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Leave Our Cup Alone

Non – league Crawley town run Manchester United down to the wire at Old Trafford, whilst Leyton Orient earn a money spinning replay, following a last gasp equaliser.

 If the weekend proved anything within the football world it was that romance – at least in terms of the F.A Cup anyway – is still very much alive.

The FA Cup loosing its magic has long been something of a conversation starter in footballing circles, much like the phrase ‘bad weather we are having’, seems to break down conversational boundaries in everyday life.

 However, the exploits of Crawley Town and Orient against Premier League big boys – United and Arsenal respectively- surely put the debate to bed, at least until next season?

Apparently not.  The news today has been full of Orient Chairman defending the current format of the 139-year-old, domestic trophy.

I wouldn’t say I could often agree with Orient Chairman Barry Hearn, who after all comes across as a guy who would have no trouble starting a fight in an empty house, and hasn’t shied away from his own controversial views of football over the years. But much of what he put about the FA Cup rung true. 

For those of you not aware the new FA Chairman David Bernstein is looking to make changes to the traditional format in a search for more revenue and reto rejuvinate the apparently dying interest in the cup.

The ideas include seeding, the abolishment of replays and more midweek games.

The things that make the FA Cup magical – the big boys travelling uneven, mud ridden pitches, with fans within touching distance on the terraces and non- league teams travelling to the theatre of dreams to play in a game of a lifetime, could all become a thing of the past if a new era for the cup is sanctioned.

The options being discussed may make more commercial sense and panda to the big clubs with no replays meaning an emptier schedule, but removing the risk of being embarrassed by the underdog, if seeding is introduced, will be the death of the worlds most watched domestic cup.

For many a football league fan, The F.A cup does not represent the chance of a trophy but a chance of a giant killing, as your much loved team – who may be struggling at the wrong end of League One – has a chance of facing those in the comfort of the promised land of the Premier League.

As a Brentford fan, my sides 2-1 over Premier League Sunderland in 2006, was a magical moment, the kind of moment that you don’t get the privilege of enjoying as an avid Bees fan.

For many years to come I will remember DJ Campbell – who was a van driver only a few months earlier – sending Sunderland crashing out of the F.A Cup.

In that reflective anecdote lies the beauty of the cup.

If seeding is introduced and money-spinning replays removed, I would argue that the FA Cup, prestigious history aside, would lose its gloss and stories full of giant killing fairytales of shirt swaps with footballing heroes.

The idea of the F.A Cup without the legends of Underdogs would not be the same…. 

So on behalf of football fans everywhere, I join Orient Chairman, Barry Hearn in saying –

 “ If it aint broke ,don’t fix it.”

Martyn Edwards



Plymouth deducted 10 Points

The Football League have today confirmed League One strugglers Plymouth Argyle have been deducted 10 points leaving them bottom of the division.

This follows the news that the Argyle board of directors have issued a ‘Notice of Intention’ to appoint an administrator to help solve their financial problems.

A statement on the Football League’s official website confirmed the news: “The Football League can confirm that Plymouth Argyle Football Club have been deducted ten points with immediate effect.

“The sporting sanction has been implemented following receipt of formal confirmation that the club had filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator with the High Court.

“This action is defined as an insolvency event within The League’s regulations as it establishes a moratorium on creditor actions against the club.”

David Hinchliffe from Walker Morris Solicitors, who was the lead advisor at a number of financially hit clubs including Crystal Palace and Leeds United, has been appointed as the interim administrator. He will continue to work with the clubs independent advisor to the board, Peter Ridsdale, until the club have either found new investors or appointed an administrator within a 10 working-day limit.

Ridsdale has previously said the club needed £2 million to survive until the summer and with talks currently under way with potential investors things now seem to be moving fast behind-the-scenes.

Despite this, a statement from Deputy Chairman Paul Stapleton released on the clubs official website earlier in the day insisted that “this action does not mean that the club is in administration”.

Having staved off a number of winding-up petitions from HMRC over the past two years, Argyle face another tax bill of around £300,000 on Tuesday – which they have no way of paying, although they will not be issued with a compulsory winding-up petition due to the ‘Notice of Intention’ which protects the club from its creditors.

With the club now 10 points adrift from safety, relegation to England’s fourth tier seems inevitable. They travel to top of the league Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow and manager Peter Reid described the news as a “hammer blow” and went on to say: “From a football point of view it’s a massive blow to the club.

“You’ve just got to get on with it. It’s going to make it really difficult but we’ve just got try and start the fight back against Brighton.

“Hopefully the board of directors can sort out the financial problems and hopefully this is the lowest ebb and we can start rising from this situation.”

Andy Maynard



Arsenal beat the Barca Boys

BUT SERIOUSLY………

The Wenger boys beat the team from Spain’s second city in a memorable Champions League first leg tie in North London. The Emirates’ outfit struck twice in the last quarter of the game to secure a 2-1 victory. Barcelona were left to rue the fact that for all their pretty passing and slick interplay, they emerged with no end result. Hopefully for Arsenal’s sake, this lesson was not lost on the myopic Arsene as he watched on, nervously squirming in his seat like a Middle Eastern dictator. The victory was hard won against the side the French professor had described as the greatest ever team. Those of us with memories that go back to the Brazilian side of 1970 or Milan in 1989 (or with internet access) would argue, but it never harms to ‘big up’ your opponents when you are in fear of a thrashing or at the very least a football lesson.

After the match, Jack ‘Babyface’ Wilshere was compared to Paul Scholes by his manager, which seems a bit harsh as Jack has shown an ability to be able to string a few words together before his 35th birthday, unlike the ginger dullard. Wilshere showed that he is a more than capable performer at the top level, as his display showed the folly of Capello’s plan to use him in a holding role in the future. No water-carrier is he and surely a starring role beckons for this champagne performer. Arsene has called for an unlikely quadruple, but it might be more feasible if he had bothered to invest in a centre back in the January transfer window. I fear his stubbornness may be his downfall this season and not for the first time.

West Ham are confirmed as the likely tenants for the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 event. The Hammers embraced the idea of an athletics legacy in the East of London, whereas Spurs’ arrogant stance was a plan to bulldoze the stadium whilst the seats in the VIP Box were still warm from the ample buttocks of the IOC members. Avram Grant, you may feel, will not be there to consider the new stadium as home, but the Israeli is slower to take the hint than Hosni Mubarek, the now (finally) deposed Egyptian tyrant. The lardy manager continues to hang around the Boleyn like a bad smell, which coincidentally he is used to at home, given his wife’s favourite body-waste beverage. West Ham came back from a 3-0 half time deficit to emerge with a point against West Brom, but Avram cannot take the plaudits. Scott Parker stepping forward with a rousing Churchillian speech that rallied the troops into an effective second half reaction, while Toad of Toad Hall presumably watched in amazement that someone was actually doing the job he is paid to do.

Sepp Blatter has spoken out about the safety issue of players wearing snoods, as there is a possibility that the inappropriate garment could cause an injury if grabbed by an opponent in a challenge. Not for the first time, the oily Austrian administrator has missed a trick here. How about forcing proven divers to wear a fleshtone snood in the month following their offence, with the word ‘foreskin’ emblazoned on it? That should ensure that the likes of Nasri, Nani, Gerrard, Drogba, etc  appear even bigger dickheads than would otherwise be the case.

In politics, David Cameron PM has authorised an inquiry into the way that football is run in this country. He should beware, as he has already had his fingers burned on the last occasion he interfered in the game at the failed bid for the World Cup in 2018. You will recall that he was the makeweight in the bidding ‘dream team’ with Prince William and Lord David of Beckham. The Bullingdon boy and his old-Etonian mates should concentrate on what they are good at and continue running the country into the ground, as they have managed so successfully thus far. His new buddy Nick Clegg is in the news again as he espouses electoral reform and is encouraging us to vote in the coming referendum for the ironically named alternative vote (AV) system. That alternative vote being NOT to vote for his rabble of a party next time. We are told that the AV system is as simple as ABC – that would be Anyone But Clegg, I assume.

Glenn Hoddle followed in the illustrious footsteps of the Top Gear team this week as he insulted an entire nation on television. Famous for losing his England manager’s post after insulting disabled children’s parents with his medieval religious views, Glennda criticised Torres’ lack of control against Fulham, where the ball bounced off him at regular intervals. He likened the £50m man to the Chinese player “Knee-shin-toe”. Thankfully he did not follow this up with a cockle-picker joke or he may have found himself working the graveyard shift at TalkSport!

Sean Mathias



Fantasy Football

How Doctor Doom Defeated An Un-Fantastic Four.

One of the many great things about football (and all major sports to be brutally honest) is the fact that we as fans always believe that we know more about the game than players and managers.

It might be that we believe that our team lost the game because of a tactical reason right from the off. We may think after conceding a half time lead, our manager not only left the time to make changes too late, but brought on the wrong players to make a significant impact.

All these little opinions though whilst being great talking points at home, down the pub, on the terraces and at school or work do not offer any actual backing/proof to our theory that we know more than the manager.

Fantasy Football (FF) in a way offers a platform for fans alike to show that they are capable of putting a team together that can take on the world, or at least 10 or so friends. Of course FF is purely a stats game and that managers of teams do not have any say into what goes on in games which their players take part in.

However FF gives those know-it all fans a chance to at least in terms of points show that at least when it comes to selecting players with a budget of about £100m, that they can judge a good player or too.

By competing in leagues with friends and fellow fans, at least to the mind at least by having a good FF team, it can make those fans feel that if given the position to manage a real team, they could do a decent crack at it.

When it comes to FF, my experiences with the game have worsened after a bright start that most fans of the game would even dream of.

Ahead of the 2000/2001 Premiership Season my Maths teacher at school (whose name I can’t remember a decade on) managed to join the school up to a Nationwide Official Schools FF League.

There were only 2 rules upon entering. 1) Choose 11 players to use throughout the whole season; with the chance to make changes in winter and 2) Entrance fee was a £1 to participate in the competition.

For some strange reason, four of my close friends decided to ‘team’ up and have a team to themselves, in an order to combine their ‘managerial brains’ to come up with the best team possible. 

It was a decision that at the time seemed stupid and a decision now that at least in my eyes was as silly as Sven’s decision in taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup, after all when do Co-Managers ever work in football?

I was actually asked to join up with the ‘Un-Fantastic Four’ and add another backbone to what was already at least in their words, the ‘dream team.’ With knowing how comic-book stories end of course I did the sensible thing in declining their offer and  selected the best 11 players I could pick with my money available, taking into account the rule that you could not have more than 2 players from a club in your team.

Just like Marvel Comic’s Doctor Doom, I made it my year’s ambition (aside from doing well in my exams) to beat the foursome in the league tables and show that one mastermind was better than four brains.

After starting dreadfully after the first week, in which my team was ranked the worst in the school, whilst theirs was fourth-best, I slowly turned it round and ended up romping to finishing as runner up in my school. As well as defeating the ‘Un-Fantastic Four’, I also beat around 220-240 other students in my school

I seem to recall that year’s competition amongst my group of 20 friends, that whoever out of us would score the most points in a month would each get £1 of each other. This wager ended after only 3 months into the season, after I received £40 in winning the most amounts of points in September and October and people disliked the idea of continuing the wager after that.

Nationwide there were around 250,000 entrants to the competition, compromising of students and the odd teacher here or there and I somehow managed to finish in the top 2,000 in the overall standings, which wasn’t bad at all.

I didn’t fare as well the following season though finishing in about 12th (if memory serves me right) in my school but still finished well ahead of the ‘Un-Fantastic Four’ who by-now had split up and were now running their own teams.

In recent years, my FF teams have not done as well as I would have liked and in the last 2 seasons, after starting a team have given up halfway through the season. This is partly due my own fault in not having faith in players when they are doing well and transferring them and in not going with my gut instinct when selecting players at the start of the year.

This year for instant I chose Andrei Arshavin in my team when I had the funds to go for either one of Samir Nasri and Florent Malouda. Arshavin hasn’t exactly hit the ground running in the Premiership this season whilst at the start of the season the Two Frenchman were getting points and scoring goals for fun.

In a future article I’ll refer back to FF paying tribute to one particular player this season whose success this season (particularly in one game) resulted in me making one of the biggest mistakes ever in FF history. It’s so big a cock-up that if FF had financial implications on it, then I’d be probably be sacked as manager of the team as a result of that mistake.

You’re have to wait for when that article is published to see which current Premiership player I will be writing about and why after his form this season, I’m very tempted to not go anywhere near FF ever again.

Who was it that said FF was only just a bit of fun?

Adam Dennehey

http://twitter.com/ADennehey87

 



Film Star Footballers

Footballers are often renowned for their acting on the field from diving to theatrically feigning injuries. So with the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony here’s a list of players who could be cast and shine in potential movie remakes.

David Villa as Zorro: Not only could David Villa fit the shoes of Antonio Banderas but he’d spruce them up into a fine set of loafers. Only a Spaniard could master the role and the Barcelona forward trumps Banderas on looks and style. The iconic devil’s beard seemingly engraved below his lower lip reveals the masked hero’s true identity to the audience whilst he also possesses the coolness to transform a somewhat camp figure from the previous films. In cinema, everyone is getting darker, from James Bond to Batman. Zorro was a character that cried out for more of an edge. Villa could deliver it.

Dimitar Berbatov as Dracula: There are so many roles that Berbatov could land. Rio Ferdinand once cast him as The Godfather but he’d have to brush up on his Italian and his lack of New York cred would make him look like he’s the one being mugged. The Manchester United striker could also give Andy Garcia a run for his money in Ocean’s Fourteen but it’s Count Dracula which accommodates Berbatov the greatest. Not only would his Bulgarian roots shine through in Transylvania but his lanky posture and pale complexion give him more of a resemblance to the classic Christopher Lee vampire than Gary Oldman’s 1992 equivalent.

Wayne Rooney as Shrek: It’s a stigma which has dogged England’s star striker throughout his career. His receding hairline in recent seasons has only inflamed the comparisons. With Coleen McLoughlin (now Mrs. Rooney) as his Princess Fiona and a set of individually detached teeth, Wayne resembles the lovable ogre in several aspects. So much so that a 49 foot effigy of the Manchester United player was built with green Shrek-like ears for Bonfire Night. Rooney could even ask Paul Scholes if he wants the part as gingerbread man.

Gareth Bale in Planet of the Apes: The Welsh youngster has exploded on to the world stage this season with most notably a hat-trick against Champions League holders Inter Milan. Still, it doesn’t veer from the fact his face resembles that of a chimp’s. It’s almost as if the costume designers from Planet of the Apes used the 21-year-old as inspiration when creating Dr. Zaius and co. or perhaps God was watching the 1968 feature film before moulding the future Spurs midfielder. If you had to choose one, Cornelius’ pale and youthful face suits Bale best.  

Gennaro Gattuso in 300: The controversial Italian midfielder and no nonsense hairy-faced beast only enhanced that reputation by squaring up to Spurs assistant manager Joe Jordan after his AC Milan team lost 1-0 in the Champions League. Often seen parading the pitch shirtless, (and after Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory, shortless) Gattuso would fit the role of a Spartan warrior perfectly. Also on his resume includes backhanding his now Milan team mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic across the chops and unceremoniously rubbing victory into the face of Liverpool midfielder Christian Poulsen, then of Schalke 04. There’s hardly anyone else in the world let alone in football who could convincingly deliver the immortal words: “This. Is. SPARTA!”



Discarded shoe fuels transfer rumours

Who is the Nottingham big foot?

Derbyshire police report that they are trying to trace the owner of a pair of size 21 shoes, yes, you read it right, size 21!

The shoes were left in a petrol station in Long Eaton, Nottingham, and police have confirmed that they suspect the shoes belong to a sportsman. Their detective work has led them to conclude it may be a footballer or ‘possibly a basketball player’.

Thus far, their search has proved fruitless and the gigantic Nike trainers are still to be reunited with their rightful owner.

Let us see if we can help Derbyshire police eliminate a few footballing candidates from their enquiries. If these shoes really did belong to a footballer then ask yourself, who could it possibly be?

Well, Nottingham Forest’s training ground, about a 30 minute drive from the petrol station in question, may be a good place to start. The red and white trainers match the clubs colours after all. By heck, we’re close to cracking the case already!

But who in the Forest team is gigantic enough to fit the profile?

Could it be big Dele Adebola? The 6 foot 3 front man is a big unit, but sources tell us that the Nigerian striker, who came on as a sub in the defeat at Scunthorpe on Wednesday was in fact booted up. The sheer size of the shoes too suggests the culprit may be even more gigantic.

I’ve got it, maybe other English football giants Nicola Zigic or Peter Crouch had been in sneaky talks with Nottingham Forest during last month’s transfer window and had left their trainers behind? Was Billy Davies trying to woo Crouch or Zigic with a shiny pair of Forest coloured trainers?

No, no, impossible, with both of those giants currently playing important roles for their respective clubs we can safely rule them out of being given the green light for a move elsewhere.

What about, yes this time I’ve definitely got it, I’ll give you some clues; he’s tall, obviously, a striker, (of sorts, he doesn’t score many these days!) and is, like Adebola, Nigerian, got it yet? OK, one more clue – he is currently playing his trade at Portsmouth. Come on, you must have it by now?

That’s it! It must be Nwankwo Kanu, the gigantic striker himself – owner of the biggest feet in English football! Has the former Arsenal and Inter man been sneaking around in Nottingham getting gifts from Billy Davies? Or are they just some red and white trainers from his Arsenal days? Who knows?

But someone should give big foot Kanu a call. I’m sure he’ll want his trainers back, it’s not like most sports shops have size 21’s kicking about for him to buy  a new pair is it? 

Michael Smith

http://twitter.com/Mr_MichaelSmith



Jack Wilshere

Wednesday’s big game between Arsenal and Barcelona ended 2-1 to the home side, but an impressive display from a certain player is sure to make him world known.

Barcelona travelled to the emirates stadium to take on Arsenal in a game that always makes you think of possession football, and with Barcelona having 2 of the best midfielders in the world in Andres Iniesta and Xavi, you’d think they were the players grabbing football fans attention.

Yes, the Barcelona midfield were able to keep possession of the ball and frustrate Arsenal fans for periods of the game but the player that took their chance in the spot light was the young Jack Wilshere who seems to be a permanent fixture in the Arsenal starting line-up.

The 19 year old England international must have approached the game like all midfielders do when coming up against Barcelona, you’re unlikely to get the majority of the possession so when you do have to ball look after it and that’s exactly what he did.

His performance was top class which was awarded with an Arsenal win, but his awareness throughout the game is what contributed to his great game. On a couple of occasion when Barcelona pushed up and pressured deep Arsenal midfielders Wilshere received the ball on the centre line, had the awareness to look around and let the ball run across his body as he turned and started Arsenal attacks. He did that twice to Xavi giving him a taste of his medicine.

His awareness let him know when he did or didn’t have time on the ball and he was able to get involved in most of the Gunner’s play.

Another thing about his game that showed yesterday is his confidence on the ball. As a midfielder he’s not afraid to push forward with the ball at his feet and, when he feels it’s necessary, to get into the box and create an option for his team. Some young players may shy away from a big challenge and not be positive in their play but Wilshere was far from that on Wednesday. He kept himself calm when on the ball as well making it look easy when Barcelona players surrounded him and he got out of the situation with the ball at his feet and the Barca players behind him.

The last thing that he was able to produce against arguably the best team in the world was top class passing. His link play with Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas was something that Barcelona couldn’t stop as a team and most other Premier League sides this season. His short passing was so successful that he played the full 90 minutes, completed 46 passes and his passing accuracy as a percentage ended up as 94%.

Those types of figures allow you to understand why he was in the starting line-up for England against Denmark at the age of only 19. English fans have known Jack Wilshere to be a young prospect for a year or two now but if he puts in another performance like his last, he will be known all around the world as a talented player that teams should fear when on the ball.

The away leg at the Nou Camp for Arsenal will take place on the 8th of March, in 22 days. With a new understanding about how Jack Wilshere plays in the middle of the park, will Pep Guardiola get Barcelona playing tighter to him and Cesc Fabregas or will they continue to play the way they usually do? All I do know is that the next leg will be a fascinating one.

By Jordan Brown 



Reporter on the Road

Charlton 3 – 2 Peterborough, League One.

It was my third time back at The Valley, the ground where it all began for me on BBC Final Score two seasons ago. My last visit was a memorable one, after I parted with my hard-earned cash (albeit very little) to have a small wager on the game (it’s difficult not to as there’s a bookie’s stand just inside the Millennium Suite), I found myself a few quid up after predicting the first goal would be scored between the 35th-45th minute. Up pops Adam Lallana for the visitors to slot in on the 42nd minute to put Southampton in front and I’m forced to stifle my celebrations as the press box is surrounded by irate home fans. ThankfullyDeon Burton equalised in that game to stop me feeling so guilty for placing a bet that clearly had doomed the home side!

Well, this next visit to The Valley was to prove just as memorable. In all the games I’ve been reporting from, I had never before seen the referee stretchered off and replaced, but that’s exactly what happened. In fact the stretcher made two appearances, nearly three. As well as the ref tearing his achilles (although I can vouch for the fact he still managed to hobble in to the bar for a post-match drink), loan-defender Federico Bassone was also stretchered off. I suspect he had not fully recovered from his hamstring injury that had been plaguing him prior to kick off.

The stretcher was starting to have a starring role all of its own, but the rivalry between the two sides in their pursuit of promotion via the play-offs sparked a thrilling encounter which saw the man-of-the-match award going elsewhere – Phew! Posh dominated the first 45 minutes. Lee Tomlin was impressive all match and opened the scoring. Had I been dishing out MOTM he would have been recipient. But as it was Charlton fought back from a goal down to win 3-2. Johnnie Jackson’s header set them on their way, Bradley Wright-Phillips made it three goals in three and Pawel Abbott’s deflected volley gave The Addicks the distance they needed. Craig Mackail-Smith’s late strike made it a gripping finale, but a consolation is all it ended up being.

So, an entertaining watch. Five goals, the referee stretchered off and a new page created in Charlton’s history books. New manager Chris Powell unbeaten in his opening four games; he is the first to achieve that feat in the club’s history. Powell’s opposite number Darren Ferguson had also been appointed in the last month, returning to Peterborough after being sacked by Preston in December. He has promised to improve his side’s away form. There were glimmers of hope, but it still remains that when Posh score two, they let three in. They have conceded the most goals in the league and I imagine there will be a lot of time spent defending set-pieces on the training ground. The aerial threat from Charlton always looked likely to provide the killer punch in this tie.

Lynsey Hooper