Despite His White Boots

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

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Charlton 2 Bolton 0

Bolton will be kicking themselves all the way back to, erm, Bolton for not winning this game comfortably, never mind losing it 2-0. Or, to be more accurate, Big Sam will be kicking them all the way back. Even before Hreidarsson was sent off, the visitors were in complete control. Stelios missed two great chances, either side of Bent failing to beat just a defender on the line from 10 yards. Into the second half and Bolton finally seemed to have made the breakthrough when Diouf was felled by the ponderous Faye, who would surely have been sent off had Hreidarsson not gone before him. However, Diouf's penalty was well saved by Carson. Out of nothing, Reid suddenly played Bent in and Ben Haim pulled him back. Another pen, and this time Bent made no mistake.

Referee Dean then evened the score by sending Kevin Davies off for another apparent elbow, much to the home fans' delight, and Bent latched on to a Hasselbaink flick-on from a huge punt to seal the match. Despite the result, Bolton looked comfortably the better side, with Campo imperious in midfield against Charlton's rag-tag scufflers Faye and Hughes. How the latter in particular holds down a Premiership place I'll never know. I might devote a separate post to Darren Bent, let's just say for now that if he's a one trick player, it worked today, but I wouldn't put much on him repeating last year's goal tally. Nor would I invest much faith, or more importantly money, in Charlton having a good season. It could be a long one for them and they'll do well to count themselves lucky today and try to improve the squad before the window expires. Bolton I will reserve judgement on until I see exactly how they're going to fit Anelka into their system - I'm scratching my head. Maybe they'll change it to suit him, it will be interesting to see what they do. Big Sam's no mug, and I'm sure he's got something specific in mind.

Update : It turns out that Kevin Davies suffered a fractured cheekbone in the incident where Hermann Hreidarsson was sent off. Whether it was deliberate or not (if asked to call it, I would have said it was, but what do I know) I hope a few of the many Charlton fans who booed Davies after the incident will read that and have a look at themselves.

Friday, August 25, 2006

QPR 1 Ipswich 3

Same old same old. Bottom of the league ? Don't know where your next point's coming from ? Just come to Loftus Road, bring the Sky cameras with you and you'll be fine.

If you were interested in this game you might have seen it yourself ; I wasn't sure I was going to go but I'm glad I did, even though we lost, it wasn't a bad game. You can't really complain when the oppo score three and hit the woodwork twice, it was just annoying that the game turned on the most blatant dive, he did everything but clasp his hands together ready to break the waves. Rangers were a bit pants after the equaliser though, and having seen a win and a loss, I would say they look a bit 15th-y. Should have enough to stay up, but missed Rowlands and especially Ainsworth badly tonight. Replacements Gallen and Lomas look ready for the porch/rocking chair/slippers combo on tonight's showing. Stewart had a better game though, and looks like he could be a good defender with a bit more experience and general nous.

It's a double header for me this weekend, Charlton-Bolton tomorrow, which doesn't stir the blood immediately I admit but who knows, stranger things have happened. At least it only costs £21 instead of the £30 I paid tonight. How do they do that ? It can only be years of prudent, competent long-term management. I wish Rangers had thought of that.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Those Damn Rules Again

Loath as I am to agree with Harry Redknapp, I thought that Ben Thatcher's challenge on Pedro Mendes last night was terrible, and well worth at least a three match ban. Mostly because it was a coward's challenge ; the ball was clearly going out and Mendes wasn't even looking at Thatcher, he was following the ball. Thus he couldn't defend himself.

However, this is what FIFA have to say :

"It is one of the fundamental rules of the game that the referee's decision is final. Therefore, if it is his decision that an offence warrants a yellow card, that cannot be changed later."

First of all, this is bollocks. For sure the referee's decision is final in terms of that game ; no one is suggesting that the game should be replayed or anything like that. Red cards are overturned regularly on video evidence ; Andy Todd had a suspension cancelled only this week. Also I'm fairly sure that if the referee takes no action on the day, suspensions can still be applied. So we have the ridiculous situation that if the ref had done nothing, Thatcher could be banned ; if the ref had sent him off, obviously he would be banned and could have the ban extended from the norm ; but because he gave him precisely a yellow card, he's off scot free. If that is the law, then the law is an ass.

The funny thing is though, the last time I suggested that the rule book should be thrown out in unusual circumstances in a football context was when David Beckham deliberately got himself booked by kicking ... Ben Thatcher. Neither irony nor karma I admit, but a strange coincidence.

Update : Hats off again to Stuart Pearce for this quote : "[Thatcher] is disgusted with himself and there is no way I, or anyone at my club, can defend it. People are having a go at him but, in all honesty, he has not got a leg to stand on."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Juventus Still Appealing

Well, obviously they aren't [1]. A statement today said "Relegation will, above all, gravely damage the identity of Juventus,". Above all ? Really ? Playing in Serie B for a season or two is more damaging to your identity than, I don't know, being a bunch of cheating cunts ?

Juventus may have had titles stripped and medals returned but to my logical mind, this isn't enough. Not all the brackets have been closed. For example, players still have happy memories of victory parades through the merry streets of Turin. In order to reverse this, all the same players, and the bent officials of course, should be made to go on "parades of shame" through the cities of the clubs who were runners up in the particular seasons. The joyous fans of their opponents could then pelt them with rotten fruit, chicken heads etc. Unless those clubs themselves were also implicated, and they'd end up having to do it in Foggia or somewhere like that. Which is most likely, given the state of Italian football. As Noel Coward said in The Italian Job "you're only supposed to blow the bladdy doors off", er I mean, "Camp Freddie - everybody's bent".

[1] This joke is the reverse of Jose Mourinho's statement that Chelsea will be "more offensive" this season.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Barnet 3 Hereford 0

A goal glut at Underhill. By Barnet standards anyway. The first half was meandering along much like the Torquay game when the Hereford defence went AWOL and allowed Grazioli all the time in the world to thread his shot into the corner (couple of good class B cliches there). Barnet still didn't threaten particularly but fortunately the Bulls made the Bees look like Real Madrid going forward, they were utterly toothless. Nicky Bailey, who really should be playing at least a division higher even allowing for my pro-Barnet bias, scored a fine second after a trademark mazy run, and Jason Puncheon surprised everyone, not least himself, by curling in a third right on time. Even allowing for home advantage Hereford were very poor and surely this is one team Barnet can finish above. If we can find another we're laughing. Finally on this game a teaser for you : which one-time million pound player was a Hereford substitute today ? And which mugs paid a million for him ?

On a totally unrelated topic, a decent point for Rangers today although it's always disappointing not to win after leading for most of the game. Extrapolating as necessary through the QPR website's report that "Preston probably deserved a point", I can only conclude that they battered us for the second half. Perhaps Dan can let us know how the game went ?

And in the latest installment of "I Spit On Your Television", two bonuses today. Firstly I can watch Premiership goals and snippets in reasonable quality on my phone for £5 a month. Not bad. Unfortunately the battery conked out before I saw them all but it's nearly charged again now. And so I can report that, amongst other happenings, there certainly was a foul on Kevin Davies' goal ; Liverpool's penalty looked highly suspect ; but Everton's was an absolute joke, it hit Powell right in the face. Hats off to Reading for winning 3-2 from 0-2 down, what a first game in the top flight !

The second bonus is that Talk Sport have replaced their phone-in host Patrick whathisname, along with the morning guy Adrian Durham. I felt that both of them tried too hard to be angry and controversial just to wind callers up, something that about 80% of Talk Sport's overall coverage seems to be devoted to doing. Micky Quinn's new strike partner on the evening show is 80s throwback Terry Christian, who you would think would be really annoying, but I enjoyed the show a lot. Two things, he was honest, and unafraid to say that a) he doesn't care about England and b) TV scheduling of games is a pain in the arse. Whether his employers, who also own Sky TV, will allow him to peddle this line in future remains to be seen ! And the other great plus point was that he was really came across as wanting to have a laugh and treat football as entertainment which, many seem to have forgotten, is basically what it is. It's not the legendary Baker and Kelly but it's a tremendous improvement on Alan Green and his miserable cohorts.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Oh Go On Then

Like last year, the secret to deriving any entertainment from the top of the Premiership is to ignore Chelsea. If only they were still in mid-table obscurity where they belong. Or even bankrupt, though we'll just have to be patient on that one.

Dismissing them with an airy wave of the hand, there's very little between Arsenal, Liverpool and United according to the market. However I have a clear preference for Liverpool. I think they've bought good players, Bellamy especially. I don't know much about Kuyt but he's certainly going to give them another option up front and anything that keeps Crouchaldinho on the bench a bit longer can't be bad. Arsenal and United are still in transition, and frankly I do think that Ferguson is finally losing it. Shelling out £15m+ on Carrick and then trying to do the same with Hargreaves doesn't make any sense. As far as I can make out they only have Rooney and the injury-prone Saha up front and that can't be enough.

Enough talk, 2 points (new season 10x points) on Liverpool to win the Premiership (betting W/O Chelsea) @ 2.9 .

Monday, August 14, 2006

Straight Back Down

There's something very strange going on with Watford and I can't work out what it is. When they clinched the signing of Big Dan I thought I'd have a look on Betfair and if they were say 3-1 to stay up I'd maybe have a punt. To my surprise they were only about 11-8 (that is 8-11 to go down). This is so far away from what I was expecting that I've gone the other way and backed them to be relegated. That just can't be right. How can that be right ?

Of course I respect Boothroyd and what he did last year but he's not a miracle worker. Wigan and West Ham were surely exceptions last year rather than the harbingers of a new trend. On the market, Wigan, Fulham and Charlton are the three established Premiership teams around 4-5 to drop out this year. Charlton I think will be fine, and while I could see Wigan and/or Fulham struggling, it just doesn't add up to me. The Times today said it would be "the biggest shock in recent years" if Watford could survive, and while I maybe wouldn't go as far as that, it sounds more like it's in the ballpark to me.

In line with my policy this season of betting bigger and more selectively, 50 points on the nose Watford to be relegated @ 1.72 . Or, if you prefer, 5 points but a point is 10 times bigger than last season :-)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

QPR 2 Southend 0

So what's the problem ? Three points for the Rs for the first time since February 23rd, according to my phone. And it should know.

I have to say that the build-up and opening stages of this game were rather odd. First of all "ex-Ranger Gary Chivers" [1] came on to the pitch before the game, his task being to measure the volume of the crowd as the teams came on. Apparently this will be done at all 92 league ground in some kind of competition to see who is the loudest. Frankly I'm not too confident that QPR v Southend (att 12000) will trouble the scorers here.

Next, and I'm not making light of this, it was just odd, there was to be a minute's silence for Kiyan Prince, a youth team player who died in May. I read on the website that the parents had requested a minute's silence rather than a minute's applause, and that's how it was announced. However about 5% of the crowd started applauding, and then everyone else felt obliged to join in, which I felt uneasy about but what can you do.

On with the game and Rangers debutant Dexter Blackstock was booked for diving in the first attack. Could be some kind of record. Rangers turned up the heat, the crowd warmed up and were soon chanting for manager Gary Waddock to "give us a wave". Which he did, from the directors' box. Unfortunately most of the Loft didn't see him, and could only see the bench all sitting there apparently ignoring them. So they tried twice more, twice Waddock waved (more desperately each time it seemed), and finally they gave up with a few halfhearted boos, which was all a bit crap as well.

Fortunately for all concerned, I'm sure this was forgotten when Rangers started playing really well. Cook, Ainsworth, Ward and Blackstock ran the Shrimpers defence a merry dance, with Rowlands pulling the strings and having the best game I've seen him play in central midfield. And it was he who showed them all how to trouble the onion bag by blattering in a free kick on the half hour. 10 minutes later Ray Jones' prodigous leap set Nick Ward up for a tap in and all was rosy in the garden of QPR.

Southend, no doubt considering themselves fortunate to still be in the game, played well in the second half but Eastwood is either completely over-rated or was having an off day. Rangers' defending was unconvincing throughout to be honest, but perhaps Rehman and Stewart need some time to build a partnership. Of three more players who I hadn't seen before, Ward did OK but seemed to fade in the second half, while Blackstock looked pacy, skillful and generally good until he also ran out of steam later on. The real surprise for me was Ray Jones who's a very big lad but has good feet (for a big man, natch) and unlike a lot of tall strikers he can actually jump (watch Peter Crouch, he barely leaves the ground).

All in all Rangers showed enough going forward to allay fears of relegation for a while, but enough uncertainty in defence to make us grateful to bank the points while we can. Southend passed it well but were very ropy at the back, their full-backs were pants and how old is Spencer Prior now ? I can't see them troubling the top half myself.

Finally on my way back I popped into Gutshot for a chat with DY and Frode, most enjoyable. However, and I'm sorry but this is Gutshot to an absolute T, more than one person was wearing a T-shirt with "Marvelous" written on the back. I could only have put it better myself with the addition of the missing "L".

[1] Chivers was before my time, and considering I go back to 1988 with Rangers, that's a long time. I do remember people saying he was shit though.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Off I trot to Loftus Road tomorrow to see if the R's can grab a much-needed (already) win. Accounts of the previous two games (0-2 v Burnley and 2-2 v Leeds) vary wildly according to whether you are reading a) the official QPR website or b) anything else. I reserve judgement until I can see it with my own shell-likes. No wait, that's ears. Whatever.

My rough plan of action for the next few weeks is as follows :

Tomorrow QPR v Southend
19th Barnet v Hereford
26th Charlton v Bolton
Sept 2nd not sure, maybe Barnet v Walsall
9th probably Orient v Brentford

If any readers will be attending these games and fancy a pre-match livener, drop me a line.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Barnet 0 Torquay 1

It would be stretching it a bit to call this a mugging but given that Torquay were penned in their own half for the last 20 minutes only to break away and score with the clock standing at two minutes to five, it was a bit cheeky. In fact it was very cheeky for their entire support to do that "Easy, easy" chant after such a spawny win, still, football fans eh.

All the same it's going to be another long season at Underhill. The outfield starters were all familiar from last year, and much like last year Grazioli and Hatch were feeding on scraps until they were replaced around 70 minutes. Kandol and Vieira did perk the team up a bit though, and Barnet looked much fitter as they forced the visitors back and worked the keeper a few times without really looking like scoring. Unfortunately they over-committed and fell to a sucker breakaway which seemed to be compounded by a scuffed back pass (I was behind the goal and it was at the other end).

I have been to Underhill often enough to develop an affinity with the club but the bottom line is there are a lot of teams in London and just about all of them will give you more entertainment on a Saturday afternoon so I might mix and match it a bit more this season. Arsenal should be a lot easier to score tickets for with the new stadium and it would be nice to see some genuine quality at least once a month.

Update : "'We were mugged.' That was the honest assessment of Barnet Manager Paul Fairclough following Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Torquay United." Well, that's the manager's job, stretching it a bit :-)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hoping For The Best

So this morning, my Internet gear was delivered at 7.30 am and it's sad to relate that I was already awake, eagerly anticipating this like a kid on Christmas morning. I plugged it all in, rearranged my furniture while it was warming up and finally kicked it off. The first site I went to was the official QPR website which informed me that Danny Shittu is on his way to West Brom. Bollocks.

Shittu was our best player by a considerable distance. Someone has cocked up here. It was in his contract that if someone offered £3 million the club would have to inform him and let him go if terms were agreed, which is all fairly standard, but the cockups number two ; 1) this was made public, although the club can't be blamed if this was leaked by an agent, and 2) there was no stipulation that all the £3 million had to be paid up front. As a result, Big Dan appears to be on his way for only £1.5 million down. Barring injury he should make enough appearances to qualify for payments on that front but if any of it is dependent on West Brom being promoted this is clearly a gamble, although they probably have a better chance than most.

The timing is also a problem, two days before the season kicks off, in fact the club even allowed Ian Evatt to move out on loan the day before. Evatt probably doesn't have a long term future at the club it's true, but he would have been OK as a stop-gap. Replacing Shittu is now crucial for Rangers' season and it's going to be very difficult. Betfair basically ranks Rangers 19th in the division, barely above the three promoted sides. Pre-season odds are often overly dependent on a team's form over the last three months of the previous season, and as such Rangers are possibly under-rated. Results over that period were very poor but I saw quite a few of those games and they were very unlucky on several occasions. All in all though, hoping for the best is about as positive as I can be. Down in League Two, Barnet are similarly ranked 23rd.

I will be easing up on the betting and concentrating on match reports and bollocks-talking on here instead, except when I reckon there is some massive value. Let's hope that the Rs and the Bees can do enough to keep me happy, and right now mid-table would be just fine in each case.