Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Premier League Refs Prove Fitness With Heart Rate Monitors

As many fans will know, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has never been one to shy away from sharing his opinions on the match officials, but his comments during 2009 outraged referees - and indeed many football fans - across the country with his claims that Premier League referee Alan Wiley was “was not fit enough for a game of that standard” following his sides failure to beat Sunderland at Old Trafford earlier this season. His claim was particularly infuriating for the men in black as there personal fitness is under constant scrutiny from the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) and the Premier League itself. Like many of the top players in England today, referees at the highest level are now using heart rate monitors to measure their fitness on a match to match basis, with one of the countries leading suppliers Polar apparently offering trade rate prices to encourage there uptake amongst the English game’s top football referees. Following Ferguson's comments to the media, the fitness of Premier League refs has been under even more scrutiny in the public eye, but the signs are that through such ongoing measurements of individual fitness performance, it seems the standard of fitness amongst the games top refs is set to remain high.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pressure Mounts on Tigers as Brown Fights For Hull Future

Hull City face another critical game this afternoon in the Premier League as they welcome Tony Pulis' tough tackling Stoke City to the KC stadium. Hull manager Phil Brown is under immense pressure to deliver 3 points following the recent boardroom shake up which has left the Tigers boss with a highly uncertain future at the North East club. Hull lie 19th in the Premier League table with only 3 league victories in 2009 - but a win today would see them climb out of the Premiership relegation zone and ease the pressure on the manager under who's reign the club have experienced top flight football for the first time in their history. The Tigers are however sure to be inspired by the return of record purchase Jimmy Bullard from a catalogue of injuries that have limited his first team appearances for his new club. This afternoon will in fact be the battling midfielder's first start for the Hull City.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chelsea Send Warning To Tital Rivals Ahead Of Sunday Showdown At Anfield

Chelsea sent a major warning to title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United ahead of today's massive clash at Anfield by demolishing a poor Blackburn Rovers side at The Bridge. The Blues never moved out of third gear in their 5 - 0 victory over Rovers who saw their dreadful away form continue. A dominant performance from Chelsea hitman Didier Drogba and a continuation of England midfield star Frank Lampard's return to form swept aside a Blackburn outfit that must now face a further daunting away trip to Old Trafford next weekend. Ghana international Michael Essien also fired in from long range on an afternoon of total Chelsea domination, where The Blues could have racked up a cricket score. The 5 nil rout was in fact Chelsea's biggest ever win against the Lancastrians and sent them back to the Premier League summit ahead of Man United's visit to Anfield this afternoon. United can however go back to the top of the Premier League if they beat Rafa Benitez' struggling Reds this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Young Non European Footballers Still Struggle For Work Permits

This may come as very surprising news for fans of English football in the 21st century - particularly with so many foreign names flooding our professional leagues from the Premiership all the way down to League 2 - but it seems that even today, many young non European footballers are still encountering serious difficulties in settling in at their new clubs here in the UK. With the numerous top names earning big, big money in the English Premier League, it is easy to forget the problems that a young player may face when uprooting themselves and their young families to start a new life in English football.
Simple day to day things that we often take for granted can often be problematic in themselves, and barriers such as learning a new language, adjusting to the English culture and way of life, and the potential intimidation felt by “standing out” in what may often be predominantly English ethnic areas of the country can making settling into a new club very difficult. Add to this the problems of constant pressure from the English sporting press (particularly at the top level of the English game) and the possible difficulties with immigration and acquiring a work visa (which has proved problematic in recent years even for top established international players - such as Chelsea’s Alex) and you can understand that there are many factors that often go unconsidered by the average English football fan and the UK sports media.
While English clubs do have internal measures in place to try to help young players acclimatize to such conditions they can't account for every outcome, and naturally it will take time for foreign players to properly settle into their clubs. So please, before you start laying into your latest expensive foreign import on the terraces this weekend, put yourself in their position and spare some thought for the problems they may have encountered just to be able to pull on your team’s shirt.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

England Qualify For South Africa In Style - But Race For Tickets Is Yet To Begin

England last night completed their World Cup qualifying campaign with a fairly routine 3 - 0 win over Belarus at Wembley, thanks to a brace from giant England striker Peter Crouch and a goal from diminutive winger Shaun Wright-Phillips. An Excellent campaign - in which England have won nine of their 10 qualifying games - has seen the squad reach the World Cup finals in some style. However, as the England squad look forward to packing their bags for South Africa, the rush for fans to make their way to the finals has just begun. Tickets world cup 2010 are sure to be in high demand amongst English fans, as supporters once again dream of lifting what is arguably the biggest prize in international team sport for the first time since 1966. Much to the annoyance of the English public, South Africa 2010 tickets will be once again be in short supply through the English FA – certainly in comparison to the demand generated amongst supporters - and with many fans desperate to see their team in action during the tournament they are instead more likely to be set to seek South Africa 2010 packages elsewhere.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Barnes and Taylor Out At Tranmere

Manager John Barnes and his assistant Jason McAteer have been sacked by Tranmere. Former England legend Barnes and ex Liverpool star McAteer have been told that they were to have their contracts terminated by the club earlier this morning. Tranmere are currently sat in the League One relegation zone - and after a string of poor results in the league and their recent defeat in the Johnstone's paint Trophy earlier in the week, it seems that the Tranmere board have finally lost patience with Barnes and his regime. The decision brings to an end another turbulent period in the short but eventful managerial career of John Barnes - after an equally brief and difficult spell with Scottish giants Celtic resulting in his dismissal in February 2000. The club have taken the decision to put Physio Les Parry in as a caretaker manager to take temporary charge of Tranmere as they welcome Stockport this Monday night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blackburn Hit For Six By Rampant Gunners

Arshavin and Fabregas were once again in imperious form for their club as The Gunners dismantled Blackburn Rovers at The Emirates Stadium this afternoon. Arsenal ran riot in the second half against a Blackburn side low in confidence and suffering inconsistent form in the league this season. The home team once again produced some spells of incredibly stylish flowing football that can only be associated with this Arsenal side - who have become widely recognised as the most easy on the eye team in English football today. Arsenals attacking style proved too much for Rovers this afternoon, and the Lancashire battlers may well find themselves in the relegation mire come the end of the season. Arsenal however, will have much more lofty ambitions, as Arsene Wenger seeks to add a much needed trophy to all the accolades and qualities his young team clearly possess - and you may feel that with performances like this, who can stop them?

Pressure Mounts on Winless Keane While Tykes Resurgence Continues

Barnsley continued their battling bright start under new manager Mark Robins by beating Ipswich with a late winner at Oakwell in this weekends big Championship relegation six pointer. The former Rotherham boss has already started to turn the Reds' fortunes this season after taking the helm following the departure of Simon Davey earlier this season. John Macken scored a 96th minute goal for the Tykes after Town had earlier pulled level- but the Blues were ultimately destined to leave Oakwell with nothing folowing this crushing late defeat against their relegation rivals. Ipswich manager Roy Keane now faces ever increasing pressure from Towns supporters, who have yet to be treated to a single win in their eleven attempts in the Championship this season. Ipswich also therefore remain worryingly rooted to the bottom of the table with just 5 points on the board this season.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Portsmouth Appoint McAllister as Harts Assistant Manager

The latest news from the Premier League this evening suggests that Portsmouth have appointed former Leeds United legend Gary McAllister as Paul Harts Assistant Manager. The Premier League strugglers surely need all the help they can get after a disastrous start to their season in which they have so far lost every league game and are already staring down the loaded barrel of top flight relegation. The former Scotland international midfielder is sure to provide some valuable experience as the back up to Hart as his Pompey side seek to rally before Saturday's relegation six pointer against wolves at Molineaux. Portsmouth have faced a turbulent time this season on and off the field after a takeover and string of poor performances in the Premiership leave them without a point after 7 games.

Monday, September 14, 2009

UEFA Bottle It Over Eduardo Dive Ban

Arsenal forward Eduardo Da Silva was this evening celebrating after having his 2 match European ban lifted by the regions football governing body UEFA. The Croatian international had previously had the ban imposed upon him after seeming to tumble to the ground all too easily to win a penalty in his side's Champions League qualifying victory over Scottish rivals Celtic at the Emirates Stadium on the 26th of August. In spite of there appearing to be minimal contact, the Gunners' hitman won a penalty as Hoops keeper Artur Boruc slid out to meet him as he raced towards goal - causing UEFA to later investigate the incident, before imposing a 2 game ban on Eduardo for his apparent deception of the referee. However, after an Appeal from the North Londoners, the ban has now been rescinded - meaning that Eduardo will now be available to face Standard Liege on Wednesday evening in the opening game of Arsenal's Champions League campaign. Although Eduardo is by no means the first to face accusations of simulation in the modern game, UEFA's initial seemingly positive and forceful move of making a stand on the issue of diving is now looking rather embarrassing following today's U-turn - and is a decision that will surely send mixed messages to football clubs across the continent and raise serious football questions. Arsenal themselves had been the subject of a contentious penalty decision recently after England striker Wayne Rooney was accused of diving in their recent clash at Old Trafford. However, Wenger will surely be delighted to see the overturning of what he had initially described as a "deeply flawed" sanction on Eduardo.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ronaldo Straight Out Of The Blocks In Spain With Real Debut Strike

World football's hottest property Christiano Ronaldo got off to a flying start for his new club with a debut goal on the opening day of La Liga. Real Madrid's most high profile "Galactico" acquisition of the summer scored from the spot in a 3 - 2 opening day thriller against Deportivo to make a dream start to his football career at his self confessed dream club. Their remains incredible levels of expectation on the shoulders of the former Manchester United player and world player of the year after his incredible £80 million move from Old Trafford to the Bernabeu. But his opening day goal means he has now hit the ground running and opened his account with the Spanish giants. As soccer stars go, Ronaldo surely heads the list on the grandest of all stages, and Real fans will surely have much more to come from the multi talented Portuguese forward. They will certainly expect to win La Liga this season and their are also major expectations in the Spanish capital that the Champions League trophy will also make a return after a 7 year absense that has pained their passionate fan base.

Pearce and Hodgson Lined Up For London 2012 Team GB Roles

As the excitement continues to build across the world for the 2012 Olympics in London there is increasing speculation in the English sporting press regarding the olympic soccer tournament set to be held at Wembley stadium. My English Football Banter Blog earlier revealed how the Great British Team would be entering their first team for many years (although it is set to comprise of only English players) and there has been more recent speculation amongst the football hacks as to who will manage the British young guns at the London Games. As current England under 21 manager, Stuart Pearce has an excellent claim for the position - having led the side to the final of the under 21 European Cup recently. However, some sources suggest that Fulham boss Roy Hodgson may also be in the picture to lead team GB. The experienced gaffer has done a great job at Fulham turning them from relegation candidates to outsiders for European contention and has an excellent international pedigree. In any the case, whoever leads out the British team at the 2012 olympic soccer it is surely certain to be a great showcase of young footballing talent from around the world.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spurs Seal Deadline Day Bargain Buy To Land Kranjcar

Tottenham Hotspur sealed the deal on arguably the best value buy on transfer deadline today after securing the services of Croatian midfield maestro Niko Kranjcar from Premier League rivals Portsmouth. The 25 year old international completed a move thought to be in the region of just £2 million in the final moments of English football's famously frantic deadline day. Kranjcar will now rejoin former boss Harry redknapp at White Hart Lane who had previously brought the player to Pompey under his tenure on the South coast. Kranjcar becomes the third Croatian international at The Lane alongside defender Vedran Corluka and midfield playmaker Luka Modric - who has recently suffered a broken leg which will rule him out of Croatia's crucial qualifier against England at Wembley stadium later this week. Redknapp was quoted on BBC sport as being "really delighted" to land the player, adding that he beleived Kranjcar was a "fantastic player", and with Redknapp's lasting reputation as a great wheeler dealer in the transfer market, the Croat must surely be considered the real bargain buy of the summer in the 21st century football terms.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Davey Out At Barnsley After Fan Protest

Barnsley manager Simon Davey has left the club by mutual consent - thereby becoming the first managerial casualty of the English Championship season. A string of poor and abject performances by the Tykes has seen the pressure mount on Davey - and there were angry scenes as fans protested outside Oakwell stadium following the club's defeat to fellow Championship strugglers Reading on Saturday. Davey has managed to keep the South Yorkshire team in the Championship for consecutive seasons on a very limited budget and has built a multinational team that claimed the scalps of Liverpool at Anfield then Chelsea at Oakwell to reach the FA cup semi final. But a string of poor performances has seen the Reds grab only a solitary point against local rivals Sheffield Wednesday so far in this season's league campaign - scoring only once at home in the process. It was all too much for many supporters who left the ground early and continued aggressive and vocal demonstrations outside the ground following the game.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Carson Yeung Makes His Move To Close In On Birmingham Takeover

Carson Yeung finally showed his hand last night by making an official offer for Premier League new boys Birmingham City. There had been increasing speculation that the Hong Kong businessman (who already has significant financial interest in the West Midlands club after previously securing a 29.9% stake in the club around 2 years ago) was preparing such a bid and now Yeung has made his offer official. Yeung has tabled a £1-a-share offer to City's shareholders - valuing the club at around £85.5 million. If the take over bid is successful Yeung will seek to market the club in China and the far east in an attempt to grow its fanbase and create a well known international brand. By reaching global audiences the club could potentially secure their financial future in the long term. Yeung at this stage has suggested that he would like to keep current manager Alex McLeish at the helm, but with more money surely to become available for players there will be no doubt increased pressure on the Scot to spend wisely in order to keep the Blues in the Premier League, should Mr. Yeung's takeover be finalised.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

England's Subs Bench Fuel Amsterdam Fightback

England's substitutes gave head coach Fabio Capello a selection headache last night after inspiring a rousing fightback in Amsterdam. The Dutch found themselves 2 goals to the good at half time and seemingly cruising after dominating long periods of possession whilst England were often wasteful, giving the ball away cheaply on two many occasions. Indeed, England's sloppiness resulted in not only one but 2 first half goals for the home side. First, Rio Ferdinand's woeful attempted backpass allowed Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt the chance to steal in, before rounding keeper Rob Green and firing home - a truly poor error from one of England's senior players. If the first goal was disappointing for England then what was to follow would only serve to further frustrate the travelling supporters. Gareth Barry played a blind pass back towards his own defence allowing former Chelsea star Arjen Robben the chance to run at goal. England keeper Green did well to rush out and block Robben's effort, but was powerless to see Rafael Van Der Vaart convert the follow up.
England needed a wake up call at half time, and Capello sent on Jermaine Defoe at the break to push for goals. The Tottenham striker's impact was almost immediate. Frank Lampard helped on a long ball from the England back line, and Defoe showed great pace and an excellent first touch to race clear of the Dutch defence before expertly finishing in off the post. England looked more confident, and fellow substitute James Milner provided a good cross on 67 minutes for Defoe - who headed just over at the near post. However, the duo would later combine for England's second goal. Milner did well down the left hand channel, before providing a slide rule cross for Defoe to bundle in from close range on 77 minutes. The substitutes had injected new life into an England team that had looked short of confidence in the first half, with Carlton Cole also looking threatening with his excellent display of strength, pace and close control. The West Ham striker also went close himself - firing just wide after showing great skill to turn the Dutch defender inside then out. A much improved second half performance from England's bench must surely now give Fabio Capello food for thought about his best 11 for England's next World Cup qualifiers and beyond.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

England Boss Snubs Owen Again But Insists Door Is Still Open

England boss Fabio Capello has once again emitted striker Michael Owen from his latest England squad set to play against Holland in Amsterdam on Wednesday. Manchester United's new signing has regularly failed to inspire Capello under his tenure as England boss following a turbulent period in his career which has been dogged by long term injury and Newcastle's disastrous relegation from the Premier League last season. Owen's record for England remains prolific - the diminutive striker bagging 40 goals in just 89 matches for his country - but he has struggled with form and fitness in recent months and has had to face up to going from being the first name on the England team sheet to battling for a place in the squad. In spite of this latest emission however, Capello still insists the door is open for Owen, and suggests that the strikers arrival at Old Trafford provides the perfect platform for the player to prove he is once again ready for international football. Capello suggested that United will offer Owen the chance of Champions League football in order to prove he is once again ready to bang in the goals at the highest level. Owen was not the only big name striker missing out of the latest England squad however, with bean pole target man Peter Crouch also missing out in favour of Rooney, Heskey, Defoe and Carlton Cole.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Local Businessman Barry Moat Emerges As Front Runner For Newcastle United Takeover

Newcastle United have revealed that they harbour fresh hopes of finding a buyer to take over the club after local businessman Barry Moat expressed an interest in the North East outfit. The Fallen giants have recently had to face up to an uncertain future following their relegation from the English Premier League, owner Mike Ashley's ongoing indecision on selling the club and the seeming managerial merry-go-round that has dogged the club over the last 12 months. While doubts remain over the future of local hero Alan shearer's brief reign as manager of the Magpies, owner Ashley has recently made it clear that he is now desperate to offload the club following their relegation to the championship thus bringing an end to his turbulent period at the helm. Ashley was hoping to have a deal in place before the start of the new championship season which starts on Saturday, but it seems unlikely that in spite of renewed interest from Moat - who has previously invested his cash in the clubs youth system and academy facility - an imminent deal remains highly unlikely. It is understood that Ashley wants £100 million for the Magpies and is looking for a quick sale to recoup just a fraction of the overall funds he has already invested in buying the club and maintaining its Premier League transfer budget.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Famous Football Quotes: The Legend of Brian Clough

It is unlikely that very many fans of English League Football will have never heard or read one of the many famous football quotes attributed to the late, great Brian Clough. The legendary former Nottingham Forest and Derby County manager certainly never minced his words - and was arguably as famous for his outspoken, bullish personality and outrageous opinions of himself, his team mates, players and colleagues as he was for his long lasting reputation as one of the all time great managers in the long and fruitful history of the English game.

The release of "The Damned United" earlier this year (a film based on a semi factual novel about Clough's infamously brief tenure as manager of Leeds United) has brought back these famous football quotes and sayings - as well as the unique character of Old Big 'Ead - back into the public eye and newspapers (as if we could ever forget!) and has brought a little piece of Cloughy to a whole new generation of football fans. Below is a celebration of Clough's most famous (often funny, blunt and to the point) quotes that defined his career and personality, helping to make him the highly respected football legend he is today - a fitting tribute to one of the all time greats.

Clough on Clough

"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one"

"They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but I wasn't on that particular job"

" This is a terrible day.....for Leeds United" (after being sacked by the club after just 44 days in charge)
“Don't send me flowers when I'm dead. If you like me, send them while I'm alive.”
"The river Trent is lovely. I know because I have walked on it for 18 years."

Clough on Players

"I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up so I couldn't have hit him very hard" (on his subtle management of football hardman Roy Keane)

"The ugliest player I ever signed was Kenny Burns."

"We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right"

"Players lose you games, not tactics. There's so much cr*p talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes."
''That Seaman is a handsome young man but he spends too much time looking in his mirror, rather than at the ball. You can't keep goal with hair like that." (on former England and Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman)

Clough on Chairmen

“Football hooligans - well, there are 92 club chairmen for a start.”

"If a chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Man United Move in for Free Agent Owen

Latest reports in the English sporting press suggest that Manchester United now look set to complete a surprise move for former Newcastle and Liverpool striker Michael Owen. The diminutive striker's contract with The Magpies expired this summer and with the club unable to support his huge wage demands following their relegation into the English Championship, Owen left the club at the end of last season.

Several Premier League clubs have been chasing the services of the talismanic forward but it seems that the champions are to complete a shock deal that would see the talismanic foward move to Old Trafford to bolster Alec Ferguson's forward line after the loss of Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in the past few weeks. Owen's goal scoring record remains exemplary (including 40 goals in 89 games for England) but his ongoing injury problems have blighted his form and limited appearences in the last 2 years. However, it seems that United are ready to gamble on Owen who may see the move as a chance to get back into the plans of England coach Fabio Capello who has thus far overlooked owen during his reighn in charge of the Three Lions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

City Favourites in Race for Tevez Following United Announcement

It has emerged in the British sporting Press today that Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez has become the second big name to leave the Premier League champions in recent weeks - following Christiano Ronaldo’s record move to Spanish giants Real Madrid recently.

Following Manchester United’s official statement today that Carlos Tevez is now certain to leave the club, there is now growing speculation as to which of the high profile Premier League clubs chasing the striker will eventually land the mercurial talents of the dogged South American star. Title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool have reportedly been in the frame as they look to strengthen their squads for next season. However, in a move that will surely infuriate Man United fans the world over, it seems that Manchester City are now emerging as favourites to sign the player. Indeed, it seems that Carlos Tevez may now be set for the blue half of Manchester as he seeks pastures new in his already controversial career in English Football. City certainly have the financial clout to meet the Argentines huge wage demands - and having already acquired the services of both high profile signings Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz in recent weeks, they may seem an attractive proposition for Tevez.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Birmingham Target Barry Ferguson Transfer for Premier League Boost

Newly promoted Birmingham City are apparently in the transfer market for experienced former Scotland midfielder Barry Ferguson. The 31 year old Rangers star has been the talk and indeed target of a large number of clubs south of the border including relegated West Bromwich Albion - especially following the controversial moments that occurred for the player earlier in the season. The incident in question - which occurred on international duty - saw Ferguson make a moderately (or possibly very badly) disguised indecent gesture - which has ultimately led to the Scot legend losing the captaincy of his Scottish Premier League club. These developments have since alerted the attention of a number of scouts of top level English football clubs, but (The Baggies in particulars) failure to secure a deal following their former manager Tony Mowbray's swift exit to Celtic, have now seemingly left the door wide open for West Midlands rivals Birmingham City to openly steal in to hijack the deal. Indeed, in spite of securing the Scottish League title and Scottish FA cup for The Gers this season, with knowledge that their former captain and talisman is now entering into the last year of his current contract (and arguably twilight of his excellent career) it seems that Ferguson is surely set to seek pastures new in England - whether in the top flight of English football or in the Championship.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Liverpool Legend Barnes set for Tranmere Managers Job

Former Liverpool and England midfield sensation John Barnes is set for a return to professional football in the capacity of manager at another North West based club in Tranmere Rovers. The football League One side have been seeking a replacement after sacking Ronnie Moore at the end of last season, and see former Liverpool wing superstar Barnes as the ideal candidate.

Barnes will now leave his previous post as manager of the Jamaican national team - which he has held for around 8 months - to take over at Prenton Park with immediate effect. He will hope for greater success than during his last disastrous efforts at club management when North of the border at Glaswegian giants Celtic, where he was unceremoniously sacked after a string of poor results. His task will be to assemble a squad capable of fighting for a play off position in League one next season - and he will be under immediate pressure following his predessor's sacking for failing to complete the same aim by such a narrow margin last season.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fifa Confirms All English UK Football Team for 2012 Olympics

World football's governing body FIFA has now given the green light for Great Britain to put out an all English line up for their football team in the London 2012 Olympic games. The decision to allow the host nation for the games to include a British football team in world sport's centrepiece had previously courted a great deal of controversy amongst the home nations, as the governing bodies of Nothern Ireland, Scotland and Wales had all voiced understandable concerns that the move would compromise their independent status for other international football competitions - a sentiment seemingly put forward by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. However, a deal has now been brokered between the home nations and FIFA to allow the UK to put out an international Olympic team for the first time since 1972 - allbeit an all English one. The English players are now set to perform under the flag of Great Britain on a one off basis without compromise to any of the home nations international status, with the team expected to be compromised of home grown players all aged under 21.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Newcastle May Seek to Sell High Earners

The latest reports in the British tabloids suggest that Newcastle United are beginning to give serious thought to instigating the necessary preparatory measures to bring their expenditure in line with their impending Championship status following their devastating relegation from English Football's top flight on Sunday. The Toon slumped to a poor 1 - 0 defeat by Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday which confirmed their relegation in spite of Hull's home defeat to English Champions Manchester United by the same scoreline. This has inevitably forced the powers that be at St James' Park to start giving sincere thought to their massive payroll of players salaries - rumoured to have accounted for around 70% of the North East clubs £100 million turnover during the 2008 - 2009 season. Clearly this is unsustainable at championship level, and in spite of stars such as Damien Duff pledging their future to the club, departures of high profile playing staff look inevitable.

One name that in particular will surely alert the attention of Premier League managers is (possibly) former England striker Michael Owen who is now out of contract, and at a reputed £100,000 pounds per week in wages looks almost certain to seek pastures new in order to reignite his international ambitions. The 29 year old has been shunned so far by England coach Fabio Capello and is desperate to get back into contention for international selection following a nightmare injury plagues spell in the North East.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pressure Mounts on Championship Final Day

The final round of fixtures in the English Football Championship is set to commence this afternoon with a number of key issues yet to be finalised. Wolves have already taken the top spot in the league after a fantastic season which has seen them dominate almost throughout - playing some classy football in the process. However, there are 3 other clubs all vying for the second automatic promotion place this afternoon. The early kick off this afternoon sees 2 of these candidates face each other in a dramatic finally, with Reading set for a crucial clash with Birmingham at the Madejski Stadium. The visitors are currently in the driving seat in the race for second spot, and a win will ensure they bounce straight back into English football's top flight following the disappointment of relegation last year. Even a draw will be sufficient for the Blues, should Sheffield united fail to beat their old boss Neil Warnock's Crystal Palace side. The Blades themselves still have a shout for automatic promotion. The South Yorkshire outfit need a win, and also need Birmingham to avoid victory against third placed Reading.
At the bottom end of the Championship league table the equation is much more straightforward. Barnsley travel to Home Park knowing that a point against Plymouth will ensure their Championship status regardless of other results. Meanwhile Norwich - the only other possible candidate for the final relegation place - must beat already relegated Charlton at the Valley and hope The Tykes are beaten by Plymouth if they are to avoid joining their hosts and debt-laden Southampton in the depths of league 1 next season. It is sure to be a tense finish to what has been an excellent season - and with the play offs still to come their is bound to be further heartache for all fans of Englands second tier clubs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brazilian Cities Await FIFA's World Cup Decision

There has no doubt been a fever of excitement in South America following FIFA's decision to award the 2014 football world cup to Samba stars Brazil for the second time. Arguably the greatest and most exciting side in the competitions history - synonymous with all time soccer greats like Pele, the Brazilians football flair is nationally renowned and the nation has continued to produce world class stars including Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinhio and Kaka in recent years. FIFA is soon set to announce which of the 14 applicant cities are set to host international matches during the world cup in Brazil which is certain to give the perfect platform for a new galaxy of international Brazilian stars. While most people have been concerned with the quality of facilities that are currently in place in the region, my only personal hope is that England can at least qualify - at least we will then once again have the chance to once again be embarassed by some of the best players in the world!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shearer Issues Rallying Cry For Magpies

Newcastle Legend Alan Shearer has issued a rallying cry to his troubled Newcastle side following Saturdays draw at Stoke. The Magpies all time top scorer - currently in a temporary managerial position at the club - called on his team to fight to the wire in what promises to be a close relegation battle for Premier league survival. Shearer watched his side battle back well from a goal down at the Brittania stadium yesterday afternoon in a hard fought contest with a tough and competitive Stoke side - who have shown some promise in their stubborn and hard working performances at home this season. North-East born local boy Andy Carroll grabbed a late equaliser for Newcastle after Abdoulaye Faye scored against his former club in the first half. If Newcastle are to avoid the drop this season it is likely that they must do so (at least in the short term) without Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins who pulled out of the squad just before kick off with a groin strain.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Liverpool Suffer Gerrard Injury Blow

Liverpool's challenge for silverware this season has been hit by a second major blow in a week. After the embarrassing mauling at home by Chelsea in the Champions league quarter final first leg a few days ago, it has now emerged that the Kop hero Steven Gerrard has suffered a recurrence of a niggling groin injury which will limit his appearances in Liverpool's title run in. It has emerged in the UK tabloids today that he is unlikely to start in Saturdays premier league game against Blackburn, and may also miss the return leg against Chelsea at the bridge - a game in which Liverpool must score at least 3 times. This news must be a huge blow to morale of the Liverpool team following the crushing defeat at Anfield earlier in the week and leaves a young squad to whom every game is now crucial without their inspirational figurehead in midfield. While Liverpool need all but a miracle in the champions league, their recent Premiership form and poor results for title rivals United have reignited their slim hopes of snatching the biggest prize in English football away from the holders. However, this news may all but extinguish their realistic hopes of silverware this season.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Heskey to Miss Ukraine Qualifier

England target man Emile Heskey has revealed that he is set to miss Wednesday night's European qualifying match against Eastern Europeans Ukraine due to injury. The Aston Villa striker sustained a hamstring injury early in Saturdays 4 - 0 friendly win over Slovakia, having opened the scoring from close range only minutes earlier. Heskey will no doubt be a loss to Capello's England team, with his power and aerial strength proving an important outlet for the national side in recent months. There is little argument that the much maligned Heskey has consistently turned out strong performances for England over the past few months, proving an excellent foil for Wayne Rooney and proving a constant handful for opposing defenders.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Liverpool Shock United to Re-ignite Title Hopes

Liverpool re-ignited their slim title hopes with a thumping victory against the Premier League leaders at Old Trafford. United had taken the lead inside 20 minutes when Liverpool keeper Jose Reina had rashly rushed out from his line to meet the advancing Ji Sung Park - but only succeeded in felling the South Korean inside the area. United's Christiano Ronaldo smashed home the resulting spot kick and the title race was beginning to look dead and buried. But the visitors bounced back later in the first half when the lively Fernando Torres seized on a dreadful error from the usually solid Nemanja Vidic, before calmly placing the ball into the corner of the net beyond Van Der Sar. Torres was then involved in Liverpool's second just before half time. The Spanish striker slid the ball behind the united backline looking for Steven Gerrard but as the Liverpool captain bombed forward he was clearly taken down by United's Patrice Evra. Gerrard then dispatched the penalty to give the visitors a shock lead. Alex Ferguson tried to shake things up after the break, unleashing Berbatov, Scholes and Giggs with around 20 minutes to go but not long after their arrival Liverpool scored their third. Nemanja Vidic dragged down Gerrard on the edge of the box and being the last line of defense was duly shown a straight red card. Fabio Aurelio curled in the resulting free kick to send the traveling fans into raptures. United continued to chase the game but looked shell shocked - particularly when substitute Andrea Dossena lifted in Liverpool's 4th late in the game.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Famous Football Quotes

In the weird and wonderful world of football, players, managers and commentators alike are often renowned for their amusing quotes and sayings – which can frequently form a key part of their public persona. From the outspoken ramblings of the late Brian Clough to slips of the tongue by leading famous commentators such as John Motson - every fan across the world will have a favourite quote or 2 that sticks in their mind, and these are also often tied to their own personal recollections and memories of sporting events. Here are some of the best soccer quotes that I love, attributed to such greats of the game as Bill Shankly, Alex Ferguson and Brazillian superstar Pele. There are more famous football sayings and quotes by other famous figures from a number of other fields available to view online – see if you can recognise any connected to your club.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

United Claim Carling Cup After Penalty Drama

Manchester United remained on course for an incredible quintuple with a penalty shoot out victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. With the world club championship safely in the trophy cabinet and the Premiership title all but secured after Liverpools defeat at Middlesborough, the Red Devils held their nerve to beat the current holders Spurs after a goalless draw at Wembley. United put out a weakened line up but kept their composure in the shoot out after misses from Jamie O' Hara and David Bentley wrapped up yet another trophy for the Champions elect. United scored all four of their penalties to claim a 4 - 1 victory in the shoot out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

English Clubs Enjoy A Great Week in Champions League

After another great week of champions league action, all 4 English clubs involved in Europe's top club competition enjoyed a successful week. The best result undoubtedly belonged to Liverool, who without injured talisman Steven Gerrard still managed to claim an excellent 1-0 win in Madrid - including the all important away goal. Elsewhere, in spite of a dominant performance away from home, Manchester United had to settle for a creditable goalless draw against Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan side - but should still be favourites to progress with the second leg of the tie still to follow at Old Trafford. New Chelsea manager Guss Hiddink was delighted to claim a 1-0 victory at home against Italian giants Juventus through Drogba's early scuffed volley - but with the blues' solid defense you would expect them to hold firm in the away leg to go through. Arsenal's position is perhaps the most fragile of all the English clubs, in spite of a 1-0 win through Robin Van Persie's penalty. There away form and unpredictability this season may yet prove to be their downfall.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kinnear Feels Wrath of Charles "Insomnia" Backlash

Fans of football banter across the country have been physically unable to ignore the sheer hilarity of Newcastle Boss Joe Kinnear's inexplicable pronunciation of his former Winger Charles Nzogbia as "Charles Insomnia" in a press conference last week, but it seems the latest spat between the Newcastle manager and his former employee has now taken another twist. The £6 million Wigan midfielder today hit out at his former gaffer, branding Kinnear incapable of the job and accusing him of living in a "fantasy world." 22 year old midfielder Nzogbia also seemingly suggested that Kinnear was not helping him develop as a player at an important stage in his career, and that a lack of respect from his manager had left him with no choice but to seek pastures new. Kinnear has reportedly reacted angrily to the accusations, accusing the player of fantasising stories of his own, and stated that the Frenchman could do with "bringing down to earth" after claims he was wanted by a host of top clubs. Nzogbia is not alone in his public damning of his former boss, with new Manchester City keeper also sticking the boot into Kinnear last night. If JFK's job at Newcastle wasn't hard enough, it seems he is now set to continually face the wrath of his former employees in the public eye.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

English Football's Foreign Legion - Who have your club signed?

With the transfer window once again seeing English clubs grabbing talent from literally throughout the world, I was intrigued as to whether I could find website's which sold replica soccer jerseys for the huge variety of national teams that have been brought into the English league in the last month or so. Like many English football fans, I have been a long time collector of rare and unusual football shirts from across the globe and I already proudly sport the likes of Nepal and Bolivia in my wardrobe! Indeed, with the recent arrival of a Mexican international at my local club, I thought it would be fun to have a look online for the latest Adidas Mexico Away Jersey - particularly as I have never seen a Mexico shirt in a UK high street store before. I was glad to find it was actually a very attractive shirt and was available at a reasonable price, so I opted to have it shipped over from the US. When it arrived I was certainly not disappointed. It is not only a very comfortable kit to play in down at the local 5-a-side pitches (being made from Adidas' climacool material and having 3 quarter length sleeves gives it sufficient warmth for a UK winter whilst maintaining very good breathability) but also more significantly - it certainly turns heads down at the local pubs in Leeds! I can imagine a lot of Arsenal fans itching to get hold of the Russian national shirts after their acquisition of a certain Mr. Arshavin, so why not check them out online!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Robbie Keane's "Loan" to Liverpool Costs the Scousers £4.5 million per goal!

So another English Transfer window has come and gone - with deadline day once again proving as dramatic as ever. Even the intervention of a British economy in turmoil and some extreme snowy weather has seemingly proved a help rather than hindrance to English football's January sales, with many big moves across the country occurring within the FA's officially sanctioned extension of the transfer deadline. Arsenal's announcement of their final hour "extra time" transfer of £15 million Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin will no doubt dominate tomorrow's headlines, but please spare a thought for another deadline day move that will surely incense those suffering in the financial crisis gripping the UK even more: Robbie Keane's outrageous return to Tottenham. Now I'm no wall street banker, but selling a player that cost the club £20.3 million 6 months previously for £12 million (plus the small matter of a weekly wage reputed to be as high as £90,000 per week) does not seem to be a great financial move in today's troubled climate. After making just 19 appearances and netting just 5 times for Liverpool, I would conservatively estimate that each of those goals will have cost the Reds in the region of £4.5 million PER GOAL! Rafa has spoken out this evening on his apparent justification for such a waste of transfer kitty. However, it seems that this is just another step towards the Liverpool boss finally losing his marbles.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blues Chase Bellamy

The latest reports regarding English football's January transfer window suggest that Manchester City have made a new improved bid for West Ham United forward Craig Bellamy. The Blues have inevitably been linked to a vast array of names following their takeover by the multi million pound Arabian consortium Abu Dhabi United Group in the summer. City manager Mark Hughes has made no secret of his intentions to add to his squad during January, with England international left back Wayne Bridge already added to the roster this month, signing from Chelsea for a fee thought to be in the region of £12 million. It is understood however that West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola and the Hammers have rejected City's bid for their 29 year old star - thought to be in the region of £9 million - claiming that he has no intention of letting any of his first team squad leave Upton Park. If Bellamy were to go, he would remain cup tied in the FA cup having played in the Hammers' 3 - 0 third round victory over Barnsley. However, with such a huge transfer budget available and with rumours of financial instability rife at Upton Park, Zola may have his hands tied should City up their big again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

United Crush Below Par Blues

This afternoon's clash at Old Trafford was built up to be the fixture of the Premier League season so far - it wasn't. The only highlight of a scrappy first half saw Nemanja Vidic heading in just before the break. The big Serb's goal dented the hopes of an unambitious Chelsea line up - who had seemingly been given instructions by Scolari not to concede at all costs, and had done very little to threaten Van Der Sar's goal. The blues showed little sign of improvement in the second half, even the arrival of in form striker Anelka having little impact as he continually failed to link up with Drogba. Even the great Frank Lampard proved unusually ineffective and the game was virtually killed dead when a fired up Wayne Rooney - who had earlier kicked out at Chelsea full back Bosingwa - converted Patrice Evra's cross. A late Berbatov goal piled the misery on the visitors, who have looked out of sorts in recent weeks. It may be too easy to say that Chelsea's title hopes are over but any further abject displays such as this one and they will surely be dead and buried.