There WE Said It.com
This Page Left Intentionally Bitter
This free script provided by
In a whine of quite jaw dropping stupidity and self centred inability to rationalise Kevin 'Coco' Blackwell was angry at the appointment of Mike Dean, one of our top arbiteurs, for Monday's Championship play off final. As an American said to me in Football does the whining ever stop - before, during and after the game.
Blackwell said his appointment put Dean under pressure. As years ago when Blackwell's Leeds team were completely outplayed and lost 3-0 to Watford the little man was seen foaming and blaming the man in the black in yet another attack of paranoid delusion. Plus last November he sent off one of Blackwell's thugs for a high challenge.
The only thing that raised the slightest spotlight on Dean here is the paranoid fantasies of Blackwell. Does he drop everyone who has two bad games? Giving his weak thoughts some credence? So why does he think it for referees? Even if few nuetrals agree with the preposterous ranting Kev'.
Some of us wish the FA would actively try to prevent Sheffield United getting in the Premier League and the appointment of Mike Dean is not a way to achieve that. I guess the only sad aspect is that Blackers has no one who cares enough to take him aside and mother him through this tantrum.
I saw a poll the other day where 51% of people thought Carlos Tevez was worth 30 million. Which is more than I would pay for anyone bar Ronaldo at their current ages in the Premier League. As of course rule of thumb with 5 years wages and taxes you can probably double that.
Tevez does get high profile goals but like Ole Gunnar Solskjear where people bid bizarre amounts they are often late when the opposition sit deep and he has come off the bench. If you watch them enough like most goal scorers, which would be a stretching description of Tevez, they lack pace, movement and size. As a starter it is like the Tevez who seems so useful late in games off the bench is a mirage. I felt after he lost his initial burst of speed Michael Owen was a sub and Real Madrid concurred. Of course Owen's ego would not allow him to accept that even though playing there allowed him to stay fit.
So what is a very useful late match sub worth? Certainly he would be a useful squad addition to a top team but a waste to anyone else. So the market is thin.
Thus if the quote is above 10 million and the wages not above 3 million a year or so I really cannot see how even United can buy such a limited player. It goes to show a few high profile goals, which might just be luck like clutch hitting in baseball, is deceptive to ordinary fans who don't have worry about the money.
Even if he can be accommodated one does not get the impression that Tevez would be content never to start. United will have enough trouble giving Berbatov a chance as well as developing Macheda and others next year. If I was them I'd look to get another youngish forward like Rooney who can operate wide and offers movement and team play and use Ronaldo central in big games.
I was watching some Friends Provident one day games last week wondering at a Sky audience of 10 and whether that outnumbered the crowd at the game. Then I was wondering at the Pro40 league which Sky cover and no one sane wants - David Lloyd likes it. Then you look at May test matches in front of a half full Lords and a empty Riverside in Durham.
You might ask why so much of this cricket is played to be so unloved by spectators and TV audience? I think the reason is merely to fill space on TV schedules for Sky. Nothing more but a summer filler like Super League. Something so their schedules have filled slots on all 4 channels enough of the time.
You wonder if Sky had a channel for Football, one for Rugby and one for the rest how many people would have much beyond Football? Never mind Football and Rugby. The point is that combine a losing team with no access for many young people to the game on TV bar some highlights on five and you have a recipe of a sport trying to die.
The lack of profile may explain why the so called heroes of 2005, the last properly covered series on Channel 4, are so in vogue and effectively treat being in the team as a near right and winning as un-necessary. Most of them have not gone on to being average test cricketers and some could be called mediocre test cricketers on a good day.
There is only one one day game now and that is Twenty20. It requires only 3 hours from the viewer and is played at a time when working stiffs can watch it. The only reason for 50 over cricket is that Lords will be packed out at 60 quid a time. It more than Test cricket at the right venue is a dead sport. Indeed Test cricket has the support of most players for now. ODIs are what corrupted cricket as the results do not matter even at a so called World Cup.
It's hard to tell a sport to reduce its income but the authorities should reduce admission where demand is lower and actively sell the events. They should reduce the amount they play especially the for Sky only contests. Sure some counties will go belly up but that is not a problem for cricket and indeed like football clubs they will be re-constituted at a lower level so will still be a presence.
Oh and get back on free TV and away from all those ex England captains who speak but never say anything sane - Nasser excepted. Bring back The Great Man I say.
Apparently the Premier League will adopt proposals that each match day squad should have 4 home grown, but not necessarily home nation, players. I assume this is intended, although no one states it, to produce more domestic players or at least have more of them in more teams and on more benches. This will apparently improve our national team although no one is producing a logical argument to back up that call.
IMO, it's moronic. What is so special about players developed by clubs other some sentimental attachment to an idea. Fetishising home grown talent to achieve what exactly? Yeah I like players who have played for my club for years, you get to like them. However that is irrespective of where they started their career. Seriously who thinks of Frank Lampard in any colour other than Blue?
Will it make the top division more competitive? No. Who has the cream of young talent? The richer clubs. If you want greater competitiveness then bring in a salary cap or luxury tax of sorts not this nonsense surely.
This basically means that poorer players, than currently pad out squads, will be used to fill squads and be over paid - basic market forces if you restrict a population. Indeed those locally produced will have less incentive to develop. Their clubs will have less incentive to let fringe domestics leave even if they need the development time in a first team elsewhere. Loans may even be stopped which hurts smaller clubs again.
It is not as though the millions poured into development in the noughties worked. Arguably West Ham and Man United produced more England players before everyone put together really ramped up their academies. Fetishising youth even more into systems and narrow band accepted wisdom coaching may make this worse surely?
Domestic players staying with the same club will have less incentive to improve since they may be over paid to stay and pad out a squad. They will be worth less to another club as they are not from that club's system. They will have little or no incentive to better themselves as a result and will mine a velvet rut.
It's a crazy idea that does not obviously do anything to help a) national team b) the vast majority of young footballers in this country c) reduce wages (quite the opposite as it leads to rewards for where you started not where you are) d) make the league more competitive likely quite the opposite e) develop young english players - Fabregas, Macheda, qualify f) It provides an incentive for top clubs to grab every under 18 who shows any ability taking them into massive and likely impersonal academies.
England has more players rating highly in the international awards than ever. Most of these pre-date even the wide use of academies. There could be an argument based on recent anecdotal evidence to cut down academies and giving kids money too early.
I'd love someone to define a problem this solves. It seems to come out of feelings of xenophobia and a nostalgia for an era when players were chattel. It seems to be in more danger of being worse than the system it replaces.
Plus as with the foreigners rule that used to apply in Europe teams will work to 4 rather than look to extend those numbers. It will be another tick off target. How many championship teams will have kit-men registered in case they are short one day for instance?
Finally surely encouraging clubs to spend even more on 16 to 18 year olds is the opposite of what we should be doing to develop players. In most respects surely a rule that says you can only have 4 in the 16 squad would be better if that is your goal? 18 year olds with Ferraris do seem not to develop based on the last 5 years or so.
I am left to ponder quite who Arsenal fans can blame. They won't pick on the cuddly little things that are supposed to be their future but refuse to close down or track back even in central midfield.
Eboue whilst a poor player has not even been starting and one can hardly fault a player for being rubbish when he does not pick himself but Arsenal fans do.
With William Gallas the whisper among the Arses' so called cognoscenti is that he is disruptive and his captaincy stank, again they don't blame Wenger for picking him. Gallas had the temerity to get badly injured with the kind of defending that certainly the midfield see as anathema. He was blamed for being disruptive for suggesting some fan favourite white players weren't hungry enough. One wonders if he suggested van Persie was a fairy and a prima donna who was not fit enough to play every game? Bendtner puts in in only when his place is under threat? Or Fabregas strolls around but does not do the hard yards? A Black man telling White people the truth?
Although I know some yearn for Tony Adams telling people what to do but woe betide a French man whose family too recently left Africa? Maybe it's just because he does not have passion! Or maybe you have to drink hard to earn that respect.
We got another example of how 'passion' from what the media consider lesser races of people like Gallas and Ronaldo is considered by the wholly white press yesterday and today. Ronaldo is called a sulk by the Independent. Yeah a surly Ron is taken off after less than 60 minutes after training hard all week and it's a sulk. Wayne Rooney skulk's off in the World Cup after saying what a Big Man he is and throwing his boots around and pouting on the sidelines clearly unfit for top flight footie and it's PASSION.
Nope I'll never understand the passion thing. What I do know is whatever it is Arsenal lack it and it's clearly not the fault of William Gallas - there's no use trying to blame him because he's not there.
It's a measure of how good the top teams were that I felt that whilst arguably Chelsea could have done with some fresh blood, not as much as I assumed, the top teams seemed to spend money on what was available not from any need last summer.
Thus Liverpool got Keane but then played Gerrard there and Benayoun has actually been an able deputy. Man United burned points, and may still get to 90, playing 4411 with Berbatov before finding in big games Ronaldo forward and Rooney wide was better. Chelsea probably dodged a bullet with the Robinho loss especially now Guus has got some games out of Malouda and even the Nelk wide.
Now S'Alex must wish he'd rolled the dice with a genuine young front man given Rooney, contrary to genuineness rep, has finally consented to put it all in where the team needs him - up front and out wide not spraying the ball to opponents as a 2nd striker. Instead he bought a wild card like Berbatov. Indeed with Macheda one can even see United maybe not needing a front option in the not too distant future.
I felt that this title could be Liverpool's as it looked like 85 points would be enough and if they win their last 2 gimmes they will have 86. The problem is United are 83 and can get 92 even with Ronaldo dropping off a fair way at times.
The strength of United bar one or two blips, normally where Ferguson tried to show his bosses the 30 million on Berba' 4411 was not a heinous error, is that they have a very solid and fluid team structure and can play a front 3 from 5 that does weaken them greatly.
Next year will be interesting as Chelsea are getting older and based on the early stages against Arsenal and the away leg in the Camp Nou are vulnerable at the back faced with width and pace unless they can defend on mass and have a favourable man in black. Albeit bizarrely home form at little Stamford bridge cost them the title but I always think the games with other big teams and in Europe rather than beating the dreck in the Premier League shows aspects of the team better. Plus having the Drog at full throttle on that small pitch makes them a different team, as no doubt Big Phil would argue given the big man's lethargic and injury plagued start.
Arsenal lack a settled side and play a range of formations dependent on who is available and who the manager wants to give a game to not for tactical or for development reasons. They lack a stable back 7 and I don't see them improving much next year as a serious title team even if they become more of a handful in Europe and against the top teams one on one. A dominant centre half for set pieces if nothing else would be a start. Whether Wenger will ever stoop to buy even a cheap Vidic or Alex is an interesting question. Stable selection and fluid tactics dictated by the game would be a start even if it means offloading bits and pieces players and getting someone who can play back to back to back games better than van Persie. They went backwards this year in many respects which is surprising and appear more of a mess of players than ever.
Liverpool will surely look to add to Torres who does not look like he will ever play 35 games and at the back where Hyypia is ageing and Carragher, like Terry, is terrific with play in front of him but not in those games where they need to open up and invite counter attacks to avoid draws with lowly teams.
United will no doubt continue to rely to some degree on some games from Scholes and Giggs but should be able to just get some solid miidfielder to complement Carrick, Fletch and co. Losing Tevez they can either add a wide player or a forward and maybe off load Berbatov. They seem to be the team to beat again for the next few years with their core seemingly set for years. The good/frightening news is they can strengthen in every part of the pitch providing they keep the team cohesion. They have strong centre halves and Ronaldo and no other players for me they should miss horribly, or at least cannot replace cheaply to a degree.
Dermot Gallagher went over Chelsea's 4 penalty calls for Sky and he basically said he would have found it hard to give the one against Malouda and the final one for hand ball was a joke. So he felt 2 should have been given.
Then again how many referees with a tug on the blindside would be minded to give Drogba a penalty? Not many. Hard to argue with their logic given his pantomime act - he may be one of my favourite players but sorry Didier you reap what you sow even if I find it funny. He often does not get them in the Premier League so why should he in Europe?
That really leaves us with Pique's handball. So we basically have one mistake in a game and handball again is frequently not given no matter how bad - see John Terry's frequent lunges at the ball arms above head.
The point is that 1 or 2 decisions is no excuse to lose. Rationally given Chelsea's history and taking into account referees do not always have a perfect view poor but maybe understandable decisions. It's no excuse for the awful behaviour that followed and in a roundabout way probably contributes to the bad decisions. The point is the referee missed less chances to help Chelsea than Drogba alone and he should have been shouting at himself.
Chelsea, and their threatening fans, have been probably the worst behaved top team in Europe and of the top sides domestically for several years now. UEFA have sat by as Chelsea managers, principally Mourinho, poisoned the atmosphere before games and sent referees to retirement. Indeed what was Chelsea's sanction when Mourinho was exposed as a liar about Frisk and ambulancemen? Nothing they backed him and increased his salary after the Frisk incident. No wonder Guus doing his Inspector Dreyfus act hinted at mysterious forces and conspiracies as his eyes twitched knowing the Chelsea brass and little Englanders would back such delusion. UEFA should ban such contemptuous stupidity, of course they will once again favour Chelsea and do nothing.
John Terry in addition to handballs also has said on record that he likes to put one on the forward in the first few minutes which shows his contempt for the laws of the game (it's called cheating when it's deliberate). Who can forget the Man City game this season it's late and Chelsea are two in front and Terry can't be bothered to track back tried to trip then rugby tackled Jo. Yes guess what he was let off by the FA who blamed the referee and condoned his cheating. Teflon Terry.
Chelsea are famous for ganging up on referees and surrounding them especially led by their captain Terry - never been stripped of the captaincy. Frankly why Lampard is not captain is a question only someone with no dignity could answer. He walks off after the worst sending off of the season from Riley without complaint - he even refuses to blast Riley after. Oh and he takes big penalties when others hide. Oh and he is still the 2md or 3rd best player in the league and maybe Europe. Frank shows emotion but also control really why does Terry have the armband?
It's been no fun being a Chelsea fan these last 3 years. Their self justification and behaviour is barrel scraping. If they find their games are un-refereeable then go figure. UEFA will act against the lousy Drogba but once again the majority of the cancer will remain boosted by an English media rushing to back the path of least resistance.
Sadly even proper sanction against Guus, Balls, Drog and Terry will not stop the xenophobic white noise that cannot see any reason to send Fletcher off and saw 4 anchor penalties on Wednesday. I guess it's why less talented nations have won football tournaments in the last 43 years as they are adult about it.
Chelsea and the English press did not object to a malleable non decision maker in the first leg and UEFA were happy given the history to throw another one and sent a real clown for the 2nd leg. Now we [English] want to whine. It's almost comical what has been written and the level of opprobrium thrown at the referee and UEFA.
I am someone who is at heart a Chelsea fan except rather put off by the low morals and integrity of Abramovich, Kenyon and was utterly repelled by the broken clown Mourinho's last year or so. Part of that was when it was clear Jose lied through his teeth about Frisk (who was to a degree compromised by Rijkaard even if UEFA ignored that). However Frisk was hounded out of football on the Jose inspired nastiness - I am amazed the Berkshire ambulance service was not disbanded after his false crack at them but maybe people had realised by then his sanity was gone. Now one wonders if another Scandinavian whistle blower will get the same treatment - at least this one would not be missed.
Add in Urs Meier's hounding and one wonders if the English supporters has any dignity or sense of proportion or are just en masse a rabble of simpletons who grab hold of sanctimony from a single narrow ignorant perspective to speak out whilst their letting their govt take the liberty without a whimper? That they never blame themselves when they lose after playing gutless football against an inferior team.
What could/can UEFA do after Mourinho was so pleased with his cheating in one Barcelona game he joked about it in an advert for American Express. Indeed the papers lecturing Guardiola on his reaction to the goal obvious have forgotten the broken clown's frequent and far more considered provocation. Seriously should UEFA consider banning Chelsea as unrefereeable? or make them play 2 away legs? Not even sure that would be that unreasonable given the churlish reaction to every defeat and not caring how they win.
In the end Chelsea were probably denied over the tie. However they did not face an away deficit largely because they were able to foul Barcelona nearly out of the first game - they also had no suspensions that some yellows and reds might have brought. Sure they were unlucky not to get penalties but a) there is no guarantee they score b) that does not mean given the way they defend leads they hold on as a 100% fact. They still had a lead against an ineffective team with 2 minutes to go, sorry but for me that is no excuse to lose.
What I find frustrating is how the UK press barely mentions their failure to take their chances. Their failure to defend properly very late in games. In the end regardless of a joke man in black that had it within their ability to make all of that immaterial. They failed and their loser behaviour (national characteristic?) after suggests they will continue to do so in big games.
Winners focus on what they can control and improve. They make no/few excuses even when they have them. Chelsea are not winners?
Clearly the fear of losing to Barcelona was a lot less than the terror of losing a 2 goal lead to Liverpool as for most of the 90 minutes Chelsea kept their composure. However as predicted if it came down to one goal eventually Chelsea would tighten up and sit so deep that they would develop the lack of resistence they showed in the prior round.
Sure there were some marginal penalty calls which could have been given but equally Barcelona could point to similar events in the Camp Nou. The most risible was Chelsea's call for a penalty when someone turned their shoulder at the end of the game. John Terry one can only assume was after royalties for that move when he confronted the referee. I wonder if the referee should have given a penalty for breach of copyright?
The real thing the game showed was how paradoxically the ball over the top can be so much more effective on a smaller pitch. I think the reason The Drog and Nelk were so much more effective was that the shorter pitch: means a more accurate long ball is possible: the striker only has to control and shoot not run 20 yards or more: support and deeper runners can get there quicker and even beyond the striker: the keepers start point is so much deeper.
In the end Chelsea must regret not just playing football and using their size and power. In the end though they failed to win not because of: the referee: Iniesta: sitting too deep: but because they missed a ton of chances.
Even against 10 men Chelsea opted not to use the advantage. They kept 2 deep lines of 4 and looked to hook Lampard or the ball over the top which meant Barcelona's loss of a defender was largely irrelevant.
Chelsea faced a team without their 2 key defenders before the game. The opponents key weapons were slightly nullified by the pitch dimensions and they still stuck to their counter attacking game plan. That is admirable when you win unforgiveable when you lose.
Roberto Rosetti who sent Darren Fletcher off was the same referee who found it in him to not send David Silva for a head butt he clearly saw when UEFA preferred the slick Spaniards over the Germans. You may recall the oddly soft spoken Jens Lehmann commented he was the referee to put the fix in at the time.
If he was not UEFA's poodle then maybe he was being pragmatic. It would surely have been far more sensible to not send off Fletcher even if he saw it as a penalty then? I doubt Arsenal would have complained unlike the Germans who had a case.
I should have waited rather than try to make a point about the Gomes incident the other week. I wish we did have have appeals for red cards in Europe as I wonder if Darren Fletcher would be any better off. The fact that he put his hand on Fabregas's shoulder to give leverage to his lunge across Fab's body and then somehow the tap on the ball somehow justifies this? Again the laws of the game don't mention touching the ball as mitigation for a foul.
Indeed anyone who has watched English footballers in Europe for 20 years or so knows the sign. An English based player looks at the ball arms pointing downwards with palms facing outward to the referee, back bent leaning forward and a child like look on the face saying "But I played the ball" to which the ref would retort "but after you went through him". Even in England refereeing seems to have come out of the dark age where this was the sole determinante of a foul or not. Interestingly even after his shocking attempt on Alonso Joey Barton tried the same gesture before walking off deciding if he should cold cock Shearer or whether the big slow man was wide open for a right lead like his pal Hatton - at least we know Joey can fight regardless of opponent or trainer or occasion unlike Ricky.
Fletcher is very probably unlucky and maybe the referee would have upheld the standard ex-player view - although as I say the ref could easily make the same decision on what happened even seeing it from all angles. Regardless why was he making that challenge when they needed 5 goals in no time at all. Even accepting he touched the ball he risked his final place for an inch of stud at 4-0. Unlike Keane and Scholes 10 years ago there is no evidence or record of The Fletch being seemingly keen to avoid big games so one can only assume he was unable to switch off or think on a field. Even carried out successfully such a challenge has a good chance of a red and frankly it was a low percentage tackle and in theory grabbing the opponents shoulder for leverage made it a foul anyway.
A real shame and a half decent ref might have found a way to just yellow him. After all the game was over. A half wit might have found the ability to not make that challenge mind.
I've been touting the Arsenal side as one whose time will come but increasingly like the first 20 seconds of the Hatton fight they keep leaving the nagging feeling they are unprepared for top flight footie. They seem to have gone backwards against good teams this year and quite where their defensive 6 will come from is beyond me at present.
The way the United game started Tuesday night with Arsenal all over the place for 20 minutes did show something IMO. Kevin Pullein the top football writer has exposed the myths of teams being worse off playing off short rest and losing the weekend after European games - no need for rotation for its own sake in other words. It is OK to rotate but to continually rotate the back 6 for its own sake is a mistake for me. Rotation is to keep your best players fresh not to give people games - i.e. why was Arshavin playing on Saturday he hardly needed the match practise as he was ineligible for the one tournament they could win?
Ferguson was supposedly forced to play the core of his side at the weekend and did he not moan and moan enough about it. Yet surely better to play than rest given most of his players are fresh after injuries. Wenger rested lots of players including most of his back 4 and his key midfielders bar Denilson. Ferguson's front 3 shuffle in a game all the time and as he is picking 3 from 5 it's not like Arsene choosing between 7 or 8 to play off or wide in a 442 or a 433 the next week. Yes adaptability, rotation and flexibility are all good but not when prescribed every game.
Part of the problem for me is the continual changes to playing style and personnel to give the forest of players in midfield and behind the strikers regular games rather than the usual reasons for rotation to freshen up and keep fresh.
Now Arsenal's players are almost all fresh, especially as he treats the cups correctly as practise games for his squad players. So he rotated for its own sake. I don't see any purpose to his rotation on Saturday bar breaking up the rhythm of a team that hardly looked gelled last week. Even Rafa has stopped rotating the core of his team.
The point is simple that teams that play together will improve as most of football, as in life, is done sub-conciously by pattern matching. Not by overt thought. Thus whilst to play the games at the pace they are played rotation is essential, and for moral reasons in a big squad, to rotate a fresh squad in between 2 games is at best missing an opportunity to get match practise at worst it is a way to break up the patterns and functioning of a team.
To advance Wenger needs to rotate better and that may mean choosing and selling some of his spare bits and pieces guys like van Persie, Walcott, Arshavin etc and looking to buy or stick with a couple of centre halves - look how only injuries rotate Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United centre halves and central midfielders - at most 1 change a game when it is not forced.
Wenger should not use rotation as a means to give people games - after all that is what he so successfully uses the cups to do. He needs to start letting go of players who cannot stay fit or have no development left or who are blocking someone younger, cheaper and better. Most of all he needs to settle on a few styles of play and a core of players to build around.
Ricky Hatton was sitting by a pool handing out how proud he was of being the best supported British fighter in the US. He also has a huge stack of cash to prove it although I wonder if 2 men and a dog will want to go next time. Anyway trite thoughts aside I think we have been here before with other simple lads afforded easy popularity like Flintoff. We could even add Botham and others over the years but despite reservation Sir Ian was as good a cricketer as this country has produced for 5 years at least - or as a cynic might say at most.
Their popularity I think stems from their apparent lack of any guile - lacking in any self consciousness and insecurity. They are often almost cartoonish always saying the kind of bland giddy up comments I find so irritating and obviously others lap up.
Yet all at the height of their popularity failed mostly due to the flaws that make them so popular - they don't think about what they are doing. In the cauldron of competition Flintoff in the 2006 Ashes and Hatton this week showed up: utterly unprepared: with no plan other than to give it a go: when it went wrong or was clearly going wrong they did nothing to correct it: their colossal failure was accompanied by a real could not care less attitude - seriously afterwards Ricky lauding his popularity like boxing was a popularity contest. Flintoff just drifted into a lonely world of drink and could not be bothered with a World Cup.
You could add Rooney so short of guile and thought that when it's not going his way that uncompilcated personality cracks and he puts himself before the team like Flintoff - in his own way Hatton for all his popularity is all about himself, and rightly so in a way but supposedly self centred Joe Calzaghe would never let his fans down by turning up so unprepared and uncaring of that fact.
It annoys me that some journalists seek to still excuse Hatton for being totally unprepared: physically: mentally: tactically. Surely a better person would have sacked Mayweather and got someone else in for the last few weeks of training. Rather than diss Billy Graham who never turned Ricky out in this kind of shape despite the laughably monikered Hitman's re-fueling habits. Hatton had natural size on his side and whilst the opponent was very good there was no excuse for being battered to defeat in under 6 minutes like someone who'd never boxed before.
It seems a bizarre assumption that the Pacman hits harder than other natural 140 fighters. He was the man who hit a broken de la Hoya (a far naturally bigger man who weighed almost the same as Hatton at fight time) with 200 power punches and did not knock him out. Maybe it will turn out to be the case but more likely Hatton had done no real preparation mentally and tactically and just turned up wide open and his lack of physical conditioning revealed itself in his capitulation - probably compounded by his little man inadequacy causing him to choke as well.
Most laughable was Hatton's talk of being a promotor as though some drunk from Hyde used to telling people what they want to hear could ever promote anything. It could be a good way to get a small fortune from his medium sized one I guess.
Quite when the British love affair with guile-less amateurs who fail so casually will end is beyond me. They inevitably fail as the flip side to their easy personality is not about professionalism or thought or leadership. They also become self important on the back of their popularity assuming dictator like that it reflects well on them as a person.
With the Liverpool game lost Joey Barton decided he'd had enough and became the latest player to have Xabi Alonso carried off (Lampard once broke his leg with a tackle that meant he got a 5 booking ban that was timed for an FA Cup game and thus did not affect his amazing streak of league games - of course no one is suggesting Lampard did it deliberately).
This should have been a footnote in Barton's merciful drift to obscurity. However Alan Shearer ranted on and on about him. I can only assume this is in the 'Arry way of last week where he was whining about 1 incident, in a half his clowns had conceded 5 goals in, for nearly a whole week. I assume it is obfuscation to not talk about how weak and craven their own players are. So let's have an end to these mandatory press interviews as managers clearly just get through them without mentioning anything they really want to talk about with their teams.
Barton is typical of Newcastle's current squad. It is chock full of recognised names whose careers are on the downgrade. Indeed it highlights the dangers of taking squad players from the top teams or indeed ageing free agents. Seriously whilst idiots might like the idea of Martens, Butt, Barton, Smith, Owen, Viduka, Geremi and Duff no one sane would want any of them - Newcastle must pay more for them than some teams whole payroll.
Worst of the lot is Barton. I remarked in his last year at Man City that he played behind 2 strikers and did not track back much and had 6 goals inc penalties. He gave the ball away with bottle tops and talked his way into McClown's England squad. He's not even a poor premiership player. Indeed like many players with a track record of violence, on the pitch, managers seem to assume he is a competitive player. No doubt if Sheffield United come up then Loon-Alex McLeish and Kevin Blackwell will fight for the signature of such a violent reprobate. All we can hope is his season ends duffing them up not risking some professional's career again (Barton is an amateur not a fellow professional).
For the future Shearer should understand after 5 games and 1 goal that playing more and more centre forwards results in scoring in less games even if you can beat 1 team 7.
With Hull in free fall Newcastle could stay up with a win over Boro next week and maybe little else! However their ageing squad is not getting better and without big injections of cash next year will be as long as this. The bright side is they cannot play Barton again this year.
All hail the Pacman. Not since Tyson have I seen a small guy use science to overcome size and reach's supposed advantages. The Pacman was awesome. With Cotto and Margarito both shown as phonies in their own way the Pacman may have to step up beyond 147 even to get a real fight now with Money Mayweather or maybe Sugar 'Shame' Mosley the disgraced drug cheat who beat the disgraced caught lead handed cheat Margarito. Normally I'd bet against it but with him I'll just watch the fight....
I always said I'd back against Hatton if he fought someone good. But there I was lapdog like believing the Hatton story that he was now fit and learning again - not to mention he should have been substantially heavier than his opponent. He was only 4 pounds bigger. BTW there will be some revisionism but it was tough to say Hatton was not the best 140 fighter.
However the result was even worse than one who was not Freddie Roach could have imagined as he was just simply outclassed and in the worst way.
Worse in the 24/7 film they show Hatton saying to Mayweather snr that he always does that move watching the Pacman on film. Yes every time you went to throw your left he whacked you with the right. Sort of like being surprised by the end of the Sixth Sense when you have seen the film yesterday - this film could be called the No Sense or even Nonsense. Jees you think you might have avoided the punches then Rick?
There is a another scene in the 24/7 programs where trainer Mayweather snr throws a party and Hatton says that Floyd has introduced him to a great new drink, Kool Aid. Mayweather's Kool Aid was as the usual metaphor suggests not a winning formula for a gullible follower.
There was a lot of obfuscation and there will be suggestions Hatton's lifestyle contributed but frankly he was shown up and being in better physical condition would merely have prolonged the agony. He was almost the same naive bully boy fighter cut by Thaxton and pole axed by Eamonn Magee. In the alphabet soup world where it seems fewer people have taken up the fight game maybe the gap between British and ordinary World Champion is not that large after all.
Hatton gets 13 million dollars to drink away with the rest of his life. He can now truly play the little man as he had no class in the ring. He was out of shape for most of his fights and benefitted from being in a division bereft of a genuine champion once the 35 year old Tsuyu was paid to lose by Frank Warren in Manchester. He is well marketed but frankly the inability of most British fighters to learn and grow is much like the hubris that haunts all our major sporting teams - see what one narrow Ashes win did to wreck English Cricket.
The memo of this fight is that if you are going to slurp anyone's Kool Aid it is Freddie Roach's who said it would not go 3 rounds and that Manny was the best we'd seen for a while. Being beaten up by Mayweather up in weight is one thing but to be knocked out in 2 rounds by someone much smaller than himself at his best weight is pathetic.
Pacquiao proved he was still strong and fast and again the manner of his victory was so amazing that again one just has to question the opponent. However plenty of decent light welters and a welterweight champion fell to Hatton so credit where it's due?
Bill "The Preacher" Graham and Frank Warren were the winners as they clearly got the most from Hatton even if he proved to be as ungrateful as he was found to be talent-less at the top level. Indeed the fact that much of Ricky's shadow eclipsed Joe Calzaghe's career is a sign that good still does not have a lot to do with fame. At least it prevents serious embarrassment albeit for less money.
Will Amir Khan be the same fighter crushed by Breidis Prescott or will this and his defeat at a young age warn him against not developing? At least he drinking what Pacman is from the Roach and Moorer chilled cabinet. Indeed he at least spared with the Pacman whereas Hatton spared with right handers before facing a grease lightening Southpaw - What A Clown. His epithet a funny man who joked about his joke preparation and diet.... Real funny for all his family when he was lying spark out but considerably richer.
Why do I enjoy watching Barcelona beat Madrid 6-2 but not Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool sharing 8? Or Spurs and Man United trading 7? There is actually an answer with some logic.
Why would 2 defensive sides like Chelsea and Liverpool end up 4-4 and ditto Liverpool against Arsenal? Seriously how do these sides who can be so obdurate, as Chelsea showed in the Camp Nou, suddenly have the resistence of wet tissue paper?
For me it is because like the England national team something in the culture causes them to get excessively tight when they have something to lose. The course of the recent game between Liverpool and Chelsea seemed to be that when one side had something to lose they choked. This ended up like Wales Ireland in the 6 Nations decider with each team trying to score late enough they could not choke it away. Or England constantly losing the lead in their Rugby World Cup Win to a vastly inferior team.
Whereas with Barcelona and Madrid, yes the game threatened to ebb and flo but only because that is how they play football. Not because when they got a lead they retreated to standing in 2 lines of 4 not more than 30 yards from their own goal. The ebb and flow is not the result of cowardice of the bully bulldog.
Which is why although Chelsea should have a huge advantage on the Stamford Bridge pitch and with set piece power that could be worth at least a goal against a defence shorn of Marquez and Puyols I still fancy Barcelona because once Chelsea are in front they will sit deep and if Barcelona get in front they can then break on Chelsea with Henry at his best in bursts and Eto'o and Messi several slow immobile defenders' worst nightmares one on one.
If Chelsea just play 90 minutes to the power of Drogba and endless running of Lampard, Essien and Ballack it would be most likely a win, say 4-2 like. Regardless it is just a huge shame that the top English Premiership teams cannot just let go and play like they imagined when they were kids.
The argument against Almunia becoming England's no 1, were he to take citizenship, would be laughable. The problem is that we would be saying that a UK citizen who has lived here for years is somehow not valid? That the likes of Loul Deng can't play basketball for us? Kevin Pietersen and Strauss should not play for us?
If he does not take citizenship then I am against this but as a citizen he should have full rights and has paid more taxes towards our schools and hospitals than most of us.
Better to rail at the reasons for the lack of domestically produced goalkeepers.
Ricky Hatton is 2s on the exchanges and I think that may be a longer price than he was to beat the far better Mayweather at a higher weight. His opponent does not have the physical scope of 'Money' as well to make moving up to 10 stone and facing Hatton a gimme.
Boxing is unpredictable in many ways as Jermain Taylor shows as he has the speed and skills to beat a Bernard Hopkins but not the resistance and stamina to beat a Pavlik or outlast a crude slugger like Karl Froch. Pavlik was taken to school by Hopkins and I suspect Froch would be as well.
The point is if Hatton, looking brutally trim by the way, is Rock is Manny Pacquiao Scissors or Paper? Will he be crushed or envelope the Manc?
I personally don't like the likeable little man personality of Hatton but think at 2/1 his size and renewed hunger may just be the bet. Whether I want to pay to watch it in HD is the real question for them and me..... aside from who wins of course.
It needs no embellishment to point out the weakness of the selectors in the face of the so called 2005 Ashes Heroes than to say that Paul Collingwood is back as twenty20 captain.
The obfuscation is that he quit last time because he said it was affecting his form. More accurately he quit with that excuse after his behaviour was described as everything from cheating to gamesmanship by the New Zealanders and the press. It really is sad that this admirable all round cricketer but seemingly grubby little man is back in a leadership role.
The selectors over emphasis on captaincy and worries about how wickle Fweddie would handle not having a senior pro in charge may have led to this ludicrous appointment.
To re-appoint him and pretend it has anything to do with his merits as a man and captain, rather than the petty ego laden team politics of the 2005 team members, is a deeper condemnation of the lack of leadership and spine in the selectorial trio than I can come up with.
A year ago before they wore down Arsenal not only matched the top teams but outplayed them for long periods. In the last week if you don't fetishise the score they have been dominated by Liverpool and Manchester United. Only the absence of defending by Liverpool and atypicial finishing by Arshavin combined with United's lack of a genuine centre forward has prevented Arsenal from being pasted twice.
Now one can argue that as with Chelsea at times and United a couple of weeks ago this is just the up and down of form. The problem with that is that Arsenal have been in rare form against the rest of the premiership. They now face 2 crucial games with United will a change of venue back to the wide open Emirates be that different from Old Trafford? Certainly not as influencial as say Barcelona swapping the wide open Camp Nou for Stamford Bridge.
Wenger has also spoken of their lack of physical power. Yet he buys a 2nd striker of limited stature in Arshavin - who is clearly a decent player but that's not the issue.
What he does not dare mention is the seeming lack of any real leadership - Gallas got canned for pointing out the obvious lack of hunger in the kids. Since then the captaincy resides with Cesc Fabregas who was one of his targets!
What they clearly lack any sort of consistent selection with formation shifting dependent on whether van Persie plays or they throw Fabregas or Arshavin there or indeed play 2 wide off the front player. They have a smorgas bord of often unfit centre halves as well.
In addition Wenger seems loathe to let any of his nice kids go. Even at his best and most confident for instance familiar whipping boy Eboue is not a top flight footballer - before considering he is a liability at times. Yet he has played so many games players like Gibbs etc could have used to develop in. His fragile mentality and age  are surely signs he cannot get much better. Fringe players with pace would have gone for 5 million or so like the wretched Kieran Richardson last year.
The signing of Arshavin seemed to make no sense. Another player famous for looking good against weak teams and being dominated by teams with strong midfields ala Spain in the Euro semi final. Even if you are a huge fan of Arshavin where does he play? If it is 2nd striker where do Eduardo, Nasri, Vela, Walcott, Fabregas and van Persie play? Sure one can be wide and Fab can be part of a midfield 2 but anyone want to say Fab in a midfield central 2 is a modern formation? That it does not instantly conjure the image of light in midfield. I just don't see where all these players can go.
For instance Fabregas seems an obvious sell given: he has questionable fitness: he wears down over games: he has to be fitted into the team: he has value: he has no pace: he is not a great goalscorer: it's unclear how he fits any modern formation: Barcelona are alleged to want him. Now if there seemed to be a plan he fitted too fine but as with Spain he seems to be seen as a 2nd striker or Lampard/Gerrard but without the goals. I am not saying he should go but.....
Equally van Persie creates a dilemma as he cannot play game in game out and would appear to be a continental footballer not a Premier League guy. If he plays it's 4411 if not they appear to be more 4231. Quite how you bed a team in that has to change formation 1 game in 3 because 1 player cannot take back to back to back games is beyond me.
I'd also have doubts about whether Bendtner or Adebayor are a genuine front player for a top team. Whether Denilsson, Song, Diaby and maybe Fabregas can form a credible central midfield. Even now the full backs are promising but not necessarilly developing - Sagne, Gibbs and Clichy. Sure there are more and more kids coming along but whether Ramsay, Wilshere and co offer anything more than they already have or indeed add what the team lacks physically is open to question.
It's difficult as teams can come together but Arsenal seem to have 20 players many of whom fit ideally in mutually exclusive formations. Whether they have a strong central pairing for deep midfield and centre half which is open to question. Whether Wenger has the heart to buy them and dump some of his kids is open to question.
With even one prospect it is amazing how quickly they can be 23 or 24 and their ceiling not much higher than what they showed at 21 or younger (see Rooney). I wonder if a whole team can go from being promising to that is all there is in 2 or 3 years.
Even if they come out and win the so called Champions League that will not solve their problems merely reflect the strength of the English league and their luck at Old Trafford. Not to mention the luck of any cup competition.
I am sure if an English club was denied in such snivelling circumstances by the Italians as Barcelona by Chelsea we'd complain about Italian football being as glorious as winning a puss eating competition. We'd also complain about a ref who failed to send a single Chelsea player off despite almost continual shirt pulling and cynical fouling. This was an Andy Gray Ref who despite Bosingwa just pulling Messi down without any effort to play the ball did not give the automatic yellow early. Gray would say he did not create a rod for his own back I would say he excused foul play and encouraged cheating.
You will recall this kind of refereeing allowed 6 Madrid players 6 brutal fouls on Messi as their starter for 10 without a booking. At least Chelsea did not make the most of this gift of a referee. They only continually shirt pulled and brought anyone down who got beyond them but without Madrid's brutality.
So lacking in ambition were Chelsea that they took off Lampard and did not bring on Anelka whose pace and over the top chasing would surely have given them counter play. Indeed with Marquez down and Puyol on a yellow Drogba was left on one assumes to defend corners. By the way the wisdom of removing Lampard and any ambition was that it invited all out attack and in the end Chelsea were lucky the seemingly broken Cech held himself together better than recent form suggests they could expect.
Barcelona also made the mistake of starting with Henry when his 30 minutes late would surely have had a better chance to be decisive as Chelsea tired and looked wide open.
The pitch at Stamford Bridge will allow a better pressing game for Chelsea and make the long early ball easier for Lampard and co to link with Drogba. However Barcelona now have 2 of the 3 results in their favour. However if Chelsea fail to win at home they may wonder why with Madrid next if they could not have worn Barcelona down more. They got very lucky with a poor arbiter in their favour here and Hiddink's failure to act with his substitutions which raised a white flag and was so nearly punished late on.
I am sure that Keane has learned something from Sunderland but can a leopard truly change his spots. The problems at Sunderland appear to be in no particular order: excessive discipline: working 2 days a week: not answering to anyone: poor purchasing strategy: total contempt for some of his players.
It's one thing to copy the ageing Brian Clough as dictator, board ignorer and disciplinarian. However if he watched any of the biographies lately of his and my hero he will learn the following: Clough loved his players: Clough could be devastatingly funny: Taylor was even funnier apparently: He generally speaking had Peter Taylor who was able to fill the gaps and pat shoulders: Clough never mastered buying poor strikers but still made the most of most of the players he had: He earned the right to tell the club what they should do.
Even Keane's biographer Dunphy said he could not carry off the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry loner and carry the players at the same time. No doubt it explains his initial success and ultimate failure vary quickly after. This is before considering his alienation of everyone else at the club.
I think the person who in 2002 said that Roy Keane the manager would have great facilities and no players was right. Oh the person who said that, Roy Keane! I doubt he'll ever learn or be human enough.
Even with nothing to lose and Lennon finding meaningful crosses for once, not to mention being handed a 2 goal start, Spurs crumbled into a mess of nothing again. Their lack of anything approaching character as a team summed up by their goal keeper single handedly making it 2-2 and then the rest of the house of cards crumbled.
It was hardly a great demonstration of defending by yet more English teams either. Worse on form from when Redkanpp took over and strengthened his squad we could arguably be talking about the 5th or 6th best team being beaten out of side without a sliver of resistance in the 2nd stanza. If they stood up to United like they point-lessly did to the referee they'd have won.
The turn around was started by a rash attempt to get the ball by Gomes - followed by the worst judgement of angles since Steve Davies missed that black against Dennis Taylor to let a pathetic shot from Rooney in his near post.
As with all the other myths and obfuscation of English football the idea that Gomes getting a slight touch on the ball but not gathering it entitles him to go through Carrick and not be sent off and a penalty given against him is ludicrous. Whether this was a foul or not, and it was probably not, he takes a chance coming like that and not grabbing the ball. Silly with Carrick's momentum going away, oh and it was Carrick.
Indeed Webb bottled it by leaving him on the field and removing any fig leaf Spurs might have for their collapse. It is hard to argue even if you think Gomes did nothing wrong that somehow this was a turning point - losers look for turning points and momentum? After all surely only a joker could say that Spurs would have resisted given their tissue paper efforts in the remainder of the 2nd half. Doesn't injustice stiffen the resolve of people who resist?
Next Year the task for Redknapp, and one wonders if he truly wants it, is to consider pushing on and that means getting his team fit for top flight football. To make it clear that finishing 5th which is realistically as close to 15th as 3rd will not do. Arguably he has a squad in terms of numbers of internationals Chelsea and Liverpool can no longer afford. Personally I suspect 'Arry lacks the hunger of a Moyes and 5th and a cup is almost his ultimate aim.
For United Ferguson must surely realise that in the upcoming games with Arsenal he cannot afford to play all of Berbatov, Rooney and Ronaldo never mind have a waste like Nani on with them. At least with Roy Keane back in management he should be able to shift Brown, Rafael, Berba and Nani for 10 times what they are worth, 50 quid.
Ditto Redknapp with Lennon, Modric and 2 strikers. Plus at least this is not as bad as when they had a 3 goal home lead and lost 5 to United a few years ago.
Worst was the 35 minute long rant against the referee for the penalty decision by Setanta's chief clown Craig Burley and Jon 'NOT' Champion. Burley was a guile-less and gutless player who famously introduced Beckham to the big time in a cup semi final by playing him in when he [Burley] was playing for Chelsea. I later recall when he was asked to support his manager (Dr Josef Venglos) at Celtic he pointedly said nothing. He also was so commited to Scotland in the 1998 World Cup he dyed his hair blonde, imagine anyone thinking seriously about winning football matches doing that, and got himself sent off in the last game at the World Cup. I am sure Scots wonder why such a vile gutless creep was ever allowed to amass 46 caps. The kind of player who would have fit right in with this Spurs team, no wonder he had such an afinity with them today.
Nearly as sad as the weak little men of Spurs, Jordan and Redknapp, wanting to chat about a penalty decision AFTER the game. Seriously what did they expect him to do admit error and rush out and play the last 35 minutes again? If my team had just folded like that I'd be rushing down the tunnel and onto the bus and leaving the players behind.....
Knowing they face 2 top English teams Barcelona must be laughing after the last 2 weeks.
Guus Hiddink became the latest Chelsea manager to put their own ego and macho posturing before sense - Chelsea are always after 4 trophies if they are asked. With a realistic shot at the Champions' League and the FA Cup but a remote chance at the League he picked his same, and one assumes best XI, for the game with Everton that had faced Arsenal in the FA Cup.
One can understand with a bench lacking any real impact players and only Ricardo Cavalho and Bosingwa who could arguably improve his team one could say he has few options. Yet Chelsea are in little danger of finishing outside the top 4 and with 5 points over Arsenal with 6 games left (going into Wednesday) the top 3. There was surely never a better time to give the kids an outing or at least some reserves. Indeed that is what I would have done in the FA Cup and this match. Even if you are not cynical surely you choose.
The problem is that Chelsea are relying on many 30 year olds or as good as. What makes less sense with only 2 real centre forwards is to leave your best weapon the ageing and now injury prone Drogba on the pitch as Anelka started out wide and was taken off. Indeed Drogba was up against the one player who he cannot physically dominate in Joleon Lescott. I am sure given his more physically committed performances lately Lescott would rather not have seen a fresh pacy 'Nelk attacking him late on after Drogba had leaned on him for 65 minutes. Anelka is mostly ineffective out wide notwithstanding that assist v Liverpool and does not track back religiously
Chelsea will surely need their top non defenders to be fresh to cut loose on Barcelona in what promises on current form to be a slugfest every bit like the Liverpool games of the last week. Otherwise they will be a threat-less team with leaky slow defenders who cannot afford to be isolated by wingers like Anelka, Malouda and Kalou.
The game really highlighted my recent theme that the top teams defensive strength in the Premier League is largely a function of: possession: territory: better forwards: more goals from midfield and elsewhere. Everton were excellent and if they had a more decisive cutting edge than Jo would have got 3 points anyway.
Whilst the drop off of Chelsea has not been as precipitous as I expected all we have seen this year is a few kids fill the bench and the same declining core of the team get older. Joe Cole got a bad'un in a point-less cup replay at Roots Hall to boot.
Hiddink is probably wise to leave at the end of the season and if he leaves with 2 trophies it will probably be in-spite of this piece of moronic management. This probably means at best it will be with the value-less, to Chelsea, FA Cup. He can then come back when Abramovich's cheque book is open, assuming he still has a pot to pee in.
One can make excuses for Arsenal conceding 4 to Liverpool with a mix and match defence and Liverpool having so much of the ball. What is inexcusable is the 4 Liverpool conceded even allowing they were chasing the game at times. To concede 4 to the goal challenged Arshavin (based on his career record in a weaker league) borders on the criminal.
In the end one is left with the impression unless they are playing a giant like Milan, Man United or Madrid that Liverpool can only really play, defend especially, when behind and in a poor position. That is certainly how their form in the title race suggests they play.
I have said one can almost only see them winning the title coming late. Indeed Liverpool seem almost as good behind with or without Gerrard. Whilst he may have missed the 4-4 games he is on the record as saying that the pressure of the bookies giving England something like a 14% chance of winning the last world cup was silly and far too much pressure for the Phil Collins loving star. As I have said before at 1-0 I'll take a cream on topper at 0-0 Lampard and 0-1 Gerrard.
This is why I hate the underdog mentality. Sure sometimes it wins and it makes things easier but surely true glory is a Tiger Woods fulfilling himself on a world stage or Australia winning more than one world cup or series? It is about talent fulfilling itself not capitalising on luck and other's poor mentality? It is why Gary Neville has a vast medal collection and Gerrard a number of highlights - mostly when his team were behind.
It is why even gifted a start the title is always someone else's to lose not Liverpool's to win as they don't want to win they require someone else to lose.
Mind you I am more and more impressed with one Liverpool player. Torres is I think becoming as good as people have been saying he is for some time.
Finally it is no accident that whilst Liverpool have started to score lots of goals they are also conceding. Forget all the vast payments for defenders and slurping of Cannavaro and co most of these guys rely on shape, midfield cover and team set-up more than any individual skill. It is why teams can continually pay lots for defenders but the likes of Alex, Gallas, Toure, Vidic et al can do as well.
I'll never get the attraction of non characters and the bland but if people want to like the senseless and thoughtless then it should be a free world. However what increasingly irritates is when people want to praise Wayne Rooney for: trying: working hard: playing out of position: tracking back: well memo to the press you're supposed to do those things and sometimes he does not unlike many limited players. Hard work is an assumed if you are not as good as Ronaldo or as talented as Berbatov. or should that be new and expensive?
Indeed all I saw last night from Rooney was his total lack of ability to read a situation, make a pass and hold the ball. If you were being harsh you'd have to say he is Dirk Kuyt i.e. from a football PoV a skill-less, guile-less mistaken centre forward purchase who's only saving grace is some physicality and hard work. Indeed Kuyt gets more vital goals and has some height.
Should United replace the Berbatov mistake; with say Benzema; and can have a extra midfielder; hence Ronaldo not be such a liability out wide; then Rooney will be the reserve winger; or playing on whichever wing Ronaldo does not want. He will stay in the Dirk Kuyt role at best in the big games.
Rooney is admirable in a way but no more than hundreds of earnest yeoman who plough the wings for their clubs. The fact is the media sold a star and he has the status of a star and the Zidane like contempt for his team mates of a star but is not a star player in football terms. He is a decent player at a top club. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Not since Diana's death have I felt so on the outside. I just cannot get excited at awful defending and poor keeping. Sure the match was nerve wracking and had I still been a supporter no doubt I would have hidden behind a sofa until Lampard's unerring right boot settled it. If that is a classic game then sod the classics.
I said on Monday that Chelsea were brittle and that if the rest of the team did not function or they tried to hold a lead they end up like England against Portugal 04 or Russia and Croatia last year but with worse defenders. Well Essien and Ballack made Lampard and Gerrard Euro 2004 look like cover to boot.
People would have dismissed the Bolton siege as them switching off but it is what happens when they sit. Indeed Essien and Ballack added to the problem by providing no cover. Essien without someone's shorts to stand inside appeared to not to have a clue what to do.
Had Liverpool not got carried away or down hearted and just let Chelsea drop back and hand the game to them they would probably now be going through. Chelsea handed them 2 goals. They got 4 goals but un-necessarily conceded 2 to break aways and 1 to a blast from Alex.
Indeed selection and substitutions show they decided they had more chance of the Premiership which with hindsight is a mistake. There is a lesson here to Chelsea's opponents - stay tight keep it close and do not panic at 1-0 down and look to attack late when they drop back. Indeed their brittle nature with something to lose may explain their relatively good away record and relatively poor home record (for a top club).
Cech does not look like he can save a penalty and with the money and years committed to Terry a keeper has to top Chelsea's shopping list, their current one is broken and is not one to rely on in big games as Czech fans will attest after Euro 2008. Hilario is rubbish but he has stones and is brave and kept Barcelona out once before.
Drogba is clearly fit but the player who most shows Hiddink's management is the one I mocked as The Nelk. 'Nelka was running on to things and getting in with boots flying and tracking back. These two and Lampard scored enough as Liverpool made the mistake of trying to make something happen instead of just letting Chelsea drain away. Kalou begged to be be replaced and won the poor player contest with Dirk Kuyt.
People wanted to credit Essien for subduing the injured Gerrard a week ago but here he was as craven as Cech handing them a 3rd present, after Ivanovic returned to earth, stood next to a centre half not providing any cover. Mikel has been harshly treated if not picked in games where a man marker is not required. Ballack and Essien exerted zero control. They and Cech don't want Guus to look at this tape. Ballack missed an open goal after great work by The Drog as well.
I really wonder if Chelsea can contain Barcelona. I cannot even guess who will be Messi's marker in Cole's absence, although he was so poor tonight giving away the ball and running beyond it that Capello is surely looking elsewhere.
It seems the players when they nominated the player of the year lists in January were not as enamoured of Wayne Rooney as the pundits. They selected 5 Old Trafford players and not him. Even the remnants of Giggs who was not good enough at his best to win it was nominated ahead of him.
Let's just say Rooney got 11 league goals last year and they were worth if stripped away 1 point. Even by his standards it was a miserable ration of cream on top never mind lacking real meat.
If I had one criticism of Eriksson it was his failure to build a team around Lampard and/or Gerrard and to fasten the team to the rapidly declining Owen and the goal-less and assist-less Rooney. Playing 2 up front makes it difficult in the modern era even if they are good. With these two pace-less and vertically challenged players with little or no passing ability, never mind the ability to hold the ball up, it was a moronic tactic and that's before the little clown got himself sent off. By 2006 both were unfit and clearly not even what they were or threatened to be in 2004.
This is what gets me that decent but no Monty clowns from the European tour like Campbell, Goosen and Angel have 4 US Opens and a Masters between them. Westwood, Donald, Rose, Casey, Poulter, Monty and a host of English guys nada. Laugh at van der Velde but at least he tried, Monty was top 3 enough to be excepted from that argument.
Or even Lawrie, Hamilton, Curtis Interruptus.....
After Phil Mickelson's choice of shot at the 12th rendered the Clown of the Week competition mute Mark Hughes was further disappointed to find out his Celtic Clown of the Week had been taken by David Moyes in a narrow verdict over Martin O'Neill. The simian behaviour witnessed by the Holte Enders today was remarkable but Lefty just knocked them unerringly into a cocked hat as his 9 iron into the water met with everyone watching's expectation when he chose that club.
To Moyes, I'd like someone sane, not imbued with the macho culture of English football, to tell me how Joleon Lescott kicking someone's head when he was stood up is not a penalty? Indeed frankly how he was not sent off or booked is the issue.
Indeed none of the Celts made the overall top 3 with Peter Alliss and the producer of the Masters coverage slurping the Phil and Tiggs Kool Aid even though neither has a record of coming from behind, Italian style, in a major and both started 7 back. Yet the first 3 hours of coverage assumed they were in contention even before they briefly had an outside chance (yeah 2 or 3 players would go through 13, 15 and 16 and not make any ground).
OK I have to say I love the Masters but how in the name of the anything modern is a white billionaire boys club allowed to stage a major sporting event by any kind of sporting body not run by bigots and clowns?
When Manchester United went on a run of 14 games without conceding what was hard to believe was a defense with a smorgas bord of vertically challenged ordinary-ness at full back could be so good. Now the defensive record is 20 league goals Chelsea, 21 Liverpool and United. Indeed despite the seemingly brittle nature of their defense and the now lack of any outstanding defensive player Chelsea would be well ahead but for their late melt-down on Saturday.
Liverpool will take hope from the fact that Chelsea if they sit deep are vulnerable. Indeed the weakness appears to be that Chelsea retreat to their 6 yard box. This allowed the moderate Modric and the titan Torres to score vital goals against them unchallenged from around the penalty spot recently.
Bolton's Kevin Davies showed that without a dominating centre half that when Chelsea do retreat they can also be tackled aerially. Indeed should Bosingwa come back for Ivanovic that may not help there either. Ricardo Carvalho for Terry would be a positive.
So why have overall Chelsea been so strong defensively if I do not rate the majority of their defenders? Ditto United. I think the clues are how few goals these sides concede at 0-0. Arsenal's pourous back line also tightened up in a series of games they struggled to score in.
I think the reason is that at 0-0 when they are pushing forward trying to win the game it comes down to the fact these teams keep the ball and the opposition in their own half. Also the generally used 4231 4141 really is effective as you meet the holding line 40 or 50 yards from goal.
Put simply better teams may have better defenders but huge spending on defenders is marginal the real difference is they have better players in front of them. They retain the ball and territory better. Oh and crucially the quality of cat behind them.
Plus of course note how Chelsea have been shown up until the Anfield game by the better teams and higher pressure games this year. Those teams generally speaking have better strikers and take their chances better. Plus they retain the ball and attack at greater pace. Or indeed how solid Liverpool looked until they faced a Chelsea team more harnessed than in the first half of the season.
So I guess some tentative conclusions are:
To steal from British Cycling defending is the aggregation of small improvements: ball retention: covering players: organisation: territory: height: pace: combinations: team play: wide men tracking back. Not so much the efforts of individual defenders although they can help with clearences off the line and never giving up.
You can make up all sorts of negatives about Amir Khan's stepping up a weight and having a world title shot. Chief among them is that others maybe more deserving such as Junior Bitter and Breidis Prescott but so what no one would pay to watch them fight at their local park.
However if you are not pumped that 2 fights after a 54 second beat down Khan is doing this then maybe you are just sad. Seriously the stones on the kid. Like David Haye I have come to realise that whilst they may not be the best they are prepared to risk far more than most British sportsmen and women who parrot inanities and take even less risks.
Normally when a prospect suffers the kind of reverse Khan did, indeed it was a few fights coming, they run for the Mexican road sweepers and Palookas. Yet after one 'Tomato Can' he went in with Barrera and now up a weight and in with a titlist for a real title WBA.
The most impressive part is that Khan appears to realise he has to execute trainer Roach's plan and not fight. Of course the truly great could do plans B and C - the greatest example is Ali using two plans he had discussed with no one against Foreman, after failing to knock him out with right leads he went into the 'rope a dope'. Still the most thrilling and confusing fight I have seen
The great news is if he wins and Hatton wins or is not humiliated by Pacquiao there is chance of a showdown there. All while Junior Bitter sits around telling everyone how good he is.... poetic.
The baseball writer Keith Law is fond of pointing out how small hard working players who are not very good but pale in skin pigment get called scrappy, brave etc etc when in fact they are just poor players. Scraptacular!
It's a week late but hey it's Good Friday good will to all men and all. Last week Wayne Rooney's penchant in games where he is falling short of his normal mediocre standards, mostly in big games, does things that either get him sent off or should get him sent off. The rest of the England players and ex player pundit were waxing about his passion - an odd description of clear self indulgence and a personality flaw, this is a case of taking one to know one.
Roy Keane who tried to break people's legs and left his team mates in the lurch at a world cup, not to mention getting suspended from big games, was called passionate and a winner. Keane also famously used to slag his team mates off in the media including the classic "just because you play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham and get paid 120 grand a week doesn't make you a good player" about Rio Ferdinand.
William Gallas who was extremely upset after his team mates frailties had cost them a league title and one of his team mates suffered a potential career ender sat down on the pitch after the game visibly upset. He then lambasted some of his team mates in the media for not trying to improve, something that was unarguable at the time. Heinous crimes?
Gallas was toasted for what would seem a far more genuine passion that the other type exhibited by Wayne Rooney. Indeed Paul Scholes and his getting silly suspensions to miss big games throughout his career would appear to be a worse crime to me? Indeed Gallas gets more opproprium than Lee Bowyer, Match fixers, Lee Hughes, Joey Barton, Woodgate, Barry Ferguson, Duncan Ferguson, Carsley, Mad Martie Taylor, Luke McCormick, Adrian Mutu, Paul Merscum, Danny Guthrie....
Jees what value the UK media have! Or is because Mr Gallas is not as light skinned as the others? Indeed look at the spotlight on the latino Ronaldo or the darker Drog for crimes of comedy compared to the reprobates listed above. Never mind the drunk drivers like Essien, Gudburger....
So why is the darker skinned Frenchman Gallas a pariah? It could be that he is French but Eric Cantona received surprisingly little vitriol for attacking people in the crowd and stamping on people. Nope at the end of the day what is the difference between Cantona, Scholes, Rooney, Gallas and Keane, leaving aside the entire rogues gallery listed in the previous paragraph - other than the obvious that in his own way Gallas has far more passion for winning than the other 4?
Anyway Gallas is out for the season after putting his body on the line in a big game. Quite why he is getting such corruscating criticism and so many leg breakers and scum get off with the positive word passion attached to them is beyond me. Has he in his years here ever made a bad tackle? Has he ever just booted people or rugby tackled them like John Terry? And hey he did not make himself Arsenal captain.
When we have dreams of winning games it is normally dancing past 3 or 4 players before flicking the ball over the keeper with an arrogant back flick. Of course when Mourinho arrived at Chelsea he realised another truth that it counts 1 goal the same as a set piece move which is a lot easier and can be coached unlike Messi like skill.
It is beyond belief that teams seem to neglect set pieces even using free kicks as a means to flatter their star player's ego as he fires a 30 or 40 for each goal so pundits can ignorantly cream themselves over the pretty star. Well tonight with Terry, Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho and The Drog to mark Branislaw Ivanovic clocked up goals 1 and 2 of his Chelsea career..... The pre broken Mourinho would have smiled the current one has forgotten what he once added as a coach.
Also Guus unlike Martin O'Neill put 2 men with Lampard to support in the area where Gerrard would roam and they managed to keep a red hot Liverpool to a goal. Whilst I missed the game nonetheless it amazes me that teams even without a 'Ball of Muscles' from Ghana do not pick Gerrard up. Of course as Arsenal and Man United showed last night having that extra man there is meaningless if he and they do not know what or how they are meant to play.
I don't like the so called Champions League but like international football occasionally it does bring into sharp focus when a coach outcoaches another. 1 up for The Guus.
Lionel Messi will be sleeping sweetly after tonight knowing he and Henry can exploit the weakness Chelsea do have which is Ashley Cole and Branislaw Ivanovic or Bosingwa to isolate on wide with Eto'o's pace on John Terry. That might be the game for Chelsea to go 442 or something similar assuming Liverpool don't do a miracle - at least their little minds at Liverpool will love being long underdogs with nothing to lose.
Indeed Barcelona can be double happy as the rock paper scissors for me says they can exploit Chelsea's weak flanks but not handle Liverpool's power up the middle with Torres and Gerrard. They must fancy themselves with a final against the other half of the draw at present.
As with United you wonder if Arsenal think they have to do something special in Europe. Although one wonders if by something special that means a midfield cover trio (ala United as well) who've forgotten the basics of marking. I mean how long did Senna have to trap and line the ball up and shoot? Would they allow Frank Lampard or even Mattie Taylor that time?
Added to it all Adebayor managed to miss all the chances he got until he scored a non chance! Venetia Williams and Mon Mone are easier to figure out.
Funny how when it was going well and the opposition strikers appeared to develop myopia when confronted by the United goal they set records for clean sheets whoever was playing. Now suddenly Jonny Evans has gone from prospect to Mr Bean quicker than Gordon Brown's descent from 'Iron Chancellor' to total clown. Indeed last night the Porto defender who gave Wayne Rooney an open goal thought Evans had a poor game. Of course the recent inability to keep out the opposition has occurred with all combinations of centre halves and with at least 2 formations, the ludicrous 442 against the scousers and the 4231 last night.
Worse United's midfield 3 (Prince, The Fletch and Carrick) provided little or no cover and hardly looked a cohesive unit. Even worse was Ronaldo coming back into his own half to lose the ball and as with Rooney and Sheringham when attacking players carelessly give the ball away deep they become liabilities.
One wonders with 20 goals this year if with Ronaldo, who will likely end up with far less than last year, there is a tipping point at say 30 goals in all competitions where he goes from positive to negative?
OK lose to Liverpool the team needed it.... Yeah right, go and lose to Fulham. The international break is happening at the right time for them and the wrong time for Liverpool... yeah, put up dire home performance against an equally dire Villa. In the end Villa's weakness and a 17 year old stud combined with 2 pretty undeserved but great strikes for Ronaldo > than giving Villa uncontested headers just.
United were not helped by 2 brain dead sendings off from Rooney and Vidic with their team 2 behind late in recent games cutting the squad options. Added to that Paul Scholes goal preventing hand ball with loads of minutes on the clock have not helped.
Injuries are not an excuse as myself aside I have not heard anyone sane argue that United playing, even off the bench, their big players in the Carling was brain dead. Or that playing their top boys in the FA Cup was beyond stupidity.
In the end one run aside United were not that good early season and Liverpool have lost 2 less games - indeed for all the nonsense Chelsea have conceded fewer goals with a broken Terry and bits and pieces like Ivanovic, Cole, Bosingwa (defensively challenged), Alex and the remains of Ricardo Carvalho.
Thus you could argue the loss of Rio and Vid but hey they have conceded heavily in recent games one or both played in. They also unlike Chelsea play 2 dedicated players in front of the back 4, Chelsea generally speaking have played 1, so United should not struggle at the back like they did here with defenders, Neville and Evra, ball watching. Again hardly squad players they were reduced to using.
One other thing although I am not the biggest fan of the big child [Rooney] anyone who wants to argue Tevez is better except maybe as a big game player is 50p not short of a pound. Rooney > Tevez in almost every department besides temperament. They clearly need a 3rd striker who can be a lone front man when required for next season - 1 who scores more more than Rooney, moves more than Berbatov and maybe has more height than Rooney. One that has all those things over Tevez. Macheda and Welback > Tevez. Benzema?
Today they have been undone by the lack of height but really with Brown, Vid and Rio out except for the ludicrous failure to target fewer competitions they should not need more. This kid Macheda with Welback may make Tevez expendable they certainly threatened more in 40 minutes combined than 80 minutes of Carlos.
I know the regular reader of this blog would say "pot kettle black calling the" rearrange this well known and popular saying to my suggestion other people's blogox is cod but hey we're all hypocrites at heart. I would merely say that mine is not confabulation to make my gut feeling match what I am seeing on my TV. Nor do I fetishise the result just cos United won and it was a very exciting game if a trifle guile-less.
It's up there with Sadat visiting Begin. I have come round to the Steven Gerrard fan club. Finally deployed where he hurts the opposition, rarely his own team, Gerrard is just a constant threat.
Maybe it is just I have only seen 5 Liverpool games this year but almost all his crossing and passing seems designed to hurt the opposition. His goals are up, partly as he takes penalties. He and Torres physically dominate any defence or manager stupid enough to play 442 with a 1 up 1 back midfield that leaves them one on one with the centre halves or opposition holding player.
Even with that Liverpool can struggle to put teams away. Although they find a way seemingly when they have nothing to lose so maybe the mentality has not shifted as much as their fans would like.
I guess the question left is is this a shift of the form bell curve that will maintain to the end of the season or is this a purple patch and like Wayne Rooney I'll regret ever changing my view.
At present he might even be better than my boy Lampard and by some way - goal and assist today for Frank, boy is it that routine no one ever comments? Indeed Gerrard might be playing better than anyone has bar maybe a season or two of Henry and Ronaldo last year.
Each year Wisdom selects 5 new cricketers of the year, you can only be one once. This year Claire Taylor became, deservedly, the first female recognised and went on after the award to confirm her status at the Women's World Cup, come on England. Sadly for her historians will probably see it as a down year after James Anderson was also picked.
Anderson who for the first time in the West Indies at least looked like he was not more than a possible match winner and probably match loser had a decent year in 2008 with 46 @ 30 a piece. However against SA [respectable 33 a piece] and India [53 a piece] he was not quite so good and picked up the award for 3 tests in over cast May against a weak rebuilding New Zealand side.
Indeed at one point Jimmy got dropped this winter by the world's no 6 team, England. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Wisden position. He's yet to beat an average of 35 a wicket on a tour. Or indeed beat 50 against anyone but The W'Indies and 'Zealand.
So congratulations to Wisden for recognising Taylor but only 2 cheers as they soiled it with the lousy choice of Anderson.
Since I wrote the below the SFA have rightly banned the clown and his fall guy for life. This is what happens when people make testimonials to nothing people who objectively don't deserve them as people whatever their accomplishments. You feed their entitlement. For Ferguson read Flintoff for instance.
Last week The Fletch was doing his best to defend the lousy play on the field of Barry Ferguson - before his behaviour off became an issue. Fletcher who plays at a far higher level than Ferguson was somehow sucking up to the serial under achiever and famously weak little man. No offence to Rangers who would be a huge club if ever entered into the EPL, seriously why can't that happen? They have been a far bigger club for far longer than Chelsea and their ilk only to fall victim to a smaller domestic economy.
Indeed so baffling is wee Barry's status to us sassanachs that he was even allowed to totally undermine Paul le Guen in his unhappy stint at Rangers, not that le Guen needed any undermining. Indeed the first thing Walter Smith had to do on replacing the gaffe prone Frenchie was the ritualistic groveling, ala le Fletch, at the shrine of GREAT Barry Ferguson.
He once got a big money move to Blackburn and shrivelled in the spotlight of the that football hotbed. The bright lights and media pressure of Blackburn would appear to make New York look like a small impersonal village in comparison judged on the way they reduced Ferguson's ceiling as a player. Or maybe he was never that good?
Maybe it's not Barry's fault that he is such an entitled Prat? After all what can you do when everyone seemingly worships you? I certainly don't think he is capable of Machiavellian manipulation to bring this on. I just can't see any other reason for it though. Can he be so cunning and so stupid at the same time?
I have some sympathy for the late night drinking etc but the flashing V signs in the sidelines showed him and McGregor up as petty little children cut from the same cloth. Sadly Scotland did nothing and it has been left to Walter Smith and Rangers to do something about the Kinder.
Credit to Smith and Rangers as everyone else seems to have to indulge Ferguson.
The appointment of Alan Shearer and the comments that followed from the fans suggest that Newcastle United is some giant vehicle for regional sophistry. Apparently only locals like wor Alan get it. That only surly self regarding local men are allowed. Even Keggsie apparently was indulged but not one of their own.
Frankly this is childishness and like Leeds I am sure nuetral fans have had enough of the nonsense that somehow this club is special. Not to mention the specious claim that they like good football. Seriously 442 hit it long to big centre forwards is not exactly my idea of good football or even winning football.
The addition of the court certified liar Iain Dowie as his assistant shows this is no brains' trust.
Worse were Shearer to walk away at the end of the year what are they left with? The player development, if they were seriously trying it, is gutted. Then next season Shearer or no Shearer they are left with what? Buying whatever players some manager tells them to? Re-signing rank bad over paid signing Mickey Owen?
Anyone can coach and in the end the ability to select players and develop youth are the major things to do as a manager of a mid table club. Really it's a guess at best and more troubling a leap of faith based on Moira's punditry.
I recall a few years ago they used to show track cycling and they'd show Vicky Pendleton and you'd wonder if it was lip service to the women as she was clearly too small and slow to ever beat anyone good.
Well on Saturday she stood on the podium 4 times World Champion and Olympic champion and she is still half the width of her competitors. If I ever hear a person suggest she is on anything but food and water I'll probably do something illegal to them.
Whilst there has been a fall off and Pendleton won by an inch twice to retain the rainbow jersey at least she turned up and flew the flag. No other Olympic champion has repeated and that happened 4 years ago. Many have taken time out to feather their nest. So double credit for Pendleton for putting an individual gold into the kitty no matter by how little.
The good news for the sport is that many younger people seem to be coming through. Many look to have more going for them than I originally saw in Pendleton. Pendleton is not that old and one wonders if next year with less emotion if she continues if her dominance will be restored. Of course she might choose to leave although one would expect with Sky involved and cycling now prime time now would be a time to cash in.
The failure of the England cricket team to adjust to wickets and conditions is most acute in 50 over cricket where unlike tests you cannot ease yourself in and twenty20 which is always bish bash from the get go.
The team apparently take forever to adjust to a tricky wicket where the ball comes on or worse does not come on. The fact people today all got out hooking and pulling is symptomatic of the kind of stupidity and lack of knowledge individually and collectively in the team. 5 out hooking is an act like the suicide squad of the people's front for the liberation of Palestine.
With the level of ineptitude in leadership and in all facets of the one day game this winter it is surely a jaw dropping decision were coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss to be re-appointed. I would like to see a more divorced selection and strong manager for the team. Strauss is relatively safe after Collingwood made England look like snivelling cheats in one day cricket and 'Stone and Kapes committed self sabotage. Flower can go but without a change in structure this habit of losing captains broken on the rocks of an impossible job will continue.
By separating the team from selection the captain will just have the on the day responsibility and will not have to end up broken like Hussain walking off and quitting, Vaughan reduced to delusions that it was all about him, Flintoff a drunken unshaved cliche spouting joke, Pietersen sacked and humiliated in public. Indeed the coaches don't fare much better with Fletcher insulting the great man and others and allowing a drunk to captain his team. Or Moores reduced to a punch bag by KP. These two roles are not that important and we should look to Australia where the captain leads the team in the field and the coach does what players want and need. Then we will have players, coaches and captains focused on the game and no one leaving their job broken, humiliated and impaired.
English cricket has loads of coaching and loads of big names and these people are like Newcastle fans they passionately and madly care to do everything except think about what they are doing.
As I have pointed out ad infinitum England don't have a creed instead they hang on words and phrases as analysis and knowledge - partnerships, winning sessions, consistency of selection, positive cricket etc etc Yet as these do not stem from Ethos into analysis into strategy into tactics into feedback into analysis and on and on they end up reactionary and contradictory. They end up using what works last and never move beyond what their current form allows them to be.
As with the criticism of Brian Ashton at the Rugby World Cup by Catt and Dallaglio one wonders if our players are now so cosseted they do not know enough to change the game and want a plan downloaded into their brains. That plan will inevitably have to be simple and negative one as positive plans require the opposition not to spoil or they can need adjusting.
In football England's inability to hold leads and win big games stems from them going out with one plan and then not adjusting correctly when they get ahead and they go from nothing to lose to everything to lose. They retreat into a deeper and deeper set defensive pattern that effectively means the opposition can camp in their half as there are no passing options available to play the ball out.
It probably also explains in football how tactically inept English players are. How they flourish for clubs sides and struggle in one off Internationals. How they flounder in new systems. How they seem to prefer dictatorial coaches to motivators.
One of the valuable functions TWSI fulfills in these days of foreign managers and players is that of translating. Here are some of our recent works.
Jose Mourinho says he could stay at Inter for 4 or 5 years. Translated this means I could well be sacked in 4 or 5 months and want to ensure I get the maximum payout and want to stay in the news so I can get one last payday before people realise I am broken.
George Gillette says he is not trying to sell his Liverpool shares means I am all in and trying not to sound desperate that I have no money and have been swimming naked. I need to keep the price up by showing I have an option.
Robinho is happy at Manchester City. Robby wants to leave as soon as he can.
Capello tells Wayne Rooney he is crazy which translates in danger of being a liability without Zidane's ability and no height or effective pace either, buck up son you're not that good.
'Arry says King has England future. No future.
Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton is "absolutely delighted" with third place in the 500m time trial at the World Track Cycling Championships in Poland. Victoria is washing her mouth out with soap after that one.
British basketball is on the rise and has a genuine chance of medal success at London 2012, says Luol Deng. Luol has a great sense of humour.
It's not often I give in to common sense, an oxy-moron if ever there was one, but I was prattling last week that Villa fans were a penny short of a shilling for booing Martin O'Neill and his troops. A more sensible fellow using un-common sense said that fans could not write and hold up banners with sophisticated views and measures so booing suffices.
Anyway I wrote last week about S'Alex's arrogant brain storm that handed Liverpool a tactical advantage that...
"Not just any 442. The clarion cry was not for the flexible sorta 442 formation that can defy description that Manchester United often play but the one Ferguson amazing uncorked today against the one team you should never ever play it against. 'Naive 442' against a nuggety team like Liverpool who rely on 1 or 2 individual players to get isolated 1 on 1 and beat the opposition."
So Martin O'Neill must be clown of the week to a week later line up in exactly the same way against a team who have Steven Gerrard at a fever pitch he has not approached as consistently before. Yeah he used 2 big strikers but frankly mobility is more likely to work against Liverpool. Besides that the formation can not work defensively against 2 players of the pace and power of Gerrard and Torres. Indeed Rafa knows from his own footballing lunacy when he lined up 442 and got ripped apart for 30 minutes in Istanbul and became the luckiest manager ever when he got out of jail free.
One just wonders if managers get too carried away playing the majority of teams not to realise what poor tactics these are. This is particularly unforgiveable given Manchester United showed this losing blueprint for what it was with far better players last week.
S'Alex was wittering mid week about how the defeat to Liverpool was just what was needed. How it would shake any complacency and thinking things were already won from their thinking.
Of course he was merely confabulating facts in an order that would widely be understood and seen as common sense - being positive about a negative like a Peter Moores cricket team. The logic is of course if one defeat was needed then 2 is even better.... Oh no that's not true.... Despite this of course Sky Sports filled dead air with S'Alex's not so wise comments for a day so, job done. Sky Sports News is the Greene King IPA* of TV it's not about sport, it's not news and there is no sky in it.
* It's not green, it's not king and it's not an IPA.
The point is just as United's long run of not conceding did not make them suddenly better defensively than they had been - Chelsea have conceded 1 less in 1 more game and no one looking at the remains of Terry with Alex yesterday is queuing up to laud them. Things happen in a season, in runs of games and in games that just happen. There are no more reasons than random chance and some small psychological factors that creep in. The point is that in Premier League terms this is not the Chelsea and United teams of 05->07 where 90 points was secured without even playing out the season. This United team may get to 90 points but it would take a pretty wet sail finish to do so.
The real end of season question with Ronaldo more pantomime than genuine villain this year and Rooney and Scholes showing their usual response to pressure could be on Berbatov. Is he a waste as his presence may not have made United better unless he can be big in big games unlike other mentioned just now.... Luckily for United Dowd avoided rightly sending off Ronaldo yesterday.
Then again at least United's problems are form not predictable weakness like Chelsea - fold in local derbies and against anyone good. One wonders if Ferguson will pick Rooney to start in big games over Tevez who seems better able to handle them.
Essien was brought back over Mikel to get his fitness back in the first team becoming the only holding player around who cannot pick up Luka "Moderate" Modric playing behind 2 strikers. That is before you consider the Ashley Cole stand 5 yards off Aaron Lennon and let him cross the ball - I know I know C'Ash wanted to see first hand how people cross the ball because he still cannot. Not to mention the Terry Alex defend on the 6 yard box.
Additionally the paradox of strikers and 442 where you may score more goals with 2 strikers but you will score 0 more often and concede more. Plus if you do not have strong individual defenders you will concede more goals when they hurt most. Anelka should not start with Drogba. Indeed 65 mins of the ageing Drog and then throw on The Nelk makes so much sense surely even Guus can spot that.
More worrying maybe he has no other players he can use as Malouda is rubbish. After all Belletti was listed wide with 'nelka in a laughable apology of a 4321 in some papers.
'Bramovich has picked the wrong time to become worth little more than Mike Ashley was last year. What a great businessman handed tens of Billions of pounds of the Russian people's resources by US neo con inspired ideas he is down to 3 Billion. How does a fool make a fortune? By starting with a much larger one I guess.
No matter what one's reservations about the attitude and need to be underdogs of the Irish they deserved the honour of Ireland's 2nd grand slam. It has been hard with their habit of stopping in front and getting tight to judge how good they are but they showed in patches, as today after half time, they are clearly the best team in the North when their psyche does not interfere.
The problem is that it just makes the last 2 years almost head scratching. I don't know if the core of the team is that different to the one that threw in a horrendous expectation choke at the last world cup. Or the one who choked away two titles to the last play of the game getting tight. Will they go on from here or will they wither with raised expectation? Are they an old team?
Gatland tried to raise the stakes and Wales generally speaking let him down. They have not gone on and as with Ireland it is hard to see how they will ever have their sights raised from an occasional championship and or beating England is a good year.
Whether a serious coaching combo like Gatland and Edwards will want to waste their time on a team whose expectations seem to stymie all coaches. Almost all coaches from Henry to Ruddock to Gatland seem to start well only to find that progress was an illusion when expectations get raised.
Sadly although they played desultory anti rugby in their first 3 games it will fall to England to be the Northern Hemisphere standard holder in the next world cup. Indeed England's backs when they have been released by Flood, who's learnt that he is a far better player shipping the ball on to Flutey and that back 3, were the most incisive in the championship.
France seem a basket case. Changes made not to include more people but to seemingly achieve nothing but tinker. There is no plan or ethos just game to game tinkering. In the end had they not taken advantage of a Welsh team who seem palsied when Shane Williams inspiration meter is low they would have nothing but a pressure off bullying of the Italians who one suspects if the rest of the nations were not so hating of favourite status would ship 50 to all bar Scotland.
It may be one of those things but if the title were decided by games outside the top 4 and London Chelsea would be top with their away record. The fact is they have not beaten a London team or the big 4 in 9 or 10 games. They are broken bullies who wilt at the expectation of home fans? No idea but Hiddink's Chelsea despite a fit and trying Drogba have yet to prove anything new.
One day cricket matches are generally speaking instantly forgettable. One day series like the Tri and Six Nations rugby now suffer from a world cup. Yet it seems the more we pay to watch cricket and the more they get paid and the less the games mean the more timid and weak the coaches and captains of the world's teams become.
As with India earlier this English winter Dyson sat with a D/L method scoresheet waiting to call his team off for light. Unlike Dhoni who appeared so happy all his childhood fantasies had been fulfilled Dyson's unconfined joy turned to the tears of a clown. Not since Pollock has some pillock misread his tables to such comic effect.
Given that the players are well padded and in little danger with a white ball and unused flood lights (what comedy that is they are not used) surely the fans want to see a contest? Other wise why not play 6 hours cricket and not keep score go inside and toss a coin and announce the winner over the tannoy. That might have more glory in it come to think of it.
Sports should be decided on the field if absolutely possible which hard rain aside it was. Duckworth Lewis is a great addition but as usual in sports and life it seems in the media age where sportsmen are more pampered debutantes than chivalrous warriors it does seem to have become something I am sure it was not intended to be.
Despite their less than sentimental response to Juventus for their loss at the hands of murderous Liverpool fans Liverpool apparently, in a great display of fetishising the date and not the lost, will be allowed not to play on the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster by UEFA.
The disaster's main cause was South Yorkshire's finest encouraged by the absence of responsibility, caused by the unconditional backing of the Thatcher govt which had also labelled football fans as an enemy within almost on a par with working class miners who they beat up earlier.
Sadly given Liverpool were claiming this dispensation many of their fans showed with the Juventus games last year and in Greece for the 2nd final v Milan they do not really think that far back or dare one say give a damn. They saw nothing wrong with pushing through to the ground in vast numbers without tickets. Mercifully the Greek police did not treat them like animals and prevented serious over crowding albeit at the expense of fans who paid for their tickets - Liverpool fans whined without anyone seemingly remembering Hillsborough then!
Compare this sentimentality and date fetishising with anyone else who has suffered tragedy. Do the rest of us take the day off everytime we hit a nasty anniversary? Do we have automatic days off? ummmhh no.
Surely better to honour the dead and not the date at an actual game. That would actually show real respect for the people who died so needlessly. In the end I find it hard to see this as more than a tantrum to be taken seriously not a memorial to the dead. Indeed that is not mentioned.
The difference between politics and sport is clearly shown by Gordon Brown who when he retires will be universally known as a clown and an over educated functioning idiot. However Gordon Brown is number 2 to a foreign policy that shows no signs of sense, except in the self defeating self continuing futile sense, despite the leadership passing from an jester to Barack Obama, supposedly an urbane liberal in terms of his background.
Thus he [Gordie Brown] is not a figure of fun even as he recklessly gambles our futures without a plan, strategy or ethos just throwing money around in a vague sort of Keynesian splurge to stave off recession - fact Britain is forecast to be the only nation in recession still next year, although that seems optimistic to me.
In sport a lack of holistic importance means you can be lampooned mercilessly in the job. In football his namesake Phil Brown is at a cross-roads and one which history suggests can go 2 ways. He can become a Sam Allardyce or a Martin O'Neill who developed a more measured public persona even when they were and are whining. If he keeps Hull up he will have a huge job next year.
Sure the top teams benefit in some ways from referees and other things but going out with the attitude you are hard done by and are going to be done over is misguided. It also means the opponents only need the first goal and you are beaten. It also makes bookings more likely as players show the arbiters no respect at all and their fierce attitude precludes benefit of the doubt.
He might also realise as Coppell failed to do with Wally Downes that having an old fool like a Brian Horton jumping up and down like a Spitting Image David Steel puppet claiming you are hard done by on one shoulder is not the way forward.
Brown and his team have done a fine job but the work starts now. Does he go the way of former Palace gaffer Alan Smith whose supposed honesty and general buffoonery basically ruled out a return to a top club. Or a Lawrie Sanchez coming on TV every week with a smug superior look on his boat to blame those evil men in black for having it in for him and his team in his best Inspector Dreyfuss manner. Or Alan Pardew and his grotesque tormenting of Arsene Wenger, whose boots he was not fit to clean with his tongue, now being hawked round TV studios by his agent and comparing tackling to rape.
I'll stop there but as mentioned the other day serial fools like Venables and co are no longer welcome at most serious clubs (Newcastle apparently want to be the exception although they are not a serious club). Brown has a choice as whatever else happens he has done a terrific job this year.
Suddenly it is Villa who look like Arsenal dominating a game but getting caught twice on the break at home over committing trying to make something happen. Like a golfer trying to force one on to the 13th at Augusta and finding water. Villa fans may have more pain to come with Moyes' Everton on a roll. Their squad will now be tested as well one assumes.
To me the best part of the season is an increase in depth and stability of Premiership management as shown by the 5th to 9th managers O'Neill, Moyes, Zola, the surprising Bruce who I once wrote off and Roy Hodgson whose achievement of a top half place at this stage is nothing short of genius. OK Zola has things to prove. 'Arry has an argument based on form before Spurs. Ditto Allardyce whose Bolton record is nothing short of amazing. Megson and Hughes ain't so bad either albeit Hughes looks like a dead man walking at Siddy, you can laugh at him but not blame him. Sbragia has served under some great managers, S'Alex and Big Sam, recently. Phil Brown over the next year can prove something just by keeping Hull up. Arguably Guus is a step up on the Mourinho of 2 years ago and Grant and Big Phil.
The point is that I think this is an improvement as a body to the years of questionable player traders and whining populists like Gregory, Reid, Smith, Venables, McClaren, Souness, Keegan, Keane, Hoddle, Sanchez et al.
Fans of Martin Johnson and Amir Khan are probably strutting around like cocks, that they are, after the relatively easy and comprehensive triumphs of their boys this weekend. If you do not want to react like a two pole switch and go from uneasy to rapture you are a critic or worse a hater - which is clearly not something to be as it is a blanket label and that is bad.
As a critic you are seemingly labelled as someone with no love of the sport or worse a hater of Khan or Johnson. Your view that the previous 5 or 6 bouts or matches are as meaningful as the last the vague fantasy of a delusional wreck who only takes joy in others misfortune it seems.
You are now expected to think that Khan's dismissal of MAB was resounding proof that no one will be able to hit and stop Khan again. That the 3 or 4 Palookas and n'er will bes who got to and shook Khan is irrelevant.
Maybe Khan crossed a boxing rubicon but maybe next fight he hangs his chin out and is flattened. At least he now realises that he is not guaranteed popularity and boxing at that level is hard hard work. In his case maybe change has happened but his weaknesses may be avoided and alleviated but they are still there.
Does England's complete destruction of France mean the losses to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Wales and Ireland were building blocks. Indeed you could now be popular revisionistly saying that the narrow away losses to Wales and Ireland were unlucky and a bit more confidence and the result goes the other way.
Of course French rugby fans may have felt much the same way last week as they blasted Wales 2nd half having made themselves underdogs in front of their own fans.
In the end one might temper a negative view but so woeful were France today and England's initial breaks all ran in for 5 that all one can say is that in typical 6 nations fashion whoever has least to lose steps up and those with most to lose tighten up. Looked at that way France exploited Welsh timidity as England did when Wales and Ireland failed to properly put them to the sword.
The fact is unless something revolutionary can be explained what we witness should not completely alter our view. Just as Madison de Berlais's Kempton destruction of Denman meant nothing a few weeks later in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The correct position is to be skeptical but the reactionary people who appear in the media hate that kind of intelligent nuanced rational consistent position and hence break out the hater and critic labels - one word used for analysis, description and knowledge, so clever so Blair. It's another example of populist memory-less thought-less anti intellectualism so currently favoured by corporate types and paper readers.
England fans are a hardy lot. They sit through 40 years of failure and the team's inability to hold leads in big games and want the team to keep playing that way - seriously no team has done worse in knock out games over the last 40+ years in international football, and it is not like England have not grabbed the lead in many of those games (Russia & Croatia 08, Portugal 04, Brazil 02, Portugal and Romania 00).... Yet despite our obvious failure to defend you will still hear the standard fan cry when England don't play 442. OK the back 3 was broken out for Argentina 98 and Germany 96 but it was still a formation with 2 front strikers.
Not just any 442. The clarion cry was not for the flexible sorta 442 formation that can defy description that Manchester United often play but the one Ferguson amazing uncorked today against the one team you should never ever play it against. "Naive 442" against a nuggety team like Liverpool who rely on 1 or 2 individual players to get isolated 1 on 1 and beat the opposition.
United are clearly more than the sum of their parts. Whilst people go bananas about everyone being world class when teams are winning it is surely stretching it to put the following in a present world top 50: Evra, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Tevez, O'Shea and Berbatov. Without being an aficionado I am argueing one can easily find 5 or 9 better players (where a position is generic like centre half) in their positions in world football, if not in many cases the premiership. Arguably van der Saar is not in either (top 50 players would have 4 or 5 keepers).
Naive 442 is when you play 2 proper wide players who don't come inside for the ball. You play 2 central midfielders one of whom is purely defensive. The problem is you are not able to hold the ball as the midfielder between the strikers centre halves and his defensive colleagues is given an almost impossible amount of space to cover and no easy outlets, especially against teams who field 3 in there as in an attacking sense it is 3 v 1 - outnumbered in midfield was a 90s mantra for English teams because of this.
You can compound this by playing with 2 front players who lack height, pace and as today do not drop off too often. This means that if the ball is cleared or has to be hit long it is almost certainly coming back. Indeed with Berbatov's performance in the week screaming drop me one can understand him not playing but both Rooney and Tevez makes no sense in a big game - am I arguing for m'boy the Fletch? Sidebar on Berba, you know when they list how far people have run v team average in Champions League matches I was really hoping they showed Berbatov's!
Today was a horrible ground hog of a day but you see the problem with naive 442 is that you isolate players and make the role of attacking central midfielder impossible. Carrick proved that he was even less up to the impossible task than Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes have proved for England and any suggestion of world class is laughable.
With the defenders left 1 on 1 all the time mistakes kill you and with the pressure on even the arguably world class van der Saar, Vidic and Ferdinand looked terrible. Hence having been gifted a lead the they looked no more able to hold it than England in a major championship.
Against most of the premiership United could play any 3 combinations of numbers that add up to 10 and win but to break this moronic selection out against Liverpool was mind boggling at best. Of all the teams Liverpool in big games who let you come to them and exploit Torres qualities one on one it was a suicide note. Liverpool are the last team you match up 1 on 1 with as Gerrard and Torres can physically dominate when allowed to get running. Yet alone with the pathetic Anderson to pick up Gerrard. Team play negates those two far far better as it does with all the flash players.
Another example of Hubris based on a defensive run that owes as much to luck as chance as doing anything new or different as Kevin Pullein argued in the Racing Post? United have conceded as many goals as Chelsea, 16 in 28 games, the run is merely window dressing.
3 years ago if you asked me who the best manager in the world was and maybe on track to be ever it would have been Jose Mourinho despite his short track record.
I loved his: organisation: use of 14 players in a game: use of strikers as implements not the be all and end all: even his cynical use of Tiago to make the last 10 minutes of a game 50 yard free kick night: His formation with a solid 42 and a front diamond that released Frank Lampard into the super star he still is: the use of 3 players on the half way line to prevent opponents flooding his box at set pieces: his practice of transformation from attack to defense and vica versa.
Then with obvious signs of declining mental health he: became hubristic: played 442: quit on games before a ball was kicked: relied utterly on 8 or 9 players: marginalised squad players: made excuses: took things far too personally.
He never could handle big games before and after and almost poisoned the atmosphere in case he lost and thus made winning near as pointless as it can be. This could have been forgiveable had his good points and clear plan stayed in place. In the end he became just another manager but one that was utterly pitiable. Utterly devoid of redeeming qualities that had made him great. The saddest thing I can say is that I merely feel sorry for him now.
His half hearted taunts and management last night is now topped off with a potential assault charge. What a poor sad clown he has become.
In the end a series England could, maybe should have, won 2-1 was lost. Indeed the first test where Monty and Anderson were picked despite their records on slow pitches and gave away 150 runs to the top order combined with KPs moron rush when he was totally in charge lost the match even allowing for the Jerome Taylor blast and 51 all out.
In the end though a meaningless series that seemingly meant something to down trodden opposition being lost will be forgotten by the end of May if not sooner.
The biggest negative was the captaincy by seemingly yet another over educated twit. Easy to under estimate Strauss, maybe, but the early verdict involves big shoes, a large red nose, facepaint with a lot of yellow in his wardrobe. Where is KP when you need him!
The other pluses were the way that Anderson, Strauss, Collingwood and Monty have responded to the drops in the last year unlike Harm-less-son. Really there can no argument about a squad system, it works. Harmison has no place in it.
Broad seems to have come on and it will be interesting to see him back in England hopefully with a Duke ball. He added a cutter as a ball to get someone out when it is not swinging or seaming conventionally and showed he was not scared to say what he felt even if complaints are not well received by a childish media obsessed with shouting individuals down.
KP please look at your batting. He scores 102 in 92 balls. He scores 60 runs off 82 without the boundaries. WHY in a conventional match situation does he need to try to flash the bat when he has scores of less than 200 when he scores so easily without risks? Someone needs to challenge him to make 200s not 100s and indeed to become the best batsman in the world. Quite where that challenege will come from in a management who have excused the petulant foibles of Harmison and Flintstone for years is beyond me.
Sadly Owais Shah may be the first person to lose his place not for low scores, although he made that case, but for a complete inability to run between the sticks. It's one thing to give someone time to relax and prove it another to give someone who is a threat to be run out or run someone else out every time they bat.
The Ashes loom and in English conditions with a modicum of luck I see a good series going 3-1 to Australia. England will have collapses but must play 5 bowlers and if 'Stone gets fit he bats 7 behind Prior.
The biggest cricket negatives were the so called Referral System and of course the Kookabura ball - a silly name for a silly ball. The ICC are just incompetent and are killing test cricket with of all things a basic implement of the game. Chicks dig seeing 3 stumps knocked out of the ground and the inswinging yorker not the 2 day inning.
The only down side to Liverpool and Chelsea's dismissals with varying degrees of contempt to the 2nd best teams in Italy and Spain was the continuing moronic behaviour of the English based players.
Javier Mascherano seems intent on making every referee think he is a moron despite it being pretty clear that Javiar is the one who struggles to remember who can send players off. Like Scottie Parker last week it can only be the referee was not card happy that Mascherano showing him up and continuing to yap like a small lap dog after it's not so supermodel owner had accidentally dropped a small spoonful of her happy powder on its nose did not result in the first use of the soap.
Ditto the baby like reaction again of John Terry and co after Belletti's deliberate and cynical hand ball resulted in an obvious penalty. Again Chelsea surrounded the referee like he was an idiot when those of us watching on Telly were like "that's a penalty".
How can spoiled little soilers like these expect referees to ever discuss and respect them when the respect is not nuetral? Indeed the players ability to be duplicious is beyond belief as you cannot tell from their reactions if they are genuinely slighted or playing. Honestly do footballers think every decision is against them like Monty thinks every rap on the pads is LBW regardless of line, height or the laws of the game.
I said Chris Broad would be blamed for being shot at whilst unprotected and yes the ICC have blamed the umpires. No more comment needed....
According to Dwain Chambers he was able to take 300 substances one year without being caught. The really odd point was he got no better and had to leave one championship with cramps due to the drugs.
Indeed he just ran his best ever 60 meters subject to the almost fascistic testing regime of the British now. What a clown, he's broke and hated and all for nothing.
Ironically for Chambers the best thing that may have happened is that the adversity may have improved his real weakness his craven competitiveness.
Ashley Cole was a popular boy once. Like most popular boys he was wildly over rated as a left back with the xenophobic best left back in the world tag given by the pundit led media.
As Jose Mourinho in one of his last sane acts as Chelsea manager said he was too short to be a top left back - Jose's Chelsea then bought the player which made Jose a cuckold or a clown or both and was a clear sign his hold on reality or Chelsea's purse strings was slipping - especially as it cost him his most versatile and allegedly favourite defender Gallas.
It all started to go wrong when having left Arsenal he produced the "55 thousand a week they are taking the piss" line uttered not in exasperation but after consideration. The suggestion from Arsenal's then chief spiv was the difference was the 60 grand they agreed and the 5 thousand his agent wished to garnish every week - implication Ashley was played. Which earned him the moniker C'Ash and boos at grounds everywhere. Seriously he was a left back.... Probably worth half that. Why Pay More?
If he cannot carry the sobriquet "Best Left Back In The World" I am sure Ashley would prefer to be known as G'Ash, than C'Ash, judged on his absurd reaction to accusations he played for the other side - the old Northern refrain "I'm not fucking queer" would have been less homophobic. Indeed reports suggest his latest problems involving being arrested for being a self important twit stems from chatting up someone who was not his wife.
However far from humiliating his wife the affair showed that like Louise and Victoria Adams he is the one in this marriage of pop and football who is the accessory. Five news referred to him as Cheryl Cole's husband. He is the appendage to the reality TV star who was accused of racist assault and is a mere footnote in the history of pop - the latest nice looking girl to somehow become so beautiful cos she appears on TV in full over made up glory. He is not even famous enough to be known as anything more than her minion. Fitting.
In an ideal world I am sure the England team would move Pietersen up to 3 and consider whether to replace Owais Shah with Ravi Bopara. However with the potentially great one wanting to stay at 4 a team who cannot deal with even a weak character like Flintoff is hardly going to pick on KP. So it can reasonably be said that this team in terms of batting was selected by KP.
Amjad Khan and Monty Panesar would appear to be obvious choices and we can all hope that Steve Harmison is left to be Harm-less elsewhere forever.
Big test for Monty on a dead wicket he has to show something as Swann looks top banana. Although with 5 bowlers England have space in seamer friendly England less than you might expect: Sidebottom has taken 47 @ 20 a piece in 2008: Broad can bat and field and may have the hardest mind in the team: Anderson a match loser in a 4 man attack is being indulged by selection and in English conditions a lock: Flintoff is a lock when fit. That means if Rashid or Khan or Tremlett or whoever steps up even with injuries Monty's best hope may be the floating bone in Swann's elbow.
The attempt by the PCB to once again deny reality may well be a new low point for an organisation that would not be tolerated in any other sport. The PCB have complained about Chris Broad's stating of the bleedin' obvious.
This from a national cricket board that will be perfectly happy to play a 2 time drug cheat (life ban in England) who is also a drug smuggler (let off after Pakistan made representations to the UAE who of course can now stage Pakistan cricket matches - spell racism and corruption U-A-E). Obviously morality is not something the PCB has any care about.
They also fully supported serial clown Inzamam ul Haq who decided to cancel a test match and attacked spectators with a bat.
Now they try and deny what is palpably obvious they left the match officials in a van to be killed. It's even on film. There can be no denial except from a cricket board who like to shape their own perverse and immoral world vision.
Of course it will be interesting if Chris Broad goes the way of umpire Hair and the Australian team's reputation and is sacrificed on the alter of ICC pragmatism. After all this is a body that excused Harbhajan Singh after he was caught making racist comments on the back of a story he took over a month to concoct.
One must wonder how Scott Parker did not follow Carlton Cole off with a display of ferocious stupidity after Cole's removal for a 2nd yellow. Indeed Parker's yellow for a combined handball and attempted leg shatterer as his boot slid down his opponents shins appeared light to me - regardless of effect a studs up tackle even one that misses is a studs up tackle.
Then Lucas Neill an Australian in the short tradition of Muscat and Tiatto committed surely a prima facia example of the foot up challenge and stays on. One guesses as with Bennett at St James' having been a little too literalist to send Cole off he did not have the stones to send 3 West Ham players for first use of the lip-salve and grooming products.
The result was of course that Wigan more sinned against than sinning ended up a man light when the violent Parker was given some more agricultural retribution by Cattermole.
In light of the laughable respect agenda maybe the FA should give Parker 5 or 6 games off. The real problem is of course the yellow for everything refereeing that sent Cole to the showers and kept the contemptible Parker and Neill on to sin again.
On a pretty depressing night at least Zola provided a ray of light by accepting Neill, the thug, should have gone. Some careers produce a DVD of genuine highlights Neill's of leg breakers since he introduced himself with a reducer that sent Carragher to the sidelines a few years ago.
It's funny one day it looks like United are walking to the title and then they walk out of St James' with 3 points thanks to defensive and keeping ineptitude by them and Newcastle. A perfectly saveable poor shot by Rooney deflects mildly and the keeper ducks under it (was in no position to save it and the deflection was back towards him) followed by a present from Taylor all that was between Man United and zero goals.
The fact that the referee was Steve Bennett who is due to be basically not renewed as a Premiership arbiteur, sacked, after some fairly innocuous observations to an undercover reporter is surely open to question. It is hard to know whether he will be trying to stay on by basically kow towing to the no controversy 11 v 11 obsession of ex player pundits.
First up he allowed Vidic to carry out a violent and cynical assault right on the edge of the box (players know after John Terry was excused similar that cynical = yellow, bad tackle = yellow, cynical and bad = yellow). Then Taylor stays on for what could easily be construed as assault. Then Evra is allowed to boot someone in the box.
The point is none of those decisions were bad or good but when a referee has something to gain by doing nothing should he really be refereeing high profile games where there is something on the line?
Also tonight how does Milner not get a red for kicking Phillips in the act of shooting? Was that a referee comment on Phillips having a shot with keeper to beat as not a goal scoring opportunity? How in the name of anything is that not a goal scoring opportunity?
The moral bankruptcy of cricket is a subject that has me inwardly angry. In particular the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) a morally vacuous body that seems to do nothing but encourage cheating and poor behaviour by a team seemingly blessed with an over riding self serving arrogance only matched by its ignorance and immorality.
However with the nihilistic attack on the Sri Lankan touring party today it puts what is a merely a total moral vacuum into perspective. When people try to kill a visiting cricket team it is surely an act of madness. Now Pakistan is the pariah its behaviour should have made it long ago. The Sri Lankan team are nothing to do with the Pakistan govt and surely if their moronic perspective meant anything to them they would attack symbols of their own government or an imperialist power like Britain or the USA not a visiting cricket team.
This like the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan shows the sheer fascistic vacuousness of fundamentalist Islam (and in fact all fundamentalist/literalist religions). It does amaze me how those religions still talk of love, heavens and belief but it always seems to involve exorcising their inner self loathing in this life time. In many ways these zealots are so like the Hollywood they no doubt despise where their heroes "reluctantly" wait for excuses to kill other people and then jump into it like zealots shouting mantras over their victims.
That this action should be so self defeating for the cause espoused just shows that this is not the result of any rational thought on anyone's part. This is people exorcising their inner psyche with nothing celestial or god like about it.
All these butchers have succeeded in doing is killing ordinary Pakistanis doing a day's work.
I think it is OK for tailenders to get protection in normal circumstances but when as in the last test match England and in this the West Indies use them to run up scores that are not needed against tired bowlers then I would instruct my bowlers to bowl a diet of round the wicket bouncers at them. Running the score up and just humiliating tired bowlers for its own sake is really not cricket!
I had this lovely piece planned about how Spurs lost today even if they won. Actually it was more about how United could not lose today and indeed the true losers were of course Chelsea and Liverpool. Anyway Spurs lost on the pitch today and by the look of Lennon and Dawson at the end they may have lost more than a game for a near meaningless bauble - definition of meaningless a trophy whose winning does not give the manager an iota of job security.
Anyway the point is that whilst experience per se is over rated it certainly did no harm for Evans, Nani, Welbeck, Foster and Gibson to play a cup final. Although I am skeptical if those who played badly today like Nani (WAC) will rush off and consult a psychologist and prepare better for next time. Indeed arguably Wayne Rooney was a better big game player in 2004 at the Euros than he has ever been since.
The key point is that in the case of Foster he has had some games and gone from clown to hero in a few rounds as his positioning has improved because he can play some competitive games. It means if he steps into the first team he has played with Rio and Vidic before and under a modicum of pressure.
However more than the experience and the fact that players get games with the first team the manager will now know far more about them. We have seen for instance that Nani will humiliate and taunt beaten or weaker opponents but today let Assou-Ekotto get a ball from Ronaldo he should have been first to - gutless on all levels. Now the manager can respond to a craven player and look to move him on or toughen him up or let him rot if he will not deal with his weakness.
Other things that Ferguson will have learned are that the bidding for Carlos Tevez does not start at anything above 15 million before considering currency movement and recession. Indeed those oh so clever continental writers (Marcotti) who say how great Tevez is today got a lesson - he is not a front striker and his passing and movement make him a useful bits and pieces reserve but not worth a third of Rooney or Berbatov's value - save for a bit as a known quantity already settled. I've been astounded at fees quoted for Tevez at around 30 or 40 million - sheer madness. This tournament gave him a chance to show he could play his position better than others which whilst he failed should mean he never complains about being a 2nd choice again.
Whatever, playing the kids and reserves in competitive games with some first teamers where the result does not matter is its own reward with a trophy a bonus.
You might think I'd be regretting my crack about Aaron Lennon being like some late match fast winger used by a Championship team. That I'd feel crushed by his man of the match performance - BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Tottenham's Aaron Lennon on 7.36 (on 120 minutes). The public has spoken or at least that strata sad enough to rate players for the BBC.
Actually I like to critique people at the top as rather than being contrary and iconoclastic, although I am, I feel it means more if that criticism was forged when it was not obvious i.e. people's weaknesses don't change just the way they are viewed. The fact is that Lennon got the ball a lot in space against an unusually open Manchester United and probably picked one decent ball in all that time. You get 10 good chances to win a game and you blow it is that really man of the match? He was like a 3rd division player with blinding pace and yes better dribbling control. Power is nothing without control as a Pirelli ad once said. If you cannot pass, cross or shoot consistently then whatever your other gifts you are AT BEST a late game substitute outlet to burn time and turn a 1 nil into 2 nil against teams over attacking whatever your age or England appearances.
I recall when Wayne Rooney was younger and played in the Carling final and everyone loved him and made him man of the match. I said but how can he be in a 0-0 when he had 10 shots and no goals and Arsenal burgled the the final. Indeed back to the earlier message about experience his shooting and passing are still what stop him being a top class player and they are far better than Aaron Lennon's before considering his work ethic, power, ferocity and strength.
My moment of the day was of course when the toe rag team mates went up to back slap Gomes prior to the penalty shoot out. Having earlier in the season sold him out by telling Stoke which parts of his body were injured and where to attack him to settle scores with manager Ramos. Gomes smiled through it no doubt aware of the irony and two facedness. This is before considering his manager just replaced him with an older smaller player who has barely played a game in the prior few years. Not to mention M'Boy Cudicini is equally flappy on crosses and is at best a similar keeper - a trivial upgrade at best and in need of games to get to that level unless you think he can attain his pre-Cech signing form of 5 years and more ago.
I recall my Rugby captain Tim who when things were not going well would play the old stiff upper lip and demand we keep trying even when we were beat. Off the field I always thought he was a misguided as that appeared his mantra in all things in life. After all the logic on the field is futility in any other field in life.
I think that is the problem with Martin Johnson. We were meant to be so in awe of him as a rock like player that he would somehow lift a rugby team. That would instinctively know the right things to say and this would make up for him not being a coach or manager before.
Yet we have got the child like figure who reacted so obviously to one of his players being sent to the bin yesterday. It was the reaction of a frustrated fool with no control over any events on and off the pitch - Graeme Souness like. He would never have shown that emotion on the field and yet off it he has now basically put himself in a position where he is almost honour bound to drop Danny Care by showing the media what he was thinking. The saddest part is the player Johnson would not have tolerated such a childish display of petulance as he gave yesterday.
Never mind that England are playing tedious anti rugby with no ambition on the field or to do any different in future.
Running rugby will still not win world cups and there is nothing wrong with being a strong counter attacking side but England's game plan appears to be like beating Arsenal rough them up and cheat as much as the referee allows and complain afterwards if he cards you out of the game. Worse Martin Jester told the refs that is what England would do and now objects when they look for cheating by his side!
Either way England even if they start winning will continue to be next to un-watchable.
I am sure if the increase in Drogba motivation is anything to go by then Hiddink has a chance to improve on Scolari. However the principal problem Scolari had was the Drog was palpably unfit and he did not have the stones to drop Anelka for di Santo or anyone who would lead the line - fetishising his goal total?
Guus tactically has at least tried to stress at least one full back stays back not try to provide all the width from the back.
However for anyone to suggest we have seen a measurable improvement in anything bar Drogba's attitude is wrong: A come back win over an exhausted Watford who choked the moment they had something to lose: A moment of magic from guess who and a smart finish by Amelka beating Villa narrowly and padding Chelsea's division leading away record: A narrow victory over an ageing Juve that hardly touched on the classy or convincing: Finally a narrow home defeat of Wigan that showed their faults in all their glory. Frankly this has been an improvement in performance only if you obsess on scorelines.
The fact is Chelsea now using Kalou and Anelka wide off The Drog have no genuine wide player. Indeed Hiddink either postive on him or negative on Scolari has Anelka running harder about the pitch as well.
They also have no dominant defensive set piece presence. John Terry Saturday showing he still possesses the under rated and un-mentioned technical ability, seriously he is a better passer than most players, but it's telling he is not the aerial presence at both ends he once was. Hence Chelsea are still brittle at set pieces. To be fair Chelsea have only conceded 16 goals in 27 (United even with their run 11 in 26).
Their lack of team speed was still shown up by Wigan on the break and could easily have seen Chelsea go behind.
It's all relative as arguably Chelsea are behind United on home form and losing to their competitors - fine margins? They are probably the 2nd best team in the division as Rafa seemingly gives up on the league and looks to Europe. Plus with Drogba looking more like Drogba and less like the clown Lescott manhandled one can certainly see a chance at the Champions League. However this is still a team reliant on Super Frank and if it is to beat strong teams in Europe and at home it needs the big Drog on his game.
Guus real task now is for Chelsea to continue the Juventus trend and start to beat better teams. So far they have lost twice to 'pool, once to Arsenal, once to Man United and to Roma - often by 2 or even 3 goals against a narrow home win over Juventus and a home draw with United.
At least with Drogba and Kalou starting with Ballack they have some effective height especially with whatever Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Alex can add. I'd make set pieces the priority they were when Mourinho started and before he seemingly gave up coaching the team - about a year before he left.