Archive for October, 2010

A freezer fiasco but reasons for optimism

October 21st, 2010 No comments

Bolton v Stoke City on Saturday was a game of rarity.  It marked an unusual occurence which renders it truly memorable.  In years to come it’s significance will resonate in my heart and soul… because I was unable to watch it!  It was shown here in my beloved Brisbane on a delay on Sunday morning at 11.30am.  I had hoped to nip to the pub to watch but this was the weekend of moving house and the plethora of associated tasks. This meant our cable TV and internet had been cut off on Friday, it meant that as the telecast started I was lifting a freezer onto a ute in sweltering heat, the same freezer which compounded my misery by falling onto my left foot.  Daniel Day Lewis could make a sequel to his first Oscar winning movie and play the role of me, sweating profusely, writhing in freezer induced agony and not watching the Stoke game.  He’d better be quick, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are expected to make Stokeless in Seattle! 

I finally saw the result at 7.15 in the evening, whilst resting an icepack on the freezer damage, and realised my dream of us winning three consecutive Premier League games had been scuppered again.  Onto the backburner completely for a while.  I eventually watched the highlights.  Frustrating to get nothing from a game in which we were worth at least a draw but that’s football it happens.  We continued our impressive woodwork record.  Conceding a winner so late is always galling.  But upwards and onwards.  Next upwards we face the evil empire from Old Trafford.  On current form they are not the force they were only last season but anyone who seriously thinks they will be there for the taking should think again.  The ongoing Rooney situation is an unwelcome distraction for them but if we start slowly and save our most potent attacking until an hour in we could be three down and game over.  However, with our current squad we are capable of putting them under pressure.  I’m not saying we’ll beat them but we can certainly put them on the backfoot and stretch them.  It’s time to remember that while we have to respect opposition, as esteemed as they are, we mustn’t be overawed.  Live TV  with hundreds of millions watching throughout the world.  It’s the kind of occasion we craved for so many barren years.  Lets enjoy it.  And let’s hope our players have no regrets on Sunday evening.  And I can definitely watch this one, I won’t be moving white goods at 10.30 on Sunday night.  Over to you Tone!!

Brisbane Roar are in good from.  Despite dominating Newcastle on Saturday only a draw could be wrung out.  Kids were allowed in for free and the crowd still only limped to 10,191.  If the current form is maintained when the finals series comes around in February they can break the 20,000 mark.  Only two and a half years ago the seasons climax attracted crowds of over 30,000.  Can they be lured back?    Unusually there was also a midweek game when Brisbane beat Central Coast in style and comfort but I didn’t attend as I went to see ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller instead.   He did some Jam stuff. 

So FIFA representatives have demanded money for votes.  We’ve  never been so shocked since being told Max Boyce is Welsh.  There is talk of the top table delaying the vote.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to just stop the guilty parties from participating?  Blatter has shown rare humility by admitting this latest kerfuffle has tarnished FIFA’s reputation.  Could there be some connection in the previous weeks suspension of Nigeria or am I speculating widely?  They announced there will be an investigation into these allegations.  I’m sure the accused are deeply terrified by the prospect of a $200 fine and being made to sit at the back of the bus on the way to the next conference.  The entire bidding process has become rather filthy.  The Russian bid leader has slated London for it’s social problems which contravenes the FIFA directive about commenting on other bids.  William Hague has tried to maintain a stiff upper lip by insisting the English bid will behave in a decent and proper manner.  There will be many twists and turns before  December 2nd.  Or whenever the final votes are cast. 

Not a huge shock that Wee Gordy has left Middlesborough.  Sometimes for whatever reasons it just doesn’t work out for some managers at some places.  The baffling aspect though is that at first I thought Middlesborough’s fans were shouting that they want ‘Moggy’.  How is a cat supposed to be able to manage a football club?  A strange demand from the Teesside hoards.   The tale got odder when it transpired the Moggy demand was actually ‘Mogga’ a request for Tony Mowbray to manage them.  Honest!  They want him.  Eight passes across their own penalty area and moaning about Stoke when they get beaten.  At times the word surreal is inadequate.

It’s good to see Steve Tilson back in the game at Lincoln.  In dire circumstances he managed Southend with loyalty and dignity and as a result got the ultimate managers reward…. the sack.  He has the chance to resurrect his career and after the trauma of his last year at Roots Hall he deserves some good fortune.

Tepid England but Stokies to swarm over Bolton!

October 14th, 2010 No comments

In the build up to the England v Montenegro game a disproportionate amount of media attention was given to the manager’s decision to reinstate Rio Ferdinand as captain.  Fabio Capello must be more baffled than anyone, in most countries the captain is just the most famous player or the oldest.  That’s understandable too.  In cricket major decisions are required from the captain throughout the match but, as in football, stepping forward for a coin toss and with the correct guess choosing kick off or choice of ends does not merit hours of debate or hundreds of column inches.  The false controversy over selecting a captain was no bearing at all on the result.  Montenegro are decent team. I’m disappointed but not shocked by our failure to win.  They haven’t conceded a goal in this campaign. We know that England are an half decent up and downer sort of side so why the massive shock when when we fail to break sides down?  Some of the criticism Capello has faced in recent months has been harsh but after this game he deserves some.  Why not put Wilshire on to inject freshness?  We didn’t play with any pace and lacked the imagination to break down a stubborn well organised defence.  There was a reluctance to change things when the planA was clearly not working.  The lack of creativity was partly borne of forwards unable to make diagonalruns to stretch the opponents defence.  In fact, our opponents  came closest to winning when they hit the bar.  An axiom of football is that if you can’t outplay them you must make sure you outnumber them and Montenegro did that well by packing their midfield and forcing our wide players into boxes.  Like Algeria in South Africa, the visitors deserved their celebrations.  Like the World Cup the majority of blame lies with the players and their inability to vary their game and their seeming refusal to learn to do so.   In short, they did a good job on us and we lacked the craft to dig a win out.    Wales look doomed but beating England would salvage some pride, we have to be wary in March.  We still have a good chance of reaching Poland and Ukraine but Spain and Germany have little to worry about. 

Against Russia Ireland were outplayed for long spells.  The visitors played with fluidity and passed through Ireland who looked flat footed.  The amazing thing is that the final minutes could be so dramatic when the game had actually been so one sided!  In Slovakia the Irish started well and took the deserved lead but allowed the hosts a way back.  Keane’s penalty miss proved fatal and despite a crash bang wallop second half they have to be pleased with a draw.  1 point is a disappointing return for Trappatoni’s men.  Scotland displayed admirable fortitude to stage a stirring rip roaring comeback and battle back to 2-2.  However from that point Spain’s winner was sort of inevitable.  It was still Scotland after all!

On Saturday Australia beat Paraguay in Sydney in what tabloid hacks would describe as an ‘ill tempered clash’.  One of the most unfriendly friendlies in the history of, er, unfriendly friendlies!   Arsene wenger would have swooned at the sight of those lunges!

It was disturbing to read of a rise in football violence amongst teenagers.  Even here in Australia some youngsters have a sickening infatuation with the whole culture of football related violence.  I overheard some talking excitedly about trouble at an Arsenal game and asked them why they were so fascinated by people bashing each other peoples heads in…. they didn’t know.  As a teenager, many of my contemporaries seemed to see becoming involved in fighting almost as a natural progression.  As if it was a rite of passage.  I’ve always felt isolated from that.  I specifically remember, even as a nine year old, standing in Glebe Street watching Millwall and Stoke’s hooligans fighting and being confused that so many people felt the need to smash people’s faces in over what was, essentially, wanting a different team to win a game of football.  Violence at football has resulted in lives damaged, people even killed.  It has given police the excuse ( but not justification I hasten to add) to treat supporters as second class citizens.  There is nothing positive about football violence. 

It’s exciting to see the news that Stoke City are  taking a huge following to Bolton on Saturday.  We are enjoying a special time for Stoke City.  It used to be quirk that whenever we took a huge away following we’d get beaten, this hopefully won’t re-emerge at the Reebok.  My friends here call Stokies ‘Phil Spector’.   This is because other games are quite normal and up and down but when Stokies are on TV there’s a constant wall of sound!!  I look forward to an incessant din but in this part of the world we can’t enjoy the noise until  Sunday morning…. the game will be shown on a delay here!

Stoke, Liverpool, Nigeria, England, Montengro

October 6th, 2010 No comments

Excuse the title of this post…. I fancy a job working for The Sun!  Like before, the international break comes at the right time for Stoke City, except this time it’s very different reasons.  What a difference a month makes!  Four unbeaten games and we are a quarter of the way to the magical 40 points mark.  On Saturday against Blackburn we played well, and unlike at Newcastle, we attacked them from the start.  It’s great that Walters got off the mark.  In the first half he really looked like a man who had recently joined a Premier league club but had been hit and miss….. and the pressure of the situation seemed to be showing.  Snatching at passes and being over eager to make an impression.  That goal will lift a huge weight from his shoulders and now the monkey is off his back he can relax and go onto better things with us.  I, like many other Stokies, would be perfectly happy with him if he scores the winner in every game he plays!   A pleasing aspect of the Blackburn game is that it was physical and combative but there was nothingmalicious involved and the players didn’t act and roll around.  Pennant clearly isn’t match fit but in bursts his pace and, most pleasingly, the quality of his crosses were great and could prove to be a very productive asset.  All in all a good day for Stoke City.  We finally got the clean sheet we’ve needed and we rarely looked like conceding at all.   We are up to seventh now which is thrilling.   We may not stay this high for long so let’s enjoy it while we can!!   Great work Stoke!   More of the same please.  

At Anfield on Sunday something strange happened.  Amid the talk of financial incompetence and lawyers accountants and consortiums a football match broke out!   And in the game itself something stranger happened.  Roy  Hodgson’s players look totally demoralised.  I can’t believe Torres isn’t preparing to leave in January.  The brand name Liverpool FC should be enough to stave off the threat of administration and in that instance their history must be a relief….. unlike the burden it appears to be on the current players.  In administration Liverpool FC would cease to be an FC and would become merely a company in administration.  The sale of Torres and Gerrard would surely be ordered and a huge slice of their football dream would leave with them.  There is much melodrama on viewing their current plight.  The biggest cliche being that the current owners have ‘ripped the soul’ of of Liverpool.  That might be an appropriate expression of withering self pity but in reality the soul of Liverpool departed on February 22nd 1991.   Having wrestled with his sanity for the previous two years and in the wake of one of the greatest FA Cup ties ever played, Kenny Dalglish rersigned.  Their greatest player, having gone on to be a successful manager, leading the club and it’s fans with dignity through the tramatic aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, decided he was no longer able to deal with the stresses the job brought.  Liverpool ceased to be the dominant force in English football on that day.  It can’t help that Man Utd gleefully took over their reign.  When Alex Ferguson said his greatest achivement was “Knocking Liverpool off their fu^*ing perch” it was a reflection on 26 years of frustration.  Now it’s Liverpool’s turn to feel envy, and if the Blackpool game is any pointer  it may get much worse before it gets better.

FIFA have suspended Nigeria because of government interference in the game there.  Now, they are following their own rules in taking this action but some questions have to be asked. Has this action been taken now that Africa’s World Cup is over and any response will be less of a hot issue with the potential to backfire?  Is it right to deprive the people of Nigeria the chance to support their national team because of administrative meddling?  If the Brazilian German or English FA had a similar problem would Sepp and the old boys club be prepared to take on the might of a football nation with that power and, more importantly, capacity to generate income?  If FIFA are capable of taking such strong action will they take it to address the issue of racism which is still depressingly prominent in some areas of the world…. or will they continue to pay empty lip service to the subject?  

Kevin Davies finally got picked for an England squad!  For several years his name has been mentioned regarding an England call up and it’s finally come to fruition.  It’s pleasing to see a solid professional who has quietly gone about his job and played the game with the minimum of fuss down the years get some recognition.  Unlikely though it is that he’ll get his first cap it’s still a memory he can treasure from a long  career.   Montenegro will be no pushovers.   They are yet to concede and have won both of their games so far.   As is often the case the main problem with England will be defending as a unit.    Too often one clever ball leaves the defence flat footed and this causes problems.  Against solid underrated opposition like Montenegro our back four need to stay awake. 

I haven’t seen Gary Lineker’s documentary about whether England can win the next World Cup but he could have saved the effort of making the programme by asking me and I’ll tell him now…. no we can’t.  Brazil will be favourites obviously but will they handle the pressure?   Many South American football rivalries are borne of historical moments and Brazil are still haunted by 1950.  Imagine if Argentina met  Brazil in the knockout stages and knocked them out. The rest of  the tournament wouldn’t matter.  As far as they would be concerned they will have won their own World Cup. The European team with the mentality to go to Brazil and win it will be Germany. They will also have their exciting youngsters all matured by then too. The whole mindset of the English game needs to change to win a World Cup. And there is little chance of that happening.  Unlike many, I wouldn’t object to a winter break in principle.  But the players wouldn’t be restingon a beach….they would be whisked across the globe for money spinning friendlies so it wouldn’t actually be a break at all.    While the clubs stubbornly refuse to take action for the greater good of the game this is how it shall be.