Friday, 31 December 2010

Hello, Thank You and Happy New Year!

Hi everyone,

So far I have readers from UK, USA, Singapore, Denmark, Malaysia, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Slovenia, Germany, India, Croatia, Bulgaria, Mexico, France, Iran and Botswana. Wow!

I want to send a big Thanks and Happy New Year to every last one of you. Every view gives me confidence to keep writing and more so to improve my skills.

I hope you have enjoyed reading and sometime laughing as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I love football and I hope you love the way I present it to you.

Best wishes,
Natasha Henry x

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Method to the Madness.

A lot of people seemed surprised that Sir Alex recalled youngsters Ritchie de Laet and Joshua King from Preston after the club sacked his son Darren Ferguson. I'm not. Not one little bit. Most loan agreements are about who the manager of the club is rather than the team.

Jack Wilshere was originally going to be loaned to Burnley in January but when Owen Coyle took over at Bolton, that's where the midfielder went. I saw this as a clear sign that Mr Wenger was interested in his player being looked after by a man he believed, shared his ethos and would look after the player in the way he deemed necessary.

Premier League Review - Match Day 20

Many fans and the clubs they support can't wait to see the back of 2010 in the hope certain managers New Years resolutions are 'to win more games'. Either way it's been a sterling first half to the season and here's my last round-up of this years last Match Day, that I decided to entitle:

                                                Handballs at Dawn


Apparently women and children were leaving the stadium first to miss the aftermath of Sir Alex spontaneously combusting. Or maybe, that was a dream!

Lee Bowyer netted his 55th PL goal to maintain the home sides record of one loss at home. Kudos has to go to Brum who played to their strengths to frustrate the Red Devils and their travelling fans. Birmingham took the game to the visitors before the 20th minute, when Ryan Giggs has Ben Foster showing why Sir Alex rated him so highly.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 20

So we're straight into another round of matches and hopefully no more postponements.

Birmingham City have only conceded nine goals at home this season, a better aggregate than second placed Arsenal. Although they sit 17th that's down to too many draws and with the table so tight a win could lift them four places. United may find them hard to break down but it is rare the Red Devils don't score.

Nani should return to the starting line-up after missing their Boxing Day win against Sunderland. With Paul Scholes still out Ryan Giggs should start again.

KEY MAN: Dimitar Berbatov - Another good performance would do his confidence wonders.

After their loss to Arsenal, Chelsea need to halt their dismal run at home to Bolton which I imagine won't be an easy task. Bolton can mix it with the best of them and they only sit two spots behind the Champions.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Premier League Review - Boxing Day 2010

Only two matches were cancelled today, one involving Blackpool who have now missed three matches since the 'cold-snap/arctic freeze/snow' started. I for one hope Ian Holloway got some under-soil heating for Christmas. We had the first of the two London derbies, a couple of impressive goals and not one draw among them (so far).

ARSENAL 3 - 1 CHELSEA (Monday)
As much as the win, Mr Wenger will like the fact his players didn't get bullied. Both teams started well and it was hard to guess who would win as the play went from both ends. John Terry was his normal boisterous self, barging and pulling Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott respectively. Most of Arsenal's play went the right hand side and Walcott was giving Cashley, sorry Ashley Cole a run for his money. Most of Chelsea's attacks seemed to be the long ball. Arsenal's first real chance was in the 41st minute when Samir Nasri had a nice shot, which Petr Cech did well to send over the bar.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Boxing Day 2010

Until we do have a winter-break, the holiday fixtures start with nine games on Boxing Day before Chelsea make their way through London to the Emirates on Monday night. Each team will play four games between December 26th 2010 and January 5th 2011, weather permitting of course. Every team will be looking for at least 8 from twelve, with those at the top and the bottom having so few points between them.

How do you solve a problem like Didier? Does Mr Wenger have any idea? Lets hope so because his team need to start picking up points when playing their nearest rivals having already lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs this year. Didier Drogba hasn't been at his best this season but he has a very good record against the Gunners of a goal a game.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Let The Madness Continue: Part II - Manchester City to Wolverhampton Wanderers

For Part I - Arsenal to Liverpool. Click here

Oh Carlos, Carlos, Carlos! So now you don't really want to leave the club and you are completely committed to the club which makes you about as flaky as a WAG at a club's Xmas Party. Anyway, the candidates to leave include; Emmanuel Adebuywhore - who isn't happy about something, Roque Santa Cruz - who isn't happy about something and Shaun Wright-Phillips - well, you get the picture. Of the three, SWP will probably have several clubs come in for him as when he plays his work rate and scoring record isn't half bad, as for the other two.... Personally I hope they don't buy anyone else because I wouldn't want to see any more miserable young men earning ridiculous amounts of money.

Sir Alex Ferguson's key challenge over the next 6 months will be searching for a replacement for Paul Scholes who unlike the great man himself, cannot go on forever. With so many players reaching retirement age it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sir Alex spend some serious money after the Glazers found more money for him to play with. Maarten Stekelenburg has been touted as Edwin Van de Sar's replacement

Alan Pardew will be a very nervous man for the whole of January. Even though Andy Carroll has stated he is happy to stay at the club I doubt that will stop the Cockney Mafia - in this case 'Arry Redknapp - trying to lure him away. It is doubtful Pardew will have a big budget and he has made it clear all players will get a fair chance before being shown the door. Steven Taylor has also resumed transfer talks with the club though there may be too much water under the bridge for him to stay at the club long term.

Midfielder Danny Pugh has just extended his contract at the club and that may be all for Tony Pulis' men after the £11 million capture of Kenwyne Jones in the summer. With the club performing well he may not feel the need to spend and my just wait until the summer.

We keep seeing Charles N'Zogbia's name being linked with the club and all the column inches may come to fruition with Wigan needing the cash. Sitting comfortably in 6th place, Steve Bruce may finally feel happy with his squad as they look pretty good.

Robbie Keane is clearly becoming more disillusioned with his lack of playing time and could be the make weight in a deal for Steven Pienaar from Everton. It will be interesting to see how much money 'Arry actually has to spend as North London's second best team look to continue their run in the Champions League. Daniel Levy may be holding onto those purse strings very tightly even though Redknapp has made it clear he feels the squad needs additions. The club has assured fans that Gareth Bale will be staying at White Hart Lane and as he's currently the greatest player the World has ever seen, the fans should be happy.

Apprently the Midlands team are interested in capturing former Manchester City man Georgi Samaras for £2 million. The current squad looks capable of retaining Premier League tatus and Roberto Di Matteo may be happy to stick with what he has got.

Someone told me that the Hammers are looking at Joey Barton, I really hope this isn't true as they have enough problems as it is. If they were to raid Newcastle then Kevin Nolan would be a good buy, he would shore up the middle of the park and he scores a few goals. Although Karryn Brady has said the manager will get money in the New Year, it may be irelevent as Avram Grant may not be the man allowed to spend it. Scott Parker should leave for the good of him career but he's too decent for that and will probably see it out until the end of the season.

This will probably be the time for Charles N'Zogbia to go as transfer talk clearly unsettled him in the summer, but they will need to keep Hugo Rodellega if they do let him leave as I fear losing both would be too detrimental to the club. Roberto Martinez has said he would prefer to retain Ali Al-Habsi on loan before making an offer for him at the end of the season.

Mamadou Bagayoko had a two week trial at the club and Mick Mac was said to be impressed with the Malian player so may take him on loan until the end of the season or make a firm offer if the price is right. With his team struggling he my look to the Championship to get some loan players in.

But who knows until February 2nd 2011. I for one, can't wait!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 18

As I write this no Premier League matches have been cancelled and I'm still coming to terms with Arsenal drawing Barcelona in the Champions League - YES, AGAIN! But here's the matches to look forward to this weekend which includes another Midlands derby.

After their loss to unbeaten Manchester United last week here's hoping the Gunners can dust themselves down and get a well needed three points at home to Tony Pulis' men. After his substitute appearance last week Theo Walcott could start in place of the frustrating Andrey Arshavin. This is a key match for Arsenal, if they cannot win against the big guns then they have to collect points against teams siting lower in the league. Wojciech Szczesny is likely to continue in goal as Lukask Fabianski struggles to recover from a hip injury and Manuel Almunia has injured a tooth or some other body part.

Much of the pre-match media will surround Ryan Shawcross and his return to the ground where he was involved in Aaron Ramsey's leg break. This may be the ammunition Stoke need to make sure they show they are more than a physical long ball team. I doubt Arsene Wenger will underestimate a team who sit 12th in the table and who have won three of their last six matches. Stoke have missing Mamady Sidibe missing through injury but otherwise Pulis should have a full squad to choose from.

KEY MAN: Theo Walcott - Deserves to start ahead of the Meerkat.

The Geordies made a great start under new manager, Alan Pardew but I doubt they will have it so easy against a resilient Birmingham side who need a win to propel them up the table. They have drawn nine of their 17 matches which has left them at the wrong end of the table, while a win could leave them siting more comfortably around 13th. Alexnder Hleb and James Mcfadden are still out with injury.

Pardew has said he will give his fringe players a chance before he spends in January so Peter Lovenkrands may make an appearence from the bench. He no longer has defensive issues with Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini both back from suspension. Steve Harper is pushing for a return although Tim Krul form may give the youngster the upper hand.

KEY MAN: Kevin Nolan - When he plays well, the Geordies play well.

So the new owners shocked the world of English football in the week when they sacked Manager Sam Allardyce and team affairs have been taken over by Steve Kean. Apparently he has a few months to stake his claim on the job and it would be a good start to get a win against the league's bottom club. Kean definitely has his work cut out if the owners want him to lead Rovers into the top five. No, seriously they do!

Avram Grant has been given three matches to save his job starting with this trip up north. Captain fantastic Scott Parker's return is much welcomed and Grant will be looking to him to rally the troops. The weeks trauma at Ewood Park may give the Londoners a much need three points that would help their fight to stay in the Premier League.

KEY MAN: Scottie Parker - Come on, who else could I pick?

I hope 'Arry and boys don't underestimate Blackpool or they could get badly beaten here! Blackpool sit five spots and points behind Spurs and I could see that many goals at Bloomfield road on Sunday as both teams love to attack and at times forget how to defend. It will be interesting to see how they will cope with Gareth Bale

Tottenham welcome back Rafael Van der Vaart, Wilson Palacios and Younes Kaboul while Ledley King is still recovering from the Christmas Party. Charlie Adam is missing through suspension while Marlon Harewood and chris Basham are still out.

: Jermain Defoe - Blackpool's open attacking play should give him various chances.

Stamford Bridge can breathe a sigh of relief as Carlo Ancelotti has said Frank Lampard will start against the leaders. It will be his first start in three and a half month and will restore some much needed experience to the Chelsea team that has been floating along during his absence. Alex and Jose Bosingwa still sit on the injury list, while they will need Didier Drogba and Slorent Malouda will need to find their early season form against a United side hitting their -annual- impressive Christmas form.

Paul Scholes is still out. joining Michael Owen and Rafael on the sidelines. Rio Ferdinand and Vidic held the line well against Arsenal although this will be a more physical test. Wayne Rooney may be taken off penalty duty after his Row Z miss on Monday but he seems to be recapturing his form, a fact that will please Sir Alex as they aim to secure their place at the top of the league.

KEY MAN: Nemanja Vidic - The Serbian is clearly thriving since getting the captain's armband and he will need another good performance here.

This match already had an edge to it with Roy Hodgson's first match against his old team since leaving in the summer. That fire has been stocked with comments allegedly made Paul Konchesky's mother. Fernando Torres should be back on the pitch following his no-show in midweek while Pepe Reina is looking to make his 200th league appearance for the club. Stevie G should also be back for the Scousers.

Fulham should go all out to win this match with manager Mark Hughes keen to get a win against an erratic Liverpool team. Carlos Salcido looked lively in the draw against Sunderland and if he can get a few balls into the box, who knows what they could achieve at Anfield. Andrew Johnson may start as he continues his return to match fitness.

KEY MAN: Fernando Torres - If he actually starts playing well he may get the transfer away that he so clearly wants.

Admittedly City won last week but following Carlos Tevez' transfer request and subsequent media circus the fans must be wondering what is going on. This is a perfect opportunity for the players to show their fans they can cope without the miserable Argentinian.

The Toffees continue to disappoint as much as City continue to confuse and they may not relish their trip to the City of Manchester stadium. Everton need to start winning asap before they get dragged deeper int the mire and Monday will be as good a time as any.

David Silva - Time for the other big names to come out and play.

Steve Bruce will not be feeling the Christmas cheer as he is without three defenders, as Anton Ferdinand joins Titus Bramble and Michael Turner on the crock list. Craig Gordon returns after a hamstring problem. I would also like to congratulate Asamoah Gyan who has won the accolade of BBC African Footballer of the Year, well deserved in my opinion.

Mark Davies is suspended so Fabrice Muamba should return to the starting line-up while Owen Coyle has no new injury worries. This match may be decided on who has the best defense with both sides having lively forwards.

Gary Cahill - Will have his work cut out with Darren Bent and Gyan up front.

If any game is gonna be a 0-0 then I get the feeling this would be it even if it is another Midlands derby. Top scorer Peter Odemwingie is a doubt as he hasn't trained for a week with calf and groin problems. Midfielder Graham Dorrans should return to the squad after illness.

Mick Mac has eight players missing through injury although he will be able to welcome back Matt Jarvis and Christophe Berra. Although Mick's job is said to be safe he knows his team could do with a comprehensive win against their more impressive local rivals.

KEY MAN: Somen Tchoyi - Looking increasingly like a future Premier League star.

Ali Al Habsi needs another good game to encourage Roberto Martinez to splash the cash on him come January. Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa are both serving one-match bans while Gary Caldwell hopes to start on the bench after featuring in a friendly during midweek.

Ashley Young, Fabian Delph and Nigel Reo-Coker are all out although Gabby Agbonlahor should return. Gerrard Houllier will be hoping another win can increase the love between him and the fans. Spending too long in the bottom half of the table will not help matters.

KEY MAN: Gabby Agbonlahor - Needs to hit the ground running.

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Chelsea! In Crisis?

Personally I think reports of Chelsea decline are coming a bit early?

Admittedly they've not been great, at times they haven't even been good, obviously the stats don't lie. In the first ten games of the Premier League season they scored 27 goals, since then it reads: Seven games, four goals. No one associated with Chelsea is happy with numbers like that but I don't agree it warrants the word 'crisis'.

Chelsea's problem is that their most successful period has been over the last decade which makes it at the forefront, in the mind of a fan. A 20 year old supporter won't remember a time when they weren't challenging for the league, trophies will be all they know. They have won 14 trophies covering top-flight Championships, League and FA Cup, and of those nine have been since the year 2000. That's 64 %.

But all this counts for nothing as in football you are only as successful as your last result and right now that is a one all draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur. So rumours continue about Carlo Ancelotti leaving the club in the summer or before. The boss made it clear it wasn't his decision to sack Ray Wilkins and you have to wonder how much control the Italian has over his staff and it's affairs. He has looked increasingly unhappy in the dugout with his new assistant Michael Emenalo at his side, a man who was promoted from the position of chief opposition scout.

Unlike previous managers such as Avram Grant it is clear Ancelotti is in charge in the changing room with players regularly coming out in support of the manager, but will this be enough to keep him at Stamford Bridge? As the media continues to speculate over the clubs form will this increase doubts in the owners mind about whether he has the right man in charge? Roman Abramovich is a man known to make important decisions on his opinion alone but maybe now would be the time for him to look for the thoughts of those outside of the boardroom.

It is clear the fans have a lot of love for the man in the hot seat and in a league where managers are sacked for wearing the wrong colour tie it might be nice to see someone of Abramovich's stature being a little patient and removing his finger from the trigger. The longest serving managers are at the Premier League's most successful clubs. I'm sure even Mr Abramovich knows this isn't just a coincidence.

Monday, 13 December 2010

This is my Addiction, What is Yours?

I love football, I really do. I absolutely adore the game and I have so much passion when it comes to being a part of it as a fan and as a trainee journalist.

I think sometimes we forget how important the club they support is to a person, how much their favourite team's result can make or break a person's mood.

I saw just this at the weekend. Neil Ashton of the News of the World broke the 'Tevez hands in transfer request' story and was bombarded with numerous tweets from Manchester City fans. Most of them were personally abusive and downright threatening. As I was reading these tweets I was shocked at the level of hatred some people were showing towards him, for simply doing his job. They clearly felt he was lying or he had a vendetta against the blue half of Manchester. The fact is his story was true, it has all been confirmed by the club and the player. But has Mr Ashton received any apologies? I very much doubt it.

My point is: As much as I love this game, there are a lots of fans who use their support of their club as an excuse to be abusive to those not on the same side as them. And the more I think about it, surely it can't be healthy. Surely there must be something missing to wish someone dead because they say something you don't agree with or don't believe.

I'm all for being a true supporter and cheering for your team until your last breath but when it comes to wishing someone dead, I draw the line. I'm all for wearing the shirt, singing the songs and bantering with the fans of your local rivals. But I don't condone the hatred that is shown because matey down the road wears a different colour shirt to you. Where is the line for those needlessly angry fans?

The reason this affected me so much is because I am training towards being a sports journalist. I am working my butt off and this incident made me wonder if it's worth it. Tearing apart my work is one thing, but getting personal is another. There is no need for it at all.

At the end of the day if you can't tell Peggy Mitchell from Barbara Windsor, people would say you desperately need help. Surely confusing the journalist with the person should warrant exactly the same.
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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Premier League Review - Match Day 16

There was only one game called of this weekend due to weather although some players looked as if they were still playing with their snow boots on!

Here's a rundown of the winners and Mike Ashley's during Match Day 16.

Arsenal, like so many times before had the majority of the chances in the first half, with the home team doing all the attacking. Andrey Arshavin was clearly still buzzing from Zurich as he made chances for himself and Samir Nasri, the latter sending a shot just wide of the post. It was Nasri that broke the deadlock with a great piece of skill after being played in by the Russian captain.

But as this was Arsenal it was no surprise when they conceded a mere 15 minute later. A lack of clarity between Sebastian Squallaci and Laurent Koscielny saw the former head-butt his defensive partner, thus giving Diomansy Kamara a chance to level the scores. Mr Wenger was unhappy that Chris Foy allowed play to continue but in all fairness to the ref Koscielny did attempt to carry on before falling to the floor with concussion. He was replaced by Johan Djourou who was again unlucky to be left out of the starting line-up.

Mark Hughes' men came out all guns blazing for the second half and many Arsenal fans may have felt an inkling of de ja vu again. Fulham had a couple of chances, with Robin Van Persie hacking one ball off the line. But it was all over in the 75th minute with an absolutely beautiful goal from man of the moment Nasri. Some good link up play between Arshavin and RVP led to Nasri who tricked his way between four defenders before scoring from an angle reminiscent of a Nwankwo Kanu goal against Chelsea years ago.

STAR MAN: Samir Nasri - I don't possess the vocabulary to describe that second goal so I will just say: WOW!

Jermaine Defoe started his first game since August in a match 'Arry and his boys clearly wanted to win. Alex McLeish dropped his Carling Cup scorers with Cameron Jerome keeping his place up front. Spurs were their normal attacking selves with Gareth Bale's hard work setting up the goal. Liam Ridgewell's shirt pulling gave the away team a free kick, Bale took it and his shot was beaten away by Ben Foster, but only as far as Sebastian Bassong who scored.

Birmingham came out in the second half looking far more determined and Craig Gardner had a header which was saved by Heurelo Gomes. Jermaine Defoe may have had a penalty after a push from Stephen Carr in the box. Gardner was the man to give Brum a point with a sweet header into the bottom left corner after Gomes was caught out of his goal. Admittedly they deserved the draw after their good play in the second half although 'Arry won't be happy that his team haven't kept a clean sheet since the first day of the season.

Birmingham have made St. Andrews a fortress and this will be exactly why they stay up rather than fall foul of 'second season syndrome'. A good back line makes it easier for the forward players to go about their job without worrying although they need to improve their away form. Spurs need to find some consistency, to keep hold of their Champions League spot, 'Arry will feel more relieved once they get some of their players back from injury.

STAR MAN: Roger Johnson - Doesn't look out of place again sme of the Premier League's top strikers.

The disappointed continues for Mick Mac as he they seem unable of taking their chances, which is never good when you continue to concede in large numbers. Wolves had a few chances in the first half and it was a mixture of poor finishing and great goalkeeping that prevented them from taking the lead. Morten Gamst Pedersen won a corner which Ryan Nelsen headed into the action from the back post for the revitalised David Dunn to score his first goal of the season. One Wolves player tried to hook the goal out which is no use when 'YOU'RE BEHIND THE LINE!'

This just gave Blackburn the momentum they needed and they were 2-0 up just before half-time. There were doubts that Jason Roberts when he passed the ball to Brett Emerton who scored the goal to give Rovers a comfortable lead. The away tea started the second half pretty much the same way they started the first, testing former England man Paul Robinson from all angles, with a one handed save from Kevin Doyle catching the eye. But on 55 minutes it was all over when Milijas gave away a free kick, which gave Ryan Nelsen the chance to get his second goal of the season.

Wolves clearly have an attacking mentality but they need to convert their chances and it will be interesting to see if Mick Mac is able to delve into the transfer market come January. If not, Stephen Hunt, Doyle and the rest better get themselves some extra shooting practice. Blackburn looked a different team from the one at Old Trafford and although the fans can take heart from this performance, they will face far sterner tests this season.

STAR MAN: Paul Robinson - Looks like the man who was once England's no.1, he was composed, strong and agile for 90 minutes.

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to Jermaine Beckford for winning me a nice little wedge by being the next goalscorer, now onto the match report ;-) Everton began the game fairly deep in their own half, clearly cautious of being on the receiving end of a Chelsea backlash that never materialised. I don't believe Chelsea are in crisis but they are not performing the way it has become expected of them. To me there seems to be a malaise running through the team, no one seems to have that passion that has become a part of their play.

Even John Terry and Michael Essien looked subdued, not something I say often about those two. After Ivanovic made a couple of mistakes it was clear Everton had a chance to get something if they took it. Before Didier Drogba's penalty, the only real chance was a Terry shot that hit the crossbar. Nicolas Anelka was racing towards goal when Tim Howard came out and more or less obstructed him after an awful backpass by captain Phil Neville. Some thought he should have got a red card instead the ref awarded him a yellow and Anelka gave him a bruise on his face for his troubles.

David Moyes obviously sensed blood in the air at Stamford Bridge and he sent his team out with a more direct game plan for the next 45 minutes. Leighton Baines went racing down the wing, sending in a sweet cross which led to Jack Rodwell hitting the post. Chelsea's discomfort grew as the Toffees took the game to them with Baines using his pace against their more mature defence. Replacing Saha with the lighter footed Beckford paid dividends as they drew level on 86 minutes. Baines beat 4 players as his cross was met by Tim Cahill who directed it to Beckford, who couldn't fail to score with a header.

Grumbles continue to grow in West London as the champions league form continues to be indifferent and disappointing. This unfortunate set of results has coincided with Ray Wilkins sacking from the club and that only leads outsiders like myself to ask more questions about what really went on. Again Everton have had a difficult start to the season but there is always light at the end of the tunnel with Moyes in charge. hopefully Beckford's goal against such high profile opposition will give him the confidence he needs to stat scoring regularly.

STAR MAN: Leighton Baines - Great second half performance to help his team to a well deserved point.

Gerard Houiller, return, disappointing, blah, blah blah. I'm sure you've already read all that so I won't bother covering it as I have nothing different to say! But I will say congratulations to Fernando Torres and his wife Olalla on the birth of their second child.

A much needed win for Liverpool as they look to return to the Champions League next season and a welcome relief for their manager Roy Hodgson. With Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher missing this was a good test for other players to show they could cope without their talismen. David Ngog scored the first with a close range header on 13 minutes, while forgotten man Ryan Babel doubled their league with a very nice finish.

Aston Villa didn't seen to have any reply to Liverpool's play and David Dunne will want to wipe another match from his memory after a less than perfect display. In fairness to Villa they have their own injury worries and are playing with a group of players not steeped in Premier League experience. Maxi Rodriguez netted the third and it will please the supporters that this was very much a team performance rather than a one man rampage. Liverpool return to the top half of the table and we all agree that is where they need to make sure they stay.

STAR MAN: Raul Meireles - Looking more composed as he has got an extended run in the team and starting to show what Roy Hodgson saw in him.

City captain Carlos Tevez scored in the 4th minute to give his team a lead which they hung on to. Jussi Jaaskelainen came out too far and the Argentine took advantage to score from a Yaya Toure pass. City had their fair share of chances but they found Bolton hard to penetrate although there was good chances from Tevez and David Silva, who seems to be settling into English football. Bolton were more on the defensive side but they had a good chance when Joe Hart missed the ball and had to be saved by Vincent Kompany.

Aleksandar Kolarov had a good shot in the second half that hit the side netting. Although he left the pitch not long later after a second yellow for a two footed lunge on Ricketts. A definite sending off offence but there is a lack of consistency as Luis Boa Morte made a similar challenge in West Ham's match which only got a yellow card in return. Unfortunately it wasn't until the sending off that Bolton really started to attack and their manager agreed that it wasn't one of their best performances.

STAR MAN: Carlos Tevez - Great awareness for his goal and blatent passion for his team. Some may not like his reaction - stand up Robbie Savage - but at least he actually cares for his club.

West Ham continue to be as hot and cold as the English weather and I can't quite decide if they really unlucky or just simply, very bad. It was all Sunderland with their 7 shots on target to the Hammers one. Steve Bruce started with Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan upfront and the Hammers travelling fans must have feared the worst. That's not to say that West Ham didn't attack, they did just not as well as Sunderland. Victor Obinna looks a bright spark and if others had his mindset, they might not be where they are now.

Bruce will be pleased with the way Gyan has slotted into the team and it was him that set up Jordan Henderson for his first goal on his 50th league appearance. It was clear how much it meant to the youngster as he celebrated with his teammates. Kieran Dyer still doesn't look quite right and Avram Grant replaced him with Frederic Piquionne although it was too little too late. By then the Mackems were in full control and if it wasn't for Robert Green they may have finished the match with a bigger scoreline.

Sunderland are unbeaten at home in eight games and they look like they could finish in the top half, especially with their forward line of Bent and Gyan who looks like a very good buy. With West Ham there are times when some of the players just don't look good enough unless you are planning for a future in the Championship. Lets hope the two David's keep their word and support their manager in the transfer window.

STAR MAN: Lee Cattermole - when he is not making reckless tackles we can see what a good young layer he is. Bruce is clearly whispering the right things in his ears.

This match had everything except a winner but I don't think that would've been fair on either team who gave the 15,100 fans at the DW Stadium lots to cheer about. Four goals from two teams who love to attack though two teams who don't appear to love defending so much, something I am sure will be discussed in training this week. If they want to keep their Premier League status than neither can continue to play a openly as this. Neither goalkeeper was really at fault for the goals with three of the four being deflections.

Charles N'Zogbia was the main man and while he didn't get on the score sheet - although he clipped the post - he was at the heart of all Wigan's good work. Matthew Etherington played his 200th game as I imagine he played his first. Both teams show they don't have to rely on the long ball it's about playing as neccessary at that time.

STAR MAN: Charles N'Zogbia - Good passer and getting better at working for his team.

I don't know much about cricket but I'm guessing Sol Campbell should have been 500 and out with this performance, the worst I remember since his traumatic last few days at Arsenal. The first time around. The Baggies were passing the ball so sweetly that Newcastle at times looked like the piggy in the middle. Scott Carson didn't have much to do but what he did was done with the least amount of fuss. The away team clearly weren't at the races and there were a few half-hearted challenges on show. The first was very much a team goal with Chris Brunt, Somen Tchoyi and Jerome Thomas involved in play before Peter Odemwingie scored after coming back from a non-interfering offside position.

Newcastle looked brighter in the second half with Wayne Routledge crossing to Steven Taylor who had his header saved by Carson. It was Odemwingie who got the second goal after a slip by Danny Guthrie and Campbell which led Tim Krul to rush out leaving the West Brom forward with a pretty easy shot. Odemwingie got another before Peter Loverkrands consolation on 90 minutes.

The records will say that Chris Houghton lost his job as Newcastle because of this match but football fans far and wide know the truth. Today's dismissal has left us all calling for a ounce of decorum to return to the world of football. It's one thing to sack an employee but it's another to sack him with stories coming out that you were plotting for months behind his back. Mr Houghton: You are better off out of it! Okay, rant over.
NB: West Brom WILL stay up this year.

STAR MAN: Somen Tchoyi - Looks better and better with every match. definitely a player you want on your side in a fight.


Arsene Wenger: "The goal came from the flexibility in his hips."

Samir Nasri: Lush (the 2nd goal)

Chelsea's lacklustre showing. Not befitting of Champions.


Carlos Tevez: He looked so serious but he looked like a 15 year old who wasn't allowed to go to the 'big' party.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 16

After the midweek Carling Cup and Europa League fixtures, teams are back to earning their bread and butter in the Premier League. It will interesting to see who has a cup hangover and who has benefited from a few days extra rest.

Arsenal v Fulham
This London derby sees Mark Hughes taking his boys to the Emirates after Arsenal's exploits in the Carling Cup. Lukasz Fabianski should continue in goal after Manuel Almunia's injury setback while captain Cesc Fabregas is still out with that troublesome hamstring. Hopefully Andrey Arshavin will celebrate Russia's World Cup bid with an impressive performance against a team lying 17th in the table.

Andy Johnson should return to the squad and it would be good to see him get his second match of the season following his 10 month lay-off. Fulham still have several long-term injuries although former Arsenal man Phillipe Senderos has reportedly returned to training this week. They will look to Clint Dempsey for goals as they aim to leap up the table. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has signed a new contract and will want to show Mr Wenger what he missed out on in the summer

Key Man: Danny Murphy - Fulham will need their Captain to be on top of his midfield game if they are to get anything.

Birmingham City v Tottenham Hotspur
Birmingham will be buoyed after their league cup win against their local rivals on Wednesday although all will hope there is n repeat of the crowd trouble that followed the match. Marquee signing Alexander Hleb is still out for another couple of weeks with a calf strain while Craig Gardner should return to the starting line-up in place of Lee Bowyer who will have some bruises after his treatment against Villa.

'Arry Redknapp will be pleased to have Michael Dawson on the bench with the defender having been out for three month with ligament damage. Jermaine Jenas and Rafael Van der Vaart are still out but Jermaine Defoe should start having not shown any problems since his return from injury.

Key Man: Jermaine Defoe - Spurs and 'Arry need him to hit the ground running with other attacking players out.

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers
One suspects Fat Sam has been doing some serious defensive work after the home teams capitulation against Manchester United. Although any loss will again be blamed on their 'devastating' injury list. Mama Biram Diouf will return after being ineligiable against his parent club and Blackburn also welcome Morten Gamst Pedersen back from a hamstring injury.

Mick Mac will expect his men to build on last week's win and this match could well be decided by which team takes and doesn't waste their chances. Wolves have no new injury news but need the win to drag themselves clear of the bottom three which look harder by the week.

Key Man: Matt Jarvis - Will need another consistent performance to help his team win crucial points.

Blackpool v Manchester United
A goalkeeping crisis has been averted for the Seasiders as it transpires Richard Kingson's knee is not as bad as first though. There is sad news for Chris Bashan after breaking his leg in a reverse match - I'm sure you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

You can expect a completely different team from the one that Sir Alex sent out at West Ham in midweek, I doubt anyone other than Ryan Giggs will keep their place unless they have injury worries. Veteran Paul Scholes is still doubtful with a groin strain.

Key Man: Charlie Adam - It will be interesting to see how Manchester United cope with Blackpool's exuberant youngster.


Chelsea v Everton
Two teams with varying levels of turmoil within their club, Chelsea off the pitch and Everton on it. Chelsea have nine wins to Everton's three and the Gooner in me hopes the Toffees can pull off a shock though I won't be betting on that. Yet sometimes it takes that unexpected result to kick-start a clubs season. John Terry will be back for the home team which is much appreciated after Alex's mishaps but Frank Lampard is still not ready after three months out with groin and hernia issues. But hey, we've all seen Christine Bleakley so that's completely understandable.

Mikel Arteta starts his three match ban after last weeks sending-off while Captain Phil Neville and Marouane Fellaini will return to start at Stamford Bridge. Centre-back Phil Jagielka took a knock last week and is a serious doubt. Davd Moyes will need a good tem performance from his men to beat the champions.

Key Man: Tim Cahill - Well, his superman super-head. You know what I mean!

Liverpool v Aston Villa (Monday)
The loss of Jamie Carragher is a big loss to Roy Hodgson, even when the Bootle man isn't performing his presence alone on the the pitch is a massive plus for Liverpool. Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger are still out with no return date set for latter although the Englishman should be back in the next 7-10 days. Sotirios Kyrgiakos will partner Martin Skrtel in defence after the teams draw at Steuna Bucherest.

Villa can't seen to get it right although at times they look extremely good. They are less reserved than they previously were and there is a good basis for a stable defence. Yet, this will all be for nothing if they don't manage to take their chances when they get them. Ashley Young serves a ban after his fifth booking of the season while homegrown Barry Bannan looks likely to join an ever growing injury list. Ex Manchester City man Stephen Ireland may be recalled to the starting eleven.

Key Man: Joe Cole - Time for the winger to give the fans something to smile about.

Manchester City v Bolton Wanderers
Stuttering City need a top attacking performance this weekend and I don't expect them to find that easy against Owen Coyle's increasingly impressive Bolton. Three pints separate the teams and the noisy neighbours have a full squad to choose from so there is no reason they shouldn't go all out attack.

Stuart Holden is likely to need another week so Mark Davies should continue in the side and with another good display would show Bolton now have their best squad in years. In their last six games they have won three and drawn two while scoring 15 goals. Congratulations to Owen Coyle and Johan Elmander who won the Barclays manager and player of the month trophies.

Key Man: Johan Elmander - Can he continue his good form and team work against the big-spenders?

Sunderland Athletic v West Ham United
Two teams who have recently found their stride with the Hammers win against Manchester United a particular high point. After that loss against their newly promoted local rivals they have improved and hitman Darren Bent has returned from injury. John Mensah should start as Titus Bramble and Michael Turner are still out with knee injuries.

Even though he scored a brace in midweek, Jonathon Spector may lose his place to a fit-again Scottie Parker. Junior Stanislas and Mark Noble are still out. They need to use their Carling Cup performance against Manchester United as a springboard to get some wins in the league forget telling their fans to 'Save our Season' in November. I would imagine that makes the players and coaching staff feel severely undermined.

Key Man: Carlton Cole - He needs another good performance to restore some faith.

West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle
Both these teams were promoted from the Championship. Roberto Di Matteo made it clear the league is his priority so now he needs to prove he made the right decision. He will check on the fitness of Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie amongst other on the morning of the match. The home team sit in 12th even though they have lost four in six.

Joey Barton has completed his ban for punching Bolton's Morten Gamst Pedersen so will be expected back in the starting line-up. I think it's ridiculous that Chris Houghton is supposedly in trouble, they sit ninth and have only lost 2 of their last 6 games.

Key Man: Andy Carroll - Newcastle will need him to be wearing his scoring boots.

Wigan v Stoke City
Wigan's depleted forward line could give Stoke a good opportunity to get another three points on the board against a home team who sit 18th. There is hope Mario Boselli could be fit and they could do with him as Victor Moses is out and Hugo Rodellega still suspended.

Loanee Jermaine Pennant will have a late fitness test and top scorer Kenwyne Jones should relish his pace and crosses. Tony Pulis knows his best team and will see this as a winnable game.

Key Man:
Ricardo Fuller - This is the sort of game when the Jamaican sparkles.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Carling Cup Preview - Quarter Finals

The competition heats up as the last eight teams look to reach the semi-finals stage of the Carling Cup. Seven of the eight teams play in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see how teams are shuffled in terms of the the competition’s importance. There is also a tasty Second City tie where both sets of fans would love the chance to gain bragging rights.

Arsenal v Wigan Athletic

Clearly Arsene Wenger is taking this competition more seriously than in previous years. I suppose that is what five years without a trophy does to you! It is likely the team will alter slightly from the one that played at Aston Villa...

To read more go here

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Premier League Review - Match Day 15

Even a cynic like me agrees this is the best Premier League season we've had in a very long while. Lots of goals. lots of drama and an equal amount of disappointment. A full programme this weekend and EVERY single team managed to score, with a full Christmas on it's way I can barely contain my excitement.

As a Gooner every time we go two nil up I get a little worried and it's a habit we need to get rid of. Quickly. Samir Nasri continued his excellent form with his ninth goal of the season from the edge of the box after Andrey Arshavin had opened the scoring. Ciaran Clark has been at Villa since the age of 11 and Villians will be looking forward to his future there after he scored a brace to bring them back into the game. Although, some would like the referee's association to confirm whether John Carew was active or inactive as the second goal was scored.

Chamakh has been a welcome addition to Mr Wenger's squad and he showed his worth before setting up Jack Wilshere's injury time header. Once the injured players return, Gerrard Houllier may have a collection of players with the ability of challenging for Europe.

STAR MAN: Ciaran Clark - Took his chances well and played with a composure way ahead of his years.

As predicted both teams were all about the attack as Blackpool drew first blood with Ian Evatt scoring both goals from set pieces. The first a powerful header from a corner and the second from a free kick. But Bolton under Owen Coyle have strength as well as flair and there was no doubt about them coming back into the game.

Super sub Martin Petrov sent a bomber into the top corner before a great second was scored by Mark Davies, who was making his first start since January. He started the move by passing to Kevin Davies who found Johan Elmander, the Swedish striker sent a sublime back heel into M Davies' path for him to score and give Bolton a point.

STAR MAN: Johan Elmander - For that back heel alone. Are we sure he isn't Brazilian?

The stress continues for David Moyes and the Toffees who are seriously struggling at home. With Phil Jagielka looking a little above his fighting weight and Jermaine Beckford achieving a hat-trick of misses, the only good news is that David Beckham is interested in joining them on loan. Though, I must say that is allegedly. As expected Tim Cahill scored their consolation goal with another header while this match was filled with controversy surrounding Everton captain Mikel Arteta's red card.

West Brom were full of everything the home team were lacking; invention, style and belief. It was their first win at Goodison Park in 31 years and the newly promoted team continue to look far stonger than they have in previous seasons. The purchase of Paul Scharner was a masterstroke by Roberto Di Matteo and the former Wigan man's experience and knowledge was visible in all the away team did. Unfortunately Gonzalo Jara's over excitable body checks on Leighton Baines AND Stephen Pienaar will overshadow his teams performance in the papers. As it will here.

STAR MAN: Paul Scharner - Provided his teammates with a calming influence to guide them towards their well deserved three points.

I have just checked my notes and all I wrote was:
Sebastian Larsson scored with an Alexander Hleb assist while Clint Dempsey scored his sixth goal of the season. So that is all I have to write, pretty much says it all.

STAR MAN: Anyone who paid to go to Craven Cottage! (Sorry)

Dimitar Berbatov joined the special ranks of players who have scored five goals in a PL match while Wayne Rooney returned in the role of the puppet master at Old Trafford. United were as superb as Blackburn were abysmal with Nani, Rooney and Berbatov running riot as the home team continued their unbeaten start to the season. The three of them were involved in every goal, the best move giving Berba his hat-trick after he started the move in his own half. A lengthy run that may have surprised the Bulgarian himself.

Sam Allardyce blamed injuries but there are other PL teams who could blame their batterings losses on the players that are missing. Surely those on the pitch have to be good enough to take responsibility for whatever result occurs. Hopefully the new owners will follow he example of Jack Walker when it comes to opening their wallets in January.

STAR MAN: Berba and Rooney - Manchester's Christmas lights have definitely been switched back on.

The snow didn't stop the match which is a credit to Deputy Groundsman, Andrew Tully and all the staff. Though Chelsea's travelling fans may have wished it had been postponed. The first goal came after a terrible back pass from Alex, with Andy Carroll taking advantage to give the Geordies the lead. Chelsea came back through Solamon Kalou on the stroke of half-time. They may have avoided their third straight defeat but four points from 15 is not befitting of Premier League champions.

With both manager's reportedly under pressure neither will be happy with a draw, although Chris Houghton will be the less depressed of the two. Having been at Cobham for Carlo Ancelotti's press conference on Friday, I can tell you he didn't seem that worried. Part of his relaxed manner was due to the fact the teams spine John Terry, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard should all be back next week. On the other hand with rivals United hitting their top form, he will know he cannot drop many more points if he wants to stay in the Stamford Bridge driving seat.

STAR MAN: Sol Campbell - Good to see the former England man back and in good shape.


Manchester United continue to falter and like a Monet painting that looks good from afar, they are not so attractive up close. Stoke were more than capable of achieving their fourth PL win in succession had it not been for a lack of cohesion in front of goal. Tony Pulis' men look more like the team the neutrals have grown to love and will know they can shoot up the table if they take their chances.

It was clearly cold at the Potteries as Roberto Mancini's scarf made a reappearance along with another mediocre display from his team. Comments that a draw was a good result emit from Eastlands but personally I do not buy it. A team that cost the amount of a small country's GDP should be more that capable of beating a team who have conceded 19 goals in 15 games. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that City have an amazing array of players but not much of an actual team.

STAR MAN: Micah Richards - A shining English star amongst the foreign clouds.

What exactly is 'Arry Redknapp saying to his team at half-time? Whatever it is, for the second league match running it worked wonders. No one must underestimate the job he is doing in allowing certain players to play to their strengths while ensuring they are part of a cohesive team. Luka Modric is starting to look more at ease in the PL although 'Arry will nervously wait on news of Rafael Van der Vaart's hamstring injury. They can find consolation in the return of Jermain Defoe who is looking sharp even if he did miss from the spot.

Nothing seems to be going well for Liverpool these days. A feeling that will only be confounded with being drawn away to Manchester United in the FA Cup Third Round. Martin Skrtel was the surprise scorer of the opening goal, before returning the favour for Spurs by deflecting Modric's shot into his own net. Roy Hodgson's problems continued as Aaron Lennon scored the winner and Jamie Carragher dislocated his shoulder. Another good show from Spurs, but do they really have what it takes to get any higher than fourth?

STAR MAN: Luka Modric - His pace and run was the catalyst for the own goal.

Finally a bit of release for the fans at Upton Park with a much needed win for Avram Grant and his men. I'm sure Wally Downes will be taking some credit! Scott Parker returned although he still looked to be suffering a bout of 'man flu'. - Honey, lemon and brandy Scottie. My name swears by it. There were some impressive goals, particularly Tom Cleverley top corner effort. It was finally the result the home teams displays warranted and took some of the heat off Avram Grant.

Wigan could have lost by more if Ali Al-Habsi hadn't made some good saves from Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna. The performances of the goalkeeper, youngster Cleverley and Charles N'Zogbia may be the only highlight for manager Roberto Martinez as his team fights to get clear of the relegation zone. He should be able to pick them up after this loss as it wasn't the worst performance of the weekend. It will be intriguing to see how he copes when the inevitably N'Zogbia transfer rumours start again in January. They may be better off selling their star man in order to add to the squad if they are to live to fight another season.

STAR MAN: Scott Parker - Left his sick bed to lead his team and remind us why he is much respected as both a man and a footballer.

A much needed win for Mic mac and his boys against Sunderland, who haven't lost to any of the 09/10 top 10 this season. Danny Welbeck kept his place and Darren Bent returned to the starting line-up as Asamoah Gyan was on the bench. With the starting frontmen repaying Steve Bruce's faith in them by scoring the away goals. Bent will be pleased to get back on the score sheet so soon into his return while Welbeck continues to impress with his composure and eye for goal.

The home team deserved the three points with a revitalised Matthew Jarvis pulling the strings in midfield. They had lost their previous four games and were in serious danger of being sucked deeper into the mire. But goals from stand-in caption Kevin Foley, a first club goal for Stephen Hunt and a last minute strike from Sylvan Ebanks-Black the points stayed at home. I'm glad they won if only for Mick Mac's celebration. I get the feeling he could give David Haye a better run for his money than Fraudley did!

STAR MAN: Matthew Jarvis - Wolves' main man on the pitch.


David Moyes: "I'm not talking about the red card, I'm talking about the challenge on the edge of the box before it."

Chris Brunt - Absolutely amazing free-kick to take West Brom 2 - 0 up at Goodison Park.

Avram Grant smile. Who knew?

Mick Mac sparring on the sideline.

(PS: Please comment on new blog design.... Yay or Nay?)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 15

I've finally recovered from the traumatic week Arsenal gave me and putting those derby day tears behind me, it's time for another Premier League preview.

With Cesc Fabregas missing - again - due to that troublesome hamstring Mr Wenger will be looking to his other superstars to continue Arsenal's impressive away form. It will be interesting to see if Nicolas Bendtner will be in the squad after his dismal 'pink-footed' showing in Braga. Villa's kids have shown they can give the PL heavyweights a run for their money during their match against Manchester United, although they will be without talisman Mark Albrighton.
KEY MAN: Robin Van Persie

Look forward to an all out attacking game with both teams fans of playing the ball on the ground. Johan Elmander's contract talks are still ongoing but hopefully he can continue his purple patch as he leads the line with Kevin Davies. Blackpool will surely be their energetic self in their aim to survive in their first season in the top tier.
KEY MAN: Charlie Adam

Marouane Fellaini is serving his suspension which could be worrying in a match that may well be won in midfield. The availability of James Morrison will be beneficial to the away team who have lost four of their last six matches.
KEY MAN: Phil Neville

After losing at home to Manchester City last time out Mark Hughes will be looking for a big improvement from his team. With Bobby Zamora still out and Andy Johnson a doubt they may again struggle to score goals. Birmingham have a good record against London teams and the travelling fans will hope that continues.
KEY MAN: Alexander Hleb

So Wayne Rooney is back and it looks as if all is forgiven but we all know that will only last as long as he keeps scoring. The Lancashire visitors will no doubt be their usual bolshy self and there may be a few hard tackles that Sir Alex's men could do without. He'll be hoping his long term fan friend does him a favour.
KEY MAN: Wayne Rooney

St. James Park could do without a visit from the Champions especially with his first choice defence of Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini unavailable. Terry and Lampard are still out injured while Michael Essien serves his one match ban. It could all be about the two solid front men of Dider Drogba and Andy Carroll.

Both of these sides have won three of their last six matches though that may count for nothing as opposites attract at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke are only six points behind Roberto Mancini's men and this will be a serious test for them. City have to win games like this if they are to have any chance of challenging for the league.
KEY MAN: Who else but Carlos Tevez?

The newest member of the top four meet one of the old guard at White Hart Lane. 'Arry Redknapp is still without Michael Dawson, although I can testify they seem to manage alright without him. Roy Hodgson is without everyone's favourite midfielder Stevie G but can be buoyed by the return of Joe Cole who could of been lining up for the home team if he had made a better, sorry different decision.
Here's a little stat for you: Jamie Carragher has scored three of his seven own goals when playing against Spurs.
KEY MAN: Jermain Defoe

Avram Grant holds the dubious record of having spent the past year in the relegation zone and needs a win like Joey Barton needs anger management. His board may have backed him in the press but I wonder how long the real Hammers can continue to be patient. Hopefully the appointment of Wally Downes as his no.2 can restore some semblance of order on the pitch. Wigan need a win equally as much, sitting just two spots above them in the table. Without Hugo Rodallega and James McCarthy they may play more on the defensive side in the hope of grabbing a crucial point.
KEY MAN: (If he plays) Scottie Parker

With the Black Cats missing Titus Bramble and Michael Turner, Mick Mac will spend the hours before the match praying his strikers finally start to take their chances. They need points and goals, if only to keep their boss from spontaneously combusting. Steve Bruce's men look a completely different team to the one that was battered at Newcastle and sitting 7th in the table they look increasingly comfortable.
KEY MAN: Anton Ferdinand

Thursday, 18 November 2010

England 1 - 2 France Review

Oh England, England, England.
Oh Capello, Capello, Capello.

Maybe international friendlies aren't a waste of time and money.

What exactly did we learn? Other than the fact that Fabio looks like a twat in a hat!

So here is what I learnt:

*THEO WALCOTT lacks confidence playing for England and it doesn't help when people try to pass the ball, 8 yards behind him.

*England rely on STEVIE G in the same way that Liverpool do. And let's be honest, it ain't bloody fair. He can't be expected to be the player to create everything.

*KIERAN GIBBS is struggling for match fitness and even though it was his first start he will be made a scapegoat for this debacle.

*If GARETH BARRY is the answer, then what the hell is the question?

*Neither ANDY CARROLL nor JORDAN HENDERSON are ready to be regulars in the senior team. Let them continue their education under Stuart Pearce.

*BEN FOSTER is not good enough to be our No.1, his positioning was poor all night and he clearly cannot organise his defence properly. Do they even have any confidence in him?

*PETER CROUCH must be the unluckiest man in the world not to be the first name on the team sheet. Whether or not you like his style of play is irrelevant. His scoring record speaks for itself. He came on and scored our only goal with his first touch! Need I say more?

*France showed us exactly what is possible when you respect and understand your manager and what he asks of you. They played with freedom, they played without fear. And more importantly, they actually played football and attacked us.

Overall it was a disappointing showing by England and I don't buy the fact it was a young team. There was a spine of RIO, STEVIE G, BARRY, MILNER and WALCOTT, all experienced internationally and regular starters. The veterans should have been guiding and talking to the newbies, particularly in a defense that was constantly breached. I continue to wonder if RIO is the right man to wear the Captain's armband.

Once again we look lacking of ideas when playing 'good' international teams. According to FIFA we are 15 places ABOVE France in the World Ranking. Though on tonights showing, it should surely be the other way round.

I'd love to know what you learnt tonight. Feel free to comment.
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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

England v France Preview

There was a big, huge announcement today. In case you didn't hear it, here it is:

Fabio Capello is starting with at least three players under 30! I know, I was shocked as well. I mean, I didn't know he could count that low.

No, all jokes aside I'm a little bit impressed with Mr Capello's squad choices this time around. Hey, I only said a little. And not just with his squad choices but with the team we're hearing he will start with. It's a team that mixes expperience and youth and a team that points all the way to 2012.

KEVIN DAVIES of Bolton Wanderers has my sympathy on missing out on the squad, but on the basis that this friendly is all about planning for the future then his inclusion would've gone against that. I was a little shocked to see CARLTON COLE called up, I like him as a player but he is not even first choice for his club. Which goes against Capello's 'must be playing regularly' manifest.

As for JAY BOTHROYD, all I can say is congratulations. I remember his time at Arsenal and the cloud he left under clearly damaged his early career. But you have to respect the way he has learnt from his mistakes and rebuilt his career at Cardiff. The way he has matured is commendable. Having watched JORDAN HENDERSON a few times this season, his cap will not be a surprise to me. He is a talented young man and under the tutelage of Steve Bruce, I have the feeling he will go far.

JACK WILSHERE will be disappointed to be out of contention but as an Arsenal fan, I'm secretly glad he'll be resting and hopefully he'll be fit for the North London derby on Saturday morning. But, I think it can be agreed he has lots of time to become an England regular. I'm happy that KEIRAN GIBBS will be starting, after his injury problems it will be a good run out for him. It will also give him the opportunity to show why he is being called the natural successor to Ashley Cole.

French manager Laurent Blanc has played down his teams' abilities. Since the abysmal events at the World Cup the French have been in a transition period. Like Capello, the former World Cup Winner is rebuilding for the future as well as attempting to restore his nation's faith in the national team. Although he didn't make it to South Africa, SAMIR NASRI should start tomorrow. Hopefully he can take his club form to Wembley and inspire his team mates. They will still be without PATRICE EVRA who is still serving his ban, for going on strike during the WC. It will be down to the new boys to show they are good enough to keep their places when the qualifiers re-commence in March.

ENGLAND: Foster; Richards, Ferdinand, Lescott, Gibbs; Walcott, Barry, Henderson, Gerrard, Milner; Carroll.
FRANCE: Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Moxes, Abidal; Gourcuff, M'vila, Nasri; Valbuena, Benzema, Malouda.
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Premier League Review - Match Day 13

With dropped points, spectacular goals and impressive wins, the EPL leaves us excited before the injuries the International break will bring.

Alex Ferguson will admit his side had to work hard to get their point as they scored two desperate goals in the last nine minutes. Villa attacked well and Gerard Houllier put his faith in youth, none of whom disappointed. Ashley Young scored from the spot and Mark Albrighton got the second after an impressive Villa counter attack. Before Ferderico Macheda and Nemanja Vidic grabbed the point for United.
STAR MAN: Mark Albrighton

If I hadn't have watched it myself, I might have thought you were lying to me. But I did and it did happen. I won't dwell on how bad Chelsea were but how fluid the Black Cats were. Starting with a 4-4-2, they took the game to the home team and were rewarded with three points. A great individual goal by Nedum Onuoha, a second by Asamoah Gyan and third by Danny Welbeck after an individual error by Ashley Cole.
STAR MAN: Danny Welbeck (Chosen by my Mum because 'he was a pain in the arse for Chelsea')

Arsenal managed to capitualise on a weekend when the other members of the table's top four all dropped points. Arsenal were their normal attacking self when defender Bacary Sagna opened the scoring with a superb strike, before Cesc Fabregas increased the lead just after half-time. The Toffees gave the Gunners a nervy last 15 minutes before the always lively Tim Cahill gave the home team a consolation goal.
STAR MAN: Lukasz Fabianski

The goalless draws continue at the home of the noisy neighbours as City continue to be rich and poor all at the same time. Much will be made of Roberto Mancini's decision to bring Gareth Barry on for lone frontman Carlos Tevez, though I prefer to commend Birmingham on a well drilled defensive performance.
STAR MAN: Roger Johnson

Fulham continue to struggle on the road as they picked up a point at St. James Park. Chris Houghton will know his side's inabilty to take all three points were down to Mark Schwarzer and another impressive goalkeeping display.
STAR MAN: Mark Schwarzer

The nightmare of losing in the Premier League carries on for Liverpool, taking their total losses to five. Roy Hodgson looks increasingly bewildered and now has to deal with another injury to Fernando Torres who was missing for this game. Stoke have reminded people their league poosition has been a bit of a lie as Ricardo Fuller scored his 101 league goal and newbie Kenwyne Jones added a second just before the final whistle.
STAR MAN: Ricardo Fuller

Unfortunately Blackburn didn't start playing until the 75th minute when the home team were already 4-0 up. Gareth Bale continues to gain all the plaudits with two goals. Although no one should ignore that 'Arry Redknapp has built a good team which has allowed the Welshmen to thrive. Roman Pavlyuchenko redeemed himself after sending a penalty wide and Peter Crouch scored his first of the season. Ryan Nelsen and Gael Givet scored two to set up a nervy ending.
STAR MAN: Who else but the Welsh Wonder that is Gareth Bale.

Avram Grant is surely living in one of those bubbles the fans sing about if he is not at all worried about the Hammers lack of points. Blackpool were their normal exuberant self and although they were unable to score, Ian Holloway may make 11 changes again next week.
STAR MAN: Scott Parker

Martinez three, Di Matteo nil. Wigan needed these three points as they continue to float around the bottom of the table. West Brom were a tad tentative but they should continue to pick up points with their good home form. Forgotten youngster Victor Moses scored the goal that gave the home team the points.
STAR MAN: Victoe Moses

Mick McCarthy needs to get his team to stop conceding goals if they are to get out of the bottom three. They have the players yet the cannot seem to get the points. An own goal in the first minute, an surprising piece of individual flair by Johan Elmander and Stuart Holden sent Bolton on their way. Kevin Foley and Steven Fletcher scored in the space of eight minutes but it was a case of too little too late.
STAR MAN: Johan Elmander

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 13

Well we've got a great full fixture list to get our teeth into this week. I'm particularly looking forward to see my boys at Everton on Sunday. Here's a quick rundown on the matches and my key man in each one.

This could be more trouble for Alex Ferguson's men than you would expect. With Wayne Rooney still lacking match fitness they could struggle against a team who are looking far more confident under their new manager. Gerard Houllier has shown his squad who is boss and is admirably giving some youngsters the chance to begin their PL education. Man Utd will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
KEY MAN: Mark Albrighton

The leaders have turned Stamford Bridge into a fortress and although I may have doubted Steve Bruce's men in the past, I think they may have the commitment to pick up a point. Frank Lampard will be out for another three weeks, while Didier Drogba should start even though he is still recovering from illness. Lee Cattermole will have to keep his head if Sunderland are to return to the north east with anything. Although it will be interesting to see how John Terry copes with another pacy forward.
KEY MAN: Asamoah Gyan

After a hard fought win in the Midlands, Mr Wenger's team travel to a Liverpool to meet a resurgent Everton. David Moyes men are never a walk over and Cesc Fabregas will need to recapture his early season form to lead his team to victory. With Jermaine Beckford scoring his first goal late in Wednesday's game, he has a chance to start and increase his tally. Djuorou will partner Squillaci as Koscielny is still banned, they will both have to be ready for the Toffees tricky midfield trio of Arteta, Cahill and Pienaar.
KEY MAN: Tim Cahill

After their bore draw against the local rivals, the home fans will be hoping for a vast improvement from Roberto Mancini's men. They will likely be more attacking against an inconsistant Birmingham side. Alec McLeish may be happy with a draw against the big spenders. They will be dreaming of waking up to a teamsheet that doesn't contain the name of City's talisman, Carlos Tevez.
KEY MAN: Ben Foster

Two teams with managers who aim to play the game the right way. The Geordies will be without Joey Barton, who was rightly banned for three matches following his punch on Perdesen on Wednesday. Fulham continue to improve under new boss, Mark Hughes and appear more like the team that reached the Europa Cup final. There remain doubts over Tim Krul's aerial ability and the Londoners may look to target that.
KEY MAN: Andy Carroll

Liverpoool continue to be as erratic as the weather and could do without a game against a physical Stoke team. As always Rory Delap will use his directional throw in's to trouble the Scousers defence. Roy hodgson will hope he won't have to rely on Stevie G to save his team as happens far to often. The home team will set their stall out early and hope to catch them on the counter.
KEY MAN: Fernando Torres

Spurs need to win matches such as this if they aim to retain their spot in the elusive Top 4. After rumblings of unrest, Jason Roberts is letting his football do the talking and is looking more like a forward teams may actually want to buy. Harry Redknapp has injury worries but has built a squad that should be able to cope. This match may well go down to the final whistle.
KEY MAN: Gareth Bale

Both teams league positions are unexpected, though the Hammers can console themselves with good performances if not actual points. The Seasiders will be as attack minded as always and Robert Green will need to be at his pre-World Cup best. Look forward to a good midfield battle with rising star Charlie Adam continuing to impress with every PL game. Hopefully Ian Holloway won't have resigned due to any unwanted FA interference.
KEY MAN: Scott Parker

Wigan continue to filter between good and awful while newly promoted, West Brom have gained a lot of fans for their free flowing, attacking play. Wigan desperately need the points to get them away from the dangerous foot of the table while West Brom will see this as another chance to silence the critics. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the tale of the two Roberto's.
KEY MAN: Charles N'Zogbia

Wanderers were disappointed to end up empty handed on Wednesday, although their attack warranted at least a point. Owen Coyle has given the Bolton team an attacking flair to go with their sturdy defence. Mick McCarthy will be looking for his strikers to finish all their good work while Coyle hopes his team go some way to securing a place in the Top 10.
KEY MAN: kevin Davies

Friday, 12 November 2010

No Respect for Ray

I know it is not just me who feels a bitter taste in their mouth while reading about Ray Wilkins unceremonious and abrupt sacking by Chelsea football club. I know it is not just me who thinks there is slightly more to the story than what we are hearing in the media. I also know it is not just me who has lost a bit of respect for manager, Carlo Ancelotti.

There have been lots of jokes over the years about the lack of soul in the Stamford Bridge boardroom since Abramovich's takeover, maybe the jokes were true. Is it possible that the jokes were true. I wonder if with all that money comes a lack of morals and a sense of doing things exactly as you like, rather than in a fitting and right way.

Ray Wilkins was not just another member of staff, he was a Chelsea man and I would presume he still is, regardless of how they treated. Ray Wilkins is a football man. As a player he played for Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, Rangers and QPR. He is respected by all involved in the game and all who love the game. His playing time at Chelsea in the 70's conincided with the teams most successful period before the Russian intervention. A man with blue blood pumping through his veins has been left shock and bemused.

We should all be shiocked but I suppose this is the way of the world now. Loyalty and respect no longer counts in a world of yachts and private jets.

I could go on blaming the money men but there is still enough humans involved in the game to know right from wrong.

So instead, I'll leave you with a quote from Carlo Ancelotti, made on 10th September 2010:

"Without Ray we couldn't have won a thing and I wouldn't have started this year at such a supersonic speed..."

You can tell so much about a man by his words...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sucker Punch!

Tonight I was all ready to sit down and write a blog about a full midweek fixture list. About the bore draw at Eastlands, Arsenal's record breaking scorer and erratic Newcastle. But I'm sorry I can't because all I remember is Joey Barton's disgusting example of thuggery at St. James Park.

Another distasteful act of violence from possibly the most disliked man in football, after Gary Neville of course.

After a running battle and a couple of shoulder barges, Barton decided to react to this by punching Perdersen in the ribs. Not a slap as he tried to claim later on or even a nudge but a real and direct punch.

Now, I'm all for giving people second chances. We all make mistakes and deserve the chance to atone for our actions. But how many chances does this 'man' want or need? How many more does he deserve?

Once again he has shown a complete disregard for the sport, his club, their paying fans AND his fellow prefessionals. Once again he's shown he has all the common sense of a rabid dog.

Fair enough the referee didn't see it, so I won't blame him for the lack of punishment. But everyone else did, if they didn't, they sure will have by midday tomorrow. And what will they do about it? The FA will ban him and the club will fine him. But is this suffice for what is equal to assault in the world the rest of us live in?

Personally, I don't think it is. He's served the prison sentence, had the expensive counselling and paid the fines that he'll barely notice with his bank balance. And after all that, he continues to behave in such a vile manner.

There's two possible reasons for that:
One. Either he's ill, mentally and unable to control his actions, or;
Two. He just doesn't care.

I know which I think it is. What about you?

As far as I'm concerned he's had his nine lives and the sooner we kick this vile creature out of our modern day game, the better.
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Who really gives an Arse?

So allegedly Mr Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, has been having an affair with a French wannabe pop star 22 years his junior. Mr Wenger and his wife Annie have a 13 year old daughter, Leah.

But along with this breaking news story there is a severe lack of proof. There were pictures of him with Sonia. Walking side by side in an airport. There was a picture of him supposedly shielding his face from the press, though to me he looks like he's fixing his hair. Something all footie fans know he does habitually. There are no incriminating photos, that I have seen. No statement from Mr Wenger, Annie or Sonia.

All we have is innuendo and suggestion.

But to be honest, even if it is true. I couldn't care less. Not because I'm an Arsenal fan or because I worship the ground the Frenchman walks on.

But because unlike some, he has always kept his personal life personal. One fan told me that until this story he had no idea Wenger was married, which pretty much says it all.

He has never conducted his life in the media, nor I doubt he ever will. If it is true, then I will be disappointed to see another married man ignoring his vows. But other than that, nothing.

Until now his private life has never been my business and I don't think things should change now.
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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

You Can't Have it Both Ways Mate!

So, in the spirit of becoming a better writer I spend a lot of time reading newspapers, blogs and other websites. A lot of which I find through twitter.

I don't know how many of you know him but today I read an article by a footballer, Rohan Ricketts. He currently plays in Moldova for FC Dacia Chişinău after a career at varying levels in England. Rohan also writes regularly for a few Internet publications.

But it was the article he wrote today that caught my eye, it was in Sabotage Times.

He discusses what footballers really think about us fans. Don't get me wrong, he makes some reasonably good points.

"Players have a right to leave a club. After all, there are plenty of situations when the clubs screw the players. Sometimes you’ll have a player who wants to stay but he’ll get kicked out."

There are times when we have seen players encouraged to move on because they don't get on with the manager or they don't fit into his plans. Players who have been loyal to the club, signed long term contracts and kissed the badge. I'm sure there are but excuse me if I can't name any.

Now, don't get me wrong. I DO NOT condone threatening anyone with physical violence and the 'idiots' that turned up outside Rooney's house clearly need to get a grip. Invading someone's privacy is not right and crossing a line. The problem is some players have removed that line for us, so of course less thoughtful fans can become confused.

Let me ask you a few questions:
*What are the names of Paul Scholes' children?
*Where did Ryan Giggs get married?
*How many children does Shay Given have?

Do you know? Because I don't. And I don't know because they haven't made money by telling me through exclusives 'celebrity' magazines. They have chosen to keep their personal lives private, to raise their children away from the glare of flashlights and VIP events. They realised early on that their job was simply to play football.

If you choose to air your clean laundry in a public arena then of course there is going to be a heightened interest when it's dirty. It's basic human curiosity and when that 'dirt' is down to your own lack of morals, excuse me if I don't feel sorry for you. If you are man enough to make that mistake, then surely you have to be man enough to deal with the consequences. To be honest, most people don't care but we've been force fed so many details about their life, people feel as if they know them, which leads to people thinking they have the right to judge. Even if they don't.

Whether or not they will like to admit it, certain players readily invited the media into their homes. And like a vampire; once you invite them in, it is very hard to kick them out.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sort Ya Life Out!

I know it's a bit late, but hey ho.

This is Ian Holloway's first season in the Premier League. What started as a pipe dream turned into reality for the Tangerines as he led them to Wembley, where they won the Championship play-off final against Cardiff. He and his chairmen may be the newest diners at the top table, but him and his 'original' statements are known to all.

Some may see him as a joker or the light relief in comparison to the serious manner of those at the top of the league. Regardless of that, one thing that is always stated about Ian is that above all else, he is a 'football fan'. A trait that exudes from him and brings a sense of purity to the financially oriented most watched league in the World.

A honest man who appreciates the purity of the beautiful game. Lets be honest, his press conferences are a rare gem in a time of contrived and preprepared media moments. Friday would have been the first time some supporters had ever seen or heard a manager speak with so much passion - unless arguing over a penalty appeal. Because of who said it, some may not have listened.

I agree with him when he questions the weight a contract holds in this era of obscene wags and the Bosman + Webster rules. I also don't think he'll be the last to question the ever increasing involvement of agents and 'player advisors'.

These worries have been raised before but because it was England's talisman trying to orchestrate a move, it becomes front and back page news. Come on, modern contracts are worthless to a football club. The only people they benefit are the player and his 'team'.

At the end of the day, if and when a player wants to engineer a move then they will do whatever it takes. We have seen players under contract covet other clubs in the media. Some have gone on strike or underperformed. Others have created such a bad atmosphere in the changing room, the manager has to let them go for the god of the club. Without any consideration that player will make sure he gets his move or pay rise, citing whatever reason his PR decides sound best in print.

While football clubs continue to pretend they aren't actually businesses first they will never be able to ensure their 'employees' abide by their contracts. This is a problem of football's own doing, no matter how they try to deny it. They gave the players the power and now their annoyed when they use it in a way that doesn't benefit them.

So yes, most of what Ian Holloway said was right. But he needs to look around that top table for who is really at fault.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Champions Leage: Match Day 3 Review

UEFA Champions League Review: Match Day Three

At the halfway point of the group stages the top teams continue to show their mettle. Free-scoring Arsenal and Raul broke records and some new faces made their mark in the Champions League.

Group A – FC Twente; Inter Milan; Tottenham Hotspur; Werder Bremen
Never has a game been so aptly described as 'a game of two halves'. The first belonged to Inter as they were 4-0 up at half-time. But ten-man Spurs owe their comeback to Gareth Bale who put in another performance to attract the plaudits, while becoming only the sixth British player* to score a hat-trick in Europe.

Twente drew at home to Bremen to leave both teams on two points and fighting for the chance to take the consolation prize of playing in Europe's second string competition.

Group B – Benfica; Hapoel Tel-Aviv; Lyon; Schalke 04
Raul showed that form is temporary, but class is permanent as he scored two goals to help Schalke to a 3-1 home win against Hapoel. Now, Europe's top scorer, he shows no signs of slowly down and it could well be his genius that inspires his new team to qualify from the group.

To read on go here

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Oh! Wayne! Part Deux

And so the drama continues. What happened to the time grown men sat in the pub and 'discussed' their problems over a pint of lager? Now, they dump someone by press release. Well, Wayne Rooney has taken this route to confirm that he does indeed want to leave Old Trafford and Manchester United. So we're supposed to forget his previous bleating's that he wanted to stay at he club for the rest of his life and he couldn't imagine playing anywhere else. Apparently that was all a dream and he woke up in the shower three days ago.

So it sounds pretty simple. Or does it?

I don't think so. To me there is a certain whiff of something about to hit the fan. Namely Sir Alex Ferguson's P45. Before I go any further, this is merely my opinion. But from the minute I read the press release I had my doubts whether we were reading the truth or just another load of PR flannel.

The statement is filled with what you would expect but there were certain comments that peaked my interest.

"Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed
me from Everton when I was only 18

He talks about Sir Alex as a man who he respects and values. Understandable considering he was at the club from a fairly young age.

"For me its all about winning trophies - as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the questions I was asking were justified.

You last won trophy a mere seven months ago Wayne, what makes you think the club isn't the right place for you to be? Since when was Manchester United NOT about winning trophies?

"For Manchester United's sake I wish he could go on forever because he's a one off and a genius."

Why is he talking about Sir Alex's tenure?
Did anyone mention that?
Does he know something you and I don't?

Now assuming that this statement was written by a very expensive PR agent and not Wayne himself, can we really ignore the emphasis on one of the World's most experienced managers? Surely the PR knows there will be some saddo like me tearing every single word apart to find the extra muck underneath.

And that is what I see: A lot of muck.

Personally I don't respect the way Wayne has gone about it and his attitude has been appalling - in all arenas of the media - since South Africa. In my old school head he could have at least been man enough to tell Sir Alex himself. Like Sir Alex said: "We're dealing with agents who live in players' pockets." I also remember him saying something about parents, which eludes to the opinion that players in general receive less constructive guidance than they used to.

Anyway, I'm wittering. The point is I don't think it's black and white. Manchester United may be in debt, but they are Manchester United. And their fans will tell you: normal rules do not apply.

So what is really going on in Wayne's head, or what exactly is happening behind the scenes?

I'll tell you one thing though: It won't be boring.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Oh! Wayne!

To be honest, I was trying to avoid the Rooney saga but even I can't ignore this.

Sir Alex Ferguson's press conference was candid. To say the least. He has played his hand and now we wait to see if Wayne will check or fold.

So he REALLY wants to leave, Manchester United fans are already up in arms calling Wayne things I couldn't possibly type here ;-)

The point is though: are we honestly surprised?
This is a player who has never felt shy about coming forward. We've all commented on his suspect temperament before. A man who cheats on his pregnant wife. Not just cheats but pays a escort to see him on a regular basis and allegedly participates in a threesome. A man who regularly goes against the orders of his manager - fag anyone! A player who made a snide remark to England fans who had spent their wages to watch him perform like pub player* in South Africa. Not forgetting the fact, he engineered a move away from Everton. Now who taught him how to do that, I wonder.....

So, no I'm not surprised. In fact, more surprising is that he hasn't thrown his toys out of the pram earlier. When he contradicted Sir Alex in the press about his injury, it appears to have been the final straw for the Scot.

Watching the press conference, I actually felt sorry for Sir Alex. He looked like a father who was hurt and confused after the betrayal of his youngest son. With the continual speculation in the press, he had two choices. Continue to lie and try and win the player back or be honest with the fans and media (for a change).

Thankfully, he chose the latter. Firstly, it's great news and secondly the fans that hero worship Rooney deserve to know the facts.

So here they are. Simply: Rooney wants to leave, Man United have offered him a new contract which he is not interested in. Said contract is still on the table if the player changes his mind. Now it's all out in the media, we're all waiting for Rooney's side of the story. And if he did change his mind, is there really anyway back for him now?

With 18 months left on his contract, it would be best for the club to sell him in the January transfer window, particularly with the state of their finances. Though Wayne may wish to see out his contract possibly leaving Sir Alex in the dilemma of using a player who know longer cares for the team.

So, who would have him? Of course Manchester City would love to steal another player from under Sir Alex's nose but would he sell to them. Chelsea have tightened the purse strings but I'm sure Abramovich would authorise spending on England's biggest star. Or he could fly away, with Barcelona and Real Madrid the earlier favourites. Yet, as a girl I have to wonder what Coleen would think about leaving her family. She has a seriously ill sister and may not wish to emigrate with a man she is learning to trust again. Nor, could I see Wayne dealing particularly well in a less physical league, foreign referee's would have a red card frenzy.

What more can I say? Not much, so I'll leave the final words to Sir Alex: "The one thing I said to him was 'respect this club', I don't want any nonsense from you.

"I don't know if he has done that. I have doubts on that, we are reading all these things about falling out with me and all that nonsense.

"It's disappointing because we have done everything we possibly can to help Wayne Rooney ever since he came to the club.

*No disrespect meant to any pub players.