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Month: October 2006

Any Old Iron

On Sunday, Teddy Sheringham, aged 40 years and 210 days, scored the goals that might just keep Alan Pardew in his job. There’s no question in my mind that any decision to release Pardew on the basis of West Ham’s recent form would have been foolish in the extreme (and West Ham are by no means out of the mire yet), but the fact that Sheringham is still firing in crucial goals in the Premiership deserves some scrutiny. There is a small part of me which thinks that we shouldn’t be surprised by this. Players are fitter than ever and, no matter what Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger would have you believe, they play less too. Their diets are better than ever, and their entire training regimes are scrutinised and pored over by coaches that are desperate to wring every last drop of efficiency out of their prized assets. Why shouldn’t the modern player last five or six years more than players used to? Well, with the increase in fitness has come an increase in the speed of the pace of the game. They play at one hundred miles per hour, these days. Also, the general standard of the league has improved. Cloggers like Vinny Jones wouldn’t last a second in the Premiership nowadays. It’s entirely plausible to argue that Stanley Matthews, who kept playing until shortly after his...

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Knights Of The Wrong Table

Sportsfreak examines the extraordinary performances of the NZ Knights; arguably the world’s worst professional football club. There was much excitement a week ago when the NZ Knights team scored not once, but twice in their “A”-League match against Adelaide FC. This trebled their goal tally for the season in the ninth match as they broke a 607 minute goal drought. However, this avalanche of goals occurred late in the second half when they were already 3-0 down, and they went on to lose 4-2; their seventh loss on the trot. The A-League is a strange beast; a manufactured tournament where the teams compete by invitation. It was formed in 1999, and required a modification to FIFA rules by a suspiciously versatile Sepp Blatter to allow teams from 2 countries to compete in the same league. It has grown over that time both in terms of playing standards and crowd numbers. It has served as a vital stepping-stone for Australian players to showcase their wares in from of European scouts and the game has now grown in a regionally polarised country in a sporting sense to a position where it is now the second biggest national sport behind cricket. Meanwhile, the New Zealand component of this competition has gone the other way. Originally called the Kingz (yes, that’s the correct spelling) they reinvented themselves as the Knights a couple of...

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The Weekend Ends Here

I’m more or less 90% convinced that St Albans City are cursed in the FA Cup. As I said on Friday, we were wipe for a hearty booting up in the air at Yeading yesterday, but no-one would have expected the way that they managed to cock it up. Just six minutes had been played when the Saints’ goalkeeper, Paul Bastock, thumped a Yeading player and got himself sent off, conceding a penalty into the bargain. Rumour has it that their reserve goalkeeper may have got injured in the warm-up – whatever the truth of the matter, City had no reserve goalkeeper on the bench, so striker Lee Clarke gamely volunteered himself. It wasn’t enough, and we were two down by half-time. My spies at the match report that it was pretty evenly balanced after this, and City pulled a goal back late on, also from a penalty. This angered the Yeading goalkeeper so much that he booted the ball towards the corner flag, and earned himself a second yellow card. Yeading, having used their three substitutes, also had to stick an outfield player in goal for the seven ensuing minutes of injury time. I’m minded to think that this may be the first time ever that a senior football match has finished with neither goalkeeper on the pitch, and both sets of nets being minded by disgruntled outfield...

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David vs David’s Older Brother

The FA Cup reaches the fourth qualifying round stage tomorrow. I should probably not get excited about this. These days, we’re told that the league is the be-all-and-end-all. The cup matches provide “relief from the grind of the league programme”. The FA Cup is a mere trinket, at best to be regarded as a potential money-spinner for the game’s impoverished many. Poppycock. Over the last couple of years, aided by excellent coverage by the BBC, the Cup has undergone something of a revival in its fortunes, topped off with a thrilling final last May between Liverpool and West Ham United. It’s the world’s oldest football competition, and I love it. A quick re-cap for those of you that are idly wondering what I’m talking about. The FA Cup doesn’t start at the first round. The first round is when the clubs from League 1 and League 2 enter into the fray. The clubs from the Premiership and the Championship enter at the third round stage (normally played on the first Saturday in January). The whole thing kicks off in August with the extra preliminary round and the preliminary round. There are then four qualifying rounds, culminating tomorrow, when the Nationwide Conference National teams join in. The winners of these games stand to make a bit of money. Sky Sports and the BBC both show live matches from the first...

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Fortune’s Always Hiding

Roy Of The Rovers’ cohorts will have to wait, I’m afraid. Far more interesting stuff is emanating from the Boleyn Ground, where West Ham’s season has gone from rumours of something like a fairy-tale future to complete, unmitigated disaster in the space of less than two months. And that’s without even taking into account the panic signing of Prince Harry, who is rumoured to be starting on Saturday against Blackburn. It was, of course, less than six months ago that West Ham pushed Liverpool all the way in the best FA Cup final in over fifty years. Their future seemed bright, with a squad packed full of exciting young players, but after winning just one match, their form has collapsed. It’s easy to assume that the signings of Mascherano and Tevez were the root of the problems. West Ham had, at that time, a settled squad, and were expected to finish in the top eight this season. Initially, the signings looked like the transfer deals of the year – two of the world’s best players on a free transfer. What could possibly go wrong? These signings were (and I was as guilty as anyone else on this particular subject) not really scrutinized as closely as they should have been. A young, predominantly British squad, not one of the better paid squads in the Premiership, was suddenly infiltrated by two...

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