Liverpool earn shock win at Chelsea

On October 28, 2008 by

This weekend saw Liverpool record a shock victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The win brought an end to the London team’s magnificent 86-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League and saw the Reds move three points clear at the top of the league.

The match finished 1-0, with the decisive goal coming in just the tenth minute. Xabi Alonso’s somewhat weak shot took a deflection and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was unable to change direction following an initial dive to the left.

Chelsea sprung to life following Liverpool’s goal and should have gone into the half-time break level. However, the Reds defended well and continued to frustrate the London side. The second half saw Chelsea enjoy long spells of possession but they lacked the cutting edge that had previously been so impressive in matches, including the fixture against Middlesbrough.

Ashley Cole had the chance to level the match in the second half but he failed to connect properly with his attempt. Xabi Alonso could have increased Liverpool’s lead but the post saved Chelsea and allowed them to continue fighting until the last minute.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was quick to point out the potential significance of the result. He believes that the victory has sent a “massive message” to the other teams in the title race. Benitez was proud of the character of his team and was happy to see them sitting at the top of the table.

However, Liverpool’s problem in the Premier League has always been inconsistency. They have frustrated their fans by failing to win against weaker sides and, if they really are going to challenge for the title this year, this pattern needs to change.

Liverpool failed to beat Stoke following their impressive victory over Manchester United earlier this season. They are now desperate to beat Portsmouth, who have been destabilised by the departure of Harry Redknapp on Wednesday.

Another problem facing Liverpool in their attempt to win the title is inexperience. The team is not familiar with sitting at the top of the league and sustaining a real challenge throughout the long Premier League season. However, Benitez is confident that “the players know what to do”. He raved about the performance of his players after the match and revealed that Liverpool have managed to develop a winning mentality.

However, it is possible that Benitez, and the Liverpool fans, are getting carried away. Despite their defeat, Chelsea have been extremely impressive this season in the Premier League.

They have been very unlucky with injuries and sorely missed Didier Drogba in the Liverpool match. Essien and Ballack have also left gaping holes in the Chelsea side. However, these players will return and Chelsea will bounce back from this defeat.

Furthermore, let’s not forget about Manchester United and Arsenal. Both teams have suffered some shocking results this season but, despite United’s draw with Everton this weekend, they appear to be hitting form belatedly. Liverpool’s win against Chelsea was impressive but they will need to do more if they are going to convince the football world that they are genuine title contenders.

2018 World Cup bid could be damaged by Jamaican row

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This week saw the Football Association make a potentially worrying announcement for English football fans when it stated that it will force Jamaica to pay a controversial £135,000 debt.

Jamaica were apparently led to believe that the FA would write off the debt, which has its roots in June 2006. England played Jamaica in a friendly match during the summer of that year and the FA is angry that it is still awaiting money apparently owed on tickets.

The president of the Jamaican FA, Captain Horace Burrell, insists that the FA agreed to ignore the debt provided that Jamaica opened a youth training centre.

However, the FA has revealed that such an agreement would have to be signed off by the official board and, so far, this has not been done. As such, the debt remains and the pressure will continue to build until the payment is made.

The FA is aware that the Jamaican Football Association has been experiencing financial difficulties for several years and this is apparently the reason why the issue has not been raised sooner.

A spokesman for the FA has reiterated the fact that no official agreement concerning a potential training facility was ever made and, as such, the “outstanding debt” needs to be paid.

This news is potentially worrying for fans of football across the country because it could harm England’s 2018 World Cup bid. Burrell is a close friend of Jack Warner, who works as a vice-president for Fifa. Both countries must be hoping, for very different reasons, that the dispute is resolved as quickly as possible.

Laszlo faces two-game ban

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Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo could face a two-match touchline ban following his confrontation with the match officials after Saturday’s draw with Aberdeen.

The match referee Steve Conroy has told the Scottish Football Association he will file a report on the incident.

Laszlo confronted the fourth official at the final whistle after his side were denied a late penalty.

In a time when we’re looking for the players to respect the officials in matches, isn’t it about time the managers led by example? Especially after the way Csaba Laszlo lost the plot following Hearts’ draw with Aberdeen on Saturday.

It was a hissy fit of the spectacular kind after fourth official John McKendrick wouldn’t let him on to the pitch to shake hands with his players. Hmmm. I wasn’t convinced and I don’t think the SFA will be either.

As for the incident that caused Laszlo’s anger, it was a penalty decision by Steve Conroy that soon wasn’t after he changed his mind and having seen the footage, it was an excellent, but brave call. Especially when you see that Michael Stewart dived clearly.

Of course, the Tynecastle pitch may have seemed like a swimming pool, but there was no need to dive on it like one.

Not many referees will have the kahunas to change their mind after making such a big decision, but I think Conroy deserves praise for doing so, especially recognising the reaction of the Aberdeen players.

As for Laszlo, whatever his feelings on the matter, he can’t go around shoving the officials, or Aberdeen coach Sandy Clark, who tried to diffuse the situation and the beaks will throw the book at him.

Laszlo has been a breath of fresh air and seems to be quite popular with the media so far and that sort of spirit is the kind of thing that perhaps Hearts have been missing for quite some time now.

However venting it in that way at the officials is not acceptable and the Hungarian will soon feel the wrath of the SFA over it.

Hopefully the lacklustre Hearts players can take something from their manager…

Unbeaten Record Ends In Unspectacular Fashion

On October 27, 2008 by

Ok, so this weekend didn’t go particularly well from our point of view then – unless of course you appreciate the more challenging aspects in life, like seeing how many times you can bang your head off a wall before you pass out, or how many vodka’s do much the same job.

QPR sack Iain Dowie

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Queens Park Rangers Football Club have sacked manager, Iain Dowie, in a decision which didn’t exactly shock many in the world of football.

Dowie, who used to play as a striker for Southampton, was only in charge for 15 games and his record was not altogether bad. He managed to lead the west London club to eight wins, three draws, and four defeats. The club are currently sitting in ninth place in the Championship, just three places away from a play-off position.

QPR are also in the fourth round of the League Cup and are due to play Manchester United in the next round. However, this form obviously failed to impress the club’s board, who released a curt statement announcing that they had terminated the manager’s contract with immediate effect.

Iain Dowie took charge of the club following Luigi de Canio’s departure in May and, although he was not an immediate hit with the fans, his appeal had started to increase in recent months. The manager has had a hard time in the world of football following his exit from Crystal Palace.

He left Charlton at the end of 2006 following just 12 games in charge and also experienced a short stint with Coventry earlier this year. He was sacked by the board at Coventry and left the club fighting relegation.

The club are now under the guidance of Gareth Ainsworth, who has been appointed as caretaker manager for the short-term. They managed to put the instability behind them temporarily today, holding Reading to a draw.

What does the Redknapp news mean for Pompey and Spurs?

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So I have had around 36 hours to reflect on the goings on of Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning. What exactly went on and what exactly does it mean for both clubs involved?

We’ll start off with what it means for the club getting Harry Redknapp. First and foremost they are getting an excellent manager who will keep them in the Premiership without a shadow of doubt. Juande Ramos just didn’t work and the whole Director of Football idea just never worked.

They now have a manager with a proven track record in the market as well as someone who can attract top quality players. Redknapp has never worked with a serious budget before but still managed to attract the likes of Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Lassana Diarra to a club like Portsmouth.

No disrespect to Portsmouth, I am myself a Pompey fan but these types of players would not come to the club if it wasn’t for the manager. Whether they’ll stay at Pompey is another question that I’ll try and answer later in the piece.

Spurs have good quality and should with a bit of belief and confidence make their way up to mid-table this season. In the window they’ll have to find a striker or two who can score goals and that will be Harry’s major concern. Also at the back they look a bit lightweight with the lack of Ledley King who only seems to be able to play once a week.

Will he raid his old club for players? You’d bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be after the likes of David James, Glen Johnson, Lassana Diarra, Niko Krancjar, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch when January rolls around. He might even get one or two of them too but they’ll be at vastly inflated fees. It is more likely that he’ll have to scour the market and find players from other sources.

For Portsmouth though there are two schools of thought. Those who think that the club is about to curl up and die and those who think that the club will be alright. I’m in the latter of the two camps.

Harry did a fantastic job at Portsmouth, there can be no denying that but one man doesn’t make a club. A new manager will come in and whose to say that he won’t be better than Redknapp? How would Pompey fans react if Guus Hiddink walked through the door like he would’ve done if Redknapp hadn’t changed his mind on taking the Toon job in January?

Personally I’d be rather happy to have a World Class manager in charge and feel the players at the club would be happy working under a man who had won things at the very highest level. Hiddink teams have also traditionally been very pleasing on the eye and that would go down well at Fratton Park.

Redknapp has stated that the club needed the £5million that Spurs offered for him and let’s be honest about it – that is rubbish. He wanted the job and has tried to leave the club before until changing his mind. The man believed that he deserved a crack at what he saw was a big club and when Spurs came knocking for the second time in a year, this time Harry was itching to go.

I will always be grateful to him for taking my club to the best moments that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. However he repeatedly stated that Portsmouth would be his last club and that was a lie. He wasn’t forced out, he wanted to leave to stroke that massive ego of his and get a job where he’d have stupid amounts of money to spend.

Do I think it’d be hilarious if Spurs went down? Of course I do. Do I want them to go down? Yes I do. Does any Pompey fan I know want them to stay up? No I don’t. So I think that sums it up for me. I think Spurs will stay up. I hope they don’t. I hope Pompey will be fine and I think they will be.

Redknapp jumps ship and signs for Spurs

On October 26, 2008 by

Portsmouth have sold manager Harry Redknapp to Tottenham Hotspur for a staggering £5million fee.

So here I am quietly enjoying my Saturday evening. I’m watching a college football game from Texas and kicking back, a typical Neil M Saturday night, nothing to see here but then I get a phone call and everything changed.

Several minutes earlier I’d been informed that Juande Ramos and everyone else had been sacked at Spurs. A total clear-out which seemed to indicate that a deal to replace him was in place, but little did I know that it would be the manager of my club who was on his way to White Hart Lane.

Ten minutes or so later and the phone was red hot – considering it was midnight then you wouldn’t expect many people to be awake but this is breaking news. It was confirmed that Spurs had approached Portsmouth and they had accepted the huge offer to release him from his contract to take the Spurs job.

I am obviously gutted at this moment in time but we shall see who takes over. I know that back in January we had sown up a top manager to replace Redknapp, who looked like he was on his way to Newcastle. It will be interesting to see if the same man is still on our radar.

For Spurs it is a tremendous appointment. Redknapp will keep Spurs up with ease as he’ll get the best out of players. I know Spurs have no decent strikers but he’ll bring in enough quality in January to easily see Tottenham safe. The question is who will he raid from Portsmouth and that is a question without an answer for quite a while yet.

Barton reveals fears about future in football

On October 25, 2008 by

The Newcastle United midfielder, Joey Barton, has spoken out about his fears over his future in football. The footballer, who is 26 years of age, is preparing to return to Newcastle’s first team after being banned for six games.

The ban was handed to Barton after he was found guilty of assaulting Ousmane Dabo whilst he was still a Manchester City player in 2007. However, this ban has been the least of the midfielders problems this year, as he has also spent a total of 74 days in prison after being found guilty of assault and affray.

This season has been a disappointing one for Newcastle United so far and Barton’s plight has simply increased their misery. However, they will be hoping to record a precious Premier League victory over Sunderland this weekend and Barton has revealed his desperation to start playing regular first team football again.

The midfielder has played for the club just once this season, as a substitute, but made an appearance for the Newcastle reserves earlier this week. He is now hopeful that manager, Joe Kinnear, will name him in the line-up for Saturday’s match at the Stadium of Light.

Barton realises that the world of football is getting fed up with his bad behaviour and recognises that this is his last chance. He believes he has learned from his previous mistakes and is “thankful” to have been given a final chance to prove himself at the highest level.

The midfielder has spoken about the “hell” of going to prison and his disappointment at the reception he received upon arrival back at St. James’ Park. A large section of the crowd decided to boo the player when he returned to first team action following his extended stay in prison.

To be fair to the fans, Barton’s performances for Newcastle United have never been up to the standard seen during his time at Manchester City.

However, he is now keen to repay the faith shown towards him by the club as a whole and he is beginning to feel "good about the future”. Barton is all too aware that he cannot take back the mistakes he has already made but is keen to make amends and repay his debts to various people in the world of football.

After being plagued by drinking problems, the player has not drunk alcohol for almost a year and is currently receiving support from the Sporting Chance clinic. This clinic was set up by ex-Arsenal star, Tony Adams, to provide recovery programmes for sportsmen and women suffering from addictions.

Several famous Premier League players have previously received help from the Sporting Chance clinic, including West Ham’s Matthew Etherington, ex-England star, Paul Gascoigne, and former Chelsea striker, Adrian Mutu.

Several of these players, including Matthew Etherington, who is currently an essential part of Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham United first team, have made successful comebacks from addiction problems.

Barton believes that he can do the same and has even spoken of his desire to become a “shining beacon for kids” who are currently in trouble.

Whether Joey Barton can ever overcome his demons to such an extent that he becomes a role model for younger generations remains to be seen but he will be hoping to start the long road to recovery this weekend with a good performance against Sunderland.

Fenerbahce vs Arsenal post-match thoughts: Glad it was Guiz

On October 23, 2008 by

As much as I love Arsenal and the young side we have this season, yesterday’s match leaves a bitter taste ahead of the future. With the exception of Denilson, in midfield(with Diaby’s return), when we went forward and when we had to put it in, we were impeccable. But, and it’s a big but, back there question marks have to be raised.

Beckham set to join AC Milan on loan

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AC Milan have surprised football fans all over the world by announcing that they intend to sign David Beckham on loan in January. The 33-year-old, who is still a regular for England under Fabio Capello, is currently playing for Major League Soccer side, Los Angeles Galaxy.

However, the MLS season is due to end this weekend and the midfielder has previously spoken about his desire to be regularly involved in competitive action. He is desperate to keep playing at a high level, so that Capello will still consider him seriously for the national team.

After being appointed coach of the national team, Capello made it very clear that he would only ever select players who are not only showing good form at club level but playing regular competitive football as well.

Beckham, who has previously excelled at both Manchester United and Real Madrid, needs only two more caps to become England’s most-capped outfield player. Bobby Moore holds the current record but it is one that the midfielder is intent on taking.

The vice-president of AC Milan, Adriano Galliani, revealed on Wednesday morning that the England star will stay on loan at the club for several months at the beginning of next year. The next MLS season will start in April, so the loan will only be short-term. Prior to moving to Italy, Beckham will play for LA Galaxy in exhibition matches in Australia and New Zealand.

Adriano Galliani also stated that Beckham is not the only one to be getting something out of the deal. He believes that the player is “something different and intriguing” but was also quick to point out that the “ultra-competitive” nature of the Italian squad will prove beneficial to Beckham’s ambition of staying involved with England.

The coach of AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti, has also spoken of his delight and “pleasure” at the move. Like Galliani, he was keen to point out the positive aspects of the loan for the club, who are set to benefit from Beckham’s athleticism and professionalism.

The loan is expected to be officially confirmed on Friday but, if it does go through as expected, the midfielder will be able to play in both Serie A and the Uefa Cup.

David Beckham will not be the first English player to join the club. Ray Wilkins, the former Chelsea player and current assistant coach, played in England’s midfield during his career. He spent nearly three seasons with AC Milan in the mid-1980s and has been quick to applaud Beckham’s decision to join the Italian giants.

Wilkins believes that the midfielder will be able to “maintain the correct fitness level” necessary to win a place in the England team. Furthermore, he thinks that the professional nature of the Italian club, which contains world-class players including Ronaldinho and Kaka, will help to keep Beckham at his technical best.

The current Blackburn manager, Paul Ince, has echoed the words of Wilkins. Ince, who also played for the national side, enjoyed a spell with Inter Milan during his career.

He believes that Beckham’s quality is still undeniable despite his age and previous controversial decision to move to MLS. Ince was also keen to remind the public about the importance of the player’s “inspirational” leadership skills.