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Month: March 2007

Web Round-Up

I’m somewhat glad that we’re through with the European Championships for a while. It’s too much football and not enough football at the same time. If you missed all of it this week, you’ll be able to catch it all on Saturday, on “Football Focus”. The next couple of days will give us all a few days to catch our collective breath, so I thought that now would be as good a time as any to catch up on my football picks from the internet. First and foremost, I should apologise to anybody that doesn’t appear on the list below – there are plenty of excellent sites and blogs that won’t be listed below because, to be honest, there are too many to list. I’ve also left out links related to specific clubs. These are in no particular order, and are all taken from the links section on the right (with a couple of exceptions). Culture Of Soccer: So, you think that Americans can’t write intelligently about football, hmm? Wrong, and “Culture Of Soccer” is proof of that. The American perspective on the world game is an interesting one, and deserves more attention that it gets. MLS is an intriguing league – far more egalitarian in its structure than the major European league – and I will attempt to post something about it before its season starts. Highly recommended....

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Bloody Hell.

For those of you looking at this tomorrow morning, I didn’t sneak back and add my prediction for the England match after the final whistle. A 3-0 win away to Andorra. The result alone says quite a lot, really, but there was much more to it than that. As has been noted elsewhere, Andorra, with ten men behind the ball, kicking away at the English midfield like lumberjacks with blunt axes, and tumbling around or time-wasting from more or less the first minute, hardly fitted the bill of “plucky underdogs”, but England were so devoid of, well, anything, that my sympathy for them didn’t take long to start festering. Rooney wasn’t interested in anything other than getting in a fight, Lennon’s delivery was absolutely shocking, Ashley Cole seemed incapable of even being able to control the ball properly, and Steven Gerrard’s passing from midfield was bad enough to make me start wondering whether he has issues with depth perception. Against a motley collection of (in a fairly literal sense) butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, England were dismal. They were limited, in the first half, to a couple of shots from outside the penalty area, and the crowd were more than generous in only booing them off at half-time. If I’d spent over £500 on flights, transfers, a hotel room and spending money and witnessed that, half of their heads...

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Wednesday Night Fever

I’ve cajoled someone into watching Andorra vs England with me tonight, so this will have to be fairly quick. Several things have come up which don’t warrant whole pieces devoted to them and, of course, I’ll probably find the time later tonight for a quick round up of all of tonight’s shenanigans (though I might be quite drunk, so apologies in advance for the spelling and grammar). Tonight’s Football: I don’t really think that there’s anything that England can do tonight to repair their reputation. They’re playing a team that would most likely struggle in the Nationwide Conference, and anything short of The Mother Of All Hidings will be seen as little short of humiliation. Germany beat San Marino 13-0 last year, so they should really be aiming to top that. Frank Lampard fractured his wrist this afternoon, which saves Steve McClaren one headache – having to leave out Owen Hargreaves to accommodate two players that can’t really play together in central midfield – but the bare fact is that it’s all so much nonsense, really. It doesn’t matter. English football (and, I could argue, English culture generally) needs a head-to-toe shake-up, and scoring a hat-full tonight will prove nothing other than that England can beat one of the worst two or three teams in Europe. I’m keen to watch this for its potential car crash qualities. God. What...

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Second Strings

If there’s one thing to be said about modern managers, it’s that they come out with a more or less constant stream of crap. It keeps most of us humble bloggers in business, you know. Whether it’s Mike Newell criticising women (and now may be a pertinent time to point out that he is currently out of work, whilst the assistant referee that he slated is still gainfully employed) or Arsene’s increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories (I don’t understand it either, Arsene – why should your team have to play more matches in order to win competitions than teams that get knocked out?), the modern football manager seems uniquely able to open his mouth and allow a stream of ill-conceived rubbish to pour forth before even stopping to consider what he’s saying. On top of this, at the very top of the game, where the managers have every single advantage over the rest that they could possibly imagine, they’re becoming more and more brazen, and now Rafael Benitez has stepped in and said what we always suspected the top clubs wanted: the whole structure of English football should basically be disrupted to suit the interests of the biggest clubs. He wants Premiership clubs to be able to field reserve teams in the Football League. Considering that he’s been in this country, Rafael doesn’t seem to have learnt much about English...

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Single European Currency

Way back when, in the days of midweek highlights only on the television for international football matches, there was a strong sense of order to proceedings. An hour-long edition of “Sportsnight” would feature England’s latest bumblings at a quarter-full Wembley, followed by brief highlights of Scotland and Wales, before finishing up with Northern Ireland, at a usually rain-sodden Windsor Park, usually accompanied by the strangely comforting voice of Jackie Fullerton. In the spirit of those cosy, warm evenings, it’s time enough for a round-up of how the other “home” nations got on at the weekend. Considering what happened to them in 1974, 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1996 (yes, I did deliberately leave 1978 out of that list), there’s a fairly powerful case for saying that Scotland are due a little luck. You might have thought that they would struggle, having suddenly and unexpectedly lost Walter Smith as coach, and they certainly made a meal of their win against Georgia against Hampden Park on Saturday afternoon. Having missed a number of excellent chances, they eventually took all three points with a late, late strike by Celtic’s Craig Beattie. It looked, for quite a while in the evening, unless Lithuania would do them a favour by holding France to a draw, but a second-half goal by Nicolas Anelka put paid to that, and now they have a crucial match in Bari...

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