sporting result in mind though you can only think United will ask the ref if they can blow up early once they get into double figures against Porto. Perhaps Arse will concede a goal or two against Villareal to make things interesting and then of course there’s…. well there’s shit on a stick at Stamford Bridge and Anfield.

For United fans it’s a decent draw obviously, with perhaps Arsenal stopping them in the semis their only fear. However, even the most ardent Unireh man has to admit these quarter finals look about as entertaining as a repeat of You’ve Been Framed. And I’m talking about an episode with the fat yoke from Emmerdale to boot, not even one where you could distract yourself by trying to get a glimpse of Jeremy Beadle’s freaky little hand.

Oh Uefa, why do you do these things to us?

Later, JJ

Monday, 16 March 2009

Something Happens

Howdy folks,

To quote the great Mike LaFontaine – wha happppennn??? Andrea Dossena, that’s wha happppennn my friends. Well not really, his goal was the icing on the cake of the 4-1 demolition ‘Pool handed United on Saturday, but what wonderful rotund Italian icing it was.

This was a game which, while surely not changing the direction of where the title is headed, may have changed a lot of the rules when it comes to meetings between these two clubs. Or to put it more bluntly – if ever Liverpool wanted to banish their inferiority complex when it comes to playing United, this was the only way to do it.

Even in the grand old days of Gerard Houllier’s bizarre dominance over United in games at the Theatre of Prawns* there was never a confidence about the side as there was on Saturday afternoon. That they completed the job having gone behind early on was a complete turnaround from the Liverpool psyche of the past 15 years.

The papers have obviously been full of talk of the influence of Torres and Gerrard, and pointing out that the two have only started nine (all unbeaten) games together this season. What was more interesting on Saturday though was the fact that Rooney and Ronaldo disappeared for such long periods of time; also by virtue of his absence from the starting line up, Ferguson all but told Dimitar Berbatov he simply isn’t pulling his weight enough in a period of the season where big games come around every week. Add in a Kuyt-a-like performance from Tevez and United’s front line had a woeful day.

Could United be in the position they are if their two main stars only started together nine times this season? Well it’s a pointless question so I won’t talk about it. But after the Inter game last week and Saturday’s performance, surely United fans are questioning if (a) Ronaldo still wants to be there and is worth the supposed £200,000 a week United are set to offer him, and (b) whether £30 million-man Berbatov will ever really make a difference in a huge game.

Ronaldo has the perpetual look of a man who has done everything he’s needed to do at United. Berbatov has the air of a guy waiting on his dole money. Their poor showings, along with Liverpool’s all round performance (which included a last minute back four shuffle and the much maligned Lucas in midfield) has many looking towards next season with interest as United’s lead looks too big to overhaul this time out. And in that very point lies the real problem this season for Benitez.

Because, while fans rejoiced for the majority of Saturday, as the pints wore on the realisation that the United monkey was off their back was tempered with the fact that this still left the Stoke, Fulham, Villa, Boro, Wigan and Hull monkeys, along with a few more to shake off. That’s a lot of monkeys. I’ll stop saying monkeys now.

Liverpool’s performance should have been the one that cemented their position at the top of the league, that is, had they picked up the points expected of them at home this season. That this wasn’t the case and that Benitez’s somewhat suspect judgement of his team’s abilities, or lack thereof, has left them with a mountain to climb means this was a great day in an odd year rather than a crowning moment of a great season.

Rafa may not be cracking up, but as Saturday threw up questions about United’s future as well, it still left plenty to wonder, when the dust settled, if Rafa can still make the leap to a league title next year when this season’s prize was so within reach.

Later, JJ

*Now, much as I’m loathe to slag off United fans, ahem, I had to point out an interesting pic which I think gives anyone who calls their ground the Theatre of Prawns (or other variations) plenty of ammunition. You have to scan through these F365 pics as there’s no direct link but about halfway through them there’s a great one of Stevie Me celebrating. Now, for Man U fans... you’re at home, you’ve just gone two-one behind to hated local rivals, their captain is celebrating right in front of you by kissing a TV camera. How do you react? Get that mobile phone out guys and take a snap for your big day out. What a pair of chumps.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Wisdom, porn, Champions League; y’know, the usual

My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it's a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky. Alan Moore.

Well I went and watched The Watchmen over the weekend and while pretty darn good it obviously wasn’t going to be as brilliant as the original comic strip written by the man who gave us the above quote. How do I tie-in a quote about genres and pornography to football? Well ‘loosely’ is the answer.

I hope, like most of you, that this week we absolutely don’t get what everybody’s predicting out of the Champions League (ruthless English dominance) and instead find a Moore-esque mixture, with the full gamut of surprises, great goals, excellent performances and decent games that the competition has thrived on for years (though the pornography may be an issue, unless of course ITV have another, and this time far dirtier, interruption to their schedule). Told ya it was a loose connection.

Anyhoo, with a fair amount of distinctly wishful thinking here’s my hoped for final eight heading for UEFA’s interminable quarter final draw somewhere in France later this month: ‘Pool (obvious reasons), Barcelona (better Lyon crumble now that inevitably in the next round), Athletico (Porto are boring as shite), Villareal (just plain better than the Greeks they face), Man U (just because I won’t let myself think they’ll be knocked out only to suffer more disappointment at their relentless form since November), Juve (obvious reasons), as well as (just have a feeling) Roma and (obviously) Bayern.

Elsewhere, one of our posters – JD – still has a decent chance of these coming in at 83-1: Porto, Man Utd, Real, Bayern, Roma, Panathinaikos, Chelksi and Barca.

Cue the music, the thrills, spills and bellyaches then let the hyperbole from the RTE panel commence. Hopefully no singing though.

Later, JJ

Friday, 6 March 2009

Fleeting Epiphanies, T-Pain and More Inglorious Bastards

I arrive to Friday in contemplative mood folks,

After wheezing my way through a five-a-side game in UCD last night there was a faint feeling of guilt over the judgement ODF hands out to players considering some of the open goals I missed and also my reliance on team-mates over the age of 40 to ‘do the running’ for the side.

Of course, it was a fleeting moment and in between doing some articles for work and preparing for an interview with this fuppin crazy Yank for this evening, I drew my attention towards those midfielders and strikers who flattered to deceive and who would join the ranks of yesterday’s Inglorious Bastards.

Without the resolve to go into as much detail as yesterday (and judging by a lack of comments I’ll say most of ye will be glad of that;o) here’s my list of men who were once heirs to throne but now mere jesters for the serfs. Who said the feudal system wouldn’t come in handy one day eh?


Jamie Redknapp: Injuries blah, blah, blah. Bad team-mates yadda, yadda, yadda. Sorry Jamie, you looked like you’d be a top top player© but look back at that career and you had as much wasted talent as any midfielder I can think of. Brilliant at times, but all too often when he was actually fit he got his arse handed to him by better central midfielders. God that felt good.

Mark Kennedy: Irish and Liverpool connections again but this guy could have been fantastic but became part of the chip sandwich brigade at the ‘Pool. Burst on to the scene with Millwall, was a transfer record fee for a teenager, even scored a cracker for Ireland against Yugoslavia but never ever lived up to the initial hype.

Kleberson: Arrived at United with a World Cup medal and a 16 year-old for a wife (he was due to go to Leeds halfway through the previous season but he couldn’t leave Brazil with her as she was underage). Left United with a battered and bruised reputation and stunk it up at Besiktas for a few seasons before arriving back in the homeland. Terrible.

Georgi Kinkladze: 106 appearances and numerous wonder goals for Man City had people comparing the Georgian to Maradona circa 1986 (that’s you Alan Hansen, surely up there with ‘you win nothing with kids’), ended up at Ajax where he was compared with Maradona circa 19 stone. He ended his playing career with a team called Rubin Kazan, who I think is one of the code names in Mission Impossible. Possibly.


Claudio Caniggia: Blast from the past. Lit up a terrible World Cup in 1990 before years of mediocrity in Serie A and even a few seasons in the footballing graveyard that is the SPL. Just beats Totò Schillaci to this one because while the Italian too was a flop in his post-Italia ’90 career he does like a pint of Smithwicks, which marks him out as a decent human being.

Mark Viduka: Certainly not a decent human being, the extremely rich but not often fit Viduka was shit-hot at Celtic and unbelievable in his first two seasons at Leeds. The guy now skulks around Newcastle hoping nobody finds him on match day lest he has to get his socks dirty. Big shame. Very big shame, ahem.

Have a good weekend folks, JJ

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Inglorious Bastards - Part 1

Heya folks,

Well, here’s ODF’s batch of rejects Mark One (see yesterday’s blog for more details) – the keeper and shambolic defence are first up on the wasted potential watch…

Beginning with the goalkeeper there’s a case for at least two ex-Liverpool shot stoppers – David James and Chris Kirkland. In both cases there are qualifiers; for one, most people seem to view James’ career as a success due to the amount of Premier League appearances he’s racked up in the last 15 years but then again he has blown a title for Liverpool (1997) and screwed up all manner of times for England. Then there’s Kirkland who could be seen as an unfair addition due to his persistent injuries. In both cases, it’d be harsh to say they’re the biggest goalkeeping wasters to grace the Premier League. Elsewhere, lest we forget, there’s Massimo Taibi, who began Premier League life as some manner of Superman versus Liverpool only to end up doing this.

However, all things considered I’m going for a man who had every opportunity and was shown up to be just plain not good enough for the Premier League. Richard Wright I’m looking at you. The man who famously had it written into his contract at Ipswich, that he would only leave if Arsenal came in for him. Arsenal did indeed come in for his signature and frankly he was appalling. Soon he was shipped off to Everton where he racked up 60 appearances in five seasons. Could have been Arsenal’s number one for a decade or more had he lived up to early promise he’s now back at Ipswich. I doubt he had that Arsenal clause written into his present contract during negotiations though.

Now for the back four and I’m going for an old favourite in Darren Peacock. Bought for a huge chunk of change at the time by Kevin Keegan Peacock initially looked solid enough in beside Philippe Albert only to fall to pieces in the famous 95/96 run-in and never recover. Soon enough he was at Blackburn and as injuries took their toll he went down the divisions.

Joining him at centre half well… if this was a piece on over-achievement we’d have David May in immediately but unfortunately there was never any raving about his talent, just amazement that United signed him followed by years of derision. Winston Bogarde could also get it but he was shit on a point of principle (according to him), valiantly fighting the powers that be at Chelsea whilst downing Bacardi and coke all day after training and picking up £40,000 a week (which kinda makes him our hero at ODF). Instead, the place in this team goes to Phil Babb.

I hate to say it (as he's supposed to be a decent bloke) but the man came to Liverpool for a record fee and spent the rest of his career meandering about the ‘Pool defence with none of the authority he had shown for Coventry or, in particular, for Ireland during the 1994 World Cup. For a man who once shared a pitch with Baresi and McGrath and looked the part, he would soon become one of the weak links which led to Roy Evans’ downfall.

At left back of course there’s the case for Roberto Carlos who scored that goal before moving to Real Madrid and generally fluffing free kicks for a decade. But, the fact of the matter is the guy won the Spanish League on four occasions and Champions League three times. He’s out on pure achievement. There’s no such problem when it comes to Ian Harte (okay there’s an Irish theme building here but maybe we over-hype them too much, anyway psychology debates another day).

He was Ireland’s Roberto Carlos of course after a blistering start to his Leeds career. He was there in the good times and he was more evident in the bad. He missed that penalty against Spain (so tragic there’s no clip on YouTube, only a montage of highlights from the 2002 World Cup and I won’t inflict that upon ye), then he went to Spain and played halfway decent whenever I saw him at Levante though was often in and out of the side. All this was before returning to Blighty and the embarrassment of being unable to find a club after a brief stint with Sunderland. Once wanted by Europe’s elite (or so his agent said), now forced to refute rumours he’s going to St Johnstone. Nice.

Finally at right back and giving the whole thing a little continental flavour it’s Paulo Renato Rebocho Ferreira. Come on, the guy cost Chelsea £13.2 million and a season and a bit later would find his boss, Jose Mourinho, saying

“What can you do with Paulo? Nothing”

He also said the same thing about Geremi, yet picked the Cameroonian midfielder consistently ahead of Ferreira at right back. All this for a player who was considered one of Europe’s top defenders after Porto’s Champions League win in 2004.

I’m sure there’s some I haven’t thought of and indeed some of the above who ye think don’t warrant their place so feel free to jeer/cheer/mock/correct information or just send on general ramblings in the comments section.

‘Til tomorrow folks, JJ

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

“I always said he’d be shite so I did”


First off, apologies for the slow as shit blogging ratio this week folks, will try to rectify that beginning now.

So, time to get some stuff off ODF’s chest. In the past few weeks certain fringe players have come under pressure to perform around the upper echelons of the Premier League, and indeed in Man United’s case the Carling Cup final.

The praise or damnation has been varied with some castigated as rubbish by the frankly batshit-crazier-by-the-day English and Irish press before they’ve had a chance to settle into the first team (Carlos Vela, Nabil El Zhar, Quaresma), and others crowned as world-11 in-waiting material (basically everyone under 25 who played for Man United last Sunday).

Now among that batch of United players deified time and time again since the Tin Pot Cup Final, Ben Foster has gotten the bulk of the column inches thanks to his penalty shoot-out save. Now, while I’m delighted he has discovered ye olde iPod at last, he really only had the wayward shooting of Aaron Lennon and a penalty at perfect height from Jamie O’Hara to trouble him on Sunday. Cue Manchester-based hacks in particular crawling out of Fergie’s hole to say he’ll be England number one in no time. Hope he patted ye all on the head for that shite lads.

Of course, we at ODF can hardly tell the world that Foster definitely won’t make it either; or indeed that Vela, Quaresma or El Zhar will prove the broadsheet reaction to their performances wrong in due time. Right now they’re all just targets for over the top bombast or fairly heavy handed fury.

A few performances doesn’t make or break a player, indeed Foster can just ask John O’Shea, who was set to be a world beater after some amazing performances in the latter parts of the 02/03 season and who is only marginally living up to that potential now. He could also look towards Emanuel Adebayor who spent the majority of his early Arsenal career being labelled as a Kanu-alike without the talent before becoming a striker most sides in the world would love to have.

While it’s a phrase that is too often used in the news pages these days, unfortunately we do have to wait for the ‘fullness of time’ to properly judge a player. With this in mind, and with hopefully a little more evidence on my side, I thought I’d try and find a starting eleven who were once considered to be the next big thing; who started their footballing life off as Foster-esque media darlings; but players who often ended up being as talented as a bag of flour.

For this list they have be those who flattered to deceive at the highest level only to find their home in the lower echelons of the game. The race to the back of the class is on. McPhail, Harte, Raul Bravo… and they’re just the Leeds contenders.

It’s the defence on Thursday, midfield and strikers Friday… but before I begin – any suggestions from your end folks?

Cheers, JJ

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Andriy Voronin and his missus

You stay classy Voronins.