All posts by Sam Jewell

Nigel De Jong: Fan favorite, but for how long…

O’ when De Jong!
Goes sliding in!
O’ when De Jong goes sliding in…
There’s only going to be one winner,
O’ when De Jong goes sliding in…
       
On January 21st, 2009, Dutchmen Nigel De Jong made his £18 million move across the English Channel to Manchester City.  He slid right into Mark Hughes plans as a defensive reinforcement for a struggling back line and made an immediate impact for the club.  After signing a 4 and a half year contract, Nigel was included in the first team sheet and set to make his English Premier League debut on January 28th against Newcastle United.  Sliding into tackles, the Premier League, and into the hearts of City fans, Nigel has made his place in club history. 
       
Nigel will mark his anniversary with the club on January 28th.  Although Nigel has only scored two goals during his time at City, his impact on the pitch deserves recognition of a different nature.  Rarely are defensive midfielders awarded any individual acknowledgment due to their lack in statistical accomplishments.  It is important to recognize his achievements and pay him proper respect for his contributions in the rise of the Blue Moon.
     
Nigel is known as a physical force all over the pitch.  He is adaptive and versatile, playing in the attacking and defensive midfield, as a defender, and even as a striker.  Harsh criticisms often arise due to a history of strong tackles towards Stuart Holden, Xabi Alonso, and Hatem Ben Arfa.  But to this date, Nigel De Jong has only been sent off once in his professional career.  The fans know that each time De Jong comes onto the pitch, 100% effort will be exerted.
                 
I only hope his maturity and ability to connect passes improve as his experience increases with the club. Last year, he had the highest completion percentages in the Premier League.  I am certain he is gaining experience in training sessions. 
                               
With only 18 months left on his current contract, De Jong has since refused to sign a new deal.  He is often not in the starting picture, but usually always in the first team sheet as a sub.  With the immergence of men in form, James Milner, Gareth Barry, and Yaya Toure, Nigel has found himself with few opportunities to make an impact. After falling down the depth chart of the City power squad, De Jong may be looking for an exit to continue contributing to a club who is in dire need of a defensive powerhouse.   
                     
City fans can only hope that he strikes a contract extension and continues to perform on and off the pitch as the loyal fan favorite he is known to be.
Written By: Tyler Schochenmaier
tyler.schochenmaier@gmail.com

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Uruguay: Flavour of the month

After their Copa America victory and World Cup semi-final appearance, Uruguayan football has become something of a fashion, with Martin Caceres being a by-product of this.

The Sevilla defender is close to completing a move to a resurgent Juventus, but he is not the only player from the small South American country that could be packing his bags in the next few months.

Even local rivals and world football powerhouses Brazil and Argentina cannot rival The Sky Blues for sheer transfer activity concerning their playing staff.

Diego Forlan, Luiz Suarez, Diego Lugano, Sebastien Coates, Diego Godin and Fernando Muslera have all made big money moves to European giants in the past year and a half, with Alvaro Perreira, Edison Cavani and the previously mentioned Caceres all set to follow suit.

This is a signifier of how a country with the same population as Scotland, has transformed into one of the leading footballing giants, and when a Mr. Villas-Boas or perhaps a Mr. Wenger are on the lookout for new personnel it seems Uruguay is their first port of call.

This is testament to the overhaul of grassroots football in Uruguay, which began ten years ago.  The English FA need to take a look.

@paulhill3

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Will Chelsea finish in the top four this season?

 

Love him or loathe him Andre Villas Boas certainly generates a ‘marmite’ response from fans. Just like the brown beef spread they either love it or hate it. Personally and although I love marmite I think AVB is a plonker but won’t diss other fans for believing in him as they are Chelsea too. I just hope that I am wrong about the guy and that he pulls something out of the hat for us this term (although I have my grave doubts).

 

 

Ever since last summer my own personal minimum requirement out of our new

Manager for this season was a top four finish. Realizing that this was to be a

transitional season with some older players moving on and the introduction

of some strategic young players coming in I thought the above wasn’t too

much to expect. As I have said, I now have my grave doubts.

 

We struggled to another uninspiring performance and to get a nil

nil draw at Norwich. This was the same Norwich team that hadn’t (until

our game) managed to keep ONE clean sheet all season! This was the

same Norwich team that were efficiently despatched by Spurs 0-2 just a

couple of weeks ago at Carrow Road.

 

The simple brutal truth is that we are not going to catch United or City

(with the way we are playing). If we are being truthful with ourselves can

anyone honestly say that we are playing better than Spurs or Arsenal this

season so far?

 

We are football fans and by definition ‘ever the optomists’ which the

media and football club marketing men prey on. I cannot however put my hand

on my heart and say that we will deffo finish above either Spurs or Arsenal

(like I say forget City and United) to get that top four birth come the end of

the summer.

 

It is because I have supported Chelsea for over 40 years and seen the club

in various divisions, various states of financial well being or otherwise,

that I know the years of osterity that it took for us to have some real

long term success under the Abramovich reign. To have that so carelessley

wiped out (a top four finish) I think should result in both the sacking of

this Manager and the entire football board.

 

Alan S Frank

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Legends – ten of the best men to have worn the Chelsea shirt

The word legend isused too easily, but when it comes to these men – it is a perfect description. The ten who have made the list, have given everything to onecause, that cause being Chelsea football club … words by Scott Balaam

ClaudeMakélelé

TheFrenchman joined from Real Madrid for £16.8 in the summer of 2003, heautomatically became the first name on the team sheet.

Whilst he struggled in front of goal, he was the man who made Chelsea and excellent siderather than just a good one.

He used to sit in front of the defenceand not let anything get passed him, he played in 144 games for the Blues,always giving 100% and not once letting the team down.

Ron Harris

‘Chopper’Harris was a hard-hitting centre-back who strikers feared, he was part ofChelsea’s winning FA Youth Cup side in 1961 and made his senior club debut inFebruary 1962. Within a year he was a first-team regular, he stayed at the clubfor 18 years and made 655 league appearances.

He was part of the team that won theLeague Cup in 1965, the FA Cup in 1970 and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup in 1971

Frank Lampard

Having signed from West Ham in 2001 for £11 million, ‘Lamps’ has become Mr Reliable –in the last eight seasons he has scored over ten goals each season.

He set a record of making 164 consecutive Premier League appearances and wasinstrumental in leading Chelsea to win back-to-back league titles in 2004-05and 2005-06.

Lamps has been named Blues’ player ofthe season three times and despite being a midfield player he is currently thethird all-time goal scorer with 124 goals in 353 starts.

Bobby Tambling

The Blues all-time leading goal scorer, he played on the wing and as an outright striker, at 17-years-old he made his debut in 1957 when he scored the winner againstWest Ham.

In the 1960/61 season, Tambling moved from the left wing into the middle, which sawhis score 20 goals in 34. There was no stopping him after that, he needed 34times in the following season.

He left Stamford Bridge for Crystal Palace in 1970; he left behind his legacy of 202 goals in 370 games.

John Terry

Since coming through the youth ranks John Terry has made 357 league appearances forthe club, and he was the captain when the club won back-to-back Premiershiptitles.

He is the man Chelsea fans look to lead by example, in October 2006 when Petr Cech andCarlo Cudicini were both injured against Reading JT even went in goal.

He has won three Premier League titles, and four FA Cups plus two League Cups – he is a true Chelsea legend.

JimmyGreaves

Greaves is another player who scored a brace on his debut, in 1959 and 1961 he finishedtop scorer in the Football League and in the latter he netted 41 times.

After just three years in the team he managed to score 100 league goals, which was arecord for someone at his age.

Unfortunately during his four years at the club the Blues did not win anything and he leftfor a short stint in Italy with AC Milan before joining Spurs.

Peter Osgood

Known to‘old school’ fans as Ossie, he was a Chelsea man through and through. He madehis debut at 17-years-old in the League Cup game against Workinton AFC, on the16th of December, 1964 when he scored a brace.

He was in Alf Ramsey’s initial 40-man 1966 world cup squad but failed to make the final 22.

He played a major part in the 1970 F.A.Cup final replay against Leeds United at Old Trafford when he scored a headerfrom a Charlie Cooke assist, which meant he had scored in every single round ofthe cup that year.

Dennis Wise

He playedfor the Blues for 11 years, from 1990 until 2001, he made 445 appearances andscored 76 goals, and was even the club’s top scorer in 1991/92 when he endedthe season with 14 goals.

He captained the team that won the FA Cup in 1997 and 2000, as well as the LeagueCup in 1998 and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998.

Gianfranco Zola

Zola joined from Parma in 1996 for £4.5 million, he was given the 25 shirt – afterreturning to Italy the club even retired his shirt.

He isremembered for scoring quality goals, his flick against Norwich in 2002 heregarded as Chelsea’s best ever goal by many.

Having come on as a substitute against Stuggart in Stockholm he scored the winning goal after only being on the pitch for 30 seconds.

He finished his Blues’ career with 59goals in 185 starts and will be remembered as a true legend.

Charlie Cooke

The Scotsman joined in April 1966 for £72,000, his first outing was in the 2–0Inter-Cities Fairs Cup win against Barcelona. Then on his league debut hebreezed past Bobby Moore to score the winner against West Ham.

In the early 1970s, Cooke was the star player and he was part of the 1970 FA Cupwinning side. He left the club briefly when he joined Crystal Palace but returned to Chelsea a year later.

He made 373 appearances and scored 30 goals and made numerous assists.

By Scott Balaam

Twitter @astambridge2far

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If You Want To Buy In January, Be Very, Very Careful!

Tuesday night sees the January transfer deadline close. Transfer Deadline Day as it’s been come to known is the night in which anything can happen in the world of football.

It’s that one night of the year when Sky Sports News goes in overload hyping up anything and everything to do with the beautiful game, where even the slightest sniff of a deal will turn Jim White  into a raving lunatic.

Yes, money will be spent by clubs on good players, but millions will be spent on average players and lotsa wonga will be wasted on players brought in at the last minute as panic-buys.

Making sure the right player is brought into a club is vital. A foreign player may be playing but how can you be sure he will be the same in England, how can you be sure a home-based player can handle a move to a big club?

Can you be sure that an aging star would really give his all for a struggling side at the bottom and would you as a manager take a player right at the last minute if all your supposed transfer-targets cannot be dragged in.

Buying players mid-season can have it’s problems. At first both Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic struggled to adapt to the English game, but they turned the corner at the start of their full season and have become house-hold names whose value to the team has grown year upon year.

There are though some players who start off brilliantly only to fall back into their shells and disappear and disappoint. Arsene Wenger is great at buying un-knowns and making them into stars.

However he does not have the greatest record when it comes to buying so-called stars. Both Andrei Arshavin and Jose Antonio Reyes were signed as well-known talents.

Highly rated Spanish winger Reyes was signed from Sevilla in January 2004. He was quick, talented, had an eye for goal and was destined to become a house-hold name for many years to come.

Despite starting off well with a couple of goals against Chelsea, he struggled on the pitch and with rumours of homesickness rife, ended up going back to Spain two and a half seasons later. Fast forward to 2012, Reyes is now back at Sevilla.

Arshavin who is hardly ‘flavour of the month’ at the Emirates right now was well-known as an enigma of European football for several years before starring at Euro 2008 in a Russia side which reached the tournament’s semi-finals.

The former Zenit man started well scoring four at Anfield against Liverpool in the 08/09 title run-in, but has he really produced anything significant since. The simple answer to that is no and he will likely be sold before the start of next season.

To be brutally honest, you can throw Theo Walcott into the mix as a poor signing by Wenger. Yes, Walcott has talent but he has not been used properly by Wenger and the fact he’s fallen behind Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain just says it all about the winger whose star has fallen.

There can be great deals made in January. But more often than not mid-season signings are overhyped and dissapoint, and that can be sometimes be even before a new signing has even played for their new club.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87

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Paul Lake 25 years on

When you talk to Manchester City fans who were around the inconsistent 1980’s and the pre Premiership era of the 1990’s they will inevitably talk to you about the shining light of the time which was the Youth side that City had. David White, Ian Brightwell, Stevie Redmond and of course Paul Lake were all part of that side that won the FA youth cup against United in 1986. Probably the most naturally gifted of those celebrated his debut for the senior Manchester City side 25 years ago today. 

His debut season involved a cluster of three appearances in a season which saw City relegated to the Second tier of English football. Both City and Lake would bounce back better than ever two seasons later however. Paul started his senior City career on the 24th January 1987 in a goalless draw away to Wimbledon. His next game was again a draw and again away from home in which fellow youth cup winner Ian Brightwell got on the scoresheet. Then, a month after his initial debut, he lined up for his first home game against Luton Town, again another draw but Lakey would score on his home debut.

With City relegated, Mel Machin installed as City boss and the youth coming to the fore the 1987-88 season started with excitement. In those days there were no squad numbers only numbers 1-11 that represented positions on the pitch and Paul Lake had nine different shirts that season, taking up almost every position except the goalkeeper. Despite this, City struggled in the Division, not helped I am sure by extended cup runs in both the FA and League Cups.

The next season finally saw City promoted back to the top flight but also almost saw a tragedy unfold on the Maine Road turf. Whilst defending a corner against Leicester he and Ramsey both went up for the same ball and clashed heads. Lake collapsed, started to convulse and after the match it was revealed that he had indeed swallowed his tongue. City players, Leicester players and the referee can be seen frantically waving Physio Roy Bailey on and it is for the quick actions of Mr Bailey that Paul Lake played for us again. You have to understand that in the early 1990’s the teams physio would be one guy with a small medical bag and sponge. There was none of this medical backup that we have nowadays and that is what makes Mr Baileys decisive actions that more critical. As a result Paul missed just the one game before returning to action a week later in a loss to Chelsea.

In retrospect those two seasons for City and Lake out of the spotlight of top tier football probably did the world of good. A new confidence was had and the youth side of 1986 had matured into a decent senior side of 1989. Seven games into the new season and Lake was involved in the Maine Road massacre. The young boys of Manchester City defeated their millionaire neighbours Manchester United 5-1 in what was the early days of the Alex Ferguson reign. City consolidated in their first season back and would look to push on the next season.

Although Paul didn’t score in the 5-1 win it did look like he would be key to City’s future and for that matter Englands future too. Then England boss Bobby Robson touted the young Lake as a England captain of the future and certainly it would have been great to see him grow as a player but fate would deal a cruel blow. Less than a year from that famous victory Lake was tackled by Tony Cascarino of Aston Villa and that one tackle pretty much cut short Paul’s career. When his and City’s trajectory seemed to be on an upward trend and just after he had negotiated a new 5year deal with City it all came crashing down with one innocuous tackle.   

Two major operations and two years later Lake would turn out for City again but collapsed in the second game of his comeback against Middlesbrough. This time it was worse and this time he would not come back to play competitively for City again, eventually announcing his retirement in 1996. Paul was brave and courageous on the field but even more determined and committed of it. To read his autobiography is a heart rending account of what a young lad was dealing with behind the scenes at City. The neglect with which his injury was treated and the constant set backs and depression of seeing fellow professionals suffer similar injuries and return to full fitness and continue careers when he was (and is still) pained to even walk cannot be imagined. For sure injury robbed England, Manchester City and indeed football as a whole the chance to see a truly great player, who had at least another decade to give, fulfill his potential. He did appear on the Maine Road pitch one last time to kick off his testimonial game. United, managed by Alex Ferguson were the opponents and to be fair to United they did come at short notice and play a strong team, proving that Paul Lake was not only loved by City but by all of Manchester. 

I remember seeing a banner that City fans had in the stadium which read “We dream of playing in the shirt. Today God chose you. Play like we dream”. The one City player whose play encapsulated that sentiment was Paul Lake and, as such, was inducted into the Manchester City Hall of Fame in 2004. However to say his time at City, injuries aside, was rosy would not be wholly accurate. Although there is no doubt that he loved the club like all of us it is also true that a couple of figures within the City set up back then didn’t do right by Paul. Inadequate medical treatment and then the rushing back of the star player robbed us all of watching Pauls talent flourish. However like all prodigal sons, Paul has now returned and is an ambassador for the club.

After his playing career ended Paul went on to pursue a career within Physiotherapy and spent time at numerous clubs within that role before he eventually returned to City. It was in fact after a meeting with then CEO Garry Cook that Paul, who represents the charity ‘Jump Space’ talked about fundraising efforts. Cook, impressed with Lakes desire asked Paul to oversee the charitable arm of Manchester City.

Lake still represents the Jump Space charity and to find information and/or make a donation you can visit the website at www.jumpspace.org.uk. Jump Space is a specialist centre for children with disabilities and their families. It uses unique trampolining and rebound therapy in which trampolines are used to offer movement, theraputic and recreational opportunities for a whole range of disabilities.

Paul Lake was, is and will always be a true City legend and whether playing in the blue shirt, treating players on the field or fundraising for charity Paul always gives his full ability and efforts to whatever task is before him and for that we admire him. The fact his blood is blue just makes him that much better. 

Written by: PA Cityboy (www.facebook.com/pacityboy)

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When Is A Yellow Card A Good Thing?

I think there are 2 types of yellow card, a good yellow and a bad yellow.

The good yellow also has variants. These are defensive, midfield and attacking good yellow cards, and there are the same 3 bad yellow cards.

So let me explain all 6.

Defensive good and bad yellows are differentiated by outcome. A bad yellow is a foul on the edge or in the box, which gives the opposition a sight of goal and puts them in an advantageous position.

Whereas a good yellow is a tug or trip 35 yards or more out, when the attacking team are breaking fast with numbers in support. So you get the idea, when the yellow gives the team that fouls the advantage then it’s worth it.

In midfield the rules change. Good yellow are ones where you use the foul to impose your will on the opposition, this is to intimidate them and the Roy Keane/Patrick Vieria duels were just such cases.

If Arsenal were on top and Viera was playing well, Keano would level him and the crowd roared, he was booked and the team were shown what was needed to turn the tide, he did this game after game. His will imposed on the game, the message was to pick it up and drive on. 

Bad midfield yellows are early trips and kicks for no advantage, just risking a red for no good reason. This puts the offender on his guard for the whole game, nullifies his effect and gives advantage to the opposition.

To complete the picture the attacking yellows are in 2 categories too. One is the dive or cheating yellow, where the attacker tries for a penalty when there wasn’t one, this is a good yellow in my view as Refs buy them on a 50/50 basis and although you may not like it the advantage is worth the risk.

Another good yellow is battering the centre half with an elbow or studs up challenge to establish your presence, and get them on edge.

Bad attacking yellows are generally for dissent, but I like attackers to get carded, they rarely get sent off and it shows they care.

Some players can play without getting many cards, take Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker for examples. Rio generally shepherds players into spaces where he traps them between touch line and himself and taps the ball away, he is non-aggressive but effective, much like Michael Carrick is. By contrast Nemanja Vidic attacks the ball and if the player is between him and the ball then that’s hard luck for that player.

Upfront Lineker was a poacher, he didn’t go near defenders except when the ball arrived, always playing between them trusting a 5 yard burst of pace to open half a yard for a strike. He never tackled back and never pressed up the field.

So explain this to me. Why has Wayne Rooney got no yellow cards this season? In 28 games he has one red and one yellow but none in the Premier League, his normal seasonal haul is 8 in 40 games, and he has done that year on year.

I watched him play against Arsenal and his stats were no yellow cards and no goals and no shots on goal in 90 minutes. His salary was unchanged despite his anonymity in the game. Yes he played in a withdrawn striker role, a position that demands he drives into the box, and supports the lone striker, resulting in space at the edge of he box where he can power shots home, and with our wingers creating havoc surely he would dominate in that position, but no.

Rooney lost possession at least half the time he received it, he fell at the slightest touch and his one dive for a penalty was so bad the Ref didn’t have the heart to give him a good booking for it. When Wayne Rooney gets sympathy from the Ref then you know his drive is missing.

Rooney needs to reinvent himself somehow. If he is a tame wanderer who doesn’t challenge the opposition then he has to have the skill to beat players by tricks or pace, and he cant invent those.

Lionel Messi rarely gets booked but he has an excuse in that he is brilliant, Cristiano Ronaldo too but a player like Robin Van Persie has to foul to get the defenders on edge. Rooney is more Van Persie than Messi, an explosive player who changes games in a flash as opposed to wearing people down or beating them with skill.

My wife watched a few minutes of the game and said one thing, “Rooney looks like he has put a bit of weight on”, perhaps that is true I don’t know as I don’t watch his waistline, but I think that she said it because he looks slow and laboured.

Some players need the fire to do their best and imagine Roy Keane without that devil in him, he wouldn’t have been half the player he was, and that’s true of Rooney too.

Whatever the problem the stats don’t lie, this season Rooney is less aggressive than ever before and if he is to rediscover his form them he must first rediscover his drive, get some good bookings and make things happen.

Aside from the Manchester City/Spurs game, Sunday was a good day because Evra found some form, we won, and Liverpool lost of course on Saturday.

But just as Andy Carroll is being slaughtered for being a tame version of the marauding striker Kenny Dalglish paid £35m for, then so is Rooney a pale shadow of the bundle of talented energy that burst onto the scene at Everton and drove us to so many wins in his first years at Old Trafford

He is paid a lot of money and we want our money’s worth in sweat and effort, he will never be Ronaldo, he will never have the pace of Anderi Kanchelskis or the touch of Dimitar Berbatov, or the vision of Paul Scholes or the balance of Eric Cantona, or the energy of Park Ji-Sung or the technique of Mark Hughes, he is Wayne Rooney the brat from Liverpool with a thunderbolt in either foot who drives thru you, over you and into your goal.

That’s what we want to see again ……please.

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Juan Mata – The star of the season so far

It could be fair to say that at the end of last season, Chelsea needed a new lease of life. Finishing joint second with third placed Manchester City; the season of 2010-2011 could be reviewed as a bit of a disappointment from the Blues fans.

So when the Summer transfer window opened,  newly appointed Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas felt a bit more flare and creative ‘spark’ was needed.

After talks with Chelsea’s London Rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, broke down, Chairman Roman Abramovich swooped in with an offer of £23.5m for Valencia’s Juan Mata. A five year contract was agreed and Mata signed for the Stamford Bridge outfit on the 24th October 2011.

The Spaniard started his career as a youngster at Real Oviedo where he spent three years in their youth team. Due to his success he then joined the Real Madrid youth academy where he stayed at the club for four years.

Whilst at Real Madrid, Mata never really had the chance to break into the first team and after a contractual clause in 2007, the attacking midfielder joined Madrid’s La Liga counterparts; Valencia.
At Valencia, Mata was soon finding a regular starting place with the likes of Vicente picking up regular injuries. In his first season with the Yellows, Mata scored twice in the Copa del Ray semi-final match against Barcelona to help his side reach the final, where he scored the opener. Due to his success, he was voted the team’s best young player by the team’s players and fans.

After settling in at the Mestalla, Mata became an ever-present offensive figure for Valencia, scoring 17 goals in 68 games, with the club achieving back-to-back third-league places. On 9 May, England-based Spanish journalist Guillem Balagué reported interest from several Premier League clubs.

Mata’s talents were soon spotted by the national team. He has been involved with the Spanish national teams since 2006 where he helped Spain win the 2006 European Under-19 Football Championship, ever since he has been involved, playing for the Under 21s in 2007 to making his first appearance for the national first team in a 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Turkey.

The Spaniard made one appearance in the 2010 World Cup competition where Spain won overall. Mata came on as a substitute, replacing fellow Chelsea team-mate Fernando Torres in their win against Honduras.

Ironically, it was Torres that persuaded Mata too sign for the Blues. In an interview Mata revealed “Fernando got me excited about the thought of coming here. He said it would be good for me here, and that me and him together could be good. I also talked to my family and friends about it as well.”

Moving on to his time at Chelsea, a goal on his debut in the 3-1 home win against Norwich meant that the Chelsea faithful took him to their hearts straight away.

So far for Chelsea this season, the Spaniard has scored six goals in 26 league and cup games and proves to be one of the deals of the summer.

By Jack Fox

@JackFox7

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