Category: Latest

Andre Villa Boas Reaches Deep Stall Speed

There is no disguising what happened to Tottenham Hotspur at The City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Spurs’ defeat at the hands of a Manchester City team that has otherwise blown hot and cold a little this season was as comprehensive as any in the Premier League this season, and it’s not impossible to see both the result and the performance as having something of a symbolic feel to it. From the very start of this season, Andre Villa Boas’ team has had the air of one riding its luck about it. Wins have had a tendency to be by a single goal, which hints at the thin margins between victory and defeat at the rarefied altitude at the top of the Premier League, whilst defeats have had a crushing feel to them. A narrow loss to Arsenal before it became apparent that Arsene Wenger’s fine tuning had built a team capable of seriously challenging for the league title. A three-nil defeat in the derby that isn’t a derby except it is a derby against West Ham United. Another home loss, this time against the sporadic basket cases of Newcastle United. And then, of course, there was last Sunday’s calamity. In an ideal world, perhaps, it might have been possible to write the Manchester City defeat off as a bad day at the office against an outstanding opposition...

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“Soft Power” Goes To Richard Scudamore’s Head

“Gawd, doesn’t he go on?” I thought as I watched Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore’s latest performance in front of a parliamentary sub-committee.I place no inverted commas around performance, as Scudamore’s overbearing contribution to last week’s session of the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power & the UK’s influence was just that. And despite there being three witnesses, Scudamore spoke for 50 of the session’s 79 minutes. There was an obvious anomaly in the English Premier League chief addressing a committee examining “the use of soft power in furthering the United Kingdom’s global influence & interests” and “expected to consider whether the league can be still be described as a British institution.” That said, the EPL is a considerable source of “soft power.” This is a  American-born concept – shock! – born in Harvard University in the early 1990s and defined as “a persuasive approach to international relations, typically using economic or cultural influences.”   Any deeper analysis would turn to psychobabble within seconds. But according to a 2012 survey by “global affairs lifestyle magazine” Monocle, the UK bests the world at using soft power – although the survey’s proximity to the London Olympics probably influenced that result. The committee chairman, Lord Howell of Guildford, was as obsequious to Scudamore as any previous parliamentarians. He happily cited the English league’s role “in promoting British culture, influence and values around...

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Bundesliga Week 13: Bayern Win The Big One

The Bavarian themed basement pub in London last Saturday evening was so packed that people were sitting on the stairs outside the entrance looking through the doorway in order to get a glimpse of the Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich match. Locals said that they had never known the place to be this busy and it’s a measure of how highly anticipated the fixture was that people were prepared to stand cheek by jowl with complete strangers just to watch a game down the pub on German TV. The silly thing was that the game was also on UK TV and there were a couple of nearby sports bars where you could have watched the game in comfort. But then, as my friend said at the time, “Where’s the fun in that?” The game itself ended 3-0 to Bayern although Dortmund were not as bad as that. Their greatest crime was that they were profligate, something they have been guilty of in their previous defeats this season. In fairness, Bayern keeper, Manuel Neuer, did have some saves to make however Marco Reus and particularly Robert Lewandowski had good chances to score but failed. The opening goal came from the returning villain, Mario Götze who elected not to celebrate in front of his old home crowd, despite the fact that his insides must have been exploding. Despite going a goal...

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Sixty Years Ago Today: England Brought Down To Earth By Magnificent Magyars

Seldom has there been one match that has come to define the fortunes of two football nations as appropiately as the afternoon in November 1953 when the Hungarians landed in London. The shock and horror with which the result that afternoon was greeted, however, also indicated the begnning of another trait in the history of the English national team, a brief period of turbulence followed by relative inactivity and plenty more of the same, underwhelming football and – with one, brief, glittering exception – a familiar feeling of relative under-achievement. In short, the twenty-fifth of November 1953 was the English national football team was found out, by a mass audience, for the first time. For those who paid close enough attention, the signs of decline had been clear for several years. In 1949, the Republic of Ireland became the first non-Home Nation to beat England away from home, when they won by two goals to nil at Goodison Park. A year later, a considerably more seismic shock should have hit the Football Association when the United States of America beat England by a single goal during the World Cup finals in Belo Horizonte. A complete lack of television coverage and minimal newpaper coverage, however, meant that the myth of innate English superiority was allowed to further fester. On the other side of Europe, however, a sporting revolution had begun...

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Ireland: O’Neill and Keane, The Rollercoaster Ride Begins

I’M GETTING OLD – EPISODE 94. I wasn’t looking at the TV when Marian Pahars’ name was first mentioned. But the memories were instant.Into the mind’s eye came the diminutive “Latvian Michael Owen” (which dates the reminiscence) being submerged by fans at The Dell (which dates it again) as he celebrated his first Southampton goal. “Who’s he playing for now?” I thought, as my eyes turned screen-wards to see new Ireland boss Martin O’Neill greeting a slightly crumpled little middle-aged man in a slightly crumpled little middle-aged suit. “Marian Pahars, the new Latvian coach,” the Sky TV commentator said. And I died a little inside. Pahars was in charge of a Latvian side so poor even Sky’s Ray Houghton said so, live on-air – not how Sky co-commentators are supposed to promote their ‘product.’ As such, they were ideal opposition for the dawning of a new era in Irish international football – akin to the “cannon-fodder” opposition which, in boxing, is given to a successful amateur for his first fight as a pro. To be fair, O’Neill’s (& Roy Keane’s) Ireland could have done almost nothing more than they did against the Latvians – convincingly beat them with a bit of a swagger. If the latter stages of Ireland’s 0-0 draw in Poland could have been a straight lift from the Giovanni Trapattoni era, there was still plenty of...

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