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Monday, 20 September 2010

A Room With A Swan

A few months ago, I wrote about my lack of time for the ‘Betfair front room’. I didn’t like it. The saving grace though, if any, was that at least the morons would be punished for their inane opinions by losing money, albeit someone else’s, and getting rinsed, albeit by other actors (yes, they were actors, because one of them turned up in Luther on a regular basis, much to my amazement. And disgust).

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Reinvention of Ronaldo?

If you had a checklist of 'allegations levelled at Cristiano Ronaldo' (in a football sense), you'd normally be able to put a tick next to each one over the course of 90 minutes. Preening? Check. Too many stepovers? Check. Free-kicks? Check. Outrageous (and pointless) long-range shooting? Check. Other, more complimentary attributes (pace, aerial prowess, goalscoring record) are also identifiable more often than not.

Not against Ajax though. Even the favourite slight of his most fervent detractors, that of the Portuguese as a flat-track bully, seemed some way off the mark. Ronaldo wasn't necessarily bad against Ajax – he linked well as part of the triumvirate behind Gonzalo Higuain – but he was different somehow. Identity crisis, or the hand of Jose Mourinho?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hleb Today, Gone Tomorrow

It’s been a difficult couple of years for Alexander Hleb. Just 36 appearances (most as a sub), no goals and a season on loan at Stuttgart indicate that all has not gone to plan for the Belarusian at the Camp Nou since July 2008. It’s a dramatic fall from form and first-choice status at the Emirates. What happened?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Hero to Villain

I was personally disappointed to hear criticism from some corners when it was announced that Houllier was stepping into the breach at Villa Park. Unfairly, sentences about the Frenchman will always be tagged with the names Salif Diao and El-Hadji Diouf. This judgement is unduly harsh if you look at the squad he inherited, the funds he was given to work with and the facilities he had to work in. He signed some duds, yes, but what about Hyypia and Hamann, McAllister and Riise? Look at what, by contrast, Rafael Benitez inherited: state-of-the-art training facilities and back-room setup; a youth training academy to rival any in Europe; and a squad of decent footballers, decent enough that they won the Champion’s League within 12 months. A couple of Spaniards aside, the whole of that triumphant team were ‘Houllier’ players and the revamped foundations at Anfield are part of his legacy.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Wigan-a Stay Up

When you’ve conceded 10 goals in your first two games of the season, the immediate solution that almost certainly doesn’t spring to mind is, ‘let’s go and sign an attacking midfielder and a striker’. Not, that is, unless you’re Roberto Martinez.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Macc For Good

Five years ago, Macclesfield drilled Stockport 6-0 at Moss Rose. They finished near the bottom of the league, despite contesting a playoff semi-final the season before. With the most recent Cheshire derby yielding a very different outcome – and Macc failing to finish much higher in all the seasons since – Kat Norris highlights the tribulations of supporting perennial underachievers.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Putting the ‘Professional’ in ‘Professional Footballer’

There is an awful lot wrong with the game these days. I’ve been a football fan for only twenty years now and I already find myself daydreaming about times passed; traditions long gone, the way things used to be. Simple things like cigarettes, beer and Bovril that created the smell of a match day. Away days at grounds where you were genuinely a little bit scared of the raucous home support. The rivers of piss streaming down the terrace that marked the start of the second half. Good times.

Monday, 6 September 2010

No Tragedy For Hamlet At Dulwich

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or driving through a really long tunnel recently, you’ll know that Saturday, what with the international break, saw the brilliant Non-League Day concept come to fruition. And after the steady stream of publicity over the last few weeks, it appears to have been a success. Gates were up, anecdotally at least, and instead of watching millionaires kicking each other and falling over theatrically for 90 minutes, we got to see life at the wider wedge of football’s pyramid.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Non-League Leaders

A lot of people I’ve spoken to so far this season can’t remember the last time they went to a ‘live game’ of football. Most will be either just about to, in the middle of, or recently finished watching a ‘live game’ – on the telly – but this doesn’t seem to count. ‘I would go, but you know, it’s impossible to get tickets’. Ah, the Premier League – making fans watch telly since 1992.