Despite His White Boots

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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

QPR 1 West Brom 2

I would have called this one point dropped rather than three, because I thought Albion were much the better side, but as is often the case, I'm confused after reading the QPR website which reckons the first half was "free-flowing", and quotes John Gregory as saying we would have won "comfortably" if we had gone 2-1 ahead from the spot. Confused to the point of baffled. Maybe I give the opposition too much credit sometimes but I really thought we didn't play well today and created very little.

The first half was a bit of a mess all round as a very strong wind caused problems for everyone. Kamara and Koren went very close from distance for the visitors, with Rangers keeper Lee Camp a definite spectator on the first effort if not the second as well. Lee Cook was seeing little of the ball for Rangers but that did seem to free up Gareth Ainsworth on the other wing, and the Baggies' defence had to make a couple of last-ditch clearances from his crosses.

Into the second half and when Paul Furlong scuffed a shot straight at Dean Kiely from 10 yards, the Albion keeper immediately arced a long throw to Jason Koumas in midfield. With the Rangers defence caught short, he found Kevin Phillips who made space for himself and finished expertly. 10 minutes later Marc Nygaard was hooked (and not a moment too soon) to be replaced by Dexter Blackstock, and within two minutes the Rangers sub headed home from Ainsworth's far post cross. Two minutes after that, Ainsworth sent Furlong clear and he was brought to ground by a combination of what looked like the entire Albion defence. Unfortunately Furlong's penalty was too weak and Kiely turned it around the post.

It was pretty even after that until Albion substitutes Ellington and Gera combined for the winner, Michael Manciennce allowing Ellington to cross far too easily for the Hungarian to volley in, a fine finish but a sloppy goal from Rangers' POV, and that was that. Once this relegation business is sorted out one way or the other, I can feel a rant coming on about how the Championship is following the Premiership in forming a big gap between top and bottom. In the Premiership, it's the Champions' League money that first causes the gap and then perpetuates it as the same teams use their CL money to pull further clear in the chase for next season's CL money. One league below, teams relegated from the Premiership have a huge financial advantage and this is further enhanced by the "parachute payments". When West Brom can have players of the quality of Ellington and Gera coming off the bench to win games [1], it makes a huge difference. Fair enough, Rangers had Premiership/parachute money in 1997-9 but we spunked it all off and millions more through hopeless mismanagement from top to bottom. That's no one's fault but our own. Anyway I'll save some for later because that's half the rant already.

With Hull whacking Southend 4-0 today, it looks a lot like Luton going down and pick any 2 from Leeds, Southend, Rangers and Barnsley to go with them. That's the view on Betfair which is probably the most reliable indicator. Tuesday's game in hand at home to Preston is massive for the Rs.

[1] In fact I just checked on Soccerbase. According to that, West Brom's substitutes today cost them £8.5 million in total.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

You Suck England

Well at least those internationals are out of the way for the rest of the season. What a shower. And I did tell you so, regarding McLaren. I was wondering the other day whether England would actually be better with Lee Cook on the left wing (Lennon on the right, Gerrard and Hargreaves in the middle) compared to whatever it was they were trying to do against Israel with Lennon on the left and the other three clomping on each other's feet. I think they would. Not that I'm suggesting that Lee Cook should start for England, it's just that almost any creative, genuine left-sided player would be better than playing everyone out of position, especially against mediocre opposition.

Then I started wondering whether a well-coached, motivated, properly supported team of Championship players could do reasonably well in international football. Until I realised, why wonder, it's right here :

1 Northern Ireland 6 4 1 1 10 7 3 13
2 Sweden 5 4 0 1 9 4 5 12
3 Spain 5 3 0 2 9 6 3 9
4 Denmark 4 2 1 1 7 2 5 7
5 Latvia 4 1 0 3 4 3 1 3
6 Liechtenstein 5 1 0 4 3 15 -12 3
7 Iceland 5 1 0 4 4 9 -5 3

Small sample of games or not, everyone involved with the England football team should take a good look at how Northern Ireland are doing in a more difficult group and hang their heads.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gambling It Up

A few bets for this weekend :

Blackburn v West Ham, 1.74
Middlesboro v Man City, 2.42
Preston v Burnley, 1.94 (1pm today)
Southend v Leeds, 2.22
Accrrington v Torquay, 2.22
Charlton v Newcastle, 2.48 (tomorrow)

Middlesboro are long because City need the points much more and Boro play their cup replay against Manchester United on Monday night, but even so City's overall wretchedness over-rides these factors IMO. I hope I'm wrong about Southend but they have some momentum going and Roots Hall will be rocking for this one. I'm backing Accrington for the sole reason that I have just heard their manager on the radio comparing this game to "going all in with Ace King suited". Top man. 2.22's pretty good odds for a coin flip.

Another big game for Rangers at Leicester today, 3 points is almost a must, I am really starting to fear for the Hoops as we could well need 4 wins to stay up and it's hard to see where they're coming from.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hands Off Our Draws

Popped down to the Emirates tonight to watch the Youth Cup semi-final with The Hat. It's the only chance I'll have to get in there for £3 that's for sure. The stadium is very impressive. The game was OK, 1-0 to the Arsenal, quite a good strike for the goal but no one really stood out, couldn't really see any future England captains or anything like that but what do I know.

As it was a two-legged affair, there was no need for United to go nuts chasing an equaliser and so, wisely for their years, they didn't. Which is all fair enough. On arriving home though, I see this, which is possibly even a little more horrifying than Barnsley winning 4-2 away. The basic idea is no more draws in the league ! Let's have exciting penalty shootouts instead !

The first thing you have to do when proposing a rule change is to ask yourself how will teams try to exploit it. Never doubt that they will. Basically this is a clear incentive for away teams (and inferior home teams) to shut up shop and go for the draw. Instead of 1 point, now they'll have a coin flip for 3. There are far too many teams going out to draw games as it is. It's precisely what 3 points for a win was brought in to discourage, and that worked.

In addition, it will increase the luck factor considerably. Take one look at the Championship and you'll see that it's already remarkably close as it is, especially at the top. Leagues 1 and 2 are also much more competitive than the Premiership. I really don't know what they're trying to fix here. Conceding a late equaliser is bad enough but at least in that case you still get something for the game. Conceding a late equaliser and then losing a shootout for a six point swing against a close rival would just be way too much. I'm not being a traditionalist for the sake of it, I just think that this is a really bad idea and I hope it's killed off ASAP. Fortunately, the clear majority of the comments on BBC Sport in response to this give it the kicking it deserves. I mean it really couldn't be any more obvious that this would make weaker teams play more negatively.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

QPR 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

While some reports suggest that Rangers should have won this match convincingly, I didn't really see it like that myself. The visitors were battered for 25 minutes but from that point on I thought they were slightly the better side, especially at 1-0 when we really looked lost.

For that first 25 minutes though, Rangers were in total command, first to every ball and looking threatening with every attack. Wednesday keeper Ian Turner saved well from Dexter Blackstock, Lee Cook rattled the bar from fully 35 yards with Turner completely beaten, Paul Furlong shot inches wide and Turner also had to deal with a Blackstock header and two Inigo Idiakez free kicks. The Spaniard started well but faded out of the game later on, all in all he gives us something different for a month which can't be too bad. Wednesday aren't a bad side though and were bound to pull themselves together sooner or later. Unfortunately they managed to do this before Rangers could score and the visitors could even have taken the lead themselves from a free kick right on the edge of the area which either hit the post or was headed away, I wasn't really sure.

Ten minutes into the second half and Wednesday did indeed score, another soft set-piece goal as Michael Mancienne allowed Chris Brunt to get goal side and latch on to a flick on, from where he could hardly miss. After this body blow, Rangers seemed to lose all confidence and there was a horrible sort of resigned "we're fucked" feeling all around the ground. Brunt missed another good chance and the mood didn't improve when Blackstock limped off to be replaced by the clumsy Marc Nygaard. However, the rangy Dane managed to disconcert the visiting centre halves to the point where they bundled him over in the area. You wonder what defenders are thinking sometimes, were they expecting Nygaard to turn on a sixpence and clip it into the top corner if they didn't foul him ? Because he wasn't going to.

Martin Rowlands has become Rangers' most reliable penalty taker since Clive Wilson (bok) and he converted from the spot. Either side could have won it from there, Lee Camp saved brilliantly from Brunt again and Cook's low cross somehow evaded everyone with the goal gaping. Furlong was unable to latch on to a loose ball in injury time and, just like Plymouth, that was that.

Our luck with other results ran out today, as it was bound to sooner or later, with Leeds, Southend and Hull all collecting 3 points. Somehow we're still out of the relegation zone with a game in hand but time is running out and we really need to win a game or two very soon. Cook was our best player again, by so far that the PA announcer sounded rightly embarrassed when obliged to give the man of the match award to Adam Bolder for some reason. Comedy job swapping Alans Pardew and Curbishley were both in attendance and I can't imagine that they were looking at anyone else but the Rangers left-winger. Wednesday were a fairly solid mid-table outfit but at this point I don't think we really care about the opposition or the performance - we need the points and we need them quickly.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who's Laughing Now ?

This isn't a pop at West Ham fans, but pint-sized ex-hit man Tony Cottee, the man who almost finished Barnet football club by guiding them to relegation into the Conference. Which isn't a crime in itself, it's just that one time I saw this referenced on Soccer Saturday, he laughed. He actually laughed. What a cunt. Well who's laughing now TC ? You might not have cared a toss about the club who gave you a shot at management only to be royally fucked by your incompetence, but gor blimey when those lovaduck 'ammers are in the apples and pears, or something, that's not so fucking funny is it ?

Meanwhile hats off to the West Ham fans who organised the following petition : "Given the lack of effort and despicable attitude shown by the majority of the West Ham squad this season, we the undersigned request that Hammer of the Year for this season is abandoned."

Quite right too. Interesting fact for you : at the Eisteddfodd in Wales, which is the sort of Druid's convention they have, the Elders have within their remit the power to say "Nope, you all suck. No one's getting the prize this year". If only it were so in other walks of life.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Barnet 1 Wrexham 2

Meh. I really only went to this game for the sake of it and my attention was wandering almost from the start. In the unlikely event that anyone's interested, Barnet's Oliver Allen (son of Clive) showed that he has the goalscoring gene by scooping the Bees into a first half lead, but Wrexham's barrel-like striker Lee McEvilly scored a fine 20-yarder and added a header three minutes later while Barnet were still wobbling. The end.

I don't want to go into a big "fings aint wot they used to be" rant but I fear it's coming at some point. More likely it's just me, and going to football on my own just isn't much of a thrill any more, maybe because I quit work and now every day's Saturday, but in the end maybe because I've just outgrown it. I don't mean this to sound depressing, I really just feel a bit flat with it. Anyway, in the Championship, Rangers lost again but so did everyone else. If we do go down we'll only have ourselves to blame if we can't finish above three of the shower in the bottom six right now.