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,