26 January, 2009

Not Exactly One to Bite His Tongue

Over the last fortnight we have seen an almost unprecedented media circus surrounding Manchester City and AC Milan’s Ricky Kaka. What has been strange though is the unusual silence emanating from Citeh’s most famous supporter, Noel Gallagher throughout the course of the whole debacle. Never fear though because his two-pence worth are, as ever, more than worth the wait.

“Looks like the Sheiks are starting to put their money where their mouths are," Gallagher wrote on his personal blog. “It looks like Robinho was just the start. Huge amounts of money are being talked about. Obscene, some have said.” By ‘some’ he is referring to Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who were fairly vocally opposed to supposedly £100million-plus transfer from its inception.

Ferguson's face was a picture in his press conference yesterday though. That in itself was worth £100m. He looked shell-shocked,” Gallagher continued. “Bring it on, I say. Fuck morals. Fuck Arsene Wenger and his socialist football nonsense. Fuck all that bollocks about the club losing its identity. What identity? The fact that we've been skint for 30 years?”

So there we have it then, a pretty measured and objective view as ever from Mr Gallagher.

23 January, 2009

I’m No a Fackin Bufty!

Since it’s a new year, it’s a new opportunity for all the bleeding hearts around the country to complain that football fans are too ‘aggressive’ or ‘racist’ or ‘homophobic.’ It’s pretty irritating because, let’s face it, if I can’t accuse a grown man I’ve never met of taking it up the arse for cash in the safety of a football stadium, where else am I gonna do it? Regardless, it’s the FA’s hot topic at the moment, and 2009 signals the start of a full-on offensive against homophobic behaviour, in an attempt to kick this unsavoury attitude out of football in much the same successful way as racism. When the FA get a bee in their bonnet, things really change, just ask Sol Campbell.

Anyway, while Britain attempts to jump into the 21st century, Italy is still delightfully stone-age about such matters, with national coach Marcello Lippi claiming that no gay footballers have ever, or will ever, exist. He’s so deliciously old school: “I don’t think there are any gay players, or at least in 40 years of my career I have never met any. It could well be that there are a few with these tendencies, but they don’t go around telling people about it. Considering the way football players are, it really would be a complicated condition to deal with in the locker room. If someone came to me and confessed they were gay, I would advise them to not let any of that affect them, just concentrate on their profession and feel free to do what they want in their private lives.”

I’m sure after these comments, any confused players will be certainly heading straight to Mr. Lippi for advice, confident that he’s a worldly modern guy.

In a hilarious coincidence, these comments came on the same day as a ‘world-class’ rent boy claiming to have several Serie A footballers in his pink roladex. What exactly it is that makes him ‘world-class’ is a question for a far more intrepid reporter than I, but what is clear is that the chap goes by the name Victory, and is said to be an ex-third division player himself.

He offered this expose: “I have about 30 clients who are footballers and I would say that a dozen are Serie A and national team players – several times I have been asked to take part in group sex sessions. They all know I am a footballer as well but they like me because I am discreet. A lot of them are bisexual, they are married or have girlfriends. They have a respectable image but none of them will ever admit to being gay, not for the time being anyway.” See the back of his hooded head, and hear the above transcript spoken in a language you probably don’t know, for yourself.

Stop the Madness

For everyone still cringing over the ridiculous transfer figures being banded about for Kaka, solace might finally be on the horizon with the European Club Association sitting down this week to discuss the capping of money clubs can spend on players and their wages. The proposal reportedly states that clubs will only be allowed to spend what they actually earn, rather than being bankrolled by faceless billionaire corporations. In other words, they will be subject to the same rules as everyone else.

The Offside have cleverly worked out the practicalities are such: “Basically, a team’s spending limit would be determined as 51% of their income from gate receipts, TV revenue, players sold, sponsorship and merchandising.” In layman’s terms then, no matter how rich the owner was, a team couldn’t spend money that wasn’t earned directly by the club itself, meaning no more £100million-plus bids. Unless of course Eastlands were to expand to the size of Wales and sell out every week for a year.

Obviously this is a great idea because the recent activity around Manchester City has been out of control to say the least. However, clubs and players are used to a certain trickle of income and a certain way of life, so how might teams continue to live the life they’ve become accustomed to? Well, jack up prices of course: tickets, drinks, merchandise, sponsorship and maybe even TV subscription rights.

In many ways as well this model uniformly ensures that the rich get richer and the poor stay, well, poor, with the option of big-money takeovers left redundant. There would never be another team like Fulham or Wigan or Reading meteorically rising to the top, and order would be virtually solidified, save for the obvious promotion/relegation merri-go-round once a season.

Finally though, and perhaps most compellingly, there is an obvious loophole here for those sugar-daddys still committed to asssembling their own fantasy football team. Spend £250million every week in the club shop on shit like cuddly mascots to bump up the club’s turnover…

22 January, 2009

Gameweek 22 – Join Me

Late drama abounded this week with last-minute heartbreak for both Bolton and Stoke, as the two main title contenders showed just why they have been there or thereabouts every May in recent memory. It was that man Berbatov for Manchester United who latched onto a prime Carlos Tevez cross to push United to the top of the pile past an already-faltering Liverpool. Chelsea meanwhile left it even later to overturn Stoke’s 60th minute lead, with substitute Juliano Belletti rescuing Big Phil for not the first time this season. However, just when it looked like a point was all the Blues could squeeze out of the game, on his 400th appearance for the club, Frank Lampard found himself free on the edge of the box and fired a trademark shot into the bottom corner to suddenly wake up the Stamford Bridge faithful.

Liverpool will still consider they have a realistic title challenge, however another late goal stalled the Scousers once again, with Tim Cahill drifting in unmarked to head home a fantastic Mikel Arteta freekick with less than five minutes on the clock. Arsenal meanwhile got their revenge on Hull for that early season defeat with a convincing 3 – 1 victory that should’ve restored some Gunners’ smiles, despite them still sitting in fifth place. The reason they are outside of the Champions League spots is because Aston Villa continue their fantastic form of late, coming from a goal behind at Sunderland with ten men to win their sixth league game out of the last seven.

Gazing further down the league then, West Ham and West Brom continued their recent winning ways with comprehensive wins over Fulham and Middlesbrough respectively. Carlton Cole and Valon Behrami were outstanding again for the Hammers, while Boro are starting to look like they might be in real trouble, with very little to get excited about anyway on the pitch.

Finally then, something to smile about for Manchester City as they scrapped past Wigan by a single goal, in a display which, let’s face it, didn’t exactly scream ‘come and join our samba flair circus Kaka!’

Game of the Week – Tottenham vs Portsmouth
All of the pre-game focus obviously surrounded the various contests going on pitchside and beyond, with Redknapp and Defoe facing their previous club, and Tony Adams facing his old playing rivals for the first time as manager of Portsmouth. The game was played at a frantic pace though, with chances galore at both ends, including a serious contender for Miss of the Season from a certain £16million ex-Charlton striker.

Player of the Week – Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard Jr celebrated his 400th appearance for the Blues with a last-gasp winner to keep Chelsea in the race for the title and break the hearts of Stoke’s players and traveling fans. In an incredibly flat performance from Scolari’s men, Lampard was once again the catalyst, almost dragging his team single-handedly to keep fighting until the 94th minute. Elsewhere, Robin van Persie was also outstanding for Arsenal as they thumped Hull.

Goal of the Week – Paul Konchesky
It’s fair to say that Konchesky doesn’t score a lot of goals, but when he does, they tend to be pretty special. This was no exception.

Dick of the Week – Joey Barton
He was on the pitch for about five minutes before he started pushing his own team-mates about and telling them they were shit. Good contribution as ever there Joey.

Save of the Week – David James
In a game littered with great saves at both ends, DJ’s change of direction to claw out Aaron Lennon's deflected cross was virtually superhuman. The save proved doubly-crucial as seconds later Portsmouth broke up the other end to open the scoring through David Nugent.

Miss of the Week – Darren Bent
‘Arry Redknapp reckons his wife could’ve scored this and I don’t doubt that’s true. Alfonso Alves and Amr Zaki tried their best to top however.
Talking Point of the Week – Kaka’ reaches out to a higher power
Ok the point has already been argued about to the death, but the story has obviously been the talk of the town. What repercussions will there be to his snub though? Does Robinho now want out of Manchester City? Will any world-class players actually be swayed by extortionate money to play in a team that will realistically be in a relegation battle come May? If reports are true then David Villa, Thierry Henry and Gigi Buffon have already turned down the glamorous Eastlands life, so who’s next on the Shiekhs’ shopping list?

21 January, 2009

The King is Dead…Long Live the King

Along with the majority of the country, I am not currently enjoying the slow-motion car crash that is Paul Gascoigne’s life. He was basically my hero growing up, so seeing how his wife is manipulating anyone who’ll listen against him, and the footballing world turning their back on him, isn’t great. Anyway, a small silver lining is that Newcastle United have snapped up Gazza’s seven-year-old nephew Cameron Gascoigne on a junior contract after scouts noticed the youngster bagging a not-bad 22 (twenty two!) goals in recent half hour 5-a-side game. In a show of brilliant humiliation for the opposition, Cameron wass even asked to swap sides at half-time to keep the score fair.

The young chap apparently idolizes his uncle and spends every night practicing on a rather modest artificial pitch he has in his back garden: “Paul is an inspiration to Cameron on the pitch – and I’m just hoping he will learn from his mistakes off it. He absolutely adores his uncle and is so proud to wear the name Gascoigne on the back of his shirt. My brother needs to get well for himself because he is a good man and deserves some happiness. But he’s also really keen to help Cameron become the very best player he can.”

This sounds like exactly the kind of project Gazza might need to help get his head back together and concentrate on. Success managing Cameron would also be the best possible ‘fuck you’ to ex-wife Cheryl imaginable.

Irony is Not a Word to Play

One day David Beckham will read back to himself all the stupid things he’s ever said and realise that he must use that clever piece of anatomy known as a brain more often before allowing his mouth to flap open. His latest offering is this prime slice of unwhitting self-parody, knowledgably responding to the ongoing Kaka saga: “It’s not always about money. It’s about playing for the best team, playing with the best players in the world and winning trophies and being successful.”

Sensible advice from D. Beck there who is currently luxuriating in a five-year £125m contract at an American club that limped to a second from bottom finish in the MLS last season. When he isn’t helping his wife buy handbags made from crocodile eyelashes or whatever, Beckham can be found opening shopping ‘malls’ and youth development centres around LA, really pressing to “win trophies.” Saying that however, Beckham does get to hang out with Tom Cruise and Snoop Dogg on a regular basis, so that’s kind of part of “being successful.”

20 January, 2009

For Kaka, money is not everything

I don’t know about you, but that sentence warms my heart in the ice cold greedy cynicism of the modern game. Obviously in high profile cases like this it’s hard to separate to media spin from the truth, but regardless, Milan and Manchester have basically been circuses the last fortnight, with tales of arguments, agreements and shifting loyalties almost daily. Today though, the deal is officially off, and more than anything, I for one am relieved. I genuinely feel that had Kaka taken the money and gone to Eastlands then, on some level, my love of football would’ve died too. You see, it's hard to articulate, but personally Kaka is so much more than just one of the greatest talents of the modern era. His attitude, his commitment, his desire to be a winner represents football in its purest and most passionate sense, and had he turned his back on that pretty unique sense of class, then it would mean that everyone truly has their price, and world club football all starts to look fairly meaningless.

Anyway, Italian Prime Minister and Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi explained the Brazilian superstar had decided to snub the £243million deal himself: “It was Kaka who decided to stay. He didn’t even want to listen to the offer, which I believe was very big for him. He chose to stay at this club because he thinks it’s the best club in the world.” This came just hours after hundreds of fans besieged the headquarters of the Italian giants to voice their anger about the possible sale of their idol, and the hardcore fan firm known as the tifosi even held a vigil outside the star’s home.

Berlusconi added: “He is loved by everyone. He was touched by the love of the fans and was moved by his team-mates and all the staff. He has accepted to stay with the contract he has and will not ask for more money. He has confirmed he doesn’t want a penny more, because money is not everything in life. In these last few days he has understood there are more important things than money. We are proud to have such a champion, who is a great player on the pitch but also a big man outside. He refused an offer I believe would have doubled what he earns with us.” After Berlusconi announced the breakdown of talks live on Sky Italia TV, the Brazilian went out on to his flat’s balcony to greet hundreds of fans celebrating the news outside his home. The club president added: “He’s a very spiritual lad and that was what led to his decision, which one has to admire. You can’t refuse a lad who has five or six good years left the chance to create a fortune that will last the rest of his life. So we gave him the opportunity to evaluate their offer. But he didn’t even want to meet the club, because he has higher values. I hope we’ll carry on having success — and with Kaka, everything is possible.”

Kaka himself offered a statement late last night, admitting: “I did what my heart told me to do. At the end what counted was my history, where my ties are and where my heart really lies. I was moved by what fans showed me. I am really happy at this club. All the messages I received meant so much and forced me to choose with my heart. Going to Manchester City could have been a great project but I have prayed a lot in the last few days, looking to understand which was the right team for me and in the end I decided to stay here.”

Ok so this all might seem like a bit of an uncharacteristic circle-jerk for STT, but occasionally when the true balance of this game we all love is threatened, you have to put sarcastic rhetoric and irreverence aside. In a very real sense this transfer could have been the beginning of the end, even more so than the early Abramovich days at Chelsea, and to have a player personally put a stop to it and make a stand against money in favour of club loyalty is actually pretty moving. I’m not sure there are many other players out there that I could actually say this about, but more than anything else, I respect Kaka.

Merc’Em Magazine

When I heard that Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole were bankrolling a hot new British movie starring Danny Dyer I literally shot my load. Never one to rest on his laurels however, Rio has rightly seen this is a jump-off point for his media empire, with a new online magazine called Rio next up in his grand scheme for world domination.

Sure, on the surface this is a pure vanity project where Rio shows you how rich he is and how many cool famous friends he can stand next to long enough for a photo to be taken, but in reality it is so much more. He promises it will be “packed full of music, fashion, film and sport,” which sounds pretty incredible in my humble opinion. Reports suggest that he has been jetting all over the world to record such thrilling content as amusing virals (please more WORLD CUP WIND Up-esque action Rio!) and non-self-indulgent interviews with stars such as 50 Cent.

The magazine goes ‘live’ next month but quite who it’s aimed at is anyone’s guess. Personally I cannot see what is essentially just a catalogue of what makes Rio his unique self appealing to anyone except his brother and the mentally deficient. So just the mentally deficient then, and we all know how much they struggle with the internet…

19 January, 2009

Gameweek 21 – Forbidden Fruit

Another week and another shake-up. Leaders Liverpool were held to their fourth goalless draw of the season, and their second against Stoke, by a gutsy Potters performance that if anything deserved more than a point as Benitez’s men failed to back up their manager’s fighting words of the day before. With this result in mind, Sunday’s huge clash at Old Trafford took on even greater significance, but the game itself was a bizarrely one-sided affair in which Manchester United seemed to convincingly stake their claim to a third Premier League title in a row.

The battle for fourth continues to rage as ever, with Arsenal and Villa both winning, along with Everton who also appear to be throwing their hat into the arena. High-flying Wigan also bagged a decent last minute win against Spurs, who continue to capitulate despite an early decent run under ‘Arry Redknapp.

Further down the league, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle and West Ham all played out draws, while West Brom’s defeat to local rivals Villa keeps them firmly planted to the foot of the table.

Oh, and if you’ve noticed that there were only eight games played this week that’s because two matches were called off due to frozen pitches. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when a Premier League cannot be prepared for the fact that in the winter it sometimes gets a bit cold.

Game of the Week – Manchester United vs Chelsea
Jose Mourinho offered this delightfully glib assessment of the game which to be honest I just can’t better: “I saw people from Chelsea before the match, at half-time and after the match. But I didn't see Chelsea on the pitch. I only saw Manchester United.”

Player of the Week – Marouane Fellaini
It’s been a long time coming for the absolutely hilarious looking Belgian. Alongside Cahill, he has spearheaded the Everton frontline in the absence of any recognized strikers, and popped up with some vital goals. One problem though is 18 league appearances this season and 10 yellow cards. Is it just because he’s big?

Goal of the Week – Mikel Arteta
An absolute peach from the fantastic Spanaird.

Trick of the Week – Manchester United’s inventive little corner routine
Let’s see more of this please. Very clever and the goal should’ve stood.

Gaffe of the Week – Scott Carson
Poor Scott, didn’t he bag a couple of England caps a few years ago?

Jinx of the Week – Gareth Bale
I feel a bit sorry for Gareth Bale because he looks like a pre-pubescent monkey. He’s also not very good apparently, with 20 appearances for Tottenham now without being on the winning side…

Rant of the Week – Rafa Benitez
A flashback to the old Kevin Keegan days of vitriolic rivalry can only be good for the Premier League as we look towards the tightest second-half of the season in a decade. In a considered purge of built-up rage, Rafa basically just said what everyone else has known for years. Read it all for yourself here and if you’re too lazy to do that, indulge yourself in a video of Rafa’s soothing voice and sexy beard.

Talking Point of the Week – The nature of dissent
After all the furore this summer about respect for officials, it seems that as ever the rules don’t apply to everyone. People will argue that football is a passionate game where emotions run high, and that’s true of course, but there’s a difference between frustrated exclamations and face-to-face confrontation. This weekend’s big event saw Manchester Untied steam-roll Chelsea, but during the course of the game Wayne Rooney, among others, continually got in the referee’s face and intimidated him, often to camera shouting “fuck off.” Either we care about the way this behaviour dissipates down to non-league and youth football or we don’t, so please start enforcing the actual laws of the game and book players every time they swear directly at an official. Spending a third of a season suspended for dissent might teach certain players a few manners eventually…

Taylor Made

Steven Taylor does ok for himself these days, despite not featuring as often as he probably should for ailing club Newcastle United. To help soften the blow, he has former FHM High Street Honey winner Tanya Robinson waiting for him at home to chuck the odd ready-meal in the microwave and massage his Gears of War 2-sore hands. Thing is though, when you have such a prime specimen on tap, what do you do when you go on holiday?

Get the lads together and basically pretend you’re on a gay cruise of course! Here are some cracking holiday snaps from when the big guy visited Las Vegas recently.
Ultimately though this isn’t about Northern chaps wearing terrible shirts and spilling drinks on themselves, it’s much more about Tanya Robinson being so hot I want to drive up to Newcastle now and sell Mr Taylor my parents for a quick bit of glory hole action with his lady. See her pole dancing and feel thoroughly depressed about your own girlfriend here:

Own Goal off the Port Bow!

Well there’s not much to this story other than it’s simply a brilliant photo. Anyway, the perfunctorary words go something like this: in order to “develop his weaker eye,” Dennis Eilhoff, goalkeeper for Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld, apparently has taken to wearing an eye patch during training. Whether this is the first sign of a bipolar shift or simply a manifestation of his uncontrollable desire to become an actual pirate is unclear, but what we do know is that world football would definitely be a hell of a lot more entertaining if all goalkeepers were relieved of depth perception.

Thanks to the hard-working guys over at Dirty Tackle for the heads up on this. For some token pirate-related humour, visit this cracking website now.

13 January, 2009

Gameweek 19/20 – Stuffing

Greetings team, and welcome back after a rather extended Christmas break. Please excuse us, but due to holidays, cuckolding and excessive narcotic consumption (not simultaneously) the 2009 wheels have taken slightly longer than expected to start turning again. Anyway, what we’re going to do is give a pretty brief rundown of every team’s festive trials and tribulations, as well as offering our own insightful bit of mid-season commentary.

Starting with the league leaders then, and Liverpool continued their fantastic season with two very clinical wins, against admittedly faltering opposition, first seeing off Bolton in front of the Kop on Boxing Day and then humiliating a hopeless Newcastle side 5 – 1 two days later. Could this finally be their year? I’d love it to be, just from a neutral perspective, but I can’t help but feel they’ll throw it away in the last couple of months, especially if FA Cup and Champions League fixtures start mounting up.

Chelsea have remained in touch despite a couple of pretty tepid performances of late, turning over West Brom on Boxing Day but then throwing away the lead late on against local rivals Fulham to draw 2 – 2. With Drogba back to full fitness Chelsea will be looking to restart their season now, but with Manchester United up next, they need big performances from their big players over the next month or so to keep the pressure on.

Sitting ominously in third despite two unconvincing 1 – 0 wins against Stoke and Middlesbrough over Christmas, Manchester United have been bizarrely starved of goals for much of the season so far. Their main stars are shined sporadically, but without Ronaldo’s regular match-winning showings of the last two seasons, they definitely lack a certain cutting edge at the moment. One thing I’ve learned over the year though is that you never write off Alex Ferguson’s men, you don’t win 10 out of the last 16 league titles by being spineless.

Aston Villa continue to go from strength to strength these days, with performances full of flair when appropriate and hard graft when necessary propelling them into a Champions League spot. A last-gasp equaliser against Arsenal rounded off probably the most exciting game of the last fortnight, while a controversial game at Hull finished 1 – 0 in their favour, despite the Tigers initially being awarded a last minute penalty for an Ashley Young handball.

Currently Arsenal are three points outside Champions League qualification and this has to be a growing concern amongst their faithful, having already said goodbye to any title aspirations a long time ago. Stories of unrest and a potential summer exodus don’t help matters, and with neither beautiful football nor impressive results regularly appearing, this is about as bleak as it’s been for the Gunners for some time.

Slowly but surely, and without any recognised strikers, Everton have risen up the table dramatically over the last couple of months and now sit in sixth after two good wins over Christmas. With Cahill and Arteta both fit and in decent form, the Toffees look a decent prospect, but need to sign a forward desperately in the January transfer window to keep up their winning momentum.

Wigan sit impressively in seventh at the moment on 28 points, but what makes this season so fascinating in that they have just ten points more than West Brom who are currently bottom. Like we’re used to seeing in the Championship, a run of two or three straight wins can move anyone significantly up the table, while even a short bad spell of results and you’re right back down in the relegation zone. Just ask newly-promoted Stoke City, who praises we were singing not too long ago for almost breaking into the top half of the table going into the festive period, despite everyone writing them off in August. Three straight league losses though and the hard-working Potters have plummeted from 11th to 18th, and with a very tough January ahead of them, it’s going to difficult to stay their heads above water before it’s too late.

Currently moving in the opposite direction are the Baggies however, with two back to back wins keeping them in touch with the pack and on level points with second-bottom Blackburn, now operating under the guidance of Sam Allerdyce. From there on up, Stoke, Middlesbrough and Tottenham all sit on 20 points, with Boro especially currently enjoying a very poor run of form, losing four out of the last five games. Portsmouth are another team who appear to heading in the wrong direction at the moment, and if Jermain Defoe is the only man to jump ship this January then they will count themselves very lucky indeed. They’ve lost the last four league games on the spin, and this weekend face a Manchester City side who are changeable to say the least. Having produced one of the displays of the season on Boxing Day against Hull, and a great last minute escape to rescue a point in the 94th minute at Blackburn two days later, Mark Hughes’ side should clearly be flying higher in the league than 13th.

They share 22 points with bitter rivals Newcastle and Sunderland, both of whom are also capable of both the sublime and the ridiculous. Two straight losses have put Joe Kinnear’s men back amongst the relegation dogfight, and a tough game this weekend to West Ham could see them further sucked in, especially with the Hammers riding high off the back of two hard-fought wins against Portsmouth and Stoke over Christmas. Who haven’t we mentioned then? Bolton seem to be chugging along as they always do, avoiding too much drama at either end of the table, while Fulham are currently unbeaten in ten league games quite amazingly, and seem to have enough to avoid the bottom-half quagmire that engulfed their season last year. Finally then the success story of the season so far: Hull. Sure things are going so well at the moment having lost three games in a row, conceding quite a few goals in the process, but ultimately their first two months secured almost enough points to already guarantee safety. Don’t get me wrong, they will definitely still finish in the bottom six, but I can’t see them getting relegated…

Game of the Week – Aston Villa vs Arsenal (Boxing Day)

Player of the Week – Steven Ireland (vs Hull, Boxing Day)

Team Performance of the Week – Liverpool (vs Newcastle, December 28th)

Goal of the Week – Carlton Cole (vs Stoke City, December 28th)

Banner of the Week – This Manchester United fan

Dressing Down of the Week – Phil Brown (vs Manchester City, Boxing Day)

Tabloid Event of the Week – Steven Gerard talks with his hands

Talking Point of the Week – Ricardo Fuller slaps Andy Griffin (December 28th)