Month: July 2006

United We Stand

Well, there was a moderately interesting weekend of football played over the last couple of days, but I rather think that the novelty of friendlies has worn off, and I’m starting to get impatient for the full season to get under way. In the friendlies, Manchester United came a bit of a cropper by going down 2-1 at Preston (although they did field a team largely consisting of reserve team players and youth team players), and Spurs continued their decent warm-up form by beating Inter 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Of course, it doesn’t pay to read too much into this sort of result, although I was somewhat taken aback to see the BBC Website comment that Teemu Tainio’s performance was showing that there is “life after Michael Carrick”. One swallow does not a summer make. Inter may be the Italian champions (surprising, but true nevertheless), but this was only one friendly. Other than that… Fulham 0-0 Real Madrid. Still: at least Fulham got a better result against real than Plymouth did the other week. You never know – Michael Carrick may just end up regretting a move to Old Trafford. Sure, he’ll get to play in front of 73,000 people every other week and he’ll play in the European Cup, but the cracks are showing at Old Trafford. Giggs and Scholes are ageing rapidly. Van Nistelrooy stomped off...

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Single European Currency

Well, the English interest in the European Cup began in earnest this morning, when Liverpool and Arsenal got their draws in the European Cup (“Champions League”, my arse) third qualifying round. Both of them should, theoretically, sail through, though Liverpool’s players and supporters have justified reasons to be more than a little bit nervous at the prospect of a trip to Israel to play Maccabi Haifa, given the somewhat tense situation at present, especially when this is coupled with Tony Blair’s continuing kow-towing to America’s repulsive foreign policy. There’s talk that the away leg will be moved to Tel Aviv, and Liverpool are already lobbying to get it played the hell away from Israel altogether. If I was in charge of UEFA, I’d get them to play it in Baghdad. I’m not sure what it would prove, but it would amuse me. Arsenal, on the other hand, are already talking about going “one step further” than they did last season, which seems a little rich coming from a team that finished some distance off third place and only just limped into fourth place last season. Indeed, the “Dodgy Lasagne” incident before the Spurs-West Ham match in May has already entered the lexicon of the Spurs Conspiracy Theorists’ Hall Of Fame, in the “Cheating Arsenal” section. FK Ekranas (Greek, I think), or Dinamo Zagreb lie in wait for them. As...

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A Stirling Performance

My various rantings on Scottish football have probably been boring all you bar one person all week (and there’s every chance that they’re boring him too), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give a mention to East Stirlingshire – possibly the worst team in the history of British senior football. This is a team that has amassed a grand total of 66 points in the last four seasons, has a wage cap of £10 per week, and has the only unpaid manager in the whole of British football. Clearly, there’s something going on here that deserves my further attention. They’re so bad that the story goes that the other Scottish League teams are trying to get the League to bring in promotion and relegation just to get rid of them. But, having said all of the above, one can’t deny that there’s something inherently charming about a team that is completely wretched, week in week out, and that just doesn’t seem to really care. Also, their website (although it has one or two irritating noises on it) is humourous and good-natured (if you want to check this for yourselves, I’d suggest a quick visit to their Player Profiles section, where right-back David Harvey names “scoring two own goals against Queen’s Park” as his “Most Memorable Moment”). It’s also notable that only one of the players isn’t single....

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A Few Thoughts Before I Go To Bed

With all this getting needlessly over-excited about the forthcoming Scottish league season (and I don’t really know where that came from), I feel rather as if I’ve neglected this week’s news highlights, and it’s been rather a peculiar week, news-wise. First up, Liverpool have acquired Birmingham’s enfant terrible, Jermaine Pennant, for £6m. Having already snapped up Craig Bellamy from Newcastle, Rafael Benitez appears to be on a one-man mission to field the worst disciplined team in the history of English football. Look out for transfer gossip regarding Robbie Savage, Kieron Dyer and Roy Keane over the next week or so. With Harald Schumacher to join them as goalkeeping coach. Equally odd is the story about Jermaine Defoe reportedly issuing a plea to Michael Carrick to stay at Spurs rather than joining Manchester United. Unlike Damien Duff going from Chelsea to Newcastle at what should be the peak of his career, even the most ardent of Spurs fans would have to agree that, by and large, going to Manchester United, for all the moral issues surrounding it, can never be considered a bad career move. It’s worth considering that Defoe has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford. Maybe he just really hates Michael Carrick. Just a thought. Elsewhere, Pascal Chimbonda, whose particularly classy move of handing in his transfer request on the last day of last season...

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Say Hi-Hi To Your Mom

I thought I’d continue with my Caledonian theme, what with the Scottish League starting this weekend and everything. The plight of East Stirlingshire to follow tomorrow (or maybe later tonight), but tonight I’d thought I’d focus on Glasgow’s long-forgotten “third” club (and I say this in full knowledge of the existence of Partick Thistle): Third Lanark. Third Lanark were formed before either Celtic or Rangers. 1872, to be precise. As you may have gathered from the name, they were initially connected to the military, but the link soon ended, and the Hi-His (so nicknamed because their ground was an altitude which meant that it overlooked the rest of Glasgow) became one of the powerhouses of early Scottish football. They won the Scottish League in 1904 and the Scottish Cup twice. As Celtic and Rangers cemented their stranglehold on the Scottish League, though, Lanark struggled. They yo-yoed between the two divisions of the Scottish League in the 1920s and 1930s, but settled again in Division One in the mid-1950s, and reached the final of the Scottish League Cup as recently as 1959. During their last great period, a number of (relatively) well-known players played for them. Bobby Craig, who would go on to star for Newcastle and Celtic, was one. Ally McLeod (best known for his magnificently deluded management of Scotland at the 1978 World Cup) both started and finished...

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