Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Moral Maze

It certainly looked like Steven Gerrard dived to win a penalty last night. In this piece, Terry Butcher points out that there was no contact (he doesn't really condemn it if you read what he says). Ian Wright says "Other teams will do it against us so why don't we do it?".

My answer to that is, because it makes us no better than them. Stepping off my high horse (unusually), what do you think. Should England's players dive and attempt to gain an unfair advantage ? Or play it fair and do the best they can ?

In essence, would you prefer England to win the World Cup by diving, or lose by staying on their feet ? I'd rather we lost, and the same goes for QPR. Is that just me ?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Zut Alors

All is not well in the French camp. Barracked by the Parisian crowd after beating Mexico 1-0, Thierry Henry was one player who couldn't seem to understand why.

The reason why is that, as noted previously on this blog, their coach is a mentalist. On top of his Mystic Meg stylings, popular opinion has it that Zidane, on his return to the squad, is exerting too much influence over who is selected (which would be any influence at all). Thus, in particular, Barthez is the choice in goal ahead of the younger and more highly rated Coupet ; the ineffective Dhorasoo (one of the players getting the stick in Paris) is in the squad ahead of Barcelona's Guily ; and, most unbelievably of all, Premiership laughing stock Boumsong is in the squad, while one of Serie A's most respected defenders Mexes is left out entirely.

What fascinates me about this is that in France they get a bit of grief off the crowd and the players are whingeing about it, but that seems to be more or less it. Can you imagine what the response would be over here if Ericsson, reportedly under the influence of Beckham, openly discussed picking players on the basis of their astrological sign, and ended up selecting, ooh I don't know, Nigel Martyn ahead of Paul Robinson and Titus Bramble ahead of John Terry. I think someone would actually string him up. The tabloids would have a bounty on his head.

Bottom line : lay France jusqu'à ce que les vaches viennent à la maison (yay Babelfish !)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Way Forward

So this is how to do it. I expect I will forget to sacrifice a goat at the next full moon and so those will be the only good tips the spirit world will ever give me. It's a slippery slope anyway. A slippery slope .... to Hell !!! Buwahahahahaha. Etc.

I ought to add up the total bets but I can't be arsed. I think with those playoff winners I made a small profit in the normal course, plus the Birmingham relegation bet which was a big one for me. Hooray ! And thus concludes the domestic season.

Just in time for the World Cup, which I must admit I am starting to look forward to. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the last one, most of which was at ridiculous times in the morning, and at the time I had what might be loosely called a life. No such distractions now. Needless to say I will be casting the runes again and coming up with some bets. No, lots of bets. I'm going to need some funking interest to get me through those last two weeks at work.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Football Gambling For Wusses

You expect to see various World Cup fantasy football things but this one on BBC Sport is really strange. Apart from being hideously complicated, the main basis on which your picks score points is not for humdrum stuff like scoring goals and winning games, as the naive observer (like me) would think, oh no. Teams score points on the basis of how much press coverage they receive.

Yes, really. How many square centimetres of match report in various newspapers. I was utterly perplexed by this until it was explained to me this is usually done with celebrities in a sort of points for media coverage kind of way. After that I was only a little less perplexed. That makes a degree of sense because until the day when Celebrity Deathmatch becomes real instead of animation (and we all pray for that day to come), there's no other way of measuring how celebrities compete with each other.

In football though, we have these things called games where teams try to get the ball in the net against each other and the team who does it most wins. And it's all set up so that the teams who do this the best progress in what we call a "World Cup". This is all too bizarre. This compared to actually betting on football is like play money poker compared to the real thing. Without the money it just isn't the same. It all paints the picture of some fantasy football type nerd watching England beat Brazil 5-4 completely unmoved, then opening the paper next day, punching the air and shouting "Yes ! 14 column centimetres !"

Monday, May 22, 2006

Do Shut Up (Number 345346534)

Bobby Charlton today :

"I think it [the shortage of strikers in the England World Cup squad] is one of the problems with having so many foreign players in the Premier League nowadays. We can't put restrictions on foreign players as such, but it would be good to have some sort of system in place. Perhaps making sure there are three home-grown players in every team would improve things."

Which would mean restricting the number of foreign players to eight ? As such ? Or am I missing something ?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

That's Nice For You

Michael Owen is off again. It is beneficial to him that he's spent most of the last two months going "Ooh, I don't know, it's still a bit sore" when Newcastle had to play Ameobi and Chopra up front. But now, in another interview this week he also said "If the World Cup started tomorrow, I'd be fit".

Yes, we know. If the World Cup had started a month ago you'd have been fit too. Owen comes across, to me, as a selfish and weak person. Laurie Cunningham passed away recently ; one tribute paid to him was by Ron Atkinson [1]. Cunningham was on loan at Manchester United in 1983, trying to rebuild his career after injury. He seemed fit and was playing in the team. However, in the run up to the Cup Final against Brighton, he approached Atkinson (the manager) and said that he knew he wasn't fully fit and, as much as he wanted the play in the final, he felt that he wouldn't do the team justice if he did.

Can you imagine Owen doing that ? England had problems in 2002 with players declaring themselves fit when they weren't. I was on a train after the Charlton-Newcastle game I went to recently and a Toon fan said "I'm sick of Owen. He only ever talks about England". I could see his point. Newcastle have been paying him massive wages to basically use the club as a glorified gym. The bravest and strongest thing to do is to declare yourself fit when, and only when, you are fit. Not when it suits you.

[1] Yes, there is a certain amount of attendant irony.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Gaining The Advantage

Quick question. If the Daily Mail's panel of 5 managerial experts [1] all believe that Arsenal would rather have been 1-0 down than down to 10 men after 20 minutes, then doesn't it follow that allowing the goal to stand would not have been playing the advantage ? And thus, the referee made the right decision ?

[1] Bryan Robson, David O'Leary, David Pleat, Dave Bassett and Graham Taylor. Was Steve Bruce not available ?

Update : Football 365 printed my Email to the same effect. Hooray for me !

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Big Sigh Of Relief

Dennis Wise to manage Swindon Town.

Maybe he's not that bad a manager but I really didn't want someone running the shop at QPR who I have so little respect for. I felt the same when Vinny Jones arrived as a player (and look how that turned out).

There will be a lot of turns on the managerial merry-go-round this summer, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I'm throwing my (not inconsiderable :-)) weight behind Gary Waddock, I'd like to see him take the job permanently (in as much as any managerial job is permanent, ie not very).

Decent game last night while I'm here ; it's perplexing that they appointed a referee who isn't considered good enough to go to the World Cup, and he wasn't the best. IMPO Arsenal benefitted from his largesse just as much as Barcelona did and the better team won.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Prefer Extortion - The X Makes It Sound Sexy

As predicted, the council election results boded ill for Barnet. Here's the story. Salient extract is :

"Chairman Tony Kleanthous has been set a series of conditions by the local council to continue to use a road at the side of the ground for traffic. Without the access the road provides, Underhill no longer meets Football League ground criteria. The club have to tell the League where they will play home games next season by next week's deadline. The council have asked the club to pay £100,000, provide a covenant never to build on Underhill and pay maintenance costs on the road."

In any other walk of life, this would be called blackmail. Or, as the title suggests, extortion, which sounds sexier. Fortunately the Council leader has just been ousted, hopefully blubbing in the style of Mrs Thatch or that charming man who runs Juventus, and maybe the club can deal with someone sane who might appreciate what they do for the community.

Phoenix From The Flames

This is a great idea. If you can't see the link, the QPR website are asking people to recreate famous QPR goals with their mates in the park, and send in the videos.

My most memorable QPR goal is Trevor Sinclair's overhead kick against Barnsley, I'd love to see someone play that out without doing themselves a major injury. If only I had a video camera. And some friends.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cup Final Day

This was such an exciting time of year as a football-mad kid. FA Cup Final, European finals - you might get to see 3 live games on TV in two weeks ! Talk about saturation. Now of course you can usually catch 3 live games in two days if you can stand it.

I didn't bother finding a place to watch Middlesboro's luck run out. Classic example of a team over-achieving to reach a final and being hammered by better opponents who weren't satisfied with simply being there. And by the way, stop saying that Steve McLaren must be good to get such a poor side to a UEFA Cup final. He's been there long enough and spent enough money. Whose poor side is it ?

Today though I might make the considerable effort to watch it in the gym next door. It does follow straight after my Saturday afternoon yoga class [1]. Can West Ham overcome the psychological disadvantage I mentioned above - being the underdog in a situation where they've overachieved just to be there ? If anyone can, they can have a go. Pardew has slowly risen and risen in my estimation over the course of the season. The Hammers have gone out and had a go, and it's paid off. They've played well in the notoriously difficult pre-Cup final games, not least in sending Spurs back to their sick beds [2]. I have to favour Liverpool, but not at the odds on offer. The standout bet for this final was Wembley not being ready in time. Another opportunity missed.

[1] A couple of weeks ago, the end of class meditation was somewhat disrupted when Arsenal equalised against Spurs.

[2] I know this is the work of the board and not Jol, but is it not now clear that the problem was a virus, not food poisoning ? And as such don't Tottenham at least owe the Marriott an apology ?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

As Good A Way As Any Other

I have pierced the veil and the spirits of the other world spake unto me in ethereal tones. Naturally their messages were cryptic and obscure, however I'm fairly sure that the correct interpretation is Barnsley and Cheltenham, 4 points each on the nose. I have spoken.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Surpise Surprise

I was just talking about how I can't be arsed at work seeing as I'm leaving soon. Is Sven-Goran Eriksson doing the same thing ? Did he get up to about 20 and think, ah what difference, Jenas Hargreaves and Walcott that'll do.

When the day comes it's usually the first XI that matters, not seat numbers 21-23 on the plane. Having said that Mills and Sinclair ended up playing most of the games in 2002, and doing reasonably well I thought. However, the fact that England's striking options are currently Rooney (definitely crocked), Owen (quite possibly crocked), Crouch (Bambi On Ice) and Walcott (last seen missing a sitter at Loftus Road in February) does cause an eyebrow to be raised. If not two.

Reading between the lines Eriksson must think, not unreasonably, that the likes of Defoe and Bent just aren't good enough so what's the point in taking them. Although the same logic does not seem to have been applied to Jenas and Hargreaves. Could it be that Sven is planning to play Gerrard as a second striker ? If so I might understand it. If not, God only knows what's going to happen. My advice about just cracking a beer, having a laugh and seeing what happens rings more true than ever.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Never In Doubt

Barnet steered clear of the drop by a massive 5 places in the end and, as predicted, stormed to 18th in their division compared to Rangers' 21st. Hopefully the Bees can push on next year, one point in their favour is that they have a lot of young players who are still improving. I can't seem to find out what happened in the local elections on Thursday though, maybe it's not been counted yet ?

What a game it must have been at Oxford, 2-2 with 20 minutes left, Oxford needing a win to stay up and Orient needing a win to assure promotion (at the time, they didn't in the end). Predictably enough someone was going to score and the O's nicked it, which I was quite pleased about because they are the best team I've seen in that division this season and they deserve a bit of sun on their backs.

Southend and Colchester closed the deal in League One, two clubs I visited more than once when I lived dahn Essex way, well done to them. I have to say though it is slightly reassuring for Rangers' prospects next season that I really can't see the three promoted sides (whoever wins the playoffs) making any impact.

I will ponder the League One and Two play-offs tomorrow, perhaps consulting a Ouija board or the I Ching. Preston have the better of their tie with Leeds after drawing at Elland Road, but can anyone stop Watford ? They demolished Palace in the second half today by all accounts. Could they hold on to Adrian Boothroyd if they were promoted ? And does anyone know of any more Boothroyd-like managerial geniuses in waiting ? We shall see.

Oh Nooooooooooo

"Dennis Wise is a leading contender to be named Queens Park Rangers manager - if the former Chelsea and Millwall man wants the job. (The Sun)"

I've been sitting here thinking about this for 10 minutes and I cannot conceive of anyone who would be worse. Please please please let this be Sun tabloid bollocks.

Friday, May 05, 2006

It's The Play-Offs !

The Football League almost put one past me by starting the Championship play-offs before Leagues One and Two have even finished. Fortunately I noticed just in time so lets bet on, ooh I don't know, Preston how about that. They're hard. 4 pts @ 3.5 .

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And They Say He Can't Play

41:44 GOAL - Robbie Savage
Blackburn 1 - Chelsea 0
Handball by Njitap Geremi (Chelsea). Njitap Geremi (Chelsea) booked for unsporting behaviour. Free kick crossed right-footed by Robbie Savage (Blackburn) from right wing, headed goal by Robbie Savage (Blackburn) (bottom-right of goal) from left side of six-yard box (6 yards).Blackburn 1-0 Chelsea.

Brought to you by BBC Sport, for your licence fee today.