Thursday, October 30, 2008
Approaching an age many would argue to a prime, Saviola needs to reacquaint himself with the basic need of regular first-team action before he can plot his arrival back on the international stage. Over a decade ago, Saviola made his professional debut for River Plate and had reached dizzying heights at the very naïve age of 19. Nobody would have dared predict such a rapid ascendancy to stardom – neither would such a dramatic fall from fame have been anticipated. Here was an exciting, young striker with limitless potential and a rare potency from almost any position, finishing at the peak of the goalscoring charts in the Argentine Primera Division - River Plate’s prized possession led them to glory in the championship. Virtuous displays swayed the heads of European giants in the direction of South America, and a move to Barcelona was signed, sealed and delivered at the FIFA U20 World Cup – the tournament which announced Saviola’s arrival on the international stage. Eleven goals in seven matches proclaimed him as the record goalscorer in World Youth Cup history and Argentina won in rapturous style.
Leaving Buenos Aires with a new-found glorious reputation, Barcelona fans were quick to show their delight of the new signing, dubbed as the ‘New Maradona’, as shirt sales bearing Saviola’s name soared. The hype however, for whatever given reason, failed to elate beyond his first season at the Nou Camp as Saviola failed to sustain his position in the starting eleven and was forever embattled in a losing fight to stay there – but by no means was it down to a lacklustre goalscoring record, an aspect of his career he could never be accused of. Three initial seasons at Barcelona boasted a healthy 44 goals in 105 matches but a loan move to Monaco was agreed for 2004/2005. 12 months had swiftly passed before Barcelona again opted to shun the services of the Argentine, sending him to Sevilla under the guidance of Juande Ramos. Goals in the league came at a strike rate of around one in every three, a very respectable figure but it was in European competition where he thrived - four goals in seven Champions League appearances for Monaco and 5 in Sevilla’s victorious UEFA Cup campaign. Returning for a spell on the bench with Barcelona was a clear indication that he was never going to fit into their plans despite retaining an able forward’s touch and prowess when he was infrequently called upon. Barcelona, having declared their interest in bringing further firepower for the upcoming season, signified their lack of desire to retain Saviola by offering a contract extension of an insulting nature, which would have halved his salary.
The perfect situation arose when Saviola ran down his contract at Barcelona and was thereby eligible to move to any interested club on a free transfer. With the knowledge that prolonged spells on the bench result in anything other than a footballer’s career being stunted, the choice of Real Madrid as his next club was naturally all the more surprising – and assumingly regretful. Did the temptation of a €2.5 million per-season contract prove too great to resist?
There was every hope that Real Madrid could give flight to Saviola’s ambitions, starting with the competitive fight for places and with genuine optimism about the future – one he had hoped would resemble more than a mere squad number. "I have great hopes, to play a lot, to move forward and succeed here". Hopes of breaking apart the partnership of Raul and Van Nistelrooy in the Spanish capital, though, fell confounded and ended in the same vein as the expectations of him replacing Samuel Eto’o at Barca. Despite an array of beautiful clubs to his honour, Saviola found that any hopes of consecutive starts were once again written off and the bitter reality demonstrated he had never been further away from a much-desired starting eleven place.
His CV may boast the global powerhouses of River Plate, Barcelona and Real Madrid, but another La Liga winner’s medal is not the antidote needed to revive his flailing career. At Real Madrid, even the position of ‘squad player’ seems to have overlooked him as another former River Plate striker Gonzalo Higuain has surpassed him in the pecking order. Looking back in years to come, Saviola could sport prestigious medals left, right and centre but deep inside he will have contributed rarely to them and there will be a sense of remorse unless the situation soon changes. The timing has never been more critical for him to wave goodbye to life at the Santiago Bernabeu, before he becomes entailed in complete anonymity.
Unless there is a staggering change in thought amongst Bernd Schuster and the Real Madrid management team, Saviola will be celebrating his 27th birthday in December with the familiar routine of watching from the sidelines. His feet may well and truly cemented to the Real bench, but the best Christmas gift for the former marvel would be to pack his bags and depart from Madrid to any destination who seek the services of a talented frontman. Even the most deluded optimist would struggle to visualise Saviola in a Real jersey for the forthcoming seasons.
Real Madrid may finance a lavish lifestyle for Saviola, and there are few other clubs in the world who possess the same glitz and glam, but a transfer to an aspiring, adoring UEFA Cup outfit would be a match made in heaven for all concerned – it would be Javier’s saviour. The Rabbit needs to dig deep if he wants to sparkle again, which is only remotely possible away from the starry lights of the Spanish capital.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Soccer City FC
26 October 2008
Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0
There are delayed showings of this match and I give it a ‘must see’ rating.
After the big signing of Robinho and the fantastic win over Portsmouth that followed, (seems such a long time ago and now a blurred memory) we’ve been finding ourselves asking yet again “What’s happened?”. Before today’s match against Stoke, Man City we’re in 10th place with 10 points out of 8 matches played. I would like to see City, get to and maintain, a top six spot, so that means we are four points behind Aston Villa who hold that position. After this fabulous result against Stoke, Man City are in 8th position (see how easy it is to jump a couple of positions in the table) with 13 points. Only two other clubs advance up the table, Liverpool (to take top slot – and much deserved) and Aston Villa (5th).The teams to lose positions are Manchester United (now 6th – yeah! But they have a game in hand) and Chelsea (now 2nd). Just as an aside to all things Manchester City , the belles of the ball (pun intended) are Hull City (recent ex Manchester City player, Geovanni scoring three goals in recent matches and winning the hearts of the team and fans) – they’re 3rd in the league having just gained promotion this season. A team for every soccer fan watch – they were fantastic this week-end against West Brom , a master class in soccer.
For Manchester City , there’s been a run of mediocre playing and poor results. We seem to have this trend that can’t be shaken, win some, lose some and the loses are usually to teams that we should be beating. So this season has started like others, a roller coaster ride.
We’re scraping through the UEFA cup competition. Our next match is on the 6th November, against Dutch side, FC Twente (managed by ex England boss, Steve McClaren) at the City of Manchester Stadium . FC Twente has won the first match of their Group A competition. Manchester City and FC Twente have met before, in the 1978/79 competition, with City winning (this in the heady days of Maine Road , Colin Bell, Brian Kidd et al) – but we know history is not a good indicator of results. We need to get through to the next stage, when, by that time, the team will be a well oiled machine and routinely winning matches.
And today, a hat-trick by Robinho, who until now has been relatively quiet in a goal scoring sense. The goals were assisted by: Evans, Sturridge and City home-coming boy Wright-Phillips – all three are from the Manchester City Academy . Talking of the Academy, at least six of the players on the pitch today, are from the Academy and are teaming up with international stars such as Dunne, Elano, Jo, Robino, Kompany and Fernandes), what a start for their bright futures and what stars in the making for Manchester City – well done to the Academy and it’s managers and staff. Have Manchester City found that something that was missing?, or is this another ‘high’ in the roller coaster ride, we wait with baited breathe – away to Middlesbrough on Wednesday 29th October.
Come on City
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Juan Roman Riquelme and Lucas Viatri inspired Boca Juniors to a narrow 1-0 victory over River Plate in the superclasico in Buenos Aires. Boca appear to have discovered and nurtured yet another talent in the form of Lucas Viatri, who has now scored five goals this season alone. Viatri headed in a precise Riquelme free-kick in a match where River clearly lacked creativity and slumped to a depleted 19th position, with goal difference alone separating them from complete obscurity at the foot of the table. Early pace setters San Lorenzo extended their lead at the summit of the table to five points after beating San Martin 1-0. Tigre rose to second place with a 3-0 win over Lanus, with Martin Morel scoring in either half to guarantee the three points.
Sao Paulo were forced to settle for a point in the derby skirmish against a spirited Palmeiras after surrendering a 2-0 lead. With only eight minutes gone on the clock, two red cards had already been handed out in a typical fierce derby, Diego Souza for Palmeiras and Borges for Sao Paulo both being sent off. Sao Paulo took the lead through the quite astonishing Rogerio Ceni, the goalkeeper who is worldly renowned for his free kicks. Dagoberto extended the lead but within a space of two minutes Palmeiras pegged back to level the match at 2-2 – the goals provided by Kléber and Leandro. The result leaves Palmeiras in joint second place alongside Cruziero, Sao Paulo follow shortly in fourth while Gremio narrowly lead the championship.
Columbia National Team
Eduardo Lara has been confirmed as the full-time manager of the Columbian National Team following an initial spell as interim manager. His predecessor, Jorge Luis Pinto, was sacked after the nation lost to Uruguay and Chile and thus his tenure inevitably came to a premature end. Results have improved under Lara, who has so far overseen a goalless draw with Brazil and a defeat to group leaders Paraguay. Lara is known as a strict and coordinated manager with a tough policy over the behaviour of his players, as several of his former players have experienced. Lara is also the current manager of the Columbian Under 17s and Under 20s, where his major honours came when he guided them to gold in the 2005 South American Youth Championship.
Major League Soccer (USA)
New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero broke Major League Soccer history in a sensational debut. He became the first goalkeeper in the league’s 13-year history to score a goal and he claimed the feat in emphatic fashion. Cepero, a novice by all means who was literally thrown into the starting eleven after regular Jon Conway’s ten match suspension, tore apart the record book despite the fact he hadn’t even started an MLS match before. Columbus Crew fell victim to Cepero’s accidental heroics and he later confessed he was not even sure if it had gone in. "I just put it in the general area with no intention of scoring. I just hit it up somewhere where my teammates could do something with it. I didn't even know it went in. I had to ask (defender) Kevin (Goldthwaite).” The match finished 3-1 to New York Red Bulls and the 3 points have ensured that progression to the Cup Playoffs is still in their own control, with DC United following closely two points behind. Victory over Chicago Fire would guarantee their position in the Playoffs. Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA have all secured their status in the next round – leaving three places still to be contested for. LA Galaxy will be forced back to the blueprints as an ambitious season that started off impeccably finished in ruins and enter the final league fixture with nothing other than pride at stake.
Watch Danny Cepero's record breaking goal here.
FK Ventspils have been crowned as Latvian champions for the third consecutive season to underline their credentials as a club force. Just one of the rewards for their achievement is a worthy place alongside the brawn of the continent’s elite in next season’s Champions League. Coach Roman Grigorchuk told uefa.com “The Champions League is a special tournament. For us, it's a new test. We have to give everything we have and even more. We're not building sand castles here; we're not voicing this intention just for the sake of it.”
Norwegian Premier Division (Norway)
It will take a miracle of immense aptitude to prevent Stabæk IF from winning the Norweigen title as they overcame reigning champions SK Brann 2-1. Fredrikstad FK are their closest rivals lying in second place and although it still remains mathematically possible, the goal difference is so vast that Fredrikstad would require two victories and have to further rely on Stabæk implausibly conceding 20 goals.
Haunted by the memories of 2006 where a seven point lead was lost, fans will be forgiven for feeling especially nervous and the winner courtesy of Hansen was a massive relief for all concerned. The match had been postponed since Sunday due to high winds and it created a tense climax to the season. Faroese international Hansen has been struggling to find his early-season form and a goalless run of five matches was ended at a critical time. “It was a bit reminiscent of 2006. We hit the post and had near misses on several occasions, but then the ball finally went in and it was an incredible relief." The bitter experiences of the past two seasons have well and truly been banished as EB/Streymur will be hoping it is a case of déjà vu in 2009.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Liverpool have made a virtually faultless start to the new season but their six victories to date have not been plain sailing – as Arsenal have found, the mark of champions is not to profess the most dazzling and fluent football on the planet, but to win ‘ugly’ when it is required. The Merseyside outfit will be a close contender for the title when the calendar hits May as they have overturned losing positions to run out as winners on three occasions. Gerrard epitomised his legacy at Liverpool when he smashed in a winner in the 93rd minute against Middlesbrough, while Dirk Kuyt defied his critics through match-winning performances that saw victorious comebacks against Manchester City and Wigan.
The trio of Tim Cahill (Everton), Pablo Zabaleta (Man City) and Luis Antonio Valencia (Wigan) have all been sent off after fouling Xabi Alonso, and usually it has been one of the critical factors on the outcome of the match. Zabaleta and Valencia both fouled Alonso in unprofessional manners and twice Liverpool came back from the ‘death’ to salvage six essential points. The extra man advantage has been made to count and perhaps in future there will be second thoughts about tacking Xabi Alonso.
Manchester City boss Mark Hughes on Pablo Zabaleta’s red card:
"We played really well in the first half and deserved our lead. The sending off has changed the game and made it even more difficult for us.”
Wigan manager Steve Bruce on Antonio Valencia’s sending off:
“That was the decisive moment in the match because up until then we were coping admirably and were arguably the best team."
Liverpool must be credited for containing the drive to succeed when, at such an early stage in the season, they are pulling out imperative victories that could prove to be the decisive difference between the title that they so dearly crave and an insignificant runners-up spot.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Midfielder Jon Edwards has returned to England to play for his hometown club - Canvey Island FC. The Gulls, having won promotion last season, compete in the Isthmian League Premier Division also known as the Ryman Premier League. The Ryman Premier League occupies the 7th tier in the English Football League system.
Prior to his return home, Edwards starred at perennial NCAA Division II power University of the Incarnate Word out of San Antonio, Texas. The Cardinals captured the 2006 and 2007 Heartland Conference titles. This season the men's soccer team has a record of 7-5. On Sunday, the team has an away showdown with conference rival St. Edward's.
Canvey Island FC is currently fifth with 22 points in the Ryman Premier League. Recently, the club defeated Wealdstone 3-2 in an impressive away victory. Tomorrow, the Gulls visit Cambridge City as both clubs compete in a FA Trophy 1st qualifying match. Thus far, Edwards has seen action in four competitions including two starts. He kindly spoke with Soccer City FC about his experience playing collegiate soccer in the US as well as his return to his hometown club.
1. You were a key member of the 2007 University of the Incarnate Word team that captured the Heartland Conference. How satisfying was the experience?
Yes it was pleasing to win the Heartland Conference in my two years at UIW in 2006 and 2007. The conference games often had an extra ‘edge’ to them and were always extremely competitive.
If I’m going to be completely honest 2007 was a disappointing season for all involved at Incarnate Word. At UIW we set very high standards to win the conference and try and get out of the region and we felt we had the capabilities to do so. We returned such a nucleus of players from a new and successful 2006 side and were extremely confident and optimistic for the season. Midwestern State University were superb last year, yet we beat them both times we played them (and they advanced to the final 4), and kept 12 clean sheets from our 20 games, showing the potential we had as a side. We just perhaps lacked the ability to score enough goals and win games comfortably against teams we were expected to win….every game was a real battle!!
2. What is your favorite aspect of playing the defensive midfield role?
Well when you play in a team that plays the formation effectively it allows you extra time and space to get the ball down and keep possession, something that I love to do. In our 2006 season we played a 4-5-1 with me as the defensive midfielder, which often allows you a lot of time in possession, something that all midfielders love and pray for!! The key to the role is your sense of importance to the team, you do feel that you need to be effective for the team to function properly, and that is something that you are able to embrace.
It is a position that involves a lot of hard work that can often go unnoticed, you don’t get into many scoring opportunities or to be a threat in the final third of the pitch as nearly all your work is down around the centre of the field. But if you play in front of excellent central defenders, that I was fortunate to do so at UIW, it does make your job much easier!
3. Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates or coaches at UIW?
Yes certainly, I’m always on the internet working out the time difference and finding out how they got on as soon as I can!!! I often get one or two of the players to fill me in with a bit of an in-depth match report when they have the time to, when they’re not busy studying of course!
It was such a unique experience at UIW that I was extremely fortunate to experience. Over 2 seasons our squad consisted of players from all over the States, the U.K., Israel, Mexico, Serbia, Columbia and Trinidad to name a few and the team spirit was always fantastic. It was a cultural, as well as soccer experience and will always stay in contact with the majority of the squad and coaching staff from my time there.
4. Do you believe your former team has enough to capture the Heartland title again this season?
I’m confident 2008 will be a successful year for UIW. From what I’ve heard the players John Smith (Head Coach) has bought in have settled well, and certainly created more attacking options from the side last year. Also having Esteban Bayona back (missed the whole 2007 season due to injury) is a big plus and is like having a new player after missing a whole year.
I feel they have a great chance to retain the Heartland Conference and are certainly favourites to do so. St Edwards have started the season strongly and will probably be the main rivals, and they are playing each other this Sunday so that game should be a good indicator of how far each team can go.
But if the boys can get through to the Regionals, and with the tight defence and excellent goalkeeper that UIW have, anything could happen.....
5. How did you find your way to Canvey Island FC?
It was quite simple really!! It’s my hometown and played for the youth teams from about 10 years of age until I was U18’s. I was part of a successful youth side that did well in the FA Youth Cup and our manager all the way through was John Batch who is now First Team Manager. With 4-5 of the boys from my youth team representing the 1st team over the past few years and with John at the helm, I always remained ties with club. John knew I was returning and got in contact.
6. How has the experience been thus far?
It’s been excellent, although very different from my experiences of college soccer of the past 2 years. Frustratingly, I wasn’t eligible for the first 6 games of the season due to issues with my international clearance from playing in the States.
It has been 5 years since I’ve been back home in Canvey (as completed my Undergraduate degree in Cardiff, Wales) and so it has taken some re-adjusting. From being one of the oldest players in the team for the past couple of years with exceptionally talented individuals, I’m now in a changing room with players with years of experience around the professional and semi-professional game in England. Its been challenging and a great experience so far….(I’ve kind of been quiet and tried to ‘soak’ it all in and adjust to the differences!!). The game is extremely different with regards to tactics and mentality, but there is no doubt that my experience in college soccer has made me a much better player. Technical and physical levels were probably higher in the States, as well as mentality to really work on your game. The boys have been great and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge so far.
7. Can the club challenge for the Ryman Premier League title?
Well the club has got off to a great start to the season. We only got promoted last season and was predicted that the club may find the step up difficult but so far we have more than held our own. John Batch has always been a successful manager and I have no doubt that it will continue.
It is a tough league and there are some very well financed clubs whose wage bills and attendances are extremely high. It is still very early to make any bold prediction but my early impression is that there is nothing to fear and if we are in the top half by Christmas, then perhaps we could set our sights on a play-off push. At this stage at the season though it is too early to say as over here our season our squad could play up to 50 plus games, so its certainly more of a marathon than a sprint….especially compared to the college soccer season!!!
8. Who is your favorite defensive midfielder from the past or present?
Well I’m not much of a tough tackling midfielder and rely more on possession and work rate so I guess I prefer defensive midfielders in the mould of Michael Carrick than Claude Makele. Steven Gerard is the most complete football player in the world in my opinion and so would have to be my favourite midfielder. The vision and composure of Spanish midfielders Xavi and Xabi Alonso is simply amazing.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Bolivia 2-2 Uruguay
Paraguay 1-0 Peru
Chile 1-0 Argentina
Brazil 0-0 Columbia
Venezuela 3-1 Ecuador
Top Goal from Round 10 - Fabián Orellana's versus Argentina. The 22-year-old's first international goal came against one of the globe's elite.
Surprise from Round 10 - Brazil's and Argentina's lackluster performances. With only 8 Rounds remaining, could one or dare I say both be watching South Africa 2010? It is possible as four nations are within seven points of second place Brazil.
Bold Prediction for Round 11 - Ecuador upsets Brazil off of a Christian Benítez goal.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Dublin-based Bohemians have won the Republic of Ireland domestic title from reigning champions Drogheda United. It is the tenth occasion that they have managed such a feat in their history. The fate of the championship looked certain to be delayed for another week but Jason Byrne's late winner sealed the title, with four matches still remaining.
It was a gratifying night for the Bohemians faithful as they won the title at the ground of the defending champions Drogheda United. The scoreline finished 2-1 with both goals scored by former Cardiff striker Jason Byrne. The visitors led on 23 minutes when Byrne wonderfully chipped Drogheda goalkeeper Jamie Ewings but Faz Kudozovic equalised shortly after to level the match. For all their effort and toil, Bohemians’ exerted pressure remained unrewarded as a further breakthrough never materialised. Captain Owen Heary had a strike ruled out and Byrne struck the post, while Jamie Ewings saved every shot that came his way in the Drogs’ net. The final ten minutes proved to be critical, when a second yellow card for Drogheda’s Adam Hughes threw the advantage to Bohemians. With complete momentum behind them, Bohemians secured the title in the final seconds of the match when Byrne kept a cool-head to round Ewings and convert the winner.
Manager Pat Fenlon, celebrating his fourth Irish managerial title after he triumphed a trio of times with Shelbourne, could not hide his ecstasy with the achievement of his team. "Drogheda worked terribly hard tonight in difficult circumstances and you'd have to feel for them but all credit to our lads, they've been magnificent all season. It's a great night for the supporters too. They've had a hard time over the last few seasons and they deserve this success."
Bohemians’ fairytale season will see them rewarded with a welcome €225,000 for finishing in first place, while further prize funds will be available in the FAI Ford Cup, next season’s Setanta Sports Cup and a place in the elite Champions League.
The runners-up spot looks to be contested by St Patrick’s and Derry City, who stand on 54 and 48 points respectively while Drogheda remain out of the equation sat in fourth position.
Bohemians may have wrapped up the title in a season of dominance and convincing displays, but with four matches still to be competed there is still the small matter of relegation to be decided. Cobh Ramblers’ stunning victory over St Patrick’s Athletic earned them a realistic chance of survival and they closed the gap on current-survivors Finn Harps to a meagre two points. Galway United could rise from their despondent, lowly position at the foot of the table by winning their game in hand, and UCD are hopeful too of finding critical form in their last few matches of the 2008 season.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Soccer City FC
Seven rounds in and where do we stand? If you’re Liverpool or Chelsea, then you’re standing at the top of the mountain, looking down. If you’re Hull, then you’re on cloud nine, looking over your shoulder and enjoying the ride. And Bolton? What of the Wanderers through these first seven rounds? To be honest, they’re exactly where everyone expected them to be. That’s right, the Trotters sit Sixteenth in the table, claiming seven points through seven rounds and looking to be on-par for another disappointing run.
Alas, that’s an issue for later in this article. First, and of some import to Trotters faithful, how glorious was Matthew Taylor’s free kick against West Ham? Granted, it will forever be overshadowed by Peter Crouch’s scissor kick, Javier Garrido’s corner-curling free kick and Geovanni’s constant string of miracle goals; however, Taylor’s free kick is one of some magnificence in its own right. Often renowned for his miracle goals at Pompey, Taylor has always been touted as one who can score goals in extreme circumstances, and the goal against West Ham, while not particularly extreme in circumstance or location, was something of particular rarity from the Bolton camp of late.
With that said, it has been an otherwise uneventful start for Bolton, getting off to a relatively slow moving start with just two wins to show for their efforts. That’s not to say that Bolton have played particularly bad in their games, and were it not for some unfortunate circumstances, such as Michael Owen’s header late into the second half of the match against Newcastle, Bolton could well be in the top half of the table, challenging for a spot in Europe as they should be. Also taking into account the fact that star striker Johan Elmander and the aforementioned Matthew Taylor have been injured for the greater part of these past seven games hasn’t helped matters. To say that Bolton’s start to this season in the tables has been lousy would be putting it mildly.
All is not lost, however, as Bolton’s recent run of form has been fantastic. We’ve seen the glorious from Matthew Taylor, the incredible from Jussi Jaaskelainen, and the down-right impressive in the form of Kevin Davies’ work ethic on the pitch. Now that Elmander and Taylor are back in action, and Gary Megson is, at last, considering switching to a 4-4-2 formation on the pitch putting Davo and Elmander together up front and using the speed of Mustapha Riga and Gretar Steinsson to service the ball, things for Bolton are certainly looking as bring as they did at the beginning of this season. So, there is certainly no cause for alarm at this point, with the remaining 31 matches to get through and players still to be properly tested.
Off the pitch, however, Bolton is swarming in rumors once again. The most interesting of which lies with the possible action against West Ham in regards to the Carlos Tevez affair. According to Bolton Chairman Phil Gartside, Bolton may seek action against West Ham for costing them a spot in the Premier League table, and damages in the amount of £700,000 (the supposed cost of that spot in the table). Speaking as a lifelong Bolton fan, through the thick and the thin, this “potential action” against West Ham seems exceptionally pedantic, given the fact that even taking away the two goals that Tevez scored in the game in question Bolton would still have only received 1 point for the draw, and therefore, not have moved up in the table. So, to see them go after a club that’s down just to claim some damages for hypothetical situations is somewhat pathetic, and the sooner it’s dropped, the better.
One rumor that has the full attention of just about every curious Bolton fan is that of Gartside’s recent comments regarding the potential sale of the Bolton Wanderers Football Club to foreign investors. In a somewhat offhand remark, Gartside acknowledged that Bolton would indeed sell in the “right offer” were to come along, hinting that perhaps offers were on the table and Bolton might be considering them in more than an inquisitive fashion. If these rumors prove to be true, and Bolton may be sold to foreign investors, then there are two possible outcomes to this. The first of which would be Bolton gaining some much-needed financial freedom, being able to spend money on quality players and becoming genuinely competitive in the Premier League. The other side is similar to what happened last year with the Liverpool takeover, and what is currently happening with Newcastle’s ownership. That meaning absolute unrest throughout the club, and the ire of the fans being directed towards the ownership.
Personally, my perspective on foreign ownership is that clubs should not be sold to the highest bidder just because it’s the newest trend. Things like what we’re seeing with Manchester City and the money they’re splurging and rumored to be splurging in January is ludicrous. They don’t have the best interest of the game or the club in mind, they are solely in it to buy a championship, much like Roman did with Chelsea. If Bolton were to be sold, I would hope that it would be to an investor or group of investors that has the best interest of the game and the club in mind. Yes, it would be nice to see Bolton become competitive financially, but not at the expense of the club’s integrity. It’s highly likely that this rumor will not come to fruition, however, and Bolton will continue in their current financial position. Certainly nothing wrong with that, as Bolton will never be the richest team in the world, but they still manage to do alright in the transfer market.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia, Sudan and Zambia
Quoted from UEFA General Secretary David Taylor, who was commenting on the UEFA Cup’s makeover for the 2009-10 season. It will witness a name change to the Europa League along with a structure overhaul that will resemble that of its parent competition the Champions League. Call me sceptical by all means, but an altered name title and structure will fail to implement a successful ‘reformation’ for a competition that will still remain sunken in the depths of the Champions League’s reputation.
As a Manchester City fan, I am ecstatic that the UEFA Cup allows additional clubs the opportunity of continental success. The wide playing field of competition means that it is something that the tournament can boast. While the Champions League is indefinitely the pinnacle of European club football and undoubtedly where all aspiring clubs aim to be, there is an air of predictability about it. The UEFA Cup, for all its reputation and image as being lesser and inferior, does throw up surprises and allows the chance for unknown clubs – minnows if you wish – to make dreams a reality. The point being that, despite the UEFA Cup still being a valuable competition for its participants, the changes made won’t improve its reputation.
I am in coherence with UEFA’s decision to implement changes, but the wrong changes have been made. After the admitance that the UEFA Cup lives in the prestigious shadow of the Champions League, would it not be worthwhile to distinguish the competition as its own? The current format hands Champions League dropouts the opportunity to still win the UEFA Cup, as at various stages the teams which fail to make it are given a new berth of success. For example, those who are defeated in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round still advance to the UEFA Cup First Round despite their failings, while the clubs who finish 3rd in each group progress to the UEFA Cup round of 32. The structure of the UEFA Cup means that it is directly beneath the Champions League, as failure in the latter could lead to success in the former. Removing any involvement of Champions League sides would inevitably reduce the quality of the clubs who progress to the final stages, but a status as a more independent competition would create an ‘All or nothing’ mentality. I am also a strong believer that the victor of a competition should compete in it from the beginning, instead of only joining the competition half-way through, after the group stages. This proposal would realistically never go ahead. However, the change in structure would distinguish it as a separate tournament, rather than as a ‘safety net’ competition viable for failed Champions League teams.
A second proposal is a return to its original roots by inducing a complete knock-out format. The current system, whereby three out of five teams in each group qualify, fails to create any spark or true desire. Often one solitary victory and a draw can ensure progression so there is a lacking edge. A knockout format bred on the idea that one team must triumph over two legs would guarantee a passionate fight until the end. Portsmouth will know that their group fixture against AC Milan is not absolutely vital, at worst an opportunity to welcome a European powerhouse and gain some collectible signatures – they should still advance even if they are defeated in that single match. Imagine the atmosphere down at Fratton Park if Kaka and co had to desperately overturn a one-goal deficit with the thought of elimination becoming more of a daunting reality by the minute. But, as ever, it is a grim case of UEFA trying to gain as much revenue as possible. A group stage generates more money as more clubs are involved for longer – at the group stage there is a guarantee of at least a further four matches so extra television rights are available. The prospect of a European giant being eliminated at such an early stage and thereby the unpredictability factor of a knockout format, it appears, is ultimately safeguarded by the current UEFA Cup Group Stage, even under these new changes.
"These changes will improve this historic competition, which is very important for Uefa and for European football as it gives more fans, players and clubs the thrill of European club football." To their credit, the new group format restores a degree of organisation as teams will play each other home and away as opposed to only one fixture – a much fairer and balanced system. Another reform will see TV rights sold centrally through UEFA themselves. Currently clubs negotiate their own rights up to the semi-final stage, which in turn will strengthen them and UEFA financially through increased income. At least it will partially bridge the gulf in commercial rewards to the Champions League.
In reality the UEFA Cup lost all credibility when the Champions League was extended to four clubs per nation. The emphasis of ‘Champions’ has been somewhat ridiculed and lost in recent times, and in turn the UEFA Cup has been relegated as a secondary club competition and to the status of the ‘unpopular, passe kid of the classroom’. Still, at least all association with the defective, mediocre Intertoto Cup has ceased following on from its abolishment.
It would be idiotic to believe the UEFA Cup could match the Champions League - such would be pure fantasy as the latter contains champions, but a straight name change and a few structural tweeks will fail to captivate the neutrals. The newly-christened Europa League will, on a given day, produce as many inspiring tales as any other competition, but Platini’s hopes of “a new brand identity” will shatter before they have even began.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The 21-year old Jones, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, joined Oldham this October. It was his first goal with the club. He is on the books at Wolverhampton until 2010.
Oldham sits in sixth place in the League One table. Hereford is currently last at 24th.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Read more about the Passback Program.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Jajá, a forward playing in the Ukrainian Premier League, has an opportunity to write his own transfer out of town if he can continue to dominate his opponents in his UEFA Cup group much like he has in the UPL. The 22-year old competes for Metalist Kharkiv who currently sit in third place in the UPL which is quickly gaining prestige on the continent as one of the up-and-coming leagues.
Jajá leads his club and the league with seven goals scored in ten matches. He is joined by fellow Brazilian midfielder Edmar who famously scored two goals (one home and one away) against Everton in last season's UEFA Cup.
After Metalist faces off against Benfica, Hertha Berlin, Olympiacos, and Galatasaray, you will know the story of Jajá very well.
Prediction: Jajá scores a total of four goals in the four group matches to lead Metalist Kharkiv into the final 32.
Keith paces the Bearcats with 3 goals from 10 games played. All three have been game winners. Claudio Dantas leads the Great Danes with 6 goals scored.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Defender Max Mölder scored late for Landskrona who remain in 10th place.
Below follows Soccer City FC’s Early Season Best XI in a 4-3-3 format:
Goalkeeper: Boaz Myhill – Hull City
Right Back: José Bosingwa - Chelsea
Centre Back: Jamie Carragher – Liverpool
Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United
Left Back: Ashley Cole - Chelsea
Midfielder: Shaun Wright-Phillips – Manchester City
Midfielder: Geovanni – Hull City
Midfielder: Denílson – Arsenal
Forward: Jermain Defoe – Portsmouth
Forward: Fernando Torres – Liverpool
Forward: Amr Zaki – Wigan Athletic
Paris Saint Germain
Deportivo La Coruna
Each team plays two matches at home and two away, with the top three teams from each group qualifying for the last 32. Ties to be played on 23rd October, 6th November, 27th November, 3/4th December and 17/18th December.
Reaction (quotes from SkySports.com)
Steve McClaren on FC Twente being drawn against Manchester City: “"It's one of the toughest draws, but we've got a great draw and it's very exciting. I've just come back to England to catch up on football here, and the signings Man City have made are massive and they are expected to do very well. It should be a fantastic occasion for us."
Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neil relishing the opportunity of meeting his Hamburg counterpart Martin Jol: He is going splendidly and well played him. I think he is an excellent manager, I think he has done that in the past and I think everybody would say on reflection that it was pretty rough, in the sense they had finished fifth twice and they looked like they would be challenging.
Portsmouth striker Peter Crouch on facing AC Milan: "To play against AC Milan is a dream come true, certainly for the fans and the people at Portsmouth, and for the players as well."
Within eight minutes, Ajax were staring down the barrel of defeat as goals from veteran striker Gerald Sibon and Roy Beerens placed Heerenveen in an excellent position which they retained for the remainder of the match. The visiting defence were left shattered and crushed after the deficit doubled to 4-0 – Sibon claiming his second while Danijel Pranjic’s penalty put to doubt any possibility of a remarkable comeback. Such a hope was pure fiction for the Amsterdam outfit as they were condemned to an embarrassing 5-2 finishing scoreline. Huntelaar’s curled a free-kick and Suarez’s converted penalty acted only as consolatory goals before Pranjic acted quickly to finish a rebounded penalty. Heerenveen’s unbeaten home form remained intact while Ajax failed to cure their away day despair.
Ajax manager Marco Van Basten was infuriated with his team’s defective spectacle, saying “I was hoping for our first away win this Eredivisie season, but this was just a disgrace. We really have to be ashamed of ourselves, because this is totally unacceptable. It was 2-0 at halftime and there were still chances to grab a good result, but it was 4-0 minutes after the break. We didn’t show anything today and we weren’t focused.” Any desires of trumping PSV to the title crown will have to be re-examined should a performance like this become a regular occurrence.
In other news, Ajax are hoping to lure former South African goalkeeper Hans Vonk out of retirement to aid them in their injury crisis. Regular Maarten Stekelenburg has been ruled out for six weeks with a shoulder injury and reserve Dennis Gentenaar is also on the sidelines with a hernia. Vonk is familiar with Eredivisie football and in particular life at the Amsterdam ArenA – the 38 year-old began his career at RKC Waalwijk and had spells at FC Den Bosch and Heerenveen before he previously joined Ajax in 2004.
PSV rose to 2nd in the table following their 3-0 triumph over De Graafschap with Lazovic scoring twice, while Steve McClaren suffered his first domestic defeat as manager of Twente as they lost 3-0 to FC Utrecht. FC Groningen are the surprise leaders on 13 points having beaten ADO Den Haag 3-0.
The leagues covered are those which began in August and thereby over 2008-2009, while those in the summer seasons are excluded from the list as their season's are coming to a close - these will be covered shortly.
Austria: 1st Austria Wien, 2nd Red Bull Salzburg, 3rd Rapid Wien
Belgium: 1st Anderlecht, 2nd Standard Liege, 3rd Club Brugge
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 1st HŠK Zrinjski Mostar, 2nd Slavija Istočno Sarajevo, 3rd NK Široki Brijeg
Bulgaria: 1st CSKA Sofia, 2nd OFC Sliven, 3rd Levski Sofia
Croatia: 1st Dinamo Zagreb, 2nd Hajduk Split, 3rd Slaven Belupo
Cyprus: 1st Anorthosis Famagusta, 2nd AC Omonia Nicosia, 3rd APOEL FC
Czech Republic: 1st Slavia Prague, 2nd Mlada Boleslav, 3rd Sparta Prague
Denmark: 1st Odense BK, 2nd FC Copenhagen, 3rd Brondby IF
England: 1st Chelsea, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Hull City
France: 1st Lyon, 2nd Toulouse, 3rd Marseille
Germany: 1st Hamburger SV, 2nd TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 3rd VfB Stuttgart
Georgia: 1st FC WIT Georgia, 2nd FC Mglebi Zugdidi, 3rd FC Lokomotivi Tbilisi
Greece: 1st Olympiacos, 2nd PAOK FC, 3rd Skoda Xanthi
Hungary: 1st Ujpest FC, 2nd Debreceni, 3rd Szombathelyi Haladas
Israel: 1st Maccabi Netanya, 2nd Maccabi Haifa, 3rd Maccabi Tel Aviv
Italy: 1st Lazio, 2nd Udinese, 3rd Internazionale Milan
Macedonia: 1st FK Vadkar, 2nd FK Makedonija, 3rd FK Renova
Moldova: 1st FC Sheriff Tiraspol, 2nd FC Zimbru Chişinău, 3rd FC Dacia Chişinău
Montenegro: 1st FK Grbalj, 2nd FK Budućnost Podgorica, 3rd FK Mogren
Netherlands: 1st FC Groningen, 2nd PSV, 3rd NAC Breda
N. Ireland: 1st Crusaders, 2nd Linfield, 3rd Glentoran
Poland: 1st Wisla Krakow, 2nd Legia Warsaw, 3rd Polonia Warsaw
Portugal: 1st Porto, 2nd Nacional, 3rd Leixoes SC
Romania: 1st FC Dinamo Bucureşti, 2nd FC Steaua Bucureşti, 3rd FC Unirea
Scotland: 1st Celtic, 2nd Rangers, 3rd Kilmarnock
Serbia: 1st FK Partizan, 2nd FK Vojvodina, 3rd OFK Belgrade
Slovakia: 1st MFK Kosice, 2nd MSK Zilina, 3rd Slovan Bratislava
Slovenia: 1st NK Maribor, 2nd NK Nafta Lendava, 3rd NK Domžale
Spain: 1st Valencia, 2nd Villareal, 3rd Sevilla
Switzerland: 1st FC Zurich, 2nd FC Basel, 3rd FC Aurau
Turkey: 1st Trabzonspor, 2nd Bursaspor, 3rd Besiktas JK
Ukraine: 1st Dynamo Kiev, 2nd FC Metalurh Donetsk, 3rd FC Metalist Kharkiv
Wales: 1st The New Saints, 2nd Rhyl FC, 3rd Llanelli AFC
Can the premature leaders retain their position at the summit of the tables? When the majority of the seasons are only around six or seven matches old, any assumptions are definitely too early to conclude but a salient commence to the new campaign is on every manager’s wish-list. Early season blues and despondency ensure the managerial merry-go-round is constantly in full operation as owners hit the panic buttons and opt to bring in fresh personnel at the club’s helm.
Keep a closeful eye over the season as the action unfolds - we will track the progress of Europe's leaders throughout the season.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Currently sitting on nine points after seven matches, the Macedonian title holders still remain unbeaten but crucially it has been their inability to turn matches into their favour. Rivalry between the leagues’ most recognised and prosperous clubs is set to be renewed as FK Vadkar targets a sixth title triumph. The five-time victors sit in pole position at the top of the table, having won all but one match with a total of 15 points – and a remaining game over the majority of the division. Rabotnicki’s irregular start to the season will need to be taken full advantage of by their close rivals, as they finished in top-spot by a comfortable margin of 13 points last term. FK Vadkar will be desperate to prevail as winners after enduring a disappointing season that only bared 4th place - stranded mid-table and a vast 33 points off first-place.
While the favourites tag still lies strongly with Rabotnicki, neutrals can expect an entertaining season to unfold – and don’t discount the emergence of a new champion, as FK Makedonija stand in second place with the view of breaking Rabotnicki’s recent hold of the Macedonian title crown.
Key Players: Boban Jančevski has already topped the goalscoring charts with seven goals, and if he can replicate the form he produced in 2006-07 with 26 goals then FK Vadkar will claim their first domestic title since 2003. Brazilian duo César de Brito and Washington are vital to the success of underdogs FK Makedonija.
Crucial Encounter: Rabotnicki host FK Vadkar, the team threatening to displace them as champions, on Sunday October 19.