Despite His White Boots

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

QPR 1 Sunderland 2

Two steps back for Rangers. This defeat was much more comprehensive than the score would suggest, and if Nick Ward's injury-time shot (only the second on target) had found the net it would have been a suckout of runner-runner proportions. Instead of tightening up at the back and pushing on, the reverse has happened ; the attacking threat has disappeared and the defence remains as porous as ever. When Lee Cook failed to reappear in the second half that was basically that, although Ray Jones' well taken goal was the only positive.

The last two visitors to Loftus Road have done their homework. Crowd Cook as much as possible, close Jimmy Smith down on the edge of the box, and give the full-backs as much space as you like because they'll do fuck all. I don't mean to be harsh on Bignot and Mancienne as players, as both are playing out of position, but that's the fact of it. Meanwhile, get tight in midfield and wait for Rangers to give the ball away, often deep in their own half. Lots of work to be done at Rangers, and the transfer window could be interesting, but thanks to the recent spurt we still have some breathing space especially over Hull and Southend who are in freefall.

Sunderland, as I said, had done their homework and looked a decent side. Kavanagh ran the midfield and their centre-halves were very solid. Fair play to them and the play-offs are definitely within their reach. All the same, promotion odds of 5.8 on Betfair are too skinny.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

Every now and then, something or someone annoys the hell out of me, but when I calm down and think about blogging it I realise it's not really that big a deal. I was thinking the same about this particular annoyance, but then I thought, no. This has to be said, and I'm the man to say it. Alan Green is a useless cunt.

I watched most of the United-Chelsea game in the gym, but when the evil empire, erm that is the visiting evil empire, equalised it seemed clear enough that they were both happy enough with a point and that was that. So I trotted off home, and turned on the radio on my arrival for the last 5 minutes, just in case anyone scored a freak ricochet goal while trying to tackle someone by the corner flag (if anyone can, Lampard can). With the game of the season drawing to a close, naturally Green was in the chair, presumably because he has pictures of the BBC Sport Controller or something. Naturally enough, he was moaning, talking a load of shite and generally being about as informative as the legendary BBC website text commentary. Defensive throw-in 78:47 [1].

Same old same old until he came out with something that just encapsulates, epitomises if you will, how much of a cunt he is. Some background, you may remember that when Michael Ballack arrived in London he was quoted as saying that he couldn't afford a house because they were too expensive. Of course no one with half a brain actually believed that was what he meant, and equally of course it wasn't. What he said was that buying a house was too expensive compared to renting, and so he was going to rent. Our fine press, once they had stopped coming in their pants at the prospect of a story about their two favourite space-fillers greedy footballers and house prices, misrepresented it with their usual glee. And most people, myself included, forgot all about it. Yesterday's news, today's fish and chip wrappers.

Until Ballack was substituted today. Green suddenly dived into his notes and retrieved the comedy stylings he was up all night scripting. Like Motson with his stats, although he's a harmless nerd compared to Green. "Ballack's off, he hasn't done much," opined Green, "maybe (comic pause) maybe he was up all night working out how much money he's saved not buying a house, because he can't afford one". In about 5 seconds he managed to be out of date, inaccurate, childish, petty, bitter, sarcastic and most of all desperately unfunny. You almost had to admire the efficiency of it in a way.

In a more real way though, you had to chainsaw the radio to smithereens and feed the bits to wild dogs. Why oh why, as I would say if I was writing to Points Of View, why oh why is this miserable stupid bitter pathetic twisted old fuckwit considered BBC radio's number one football commentator. He must have some pictures or something. "The hell with you Green, " I would say if I was Controller, "that could be anyone's ass". And every football fan I talk to about him agrees. Go ahead, if you're reading this blog. Write a comment below saying that Green is an informative and entertaining commentator who livens up many a dull evening with his cheerful repartee and even-handed analysis. I almost forgot his gross Liverpool bias. There's just so much material to work with ! Go on, write that in the comments. I fucking dare you. And remember, lies make Baby Jesus cry. When oh when is this complete goon going to be shipped back to Radio Ulster to commentate on Distillery v Dungannon Swifts for the rest of time. That would give him something to fucking complain about.

[1] Correction : Attacking throw-in 78:47

Saturday, November 25, 2006

QPR 0 Coventry 1

A frustrating game and result. Rangers couldn't get into their stride going forward and credit has to go to City for defending well. In truth if McKenzie in particular hadn't been so profligate they could have won two or three. Adebola scored the goal just after half time, spinning Rehman round like a record (baby right round) and firing in emphatically. Nygaard looped a header onto the top of the crossbar straight away, and Rangers pressed with a lot of effort after Rowlands and Gallen came on, but created few clear opportunities if any.

Gregory is like the anti-Benitez, he doesn't like to change a winning team, but even so, it kind of seems apparent that Gallen and Rowlands are much better players than Nygaard and Bailey.I expect both to start on Tuesday when I will be making a rare midweek trip to Loftus Road. No yoga this week :-).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Angle-Shooting In Football

Not even I have enough free time (or sadness) to read the League Paper's 64 page non-league supplement from cover to cover. Any time you do need to know what's happening in the Toolstation Western Les Phillips League Cup or the Silver Star Holidays Gwynedd Eyri Sheild Round 1 though, you'll know where to look. But it can be worth skimming for 10 minutes. If you think coin-throwing is bad, spare a thought for Woodley Sports left-back Jamie Kay. While minding his own business during the Unibond League clash with Alsager Town, he heard a strange whistling noise and turned round to see a "metre-long metal arrow" stuck in an advertising hoarding going Boingngngngngng. This had apparently been fired from outside the ground and missed him by "inches". You have to be pretty tough to play non-league in Manchester. Although this is belied by the fact that the game was promptly abandoned. Wimps. Nat Lofthouse used to play with metre-long metal arrows sticking in him like a porcupine.

What really caught my eye though was a kerfuffle in the Unibond League (clearly where the action is) Challenge Cup game between AFC Telford United and Leek Town. The game went to a penalty shoot-out. Telford had had a man sent off so, you might not know this rule, but that means that Leek Town nominate one of their players who won't take a penalty, so if 10 penalties doesn't resolve it, both teams start again with the first player. Leek nominated their goalkeeper, at which point Telford claimed that he had to sit out the shoot-out entirely so an outfield player had to go in goal. Machiavellian to say the least. On the day, the ref told them to shut up being twats and get on with it but, not satisfied, Telford appealed against this injustice, only to have that rejected too. Nice try. Now fuck off.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Barnet 3 Rochdale 2

The only good thing about your team playing in the Friday night game is that, if you win, it's time to plump up the cushions and break out the cigars on the Saturday. "Yeees, " you say as the other teams knock heads trying to match your three points, "fight and struggle, eeexcellent". That's what I was doing metaphorically, but in reality it was a trip to Underhill where cushions and cigars alike are rare indeed.

It didn't look promising at first as both teams appeared to line up with only one striker. Even less so when Barnet gave the ball away in midfield and failed to deal with the resulting deep cross, 0-1. At this point Dale seemed to have three men around the ball constantly but with Cogan and Puncheon probing (huh huh probe) down the wings, the Bees forced their way back into the game. Five minutes before the break, Bailey evaded a couple of challenges and fed a precise pass to Kandol on the edge of the box. The striker's touch was first class, giving him time to slot past the keeper's left hand for 1-1.

Into the second half and Barnet took the lead with a classic Route One goal. Harrison's boot upfield was allowed to bounce and Kandol headed it over the recklessly onrushing keeper. It didn't quite match the long-ball nirvana achieved by Crystal Palace in the early 90s when Mark Bright scored a goal that went from his own keeper's hands to the back of the opposition net without touching the ground at any point, but it was close. Kandol missed another good chance and appeared to block a goal-bound shot from a team-mate, following which Rochdale promptly equalised with a suspiciously offside-looking far post header.

Both teams went for it after that and the later stages were surprisingly entertaining. Finally in injury time Puncheon's clever flick released the tireless Hessenthaler, and his cross was nodded in by that man Kandol for a hat-trick. Not even injury time hat-trick winning goals are exempt from FIFA's reach, and so the scorer picked up a yellow card for over-celebrating. Quite right too, the 1900-strong crowd could have been incited into a destructive rampage that would have reduced the whole of London to a smoking ruin.

So there you go, three on the spin for Barnet and Rangers. Heaven really is a place on earth after all. As for the Dale, they didn't look too bad for a team in the bottom six. They did have perhaps the biggest footballer I have ever seen. Honestly, if Peter Crouch, Jan Koller and the legendary Kevin Francis met this guy Sako, they would all say "alright mate, what's the weather like up there ?". He was huge. He didn't really have a position per se, he just sort of went to where the ball might go in the air. Needless to say he was rubbish on the deck, not because being big stops you from being skilful, it's just that anyone built like that who did have a League Two touch would automatically find himself in the Championship at least. Exhibit A for the prosecution being Marc Nygaard. No, stop. But you know what football fans are like, we have to complain about something :-)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Goals Goals Goals

QPR travel to table-topping Cardiff this evening and you simply must put some kind of bet on a high-scoring game. Rangers last 7 results are as follows : 3-2, 4-2, 3-3, 1-1, 2-3, 1-2, 3-3. All the overs look good on Betfair but Over 4.5 is an outstanding 11/2. I'd still call it odds against but it's huge value at that price. Rangers are improving slowly at the back but for the most part they're still comedy, and that sequence of results is no fluke. Cardiff have the division's top scorer in Chopra, and team news suggests that they will field a 19 year old debutant at right back. If you see Lee Cook salivating as he walks on to the pitch then you'll know why.

I have invested 10 large [1] on Over 4.5 @ 6.6 with another 10 as a saver on Over 2.5 @ 1.81.

[1] i.e. £10

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Up And Down

Where to begin ? I suppose we have to start at the top. Mourinho castigated the Chelsea fans earlier this week for not making enough noise. Without making this particularly anti-Chelsea, the reason many top grounds are quiet, especially in London, is very simple. It's so expensive. Core ground-roots supporters of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have been priced out of the game. To be replaced by, as Roy Keane observed, the prawn sandwich brigade. To a lesser extent this is happening around the rest of the country as well. Fans are starting to dig their feet in at the prices. Man City only took 2000 or so up the road to Wigan because many fans organised themselves to stay away en masse in protest at the £35 being charged (£10 more than for the same game last season). How many Premiership grounds have a decent old-school atmosphere these days ? Portsmouth ? Erm .... Fortunately there is an alternative. A couple of weekends ago a West Ham fan rang TalkSport to point out how much he and his son enjoyed the atmosphere at ... Loftus Road for the Palace game.

Down to the bottom of the Premiership and Iain Dowie's sacking has caused my eyebrows to raise. I have seen Charlton a few times this season and caned them for being poor but they weren't sack-the-manager poor. Especially after only 12 games with the club. Charlton had at least started to keep clean sheets and one correspondent to Football365 pointed out that they had accumulated exactly the same number of points as from the corresponding fixtures last year. The Valley does remind me of Loftus Road in the early 90s. A bit bigger, but the same atmosphere of dissatisfaction with mid-table even though this is punching considerably above their weight. Many of them wanted Curbishley out, well, careful what you wish for, because now you've got it. I wouldn't wish QPR's two division descent on anyone (well hardly anyone) but I wonder whether Charlton will live to regret what they've done. Curbishley himself has immediately nixed a return, sensible fellow that he is.

Moving down, Football365 printed my Email in praise of Lee Cook (half way down). And moving up, if it is up, McLaren is now really struggling IMO. It's another case of "careful what you wish for" for those who said they'd rather see England lose under an English manager. Yesterday McLaren went into one after being questioned about a newspaper column which gave a different reason to his for Stewart Downing's omission from the last game (as if "because he's shit" wasn't the apparent reason anyway). "I don't read every newspaper column" he snapped. Well maybe he should have read this one, because it was written by his assistant Terry Venables. Don't think I'm wasting any time on that game this evening, and you won't either if you have any sense.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Offside ? Just Make Us A Cup Of Tea, Love

Mike Newell found a new excuse yesterday after his Luton team were trampled beneath the wheels of the QPR bandwagon. It was because the linesman was a bird, who should have been at home making the tea instead of at the match, not giving Luton penalties. I think he's embarrassed himself here. I see no reason why you need a set of wedding tackle to run the line, quite frankly. All you really need is a thick skin, the amount of stick they get from the fans. If he means that referees should have played to a certain level, then he should say so. I'd be prepared to bet that many referees have hardly played the game at all, and furthermore that this is pretty much uncorrelated with how good or bad they are at refereeing. Just don't anyone show Newell this or he'll go "See ! See ! What did I tell you ?!"

As is common with someone trying to push an argument that they know is a bit shaky, he takes it to a ridiculous extreme and says "what happens when they're all women, then we're in trouble". Well he certainly would be. But that's not going to happen is it ? QPR manager John Gregory had no comment to make because he buggered off to a Bruce Springsteen concert right after the game. I'm starting to warm to the guy, I really am :-). It was left to QPR's Marcus Bignot to put Newell in his place, as you can see in the article linked. Fortunately the article avoids mentioning that Bignot is a Grade A nutter :-), but as it says he did manage Birmingham Ladies Team, which would almost certainly make him the second best manager in Birmingham behind Martin O'Neill if nothing else.

Anyway 3 more points for the mighty R's and amazingly the League Paper described Zesh Rehman as "a rock". Unless they were talking about his mobility (and that's a possibility) that's hopefully a sign of improvement. Barnet also progressed in the FA Cup, and I can tell you I don't often celebrate two away wins throwing my lot in with these two.

Elsewhere I can kiss goodbye to my foolish bet on Liverpool to win the Premiership betting without Chelsea. I should have made sure it was betting without about 10 other teams as well. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Bellamy in to add pace upfront, Pennant to add width, Agger to strengthen the defence - but it hasn't worked out like that at all. Oh well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blank Weekend

Looks like I have a football-free weekend coming up. I was planning to go to some skanky FA Cup game but I have been invited to something a bit more sociable, so this would seem to be an apposite weekend to take off. In the meantime, some things we have learned this week :

Jimmy Smith is even better than I thought he was. Extensive video analysis shows that his postage stamp 25-yard volley against Derby was with the left peg, while the postage stamp 25-yard volley against Palace was with the right. None of which would raise an eyebrow on the Continent, but it is rare to see a genuinely two-footed English player.

One other recent peculiarity down at Loftus Road is Martin Rowlands' absence from the last two games, although he was on the bench against West Brom. Now, everyone loves Gareth Ainsworth, and quite rightly because he has two qualities that all fans love. He really does give 100%, giving the lie to so many "100%" players around, because that's the most you can give by definition, and Ainsworth gives as much as any of them and more than most. This is a guy who dives full-length to save a throw-in. His other crowd-pleasing skill is scoring spectacular goals. Naturally, 3 or 4 end up in the Row Z for every net-buster, but who's counting. Despite all this though, Rowlands is the better player. I hope someone at Rangers is considering the possibility of playing one or the other at right-back, as either would improve the back line considerably. Anything to get that carthorse Rehman off the pitch. Back to Rowlands though, on the website today the physio talked about Rowlands returning to training so he may have picked up some kind of knock.

Further afield, you may be unaware that Carlo Cudicini now qualifies for England under residency rules. It is patently clear to me that an English goalkeeper with Cudicini's credentials would be at least second choice and pushing Robinson very hard. Will McLaren include him given the pressure he's already under ? I hope that he does. It might make Jeff Powell and Ian Wright spontaneously combust, which would be good news all round.

Worst defence of the week award (well second worst after QPR) goes to Everton's James McFadden. Sent off by Graham "two more of those and you're off" Poll for calling the referee a "fucking cheat", McFadden protested his innocence vehemently by claiming he had actually called Poll "fucking shite". Now, although I am not averse to the odd naughty word, most of us would consider that to fall under the category of "foul and abusive language", which is written in the rules as a red card offence. However, I have been watching football for a long time at Loftus Road, often very close to the pitch, and I have been able to hear a lot of what players say. Given this, I have maintained for some time that if you talked to referees on a Sunday morning in the same way as professionals do, you'd be off in ten minutes. Which leaves us where ? Oh fuck it, what do I care.

Moving seamlessly on to cunts, this week Steve Bruce, the man whose picture should be in the dictionary as a definition of "hypocrite" (as well as a few other words), complained that "big clubs get all the decisions". Yes, I remember him complaining about that when he played for United. Oh wait, no I don't.

And finally, great to see United booted out of the League Cup not only by the mighty Seasiders but at the hands of Freddy Eastwood who lives in a caravan. According to my erstwhile employers Basildon Council, his two-wheeler is located in a road that "does not actually exist" [1]. When reporters from the Times sought an interview with the Essex hot-shot yesterday, they were warned off by some large men who "exuded a different kind of menace to Eastwood's on the field". It's just a shame that Southend have already visited Loftus Road this season. It would have been great fun to sing "Where's your caravan" to someone who actually lives in one.

[1] To be fair, having worked on their databases I can see how this kind of existence misunderstanding can come about.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

QPR 4 Crystal Palace 2

It's nice to be right every now and then. Although six goals maybe isn't such a goal-fest, it's just par for the course with Rangers lately. More importantly than me being right, if anything is more important than that, this was one of those great games that make up for all the 0-0s and 1-2s you have to suffer throughout the season.

Rangers managed to hang on for the first 15 minutes today, thus thwarting the guys behind me who had backed the first goal within 10 minutes at 3/1. I'd have had some of that myself if I'd known about it. Nonetheless when McAnuff escaped down the left and crossed for Soares to tap in, Rangers conceded the first goal for the seventh game running. Doh. Two minutes later Jimmy Smith cracked in a fine 25-yard volley ; if you saw his goal against Derby, this was a carbon copy. The boy probably isn't good enough for Chelsea but he's too good for us, excellent technique. I expect him to have a decent career at Charlton or Aston Villa or somewhere like that. Back in the now, Rangers conceded another poor goal just before half-time as Cort's header was forced in by Morrison from close range.

I spent most of the interval composing caustic remarks about the Rangers defence, especially the abject Zesh Rehman, and don't worry I am saving them up for future use [1]. The very near future I expect. It would be churlish to bring them out today though after Rangers blitzed Palace in the second half, with the wonderful Lee Cook reaching new heights on the left wing. First of all Palace were unable to deal with his free kick and Lomas drove it in from 8 yards. It's a good job Loftus Road is enclosed or Lomas would have been half way down the Uxbridge Road on his celebration run. Cook tortured the hapless Butterfield for the umpteenth time and was finally hauled down for the most blatant penalty in football history. Gallen is about 50/50 from the spot but today it came up heads. Finally Cook's corner evaded the flappy Flinders and Smith bundled it in, breaking his run of 20-yard strikes with one from 20 inches.

And that was that as Palace pretty much gave up. With half an hour to play against the Rangers defence, the better Championship sides wouldn't have given up hope of winning, never mind sneaking a draw. I must make a note not to complain about time-wasting for a while as Rangers laid it on a bit thick even at two goals up, then again the way they defend ... Sticking to the positive though, Cook was different class today. He looks better every week and I start to wonder how long we can keep him. There was talk about Aston Villa tracking him in the week and even though, as I have said before, this tricky winger type of player is out of fashion in the Premiership, there's no doubt he's far too good for this league. Best to enjoy his skills while we can. On any other day Lomas would have earned the Man Of The Match plaudits for an excellent game, I thought he was shot after the Ipswich game but I can stand up and say I was wrong there. Gallen had a decent game too, he and Blackstock were tidy but on the quiet side, which just goes to show what attacking options you have when you still score four goals.

As for Palace, I've always thought that Peter Taylor was a bit of a con-man but I had to admit he did a good job at Hull. He's definitely feeling the pressure now though, the fraction of their support who were still there at the end gave them a sound booing off. We have our problems at centre-half but at least ours didn't cost a million each to go missing in the second half. As for £2 million for Kuqi, words fail me. A lot of work to be done there, but that's their problem. A great day today, and Barnet nicked an away win. Celebrate good times come on !

[1] Although a caller on Talk Sport just described him as "pure cack" which is a succinct assessment.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dodgy Boston

Whenever the tannoy guy at Barnet reads the League Two scores he always announces Boston as "Dodgy Boston". And quite right too. Boston won promotion from the Conference ahead of Ragenham & Deadbridge a few seasons back, but when some of these "irregularities" came to light they were fined £100K and docked 4 points, however, controversially these points were docked in the forthcoming league season and not for the season just completed. The latter would have denied them promotion.

Now the scale of this has come out it's hard to disagree with the (under) statement that Boston derived "an unfair advantage over other clubs who operated within the law." What I can't agree with is the claim that "This case should act as a deterrent to anyone considering tax fraud". Quite the reverse it seems to me. All you have to do is say "I'm scared of prison" and you get off scot free. Meanwhile you keep your place in the Football League, and the half-million or so you have trousered in the meantime, albeit they presumably wanked most of that off on Joachim, Whelan etc. I don't usually think that football clubs should take these issues to the courts but surely Dagenham have a case here. A strong FA would kick Boston all the way down to the Ovaltine Lincolnshire Sunday League Division 8 and tell them to never darken our door again. A strong FA - I crack myself up.

The only other point about this article is the strange sub-headline "Inmate irony". Either someone mis-spelled "innate" or this is a superb piece of Level 3 irony at least.

As for me, I'm off to Loftus Road tomorrow for what will surely be another netbusting goal extravaganza as Crystal Palace come to town. It's anyone's guess whose onion bag will bulge the most but it should be lively.