Friday, 6 November 2009

Football Manager owns my life

Last week Football Manager 2010 came out. Anyone who knows me knows Football Manager owns me, not the other way round. But being a disciplined and committed post-graduate trainee journalist, I will not buy this and invest days of my life until the start of February.

My finest FM moment?

While notable mentions must be furthering the Ajax wonderteam in 97/98 and turning Schalke 04 and latterly Spurs (to who I prefixed all my players with emotive and descriptive titles [eg. The Magnificent Jonathan Scott; The Solid and dependable Karl Webb]) into world-beaters on FM 05. Also on 05 I left spurs at around 2020 to take over struggling Cardiff, guiding them to bottom of the Premier League at December with 2 points.

It was a source of incredible pride that I kept them up, mostly thanks to a striker I neglected and belittled at spurs...

But i think my best game has been on FM 09, where 9 months of hopeless unemployment equipped me to do very little else. Spurs again were my team, but after winning them everything, I got bored after about 10 years, and went on managerial hiatus: resigning and putting myself on manager holiday overnight. I woke up in 2027 and was immediately appointed manager of struggling Valencia, and thanks to countless hours scouring Peruvian U21 teams, have become an international tour de force.

On this 09 game, I have just hit the 20 day mark. A fantastic game.

I get married next July. Can FM and the wife exist in harmony?

And, what's your (or your boyfriend's?) finest FM moment?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I'm sorry

I'm sorry, poor blog.

Poor, neglected, sad blog.

Here's Pops little blog, it's going to be alright.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

"this one's optmistic, this one went to market"

Feel the optimism, brethren. Feel the optimism. This hallowed and blessed week is the sweetest, most hopeful and inherently beautiful week to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan.

Where a soft ignorant confidence reigns supreme in the upper echelons of that thing between your ears. This is the garden of Eden before the Fall.

Inevitably, Eve bites the apple, usually at about 5 O clock on Saturday afternoon: Benoit Assou-Ekotto falls on his arse, Heurelho Gomes jumps the wrong way, Ledley King crumples in an arthritic heap and Robbie Keane (and his manager) proceeds to blame everyone but himself. Paradise lost.

As many people who I can’t be bothered to research have clichéd over the years, it’s not the despair that kills you, it’s the hope. It won’t be Dirk Kuyt’s looping header winning it in the 85th minute, but the pre-match promise of improvement and 2 months meditation on the mantra “this could be our year”.

It couldn’t.

Nevertheless, this years optimism is less viral, and thus less dangerous, than the previous two summers. Under Martin Jol and Juande Ramos respectively, strong teams had (allegedly) been assembled. Strong league finishes and cup wins had wetted the appetite of both board and fans. Achievement gave way to further expectation, whilst expectation and hype gave way to the inevitability of underachievement. Jol was sacked with the side flirting with relegation, whilst the exact same fate befell Ramos a year later.

This year, as a result of the egg on Spurs fans’ faces the last few years, expectations are lower. Most fans would bite your hands off at a 6th place finish and some good cup runs. Personally, I’d absolutely demolish your hand for 17th and the FA Cup, football’s not about finishing 4th and getting richer, it’s about WINNING THINGS. But that’s another matter.

Spurs are stronger (he says, unbelievably tentatively) this season. Harry Redknapp, since his appointment, has established a settled atmosphere at the club, and the team have become, in Spurs terms at least, semi-consistent. For all Redknapp’s faults (and I’d have a wonderful time listing them to you), he has created a strong, united team and, crucially, bought players Tottenham actually need. Comolli take note.

The signing of Wilson Palacios last January was a key turning-point in the Spurs season. A Tottenham midfielder who could tackle. The sheer unheralded charm of it wowed fans last season, and completely galvanised the team. The anchor that Palacios provided allowed Luka Modric, far and away Spurs’ most important player, an attacking freedom which was key to the Lilywhites climbing up the table last spring. For a successful season this year at White Hart Lane, the creativity and guile of Modric will be key.

Spurs are far from the finished project, something that last year’s relegation scare confirmed, but they now have the base with which to build something promising. A quiet, solid season with Redknapp still around in May would continue do just that. But this is Tottenham, a team as far removed from quietness and predictability as a Jazz-punk collective. Things never happen how you think, we know that. With that, lingers the hope. That sick, damned hope.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Misery on the Mersey

Step outside, dear reader. If you can hear a loud exhalation - nay, sigh of relief, coupled with the fainter wailings of lovelorn Scousers, that’s the sound of Britain reacting to one of the summer’s most drawn-out and irritating transfers finally being laid to rest.

Like a pregnant Paula Radcliffe, Liverpool have finally given up the chase and accepted a £30m bid from Real Madrid for Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso. And once the brief period of satisfaction at having seen the last of the tedious to-and-fro between Anfield and the Bernabeu is over, one understands that Liverpool’s title bid could be over before it’s began.

For the last 5 years, Alonso has been the calming genius in the testosterone-fuelled mad dog of the Liverpool midfield. It is he, coupled with his partner Javier Mascherano, who has given the Reds’ midfield wile and brains, stopping opponents attacks whilst - crucially - starting their own. It is he who has allowed the previously inconsistent Steven Gerrard to shine.

Gerrard has frustrated Liverpool managers during his long career at Anfield, displaying the physical and technical abilities that suit him to all manner of positions, yet displaying a mental naivety that betrays him to nearly all.Over the last ten years, the Liverpool captain has played an attacking and defensive role in central midfield, sat on the right and left wing, even helped out at full back, yet too often his lack of discipline drifted him in and out of games, gifting opponents a foothold in the match.

It was not until Rafa Benitez’s master-stroke of buying Alonso in 2004, and the later purchase of Mascherano, that the midfield could be solid defensively, meaning Gerrard’s talismanic attacking abilities could be unleashed without doing harm to the team.

While this is undoubtedly a great loss for Liverpool - and one they tried vehemently to avoid - the opposite is certainly true for his new club, Real Madrid. It has already been confirmed by the Spaniards that this is a signing requested (for once) by Manuel Pellegrini, the Madrid manager, and not by the publicity-shy and notoriously frugal owner Florentino Perez. Which suggests that despite his hefty price-tag, Alonso will be seen not as a ‘Galactico’, but as a team player who allows the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Benzema and Raul to play. An unassuming and modest character, this will suit Xabi fine, and will not be unlike his role at Liverpool, where he often faded into the background compared to the power and flair of Gerrard and Fernando Torres and the beautiful face of Dirk Kuyt.

In the north of England, the chances of finding an available central midfielder with the passing ability and football brain of Alonso will be very long indeed for Liverpool. Many are suggesting that this will prove a massive stumbling block for their title aspirations. Whoever they land as replacement - optimists suggest Alberto Aquilani or even Cesc Fabregas, while United fans suggest Lee Cattermole - history suggests they may take a while to bed in, and history is one thing that becomes more of a burden year after year at a Premiership-less Anfield.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Romantic Eriksson picked up by Magpies

The little man's popped up again. Sven-Goran Eriksson, the bookish and mild mannered former England manager, has re-ignited his love affair with English football. Trouble is, this time our dear Sven has not chosen a young busty lovely with which to while away his lonely hours.

Oh no, Mr Eriksson has chosen the most aged babe at the bar. Notts County, at 147 years old, are the oldest professional football club in the world, with a history that pre-dates the Football Association, and now - due in no small part to County's recent takeover by Middle Eastern moneybags Mundo Finance - the famous Swede has moved to Meadow Lane to become the League 2 club's Director of Football. Yes, Director of Football. Yes, very 2005.

Notts County fans are, as one would expect, roundly ecstatic at bringing such a famous name to their club, with their more experienced fans comparing it to when County last upset the applecart, snaring Tommy Lawton, England's most feared marksman, in 1948.

Whilst there is no doubting this is an exciting move for County, some may say the opposite is true for Sven. Athole Still, Eriksson's agent, claimed 2 months ago that his client would "love to return to England", and at that point one would have expected Eriksson to draw the line at the top 20-placed English league teams, much less plumping for the team that finished 87th on the football league ladder last May.

But maybe, his detractors would claim, Sven is only doing what he has done throughout his career - chasing the cash. Whilst he built an incredible side at Lazio at the turn of the century, the side was lavishly put together and cost over £270 million of President Sergio Cragnotti's hard-earned Lira. His two stints in England, as national team manager and at Manchester City, were paid handsomely by clueless bigwigs and Thai billionaires respectively, whilst his most recent sojourn as Mexico head coach netted him £3.5 million per annum.

Or maybe we British are too cynical. Whilst our favourite Swede's jobs have often enjoyed a bounteous salary, he often chooses the romantic option. On and off the pitch. When he arrived at Lazio, the Roman club were a sleeping giant with just one Scudetto in their history, intent on rediscovering their glorious past. Ditto Manchester City, a once proud club who, with marked parallels to Notts County, now sit in the shadow of their famous neighbours.

As for Sven's most famous job, there is no doubt that even for a foreigner, the opportunity to re-unite football's mother country with sport's most cherished prize would appeal to but the hardened football fan.

The same is the case then with County, albeit to a smaller scale. Backed with a generous budget, Sven will try to restore a proud team to the heights they once enjoyed. Who couldn't find the romance in that?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

And I was so in love I thought I knew what love was all about

Thought it'd be nice to work out how to stick Youtube videos onto here. So now I know, whilst thirteen-year olds across the world smirk at my technological naivete.

Ruddy beautiful song though. Please come to England, Jens.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

"Sky sponsored 'Silly Season' sucks", says scribe

This time of the year, we are told by influential men who wear white coats sponsored by E-on, is officially known as Silly Season. When the overblown magniloquent Jabba The Hut that is football continues to rear it's unnecessary and unwanted head, spewing transfer filth to arouse expectant proles, dependant on their daily football fix.

We are told how Liverpool are to sign countless young Frenchman; how Real Madrid will splash filthy lucre on superstars; that Spurs are interested in all number of average English talent; that Manchester City want to buy all the disaffected strikers in the world (what's with this? Is Sparky aiming to go back to the 1880's and playing 2-3-5?); that Stoke and Hull are desperately seeking quality to plug the inevitability of 'Second season syndrome'.

I don't care. There's an Ashes on, man!

Ideally, the summer is a time for perspective. One remembers that there is such a thing as 'outside'. That the sun is a friend and releases happy chemicals in your brain. That Blur are the best festival band ever. That beer tastes fantastic in the park. That it's nice because you can see your girlfriend on a Sunday afternoon. One remembers that other sports exist.

The beauty of the start of the football season in mid-August is the drought that precedes it. The scouring the back pages and pretending to care about Athletics. Enjoying the cricket season (if that's possible with the Aussies here). Watching the Lions fail.

Instead, spurious transfer stories still cover the back pages like a lingering fart that just won't go away. The Sky Sports yellow news ticker continues to whizz around the bottom of the screen telling us about Vincent Kompany's bad foot or how Matthew Etherington scored against no-one in particular. Football in this country - and probably around the world - has become a bloated behemoth, stretching around the year, flatulent and stinking the place out.

Here's hoping for an Ashes win to revive some perspective in this country.

....Oh. Silly season is it then.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Sorry, I've not been about recently. I've actually been busy, interviews for jobs, travelling on coaches, seeing Blur in Hyde Park (amazing, but not amazing like in Southend), playing and watching tennis (haha Murray) et cetera et cetera.

Turns out there was a team that wanted little Mickey... The English champions. It will be interesting to see how often (or not) Owen features for Manchester United, but the more one thinks about the move, the more it makes a little sense.

Weird as it may seem, United seems a sensible choice for Owen. He showed he was unable to lead the attack for a struggling team at Newcastle, and could well been an expensive flop for a team like Hull, who were linked with the little marksman. Whereas at United, he'll sit on the bench most the time and occasionally pop up and score a goal or two when United are desperate. Everyone's a winner. Apart from Liverpool fans, whose former darling now sleeps with the enemy.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Michael scores momentous Owen goal

Recently, I've had the enormous pleasure of reading one of British football's greatest literary works. A publication so entertaining, so well-written, with such fantastic sense of irony. There was no doubt in my mind that this masterpiece belonged in the highest echelons of the sporting literary world.

The book? Michael Owen: Summer 2009. A 32 page - THIRTY-TWO PAGE - document produced by Owen's (clearly top-class) PR company Wasserman Media Group, sent out to all Premiership and leading European clubs last week. The phrase 'PR Disaster' does not encompass this almighty aberration of a publicity campaign. This is a PR apocalypse
Indeed, our Michael is described in this masterpiece, amongst other things, as;

"Clean and fresh" (adjacent to a picture of a stubbly Michael)
"First class"

Best of the lot though, is the fantastic claim that 'were it not for an unhappy spell at Real Madrid and two injury scarred years at Newcastle, he would be spoken in the same breath as Torres or Ronaldo.' We presume the writer is discussing Sergio Torres, the out of favour Peterborough United striker, and the rotund Ronaldo, in the brief hours when he was laid incapacitated during knee ligament surgery.

All this is all another sad episode for a player who burst on the world scene 11 years ago in Saint-Etienne. The reasons may be many for Owen's decline - injuries, poor management and bad luck have all had their effect on the Englishman - but the most palpable reason is that little Michael now exists in a football world that has, at the very top at least, evolved away from his skill set.

Owen is a classic English No. 10, eye for goal; diminutive figure; great balance, but for the classic English No. 10 to be successful, he needs a Number 9. A strike partner. At the top level of todays game, the traditional front pairing is becoming more and more obsolete, as teams continue to pack midfields, and defend and attack as a team. All of which explains Owen's fallout with Gérard Houllier and Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, and his lack of chances at Real Madrid, and more recently, his lack of involvement in Fabio Capello's England.

Tob clubs nowadays cannot accommodate a player merely to score goals. A modern-day striker must do more than that, and the likes of Drogba, Torres, Eto'o and Ronaldo all clearly do that. Each are capable of not just scoring, but being a battering ram. Each not only score goals of individual genius, but hold up play and link others in. Owen, for all the persuasive noises his goalscoring record makes, is a depressingly limited striker.

So where now for our charismatic goalscorer? Owen could lower his standards and become an impact substitute for a Liverpool or Villa-type, but one suggests his ego would veto that. Hull have been making flirtaceous glances, and it is likely this is the sort of club where he'll end up, a middling Premier League side keen for publicity, and the kind of limited ambition that can accommodate a goalscorer out of sync with the modern world.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

This weekend also

Has the dubious title of being a 'Potentially Great Weekend'.

As today is the second annual Beer, Sports, Ethics and Values Day, a day where some of the greatest sportsmen and competitors in the local area congregate to play a variety of sports and drink. The Ethics and Values underline our dedication to fair play and sportsmanship, and act as a handy alibi to accusations of grown men drinking illegally in a childrens park.

To demonstrate some of the great minds we'll be dealing with on BSEV day, here's a list of bread puns baked up (I thankyou), after Mr James Warburton scandalously decided not to attend this day of such grace and magnitude.

Philip Woodward wrote
at 19:50 on 07 June 2009

maybe he's scared of making a BLOOMER on the most important day of the year!
Lee Belcher (Bristol) wrote
at 13:38 on 06 June 2009
Well we cant stick him in goal... what with his butter fingers.
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 21:07 on 05 June 2009
hey james wateva uve got planned on the 20th mayb u cud come 2 this aswell and have the BEST OF BOTH worlds?!
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 20:52 on 05 June 2009
mayb hes going 2 the beach 2 play in the sand wich would b fun!
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 16:22 on 05 June 2009
And in fact id go as far as 2 say id eat him 4 breakfast if he did make an appearance!
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 16:20 on 05 June 2009
yeah ur rite bob he mite b abit crusty. If he does come then he'll be toast!
Bobby Mitchell wrote
at 15:39 on 05 June 2009
he could be busy going out for a wholemeal with his family!?
Bobby Mitchell wrote
at 15:36 on 05 June 2009
maybe his sport skills are a lil bit crusty? scared 2 step up to the plate!
Bobby Mitchell wrote
at 15:34 on 05 June 2009
personally i think he would enjoy gettin a SLICE of the action!
Bobby Mitchell wrote
at 15:32 on 05 June 2009
oi leave him alone you two! he might just have to see his naan or something! ;)
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 13:25 on 05 June 2009
well a flour mite b a bad idea, but we cud def butter him up sumhow
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 13:21 on 05 June 2009
mayb if we buy him a flour he mite come?
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 13:21 on 05 June 2009
this really is loaf out loud fun, come on ppl join in
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 12:45 on 05 June 2009
mind u if the weather stays like this then hes guna b baking out there
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 12:43 on 05 June 2009
come on james roll up roll up
Philip Woodward wrote
at 12:41 on 05 June 2009
if he is gonna come though, james baguette himself ready!
Philip Woodward wrote
at 12:39 on 05 June 2009
yeah, we should have given him a week at yeast
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 12:38 on 05 June 2009
i mean weve barley given him a chance 2 reconsider really!
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 12:36 on 05 June 2009
we best wheat a minute, u never know he might come after all.
Philip Woodward wrote
at 12:36 on 05 June 2009
seriously though, i hope james feels ciabatta soon.
Philip Woodward wrote
at 12:35 on 05 June 2009
james warburton - wanted bread or alive!!
Philip Woodward wrote
at 12:34 on 05 June 2009
bravo nathan. something's clearly gone 'a-rye' for james to miss out...
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 22:49 on 04 June 2009
just goes against the grain really not 2 come 2 such a fine event. He must be feeling abit stale about it all
Nathan Keegan (Uni. Reading) wrote
at 22:03 on 04 June 2009mayb he just kneads 2 rest his legs 4 a big footy match or something?

Philip Woodward wrote
at 17:47 on 04 June 2009
he might not have enough dough to go out?
Philip Woodward wrote
at 17:46 on 04 June 2009
or maybe he just wants to go to bread early on the evening of the 20th
Philip Woodward wrote
at 17:44 on 04 June 2009
and we must not have put enough yeast in him, cos warburton is not rising to the occasion
Philip Woodward wrote
at 17:44 on 04 June 2009
I LOAF to see james warburton abandoning this famous event

For Tomorow (I see Blur)

I'm in Southend tomorow, seeing Blur. BRILLIANT.

I discovered I loved Blur just after they finished touring Think Tank, some 6 or so years ago, and now they're back on the road (with Coxon, weeeee!) and as such, it's gonna be a Blurry summer. Well, a Blurry two weeks.

I'm very excited, and I plan to just stand and stare at Graham Coxon, something that I tried to do when he was touring with his band a few years back. But when he's singing moddy punk songs, with youngthings behind him, it just didn't suffice. This time, he'll be ringing mental guitar noises in contempt of Damon Albarn's lovelorn cooing and fro-ing, and I fully expect to be transfixed. "So THAT'S how you play Chemical World!".

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Setanta's ambitions conceded as pie in the Sky

On top of a hill, far far away, in deepest darkest Eastern Europe - let's say, Transylvania - there lies a castle, a building tall and sinister standing menacingly amidst it's surrounding area.

If you get inside said building, the first thing that grabs you is the decor. Gothic paintings of overpaid prima donnas adorn the walls, posturing whilst idiots scream behind them. Secondly, one hears a distant cackling coming from a room a few stories up. A piercing, cocky laughter usually reserved for Apprentice contestants serves to suggest that this is the laugh of a business magnate. Your worst suspicions are confirmed as you make your way to the door from which the laughter emanates, the sign on the door reads:

Rupert Murdoch CEO.

Of course Rupert, like the rest of us, has been reading of the sad demise of Setanta Sports over the past few days. Unlike the rest of us, or this lonely scribe at least, Rupert is very happy about it.

I enjoyed Setanta Sports. I liked the down-to-earth Premiership coverage (albeit mostly showing menial games). I liked the German and French football highlights. I passed many hours watching Liverpool or Arsenal TV, and loved the wonderfully in-no-way-biased analysis and matches to be found there. I liked Chris Waddle and Craig Burley's co-commentary, even if you couldn't understand them half the time. I'm well known to have a medium-sized crush on Rebecca Lowe and a massive man-crush on James Richardson, so their Football Matters summary show was, like Richardson's Guardian Football Weekly, a pun-derful delight. My brusque Welsh housemate also tells me Setanta's great for Boxing too, so I'm gonna take his word for it.

But what I probably liked the most was the fact that, here I was, watching good football on the telly (and Liverpool TV. HONK!), safe in the knowledge that my subscription had not lined Rupert's pocket, and had financed a competitor to Sky Sports, a station so smug and self-important Simon Cowell would find it overbearing.

But, therein lied the problem. A competitor to Sky Sports was never going to have an easy ride, even with the minimum 23 Premiership matches guaranteed by the European commission.

In this country, Sky have benefitted enormously from the Premier League and the monopoly they hold with it, able to charge a massive amount for their product. When Setanta joined the competition, Sky were not prepared to give up their powerful position. If anything, their position strengthened: rescheduling dictated that despite losing 46 games to Setanta, they were able to show 92 games with the new deal, 4 more than they showed the previous season.

These 92 matches - 46 more matches than their rival - included first dibs on games with the lucrative 'A' game package and meant that, along with much brand loyalty, Sky were undoubtedly still wearing the Premier League trousers, and as such were able to price their rival out.

Sky customers had, essentially, the same package as the season before, only this time, consumers had an optional channel to subscribe to: Setanta, offering 46 Premiership games for 12.99 a month. Over £50 pounds a month for football on telly? Unsurprisingly, consumers voted with their feet, and Setanta have been unable to get past 1.1 million subscribers, whilst needing 1.9 to break even.

So Rupert's happy then. And Nick Woolnough, it seems. Sky see off a serious competitor, and re-establish their position as 'the home of football', a common claim made by their shameless marketing department, whilst the consumer continues to pay through the nose for-the-most-exciting-league-in-the-world-with-four-teams.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I'm aware I talk about football far too much, whilst I am also aware that I love pop music.

To make amends for the former, and to prove the authenticity of the latter, here's a lovely Spotify playlist.

Your number's up.

Yes that's right, a Spotiplaylist featuring only songs with numbers in the title. In no way was collating this a chore, it was a positively enjoyable, albeit nerdy, wonderful experience. I love lists, far more than I should, and here is one of my finer collations.

My favourite? Two Lovers by Mary Wells is sexier than Miss World playing Total Football, whilst 1985 by Wings absolutely rapes any other solo Beatle song. But right now, I just can't ever turn off Stadiums and Shrines II by Sunset Rubdown.

....There’s a kid in there
And he’s big, and dumb,
And he’s… kinda scared...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The romance returns to Perez

The Ring-master has returned to the circus. Florentino Perez, the man who both inspired and bank-rolled Real Madrid's infamous galácticos era, has returned to the Madrid presidency.

Fuelled by a season of disillusion, Spain's most famous club have been emphatically second-best to Barcelona in every sense; successfully, aesthetically, financially, and Perez has less swept to power, more walked in a back door no-one else wanted to walk into. Indeed, his three main rivals for the post baulked at the €57.4 entrance fee, and withdrew from proceedings. The official voting systems were abandoned, such was Perez' lack of competition.

The galácticos era, for all it's myriad faults, was a period of great entertainment, if not always for Madridistas. Despite finishing only 9 points behind Barca in La Liga this term, the difference between the two has been cavernous - the Catalan's goal difference was 39 greater than their rivals - and Madrid fans have grown tired of the frequently dour football employed by Juande Ramos, and before him, Berndt Schuster and Fabio Capello. The return of Perez could well herald a return to the glamour of the early 2000's, marquee players to set pulses racing again, and crucially, to seriously challenge for the European cup.

In keeping with his previous, Perez has put his money where his mouth is in agreeing a deal worth over £60m for Jesus' favourite footballer Kaka, whilst he has also been putting his mouth where his money is - a vital trait for any wannabe Real director - in shamelessly flirting with the famously publicity-shy Cristiano Ronaldo.

When Perez first took control at the turn of the century, he inherited the champions of Europe, and a much stronger squad than which now graces the Bernabeu, and there is no doubt that a great deal of work needs to be done this summer. If anything, Perez could be much more use than he was 9 years previous. His detractors, of which there are many around the world, maintain he disrupted, not enhanced, an already successful team with his superstar additions during his first tenure, particularly refusing to pay high wages for 'defensive players', something that led to the departure of the integral Claude Makelele.

This time, however, Madrid needs Perez' glamour. The likes of Fernando Gago, Gonzalo Higuain, Raul, Ruud Van-Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben are nowhere near the standard of their Catalan rivals, too old; terminally injured; just a bit average; or all three.

Madrid needs its stars back, and it's gone back to the man who can get them.

In his earlier tenure as president at Madrid, Perez proved adept at this aspect of his job, sounding out players via the media, as Harry Redknapp looked on, taking notes. All of Perez' famous galácticos, Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Owen were admired in the back pages of AS or Marca, picked out like girls in a whorehouse, and once they reciprocated admiration for Madrid's pay packe, ahem, status, Perez had has man, and Madrid marketing department had their windfall. Perez may have learnt from his first stint at the Bernabeu - and the relative quiet around the Kaka transfer suggests so - but there can be no doubt he will be doing all he can to attract some of the worlds top players to Madrid this summer.

Emerging from Yaya Toure's pocket after the European cup final, Ronaldo was evasive but was careful to not rule a move to Madrid out, and it is entirely possible that - coupled with United's humiliation in Rome - the Portuguese World player of the year's pretty little head has been turned, like many superstars before him.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

United get in a right Mess(i)

Last night, somewhat dreamily, in my living room, I perchanced upon little hispanic men, smiling, floating around, dodging tackles, leaping, playing keep-ball, riding challenges.

But enough about my housemates and the sick depths they go to for pleasure, weren't Barcelona fantastic last night. Just unbelievably good.

On Wednesday morning, Sky Sports News (so shoot me, I'm unemployed) persisted on interviewing United fans in Rome, each belligerently and oafishly predicting a comfortable win for their team. Most of them, interestingly, were Irish. All of them, predictably, were wrong.

Such is my unfortunate fascination with hyperbole, I think that what I saw last night might be diluted by words. If anyone's reading them in the first place. The absolute ease with which Barca swatted Manchester United aside last night was just beautiful, and a fantastic slap in the face to the jingoistic press in this country, who predicted a comfortable win against weak opposition.

That a side so utterly trounced the comfortable winners of the 'Best League In The World'™ felt brilliant, and really put a lid on the self-congratulatory cack that spouts constantly from the marketing department at Sky Sports. Daily, the Premier League is referred to as the world's best , and hourly we are reminded of that fact by sycophantic TV presenters and booming commercials (in front of a backdrop of explosions, littered with gladiatorial copy).

To see Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Toure, Eto'o take a gun to that empirical smugness, if only for a fleeting moment, felt like a brilliant time to be alive.

Real Madrid '58, Ajax '72, Liverpool '84, Bayern '75, Milan '89, Barcelona '94. These are all wonderful teams I've read about (far too much, really), and it feels good that I can say that I've watched a team that can hold a candle to them.

Monday, 11 May 2009

'Deadly' Ledley - THE TRUTH (in a way)

That smile could harm no-one

It wasn't 'assault'.

Of course not, 'twas merely a precautionary measure. Police saw a man in his late 20's, with a severe limp, on the dark streets of Laahnlan in the early hours of Sunday morning. He was eating a banana and gently moaning. Concerned for his wellbeing, they approached him as to his health. His knee was swollen, he complained, from slavishly carrying rounds of drinks to his thankless friends.

Officers later compared his left leg to the tail of a balloon poodle.

The man began to cry. Embarrassed for the clearly downtrodden male, officers were left with a conundrum; cruelly abandon this charming but luckless male to the sick whims of his obnoxious pals, or take him back to the guest room at the station.

4 of the 5 policeman agreed this was the only humane thing to do. The fifth, a slightly eccentric part-timer named Arsene, argued feverishly to leave the man sobbing on the pavement, but was outvoted.

As the officers helped the bedraggled man into their van, a Russian bouncer came running from a nearby Nightclub, shouting something about corrupt Norwegian referees. As he approached the van, his foot chanced upon the banana skin discarded by the distressed male minutes earlier. The bouncer fell heavily, such was his build, grazing his knee and jarring his wrist.

Livid, the bouncer shook his fist, and spoke of the recriminations that were to come when the authorities saw the video technology.

Thinking the man was still referring to UEFA, the officers helped the man up, and drove away from the scene to the station, tucking their new-found friend up for the night, unaware of the media-storm on the horizon.

Monday, 4 May 2009

A very happy May-day to you

May-day is usually a beacon of hope, an absolute point of pre-summer purity, a toxic hint at the vitality on offer throughout the summer months. Not to mention the prospect of 3 months of wearing shorts. This day last year I finished my dissertation, left Uni, after which I sat in a beer garden for many hours, where I turned redder (definitely a word) than a Soviet state.

Quite depressingly though, not this year. With nothing to do this May-day, May-day is just another day in May. Ho Hum.

On a brighter note, you may have heard of swine flu. It's sweeping the nation like a really really massive person with a really really massive broom. Maybe you saw Carlos Vela in Gatwick Airport last week and now you have it. Either way, a man called Mac Millings created a Global Pandemic World XI the other day, and sent it into Scott Murray as he was covering Barcelona's complete obliteration of Real Madrid. I cannot wait for them to rip Chelsea apart, but something sick says in the back of my mind that they will not. Urgh.

But here it is. Mac Millings, I envy and admire you.

Global Pandemic XI

Edwin van der SARS
Jamie Carrier
Boudeswine Zenden
Javier Facemascherano
Sneezin' Gerrard
Avian Duff
Santibody Cazorla
Quarantine Zidane
Tore Andre Flu
Gianfranco Ebola
Plague Bellamy


Monday, 27 April 2009

He's not the player of the year, he's a very naughty boy

My mother once thought Ryan Giggs was called Bryan. LOL.

More humorous however, was the decision to give Bryan the PFA player of the year award. Not one to jump on any bandwagon that suggests that footballers are stupid and shouldn't be allowed to vote on the X Factor, never mind 'serious' football polls, I will restraEEEEH....AAShhh"..."A"ARGGH222fFURooaaOHSODIT

Footballers are stupid, and shouldn't be allowed to vote on the X Factor, never mind 'serious' football polls.

How Xabi Alonso, whose passing and awareness is second to none, has not got near this award is baffling. He is the brain and the class behind Stevie Me's wild dog, rabidly foaming at the mouth, and the mind wonders how many more points Liverpool would've dropped had Mr Benitez had his wicked way and seen Xabi shipped off to Turin in the summer.

If anyone should win a ridiculously-awarded award, though it's Giggs, a refreshingly unridiculous player with an ego the size (or lack thereof) of a prematurely-born doormouse. He just should've won it in '94.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Oh Everton

Everton are lovely. My heart felt oh so very warm yesterday when Phil "i look like a nice dinosaur' Jagielka scored the winning FA Cup semi-final penalty, and not just because the late-afternoon sun shone at a slant through the window and onto the uppear reaches of my chest.

As a follower of a aesthetically brilliant team who live-somewhat-in-the-shadow-of-a-more-'successful'-jerkoff-team (I believe that's the official phrase), I've got a nice little affinity for Moyes' boys in blue (see also City, Man; Madrid, Atletico), believing Toffees to be in the same sort of boat as me. Well, less of a boat, more of a wheezy dinghy.

But did that dinghy sail last night.

Well not really, it was a horrific game of football, even worse than the non-event that was the game the previous day. But what made it worse was the inevitability of the final result, United were the pressure-loving behemoth with the technique to swat away their flies, like they did with Spurs......

But no, Everton were steely-gazed, with composure to burn, and made me a very happy boy indeed.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Taking the Sheen off

Well, it was ok wasn't it.

Football films are weird. I failed to apprehend this before watching the film, but I've always found that when a novel or film tries to depict football, it just feels a little... flat. The reality seems skewed, the game sequences rendered almost camp. Escape to Victory, of course is the exception that proves the rule, if only 'cos of Ossie.

Now, The Damned United was alright. Not great, like the book, but alright. Martin Sheen was great as Clough, as was Timothy Spall as his friend/male football lover Peter Taylor, but it lacked what made the book so great.

David Peace's Damned United was less of a football book, more of an introspective perusal into the mind of a genius, less warts 'n' all, more just warts. For Peace, football was the handy backdrop with which to hang the inspection of Clough's flawed psyche upon, whereas the film - perhaps trying to eschew the controversy of the book - is much more football-centric, telling the tale of post-1966 British football through the persona of Brian Clough, and not the other way round.

This is certainly a more populist approach, and would have made The Damned United more palatable to the neutral, and a great deal more enjoyable for Clough's poor family. However, it left me feeling like it had come up a little short, lacking the intensity the book had, and more importantly, that Clough had too.

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Damned United

It's out today, and I am ruddy excited.

The last 12 months or so I've been on a massive Brian Clough binge, which culminated in me sobbing in the foetal position following the final chapter of Duncan Hamilton's unbelievably good Provided You Don't Kiss Me. Of course I knew the ending, but that usually only serves to render the finale even more emotional (shamefully, the same happened with Marley and Me).

The superb ITV documentary (TV company who employs Andy Townsend and Robbie Earle in doing a good football program scandal) Clough was as touching and memorable as the title was brief. Had my gruff Welsh housemate not been watching with me, I'd doubtless have gone the same way as Provided You Don't Kiss Me.

David Peace's The Damned United, started me on this 'Clough-venture' (I'm sorry) early last summer. It's a terrifically entertaining book, dark and beautiful, one that I read as slowly as possible, such was my reticence to finish. It was the second book I'd read after years of skim-reading during my English degree, and was a wonderful antidote to my first. Ahem.

So imagine my delight then, to hear of a Damned United film.

Normally I zone-out when dullards go to see a beloved novel adapted for the cinema before complaining "it destroyed the essence of the book" or "they cut the scene of when Framley and Kip-Kip swam upriver into the Norgik forest", but I can see myself uttering the same thing walking out of the cinema following The Damned United. Well, not about Framley and Kip-Kip, there was a dearth of scandinavians in English football in Clough's heyday.

Like the Doctor who is convinced his patient's ailment is linked to spinal injuries, I will report back next week.

Monday, 16 March 2009

I suppose

It's nice to draw some parallels and begin things with a new life.

As my blog is born, so too is Benjamin Aguero Maradona, the tiny sprog of Football Manager wonderkid™ Sergio Aguero and Giannina Maradona, daughter of the relatively famous Footballer, drug-lord and all-round nice guy, Diego Maradona.

I'm left to wonder for how long the analogy, already tedious, will continue to breed.

In two years time, when the Spr(bl)og begins to utter his first meaningful noises, after endless months of self-obsessed drivel and cack pouring from both ends, will those close to the creature begin to see a semblance of genius?

Doubtless the pressure would be incessant, but the beast will go from strength to strength, resisting the allure of fame-hungry hussies, dedicated to his craft like a Vicar's son in a font, his only focus the joy he will exact to millions. Those hands, those feet, that brain, rousing the workers, eclipsing his father's legacy, starting wars and finishing them.

If he works hard, Ben could make it too.