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.