Archive for ‘Football’

January 31, 2011

Record breaking transfer deadline day closes, as Carroll, Torres, Suarez and Luiz all move

Fernando Torres after scoring goal against Vål...

Image via Wikipedia

There was no sign of austerity on transfer deadline day , as Premier League Clubs spent a record £214 million on new signings. The bulk of this was made up by four major deals involving Chelsea and Liverpool. The blues splashed out £21 million on David Luiz, and £50 million on Fernando Torres. The bulk of the Torres fee received by Liverpool went on buying Newcastle’s Andy Carroll, who’s £35 million price tag broke the British transfer record. Oh yeah, Liverpool also signed  World Cup wonder Luiz Suarez for £22 million from Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea vs Liverpool on Sunday will be rather tasty then, although Caroll will not be fit for at least a month, which makes his already excessive price tag seem more ridiculous. Torres has been out of form too, but obviously Chelsea think they can get the best from him once again. Clearly Roman Abramovich has decided to back under pressure Ancelotti, allowing him to also bring in highly rated Brazilian defender David Luiz from Benfica. Luiz is only 23, and can play across the back four. The signings could really reignite Chelsea’s bid to retain the Premier League title they won last year, although it is seems that these are signings that Abramovich has funded are once again try and win the Champions League.

While the hype will obviously be about Torres and Carroll, VN reckons Suarez is the real man to watch. Fulham also have pulled of a top signing,  bagging the services of Eidur Gudjonson until the end of the season. Gudjohnson is a proven goalscorer, strong, and experienced. His contribution helped Tottenham qualify for the Champions League last year (remember that vital goal at Stoke,) and means that Fulham are certainly safe for another year, and could even challenge for the top half of the table.

Not all the deals happened though. Charles N’Zogbia will still be a Wigan player, after the club rejected bids of £10 million and £12 million from his former side Newcastle. Harry Redknapp put in his now mandatory last minute bid, this time for Blackpool’s Charlie Adam, but the Seasiders keep their man, as time ran out on the deal. Spurs also had bids turned down for Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguerro and, erm, Phil Neville, and must be disappointed with their months (lack of) work. North London neighbours Arsenal still havn’t sorted their goalkeeper problem, and there were no big new names coming in to Old Trafford either.

This time last year, the relatively poultry sum of £29 million had been spent, but four major deals blew that sum out of the water today. Clearly Chelsea and Liverpool’s owners have decided to back their managers long-term, and try and reinvigorate their seasons short-term with some big money signings. If Liverpool sneak into the Europa League, or even the Champions League, thanks to their new fire power, and Chelsea win the title or the Champions League, the money men will consider it worth every penny.

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January 28, 2011

Ian Holloway to offer resignation as Blackpool manager

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BOLTON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 27: Ian Holl...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway will offer his resignation as Blackpool manager, it is being reported. He threatened to quit if Blackpool received any punishment for making 10 changes to their team against Aston Villa last November, a game Holloway’s side lost 3-2. Yesterday Blackpool were handed a fine of £25K for the incident. Wolves had been given a similar fine, but suspended, for the same offense.

It seems crazy that the Premier League can decide what a manager’s ‘strongest’ team is, particularly in this age of large squads and multiple competitions. No punishment has ever been given to teams rotating their squad to play lower league teams in the League or FA Cup, and nor should it. This is despite the fact that those actions have devalued those competitions more than a one-off Premier League squad rotation ever could.

Blackpool acting Chief Exec Karl Oyston has pledged to reject the resignation, but this is an unnecessary distraction for a club fighting to retain their place in the Premier League.

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January 26, 2011

Birmingham City to face Arsenal in Carling Cup final

Birmingham City will face Arsenal in the League Cup final next month, after beating West Ham in extra time at St. Andrews.

 

The home side came into the second leg trailing 1-2, and looked out of if when a great curling shot from Carlton Cole put West Ham further ahead. However, Birmingham had other ideas. They dominated the normally impressive Scott Parker in midfield, and ratcheted up the pressure on their East London visitors. Powerful long range drives first from Lee Bowyer, and local boy Craig Gardner in extra time, put second city side through to the final.

Birmingham will face Arsenal in the final, who beat Ipswich 3-0 yesterday at the Emirates last night. Despite Ipswich holding their 0-1 lead from the first leg all the way to half-time, Nicklas Bendtner finally put Arsenal ahead on the night and they went into cruise control. Koscielny and Fabregas then followed in with the goals to take their side to Wembley.

Arsenal are not hot favourites to win their first trophy since 2005. The Carling Cup final takes place on Sunday 27th February at Wembley, and live on Sky Sports.

January 24, 2011

A yellow card for Richard Keys and Andy Gray, but they should have seen red

>Followers of football will know that Richard Keys and Andy Gray have been at the forefront of reinventing the way we watch the sport. They lead both Sky’s normal weekend coverage, and the revolutionary, US inspired, Monday Night Football. They are rightly regarded as top football pundits.

However, their broadcasting may have been ahead of its time, but in the last 24 hours they have proved that their opinions really aren’t. If you have missed it, the off-air exchange between Keys and Gray after  female lineswoman Sian Massey (rightly) allowed Liverpool’s goal went like this:

RK: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” 
AG: “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.”
RK: “Course they don’t, I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before? Wendy Toms?”
AG: “she was ——- hopeless as well”.
RK: “The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”

The most outrageous thing about the comments is the fact that they used what they saw as Massey’s error  to attack women in football in general. Neither former lineswoman Wendy Toms, nor West Ham Vice President Karen Brady, had anything to do with the Liverpool game. Sexism against one individual is disgraceful anyway, but to they try and smear others just shows how prevalent underlying sexism is amongst football followers. How can this incident do anything else but put women off supporting teams, or getting involved in officiating or playing football?

That the comments were made off-air seems to have just about saved Keys’ and Gray’s job, although they have been taken of tonight’s coverage of Bolton vs Chelsea. The fact they were said off-air actually makes it worse. They wouldn’t dream of saying such things on air! Instead they said it when they thought nobody could hear them, and under the assumption that those that could would just chortle along. The sexism was their real point of view.

Ron Atkinson lost his job in 2004 for making a racist comment off-air. Seven years on, Sky appear to think that sexism is not as serious an offence. Both men have apologised, although nobody knows if they had done so to Masssey herself, and Sky have condemned the comments. However, they should have had the courage to remove the presenters.

Ironically, despite the fact that Keys and Gray were sitting amongst thousands of pounds of hi-tech equipment, and Massey had only a split second in which to make her decision, she was right and they were wrong. Perhaps someone needs go get out the salt and pepper shakers for them instead?

January 18, 2011

Sunderland cash in on £18m Darren Bent, as Spurs swoop for Pienaar

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Picture via The Telegraph

Striker Darren Bent has moved from Sunderland, initially for £18 million. This fee could though rise up to as much as £24 million. Bent  undoubtedly has an impressive Premier League scoring record, and was the highest scoring English forward last season. Since 2005 on Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba have scored more goals than Bent. Despite this,  many fans will find it hard to believe he has cost such a vast sum of money. Is he worth the same as Fernando Torres? Is he worth three times Rafael Van Der Vaart? However, desperate times call for desperate measure for Aston Villa, who sit in real trouble one place above the Premier League drop zone. New Villa manager Houllier will be hoping his new signing can score the goals to to propel them to safety and beyond.

Picture via SkySports.com

One of Bent’s former clubs, Spurs, also made moves in the transfer market today. The have secured the signing of Everton and South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar for £2.5 million. Pienaar can play across the midfield, but may find it hard to oust Tom Huddlestone, Wilson Palacios and Jermaine Jenass from their roles in the Tottenham side. However, there is no doubt that the Spurs squad has increasing strength in depth, and quality cover in most positions. With his arrival though, it wouldn’t surprise VN to see other Spurs players going the other way, and midfielder Jamie O’Hara has already been offered on loan.

Looks like the transfer window is just warming up.

January 17, 2011

United stay top, but title rivals maintain pressure

>Manchester United ended the weekend at the summit of the Premier League, but only on goal difference. The Reds went into their clash on Sunday with three games in hand on their closest rivals Manchester City knowing that all three points would end Tottenham’s slim title hopes, as well as put them firmly ahead of the other challengers. At the other end of the league however things remained as they were prior to the weekend.

On a grey, rainy afternoon, the football action brightened things up. Chelsea returned to winning ways with a two nil victory over Blackburn Rovers. Ancelotti had threatened that he would start without Drogba and Essien, but both were present as Chelsea struggled to break down a stubborn Rovers side. Chelsea looked the more dangerous as Drogba went close, but efforts on goal were few and far between from both sides. The second half hour was a different story as Chelsea punished Blackburn from some set play routines. A corner was flicked on my Terry to Ivanovic, who guided his shot past a helpless Robinson to send sighs of relief around Stamford Bridge on fifty seven minutes. The lead was deserved, and Chelsea extended it when Ivanovic rose highest from yet another corner to head goalwards, with Anelka getting the slightest of flicks to send the ball home. Chelsea saw out the game to give them a much needed victory, a win that fans hope triggers the start of a good title charge.

Elsewhere, Manchester City and Wolves played out a rollercoaster of a game as new Bosnian signing Dzeko made his debut. City have been notoriously slow starters, and were punished by an efficient and hardworking Wolves side who took the lead, Milijas prodding home from close range. Wolves were much the better team, and could have made it two had it not been for a crucial block from Kolarov from Jarvis’ goalbound effort. City eventually got their act together, and got the much needed equaliser thanks to a scrambled effort from Kolo Toure before half-time. However, despite much of the pre-match attentions being focused on Dzeko, it was talisman Carlos Tevez who dragged City into the lead once again with a brilliant individual effort. The Argentinian picked the ball up on the left, cut inside and used his quick feet to twist and turn inside three defenders before slotting the ball into the net. Minutes later it was three one as Yaya Toure received the ball, following great link-up play between Dzeko and Tevez, and buried it past the Wolves ‘keeper. It was soon to be four as Tevez then nodded home a Zabaleta cross, and City looked to be cruising their way to the top. Wolves though were not finished. They found a way back into the game through a Kevin Doyle penalty, after Lescott clumsily bundled over Doyle. Wolves then hit the bar, before Zubar’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line, setting up a nervy finale to the game. City clung on though, and the result that leaves Wolves in the drop zone.

Similarly, West Ham remain rooted to the bottom of the league thanks to a three nil defeat at the hands of Arsenal. The Gunners took the lead through a clinical Van Persie effort, and the lead was doubled thanks to Walcott nipping in behind Bridge to tap home. Arsenal’s work was completed when Walcott outpaced Bridge who hacked the England winger down in the box, to bring an end to what was a miserable debut for the left back. Van Persie converted the penalty convincingly, and sealed the three points for Arsenal who lie third. West Ham however face a massive challenge to beat the drop and find some stability, as doubts continue to grow over the future of manager Avram Grant.

On a brighter note, Blackpool and West Brom played out a thriller at The Hawthorns. Vaughn put Blackpool in the lead with a brilliant curling effort, while West Brom turned the game on its head with well taken goals from Odemwingie and Morrison. Taylor-Fletcher looked to have salvaged a point for The Seasiders, only for his effort to be undone by a long ball down the field that was not dealt with by Cathcart, and was punished by a tidy finish from Odemwingie to give West Brom a much needed win.

Slightly further up the league, Stoke gained an impressive win over Bolton. A Matthew Etherington penalty and a Danny Higginbotham goal were enough to see off the increasingly impressive Lancashire team. Higginbotham scrambled home an untidy goal eight minutes before half time, before Knight committed a bad foul on Etherington, and could have no complaints at the decision. Jaaskelainen was unlucky not to keep the effort out as he guessed the right way and got a hand to the ball. The result meant that Bolton and Stoke are now level on points in the league in seventh and eighth, although Stoke do have a game in hand.

The only draw of Saturday came at the DW Stadium. Wigan took the lead against Fulham thanks to a cheeky chip from Rodallega. The Latics seemed to be closing out the game, until Andrew Johnson came off the bench to nick an equaliser and send Fulham back to Craven Cottage with a share of the spoils, with a result that leaves both sides hovering nervously above the relegation zone.

And so attentions turned to Sunday its three derby contests. David Bentley produced a man of the match performance on his Birmingham debut, but could not do enough to help the Blue side of Birmingham go home with all three points. Birmingham took the lead through Roger Johnson’s close range volley, and looked to be in control of the game. Villa looked short of ideas but threw on Bannan and Delfounso, who changed the outcome of the game. Shortly after their introduction the impressive Albrighton lifted a delicate ball into the box which was smashed home by Collins. Richard Dunne produced a brilliant block to keep Villa in the game. Delfounso smacked the bar with an adventurous thirty yard drive, but the game ended all square.

The Merseyside derby also ended in a draw, but was filled with goals. Meireles gave Liverpool the lead at Anfield just before the half hour, but the lead did not last long as Distin levelled straight after half time. Dalglish must have feared the worst when Beckford gave Everton the lead eight minutes later. However, all was not lost for Liverpool as Howard, who had kept Everton ahead with some brilliant saves, brought down Maxi. Kuyt stepped up and converted the penalty, which meant both sets of fans had to settle with a point each, and King Kenny continues to search for his first win back in charge.

Up in the Northeast the points were also shared. Newcastle, minus the injured Carrol, took a second half lead through Nolan, and could almost taste another derby victory as the game went deep into injury time. However, Gyan had other ideas, and in the fourth minute of time added on he netted the equaliser to frustrate Pardew’s men.

With the local derbies now complete, White Hart Lane took centre stage. Former United hero Beckham was in the stands as he seeks to complete his longwinded deal to Tottenham, but all of the focus was on the pitch. The game was a close affair which Spurs arguably shaded. The usual suspects of Van der Vaart and Rooney went agonisingly close for their teams, but neither side could find a way through. As the game wore on United were becoming more tormented, and their frustration was told as Rafael received his marching orders for a second yellow after a cynical tackle on Assou-Ekotto. Tottenham sensed it could be their day, but in the end had to settle for a point as United stretched their unbeaten run to twenty-one games.

By Oli Holmes

January 10, 2011

>The David Beckham loan to Spurs saga continues

>David Beckham is this morning finally at Spurs’ training ground. However, he is only meeting the medical staff, and some reports yesterday have suggested he may only ever train with the team, and not register as a player. IT would not be surprising if this moe simple arrangement was made. The Galaxy are not that keen on Beckham gallivanting off every few months, and he had a similar arrangement with Arsenal a couple of seasons back.

Except VN is not convinced. It has come to VN’s attention that Beckham has not only moved back to his old pad in Hertfordshire, but that his children are attending a school in the area. Hardly something you do if you are only planing to be around for a few weeks.

With Victoria announcing she is expecting another child, (congratulations,) could the Beckham’s be making a more permanent move to this side of the pond? Is the deal taking so long because it is actually more long term? Beckham could certainly contribute to Spurs, and the mixed messages are classic Redknapp when something is going on.

Watch this space we reckon.

January 5, 2011

>Bobby Dean’s David Beckham fantasy

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As LA Galaxy confirm that they are ‘open’ to David Beckham going out on loan, a one-time fantasy is rapidly materialising into reality. Although with it, the ancient contest between heart and mind erupts once again – will it be good for Tottenham Hostpur Football Club?

David Beckham is a hero of mine, when I say I have a hand-drawn picture and his annual calendar up in my bedroom I am not descending into inflated, fictional imagery for the sake of reinforcing my status as an uncompromising fanboy – I’m making an open admission that any socially-aware 20 year old man shouldn’t make. I am without a doubt a direct product of the Beckham Generation. I’ve grown up idolising his every move and effort, on and off the pitch, and he has given me some of the most special memories of my life – not least that freekick against Greece. To me, he is nothing short of a hero.

There is however one entity in football that attracts even greater devotion from me and that is, of course, my beloved Spurs. From Darren Anderton to Gareth Bale, I’ve followed and supported Tottenham Hotspur through a lifetime of mid-table mediocrity, hopeless underachievement, and the occasional cup-run – and often in the rubbish “insert drinking product brand here” cup for that matter. “I’m Tottenham ‘til I die”, as I’ve so often screamed in the company of thousands of others.

But things are so different now. Becks is nearly a decade away from that memorable freekick, and Spurs recently embarrassed the Champions of Europe as they swaggered their way into the knockout stages of the Champions League. With the likes of Lennon, Bale, Van Der Vaart and Modric setting the world alight, where is the room for a 35 year old Beckham who has been plying his trade in the nauseatingly comfortable Los Angeles for the past few years?

The nay-sayers’ argument goes a little something like this: “Beckham to Spurs? What do they want him for? He’s too old, his legs won’t keep up with the Premier League, besides they’re doing fine without him – wouldn’t want to disrupt their form. The media circus that surrounds him won’t be good for the club either – it’s all about him, him, him. It must be about selling shirts”.

If it is at all possible, and I dare say it isn’t at all, I would like to claim with minimal bias that the nay-sayers are wrong. Of course if I was speaking with my heart alone there is no question; but the battle for my mind is a little more complicated, and I still settle in favour. Here’s five reasons why:

  1. David Beckham is an absolute professional. Not only does this mean he will set a fantastic example to the rest of the squad, but he will ensure that he is fit enough to play at this level if it’s the last thing he does.
  2. He will not, and never has been, effected by the pace of the game. The argument that he “doesn’t have the legs” is a nonsense that has been continually levelled at him by the same people he has proved wrong for the last 5 years
  3. He will fill a vital whole in our squad. Despite the common claim that there is no room for him, with injuries to Huddlestone et al, and the sporadic form of Aaron Lennon, David can provide vital, experienced back-up to compliment our pacy, youthful side. Wing-play is our Plan A, but we have been playing with Plans B & C all season (namely through the middle with Modric and Van Der Vaart and Long Ball up to Crouch), so his arrival does not require a knee-jerk transformation in style of play as critics suggest.
  4. The media circus isn’t a bad thing. Despite the persistent and failed attempts of some elements of the media to portray him as a narcissistic mercenary, he has consistently proved he is anything but. He has not flown off the rails as so many great talents do, and keeps it together as a man totally committed to football above all else, except his family. No doubt the media circus will come, but it will serve only to increase the status of the club and I trust Becks to set the right example to the likes of Bale in how to deal with it.
  5. And finally, it will allow me to fulfil my fantasy of having “Beckham” on the back of my Tottenham shirt…

By Bobby Dean he also blogs at http://yid-dem.tumblr.com

December 17, 2010

>Tottenham return to Milan as Arsenal get Barca in Champions League

>As it so often does, the Champions League draw has thrown up some rather wonderful pairings.

After Gareth Bale’s heroic hat trick a few weeks ago, Tottenham will return to Milan to take on AC. While  of course difficult, the fact that the second leg will be at White Hart Lane means that if Spurs can keep it within a goal they have a decent chance of progressing. AC no longer have the prowess they once did.

Neighbours Arsenal have the dubious pleasure of taking on the seemingly imperious Barcelona once again. Having been undone quite convincingly by Lionel Messi and company in recent years, and given Barca’s current form, the red half of North London won’t be relishing their tie.

Chelsea will play Marseille, and Manchester United face FC Copenhagen in much more favourable draws for the recent finalists.

The full draw is as follows:

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham
Valencia v Schalke
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
Lyon v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v Manchester United
Copenhagen v Chelsea

December 13, 2010

>Breaking news: Sam Alardyce leave Blackburn Rovers

>Sam Allardyce has left Blackburn Rovers with immediate effect.

The decision follows a poor run of form which included a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United, and this weekend’s 2-1 defeat to local rivals (and Allardyce’s former employer,) Bolton Wanderers.

Anyone got Chris Hughton’s number?

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