Thursday, May 31, 2007

98 tonnes of beer cans left by fans

Cleanup crews in Athens collected 98 tonnes of beer cans left behind by Liverpool and AC Milan fans during their stay in the city for the Champions League final, a city official said.

"From Tuesday onwards, we collected seven truckloads of beer cans,'' the official said following AC Milan's 2-1 win. Each load is 14 tonnes ... and because beer has a certain effect on bodily functions, we had to wash many areas with shampoo afterwards," he added.

Thousands of fans, mainly Liverpool supporters, arrived in Athens without tickets and authorities created gathering areas in the city's main squares to accommodate them.

From the Zappeion gathering area alone, where a large screen was erected to show the final, cleanup crews collected two tonnes of beer cans.

Venables issues legal proceedings against The Sun

Terry Venables, assistant to England coach Steve McClaren, has issued legal proceedings against the Sun, a move made more intriguing because Venables is a columnist for the News of the World, another paper owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Venables alleges that in an article written on October 14 2006, Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham City, libelled him in her column.

The alleged libel relates to Brady's references to the DTI charges against Venables, which resulted in the former England manager being banned for seven years as a company director.

In the intervening months lawyers for both sides were in contact, with the Sun maintaining it had not printed anything which warranted an apology, although the paper was prepared to give space to Venables to represent his side of the story

Venables issued proceedings earlier this month. If the case should go to trial it could see a fascinating court battle between the columnists for the two Murdoch papers.

Germany bans talk of record victory

Germany coach Joachim Loew has banned talk of a record-breaking win against San Marino in their Euro 2008 qualifier in Nuremberg on Saturday, telling his team to forget about the margin of victory.

Germany, who lead Group D on goal difference from the Czech Republic and Ireland, won 13-0 away to San Marino in September.

Germany's biggest victory was 16-0 against Russia at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912, when striker Gottfried Fuchs scored 10 times. Their chances of getting close to that have been hit by injuries to captain Michael Ballack and Bayern Munich pair Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski.

Fans asked to pay for transfer fund

Partick Thistle chairman Allan Cowan has urged fans to dig deep to fund new boss Ian McCall's signing targets.

The Jags are looking to swell their transfer budget by getting fans to put £100 into the club each month as part of a financial overhaul.

But Cowan insists it will only be the well-heeled supporters who'll be targeted.

He said: "We're working very hard to ensure the long-term future of the club. We haven't finalised the playing budget but we know there's not a pot of gold in the First Division."We'll make as much money as possible available to the manager and we've just launched a new scheme available to supporters which we will call a 'Players Fund'.

"We'll be inviting supporters to donate £100 per month to be put into a fund which will allow us to sign players. If it's a success there could be more funds available to the manager.

Premiership footballers paid £1billion

Premiership footballers will be paid an eye-watering £1billion in wages next season and the first £200,000-a-week player is only three years away.

Wages in England’s top division increased by 9 per cent last year and financial consultants Deloitte, in their latest review of football finances, predict the new £2.7bn TV rights package will create a £10m-a-year player by 2010.

It supports the demands being made by John Terry and Frank Lampard, who are holding out for £130,000-a-week deals in their ongoing pay rift with Chelsea. A £1bn total wage bill for Premiership players represents an average annual salary of £2.5m for individuals, although the review showed a significant gap in wages paid by Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal compared to rest of the top flight.

Poll could still referee

Graham Poll could continue refereeing next seasonafter all, in grass-roots matches.

The country’s top ref announced his retirement this week and will certainly not take charge of any more games in the Premiership or abroad.

But the 43-year-old has registered for next season with his local Hertfordshire FA and is considering making himself available for matches on the pitches where he began refereeing as a teenager 27 seasons ago.

A glass of champagne made Berbatov stay

Dimitar Berbatov has revealed how a Christmas drink with Martin Jol and his team-mates on the South Coast forged his loyalties to Tottenham.

The Bulgarian striker is used to enjoying a winter break over the festive holidays as European football enjoys a Christmas showdown. But he was comforted by Jol and his fellow Spurs squad members as they prepared for the Premiership clash with Portsmouth at Fratton Park at the turn of the year.

Berbatov responded by becoming the star attraction in the Premiership over the second half of the exciting season, taking his goal tally to 23 in all competitions and being named in the PFA team of the year.

"At first I was thinking it would be difficult to be away from my family and friends for Christmas and New Year because I was used to going home to celebrate and spend time with them," the £10.9million bargain from Bayer Leverkusen told hotspur, the official Tottenham magazine.

"The night we stayed at the hotel before playing Portsmouth away on New Year's Day we were sitting together having dinner and the gaffer came along with a glass of champagne. He said 'okay boys, I know it is difficult for everybody, but I am happy to be here with you because we are like a family'.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coach hasn't been paid for 11 months

DR Congo coach Henri Depireux has written a letter of complaint to Fifa after not being paid for eleven months.

The Belgian coach says he has no other way of claiming his salary.

"I sent my complaint to Fifa last week, and have sent a copy of it to the football federation," Henri Depireux said.

"I suppose that the federation has taken it to the sports ministry (who are responsible for paying the coach's salary) because if there's no solution Fifa might ban the country from international football for two years."

MLS cheerleaders

England future in doubt because he wouldn't answer his phone

Gabriel Agbonlahor was left out of the England Under-21 squad for the European Championships after failing to get in touch with the Football Association.

The FA left messages for the 20-year-old forward but astonishingly they were not returned and he was not included in Stuart Pearce's 23-man squad for the finals in Holland next month.

German MPs encourage footballers to go topless

German Green party MPs Evelin Schoenhut-Keil and Margareta Wolf got rather carried away after seeing Cristiano Ronaldo booked for baring his torso after scoring during Euro 2004, and ended up launching a national campaign to make it legal for players to take off their shirts.

In an open letter to the German Football Association, the pair wrote:

"Get rid of the yellow card and instead let players show their athletic torsos. We can't understand how the voluntary showing of a gorgeous male chest can be objectionable."

They subsequently also threw their weight behind a petition to Fifa demanding much the same thing but, unsurprisingly, were completely ignored by both bodies.

Worst ever qualifying campaign

San Marino are on course to break their own record for the worst European Championship qualifying campaign.

They have lost all five matches with an average margin of defeat of 5.8 goals, compared with their achievement of no points and an average defeat by 5.4 goals in eight games before the 2000 finals.

They are also responsible for three of the next six worst campaigns.

Referee reduced to tears

Graham Poll has revealed how he was reduced to tears by his World Cup blunder.

Poll, 43, has taken early retirement, but fears he will be forever remembered for showing three yellow cards to Croatia’s Josip Simunic before sending him off last year.

He said: “A lot of tears were shed and it will always live with me. My last thought before I die will probably be ‘why?’

“I thought it was going to be me out of the game — ridiculed for cocking up the World Cup. I didn’t want to face the other referees and yet they all came to see me and gave me a hug.

“There were phone calls from David Beckham and Alex Ferguson. David spoke to me the day before England’s quarter-final with Portugal. He wanted to help me.

Player could join Oldham after prison

Oldham Athletic have sparked controversy by offering a contract to jailed former West Brom striker Lee Hughes.

The 31-year-old is serving a six-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving but he could be released this summer.

West Brom terminated the striker's contract but the Latics are prepared to offer him a return to the professional game if he is released at a hearing later this year.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

England didn't lose a single game

The statistics do not lie - England did not lose a single home competitive fixture when touring the country during the rebuilding of Wembley.

Of the 34 games that England played, 14 were either World Cup or Euro qualifiers - and the team won 11 and drew three. Eight of these took place at Old Trafford, with six victories and two draws.

In the final 34 games at the old Wembley, England played 15 competitive matches, either qualifiers or Euro 96 fixtures. Counting the two games that went to penalty shoot-outs at Euro 96 as draws, England won seven, drew five and lost three.

However, England have not faced a major footballing nation in their home competitive matches since leaving Wembley, with arguably the match against Turkey at the Stadium of Light in April 2002 their toughest test.

In contrast, the defeats in competitive fixtures during the last 34 games at Wembley came against Italy, Scotland and Germany.

Gazza's troubled times

Bursts into tears after a yellow card during England's semi-final clash against West Germany in the 1990 World Cup. He would have missed the final had England not lost on penalties.

• Outrages Italy by belching on national television when asked how he felt about being dropped nine months after completing his £5.5 million move from Spurs to Lazio.

• In his autobiography, Gazza: My Story, he admits headbutting his wife Sheryl and throwing her to the floor during an argument in October 1996, breaking her finger.

• Dropped from the England World Cup squad in 1998. After a series of spectacular binges, is admitted to a private clinic to tackle alcohol addiction.

• In December 2005 quits as manager of Nationwide Conference North club Kettering after just 39 days. Chairman Imraan Ladak claims Gascoigne was "under the influence of alcohol before, during and after several first team games and training sessions". Hours later is arrested for an alleged assault on a photographer outside a Liverpool city centre hotel. Charges are later dropped.

• Undergoes emergency surgery for a perforated stomach ulcer after celebrating his 40th birthday.

Sign Tevez, and win the title

Hernan Crespo says whoever buys Carlos Tevez will win their league next season.

The Chelsea forward, on loan at Inter Milan, believes his fellow Argentinian has proven himself one of football's most reliable strikers by helping to save West Ham from relegation.

Liverpool have Tevez, valued at £25million, on their wish list, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are interested, as well as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Tevez scored seven goals in 10 games, including the strike that beat United on the last day of the season.

Crespo said: "Carlos has shown he can adapt. He has all the qualities to become a champion. The team which buys him instantly has the conditions to win their championship.

"Not only can he score goals, he can also fight for what he believes in."

FIFA unveil new $196 million headquarters

World soccer's governing body FIFA officially opened its new $196 million headquarters on Tuesday as delegates arrived for the start of a two-day congress.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the vast glass-fronted complex would 'allow light to shine through the building and create the transparency we all stand for.'

The 'Home of FIFA', which includes five underground levels, a fitness centre, meditation room, geographically themed parks and a full-size international soccer pitch, has actually been in use since FIFA moved from its nearby old headquarters last May.

The organisation delayed the official inauguration to coincide with this week's congress.

Beckham blocks U.S. tour

David Beckham has blocked attempts by Real Madrid to squeeze another lucrative tour out of him before he joins up with LA Galaxy.

The player is adamant his last game will be Real's final league match on June 17 against Mallorca.

The decision means Madrid have had to scrap plans for a £15million U.S. tour because the Americans are not interested in them without the former England captain.

Real tried for one more Beckham payday by switching their traditional pre-season tour to the end of this campaign, with a three-match visit to the States to include a game against LA Galaxy, in which Beckham would have played a half for each side.

But he is understood still to be fuming over the way the club handled his contract extension talks and their treatment of him in the aftermath of his switch to the Galaxy - and he has refused all offers of end-of-season matches in favour of a family holiday before he kicks off with Los Angeles.

Oba goes AWOL again

Obafemi Martins has hit a hat-trick by going AWOL for the third time in just three months.

In February the Newcastle star failed to turn up for a Nigeria friendly against Ghana at Brentford’s Griffin Park, then on the final game of the season he disappeared again as the Magpies prepared to face Watford.

His absence at Vicarage Road was put down to a mix-up, but this time the Nigerian FA are demanding action from Newcastle after Martins, 22, failed to turn up for a training camp.

Martins has ignored the ultimatum from Super Eagles coach Berti Vogts, who warned him he would lose his place if he did not show up.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bill Shankley quotes

1 "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

2 "If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I'd pull the curtains."

3 "The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they don't know the game."

4 "A lot of football success is in the mind. You must believe that you are the best and then make sure that you are. In my time at Liverpool we always said we had the best two teams in Merseyside, Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

Gazza treated for an ulcer

Former England star Paul Gascoigne has undergone emergency surgery for a perforated stomach ulcer.

He is understood to have been taken ill while celebrating his 40th birthday in his home town of Gateshead.

Last week the former Tottenham midfielder had gone to Barnet General Hospital to have his feet bandaged after burning them on hot sand during a trip to Dubai.

Balding Lazaridis in the dock

Balding Stan Lazaridis is in the dock this week - after testing positive for a banned substance.

The former West Ham and Birmingham winger now plies his trade Down Under for A League side Perth Glory.

Lazaridis's hearing began in Sydney on Wednesday and he will tell those sitting in judgement that he had been seeking permission to use the substance to treat hair loss for a year before his positive test.

However, the drug is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list, as it can be used as a masking agent.

Dirty Harry is Becks mad

Movie star Clint Eastwood is a huge football fan and reckons that David Beckham will fit right into the Hollywood scene when he joins Los Angeles Galaxy this summer.

Eastwood declared: "People are already talking about Beckham and I look forward to meeting him. I used to play soccer - or football as you British call it. It's a great game."

Eastwood's wife, Dina, has been brushing up on her knowledge of the former England skipper and his wife Victoria so she's prepared when they make the move to California in July.

Dina revealed: "I buy Hello, OK and even Heat and Now - even if Clint hates me buying them. I love reading all about British stars."

FIFA bans international matches at high altitude

No international soccer matches will be allowed to take place above an altitude of 2,500 metres in future, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Sunday.

A number of countries, among them Bolivia, frequently stage home international games at high altitude but Blatter said FIFA was following advice from its medical committee.

'I know there will be complaints about this, especially from South America, but we have to think of the health of the players first. It also leads to a distortion of the competition if matches are played at such a level.

'The Executive Committee have listened to a proposal from the medical committee and have decided to act because to play at above that altitude is not healthy or fair.'

Bolivia traditionally play their home matches in La Paz, which, at more than 3,600 metres above sea level, is the highest capital city in the world.

Shorey honeymoon on hold

Nicky Shorey had not planned to spend his honeymoon in Tallinn – nor apart from his new wife – but matters even of marriage tend to be overshadowed when England come calling. Wedded bliss will have to wait as the Reading left back serves his country in Estonia next week.

Shorey, despite rave reviews as Reading secured an unlikely eighth-place finish in the Barclays Premiership this season – their first in the top flight – had not contemplated receiving the nod from Steve McClaren, the England head coach.

“It’s not crossed my mind,” he said this month. “If it happens, I’ll worry about it then.”

Thus, plans to marry his fiancée, Emily, next Saturday progressed smoothly.

But then it happened. McClaren phoned, Shorey impressed in England’s 3-1 victory over Albania in a B international at Turf Moor, Burnley, on Friday evening and the former Leyton Orient defender made the seismic jump into the senior squad, along with David Bentley, of Blackburn Rovers.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lalas warning over Beckham England recall

David Beckham's England recall could put him on a collision course with Los Angeles Galaxy if he remains part of Steve McClaren's set-up this year.

England have four crucial Euro 2008 qualifiers during September and October and that would put Beckham out of domestic action for the Major League Soccer outfit, for whom he has signed a five-year £125million deal.

Galaxy have sold thousands of season tickets on the back of his arrival, but Beckham's surprise recall could mean he could be on duty for England against Israel, Russia twice and Estonia instead of playing in the MLS.

Galaxy general manager Alexei Lalas admits they are concerned over Beckham's international situation from a business point of view, and hinted he may not be released for any non-competitive games.

Ashley tells Allardyce "shape-up-or-ship-out"

Sam Allardyce will be given just one season to prove he is the man to lead reclusive billionaire Mike Ashley's proposed £400million Newcastle revolution.

The former Bolton boss will find himself in the same "shape-up-or-ship-out" situation that faced Claudio Ranieri when Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003.

Ashley, now the largest Toon shareholder after buying Sir John Hall's 41.6 per cent stake, is "supremely confident" he will quickly pass the 50 per cent mark as his first step in taking complete control in a £133m takeover.

And the sportswear magnate plans to spend another £250m-plus on an ambitious five-year plan designed to make Newcastle Premiership champions by 2010 and serious Champions League contenders by 2012.

Benitez serenaded with Everton's theme tune

Sky Sports' Vinny O'Connor was embarrassed on Thursday during a live link-up with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.

O'Connor's mobile phone rang and played the Z Cars theme - Everton's tune as they run on to the pitch.

Sir John Hall pockets £93million

Sir John Hall and his family have pocketed a staggering £93million from their 17-year involvement with Newcastle United.

The Halls walked away from the club on Wednesday with their cash bonanza that came from an initial investment of less than £10m.

Hall's £55,342,223 cash payment from Mike Ashley for his 41.6 per cent stake is just part of the vast fortune he, son Douglas and daughter Allison accrued from their time at St James' Park.

The Halls have taken another £20.35m from share sales, £13.7m from dividends and another £2.4m from salaries.

"Automatic Cup"

Manchester United are facing legal action from their own fans over the controversial ‘automatic cup scheme’.

The plan, which makes it compulsory for fans to buy tickets for all cup games at Old Trafford, had previously been obligatory only for new season-ticket holders.

But for the first time this summer, it has been extended to the remaining 25 per cent of existing season-ticket holders who have not previously signed up.

United played 10 home cup games in the past campaign and a repeat of that would see a minimum of £390 added to the cost of the most expensive season ticket next season.

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust have already engaged a leading legal firm to act on their behalf and are ready to take the matter to the courts.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gattuso joy at Liverpool tears

Milan returned home triumphant yesterday with the European Cup - and midfielder Gennaro Gattuso admitted he was happy to see Liverpool players crying after Wednesday's 2-1 defeat.

The Italian, still smarting from Liverpool's 2005 victory in Turkey, said:

"That defeat in Istanbul will be with me for the rest of my life. But this year it's Liverpool who were crying."

Football and religion, Part Two

Kaká’s postmatch celebration in Athens on Wednesday night thrust his faith into the spotlight ... “I belong to Jesus,” the statement said.

Kaká, who was born to a middle-class family in Brasilia, said that he became deeply religious when he was 12.

“I learnt that it is faith that decides whether something will happen or not,” he said.

Football and religion, Part One

A third of the clubs that have played in the Premiership owe their existence to a church.

Barnsley and Swindon Town were founded by clergymen, while Louis Rocca, the ice-cream baron who came up with the name “Manchester United”, set up a network of Catholic priests to scout for players.

Chelsea in humanitarian visit to Africa

English FA Cup holders Chelsea will embark on their first humanitarian visit to Africa with a trip to Ghana next week.

Manager Jose Mourinho will head the delegation, that includes BBC African Footballer of Year Michael Essien, to inspect projects run by the charity Right To Play.

The delegation will be Accra and Tamale from 29 May until 3 June to visit projects run by the club's global charity partner. Mourinho said:

"Everyone at the club is fully behind the work of Right To Play and we are all proud to support them.

"I'm sure our relationship will benefit thousands of kids throughout the world, starting with this visit to Ghana."

Essien, who is one of the Right To Play ambassadors, added:

"I'm sure our relationship will benefit thousands of kids throughout the world, starting with this visit to Ghana."

New kit

Shrewsbury have had to have a new kit made for Saturday's League Two play-off final after their players threw their shirts and shorts into the crowd following their semi-final win over MK Dons.

2010 World Cup set to be the most commercially successful ever

South Africa's 2010 football World Cup is set to be the most commercially successful since the first tournament was held 76 years ago. The event has already attracted more marketing and television attention than the 2006 event, according to Fifa President Sepp Blatter.

"The market trusts Africa," Mr Blatter says.

"The contracts we have already signed for 2010 are higher than the contracts for 2006 in Germany by about 25%."

Agreements with five strategic partners for 2010 are valued at more than 1bn Swiss francs (about $821 million). This dwarfs the 850m francs ($700m) worth of deals done for the German World Cup.

Companies have to fork out around $125m to be one of the six worldwide partners involved with the 2010 World Cup. In addition there will also be eight World Cup sponsors and four to six national sponsors. Entry level sponsorship is likely to be around $40m.

Friday, May 25, 2007

You need specs ref !

One football website has set out to catalogue refereeing blunders in the top flight this season and publish an alternative league table for what could have been without the calamitous cock-ups from the referees.

U Need Specs Ref! has been running since the start of the 2006/07 campaign and they reckon that Chelsea would still be second even if all the dodgy decisions were reversed.

True, they would be just a point behind Manchester United in that alternative reality, but what is remarkable about the U Need Specs Ref league table is how similar it is to how things are in real life, with the top four all in the same order, the same three clubs in European places and the same bottom three.

According to the site, the clubs to have suffered most from unjust decisions are Everton (who should have four more points) and Aston Villa (who should be three places higher).

The Stilton United Premiership Sandwich

To commemorate British Sandwich Week, the Stilton Cheese Maker's Association (SCMA) turned the king of blue cheese red ... the red of Manchester United that is.

The Stilton United Premiership Sandwich has been created by proud Mancunians Merv's Sandwich Bar and combines Stilton blue cheese, lean crispy bacon and red tangy tomato chutney to create a lunch 'any United fan will savour', apparently.

Merv's created the sarnie to celebrate United being crowned Premiership champions at the beginning of British Sandwich Week.

Sandwich creator Nigel Calmonson said:

"It took a bit of persuading to get Stilton to turn 'red' for the week but we all feel it's a fitting tribute for Manchester United to have their very own commemorative sandwich created for them to mark being crowned Premiership champions.

Derby County cursed

Before 1946, Derby County had never won the FA Cup, and the blame was attached to a curse which had supposedly been placed on the club when they had trained on a gypsy camp.

Before the final that year, a reporter took Derby captain Jack Nicholas to visit another camp and cross their palms with silver in order to get the curse lifted.

It worked, and they won 4-1.

Bayern coach misses the boat

Last season, Bayern Munich were celebrating after winning yet another Bundesliga championship, but coach Felix Magath (who got sacked midway through this season) rather ruined his night by getting too drunk.

He was supposed to be joining the players on a pleasure boat ride up the Rhine, but by the team their bus got there, he was more than elegantly wasted, so had to stay onshore like a tipsy land lubber.

"I celebrated before we got there and wasn't able to make in on the ship, I had more than one too many," a woozy Magath admitted the morning after.

Bayern's Uli Hoeness, who can hold his beer, revealed that Magath had previously been teetotal, and suffered the consequences:

"Because Felix has not had a drop of alcohol for more than half a year, he did not feel capable of celebrating any more after the bus ride to Cologne," he said.

"The three glasses of champagne and the beer had a devastating effect. He had quite a bit to drink."

They asked to be photographed with the trophy BEFORE the game

In 1888, Preston North End were hot favourites for the FA Cup, having set a record which still stands today by beating Hyde 26-0 in the first round, and were so confident of overcoming West Bromwich Albion in the final that they asked to be photographed with the trophy before the game.

The FA president Major Francis Marindin turned them down and said:

"Hadn't you better win it first?"

They didn't get their photo after the game either. They lost 2-1.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sheva opts for a round of golf

Andriy Shevchenko plumped for a round of golf at Wentworth yesterday rather than the Champions League final in Athens.

The Chelsea striker opted to play in the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am alongside a star studded line-up from the worlds of film, fashion and sport.

Playing in a fourball with Ian Poulter, the Ukrainian joined former Arsenal players Ray Parlour and Lee Dixon over the sun-drenched fairways of the prestigious West Course.

Tangerine suit

Blackpool manager Simon Grayson has challenged club owner Valery Belokon to honour his promise and wear a tangerine suit, the club's traditional colours, in Sunday's play-off final against Yeovil.

A 'British Howard Hughes'

Mike Ashley, who is set to take over Newcastle United, has been described as unremarkable - a slightly chubby and unkempt man whose only business accessory is a mobile phone and who carries his papers in a carrier bag.

Until earlier this year only one photograph existed of the 42-year-old, taken when he was a teenaged county squash player. Philip Beresford, who compiles the Sunday Times Rich List, which last month ranked Ashley the 25th richest person in the UK with a fortune of £1.9bn, recently described him as "Britain's answer to the late Howard Hughes".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reina's compare European Cup final medals

Tonight, for the first time in footballing history, father and son goalkeepers will be able to compare their European Cup final medals.

José "Pepe" Reina will hope his prize is more glittering than his father's - Miguel Reina Santos collected a losers' medal when Atlético Madrid were beaten 4-0 by Bayern Munich in a replay in 1974.

First British clubs to play in the European Cup

The first British club to play in the European Cup was Hibernian, who reached the semi-finals in 1955.

The first English side to play in the tournament were Manchester United, with Matt Busby telling the Football League where to stick the pressure that had led to Chelsea opting out of the tournament the year before.

In their first tie they disposed of Belgian champs Anderlecht by a massive 12-0. But, like Hibs before them, their first punt in Europe saw them bow out in the semis, when the unstoppable Real Madrid of Puskas and Di Stefano beat them by five goals to three.

50 fans fight over a single ticket

Two English fans were injured and taken to hospital after fighting broke out among Liverpool supporters in Athens during the small hours of this morning. However Greek police were quick to stress that the overwhelming number of Liverpool fans in the city for tonight's Champions League final against Milan had behaved impeccably.

One man was hit on the head and back after a group of 50 English fans fought over a single ticket for the match. Another sustained head and chest injuries during a row between 100 drunken fans.

Gazza gave Gattuso a slap

Paul Gascoigne had the perfect answer when Rino Gattuso needed calming down — a good slap.

The AC Milan and Italy hardman used to get so fired up as a 19-year-old at Rangers that Gazza was frequently needed to knock some sense into him.

Former Ibrox team-mate Brian Laudrup revealed:
“If you had told me 10 years ago Rino Gattuso would be the heartbeat of AC Milan, I’d have laughed at you.

“He was a grumpy kid. He couldn’t speak English at first but just moaned in Italian. "And in training or games he was like the Tasmanian Devil.

“Gazza had to give him a few slaps to calm him down. Mind you, Gazza did that to everybody.”

Kaka feared he would never play again

Brazilian Kaka feared he would never play again after breaking his neck in a freak swimming pool accident.

He recalled: “In October 2000, I was at my grandfather’s house in a small town in Brazil called Caldas Novas.

“I was sliding into his swimming pool but fell awkwardly and hit my head on the bottom of the pool.

“I twisted my neck but did not realise at the time that I had broken my sixth cervical bone.

“I went back to my club, Sao Paulo, the following day and actually trained for a couple of days.

But I was in such pain the club eventually sent me to hospital for tests.

“The doctor was asking me whether my limbs were feeling numb and I told him I was OK.

“It was only then he revealed the serious nature of my injury.

“He was trying not to frighten me but admitted I was very lucky to have been able to train for two days with a broken neck and not suffer permanent damage.

Shevchenko's wife wants to go "home"

Andriy Shevchenko's stay at Chelsea appeared even closer to ending last night after his wife spoke of a return to Milan.

The Ukrainian's American wife Kristen used an interview with Italian fashion magazine Chi to make it clear she wants to go back to Italy.

Chelsea will not let the £30m flop go for a knock-down price, but Shevchenko's wife, the prime force in his move to England, is keen to go back "home".

She said: "Milan is our city and and where we want to be. It would be wonderful for Andriy to go back to Milan and play with Ronaldo."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Man City's performance under Pearce

Chant of the week

"You're not singing anymore!"

AFC Totton fans after they took the lead at Wembley during the FA Vase Final.

"We weren't singing anyway!"

Truro fans' response.

Banner of the week

"Jose's dog is innocent!"

Spotted at the FA Cup final.

The only England manager never to have led a team out at Wembley

Sven-Goran Eriksson stepped on to the Wembley stadium pitch for the first time on Saturday during the pre-game ceremonies for the FA Cup Final.

The former England manager is the only national coach never to have led a team out at Wembley.

His appearance, with every other England manager from Sir Bobby Robson to Kevin Keegan, was one of the events celebrate the official opening of the new stadium by Prince William, the president of the FA.

Gayle rejoins the Crazy Gang

Striker Marcus Gayle has rejoined AFC Wimbledon - six years after making the last of his 195 appearances for the original 'Crazy Gang' outfit.

Raining on the FA Cup parade

A brief statement posted on the Chelsea website at 10.29pm on Saturday night said all you need to know about the club’s “delight” at winning the FA Cup.

“Chelsea Football Club can confirm that there will be no parading of the FA Cup tomorrow.”

The verdict of the board immediately after their FA Cup triumph is that the season, despite Saturday’s triumphant climax at Wembley, was a disappointment.

The FA and Carling Cups represent two trophies out of a possible four – and the two least important trophies at that ... at every other club in the world the season Chelsea have had would be a cause for celebration.

Drogba sent 3000 miles away from home

Life growing up was tough for Didier Drogba. He was sent to stay with his uncle in France at five years old and did not return home until he was eight.

Then, when the Ivory Coast economy collapsed three years later, it was back to France until his parents joined him in Paris when he was 15.

Mrs. Gattuso to support Milan

Rino Gattuso has insisted his Scottish wife Monica will support AC Milan and not Liverpool in Athens tomorrow - or he would throw her out.

The Italy midfielder met Monica, the sister of GMTV Hollywood reporter Carla Romana, while at Rangers and she gave up university to join him back home.

"She would risk getting thrown out of the house if she supported Liverpool," he joked.

"She is still Scottish so how can she support them? When Scottish teams play, she supports those but it's not the same with English teams."

Chelsea's £25,000 all-night bender

Chelsea's stars enjoyed a £25,000 all-night bender at Frankie Dettori's Knightsbridge restaurant after the FA Cup final win.

However, all of that expensive food was not enough for left-back Ashley Cole, who had a McChicken Sandwich in his cab on the way home.

Club America's soccer marathon

Club America's extraordinary marathon continues this week as the Mexican club face two games in three days 7,400 km apart.

America, who beat arch-rivals Guadalajara 1-0 away on Sunday to reach the Mexican championship final, travel to Brazil to face Santos in a Libertadores Cup quarter-final second leg on Wednesday night.

After a two-hour bus trip to Sao Paulo followed by a nine-hour flight back to Mexico City, they then take on Pachuca in the first leg of the Mexican final on Friday barely 48 hours later.

They second leg is away to Pachuca on Sunday and, if they beat Santos, they will play the first leg of their Libertadores Cup semi-final the following week.

Although not part of the South American Football Confederation (CSF), Mexico's clubs have taken part in the Libertadores Cup since 1998.

The Mexican federation, however, has failed to allow for the Libertadores in its calendar, creating a clash between the final stages of the South American competition and the knockout stages of the domestic championship, in which teams play twice a week.

Police to paintball rioters

Greek police on Monday said they would fire paintball pellets containing different colours to identify any rioting fans during Wednesday's Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan.

Authorities have drawn up extensive security plans for the biggest soccer match of the season to avoid any clashes between English and Italian fans.

"The paintball guns will be one of the weapons the riot police will use in case of fan clashes," police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis told Reuters.

"The have the double aim of stopping trouble because they are quite painful as well as marking violent fans," he said.

Any fan covered with paint from a police gun, and not arrested immediatly, could then be easily identified and detained by police later.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Larsson and Smith to get medals

Henrick Larsson has been be presented with a medal for helping Manchester United win the Premiership.

The Swedish striker made seven league appearances during a three-month loan spell from Helsingborgs — three short of the minimum required to qualify for an official medal.

But United have had a medal cast for Larsson and Alan Smith, who made eight appearances.

First goal at Wembley

When Didier Drogba finally broke the deadlock for Chelsea in the 126th FA Cup final, he followed David Bone Nightingale Jack into the Wembley history books.

Bolton’s Jack was 24 when he became the first player ever to score at the old stadium in the 1923 ‘White Horse’ FA Cup final.

The local-born inside-forward grabbed the opener as Bolton beat West Ham 2-0 on April 28.

That day more than 200,000 fans had managed to jam themselves into the ground — many getting in for free — meaning the start was delayed for around 45 minutes while some sort of order was restored.

Hordes of fans had to be pushed back behind the touchlines by a white police horse named Billy, earning the clash its famous nickname.

The game kicked off with thousands of supporters surrounding the pitch and just two minutes had passed when Jack thumped his decisive shot past Hammers keeper Ted Hutton.

Not only did it give Wanderers the lead, it knocked out a spectator directly behind the net. He in turn knocked over a section of the crowd like skittles.

West Ham full-back Jack Tresadern was conspicuous by his absence when the goal went in.

Tresadern was trapped in the crowd after taking a throw-in!

Mourinho moving

Jose Mourinho admitted last night that he is moving - but only across London to a new house.

The jubilant Chelsea boss finally put an end to speculation over his future moments after lifting the FA Cup at the new Wembley following a late, late win over Premiership champions Manchester United.

The Portuguese coach said: "I am moving to another house in London because after being on TV this week everybody has seen where I live.

"I am preparing for the new season by moving to a new house so I am not leaving.

"If people have doubts about my future what can I do? I have a contract for three years and I want to stay."

Tevez to star

Carlos Tevez is set to become the subject of a new movie.

The story of his debut season in England with West Ham has been stranger than fiction - now a film will chart the story of the Argentine star's life from the gangs of Buenos Aires to megastardom.

Talks are under way for the 23-year-old, hailed by Maradona as the heir to his crown, to play himself on screen.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Owen buys Shepherds Warning

The Turf TV Claiming Stakes was won by a horse called Shepherds Warning. Coming at the end of week when Newcastle United's chairman Freddy Shepherd had warned Michael Owen publicly about his "loyalty" to the club, Newcastle followers may have felt that was coincidence enough. Shepherds Warning, however, was bought for £8,000 after the race and now stands in the stables in Cheshire belonging to - Michael Owen.

Owen claims that the purchase was not intentional, and he wasn't directly involved when the horse was bought.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Scottish bid for Euro 2016

Alex Salmond has backed calls for a Scottish bid to host the 2016 European Championships.

The new First Minister said the country should go it alone when putting proposals to UEFA and that preparation work should begin immediately.

Scotland has attempted to host the championships before, but a joint bid with the Republic of Ireland for Euro 2008 was unsuccessful.

Glasgow hosted the UEFA Cup final on Wednesday, but Euro 2016 would be a much bigger event as the championship is considered the biggest tournament in football outside of the World Cup.

Evra's criminal past

Patrice Evra goes for an FA Cup winner’s medal against Chelsea tomorrow knowing football saved him from a life of crime.

The Manchester United left-back, 26, went wild on the streets of Paris as a teenager. Evra formed part of a gang that went on regular shoplifting raids. He also took part in bare-knuckle street fights with rival tearaways, openly begged for money and reformed only after being arrested and hauled off to a police station.

Evra, born in Senegal the son of a diplomat, was brought to France aged three.

The crunch came when the gang were caught stealing by store detectives and arrested. Luckily it never went to court.

His wages have helped him buy his mum a home back in Senegal and he is still loyal to his old pals - he invited ten of them to Old Trafford for the Champions League showdown with AC Milan.

The most dangerous job in football

To own a football club you must have money. In Bulgaria if you have money the chances are you have had to deal with organised crime and, where organised crime is involved, death soon follows.

15 Bulgarian club presidents have been killed in the past 12 years. Statistically speaking, it is far less dangerous in Bulgaria to be a bomb disposal expert than to run a football club.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Abramovich cries when Chelsea lose

Roman Abramovich is a true Chelsea fan who cries when they lose.

That is according to Blues chairman Bruce Buck, who insists the Russian has no intention of selling the club.

Buck even claims Chelsea owner Abramovich has grown closer to the club despite his rift with boss Jose Mourinho this season.

He said: “If anything, he has more devotion to the club.

“He’s very interested in the football - it’s hard to describe. When we lose a difficult match, he’s sulking and there’s tears in his eyes.

“He’s a real Chelsea fan. He’s not developing this club to sell it off or anything like that.”

Terry transfer ?

John Terry is so incensed by the club's failure to give him the same money as Andrei Shevchenko and Michael Ballack that he is ready to ask chief executive Peter Kenyon for a transfer after Saturday's Wembley date with Manchester United.

Frank Lampard is in agreement with Terry's dismay at the poor performances of last season's high-profile summer arrivals, Shevchenko and Ballack.

A source says: "The talk inside the dressing room is about how angry John Terry has become."

Wembley ticket fiasco

Wembley Stadium will launch an internal inquiry into the confusion that has left hundreds of executive club fans waiting for their FA Cup final tickets with two days to go.

Tickets for Manchester United's showdown with Chelsea were scheduled to be sent out on Monday but staff were still working to clear a backlog caused by a computer problem last night.

Around 400 of the 6,000 individuals and companies who have spent up to £10,000 on 10-year licenses that allow them to purchase tickets for matches at Wembley still do not know if they will have access to Saturday's final.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

1,000 police for the FA Cup Final

A record number of police will be on duty for the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley on Saturday, with 1,000 officers being deployed outside the stadium and in central London for the event.

The police and the Football Association yesterday launched a campaign to encourage spectators to arrive early at the stadium, with turnstiles opening at midday.

The stadium is employing about 6,000 stewards and security searches of the 90,000 crowd are likely to produce long queues outside the ground, the first major event there for seven years.

Allardyce off to a bumpy start

Sam Allardyce endured a bumpy helicopter ride into Newcastle for his first day in the St James’ Park cockpit – a sign of things to come as he enters the whirlwind world of Toon football.

Allardyce looked happy just to be on solid ground following a helicopter ride in atrocious weather.

He said: “To be honest, I was terrified. The helicopter won’t be a regular thing. It was raining, and I thought, ‘How long is this going to take?’”

Sofia Loren to celebrate promotion with a striptease

Sofia Loren will take her clothes off if Napoli celebrate promotion to the Italian top flight this season.

The 72-year-old Loren, a movie sex siren from the 1950s and 1960s, is a big fan of the Naples club who have fallen on hard times since winning their first Italian championship 20 years ago.

She said: “I hope that Napoli win these last few games. You watch if we go up I will do a striptease.

“The fans have a total passion, the city deserves promotion.”

Napoli are third in Serie B, Italy’s second division, and have five games left to force their way into the top two or face a promotion playoff.

Beckham's first game for Los Angeles Galaxy

David Beckham's first game for Los Angeles Galaxy will be against Mexican team Tigres UANL ... and not Chelsea.

It had been rumoured that Becks would make his debut against the Blues on July 21, but instead he'll run out four days earlier against the Mexicans as the Galaxy look to tap into the huge Hispanic football following Stateside.

The Major League Soccer side are looking to start making a return on their investment as quickly as possible and boss Alexi Lalas revealed:

"We've targeted the Tigres game for the first time David will play for the Galaxy. If you look at our calendar during that period it is full of games, but not necessarily MLS games."

"There is the first time David will represent the Galaxy and the first time he will represent us in the MLS. It takes time for players to settle in. You can't just rush them on to the field, for a player to become part of the team he has to be put into a position that will make him and the team successful, and not just throw him to the wolves."

Viduka procrastinates

Asked why it has taken him so long to determine his future, Mark Viduka yesterday offered the reason:

“I’m a Libran, we like to procrastinate.”

Mourinho arrested

Jose Mourinho was arrested and cautioned by police over a row about his dog, it has been confirmed.

A spokesman for Mourinho said: "The incident occurred because of a misunderstanding over documents required for veterinary regulations.

"Mr Mourinho would like to make it clear that his pet dog was bought in England from a reputable breeder and has had all its necessary inoculations.

"Full co-operation will be given over any animal health issues."

Mourinho, 44, was attending Chelsea's player-of-the-year awards when he was called to his home on Tuesday, according to reports.

The Portuguese manager of the Stamford Bridge club is believed to have refused to allow the police to take the Yorkshire terrier.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First goal, first win, and first streaker

Not only did newly created MLS team Toronto FC get their first goal and win last weekend, beating the Chicago Fire 3-1, but they also had their first streaker.

He didn't quite make it to the pitch though, and then proceeded to soil himself when the cops grabbed him.

World Cup vibrators

A German sex toy firm is to pay German football stars Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn 50,000 euros each after it used their names to sell vibrators.

The stars sued the firm Beate Uhse because it sold special World Cup vibrators called "Michael B" and "Olli K" last year without their permission.

The damages - £34,000 ($67,000) for each player - were awarded in Hamburg. The footballers had originally demanded 60,000 euros each in damages.

Hilario may be a substitute striker

Jose Mourinho claims Chelsea's injury problems are so bad he will consider picking goalkeeper Hilario as a substitute striker for the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Mourinho could have only 15 senior players fit for the clash against Manchester United at the new Wembley Stadium, with John Obi Mikel expected to miss the showpiece after limping off against Everton on Sunday.

Ashley Cole is also facing a race against time to be fit, meaning Mourinho could have goalkeepers Hilario and Carlo Cudicini on the bench.

"If Ashley is ready we have 15 players for the final," Mourinho said. "I will have to choose between Hilario because he is not bad playing forward, or I'll bring one of the kids to make 16."

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