Friday, January 08, 2010

"Players injured, driver dead" after Togo bus attack

The Togo national team bus has been machine-gunned by Angolan rebels on the Congolese border ahead of the African Cup of Nations.

MLS Coaching Carousel Update

DC United Hires Curt Onalfo

This hiring is proof that experience in MLS counts for a ton in the eyes of most MLS front offices. Onalfo's record in Kansas City was hardly stellar but his knowledge of the league's league-owned salary structure, arcane roster and transfer rules and the American talent pool means that his learning curve won't be as steep as it would be for first-time foreign coaches. We've repeatedly seen big name foreign coaches come here and flop (Gullit, Querioz, Bora Milutinovic, Mo Johnston, etc). Steve Nichol is the best example of a foreign coach doing very well here, but he spent time as an assistant first. Sigi Schmidt is a great example of a retread MLS coach who was able to put it all together after a few tries and DC will be hoping that Onalfo has the same sort of luck.

New Jersey Soft Drink Hires Hans Backe

Backe had a great record coaching in Copenhagen and Aalborg, but he's spent the last five years as Sven Goren Eriksson's lap dog, following him to the Mexico job and then bizarrely resigning the head coaching job at Notts County after just 7 weeks, though enough reports of trouble there have surfaced that we can assume this one wasn't all his fault. More alarming for Soft Drink fans is that the new GM, Erik Soler, is also new to MLS and the only "wise old head" in the front office is Jeff Agoos whose tenure up to this point has been less than stellar to put it kindly. They did retain twice jilted assistant Richie Williams, who's done more than enough to win the job in his two stints as interim manager. This is a swing for the fences, and as all of you baseball fans know that often ends with a big fat K.

Chicago Fire hires Carlos de los Cobos

I don't know anything about do les Cobos except that El Salvador played their asses off in WC10 qualifying. He has the benefit of a strong executive in Frankie Klopas, who's been in MLS as a player and executive since the league was founded. Frank's going to be driving player acquisition, and with this appointment we can assume that they'll be mining Mexico for talent, as much for marketing as playing purposes. I think the Fire will be sad to discover that Blanco's popularity and ability to draw Hispanic fans was a phenomenon rather than a trend. Then again there's a fine chance that this season will be contested in court rather than on the field due to the impending work stoppage, so perhaps all of this is moot.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Nine top-flight fixtures had been scheduled to take place over the weekend, but Fulham's game against crisis club Portsmouth, Sunderland's game at home to Bolton and Stoke City's trip to Burnley, have already fallen foul of the cold snap, while Liverpool have asked for the visit of Spurs to be postponed.
So Hull host Chelsea, Arsenal welcome Everton, Wigan welcome Aston Villa, Manchester United go to Birmingham and West Ham welcome Wolves.

Preview I

Preview II
Preview III

Lawro's Predictions

Premier League Heroes: Patrik Berger: Euro Star

The summer of 1996 was an exciting one for the Premier League. With money to burn, England's elite clubs accelerated their importation of foreign talents with the ever more cosmopolitan top flight welcoming star names such as Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Di Matteo and Patrick Vieira to English shores.

From Boumsong to King: the ten worst signings made in the January transfer window

Afonso Alves (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, £12 million, 2008): A Brazilian goal machine, apparently, when the striker moved from the Netherlands. An unmitigated flop on Teesside, averaging a goal every four matches and, seemingly, at least four misses every game. Shipped out to Al-Sadd in Qatar last September, which was sad.

The Rest

You just had to know it wouldn't work out...

The Mill + ++ +++

Friday's Rumours




Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

The superb run of form that has lifted humble Real Mallorca to fourth in La Liga faces a stiff test when Gregorio Manzano's side travel to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid on Sunday. Undefeated leaders Barcelona, who were held 1-1 at home by Villarreal last weekend and have a two-point advantage over Real, will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they play at promoted Tenerife on Sunday.


Sergio Ramos and Miss Spain take a stroll...

Italy: Serie A Weekend Previews

Under pressure Juventus boss Ciro Ferrara is in desperate need of a victory against visiting AC Milan on Sunday, in what promises to be an intriguing encounter against a side coached by fellow rookie Leonardo.


Leaders Inter Milan set to profit from Juve-Milan clash.

Patrick Vieira joins Manchester City's £100,000 club

Four and a half years since leaving England, the man whose clashes with Roy Keane came to epitomise Arsenal's rivalry with Manchester United will join the growing band of players at City to be paid in excess of £100,000-a-week, initially on a six-month contract but with the option of another year written into the terms.

Paolo Bandini: Vieira's value is a winning mentality

The Joy of Six: Solo Goals

From 'Diego's personal journey' to Matthaus's chilling statement of intent, here are half a dozen memorable individual efforts.

Britain: Weekend sport hit by snow and cold weather: full list of abandoned fixtures

The freezing weather has claimed its first Premier League matches with Fulham confirming that tomorrow’s clash with Portsmouth at Craven Cottage has been postponed and Burnley’s match against Stoke City also called off.

Liverpool have also recommended that their match against Tottenham on Sunday but no formal decision has been taken.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fat Frank's a Hit

There's been a fair bit in the English press about this catchy little Korean hit, Mister. The coverage has concentrated on the song's reference to Frank Lampard's weight, but for me the best line comes around the 1.20 mark.

Ives: Adu and Johnson try to revive careers in Greece

Tucked away by the northwestern corner of the Aegean Sea, Thessaloniki is a Greek port city that wouldn't be on most people's lists of top places to restart a soccer career, but for Freddy Adu and Eddie Johnson, Thessaloniki is exactly where they will be hoping to revive theirs.

English Premier League: Weekend Weather Watch

Premier League weekend fixtures hit by freezing weather conditions across Britain.

The Mill + ++

Thursday's Rumours



Quotes of the Decade - Part II

"I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, they have a big telescope to see what happens in other families."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho opened a war of words with Arsene Wenger, claiming the Arsenal boss was obsessed with Chelsea.

"John Toshack said it was my way or the highway - well I'm on the M56."
Robbie Savage on his decision to quit international football with Wales.

"If Bill Shankly was alive, he'd be turning in his grave."
Harry, a caller to the BBC's 606 phone-in programme, after Liverpool's FA Cup defeat by Burnley.

"You have to take it on the chin - or in my case, chins!"
Steve Bruce after Birmingham's 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool in the FA Cup.

"I am not the Special One - I am the Normal One."
New Chelsea boss Avram Grant introduced himself to the media.

"You ask 100 people, 99 will say it's very bad and the 100th will be Mark Hughes."
Arsene Wenger after Hughes defended Emmanuel Adebayor's stamp on Robin van Persie.

The Rest

Wenger disappointed by postponement of Bolton match, Bolton fans furious

Discussion will now turn to when the fixture can be rescheduled. There are few available midweek slots in a season that will finish early, to allow England extra time to prepare for the World Cup. As neither club has an FA Cup replay next week, Tuesday or Wednesday night may be an option. Coincidentally, Bolton are due to play Arsenal in the Premier League at the Reebok Stadium a week on Sunday.

Bolton Fans Furious at Late Call

Paolo Bandini in Italy

After helping the Rossoneri beat Genoa 5-2, David Beckham will have given the watching Fabio Capello food for thought.

The Becks pitch project upstages another old face in Milan.

Italy: Serie A Midweek Roundup + Team of the Week

David Beckham's second coming at AC Milan started on a winning note as the Rossoneri secured a 5-2 success over Genoa. Inter continue to lead the way thanks to a 1-0 win over Chievo. Mario Balotelli's first-half goal proved to be enough to give Jose Mourinho's men the points in their first game after the winter break.


Team of the Week

Goldenballs was impressive for Milan in front of a watching Fabio Capello...

Patrick Vieira confirms he is joining Manchester City

Patrick Vieira has confirmed he is leaving the Serie A champions, Internazionale, to join Manchester City. The France captain has also revealed that he decided to leave San Siro to further his ambitions of playing in a fourth World Cup.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Arsenal-Bolton clash called off due to weather

Arsenal have announced that Wednesday night's Premier League fixture with Bolton has been postponed due to the adverse weather conditions.

A View From My Window

As I live about 20-25 minutes walk from the Emirates, The Editor has asked for a photo from my window. Sadly my better half has our camera, so SSN will have to make do with my crappy camera phone. About an hour ago I would have said the game had really good chance of taking place [picture Nr1]. Unfortunately the snow has really started to fall quite heavily [picture Nr2], so it's hard to call. I'd say the game has a good chance of going ahead as the area around the stadium is in constant use and should be well gritted. Fingers crossed.

Picture 1 [2.24pm]

Picture 2 [3.02 pm]

English Premier League Preview: Arsenal - Bolton

Arsenal could close on league leaders Chelsea with victory over managerless Bolton on Wednesday, weather permitting.

Possible starting XIs:

Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Traore, Nasri, Denilson, Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin.

Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Taylor, Muamba, Cohen, Lee, Davies, Klasnic.

US TV: Setanta Live at 2:45pm EST


Quotes of the Week

"In fact, I think we're the only club in the Premier League that has an
all-weather surface that's no good when the weather is bad. The surface is
frozen. Lord knows who put that in. Typical."
Gary Megson hits out at Bolton's alternative training facilities, a few days before being frozen out himself.

"Here in Scotland, you have football, you have the pubs, the church and after
that comes the family. First is football."
Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo on the passion for football in Scotland.

"It was a mistake of mine to tell the lads that this lot don't score too many goals - and statistically they don't - but then they go and score seven."
Colchester United boss Aidy Boothroyd wishes he'd never given that pre-match team talk as Preston won 7-0.

"The Derby fans are good fans, they turn up week-in week-out to support their team - they even turned out to watch the rubbish they played under you, Paul!"
Paul Merson talking to Paul Jewell on Soccer Saturday.

The Rest

Free-spending Manchester City reveal £92.6m losses

Manchester City announced losses of £92.6 million last night, the third largest in British football history, as the staggering cost of their first season under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour was revealed.

In the financial year ending May 31, 2009, City made a net operating loss of £34.2 million, but when the club’s recruitment drive and turnover of players are taken into account, the figure rises to an astonishing £92.6 million, only surpassed by Chelsea’s losses in their first two years under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.

The Mill + ++

Wednesday's Rumours



Italy: Serie A Midweek Preview + Table

Genoa will be hoping to spoil David Beckham's return to AC Milan when the Serie A season resumes following its winter break on Wednesday.

AC Milan16943631
AS Roma17845528
Chievo Verona18738024

Darius Vassell: The Blogging Footballer

David Beckham's recent Christmas address on his blog was a heavily vetted, lifeless lump of words. "Good to spend some time with the family in the lead up to Christmas . . . have a great Xmas everybody . . . yadda yadda . . . blah-de-nothing." I paraphrase.

Half the world away, meanwhile, in a humble hotel room in Ankara, his former England teammate Darius Vassell was blogging his heart out. In listless, lonely streams of consciousness, the 29-year-old fading star was documenting a sleepless night. "Lying awake in bed, the sound of the air conditioning is like the engine room to a train of stressful thoughts . . . relentless."

Veteran duo searching for spotlight

In a World Cup year, players pushing for squad places find themselves under increasing pressure to get more games under their belt. The media is full of stories from international managers claiming that there is no chance of players making their final list without significant impact at club level - no matter what their standing within the game - and even the ones who have 'retired' find themselves tempted by the prestige of the footballing world's biggest competition.

English Premier League Report: Stoke City 3 - 2 Fulham

Stoke almost threw away a 3-0 half-time lead against Fulham but eventually clung on to end a run of six Premier League matches without victory.

The Cottagers were stunned as Tuncay Sanli nodded in a close-range header from a 12th-minute corner and the Potters then scored twice within three minutes of each other just after the half-hour through Abdoulaye Faye and Mamady Sidibe.

Damien Duff pulled one back in the 61st minute before a stunning Clint Dempsey volley five minutes from time set up a rousing finale.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quotes of the Decade - Part I

"He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."
George Best's verdict on David Beckham.

"I'd have given my right arm to be a pianist."
Newcastle boss Bobby Robson when asked what would have been his dream job outside of football.

"It is completely dead out there. I've been phoning myself up and disguising my voice just for a bit of interest."
QPR manager Gerry Francis on the lack of activity in the transfer window.

"At home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch. I don't think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell football, never mind understand it."
Manchester United skipper Roy Keane and the legendary prawn sandwich comment.

"The cannabis may have helped relax them. Even the hooligans enjoyed the party."
Dutch police spokesman on the good behaviour of England fans at the Euro 2000 match against Portugal - in contrast to the alcohol-fuelled riots in Belgium.

The Rest

Steve Davis: O'Brien's goal highlights U.S. soccer's decade

What would have happened if Jurgen Klinsmann had finally stopped playing hard to get? What might have been if Torsten Frings hadn't gotten away with his naughty little handball in that U.S.-Germany quarterfinal in the 2002 World Cup? What might have been if Los Angeles Galaxy ownership had not aggressively driven forward on Major League Soccer's critical stadium initiative?

We'll never know. But we do know that those moments, when critical decisions were made or momentous deeds were done, were among the most influential in shaping the past decade in domestic soccer.

Manchester United's decline is not yet a fall but alarm bells are ringing

Sir Alex Ferguson has always enjoyed the last laugh before but there are signs he lacks the resources to rejuvenate United.

Manchester Derby Carling Cup semi-final postponed


Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final first leg between Manchester City and Manchester United at Eastlands has been postponed because of snow.

Tim Vickery in South America

Jo's one-man introduction of a winter break into the English calendar by returning to South America without permission over the Christmas period is not a good sign at all. It sends out a bad message - that Everton's Brazilian striker has fallen off the tightrope.

It's arguable that we are seeing more such acts of inconsistency from players than ever before at the top level of the game, and I am convinced this is no coincidence. On the one hand, football's athletic development and the crowded fixture list mean that the physical and, probably, mental demands are greater than ever.

But on the other hand, so are the rewards. After two years with a major club, a player need never work again. He is surrounded by temptations. Doors open which he never even knew existed when he was a kid. Why bother with all those sacrifices?

The Mill + ++

Tuesday's Rumours



English Premier League Preview: Stoke City - Fulham

Tuesday, January 05, 2:45 EST
Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Mid-table battle between Potters and Cottagers…

Americans in the UK: Howard Sparks Toffees

Tim Howard turned in two solid performances last week, pacing Everton to a pair of wins.

Americans On The Continent: Making Moves

With the Americans Abroad still on their winter break, a few noteworthy players will be playing in new colors in 2010.

Blackburn's Carling Cup semi-final against Aston Villa postponed

The club said on its website this morning: "It is still snowing heavily in Blackburn, as it has been all morning, and advice locally is not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary and in addition severe weather warnings have being issued throughout the country.

Sid Lowe in Spain

The return of La Liga after the Christmas break was largely a drab affair – save for Atlético Madrid's fortuitous win over Sevilla.

Atlético conjure a 'miracle' but Madrid and Barcelona fail to sparkle.

Monday, January 04, 2010

African Cup of Nations: Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast mount heavyweight challenge

Ivory Coast are favourites to start a momentous year for African football by lifting the Cup of Nations in Angola.

Monday MLS Breakdown: First-Round Success Not A Matter Of Designation

Generation adidas players may receive much of the hype, but other first-round selections are just as successful. After spending some time perusing through the SuperDraft history books, Kyle McCarthy shares his findings.

Gabriele Marcotti Column

When it comes to cheating in football, we tend to employ double standards. Take a tumble untouched in the penalty area, gobble up some nandrolone so you can train harder and longer, or handle the ball so that you can cross to a team-mate who scores and knocks Ireland out of a World Cup play-off and you’ll be crucified as an inveterate cheat who brings shame on the game.

But go and buy good players with money you don’t have and then go and win thanks to those players who should not be playing for you in the first place because you can’t afford them and, somehow, it’s not as bad.

The Mill +

Monday's Rumours


Andy's Top 10

Andy Gray picks his top 10 Moments of the Decade

Spain: La Liga Weekend Review + Table

Real Madrid missed the chance to overhaul Barcelona and climb to the top of the La Liga table by failing to beat Osasuna in a goalless draw.


Real Madrid1612222738
Sevilla FC169341230
Deportivo La Coruña16844328
Athletic Bilbao16826126
Sporting Gijon16565021
Atlético Madrid16457-517
Racing Santander16448-616
Real Zaragoza16349-1813

English FA Cup: United shocked, Chelsea, Arsenal through

Sir Alex Ferguson bristled in annoyance while Simon Grayson, a lifelong Leeds fan who now manages his beloved team, celebrated a victory that may soothe the years of hurt fallen giants Leeds suffered in the decade just gone.

Fourth Round Draw

Richard Jolly: Leeds famous again after Old Trafford win
Kevin Palmer: Hammers and Gunners add cup of cheer

The hunger that could drive Steven Gerrard away from Liverpool

Roberto Mancini may be on to something – Liverpool cannot carry on disappointing their star player.

U.S. Forward Johnson loaned to Greek team Aris, Adu next?

Johnson last month made his first appearance for the U.S. national team since June 2008.

Freddy Adu is apparently close to signing a deal with Aris, the same Greek club that signed Eddie Johnson earlier in the week.

United States: Midfield class shapes up as bumper crop

After a couple of average seasons in the midfield ranks, which have largely been made up of solid defensive types with no real attacking flair, we now get a very promising pool. This might be the best midfield group since I started doing rankings, and I feel confident it is the best class since at least 2006.

Nwankwo Kanu: Street dreams are made of this

I was born in Owerri and grew up in the east of Nigeria, in Imo state. You could say I was a "street boy": we grew up on the street, played on the street, did everything out on the street. It was a difficult life altogether, but that's how we grew up. My dad was a civil servant before he retired and my mum worked, too. We could not always get three meals in a day; sometimes we'd struggle.

But we always had soccer: something that everybody loves.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

England: Premier League Table

Overall Home Away
1 Chelsea 20 14 3 3 45 16 9 1 0 27 6 5 2 3 18 10 29 45
2 Manchester United 20 14 1 5 45 18 8 1 1 24 8 6 0 4 21 10 27 43
3 Arsenal 19 13 2 4 51 21 8 0 1 28 7 5 2 3 23 14 30 41
4 Tottenham Hotspur 20 11 4 5 42 22 7 0 3 26 8 4 4 2 16 14 20 37
5 Manchester City 19 9 8 2 38 27 6 3 0 22 13 3 5 2 16 14 11 35
6 Aston Villa 20 10 5 5 29 18 6 2 2 17 7 4 3 3 12 11 11 35
7 Liverpool 20 10 3 7 37 25 6 2 2 26 11 4 1 5 11 14 12 33
8 Birmingham 20 9 5 6 20 18 5 3 2 8 5 4 2 4 12 13 2 32
9 Fulham 19 7 6 6 24 19 6 2 2 15 6 1 4 4 9 13 5 27
10 Sunderland 20 6 5 9 28 31 5 3 2 18 13 1 2 7 10 18 -3 23
11 Everton 19 5 7 7 26 32 3 5 2 14 15 2 2 5 12 17 -6 22
12 Stoke City 19 5 6 8 15 23 4 2 3 11 10 1 4 5 4 13 -8 21
13 Blackburn Rovers 20 5 6 9 20 35 4 4 2 13 11 1 2 7 7 24 -15 21
14 Burnley 20 5 5 10 22 40 5 4 1 14 9 0 1 9 8 31 -18 20
15 Wolverhampton Wanderers 20 5 4 11 17 36 3 2 5 9 15 2 2 6 8 21 -19 19
16 Wigan Athletic 19 5 4 10 21 44 3 3 3 10 13 2 1 7 11 31 -23 19
17 West Ham United 20 4 6 10 28 37 3 3 4 18 20 1 3 6 10 17 -9 18
18 Bolton Wanderers 18 4 6 8 26 36 2 4 4 16 21 2 2 4 10 15 -10 18
19 Hull City 20 4 6 10 20 42 4 3 3 13 16 0 3 7 7 26 -22 18
20 Portsmouth 20 4 2 14 18 32 3 0 7 13 16 1 2 7 5 16 -14 14