Thursday, October 30, 2008

Second chance after bungled draw

A politician who paired the wrong teams in last season's CIS Cup semi-final draw will be given a second chance on 12 November.

The Scottish Parliament's presiding officer Alex Fergusson and First Minister Alex Salmond will team up again to make this season's draw.

Fergusson announced the wrong ties by mistake last year.

In the original draw last season, Rangers were announced as playing against Aberdeen, while Hearts were due to face Dundee United, after Fergusson got the numbers mixed up when calling out the ties.

It took several hours for organisers the Scottish Football League to announce the mistake and the draw as it should have been - Rangers against Hearts and Aberdeen against United.

Players to pay their own fares

Sheffield Wednesday’s players have been told to pay around £30 each to take the train to Saturday’s game at Crystal Palace.

The cash-strapped club planned to send the squad to London on a coach but the players were not keen on a long motorway journey and asked if they could go by train.

They were given the go-ahead after agreeing to pay towards their own fares.

Wednesday, who are desperate for funds, revealed to the Stock Exchange yesterday that a proposed takeover by Geoff Sheard has stalled.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carew's lapdance fine

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has revealed that John Carew has been "heavily fined" for his strip club jaunt - but admitted he wished he was young enough to have been with him.

O'Neill saw the serious and funny side of the incident that found the Norwegian striker spotted in a lap-dancing bar.

The Villa chief said: "John has been disciplined, he has breached the rules. He thinks there were mitigating circumstances and I am always prepared to listen - but I did and made a decision that he was wrong.

"It's not a problem, he's been pretty heavily fined and that's the end of the issue. I've talked to him about it and about our age gap - and how I wish I was that age again myself.

"John assures me that it won't happen again. I will believe him. He might be questioning the size of the fine - but the players think it should be doubled!

"I used to do it myself - not in lapdancing clubs. They were not called that in my day."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wenger concerned by Gallas photo

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says a photo of club captain William Gallas leaving a nightclub with a cigarette in his mouth is unacceptable.

And while Wenger confirmed he will speak with the 31-year-old defender on the matter he insists he is the right choice to lead the Gunners.

"I will check that with him. He has a responsibility as captain of Arsenal and that cannot be accepted," he said.

"William has his critics but what you can never fault him is the motivation."

The Arsenal boss, speaking ahead of Sunday's Premier League visit to Upton Park to face West Ham, added that despite the photograph, Gallas has responded well to criticism stemming from last season.

The pictures showed Gallas leaving a London nightclub in the early hours of 25 October, but newspapers said the cigarette was unlit.

"I didn't see the picture. I have been informed, but I don't like that," added Wenger.

"It is a public job with a public responsibility and therefore it is exactly the same for everybody."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Styles on the brink of quitting

Controversial referee Rob Styles has been pushed to the brink of quitting as a Barclays Premier League referee after the FA on Thursday overturned Habib Beye's red card at St James' Park on Monday night.

The Newcastle defender was dismissed for a professional foul on Manchester City's Robinho and Styles, one of the League's most experienced officials, refused to rescind the red card despite a plea by Newcastle interim manager Joe Kinnear.

But Newcastle appealed to the FA disciplinary committee who backed the Newcastle full back and he is free to play in Saturday's derby at Sunderland.

A friend of Styles said: 'Not only is Rob a top referee but in order to officiate at the top you need a great deal of resolve.

He has had good support from his family and friends and that is what is keeping him in the game at the moment.

'But nobody would be surprised if that situation was to change because despite his love for the game there is only so much he can take.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soccer home at last for Palestinians

It was an important day yesterday, as the Palestinian national soccer squad faced off against a pick-up team of players from the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron.

The game was a warm-up match for a momentous encounter Sunday, when Jordan's Prince Ali and Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, the international soccer federation, will be among dignitaries watching as the Palestinians take the field against neighbouring Jordan in the first internationally recognized Palestinian home game.

Because of security restrictions and inadequate facilities, the Palestinians had had to play their home games in other countries, including Qatar and Jordan.

That will change with Sunday's friendly match.

Yesterday's contest played out under sunny skies in mild temperatures at the vastly enlarged and wholly refurbished Al-Ram Stadium, effectively a brand new complex that rises above the streets of Al-Ram 100 metres or so from the bleak concrete security barrier that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem.

FIFA itself financed the upgrade, which cost more than $4.2 million, says Malek Barghouti, director of infrastructure for the Palestinian Ministry of Youth.

With seating for 6,500 spectators, a cantilever roof that projects over the western stands and a playing surface of new artificial turf, the structure is minute compared with soccer stadiums in many countries, but it now meets FIFA's minimum standards for international play - and that's a first for the Palestinian territories.

Is Sven feeling the credit crunch ?

The global credit crunch and worldwide property slump is taking its toll on Sven Goran Eriksson.

The ex-England coach has swapped his £5million-a-season pay for a measly £4.25m with Mexico.

And having been driven from his £3m London home, Sven is now slumming it in Mexico City's best neighbourhood, counting his pennies in a penthouse suite atop a 30-storey cylindrical glass tower for a reasonable rent of over £10,000 a month.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spurs win at last

Monday, October 20, 2008

Collymore wins £1.5m in damages

Former footballer Stan Collymore has won more than £1.5m in damages from financial advisers who invested money he made from his footballing career.

The ex-Aston Villa and Liverpool player of Cannock, Staffordshire, was advised to cash in his insurance policies and set up funds which later failed.

Mrs Justice Gloster at the High Court ruled advice he had was negligent.

Mr Collymore sued Mark Francis, who traded as Chase Independent Financial Advice, and two other companies.

The former striker, aged 37, who is now a football pundit, first consulted Mr Francis in January 2001, the year he retired from professional football.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Platini: Stopping over booed anthem "absurd"

Stopping soccer international matches because a national anthem is booed would be absurd, UEFA president Michel Platini was quoted as saying on Friday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants matches to be halted in case of a repeat of the incidents at a friendly between France and Tunisia on Tuesday, when the French anthem was jeered.

"If you stop a match because the anthem is booed, you can also stop it as soon as a player is booed or a goalkeeper is jeered while kicking the ball out, it's absurd," Platini said.

"And why not a policeman behind every fan?," added the former France playmaker and captain. "It would be better to educate the fans because in some countries, the anthems are never booed.

"Thirty years ago, when I played for France, the Marseillaise was booed at every stadium in France but at the time, politicians were not interested in football and nobody was shocked."

French Football Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes was summoned by Sarkozy on Wednesday and told matches should be stopped if the anthem was booed.

Escalettes made clear in an interview on Friday that any such measure would apply only to friendly internationals but admitted it would be tricky to implement.

"We have to handle this new situation," Escalettes said.

"I don't feel capable of evacuating an entire stadium. What if people don't want to leave? And after that, what do they do once they're out on the streets?"

A crowd of nearly 75,000 was clearly in favour of the visitors on Tuesday with fans from France's large population of Tunisian descent packing the stadium.

Tunisia is a former French colony, like Morocco and Algeria, whose teams have also played France at the Stade de France in recent years with similar incidents.

Friday, October 17, 2008

12 current top players are gay

Former Chelsea and Celtic defender Paul Elliott said that he knows 12 top current players who are gay.

Elliott, 44, revealed that they are reluctant to come out because they fear negative reactions.

The ex-central defender, who now advises the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was speaking at 'Homophobia - Football's Final Taboo' - a forum organised by the Kick It Out campaign and hosted by the FA at its Soho Square headquarters last night.

Another speaker, gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, said: 'The Football Association has great equality policies on paper but it often fails to put them into practice.

"It's time to turn the FA's opposition to anti-gay prejudice into action and give homophobia the boot.'

Bolton offer free beer

Bolton Wanderers will be offering free beer to their fans before their match against Blackburn in a bid to increase attendance levels at the Reebok Stadium.

The first 1,000 supporters to arrive will be invited into the club's pre-match fanzone for a complementary drink and cut price food.

From there on beer and cider will be subsidised at £1.75 until kick-off.

Following their relegation battle last season, Bolton have been taking out a number of measures to increase on the 11 per cent drop in crowd numbers.

So far this campaign, their home match figures have shown little in the way of rising.

Club manager, Gary Megson said: "We’re making a big effort to promote club-supporter relationships and not just due to the credit crunch.

"The atmosphere for our last home game against Arsenal was incredible, and hopefully that sets a standard."

Tickets for seats behind both goals can be picked up for between £5-15, and young fans can now buy season tickets for £49.

A newly dubbed 'singing end' is also growing in popularity, with fans encouraged to bring banners and flags to matches.

Bolton's fans' liaison officer, Tony Kelly has spoken of his pleasure in giving the fans what they had been asking for.

"A lot of fans have got in touch asking if the club would consider hosting a venue where they can go for a drink and something to eat before the match," he said.

"I'm delighted to say the club has taken on board our fans' comments.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Football didn't interest me, says Walcott

Theo Walcott, the Arsenal forward, has revealed that he was not really interested in football as a child - and preferred athletics.

The 19-year-old, who has established himself in Fabio Capello's England team after scoring a hat-trick against Croatia last month, admitted it took time for him to become interested in the sport, adding that he began his career as a goalkeeper.

"Football did not really interest me until I was ten, I did not even know it existed, it was funny really," Walcott said.

"Athletics stood out for me when I was younger, I liked the 100 metres.

"When I did start playing football, I was in goal - and that was because I really loved the penalty shoot-outs, where I could save it and be the hero.

"Then I started playing for AFC Newbury, and scored more than 100 goals for them in just one season. It was basically just a long ball over the top and I would run on to it - I scored six in my first game.

"It was just natural for me, but although I was excited [after Southampton's interest], I was not really like, 'wow, I am going to be a professional footballer'.

"I just enjoyed playing and did not think I would be where I am now."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Striker with broken foot scores

A footballer with a broken foot has told how he scored the winner after coming off the substitutes' bench with five minutes to go in a local derby.

Ian Williams came on as Pontlliw were drawing 1-1 with Pontarddulais Town in the Carmarthenshire Association Div 1.

Despite his fractured right foot, the 29-year-old ex-soldier beat a defender to a cross to head home the winner.

"There was no intention of me playing," he said.

"It's football. I love it that much."

He had been off sick for a week after cracking his foot during a tackle in a previous game, but he swapped his plaster cast for a removable plastic boot-like cast just before the match.

He sat on the bench as one of two substitutes in the under-strength side and the game was still a tie when the former lance corporal in the Welsh Guards felt the need to take to the field.

He said: "I said to the manager, get me on, just to make it look like we had a full side. I said we had nothing to lose.

"It was just a last throw of the dice. It was like a comedy. You can just imagine it. The other side couldn't believe I went on.

"It was more or less my first touch of the game.

"The ball got crossed over. I jumped higher than the defender and headed it in."

But he paid a price for his moment of glory. As landed back on the ground after leaping into the air, the pain made his physically sick.

"The manager said 'well done, that's the best 90 seconds you've ever done' then took me off the park."

He added: "I won't be doing it again."

Uefa trials multi-referee system

Uefa is looking at a new refereeing system whereby the referee is helped by four rather than two assistants.

Europe's governing body has been trialling the idea at an Under-19 tournament in Slovenia where two extra assistants were behind the goalline.

"The goal is to have one referee with more eyes," Uefa president Michel Platini told the Uefa website.

"We do not want to change the philosophy of the game - we do not want to have two or three referees."

We had three pairs of eyes on the penalty box.

Northern Ireland referee Mark Courtney, who took charge of the Slovakia and Armenia game using the new system, welcomed the experiment.

"The important thing for the match officials is to always make the correct decision," said Courtney.

"With this system, we can quickly receive additional information from the additional referees, which we can consider as part of the thought process to make the final decision."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Road to be named after Busby Babe

A Black Country commuter route could be renamed in memory of one of the area's football heroes.

Duncan Edwards died in 1958, after 15 days battling injuries he suffered in the Munich air crash which killed seven of his Manchester United team-mates.

His home town of Dudley has a statue of Edwards, who was 21 when he died, but the council is considering renaming the southern bypass Duncan Edwards Way.

Dudley mayor Ray Burston said Edwards had a lasting impact on the town.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Euro 2008 champion Spain awarded beer

Spain's reward for snapping 44 years without a major title by winning the European Championship ?

Beer ... and lots of it.

The Spanish players will each receive their weight in beer from sponsor Cruzcampo after winning Euro 2008 at Austria and Switzerland in June.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina will be the happiest after tipping the scales at 211 pounds, while Villarreal winger Santi Cazorla is the lightest player on the squad at 155 pounds.

The grand total for the 23 players on the roster - the equivalent of 5,200 bottles.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Walcott's favourite picture

Theo Walcott's favourite boyhood photo is of him meeting Michael Owen, the man he replaced in the England squad.

The picture was snapped when Walcott was picking out Owen as the footballer he wanted to be.

Uefa could ban debt-ridden clubs

A senior Uefa official has warned clubs burdened by excessive debt, that they could be excluded from European competition in the future.

David Taylor, the general secretary of Uefa, says clubs face the "ultimate sanction" if they failed to deal with serious debts.

Manchester United and Liverpool are just two examples of Premier League clubs who have been burdened by massive debts after their respective takeovers.

"There would be forms of communication, even warnings, even reprimands before one would ever get to a situation of exclusion but it's absolutely possible," Taylor said.

Taylor expressed concern that clubs are putting their futures in jeopardy by exposing themselves to debt that would require a "white knight" to bail them out.

"We are looking at strengthening the minimal financial criteria and other forms of self regulation that may impose greater standard on clubs that want to compete in European competitions and beyond that club football," Taylor said.

Taylor's comments come 24 hours after Lord Triesman revealed English clubs had amassed a debt of £3billion, and that last season's top four teams accounted for a third of that.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tartan Army faces drink crackdown

Scotland's police forces said they are mounting a "major operation" to stop fans getting drunk on the way to this weekend's World Cup qualifier.

Fans will be targeted to ensure they do not bring alcohol to the Scotland v Norway match at Glasgow's Hampden Park.

Bus drivers and operators would be liable for prosecution if they knowingly allow alcohol to be carried on their vehicles, police have warned.

Officers will search trains and coaches and arrest anyone carrying drink.

Alcohol will not be available on train buffet services and police will also have "dipsticks" to test if soft drinks have had alcohol added to them.

At Hampden itself officers will be on the lookout for fans who try to approach the stadium without a ticket, or drunk.

Ch Supt Robin Howe of Strathclyde Police, said: "Members of the Tartan Army have a tremendous reputation around the world for their friendliness and high spirits.

"We are determined to ensure that this does not deteriorate into rowdiness or violence because too much drink has been taken by an irresponsible few.

"We are not out to spoil the party and hope that people heading for this important game will not spoil it either by carrying alcohol or having too much to drink."

He urged supporters and coach operators to leave plenty of time for their journeys as they may be stopped for roadside police checks.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Zenit deny UEFA Cup semi-final fixing claim

Zenit St Petersburg manager Dick Advocaat has joined his club in expressing his dismay at allegations that the Russian club won the UEFA Cup by virtue of match-fixing.

Spanish newspaper El Pais claimed a judge had forwarded information to German prosecutors which claimed a gang with links to the Russian mafia had given money to Bayern Munich before their semi-final earlier this year.

Zenit beat the Bundesliga outfit 4-0 in the second leg of their semi-final, before getting past Rangers in the final to lift the UEFA Cup.

With Bayern also denying the allegations, the Russian club have threatened legal action.

In a statement on their official website, they said last: "In a selection of the media, news has popped up which refers to different Spanish sources, and directly affects FC Zenit's reputation.

"The quality of play shown by FC Zenit in the games against Rangers FC and Bayern Munich is the best proof that the victories were earned by Zenit in honest and non-compromising challenges."

"Allegations of deals mentioned in the media are offensive to all parties mentioned.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wenger's motivational handout

The full text of Arsène Wenger's motivational handout:

The team:

A team is as strong as the relationships within it.

The driving force of a team is its member's (sic) ability to create and maintain excellent relationships within the team that can add an extra dimension and robustness to the team dynamic.

This attitude can be used by our team to focus on the gratitude and the vitally important benefits that the team brings to our own lives.

It can be used to strengthen and deepen the relationships with it and maximise the opportunities that await a strong and united team.

Our team becomes stronger by:

Displaying a positive attitude on and off the pitch

Everyone making the right decisions for the team

Have an unshakeable belief that we can achieve our target

Believe in the strength of the team

Always want more - always give more

Focus on our communication

Be demanding with yourself

Be fresh and prepared to win

Focus on being mentally stronger and always keep going until the end

When we play away from home, believe in our identity and play the football we love to play at home

Stick together

Stay grounded and humble as a player and as a person

Show the desire to win in all that you do

Enjoy and contribute to all that is special about being in a team - don't take it for granted

Chelsea food taster

Chelsea caused uproar yesterday by taking their own food-taster on their trip to Transylvania.

The squad flew into the heart of Dracula country for a Champions League match and got the locals’ blood up by issuing a 35-page list of demands at their five-star hotel.

The presence of the taster was ridiculed in Romania, where the London club’s stars were branded "soft".

A worker at the exclusive Opera Plaza hotel said: "What do they think we’re going to give them - Dracula blood?

"Do they really think they’re so grand they need a food taster?

"It’s insulting, like something out of the Middle Ages.

"They are too rich and too soft."

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