Monday, April 30, 2007

Gretna promoted to the SPL

The fairy story which has taken Gretna to three consecutive league promotions, culminating in Saturday's last-minute 3-2 championship clincher at Ross County, moves into a more gritty genre when the tiny borders club take their place in next season's Scottish Premier League.

There are the logistics of a season's ground-sharing at Motherwell to contend with and the hope that Gretna's precious few fans will accompany the club on their SPL journey up the M74. Then there's the decision to be made, and fairly quickly at that, whether to build on Raydale Park or move to a new site better suited to accommodating the likes of Celtic and Rangers.

What Gretna will bring to the SPL is enthusiasm. Five hundred fans - a quarter of the town's population - made the 500 mile round trip on Saturday, amongst them the owner Brooks Mileson. This multi-millionaire drove up - he chose not to fly because he is one of the fans - and, in jeans and T-shirt, he stood on the terracing amongst the fans.

Eriksson still loved by the English public ?

Sven Goran Eriksson reckons he is still loved by the English public. The ex-England boss, who is being paid £38,462 a week by the FA until June, claims he is mobbed when arriving in London.

Speaking for the first time since his sacking last July, Eriksson said:

“I’ve never heard a bad word during six years of travelling around the country.

“Everyone has always been polite to me. Even after the defeat to Portugal. If I land at Heathrow today, people still want my autograph, which is nice, and a lot of them say ‘Sven, you did a good job’.”

Fat Pat fined

Former Newcastle striker Patrick Kluivert has been hit with an undisclosed fine after moaning about his coach Ronald Koeman's tactics.

Now at PSV Eindhoven, his annoyance stems from Koeman preferring to bring a 17 year-old rookie off the bench last weekend against Utrecht, rather than fellow substitute Kluivert.

Kluivert said: "That substitution was ridiculous. It was sad. You should bring on a youngster like that when you're 2-0 or 3-0 up, but not when the championship is at stake. It's as if I can't play any more or have never performed ... It's beginning to get embarrassing."

While Koeman countered, "Kluivert's words were a knife in the back for a trainer - especially a trainer who stuck his neck out to bring Patrick Kluivert to PSV."

Kluivert ended up with a Eredivisie championship medal after PSV beat Vitesse Arnhem 5-1 on Sunday to win the title by one goal from Ajax.

Sunderland's rise under Keane

Sven Goran Eriksson reveals his pain at being sacked by England.

"For the first few nights I couldn't sleep and couldn't stop thinking about what had happened.
"I was in a depression but it was a recurring thought — 's**t, s**t, s**t, s**t'. I had never been sacked in my life before.
"Then, at some point, you have to move on with your life. We should have done better at the World Cup.
"I was convinced we'd do well before the tournament and, even though we didn't play in the early games, we were improving and were going to get better."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Leeds face historic drop

After reaching the Champions League semi-finals six years ago, Leeds now face the prospect of facing Cheltenham, Hartlepool and a Yorkshire derby with Doncaster in League One next season.

Alan Lee’s 88th minute glancing header to secure a 1-1 draw prompted a pitch invasion at Elland Road.

It sparked chaotic scenes among furious fans for whom the reality of third-tier football next season proved too much to bear.

Referee Michael Jones had led the players from the field with several minutes of time added on still to play.

Intertoto Cup threat

Tottenham have used the threat of Intertoto Cup competition next season as a way of motivating their players to qualify for the Uefa Cup.

"The players are certainly aware that a top-seven finish would mean they won't have to start early in the summer," said assistant manager Chris Hughton.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The good doctor

26-year-old Northampton striker Kenny Deuchar has already mapped out his future after he hangs up his prolific boots.

"I was at Falkirk for four years, playing part-time and studying medicine full-time. I didn't see my friends much

"At the moment I'm concentrating on rheumatology, but I'll probably be a GP later on," the Scot said.

The 26-year-old is a qualified doctor, a fact made more public than Deuchar could have ever imagined thanks to Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.

"On his Soccer Saturday programme," continues Deuchar, "he always calls me the 'Good Doctor' when I score. "I've met him twice and it was great, because to be fair he's done a lot for my career. There are so many people in England who have heard of me and that nickname has followed me around for ages now."

Deuchar has gone a long way to making a name for himself thanks to his goalscoring prowess, too. He led the attack for Gretna for three years and scored 66 goals in 82 starts, including a goal-a-game 41 in 2004-05 which included six hat-tricks, equalling Jimmy Greaves' British record of trebles in a season.

Becks gets the mickey taken

David Beckham went to great lengths to cover up his hair in Real Madrid training on Thursday - resisting Robinho's attempts to remove his beenie hat. But Becks revealed his new look later - platinum blonde. He admitted:

"I have had the mickey taken out of me."

Friday, April 27, 2007

The most superstitious manager in the Premiership

Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock says he is probably the most superstitious manager in the Premiership as he likes to sit in the same seat, wear the same clothes, drive the same route.

"I won't even visit the toilet until the players are on the pitch. There are 300 different superstitions," he added.

Ten years on, Brighton are still homeless

Ten years ago yesterday, Brighton & Hove Albion played their final match at the Goldstone Ground, their home for 95 years. Many supporters saw an uncertain future for the club beyond the 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers, but few could have imagined that they would still be homeless a decade on.

A previous board of directors had sold the ground in order to pay off debts, and the team endured a two-year ground-share with Gillingham, 70 miles away, before returning to temporary accommodation at Withdean Stadium, a small council-owned athletics facility. However, despite city council approval of plans for a 22,500-capacity stadium at Falmer, on the eastern borders of Brighton, in 2002, after a city-wide referendum, the club is still in limbo.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Minute's applause for legend Ball

Premiership and Football League clubs will pay tribute to World Cup winner Alan Ball with a minute's applause before all this weekend's games.

Ball died on Tuesday at the age of 61 after suffering a heart attack.

"This will give supporters the chance to pay their own tribute," said Football League boss Andy Williamson.

Ball, a former Blackpool, Everton, Arsenal and Southampton player, was regarded by many as England's man of the match in the 1966 World Cup final.

Jose gets to grips with WWE

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was back in the spotlight last night – while taking his kids to see wrestling extravaganza WWE Monday Night Raw at Earls Court.

Mourinho was sitting in the front row at the arena when he was singled out by the WWE chairman's son Shane McMahon. A mixture of cheers and boos rang around the arena as his face was shown on the big screen but the Portuguese saw the funny side and revelled in the crowd's reaction.

He later took his kids backstage where they met some of the WWE superstars and chairman Vince McMahon.

BBC apologises for Alan Ball joke

The BBC has apologised after a BBC Radio Manchester presenter made a joke about the death of Alan Ball.

Ball, the World Cup-winning former England footballer, died of a heart attack after collapsing outside his home tackling a fire in his garden on Tuesday evening. He was 61.
BBC Radio Manchester lunchtime presenter Allan Beswick said:

"At least we know he's no good at putting out fires."

The BBC said the comments, made on Beswick's show yesterday, were "ill-judged and wholly inappropriate".

Karate kick.

Sunderland keeper Darren Ward has revealed that manager Roy Keane rarely rants and raves to get his point across, although the "tactics board has had a karate kick on a couple of occasions".

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Team of the year ?

Eusebio in intensive care

Legendary Portugal striker Eusebio is recovering in intensive care after undergoing surgery to unclog an artery.

The hour-long procedure at the Hospital of Light in Lisbon was reported to have gone well, after the 65-year-old was admitted to hospital on Friday, complaining of feeling unwell. Doctors said Eusebio's carotid artery had narrowed, reducing the flow of blood to the brain and increasing the threat of a stroke.

"Eusebio did not register any neurological problems and has been seen by his family," Eusebio's surgeon, Germano do Carmo, told a news conference.


LA Galaxy are beefing up security ahead of David Beckham’s MLS arrival. Real Madrid ace Becks, 31, was at the centre of a scare on Saturday when a fan made it on to the Bernabeu pitch and ran at him.

Fortunately for Beckham, the supporter only wanted a hug.

But Galaxy are taking no chances, installing metal detectors to screen fans.

Sub Becks supplied Sergio Ramos’ winner in the 2-1 defeat of Valencia after six games out with a knee injury.

What wasn't explained was what the mysterious hand in the picture is doing to the fan's pants.

A self-confessed Royal Gooner

The Queen has revealed that she supports Arsenal, following in the footsteps of the Queen Mother who was, according to a senior royal source, "a self-confessed Gooner, due largely to her admiration of former player Denis Compton".

1,000th goal

Sometime over the next few days, Romario will cap a brilliant career by scoring his 1,000th 'first-class goal'.

When he does so, Brazil will erupt with celebrations and tributes to the man considered by many to be the greatest penalty box striker the game has ever seen. A greying and creaking Romario now prowls the penalty boxes for Vasco Da Gama.

However, Romario counted his goals using the same quintessentially Carioca mix of stealth and cunning that made him such a danger to defenders the world over. Perhaps no one except the little man himself really believes he has scored anything like as many.

An enquiry by top football magazine Placar cast considerable doubt on Romario's claims. According to Placar, Romario has not yet reached 900 official first class goals, with the magazine accusing him of including 71 goals scored as an amateur and another 18 in unofficial friendly matches played against teams of amateurs and retired pros.

The magazine also said they could not find any record of nine first-class goals he alleges scoring for PSV Eindhoven and said another eight supposedly scored for Vasco actually took place in exhibition matches or league games whose results were later declared void.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stronger and better than ever

Michael Owen returns from his injury hell, vowing: "I'm not just back - I'm back stronger and better than ever."

Owen's nightmare will end when he steps out for Newcastle at Reading's Madejski Stadium on Monday week.

And he promises to show Toon fans and all of England what they have been missing since his World Cup ended in agony last summer.

Owen, 27, said: "I have had 10 months out and had to grit my teeth and work long hours to get back.

"Lots of people can come back from a cruciate injury, but not many people come back BETTER from a cruciate injury. I don't THINK it has been a blessing in disguise ... I KNOW it has.

"I am positive this break has happened for a reason and it will prolong my career and allow me to play into my mid-30s rather than my early 30s."

Owen had set his heart on returning to face Chelsea this afternoon, but a minor groin injury meant Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder was not prepared to risk him.

So the comeback has been delayed and Reading will be his first competitive appearance since being carried off only four minutes into England's match against Sweden in Cologne last June.

After a season working one-to-one with consultant physiotherapist John Green, Owen is more like the Bionic Man.

He said: "I had two operations on my knee, so I spent a few-months in a brace. I'd broken my foot prior to that, so I had four major operations in a year.

"Add all that together and I'd been sitting on my backside for too long, so it wasn't just my leg which needed rehabilitation, it was my
whole body."

Mourinho's four strict rules

Jose Mourinho will have to agree to four strict rules laid down by Roman Abramovich if he wants to stay as Chelsea manager, and they are:

  • Work on all football matters with Frank Arnesen
  • Maintain a lower media profile
  • Never criticise the board or club policy
  • Start producing entertain football

  • PFA Premier League Team of the Year

    Edwin van der Sar
    Gary Neville
    Nemanja Vidic
    Rio Ferdinand
    Patrice Evra
    Ryan Giggs
    Paul Scholes
    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Steven Gerrard
    Didier Drogba
    Dimitar Berbatov

    Personally, my only argument would be the inclusion of Scholes and Berbatov, as I would pick Barton and Martins ahead of them, but the performance of Man Utd this year probably merits their players filling most of the team.

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    League set to cut big four's TV cash

    Premier League clubs have agreed to change the way money from their lucrative television deal is distributed in a bid to stop the growing financial divide between richer and poorer sides becoming even wider.

    The clubs have agreed to modify the way the 25 per cent of their broadcasting income allocated to clubs shown on live TV is shared out. They have acted in response to fears that the big clubs, certain to be involved in even more live transmissions from next season, would make unhealthily large sums compared to their less well-off rivals.


    Chelsea’s Didier Drogba looks set to be a hit-man off the pitch — with his own rap album.

    The Premiership’s top scorer will release the tracks under the alias Drogbacite.

    Didier, 29, said: “Drogbacite is about me and my success. There’s even a Drogbacite compilation CD.

    “I need my music, especially before a game. I use it in the dressing room.”

    The Ivory Coast star sang the team’s World Cup song last year.

    Saturday, April 21, 2007

    Who ate all the pies ?

    A while ago Newtonards FC were playing a match against Ballycastle junior farmers, in the Irish Cup. The crowd was about one hundred in total.

    Nearby, a pie baking competition was being held. A man called Douglas Saulters had taken first place beating his rival, Bernie Botmann. He was angered at the judges decision and stormed out of the contest. He drove to the football ground to calm down. However, still fuming, he began to throw his pies onto the pitch.

    McCreadie, the Ballycastle forward, who was a bit chubby, halted an attack to bend over and sample one of the pies. Suddenly the crowd began to chant :

    'Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies? You fat b**tard. You fat b**tard. Who ate all the pies?'

    And that's how the famous song originated.

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Money back on Beckham

    Los Angeles Galaxy have claimed to have made their money back on David Beckham before he has even kicked a ball for the club.

    Beckham has already earned the Major League Soccer side nearly £7million before he joins Galaxy in July at the end of his contract with Real Madrid.

    Galaxy are expecting revenue to double this coming season to around £5million, having sold an additional 7,000 season tickets on the back of Beckham's arrival, worth around £2.5million, and increased the price of premium seats by 48%. The club have also signed a lucrative five year shirt sponsorship deal with Herbalife Ltd, who sell nutritional and weight-loss products, worth another £10million.

    In all, Beckham's arrival should bring in an additional £7million in his first season, around £4.5million more than his annual playing contract with the club.

    Arsenal’s second-largest shareholder

    Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith is Arsenal’s second-largest shareholder — although the club’s fans know nothing about her.

    Yet owning 15.8 per cent of the club’s shares, she has a massive influence at the Emirates Stadium.

    With an estimated fortune of £70million, Lady Bracewell-Smith and her family were ranked 817th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006. She is also 44th on The Sunday Times UK Asian rich list.

    She is the only female director of a Premiership club and one of three in the top two divisions with Karren Brady at Birmingham and Delia Smith at Norwich.


    Peter Hill-Wood has launched an astonishing attack on American billionaire Stan Kroenke.

    Arsenal chairman Hill-Wood, an Old Etonian, will fight tooth and nail to prevent any takeover of the Gunners by Kroenke.

    Hill-Wood, whose father and grandfather were also Arsenal chiefs, raged: “Why don’t we want the American at our club?

    “Call me old-fashioned but we don’t need his money and we don’t want his sort.

    “Americans are buying up chunks of Premiership clubs and not because of their love of football but because they see an opportunity to make money.

    “They know absolutely sweet FA about our football and we don’t want these type of people involved.


    Zullkifli Zainolabidin, the Singaporean goalkeeper, asked by former Malaysia coach Chow Kwai Lam to fix a domestic soccer match said it had been a mistake to attempt to bribe him as he's a former police officer.

    Chow, 64, was found guilty by a Singapore court last week of offering a bribe to the former Paya Lebar Punggol keeper to let the opposition score two or three goals in a 2005 match.

    Chow, who received a life ban from football in Singapore and Malaysia, was fined S$50,000 ($33,050) by the court on Tuesday.

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Milan Cricket and Football Club

    Milan Cricket and Football Club (now AC Milan) was the collective brainchild of a small group of bored and mildly inebriated British expats who got together in a Milan tavern back in 1899.

    It had been a boozing session with a difference. Conversation had turned to football and cricket. The six men pined most for the summer sound of bat smacking ball. Why not, one suggested, form a club in Milan? Pencil and paper were fetched. A document was drawn up - and into the world crept the Milan Cricket and Football Club.

    Two days later, the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper recorded the event with a single paragraph. The 20th century was two weeks away and Italy had other things on its mind than a club with a modest ambition: "To spread the game of football and to play cricket as widely as possible."


    Everton will benefit by £1.65m if Wayne Rooney and Manchester United end the season having secured a treble success in the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League.

    The England striker moved from Goodison Park to Old Trafford in the summer of 2004 for an initial fee of £20m but the terms of the deal include bonus payments of up to £7m. Some £23m has now been paid to the Merseyside club even though none of the clauses relating to the securing of honours has as yet been activated.


    Roy Keane last night told Jose Mourinho: My boys can beat you.

    The Sunderland boss watched Mourinho’s Chelsea struggle to beat Blackburn 2-1 in extra time in their FA Cup semi on Sunday.

    And Keane said: “I went to have a look at them, to see their manager and try and pick up different things.

    "I left before extra-time but overall I was disappointed. It was a poor game.

    “I think we would have taken either of them. On that display we would have. I said the same thing when I went to see Middlesbrough play West Brom earlier in the season. We would have taken any of them.”

    Sunderland can gain promotion to the Premiership this weekend if they win at Colchester on Saturday and Derby lose to Luton tomorrow.


    On-loan Arsenal striker Julio Baptista on England and the Premiership :

    "My girlfriend and my mother are frightened about not seeing the sun in England. They miss being in Madrid."

    "The teams from the north of England are terrible," Baptista said. "When we play them I have counted their centre-backs booting up to 30 long balls upfield per game."

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007


    Inverness Caley Thistle have pulled the plug on plans to play in Europe next season - because of Elton John.

    The singer will play a concert at the club's Caledonian Stadium on July 15, which clashes with the second round of the Intertoto Cup.

    It's the second year in a row Caley have missed out on the tournament after failing to win a place last summer.

    Director of football Graeme Bennett said: "We're withdrawing our interest in the Intertoto Cup.

    "The cup dates clash with an Elton John concert at the stadium and that would have been a big issue."

    Quote of the week

    "Nobody can stop him. Probably the only way to do it is to kill him. When he runs at you, you try to grab his shirt or do whatever you can. But he just goes past you, makes fun out of you and leaves you kicking the air.

    Even when he is sitting on a bike, Cristiano is doing tricks. He eats with the ball, he watches TV with the ball. He probably even sleeps with the ball."

    Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra talking about team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Chant of the week

    "Going down, going down going down!"
    Ipswich fans to Barnsley when they led 2-0.

    "Staying up, staying up, staying up!"
    Barnsley fans when they pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go.

    "Cheerio, cheerio cheerio!"
    Ipswich fans to Barnsley after going 5-1 up.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Own goals

    Barbados played Grenada in a final group match of the Shell Caribbean Cup in February 1994.

    Barbados needed to win the game by two clear goals to progress to the next round. Now the trouble was caused by a strange rule which stated that in the event of a game going into penalty kicks, the winner would be awarded a two goal victory.

    With five minutes to go, Barbados were leading 2-1 and going out of the tournament. When they realized they had no chance of scoring past Grenada 's mass defence they turned around and deliberately scored an own goal to tie the game and send the teams into a penalty shoot out.

    Grenada, themselves not being stupid, realized what was going on attempted to score an own goal too, putting Barbados back on top and sending them out of the competition. However, the Barbados players started defending their opposition's goal to prevent them doing this.

    During the games last five minutes the fans were treated to the sight of a team defending their opponent's goal preventing them from scoring in the back of their own net.

    Eventually the game did go to penalties which Barbados won


    David Coleman : "Don't tell those coming in the result of that fantastic match, but let's have another look at Italy's winning goal."

    Alan Brazil, on Radio 5 Live : "The tackles are coming in thick and thin."

    John Motson, BBC1 Commentator, During Euro '96 : "I was about to say, before something far more interesting interrupted ..."

    Brian Moore : "Rosenborg have won 66 games, and they've scored in all of them."

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Player of the year ?

    Hargreaves and Torres

    Sir Alex Ferguson believes he will now be able to lure Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves and Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres to Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo signed a new contract at the club.

    Lay off the booze

    UEFA have made an unprecedented plea to Manchester United fans to lay off the booze amid fears of crowd trouble at their Champions League semi-final with AC Milan.

    After the bloody scenes at Roma in the previous round, 4,000 United followers will travel to Italy again on May 2.

    But while many observers felt the visitors from Old Trafford were the victims of brutal crowd control tactics by Italian riot police, UEFA are worried about an alcohol-fuelled repeat of the violence.

    "There has been a problem with drink and it would be nice if the supporters were advised not to do it," said UEFA spokesman William Gaillard. "I realise this is difficult but people are putting themselves at risk because they stop behaving in a rational way.

    "There are no special concerns about the game in Milan. It's a different city, a different stadium and a different team."

    There was trouble in Seville last week but none on Tuesday when Chelsea played Valencia.

    "If everyone behaves in a proper way, we should have a smooth sailing but Manchester United has to brief its fans and tell them what is appropriate."

    Premiership envy

    Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, last night hailed English clubs' success at reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, describing the Premiership as the "envy'' of other European leagues.

    "Other leagues do envy what we are doing,'' said Scudamore, who has negotiated a raft of astonishingly lucrative television deals on the back of the attractive nature of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and other leading clubs such as Arsenal, last season's losing Champions League finalists.

    "The Premiership is the best it has ever been in terms of success [in Europe] and the quality of football played. I am wowed often now by what I see in games. Look at last weekend: Portsmouth beat Man United, West Ham beat Arsenal, and then Watford beat Portsmouth and then we have this in the Champions League. It is hard to think it gets much better than this."

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Personal obsession

    Gabriel Heinze last night revealed the FA Cup has become a personal "obsession" as he set his sights on winning the Treble with Manchester United.

    Argentinian Heinze was injured and missed the 2005 final, when United lost to arch-rivals Arsenal, and is on a one-man mission to win the famous trophy in the first final at the new Wembley.

    The next three weeks will define United's season as they pursue a Treble of Champions League, Premiership and FA Cup, and Heinze maintains it is within their grasp.

    "It is very tough and we will have to be at our best," he said.

    "But this team is very united, together - and that is key to our success."

    Street style and terrible

    James Collins is determined to prove he has the style to keep West Ham in the Premiership.

    Collins, a powerful, dominant centre-back, has found his chances limited at West Ham since signing from Cardiff in the summer of 2005. But after putting a run of injuries behind him he is developing into a key figure in the Hammers' late charge for survival.

    Former West Ham manager Alan Pardew once described Collins' dress sense as "street style and terrible".

    But Collins stands his ground. "What it is about my gear is that the boys are too scared to admit they like it. They haven't got the guts to wear what I do."

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Jose for England

    Chelsea expect Jose Mourinho to take over as England boss when he is axed by the club in the summer.

    Stamford Bridge sources say Mourinho has indicated he would be eager to take control at Soho Square if Steve McClaren is sacked. And the Blues manager has already discussed the challenges of the England post with trusted confidants at the club.

    Mourinho's relationship with Roman Abramovich has broken down so completely that the owner avoids being under the same roof as his manager - never mind in the same room.

    Chelsea sources have confirmed recent reports that Mourinho, whose team take on Blackburn tomorrow in the FA Cup semi-final, will be fired at the end of the season even if he wins the unique Quadruple.

    Abramovich has abandoned his post-match custom of going into the dressing room and even missed Chelsea's Champions League victory in Valencia in midweek.

    But while Abramovich still goes to the club's training ground in Cobham, Surrey, on a regular basis, he makes a point of avoiding Mourinho.

    Owen at war with Shepherd

    Michael Owen is heading for war with Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd.

    Owen, returning from a knee injury, is desperate to play in England’s friendly with Brazil on June 1.

    But a Toon insider said: “Freddy is fuming about this.

    "He doesn’t see why Michael should be able to go off and play for England when he has hardly figured for Newcastle.”

    Striker Owen, 27, is expected to return to the Newcastle team for next Sunday’s home clash with Chelsea — his first game after suffering a serious knee injury at last summer’s World Cup.

    Shepherd has been at loggerheads with the FA over compensation for Owen’s injury as Soho Square chiefs are only paying half of his £110,000-a-week wages.

    Shepherd is in no mood to let Owen line up for England after spending so long on the sidelines.

    He also reckons the striker is not showing enough loyalty to the club.

    Highest-scoring goalkeepers

    Bulgarian Dimitar Ivankov hopes to move up the list of the world's highest-scoring goalkeepers after reaching the 27-goal mark by converting a penalty in Kayserispor's 3-2 defeat at Sivasspor at the weekend.

    The 31-year-old Ivankov is ranked sixth on the list, just one goal behind Bayer Leverkusen's Hans-Jorg Butt.

    Zidane to join Beckham ?

    Zinédine Zidane could be about to come out of retirement and join David Beckham at the Los Angeles Galaxy. Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy general manager, confirmed late on Thursday that negotiations had been opened that could result in the former Real Madrid and France midfield player, who retired after the World Cup final last year, resuming his career in Major League Soccer.

    “We have been in contact with his folks,” Lalas said. “Everything is very preliminary. If it happens, that would be wonderful — not just for the Galaxy, but also for our league. And I think he would really enjoy the opportunity, because he is competitive and he wants to win. He’s a great player and he doesn’t want to sit in the French countryside drinking wine.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Quinn's "big" gesture

    From The Journal, Tuesday:

    "I had to laugh when I read of Niall Quinn's big gesture providing taxis for stranded Sunderland fans when their flight was cancelled on Saturday, March 30, following their match at Cardiff.

    I was on the plane with my severely disabled wife and three-year-old daughter. Mr Quinn certainly didn't offer us any help.

    As my wife is completely dependent on a wheelchair, we had already pre-boarded by the time the Sunderland party arrived. To my mind, it was clear that they had had more than "a few drinks"; in my opinion, most of the group stank of booze. Some seemed to stagger as they boarded and by the time they were all on, the cabin smelt like a brewery.

    Contrary to what has been written in some newspapers, there was aggressive behaviour from members of the party."

    Unsold tickets

    The Football Association has defended its choice of venues for the FA Cup semi-finals amid slow ticket sales.

    Watford are reported to have 1,500 tickets left unsold for Saturday's semi-final against Manchester United at Villa Park.

    Blackburn and Chelsea, who meet at Old Trafford on Sunday, have both failed to sell 8,000 seats of their allocations.

    An FA spokesman said: "Old Trafford and Villa Park are established venues, used to dealing with the logistics."


    Fulham coach Dave Beasant was told he was sacked at 11pm on Tuesday only to receive a phone call from new caretaker boss Lawrie Sanchez half an hour later telling he was reinstated.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007


    Fifa president Sepp Blatter has revealed he used to dive when he played in the top amateur league in Switzerland.

    "I was not a perfect player, I have to say, being a striker," said Blatter. "I tried ... to get some advantages by joking with a player and then falling down by saying 'but he touched me'. And in fact it was not that. I did it."


    During George Bush's trip to Buenos Aires for the Summit of the Americas in 2005, Maradona made a pledge to lead the protests during an interview with Fidel Castro on his La Noche del Diez (The Night of the Number 10) television programme.

    "In Argentina, there are people who are against Bush being there," he said. "I am the first. He did us a lot of harm. As far as I'm concerned, he is a murderer; he looks down on us and tramples over us. I am going to lead that march along with my daughter."



    The interior minister of Macedonia has promised to return the car she is driving to David Beckham, if it is proven to have been stolen from him.

    The car was impounded by the Macedonian police after being shipped from Greece.

    Beckham's car disappeared last year in Madrid. Macedonian press reports linked it to the minister, although Beckham's had a different colour.

    She told B92 radio in Belgrade that she was a fan of Beckham and would like to meet him if it turned out that the car belonged to him.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    The referee's a b*****d

    Segar Bastard played for the now-defunct Upton Park football club. Like many of his contemporaries, he was both a player and a referee at the same time (unlike the modern day, where referees are neutrals with no playing connections).

    He refereed the 1878 FA Cup final between Wanderers and Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval, before refereeing the first ever England v. Wales match, at the Oval on January 18, 1879.

    An epochal beating

    Today's Gazzetta dello Sport is dominated by a five-page inquest into Roma's 7-1 hiding at the hands of Manchester United last night.

    "Last night was an epochal beating that Italian football has never previously suffered at the hands of the English," says Roma fan and columnist Candido Cannavò.

    The oldest club in the world

    Italian giants AC Milan could play Sheffield FC, who are officially the oldest club in the world, in the summer as the North East Counties Premier League side celebrate their 150th anniversary this summer.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Low rent Wayne and Coleen

    Wayne Rooney's brother Graham and his girlfriend Carly Gardiner are in demand as lookalikes for the Manchester United star and his fiancee.

    The pair have been dubbed the “low rent Wayne and Coleen”, and they obviously like to keep it in the family ... she is Coleen’s cousin.

    Graham does share some family sporting talent – he’s one of Britain’s best young boxers, with an ambition to be a world champ. He also used to be in Everton’s youth team.


    Nobody at Manchester United seems quite sure when they last saw the Glazers.

    There was an alleged sighting of Avram, one of Joel’s brothers and fellow directors, at the home victory over Bolton Wanderers last month and there was a big family outing to the showdown with Chelsea in November, but otherwise United’s most compelling season in years has unfolded with barely an appearance from their American owners, the ones who said they bought the club to “get goose bumps” and have “tears roll from their eyes”.

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Style icon

    Is the U.S. sports scene in need of a style icon ?

    "Desperately. And they're in need of a tailor," said Wendell Brown, senior fashion editor at Esquire magazine.

    "I hope Beckham has a major impact."

    Former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Jim Jackson said that while he believed Beckham would likely have an impact on U.S. sports stars fashion, most National Basketball Association (NBA) players were already "dressing the part."

    "They made it mandatory for NBA players to dress up," Jackson said. "I think guys really accepted that and really took it as a challenge to step up their game."

    In October 2005 the NBA implemented a dress code for its players, requiring them to wear "business casual" when off the court and taking part in team or league activities. Sleeveless shirts, short, t-shirts, sunglasses indoors, headphones and chains and pendants over clothing were all banned.

    In defense of U.S. football and basketball stars, Esquire's Brown said that for many of them size impeded their style.

    "One of the things that nobody really mentions about David Beckham is that the clothing is so geared to his shape," Brown said. "He is the perfect size to wear Dolce and Gabbana and Versace and Prada and Gucci."

    Cheslea ?

    Sunday, April 08, 2007


    Former England captain David Beckham has advised Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Manchester United for the good of his career.

    The Portugal winger has been linked with both Real Madrid - Beckham's club until the end of the season when he will move to Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy - and Barcelona in recent months.

    "He is at the right club. He is being looked after by a manager who knows how to look after someone who has been through what he has," he said.

    "I may not have got through the things I did without the United manager, the players and the fans.

    "I owe them everything."

    Secret moves

    A powerful group of Premier League chairmen are behind secret moves to oust Steve McClaren as England manager before the crucial European Championship qualifier in Estonia on June 6.

    The group of top bosses are so alarmed by the decline of the national team since McClaren succeeded Sven Goran Eriksson seven months ago that they have been plotting to pressurise the Football Association into taking urgent action.

    The dissidents intend to lobby FA chief executive Brian Barwick and members of the international committee with the sole purpose of removing McClaren and persuading his assistant, Terry Venables, to take temporary charge of the England team for the duration of the European campaign.


    Manchester United are considering banning their fans from the Champions League semi-finals - if they face a trip to AC Milan.

    After the horror clashes in Rome last week that marred United's game against Roma, United may implement their own temporary ban on supporters travelling abroad if they return to Italy.

    A United insider said: "In no way do we blame our fans for the problems they encountered in Italy, but for their own safety we would have to consider the possibility of refusing an allocation of tickets should we face Milan."


    Jimmy Bullard’s knee specialist in America, Dr Richard Steadman, recommended that Bullard uses the treadmill, the bike and swimming exercises to help him recover from his knee injury. Bullard uses fishing to help himself to cope psychologically. “I get so focused, it’s like an addiction,” he said. “I’ll soon be better at fishing than I am at football.”

    Bullard has sent ripples through the angling community with his competitive spirit and has won two £800 prizes.

    He acknowledges that he is making waves. “Maybe a few people get the hump, this footballer taking the money,” he told this month’s edition of FourFourTwo magazine. However, he is not apologetic. “Sod ’em. I’m here to win,” he said.

    Some of the more established anglers were not, therefore, too upset when the Fulham player fell in the water on several occasions but they were astonished to see Bullard drop his mobile phone in the lake. “It stayed there for five hours because I carried on fishing, then I scooped it out with the landing net and it still worked. Good phone, that one.”

    Saturday, April 07, 2007


    Juan Pablo Angel has been offered the chance to quit Aston Villa ... and follow David Beckham to the United States.

    The club's record £9.5 million signing is being earmarked for a move to Major League Soccer after being pushed out of the picture at Villa.

    The Colombian international has been overlooked after boss Martin O'Neill signed John Carew and Ashley Young in January.

    And that has made him a target for a string of MLS bosses, who are looking for some Hispanic influence at the club.

    Angel still has a year left on his £40,000-a-week Villa Park deal, but he would be a big capture for any Stateside team.


    Gordon Strachan has warned captain Neil Lennon and goalkeeper Artur Boruc there must be no repeat of gestures made against their own fans.

    But the manager has admitted the supporters aren't blameless and continued his crusade against the "yob culture" he's found in Scotland.

    Lennon fell foul of a fan after Celtic lost the last Old Firm game. The Pole remonstrated with a fan after Dundee United's injury-time equaliser at Tannadice last Saturday.

    Strachan said: "Players now need to show the crowd how to behave. In general players are well behaved and fans think they can shout anything they like."

    European sports police

    Uefa are to establish a pan-European police unit to restore order at major matches, amid rising alarm at the violent clashes involving English supporters. As inquests continued into the fighting that scarred Manchester United and Tottenham's games this week, both clubs have directed the blame squarely at the heavy-handedness of police responses in Rome and Seville.

    The European governing body's solution is to host a 'round table' of police chiefs before the start of next season, with the aim of creating a cross-border force that applies a clearer form of zero tolerance on football violence.

    "We have been seriously concerned about the law and order situation around European games for the last six months," a senior Uefa source said.

    "We are looking to create a type of European sports police, a way of dealing systematically with the problem. We need cool heads. First of all, we cannot tolerate violence in any form off the pitch, but we also have to understand the mechanics of it."


    Sir Alex Ferguson has criticised Tottenham for allowing today's encounter with Chelsea to be staged a little over 36 hours after their draining Uefa Cup quarter-final against Seville.

    While Premiership leaders Manchester United have remained in Italy to recuperate after their similarly exhausting European Cup quarter-final against Roma, Martin Jol's side will face second-placed Chelsea in today's televised 12.45pm kick-off after having flown straight back from Spain. Given that Spurs have not managed to win in this corner of west London since 1990, Ferguson's annoyance is understandable.

    "It helps Chelsea but it doesn't help Tottenham," he said yesterday. "I am amazed Tottenham have allowed it to happen. If the game had been played on a Sunday lunchtime, Chelsea would still have had over two days to prepare. As it is, Tottenham get 36 hours. What is the right decision? It seems the Premier League are quite happy to give Chelsea the extra time but not Tottenham.

    Friday, April 06, 2007

    Prostitution and public drinking

    The 2006 World Cup in Germany was “A Time to Make Friends”, and as the tournament showed, there is no better way to make friends than to host it in a country where prostitution and public drinking are legal.

    Jackie Selebi, South Africa’s National Police Commissioner, thinks that might be just the ticket to make the 2010 World Cup a success too. Speaking to the Parliamentary Safety and Security Committee he said:

    “I want you to apply your minds to my dilemma of what to do with the thousands of soccer hooligans expected to imbibe in public spaces and those who would feel the urge to try out other more exotic pastimes both currently illegal in South Africa”

    “You as a committee must be sitting and thinking of how we are going to get around this. If a visiting fan is out on the street having a bottle of beer, must I arrest him, because it is illegal?


    Two footballs made from inflated condoms and plastic supermarket bags get pride of place in Bobby Charlton's trophy cabinet in his home.

    The Manchester United great spoke of an experience in Kenya where he saw children playing football with such improvised footballs.

    He said: "I was delighted when they gave me their odd balls made out of condoms, bags and bits of string."


    Matthew Upson may never play a full match for West Ham.

    Signed by the Hammers for £7m in January from Birmingham, injury-hit Upson has so far only managed 41 minutes of football. It is widely believed his contract has a relegation escape clause in it.

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    Makana Football Association

    The Makana Football Association, organised by political prisoners on Robben Island in South Africa, began in 1966, and played off and mostly on until the prison closed in 1991.

    The prisoners built their own goals, and the league's building and maintenance committee rolled and leveled a main field — eventually complete with a drainage system — and later a secondary one.

    Nelson Mandela was among the prisoners in isolation on Robben Island who could not play in the soccer league. But Mandela enjoyed watching games from his cell - until prison authorities took that privilege from him as well ... when the wardens on the island discovered that his only entertainment was watching the games through the bars and windows of his cell, they built a wall to punish him.


    Major governing bodies will today demand that bookmakers automatically inform them about the betting habits of sports stars when they meet to discuss the potentially divisive issue of information sharing with the Gambling Commission.

    The commission is consulting on various issues affecting sports and the betting industry, and governing bodies intend to use a seminar today to call for compulsory information sharing. They want to see accounts held by participants in sports automatically flagged up if bets are placed in contravention of their rules and regulations.

    The governing bodies are also campaigning to extract a share of bookmakers' revenue in exchange for the right to make markets on sporting events, some of which will be used to police the sports.


    Wednesday, April 04, 2007


    The doctor treating Diego Maradona has denied the Argentina legend's admission to hospital last week was down to a suicide attempt.

    The 46-year-old was rushed to Guemes hospital in Buenos Aires seven days ago after falling ill with what was later described as an over-indulgence in smoking, drinking and eating.

    But doctor in chief Hector Pezzella insisted in a statement that the 1986 World Cup winner had not tried to take his own life.

    'What happened was a disorder in compulsive form, in this case due to alcohol,' he said.
    'This was not a suicide attempt. There has been good clinical progress.'

    Live match

    On September 10 1960 Blackpool's home game with Bolton became the first live match on British television.

    But the first Big Game was a flop. ITV put their cameras high up behind the goal at Bloomfield Road rather than on the halfway line in the main stand. The critics complained that the commentators overpraised what everyone could see was a poor game, and talked about a packed house when the crowd was only 17,000 in a ground that held twice as many.

    By the time Newcastle travelled to Arsenal for ITV's next feature, the Gunners' board refused entry to the cameras.


    Rudi Gutendorf's management career lasted 53 years and took in 17 national managers jobs in charge of Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Antigua, Botswana, Australia, New Caledonia, Nepal, Tonga, Tanzania, Ghana, Nepal again, Fiji, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Rwanda. He also took charge of the Iranian and Chinese Olympic teams in 1988 and 1992, respectively.

    When asked once why he had managed in so many different countries, the German replied: "One cannot conserve excitement."


    Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has rubbished Valencia's complaints that the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge is a "rat-hole" with only one mirror and three showers. He says it has two mirrors and 10 showers.


    Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed before a European Cup tie in Milan that "when an Italian tells me it's pasta I check under the sauce to make sure". He has chosen his words more carefully ahead of tonight's quarter-final against Roma but Manchester United's capacity for upsetting Italian hosts has resurfaced in the form of an extraordinary diplomatic row.

    As Ferguson and his players trained last night on the Stadio Olimpico pitch, United found themselves facing demands for an apology from, among others, the mayor of Rome. He was among those to have been upset by the club's decision to write to their fans, warning them of the "real danger" of being attacked by Roma's "Ultras", and advising them of several areas in the city centre they should keep away from.

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007


    Thousands of football fans risk being stranded because of the timing of the FA Cup semi-finals. Virgin Trains has warned that supporters with train tickets but without reserved seats may not be able to travel.

    With the Man. Utd match starting at 5.30pm and Chelsea's game at 4pm, should the games go to extra time, Virgin predict serious problems in getting fans home.

    "We feel it is our duty to be honest with supporters now," said Charles Belcher, Virgin West Coast's managing director.

    The FA said that Uefa banned it from staging televised matches between 2.45 and 5.15 pm on Saturdays to protect attendances at other games.

    Chants of the week

    (In the tune of Here We Go)
    "Niall Quinn's disco pants are the best, they go up from his a*** to his chest, they're better than Adam and the Ants, Niall Quinn's disco pants!"
    The cult chant that got Sunderland fans kicked off their flight.

    "Deep fry your pizza, we're gonna deep fry your pizza."
    Scottish fans to Italians on O'Connell Street in Dublin.

    Monday, April 02, 2007


    Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has paid £8,000 to get about 80 fans home by taxi from Bristol after supporters were turned off a plane for alleged rowdy behaviour.

    A complaint by the pilot led to police removing fans from the plane as it waited at Bristol airport, several hours after second division Sunderland's 1-0 win at Cardiff City.
    The flight was eventually cancelled.

    Quinn paid for a fleet of 14 taxis to take the supporters back to Sunderland, some 300 miles away.

    The airline, easyJet, said the flight was cancelled because of 'disruptive behaviour' and added that passengers not involved in the incident were offered an alternative flight or overnight accommodation.

    Police said: 'The pilot of a flight asked for the supporters to be removed from the flight because he believed they were drunk, which is an offence.' No arrests were made.


    Hull City manager Phil Brown is set to appear naked in the club's magazine after supporters raised £254,105.50 for the transfer kitty.

    Brown had pledged that if fans raised enough money in Coca Cola's recent buy-a-player promotion he would exhibit his wares and now everyone at the Kingston Communications Stadium can look forward to seeing more than they could have ever desired of their boss.

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