Friday, October 23, 2009

Product Test and Review: Puma King Classic Top di

The fine folks at have once again asked for my razor-sharp product analysis. This time, it's something a wee bit more important than a t-shirt. The item in question this time around is the Puma King Classic Top di. Yes, it's the boot revered across the globe for its simple lines, supple leather, and all-black no-nonsense approach to the game. But how would it fair under the Sanford microscope?

First of all, the guys at are no dummies. They sent me two shoes, one for each foot. This greatly facilitated the testing process.

I'll admit it was a bit difficult to pick the new, crisp-looking cleats out of the box instead of my worn-in, comfortable current shoes. But it had to be done, and the switch wasn't nearly as difficult as I imagined. The Pumas slid on with ease, and my size 11 1/2 versions fit quite well. I have wide feet but the Classics didn't pinch a bit.

The first things I noticed, however, were the laces. I prefer thick and long (that's what she said. sorry. couldn't help it.) laces, but the Pumas have thin laces that don't allow you to wrap around the cleat for extra support. And if you tie normally, you're left with too much lace. A no-man's land of laces, if you will. So, I double knotted and stuffed the extra string into the laces that were tied through the eyelets. That seemed to work OK.

My first test session on turf was great. It's that longer turf with the little rubber pebbles. The studs handled the turf without any problems, and within five minutes I forgot I was wearing new shoes and was bagging goals for fun. (ed. note: goal part not factually correct). But seriously, it's not every day you can put on a brand new pair of cleats and have them become ingrained to you and the pitch so quickly. And they gave me far more traction than turf shoes or cross trainers or all those other weird shoes that are supposedly made for turf. These didn't stick in the ground or hold me up at all and I felt like I could turn on a dime.

My next session with the shoes was on grass. Again, they performed admirably, with plenty of traction and solidity. The soles quickly loosened and became flexible. The leather began to loosen up a bit and felt great on the ball. I really felt like they were giving me that extra bit of contact and control when I was trying to work the ball into tight space. Better yet, I looked bad-ass in my all-black boots. The grass was fairly firm so I can't say how these cleats would do in the muck, but their performance on tight surfaces was excellent.

Given the negative of the laces, I'd give the Puma King Classic Top di a 9/10 and would jump on these for my everyday boot. Most places list these around $120, which isn't top-tier expensive but ain't cheap either. But it is a price I would gladly pay knowing the quality of the equipment. And guess what? At, they are currently available for $112 with free ground shipping. -Sanford

Soccer Cleats

Vive le Foot!

It was quite the week for French teams in European football where Lyon showed incredible poise and Hugo Lloris certainly scored some points as the # 1 goalkeeper for France for the World Cup…it was also somewhat poetic justice to see a team Houllier successfully coached for 2 years beat Benitez’s Liverpool at Anfield…

Grenoble coach just wants to know how it feels to not lose...trophies can come later...

Meanwhile Marseille did the job at Zurich while Bordeaux ended up beating a 9-man Bayern after missing two (!) penalties…hardly the stuff of legend but a victory nevertheless. Now it’s back to the less glamorous Ligue 1 that showed a few signs of exhaustion with losses by Lyon, Bordeaux and the realization that PSG still was a rather unlucky mediocre team…meanwhile Montpellier continues to impress as a co-leader (!) with Lyon while tiny Lorient is already positioning itself as a Europe league contender…

Arsenal fans might complain about Van Persie’s low goal scoring tally but I’m not sure they would have been impressed with Bordeaux target striker Marouane Chamakh who has yet to find the net after…12 games in Ligue 1 and Champions League. Sunderland and West Ham must be happy…Meanwhile Le Mans…zzzz…

BordeauxLe Mans 1 – 1

Boulogne tied at Le Mans, hello Ligue 1, we’re hereto stay! Meanwhile Guy Lacombe is working is magic at Monaco with the help of Nene, best scorer with 7 goals in 9 games.

BoulogneMonaco 1 - 2

The Nancyboys are playin Grenoble, the team with no defense and no points…until tomorrow? Nancy got spanked by OM at home and they will probably stay up late Friday night saying “C’mon guys, one more, train to Grenoble is only in 3 hours…”

Spellcheck suggests “granola” for Grenoble

GrenobleNancy 1 - 1

Nice seemed to get slightly better but things are actually getting much worse and they will wrongly think they can take advantage of a Lyon side basking in Anfield glory.

Nice – Lyon 1 - 2

St Etienne beat the champion then falls to Montpellier. Valenciennes beat…Grenoble.

St Etienne wants to know why Montpellier and Lorient are doing so great while their own legend is going so blah. Allez les Verts!

St Etienne – Valenciennes 3 - 1

It used to be one nil to the Lo-ree-yan but now they’re scoring goals. Sochaux made a point of beating Lyon in support of Charlie Davies. They will miss him against Lorient

Sochaux – Lorient 1 - 1

Rennes still hasn’t regained it early season form and they will be held up by Montpellier who WANT the first place alone.

RennesMontpellier 1 - 3

Auxerre beat the Champions last weekend but they are meeting a team high on Europa victory (Genoa!)

Auxerre – Lille 2 - 0

Toulouse had a sad trip to Ukraine in the Europa league…Lens is looking like it’s going back to where it came from…Ligue 2.

Lens – Toulouse 0 - 0

This is the first Classico of the season and one could have hoped to see both team at the top of the table but no, and there is no indication that PSG will not lose. Hoareau is out for weeks. Erding is back!

Marseille – PSG 3 – 1

I had 6 good picks last weekend including perfect scores!

1 - Lyon 20 pts

2 – Montpellier 20 pts

3 - Bordeaux 19 pts

4 – Monaco 18 pts

5 – Marseille 17 pts

18 - Lens 8 pts

19 - Nice 8 pts

20 - Grenoble 0 pts

The Frenchman!

Tickets and Safety May Be Scarce in South Africa

“Yes, we have crime,” Jordaan said, noting that South Africa has seen an increase in tourism of around one million visitors a year. “But there is a difference between societal crime and hosting a big event and tourism.”

If the crime is being sexy, then lock 'em up, right? Right...?

The Big Interview: Sid Lowe Talks to Jermaine Pennant

Jermaine Pennant has accused Rafael Benítez of "restricting" his players and failing to get the best out of the Liverpool squad. The winger, who left the club to join Real Zaragoza in the summer, believes the Spaniard's managerial style and cautious tactics have resulted in some high-profile players finding their best form elsewhere.

You be the judge...

Fulham v Roma exposed the folly of Michel Platini's extra assistant referee plan

It had always looked a desperate, last-ditch attempt to avoid introducing video technology, but on Thursday night the true folly of Michel Platini’s idea to introduce an extra assistant referee behind each goal in Europa League matches was truly exposed.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United: Top 10 Video Moments

Watch YouTube clips of classic matches between Liverpool and Manchester United as English football's fiercest rivalry is renewed in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.

England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

Liverpool host Premier League champions Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday in what is considered to be a make-or-break game for Rafa Benitez.
Elsewhere on a full weekend programme of top-flight action, Wolverhampton Wanderers entertain Midlands rivals Aston Villa on Saturday lunchtime, Chelsea are in action against Blackburn Rovers while Arsenal make the short trip across London to Upton Park to tackle struggling West Ham United.

Preview I
Preview II

Lawro's Predictions

Sir Alex remains wary of wounded Liverpool

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Fiorentina host Napoli, Inter welcome Catania, Milan go to Verona to face Chievo, Roma have Livorno, Siena host Juventus...

Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Barcelona and Real Madrid attempt to bounce back from midweek losses.

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Tough challenges lie ahead for Leverkusen, Hamburg and Schalke in this weekend's Bundesliga action...

Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich - Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia M’gladbach - Koeln
Hannover - Stuttgart
Mainz - Freiburg
Hoffenheim - Nuernberg
Hertha Berlin - Wolfsburg
Schalke - Hamburg
Bochum - Werder Bremen

Landon Donovan Wins USA Player Of The Year, Decade

U.S. National Team forward Landon Donovan made history today by winning the 2009 Honda Player of the Year Award, thus becoming the only six time winner of the most coveted prize in U.S. Soccer. For the last 19 years, the award has honored the best player on the U.S. National Soccer Team as chosen by the American soccer media.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast gears up for the final weekend of the regular season and winds its way through the decisive round of fixtures.

The Joy of Six: Great Performances with 10 Men

From England's doomed heroism in St Etienne to Man City's stunning comeback against Spurs, here are half a dozen of the best displays with 10 men.

Amy Lawrence: Milan's Madrid win pushes Rubin's at Camp Nou for underdog-of-the-week

The Russian team with a name like a Harry Potter spell have turned Group F into a magical prospect.

Europa League Wrap: Everton humbled, Fulham denied

Javier Saviola and Oscar Cardozo both scored twice as Benfica blew UEFA Europa League Group I wide open with a comprehensive 5-0 defeat of previously unbeaten Everton.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Champions League Team Of The Week selects the best in show from a week in which the big teams struggled...

Liverpool class of '87 finish second despite run of four straight defeats

Rafael Benítez's team may have lost their fourth consecutive game in all competitions against Lyon on Tuesday night but they are not the first Liverpool team to suffer such a poor run of form, and probably won't be the last.

Red for danger: Liverpool empire could be one defeat from crumbling

Four consecutive losses have left Liverpool seemingly at the risk of implosion. After defeat by Lyons in the Champions League on Tuesday, their next opponents are Manchester United and Rafael Benítez’s side will take to the pitch at Anfield on Sunday in the knowledge that another loss would all but end their Barclays Premier League title hopes with seven months of the campaign remaining.

The Times considers what defeat would mean to the players, supporters, owners — and Benítez.

2010 World Cup Mock U.S. Roster

With World Cup qualification confirmed, U.S. coach Bob Bradley continues to evaluate players. ESPNsoccernet projects whom we think Bradley will choose as his 23-man U.S. roster for the 2010 World Cup.

Still in the mix...

Players are ranked from top to bottom in terms of how certain a lock they appear to be for the roster and their current perceived pecking order. As befitting standard squad composition, we've chosen three goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and four forwards.

Richard Jolly: Moyes' Myriad of Options Poses Problems

And now, all of a sudden, Moyes may have a new and unfamiliar problem: options. The days of untried unknowns making up the numbers on the bench may be nearing an end, the era when substitutions were predictable because the alternatives were so underwhelming is almost over. Everton still have three significant long-term absentees - Jagielka, Arteta and Phil Neville - but their squad is acquiring a depth.

Norman Hubbard: Bruce Has Black Cats Purring

First there was the question of Alan Wiley's fitness. Then there were the issues caused by an inflatable ball purchased from the Liverpool club shop. Sunderland's successes have an unfortunate habit of being obscured in unlikely fashion. Nevertheless, the last two matches have marked a seismic step forward from Steve Bruce's side.

Wenger at 60

It is a measure of Arsene Wenger's impact on global football that having arrived at Arsenal in 1996 to the headline "Arsene Who?", he could now waltz into almost any managerial post in the world.

Other leading clubs would long since have sacked a manager who failed to lift a single trophy in four years but, as Gerard Houllier told BBC Sport, "Why do Real Madrid still want him then?"

Ribery expected to miss play-offs

France are likely to be without midfield star Franck Ribery for their two World Cup play-off matches against the Republic of Ireland.

Champions League: Wednesday Reports

Chelsea and Manchester United maintained their 100 per cent records in the UEFA Champions League group phase as AC Milan beat Real Madrid in a thriller.

Real Madrid 2 - 3 AC Milan:
Pato settles five-goal thriller
Sid Lowe: Pato double rocks Madrid
Player Ratings

CSKA Moscow 0 - 1 Manchester United: Valencia completes happy Moscow return
United meals destroyed by Russian customs
Player Ratings

Bordeaux 2 - 1 Bayern Munich: Two missed penalties, two red cards

Chelsea 4 - 0 Atletico Madrid
Palmer: Blues call on reserves to crush Atletico
McCarra: Kalou double helps keep Chelsea perfect
Player Ratings

Rangers hunt for fan who racially abused Edu

Rangers were continuing their hunt for the "moron'' who Maurice Edu alleges racially abused him after the Champions League thrashing by Unirea Urziceni.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Wednesday sees Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid put their 100 per cent records in the UEFA Champions League on the line.

Amy Lawrence: Madrid hold all the aces as Milan struggle

Quotes & Chants of the Week

"I lost sight of the official ball and stayed on the red one. I went for the red ball instinctively as it was the closest to me and the other went past me."
Pepe Reina on THAT beach ball.

"You have to say he was right on the spot and kept up with play well."
Mischievous Mark Hughes praises Alan Wiley's handling of the Wigan-Man City game, following Sir Alex Ferguson's comments that the official was too unfit.

"It wasn't like Carlos Tevez, who played a few games for West Ham and then wouldn't celebrate for Man City. I had seven years at this club."
Harry Redknapp on refusing to celebrate Tottenham's goals against old club Portsmouth.

"I have been criticised for not hiring Xabi Alonso or Gareth Barry. But if I signed them, I would have killed Song, Diaby and Denilson."
Wenger on the problem that prevents him from replacing players.

ITV presenter: "So apart from pace, Steve, what does Gabby (Agbonlahor) bring to this England side?"
Steve Bruce: "Well, raw pace obviously."
Bruce before the England-Belarus game.

Andy Gray: "Three-and-a-bit goals the average (per game in the Premier League) so we're due at least one more."
Martin Tyler: "Is the bit the one that goes in off the beach ball?"
During Man City-Wigan.

"It's my birthday tomorrow, so obviously that was an early Christmas present from the lads."
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce, who sounds ever-so-slightly confused after the win over Burnley.

"Jim Bullard, Bullard
He's worse than Steve Gerrard
He's fatter than Frank Lampard
Jim Bullard, Bullard."
Fulham fans welcome back Jimmy Bullard (to the tune of Que Sera Sera).

The Rest

Tim Vickery in South America

World Cup qualification in South America came to a close with only one change from the previous two campaigns. Brazil, Paraguay and, in the end, Argentina made it through once again, while Uruguay claimed fifth spot, the play-off position, for the third time running. The sole modification is that Chile have qualified instead of Ecuador.

This brings to a halt - we shall find out if only temporarily - the rise of teams from the north of continent. Colombia made it to the World Cups of 1990, '94 and '98, and Ecuador were at the last two. This time they have missed out, and since the spotlight will be off them for a while, now would seem to be an appropriate moment to have a look at their progress.

Schalke midfielder Jones approved for U.S. switch

Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones' application to switch to the U.S. national team from Germany has been approved by FIFA.

Sounders goalie Keller thinks 2010 won't be the end

After 28 regular season Major League Soccer matches, two international exhibitions and a run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title, Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller still feels pretty good. Not bad for a 39-year-old.

Mullitude? I'll say 5.8...

Ferguson storms out after being quizzed on FA charge

"Silly question gets no answer," he said. "I'm not answering it."

Another reporter replied that "It's not a silly question", Ferguson then got up and left the room, saying only "Good night" as he stormed out.

Gordon Strachan set to replace Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough

Suggestions have intensified that Steve Gibson, Boro's chairman, had already lined up Strachan when, at around midnight last night, he sacked Southgate following the team's 2-0 home win over Derby County.

Edu accuses Rangers fans of racism on Twitter

Edu wrote a message on his Twitter feed which read: "Not sure what hurt more: result last nite or being racially abused by couple of r own fans as I'm getting in my car."

Champions League: Tuesday Roundup

A miserable night for British interest in the UEFA Champions League saw Liverpool and Rangers both lose at home, while Arsenal dropped points on their travels as AZ Alkmaar grabbed a last minute leveller. Elsewhere, Inter Milan were held at home.

Rangers lost 4-1 at home...

Champions League: Barcelona 1 - 2 Rubin Kazan

Rubin Kazan have created one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history when they stunned a seemingly indestructible Barcelona side 2-1 at the Camp Nou.

Player Ratings

Pep ready to fight after shock home defeat

Champions League: Liverpool 1 - 2 Lyon

Sailing close to the wind has been a feature of Liverpool’s European adventures under the stewardship of Rafael Benítez. A defeat at home to Lyons last night meant they were all but blown off course altogether.

As in 2007, only a trio of victories from their final three group games will give the Merseyside club a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League, and having lost their past four matches — Liverpool’s worst run in 22 years — hopes will not be high that an upturn in fortunes is just around the corner.

Hayward: Benítez's reign is unravelling

Jolly: Problems mounting at Anfield

Harris: Liverpool sink further into the mire

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday's Champions League Previews

Liverpool and Rangers are in urgent need of victory in the UEFA Champions League, while Arsenal can extend their 100 per cent start.

Liverpool vs. Lyon
: Preview
Gerrard back as Liverpool aim to avoid worst run in 22 years.

Debrecen vs. Fiorentina: Preview

Barcelona vs. Rubin Kazan: Preview
Russian minnows hit the big time

Inter Milan vs. Dynamo Kiev: Preview

Rangers vs. Unirea Urziceni:
Stuttgart vs. Sevilla: Preview

Olympiacos vs. Standard Liege:

AZ Alkmaar vs. Arsenal: Preview
No shirt sponsor for Alkmaar

Sid Lowe in Spain

Their football isn't as super as in the days of Rivaldo and co, but Depor's cut-price squad is again surprising Spain's big boys.

Deportivo La Coruña grind their way back to where they once belonged.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The stalemate between Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend reflects a wider trend this season.

Goals dry up as Bundesliga's top sides revert to kontrollierte Offensive.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

It has not escaped anyone's attention that Inter have now won all six of their league games in which the Dutch midfielder has played.

Wesley Sneijder the key as Mourinho's master plan works wonders for Inter.

Jonathan Wilson in Eastern Europe

The teenage Bosnian playmaker is relishing the opportunity of a showdown against Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.

Lyon's Miralem Pjanic holds key to unlocking Liverpool.

Americans In The UK: Friedel Stifles Chelsea

Aston Villa’s defensive stalwart stunted the formidable Chelsea attack on Saturday, limiting them to one goal while allowing his squad to press on for the winner.

Americans On The Continent: In Our Hearts

After a joyous weekend during which the US Men’s National team clinched qualification for the 2010 World Cup, tragedy struck when Charlie Davies USMNT and Sochaux was involved in a horrific one-car collision on October 13th.

Elsewhere, Michael Bradley scored in Borussia Mönchengladbach's loss.

USA Striker Charlie Davies Out Of Intensive Care

He will have surgery next week on his broken elbow and may require further surgery as he begins his rehabilitation.

England: Premier League Report + Table

Phil Brown has much to ponder between now and Portsmouth's visit on Saturday, when Paul Hart's bottom-placed strugglers must surely be defeated or the questions regarding the future of Hull's perma-smiling manager will again be raised. This was a particularly disappointing defeat to comprehend for Brown and City's travelling support, who admirably filled the away end

Fulham 2 - 0 Hull City

English Premier League Table
Club Played Points
Manchester United922
Tottenham Hotspur919
Manchester City817
Aston Villa816
Stoke City912
Blackburn Rovers810
Wigan Athletic910
Bolton Wanderers88
Wolverhampton Wanderers98
Hull City97
West Ham United85

Uli-Hesse Lichtenberger in Germany

It's no surprise so many Müllers have run out for Germany, as this is the most common family name in this country. It is one of those names that refer to an occupation and means, of course, miller.

Phil Ball in Spain

Time is an inconvenience between football matches.
Who said that? Albert Camus? Nah - it was actually my mate Rob from Grimsby - but you can best appreciate that sort of sentiment if you come from such a place. In Spain, however, some extraordinary stuff again this weekend. Who needs beach balls when you've got La Liga? So let's start with a quick round-up, after the annoying little hiatus caused by the international fixtures.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin loves London but is baffled by customs

Meet the tough little forward whose foot was sliced open yet he carried on, even scoring as the blood seeped out.

“But the lifestyle is very difficult for me. There are a lot of rules I don’t understand. In Russia, you can break any rule. Here you can’t break rules.’’

“There are a lot of crazy things here. What does ‘British food’ mean? I heard about fish and chips but I do not eat it. I heard about ales! Ales! A special drink like beer but without gas! I’ve not tried it. And what is porridge? At home, I eat soups and Russian salads.’’

'Beach ball' goal referee Mike Jones dropped from Premier League duty

Sunderland beat Liverpool 1-0 thanks to a fifth-minute goal from Darren Bent which beat Pepe Reina only after striking a beach ball thrown from the crowd by a Liverpool fan.

It later emerged that Jones should have ruled the goal out and, instead, ordered a free-kick after the ball struck an “outside agent”.

Should Irish eyes be smiling after Fifa's seeded World Cup qualifying play-off draw?

Republic of Ireland fans should not grumble that their team will have to beat a good team to qualify for South Africa.

Dean Windass finally calls time on his playing career at 40

Dean Windass has announced his retirement as a player. The former Bradford City and Hull City striker, 40, has decided to hang up his boots after an 18-year playing career in order to focus on completing his Uefa coaching badges.