Monday, February 27, 2012

Bundesliga 2 round up - Week 23: Six Fürth Special

The German second division has a new leader and it's a club with an old name. Greuther Fürth were contesting championships as far back as the early twentieth century. The second Bundesliga leaders are a different club to the original and have spent many years in the doledrums. Now, after years of steady improvement they sit top of the pile. 

There were three reasons for this: Firstly, the previous leaders, Eintracht Frankfurt were thrashed 4-2 by Paderborn. Secondly, St Pauli could only manage a goalless draw with Eintracht Braunschweig. Thirdly, Fürth capitalised with a 6-2 hammering of Bochum. Former Schalke and German international Gerald Asamoah signed for the Franconian club in January and his transfer from St Pauli is looking like a smart move. He scored two goals in the rout along with contributions from  Edgar Prib,  Dani Schahin and Bernd Nehrig.

If the top of the table wasn’t congested enough, the race for promotion has another contestant coming up on the outside lane. Just over a year ago, 1860 Munich were on their knees and almost out of business. However after having been rescued by Jordanian investor Hansa Abdullah Ismaik the club, who have produced a fine array of young players down the years, are on the way back. They managed a late winner against Union Berlin to make it eight wins from their last ten games. 

At this rate there will be six teams vying for the two and a half promotion spots, assuming of course, Fortuna Dusseldorf don’t arrest their alarming slump. Their once prolific forwards are lacking confidence and were unable to break down Alemannia Aachen. A scoreless draw was the best they could muster and Fortuna remain in fifth place.

At the bottom it seems that Hansa Rostock’s minor resurgence proved to be very minor indeed. They had the chance to gain some ground on fellow relegation strugglers, Ingolstadt but lost at home, 2-1. The away side move out of the relegation places at the expense of Erzebirge Aue who did not get that new coach bounce after sacking Rico Schmidt last week and replacing him with Karsten Baumann. They lost 2-0 to Energie Cottbus. Karlsruher are second from bottom after a 2-1 defeat to FSV Frankfurt.

Finally, threatening to join the relegation fray is MSV Duisberg. Last season’s German Cup finalists have lost four games in a row, the latest was a 2-0 defeat to Dynamo Dresden who themselves successfully appealed against a one year ban from appearing in the German Cup next year, following crowd trouble in a cup tie in 2011 against Borussia Dortmund. Instead the club will pay a fine of €100,000.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 27 - 29 February 2012

Monday 27 February

19:45 Shrewsbury Town v Crawley Town, League Two, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
One points separates these two in the play-off zone. Shrewsbury have the second best home win record in the division and have yet to lose at the Meadow. Crawley are managed by a convicted fraudster and no one knows where their money is coming from. An easy choice for the neutrals then.

Tuesday 28 February

19:00 Brazil v Bosnia Herzegovina, International Friendly, ESPN / ESPN HD
Ronaldinho's patchy form for Flamengo has not prevented his selection for Brazil's home match in Switzerland, yes Switzerland. Quite how many home games the Seleção plan to to play in their homeland in the build up to the World Cup in 2014 remains to be seen. Let's hope the hosts don't find themselves strangers in their own land when the tournament comes around.

Wednesday 29 February

17:30 England U21 v Belgium U21, UEFA U21 Championships 2013 Qualifying, ESPN / ESPN HD
Brian Eastick and John Peacock take the reins while Psycho looks after the grown-ups. Seems odd that Pearce should take a back seat for this important competitive fixture so he can manage a friendly but that's England for you.
17:30 Scotland U21 v Holland U21, U21 International, Sky Sports 1
Scotland are second behind the Dutch in this group but beat them, in the reverse fixture. Huddersfield goal machine, Jordan Rhodes, has been tearing up this group with six goals in six games.
19:45 Slovenia v Scotland, International Friendly, Primetime
This is a pay per view event available on Sky and Virgin. You can watch it for £4.99 or you could give it a miss.
19:45 Northern Ireland v Norway International Friendly, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
Michael O'Neill makes his bow as Northern Ireland coach. The former Shamrock Rovers manager may lack pedigree on the surface but was the man who masterminded that stunning Europa League win at Partizan Belgrade, last year, to take Rovers into the Group Stages. Good luck to him, say I.
19:45 Wales v Costa Rica, International Friendly, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
An opportunity for the Welsh public to pay their respects to Gary Speed in this memorial match. Football takes a back seat in what promises to be an emotional evening.
19:45 Republic of Ireland v Czech Republic, International Friendly, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Two outsiders for Euro 2012 meet in a match of moderate interest.
20:00 England v Holland International Friendly, ITV1 / ITV1 HD
The truth is there is little to learn from this match from an England point of view. However, the Dutch are one of the favourites to win Euro 2012 and fans of international football will be curious to see Bert van Marwijk's team as he prepares for the Summer. If he plays, Klaas Jan Huntelaar is the big goal threat with 18 goals in the German Bundesliga.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object

Terry previews this Sunday's Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 match.

After watching his team get knocked out of the Europa League last Thursday by Hannover 96, Club Brugge coach Christoph Daum  said that if he were a Hannover player, he’d walk through fire for their coach, Mirko Slomka (right). The motivational powers of the 43 year old trainer are a matter of public record. But his players are not just brave and hard working. They’re tactically disciplined and actually very good.

Christian Pander was the star of the show during his team’s 4-2 victory over Stuttgart, last Sunday. That result continued an unbeaten league going back to November. Mind you, things got a bit dicey toward the end and Martin Harnik’s consolation was doubled by a spectacular over-head kick from Shinji Okazaki. In fact, had former Manchester United goalkeeper, Ron Robert Zieler, not made a smart save from Vedad Ibisevic late in the day, Stuttgart may have made a comeback that seemed unlikely earlier in the game. The club’s latest arrival also came from Man United in the shape of Mame Biram Diouf who was transferred in January. The Senegalese striker failed to make it at Old Trafford but has two goals in three games for Hannover.

Like Borussia Monchengladbach, Hannover have a reputation for counter attacking football. This is based on a miss-perception: they are both small clubs and surprise packages therefore they must lack the playing resources to be multi faceted. Like ‘Gladbach, however, Hannover are not just about sitting back and hitting teams on the break. They move the ball quickly and crisply and while they favour the strong centre forward, it would be a mistake to assume that this is all they do. Their opponents on Sunday will not form that conclusion, not if they know what is good for them.

If Hannover 96 are the immovable object then Borussia Dortmund are the irresistible force. The current Bundesliga champions have won their last 11 (eleven) games in all competitions. So far, over the season  they have suffered injuries to key players, Neven Subotic, Sven Bender and Mario Götze (the latter is still out with an injury to his pubic bone, whatever that is) and found able replacements in Felipe Santana, Sebastien Kehl and Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international, Kagawa, was magnificent in the first half of last campaign before injury ruined his season. He took a bit of time to get going but his return to form came around the same time as Götze’s injury. Up front, Paraguay international striker, Lucas Barrios, has returned to form and is working well with the Polish forward Robert Lewandowski who is set to be a big name in Euro 2012.

Dortmund’s fluidity and range of passing provides some of the best football in Germany, this season. Coach, Jurgen Klopp, has his players pressing all over the pitch barely giving the opposition a chance to breath. Hannover’s players don’t have the same range of passing and don’t play as high up the pitch as BVB but their pace and economy will worry the home supporters at the Westfalen.

The Dortmund club sit top of the table going into the weekend and will stay there, whatever transpires elsewhere. Needless to say, dropped points would make things awkward but given that they are facing a side that have gone so long without defeat, Borussia should not get too down on themselves, should they not win.

Hannover, are a small club going through a massive growth spurt. They are looking to sustain their success by playing in the Europa League for another season. At present they are scrapping with their northern rivals Werder Bremen and the miss-firing Bayer Leverkusen for those two qualification spots at fifth and sixth in the Bundesliga table.

Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 kicks off Sunday 26th February at 4:30pm. It will be broadcast in the UK on ESPN.

Weekend TV Preview: 25 - 26 February 2012

Saturday 25 February

12.00 St Mirren v Aberdeen, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's perhaps still too soon to say if Craig Brown has turned things around at Aberdeen, but there does seem to be some stability though. They haven't lost a game in two months and, along with today's opponents, have a good chance of sneaking into the top half before the League splits in March.
12.45 West Ham v Crystal Palace, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
It used to be true that if you put a good run together in the Championshsip around now-ish you have a fair chance of making it into the play-offs. Palace, while hard to beat, have been drawing too many games of late and will probably find that gap of ten points between them and sixth too much. This season anyway.
17.30 Man City v Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
United fans will be hoping to see Blackburn put on a similar display to the one they put on at Old Trafford. However, it's more likely here they'll put on a similar display to the one they put on at the Emirates.
19.00 Malaga v Real Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
As with other uncompetitive leagues, you have to scratch around for the battle for the last Champions League slot to find the excitement in La Liga. Seven teams are scraping for it in Spain, with only two points separating them all. Malaga are one of those teams in the mix but are slipping down thanks to a woeful run away from home. A nice home tie against the bottom club should give them a morale boost.
21.00 Espanyol v Levante, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Two other teams in the battle for fourth spot, but Levante could be the first to drop from the chase. It looks like they've been completely found out after their early season surprises - which included a 3-1 over Espanyol, a game which saw the side from Barcelona finish with nine men. Might get a bit niggly this one.

Sunday 26 February

11.30 Excelsior v Ajax, Dutch Eredivisie, ESPN/ESPN HD
Ajax this week became the fourth team to beat Manchester United at home this season joining Man City, Blackburn and Palace. Of course being in such good company you'd think they were running away with the Dutch title - they're not. They're sixth but only a handful of points off the pace. A win here against the team second from bottom will keep them in the running.
12.45 Inverness CT v Rangers, Sky Sports 4/HD4
I was reading in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, how Rangers situation might be a good thing for Scottish football in general. They're certainly a moving target now, one even a team as lowly as ICT might hope to score points off.
13.30 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Fourth plays third in a tense local derby.
14.00 Bayern Munich v FC Schalke, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Every time Bayern draw, Dortmund pull two points away. As the run-in approaches, anything short of a win against the fourth placed side could signal the end of their title chances.
16.00 Liverpool v Cardiff City, Carling Cup Final, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D/BBC1/BBC1 HD
Hopefully Craig Bellamy will be the centre of attention here rather than one of the other Liverpool strikers. Do Cardiff have a chance? Well if any team can stuff it up like Arsenal did last year, it's Liverpool.
16.30 Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Three points clear at the top, BVB look in devastating form but come up against a Hannover side well placed for a Europa League spot and unbeaten since November.
19.45 Napoli v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Edinson Cavani not only showed the British public exactly what all the fuss is about on Wednesday, if you looked closely he also showed why the Chelsea boss was right to start with Ashley Cole on the bench. Expect more misery to be heaped on a previous recipient of the Abramovitch axe here.
20.30 Atletico Madrid v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
I don't usually quote the odds on games, but you can get 13/2 on Atletico getting a win here. Seeing as Barcelona haven't won any of their last three away games domestically, it might be worth a sniff at.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #229

A cup too much
11 Countries Where A League Cup Competition No Longer Exists

1. Belgium (Last played for in 2001)
2. Denmark (Last played for in 2006)
3. Germany (Last played for in 2007)
4. Greece (Last played for in 1990)
5. Japan (Last played for in 1991)
6. Poland (Last played for in 2009)
7. Romania (Last played for in 2000)
8. Russia (Last played for in 2003)
9. Spain (Last played for in 1986)
10. Switzerland (Last played for in 1982)
11. Tunisia (Last played for in 2007)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New England Shirt: Your questions answered...

So another new England shirt is launched and predictably the reaction to it is largely negative. What's more, the reaction comes mostly from people who think the world at large benefits from its weak, misplaced views, the product of less mental effort than it takes to work out what day of the week it is.

Yes, the people who have ventured out onto the information super-highway to express their impulsive vitriol today are all wrong. Not wrong in their opinions of the new Umbro offering, after all, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. They're just wrong to think their view matters on any one of the many sub-issues this matter provides.

Here at Football Fairground, however, we wouldn't want you to think we're also content to think a few sentences is good enough by way of valid comment. Nor, for that matter, would we want you to miss out on the waterfall of England-shirt-related insipidness spilling out onto the internet today.

What we've done, therefore, is provided you with a sample of the comments received on the website of one UK national newspaper along with our replies to each. We provide this service to show that negativity need not be a way of life, hopeful that the next time a new England shirt is launched, fewer of these tin-pot revolutionaries will hammer their computer keyboards until they're satisfied something barely plausible comes out.

Note: The usernames of the people commenting below have been removed to protect their own stupidity. Spelling and punctuation mistakes (yes, there were some, amazingly) have been corrected where appropriate. Swear-words have been obscured. (We know - equally remarkable for such a fine, upstanding bunch of Mensa inductees.)

"Another new home shirt? This is getting f***ing ridiculous!"

Yes, another new home shirt. Not very long since the last one, granted, but another new home shirt. A reminder, at this stage, of two facts: (1) No-one will actually be forced to buy one, and (2) it's 2012 and this sort of thing has been happening quite a lot since, ooh, the 1980's.

"Atrocious. Collar is awful."

A new collar, and a sculpted one at that. Still, it's different, and this being a fashionable garment of sorts, it's only natural that a bit of originality is used to avoid it being in any way identical to the previous England shirt.

"It seems every time Umbro launch a new England jersey they have to have something on it that 'harks back to 1966'…  I wish they could look forward instead of constantly referencing the past."

Well for one thing, the new England shirt features a red badge for the first time, which is pretty-forward thinking. And tradition and pride in past achievements is hardly a bad thing either, is it?

"Can't see them winning anything in that."

Fine. It won't look out of place compared to the previous sixteen, then, will it?

"Listen, Umbro. The England shirt is white with blue rim, always has been. Don't mess with it. Now we'll turn up at the Euros looking like a Poland away side. Great."

'Always has been' isn't even remotely close to being true, sadly. Luckily enough, Poland will probably turn up at the Euros looking like an Austrian away side, so that's alright, we figure.

"Essentially identical to all the others. Lot of white. Three Lions. One lonely star."

A quick hunt around the internet for, ooh, 25 seconds, proves your theory to be wrong. As for the 'lot of white' bit, you do know it's been England's national football colour for nearly a century and a half now, don't you?

"If we want to wear red, go back to the 98 World Cup away kit. The first England shirt I ever had, and still has pride and place in my loft."

Wow, you like it that much, huh?

"This one is pants. And all of them have been pants since the mid-90s when shorts and shirts started being made four sizes too big."

The world of football and/or fashion clearly isn't for you, is it?

"Can anyone actually remember the last decent kit Umbro made?"

Yeah, but there'd be no point telling you because there's a very good chance our opinion would differ from yours. Clearly you're not able to deal with those levels of incomprehension, so best move on...

"What’s with the star?? What's that in aid of?"

Right, well it all started back in 1930 when this Frenchman called Jules Rimet... oh forget it.

"Too f***ing bland... just like the team we'll put out this summer."

Good. Does that mean you won't be watching Euro 2012 and boring us with that lonely thought withering inside your pea-sized brain?

"Looks like a piece of ladies’ leisurewear."

Excellent. At least Umbro can expect some revenue from one portion of the British public.

"Aaaahh, yet another ridiculous England shirt, and almost certainly the worst ever. I would like to meet the a***holes that design this s**t as they should all be thrown into the River Thames at Wapping at low tide! That stupid collar and button - it looks like a girl's blouse. The FA should all commit hara kiri right now for f***ing up with what should be a great English icon. Simple v-neck or round neck - no collars!  Job done. The red round neck shirt worn by the England World Cup winners in 1966 became an icon and if it was good enough for Bobby Moore it should be good enough for now."

Presumably this is the shirt you wear every day as you wander aimlessly around that mental institution you call home, is it?

"Umbro - don't hold a gun to people’s heads and force them to buy it. Sheesh."

Hang on... Just checking the Sale of Goods Act 1979... No obvious mentions of compulsory firearms usage that we can make out...

"I didn't know EDL members got jobs at Umbro, fair play to them."

Yes, shame on you Umbro for so willingly and irresponsibly exploiting the national flag of England so shamelessly. May you never sing another verse of Jerusalem again.

So there you have it. Next week: The weather, and why there’s hope on the way for those people that aren’t satisfied with the type they’re getting...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 20 - 23 February 2012

Monday 20 February

19.45 Brentford v Carlisle United, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
King Arthur: "What news of Carlisle?" Sir Eric of the Lake: "They won 3-1..." Those were the days, not just in terms of Morecambe & Wise's vintage era but of also with respect to United's recent form. Three wins from their last nine makes a lie of their current placing - seventh in League One - but at least they face more inconsistent opposition in their hosts today. It's only one win in their last nine for Brentford.

Tuesday 21 February

17.00 CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
CSKA's first match since the Russian Premier League closed for the winter break at the end of November, and it comes against Europe's form team. Only two defeats since 21 September 2011 put Real firmly in the box seat, and if their 4-0 demolition of Racing Santander at the weekend is anything to go by, the Russians may be looking at a damage limitation exercise here.
17.30 Bologna v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The home side ended their run of four straight draws with a surprising 3-0 win at Inter last Friday. A similar performance at home to La Viola will take them nearer mid-table security for a while.
19.45 Napoli v Chelsea, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri is banned from both legs of this tie for pushing Villareal's Nilmar during Napoli's previous Champions League match in November. Mazzarri claimed Villareal's players were timewasting and shoved the Brazilian forward to motivate his players. "I’ll do anything so that my team can win a game. I’m even prepared to sleep outside,” Mazzarri said. Looks like he'll be motivating his team from the Director's box at the Stadio San Paolo on this occasion.

Wednesday 22 February

17.00 Man City v Porto, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
As is happening with depressing regularity lately, the first leg of this tie was overshadowed by stories of racism. At least Man City's fine band of supporters have the chance to lead by example at the Etihad as their team aims to wrap up the tie following their 2-1 lead in Portugal.
19.30 York City v Gateshead, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Gateshead are desperate for wins. They won't get one at Bootham Crescent.
19.45 Basel v Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Both these teams met in the group stage of the 2010-11 Champions League and Bayern won both ties with a 5-1 aggregate. Basel have stepped up a gear since then, eliminating Man United from this season's competition, but Bayern are still favourites to win this tie with only one defeat in their last 11 games.
19.45 Marseille v Inter Milan, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, ITV1/ITV1 HD
On current form, L'OM are just edging out PSG as the best team in Ligue 1 and were it not for the shockingly poor start to the season, they'd probably be top of the table by now. Speaking of shocking, Inter have lost five of their last six matches and could do with a morale-boosting win to stop their slide going any further.

Thursday 23 February

01.00 Velez Sarsfield v Guadalajara, Copa Libertadores, Premier Sports
Still early days in Round Two of this season's competition. Sarsfield are aiming to go at least one better than their semi-final appearance last year where they lost to eventual runners-up Peñarol.
18.00 Valencia v Stoke City, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Still plenty to play for after Stoke conceded a single goal in the first leg. Unfortunately this crucial match comes at a time when Stoke are on a wretched run of form, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that The Potters will dig deep and reach the last 16 as they deserve.
18.00 Athletic Bilbao v Lokomotiv Moscow, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, ITV4/ITV4 HD
A 1-0 win will be enough to see Bilbao through to the next round, but they trail 2-1 from the first leg. Muniain put the Basques in front in a snowy Russian capital, but a Denis Glushakov penalty and Felipe Caicedo's winner mean Lokomotive have the advantage at the San Mamés.
19.45 Derby County v Leicester City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Oh dear, oh dear, oh Derby. Points are being dropped quicker than Luis Suarez from a UEFA Repect campaign. Leicester, on the other hand, will be buoyant following their FA Cup victory over Norwich at the weekend and must be the favourites to win here.
20.05 Anderlecht v AZ Alkmaar, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Belgians may have been the only side to win all six of their group games, but they still lost to AZ through an Adam Maher goal in the first leg. Should be an equally close match the second time around too.
20.05 Sporting Lisbon v Legia Warsaw, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, ITV4 /ITV4 HD
Twice the Poles took the lead in the first leg and twice the Portuguese equalised, but those two goals for Sporting mean they'll have the away goal advantage, should it be needed here. Wouldn't be surprised if it was.
20.05 Man Utd v Ajax, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg, Channel 5/Channel 5 HD
You're not *still* laughing, are you?

Bundesliga 2 Week 22 - Fortuna on the rocks

The 2011 / 2012 German second division season is turning into one of the most exciting in years. Terry will be providing weekly round ups of the action for the Football Fairground. 

Fortuna Dusseldorf are definitely a club for the neutrals. They have the moderately cool Die Toten Hosen punk metal band as their celebrity fans and have recovered after years in the doldrums to move into a new stadium. They ended 2011 at the top of the Second Division. 2012 however, has seen the club from the North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany descend into a worrying slump.

Since returning from the Winter Break, coach Norbert Meier’s team have failed to claim three points in a match. A 1-1 draw at Ingolstadt two weeks ago was followed by the same result against fellow title contenders, Eintracht Frankfurt. The latter result was only achieved by a highly controversial last minute Jens Langeneke, penalty to Fortuna. On Sunday, the slump worsened after a 2-1 defeat to 1860 Munich at the Allianz Arena.

Dusseldorf’s winless run of five games stretches back to the last two games of the Winter Break. That run that has contributed to what promises to be a fiercely contested Bundesliga 2 title and promotion race where three points separate five teams.

Top of the table are Eintracht Frankfurt who hammered their city rivals, FSV Frankfurt 6-2. Algerian international, Karim Matmour scored a hat-trick. In second place are St Pauli. The Hamburg club who were relegated along with Eintracht last season, secured a 1-0 away win at Duisberg thanks to a Fabian Boll strike on 21 minutes. Third placed Greuther Furth only managed a 0-0 draw with Ingolstadt. Fortuna are now fourth and outside the promotion spots.

The final team of the five are Paderborn who are the smallest club of the five and largely considered to be the most likely to drop off as the season builds to a climax. They salvaged a last minute equaliser against Dynamo Dresden. 2-2 was the final score. Matthew Taylor with the last gasp for Paderborn.

At the bottom of the table, Karlsruhe are now three games unbeaten, having previously only won two from their last nineteen games. They beat Energie Cottbus 2-0 at the Wildparkstadion. Another basement dweller on the revival road are Hansa Rostock. The former GDR club had only one in the win column in the entire first half of the season. However, they beat Duisberg 4-2, last week and secured a goalless draw against Aachen on Sunday. While still rock bottom of the table, there are signs of life for the Hanseatic club.

That's it. Results and tables here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #228

What a load of Hurlocks...
10 Football Players' Names Used As Words To Describe Football Situations In Daniel Maier's Book 'Footypedia'

1. agnew
(v.) To surreptitiously time a minute's silence to see if it's accurate.

2. clough
(v.) To swear at the referee but disguise it with one's hand or by coughing.

3. dorigo
(n.) Supporter who always manages to procure a sombrero on a trip to see his team abroad, even if the match was in Finland or Krygyzstan.

4. falco
(v.) to bounce up and down, Cossack-like, while in a crouching position. Generally practised by the front row of a team who have just assembled in formation for an on-pitch photograph in the immediate aftermath of winning a trophy. The falco will usually accompany the wearing of team scarves and novelty hats and the joyful but melodically suspect chanting of 'Championes, championes, olé, olé, olé.'

5. hurlock
(n.) indifference with which a ballboy attempts to invest his return of the ball to an away player.

6. keown
(v.) to slightly resent a steward checking you ticket and telling you where your seat is.

7. ostenstad
(n.) technically inaccurate verbal abuse.

8. redknapp
(n.) distinctive clothing worn so that one can pick oneself out in the crowd on television.

9. warnock
(n.) tackle of welcome executed on a new foreign livewire during his first training session.

10. ziegler
(n. 1990's) scary white globe camera that speeds along a rail behind the goal which you suspect may also contain a laser gun.

'Footypedia  - The Alternative Dictionary of Football' by Daniel Mayer is published by Century and is available via and all good bookshops.

Weekend TV Preview: 17 - 19 February 2012

Friday 17 February

19.30 Southport v Grimsby Town, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
Southport took full advantage of ailing Darlington on Tuesday night, riding goals from Karl Ledsham and Shaun Whalley to a 2-0 victory. The result saw them climb into fourth place, while Grimsby are four points behind them with a game in hand.
19.45 Fiorentina v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Walter Mazzarri's Vesuviani look to give Edinson Cavani a belated birthday present by re-establishing themselves in the battle for a Europa League spot in Serie A. They face mid-table Fiorentina, whose form has improved of late thanks to two wins on the bounce.
20.00 Reading v Burnley, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Three consecutive league wins have put Reading into the playoff positions and just six points behind leaders West Ham United. Tenth-placed Burnley need a win to avoid being cut adrift of the playoff race, at least temporarily.

Saturday 18 February

12.30 Chelsea v Birmingham City, FA Cup Fifth Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's FA Cup weekend, and the fifth round action gets underway at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea defeated local rivals Fulham in the previous round, and Birmingham demolished Sheffield United with curiously spaced goals in the 18th, 38th, 58th and 78th minute. The Blades will have been glad to avoid eight minutes of stoppage time.
17.15 Sunderland v Arsenal, FA Cup Fifth Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Arsenal came from 2-0 down to secure their place in the fifth round by blowing away Aston Villa at the Emirates, eventually winning out 3-2 after the visitors were shell-shocked beyond repair. Sunderland needed two bites of the cherry against Middlesbrough and are rewarded with another crack at Arsenal, who defeated them in this fixture in the league last weekend.
19.00 Real Madrid v Racing, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Racing are in the bottom three but have stemmed the flow somewhat with three draws on the bounce; they're closer to the team above them than the team below them, which spells trouble for Sporting and Real Zaragoza, especially if Racing should achieve the unachievable here.
19.45 Juventus v Catania, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Old Lady of Turin has relinquished her grip on the top of Serie A, but the opportunity to head back to the summit rolls around with the visit of mid-table Catania. The Elephants haven't lost in three and now sit in 13th.
21.00 Sevilla v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Mid-table is as mid-table does, and it doesn't get much more mid-table than this. A home win for Sevilla would squeeze the middle of the division still further, but it won't be easy - they've lost their last three La Liga games.

Sunday 19 February

12.00 Crawley Town v Stoke City, FA Cup Fifth Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Crawley, eh? Still going in the FA Cup, still utterly deplorable and still a jewel in the eyes of incurious journalists. They defeated Hull City in the last round but the goal was scored by Matt Tubbs, who signed for AFC Bournemouth to give Project Promotion: The Sequel a hefty taste of its own medicine.
12.45 Aberdeen v St Johnstone, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Saints could do with putting their form back together after two consecutive defeats that have brought them dangerously close to the mid-table cut-off. Aberdeen are one of the clubs looking to take advantage and are now five points behind the Perth club having not lost in six.
14.00 Stevenage v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup Fifth Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Stevenage edged past Notts County in round four, winning 1-0 courtesy of Damion Stewart's own goal. They host high-flying Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, who defeated Watford to reach the last 16. Gary Smith's men can look forward to making life difficult for Spurs in front of a hostile and noisy crowd.
15.00 Hibernian v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Celtic are going to win the league. Far more significant is the fate of Hibernian, who have been utterly abject this season and are just one point ahead of Dunfermline Athletic at the bottom.
16.30 Liverpool v Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup Fifth Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Liverpool's reward for defeating Manchester United at Anfield in the previous round is another home tie, this time against Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls already have a Premier League scalp to their name having seen off Newcastle United at home last time out.
19.45 Palermo v Lazio, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
A second consecutive defeat for Palermo could well put paid to their hopes of climbing into a European spot, while Lazio are looking to consolidate in the last Champions League place ahead of Udinese and faltering Inter.
20.00 Barcelona v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
It's very likely that Barcelona will be 13 points adrift of Real Madrid by the time they face a potentially tricky visit from third-placed Valencia. Think about that. Barcelona could be 13 points adrift. Current Barcelona. Insane.
22.00 Godoy Cruz v Racing, Argentinian Clausura, Premier Sports
Both of these sides drew their opening matches in the Clausura championship. Racing's score against Tigre was 0-0, while a goal from Facundo Castillon secured a point for Apertura runners-up Godoy Cruz at Velez Sarsfield.

England Managers: The clubs they left behind (Part 2)

As discussed in Part 1, the effect of a departing club manager enticed by a tilt at the England job can often be detrimental to the club itself. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, and one of them occurred when Terry Venables stepped down after Euro 96.

Chelsea and Glenn Hoddle

Three years before Glenn Hoddle arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had finished fifth in the old First Division table. Under Bobby Campbell, The Blues had achieved their highest end-of-season placing since 1970 and won the Full Members Cup, but a slide towards mid-table mediocrity set in soon after. Once Ian Porterfield and David Webb had tried and failed to get the club back to the top end of the table, the task fell to the 35-year-old Hoddle who had recently taken Swindon Town up into the top flight.

The hallmark of Hoddle's reign as Chelsea manager was that of good cup form but non-achievement in the league. The mid-table standard that had set in before his arrival was maintained as the former England midfielder guided Chelsea through their first few Premier League campaigns. Elsewhere, the team reached the 1994 FA Cup Final, the semi-finals of the 1994/95 European Cup-Winners Cup (eliminated by eventual winners Real Zaragoza) and the semi-finals of the 1995/96 FA Cup, but ultimately silverware remained elusive.

Under Glenn Hoddle, Chelsea had showed signs of improvement as he brought in more and more quality players to strengthen the squad. After he resigned to become England national team manager in May 1996, that gradual upward curve actually became more steeper as first Ruud Gullit, then Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri built on the foundations laid down by Hoddle. Chelsea had cast off their reputation as a middling, average team and in a trice were transformed into a regular challenger for domestic trophies and Premier League heavyweights.

Glenn Hoddle's period in charge of Chelsea shown in grey.

* (Click graph for bigger version.)

Fulham and Kevin Keegan

If Chelsea had gone up a gear in the post-Hoddle period, Fulham must have gone up several after Kevin Keegan left. To be fair, Keegan only spent 20 months at Craven Cottage and the first eight of those were as Chief Operating Officer, but it was at least the spell that saw Fulham blast off from third-tier insignificance on their way to Premier League orbit.

Fulham ended the 1995-96 season eight places off the bottom of the entire Football League – their lowest ever finish. Micky Adams began the recovery process by getting The Cottagers promoted the following season but the arrival of new owner Mohamed Al-Fayed in the summer of 1997 saw a new management team brought in to continue Adams' work.

Initially a combination of Kevin Keegan acting as a 'Director of Football' and Ray Wilkins dealing with team training, the pairing was pared down a year later to allow Keegan full control of management duties. Fulham had just lost out in the 1997/98 promotion play-offs, but the former Liverpool and England striker made up for that in 1998/99 by guiding Fulham to the Second Division title, accumulating an impressive 101 points along the way.

By this time, Keegan had already been named as the new England manager, officially succeeding Glenn Hoddle in February 1999. Yet it wasn't until the end of the season that he finally said goodbye to Fulham, and though he went on to give a brief shot in the arm to England's fortunes, it could be said that he missed out on his old club's magnificent rise to greatness.

Under Paul Bracewell and subsequently Jean Tigana, Fulham took just two seasons to reach the Premier League. They'd done so only five years after finishing 85th out of 92 league teams and since then have established themselves very much as part of the Premier League furniture. Would Fulham have done so well with Keegan still at the helm?  That is a matter for some debate.

Glenn Hoddle's period in charge of Chelsea shown in grey. *

Lazio and Sven-Göran Eriksson

A double-dip regression - that's what Lazio experienced in Serie A after Sven-Göran Eriksson took the England manager's job in January 2001.

Looking to replicate the success he'd experienced at Benfica in particular, Eriksson chose Lazio as the third Italian club on his CV in the summer of 1997. Having been frustrated not to have won more at Sampdoria and Roma, he finally found the magic touch by eventually steering the Biancocelesti to a league runners-up spot in 1998/99 and the Serie A title the season after that.

A raft of other silverware also arrived during Sven's reign: a UEFA European Cup-Winners' Cup and Super Cup win in 1999, two Coppa Italias and two Italian Super Cups all reinforced the belief that the Swede had what it took to bring success to a team, and it was hardly a surprise that the English FA put his name at the top of their list once Kevin Keegan had resigned towards the end of 2000.

Lazio finished the 2001/02 season sixth in Serie A having seen Dino Zoff and latterly Alberto Zaccheroni fail to maintain Eriksson's high standards. An improved finish of fourth the season after suggested improved fortunes were back on the agenda, but four seasons further on, Lazio ended their 2005/06 campaign in 16th position - mainly, but not exclusively due to their involvement in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal. Only very recently have the Roman club shown anything like a return to former glories.

Sven-Göran Eriksson's period in charge of Lazio shown in grey. *

Middlesbrough and Steve McClaren

There is no doubt that Steve McClaren, for all the criticism he received from Middlesbrough fans and neutrals alike, worked wonders at the Teeside club. True enough, their league form during this time wasn't much to write home about - Boro finished mid-table in the Premier League for all but one of his six seasons there - but their achievements away from the league, plus the fortunes of the club after he left, show he had a genuinely positive effect at the Riverside Stadium.

As with Glenn Hoddle at Chelsea, it was the cup competitions that McClaren found joy in. An FA Cup semi-final appearance in his first season, 2001/02, was bettered the season after when Middlesbrough won the League Cup. It meant Boro had a European campaign to negotiate for the first time in their history and to McClaren's credit they got to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, knocked out finally by eventual runners-up Sporting Lisbon.

Before the Yorkshireman left for Soho Square, he guided Middlesbrough to one more FA Cup semi-final plus the UEFA Cup final where Sevilla handed out a 4-0 thumping, but this was uncharted territory for Boro fans everywhere and all too fleeting at that. Two seasons of consolidation arrived under the management of Gareth Southgate while a third saw the club relegated to the Championship. Tony Mowbray currently has the job of trying to turn the clock back and returning Middlesbrough to the Premier League and winning ways again.

Steve McClaren's period in charge of Middlesbrough shown in grey. *

Real Madrid and Fabio Capello

The most recent England manager wasn't at Real Madrid very long - at least not in his second spell at the Bernabeu. Brought in to arrest an extended trophyless run in July 2006, he was out of the door again eleven months later and had a further six months to wait before his first England press conference.

At Real, his remit was simple: win the La Liga title, the Champions League or both. By Spring 2007, Real were already eliminated from the latter and the pressure started to grow on the experienced Italian, but that wasn't the end of the story. In the latter stages of the 2006/07 season, Capello turned things around as Madrid not only closed the sizeable points gap with leaders Barcelona but also overtook them. A La Liga title that at one point looked unlikely was Real Madrid's eventual reward, yet it was not enough for Capello to keep his job. He was relieved of his duties at the end of June 2007.

Since then, Real have remained more or less on a par with the side Capello managed, winning one or two trophies but missing out on others. In the league, they won the Spanish championship the season after he left, but have played second fiddle to their bitter rivals Barcelona ever since.

Fabio Capello's period in charge of Real Madrid shown in grey. *

So there it is. We've looked at nine England managers and assessed the fortunes of the clubs they left behind. In five cases, it can be said that those clubs were worse off after the event. Aston Villa and Real Madrid carried on much the same after Graham Taylor and Fabio Capello left respectively, while Chelsea and Fulham went on to better things in the absence of Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan.

If Harry Redknapp does get the nod in time for Euro 2012, Tottenham fans had better hope he shares a lot in common with Hoddle and Keegan's style of management.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

England Managers: The clubs they left behind (Part 1)

So if Harry Redknapp does get the England manager’s job (and let’s remind ourselves that nothing’s a foregone conclusion), what kind of impact would that have on Tottenham? Come to think of it, how would any club fare if its manager walked out in favour of a dream job as national team coach?

If history is anything to go by, the answer is ‘potentially catastrophic.’ In the vast majority of cases, a club left leaderless by a manager tempted away by the blazered bureaucrats of the FA has seen its fortunes founder in the years that followed.

Ipswich and Alf Ramsey

Take Ipswich Town, for example. An innocent, unassuming club nestling in the serene backwaters of Suffolk, it’s provided two of England’s finest coaches but on both occasions fell from grace when doing so.

Alf Ramsey was the first. Taking the reins as manager of Ipswich in 1955, it took him a while to get the Portman Road machine working the way he wanted, but within five years he’d not only dragged the club up into Division Two but also Division One. They’d never played in the top flight before, but in that first memorable season of 1961-62, Ipswich Town, under the leadership of Ramsey, won the Football League championship. He’d done so with a squad which at best could have been considered ‘average’ and with next to no money to spend on improvements. It was nothing short of miraculous.

When the FA needed a replacement for Walter Winterbottom, it was hardly surprising that they paid a call on the Dagenham-born pariah. Though Ipswich were heading for a 17th-place finish the following season, there was no doubt as to who their number one candidate should be. In April 1963, Alf Ramsey stepped into the role of England manager – the first to take care of team selection and training – and Ipswich were left without the man that had transformed them single-handedly in less than a decade.

Without him, they fell like a stone down the league table. The following season after Ramsey’s departure (1963-64), Ipswich conceded 121 goals in their 42 games and were relegated back to Division Two, finishing 22nd and last. By 1966, ironically the year of Alf Ramsey’s greatest ever triumph, Ipswich were flirting with relegation back to the third tier and it was only in the 1967-68 that they finally gained promotion as Division Two champions.

Alf Ramsey's period in charge of Ipswich Town shown in grey.

* (Click graph for bigger version.)

Ipswich and Bobby Robson

Not long after, Bobby Robson took charge at Ipswich. He, too, had a remarkably positive effect on the club, guiding the team to a series of top six finishes between 1972 and 1982 (except for the 1977-78 season). European football became a regular privilege under his leadership and with players like Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen bolstering an already impressive squad, silverware soon started to appear in the Ipswich trophy cabinet.

An FA Cup win in 1978 and a UEFA Cup bagged in 1981 (not to mention a couple of league runners-up honours in the early 1980’s) was all the FA needed to see. When Ron Greenwood indicated that the 1982 World Cup would be the last chapter of his England managerial career, it was Bobby Robson that got the nod to replace him once the dust had settled in Spain.

Good news for Robson, but ultimately bad news for the club he left behind. In their first season under new boss Bobby Ferguson, Ipswich finished 9th. The following season it was 12th, the season after that it was 17th and finally in the 1985-86 Ipswich finished 20th and were relegated. It would be another six years before The Tractor Boys returned to the top tier.

Bobby Robson's period in charge of Ipswich Town shown in grey.*

Leeds and Don Revie

In Don Revie’s case, Leeds United held off the threat of relegation much longer once he’d taken on the national job but the drop into Division Two eventually came about just as it had done when Robson left Ipswich.

Revie joined Leeds as manager in 1961 with the club treading water in Division Two. Having narrowly escaped the drop into the third tier the following season, Revie gradually turned things around, strengthening the youth team setup and adding players to the squad with the occasional canny purchase.

The 1963-64 season saw Leeds return to Division One and once there, they never finished outside the top four from then until Revie left for the England job in 1974. Again, the turnaround was remarkable; before he left, Revie had guided Leeds United to two league titles, won the FA Cup, League Cup and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups. Afterwards, however, the decline was notable, if gradual.

Beginning with Brian Clough’s infamous 44-day stretch in the manager’s hot seat, Leeds finished the 1974-75 season in ninth position, although it ended with an appearance in the European Cup Final against Bayern Munich which they lost in controversial circumstances. After that, Leeds had to settle for top-half finishes in the First Division as many of their great players moved on or retired. Managers came and went too (Jock Stein lasting barely longer than Clough in 1978) and in 1982 the club were relegated to the Second Division, eight years after Don Revie’s departure.

Don Revie's period in charge of Leeds United shown in grey.*

Exceptions to the rule

Not all managers go straight from club to country. Two England managers were otherwise engaged at the time of their appointment having stepped down from their regular first-team training duties. Ron Greenwood had ‘moved upstairs’ to become General Manager at West Ham some three years before he took over from Don Revie in the national setup. Terry Venables, meanwhile, had been made Chief Executive at Tottenham well before his acrimonious exit from White Hart Lane in 1993.

Ironically, Greenwood's appointment was seen initially as a short-term solution but was made more permanent following early wins over Italy and West Germany as well as a draw against Brazil, the latter two matches being friendly internationals. Conversely, Venables' contract was supposed to be permanent yet despite England reaching the last four of the 1996 European Championships, Venables stepped down after the tournament to deal with various court cases. He'd occupied the England managerial role for only 27 months covering just 24 matches.

Aston Villa and Graham Taylor

In the modern era, managers were less likely to stay at a club for upwards of five years as Ramsey, Revie and Robson had done, so when the men from the FA made their move, it tended to be for someone only recently flushed with success. Not only that, but one could argue the clubs they left behind were not much worse after the event. Whether that can be put down to the manager in question setting the club on a decent footing for the future is a matter for some debate.

Graham Taylor arrived at Aston Villa in June 1987 just weeks after they'd been relegated to Division Two, only five years after their famous European Cup win. In his first full season at Villa Park, however, he helped his team finish as runners-up to gain promotion back to the top flight again. A tough 1988/89 season followed during which relegation was a constant threat, but the following season, Villa finished third in the league and it was then that the FA made their move.

With Taylor gone, Aston Villa wobbled slightly - particularly during the brief era under the tutelage of Josef Venglos - but eventually they steadied the ship and remained a decent top-flight club. After another worrying relegation threat had passed during the 1994/95 season, they regularly finished in the top seven of the newly-formed Premier League for many campaigns thereafter.

Graham Taylor's period in charge of Aston Villa shown in grey.*

Coming soon in Part 2: Hoddle, Keegan, Eriksson, McClaren and Capello.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday 13 February

19.45 Siena v Roma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Despite Siena's lowly postion in the table this is hardly an easy tie for Roma. Siena have put in some excellent performances at home recently, against a stuttering Napoli and a 4-0 hammering of third placed Lazio. Roma are still looking for their first win away from home in 2012.
19.45 Gillingham v Southend, League Two, Sky Sports 1/HD1
I'm assuming this is being dubbed by Sky as the battle of the Thames Estuary - or some similar nonsense. Both teams are in a bit of a slump at the moment: Southend's poor run has seen them drop from first to third and with Swindon and Torquay piling up the points they could drop even further soon.

Tuesday 14 February

17.30 Braga v Besiktas, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Besitkas are the seeded team here having finished top of their group (ahead of Stoke) while Braga finished second behind Brugges. Since then though, Braga have gone on a run of nine straight wins while Besitkas have just one point from their last four domestic games. The sour air of corruption in Turkish football has turned many fans away from the game; a good run in this competition for Besikas could go a long way to winning them back.
19.45 Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Is Messi burnt out? Probably not but the pundits need to blame Saturday's defeat to Osasuna on something. Leverkeusen, while not tearing up any trees in the Bundesliga, won all their home games in qualifying. The Champions on the other hand, have won every away game in the Champions League they've had since defeat to Arsenal at this stage last season.
19.45 Lyon v APOEL, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 4/HD4
What about a little romance on Valentine's Day? APOEL topped a group that held three of the last four UEFA Cup/Europa League winners. It's usually at this point you discovery that they've got this far because their team is being bank-rolled by evil. On the face of it, this doesn't seem to be the case here. The only criticism you could possibly put their way is a lack of domestic players in their starting eleven, which has a very heavy Portugese/Brazilian bias.

Wednesday 15 February

17.00 Zenit v Benfica, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
It's been cold enough here over the last week or so - I shudder to think what it must be like in St Petersburg now. Zenit might be a bit ring rusty having only played just two friendlies since their last match at the beginning of December.
17.30 Parma v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Parma's recent run has seen them put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone but they've suffered heavy defeats this season when going up against contenders for the Scudetto. Juve lost their top stop at the weekend thanks to their match with Bologna being called off - they're now two points behind Milan with two games in hand.
19.45 Milan v Arsenal, UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st Leg, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Arsenal have to get used to life without Thierry all over again - which is a shame because he enjoyed playing at the San Siro. Milan should be favourites but will know they have lost their last three games here against English opposition.
00.00 (Thurs) Deportivo Tachira v Corinthians, Copa Libertadores Group 6, Premier Sports
Corithians make a return to the Group stage of the Libertadores after missing out last year in the qualifying round. Tachira are Venezuela's only representative in this stage of the contest; they made it as far as the quarter finals in 2004 but this is just their second appearance at this stage since then.

Thursday 16 February

18.00 Ajax v Man Utd, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, Channel 5/Channel 5 HD
Stop laughing.
18.00 Legia Warsaw v Sporting, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Both teams cruised through their groups with games to spare. The Polish season was due to start at the weekend with the Polish Super Cup at the brand new Euro 2012 stadium in Warsaw between Legia and Wisla. However, it was postponed due to security concerns - leading to a protest from 3,000 disgruntled Legia fans.
18.00 Lazio v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
This actually the game you should be watching instead of Channel 5.
20.05 FC Porto v Man City, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, ITV1/ITV1 HD
I said stop laughing!
20.05 Stoke City v Valencia, UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Ok, now you can laugh.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #227

Changing gates
Average Attendances For 19 Of The Current Premier League Teams Back In The 1960/61 Season
(Average for 2010/11 season shown in brackets)

1. Arsenal - 33,700 (60,025)
2. Aston Villa - 33,599 (37,193)
3. Blackburn Rovers - 19,300 (24,999)
4. Bolton Wanderers - 21,669 (22,869)
5. Chelsea - 29,350 (41,435)
6. Everton - 43,453 (36,038)
7. Fulham - 22,900 (25,042)
8. Liverpool - 29,608 (42,820)
9. Manchester City - 29,978 (45,880)
10. Manchester United - 37,545 (75,109)
11. Newcastle United - 26,235 (47,717)
12. Norwich City - 24,460 (25,386)
13. Queens Park Rangers - 9,959 (15,635)
14. Stoke City - 9,569 (26,858)
15. Sunderland - 26,051 (40,011)
16. Swansea City - 12,000* (15,687)
17. Tottenham Hotspur - 53,315 (35,703)
18. West Bromwich Albion - 24,356 (24,682)
19. Wolverhampton Wanderers - 31,120 (27,695)

No figures available for Wigan Athletic who didn't join the Football League until 1978.

* as Swansea Town

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weekend TV Preview: 10 - 12 February

Friday 10 February

19:45 Vfl Wolfsburg v SC Freiburg, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
Vfl coach, Felix Magath, rang the changes in the January transfer window bring in a stack of new players to refresh a squad that has failed to live up to that great title winning side of 2009. The team is none too exciting to watch but Wolfsburg are finding some consistency. Freiburg were not able to replace Papiss Demba Cisse in January but did replace their coach. The bottom club are not goal shy, however so this match could prove to be entertaining.

Saturday 11 February

12:00 Dunfermline v Rangers, SPL, ESPN / ESPN HD
These are grim times for Rangers. Their top scorer left in January for Everton, the club are borrowing money against future ticket sales and they were knocked out of the Cup by Dundee United last weekend. Even so, three points against bottom club Dunfermline shouldn't be beyond them, should it?
12:45 Man Utd v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 2 / HD2 / 3D
This game should be the great Derby Of England. Instead it exudes a poisonous atmosphere and provides oxygen, only to racists and other meatheads. What's more, if the recent FA Cup game is anything to go by, it will be a shit game to boot. I'm not going to say you shouldn't watch it but like any other car crash, please try to avoid further accidents by slowing down to gawp at the carnage.
15:45 Aberystwyth Town v Carmarthen Town, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Huge six pointer at the foot of the Relegation Group of the League Of Wales.Aber are one place and five points away from second bottom Carmarthen.
17:20 Blackpool v Portsmouth, Championship, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
I'm sure Pompey fans are delighted that 'Arry is odds on for the England gig. Things have gone a little south for them since he left. Only two wins in five and without a pot to piss in. Blackpool haven't lost in eight games but do have an average away record which may explain their league position.
17:30 Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United, Premier League, ESPN / ESPN HD
Two high flying English club both managed by English managers and with a vacancy at Wembley both men can be relied upon to do an awful lot of ruling themselves out while practising their best England Manager Standing On The Touchline Pose. Joking aside this will be a good game with lots of goals. Lovely.
19:00 Ghana v Mali, 2012 African Cup of Nations 3rd Place Play Off, British Eurosport / British Eurosport HD
A chance for both teams to show what everyone is missing? No, a run out for the reserves and a hasty exit from the stadium at the final whistle. Both teams had realistic expectations, particularly Ghana but in this most entertaining African Cup of Nations in a while, these two must settle for being bridesmaids.
19:00 Osasuna v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
The home side are without a win in five matches. Barca are losing ground on League leaders, Real Madrid who play fourth placed Levante so there is a slight chance they'll make up some ground.
21:00 Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
Athletic guaranteed a Europa League Play Off spot, next season, by virtue of their progression to the Cup Final. They play an interesting brand of football particularly when you consider that they have, traditionally, been a long ball team. Their opponents are feeling the icy finger of relegation on their shoulders.

Sunday 12 February

13:30 Wolves v West Brom, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Big Black Country derby and a six pointer to boot. It won't be pretty but it sure will be fun.
16:00 Aston Villa v Man City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Six goals conceded in the last three league games by Villa and only three wins at home. If City don't win then it's crisis time.
16:30 FC Cologne v SV Hamburg, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
Hamburg's shocking start to the season is a relatively distant memory thanks to the sensible management of new coach Torsten Fink. I have them as outsiders for Europe, despite spending all of the season so far in the bottom half of the table. At Cologne, an opportunity is there for three away points which could nudge them into the top half against a home side missing Lucas Podolski.
19:00 Zambia v Ivory Coast, 2012 African Cup of Nations Final, ITV4 / ITV4 HD / British Eurosport / British Eurosport HD
Just short of twenty years after the tragic plane crash that killed their golden generation, Zambia are in the Final of the Africa Cup of Nations. They face the Ivory Coast's own golden generation who finally have a chance to achieve something. An emotional final is in store.
19:00 Villarreal v Granada, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Bit of a basement battle this one. Villareal have only lost one in six so will see themselves is in a false position... except they're not.
19:45 Bologna v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
No away defeats on the road for Juve and bubbling after their Coppa Italia win at Milan which featured a sensational strike by the Uruguayan Jose Martin Caceras. Should be a formality against fifth bottom Bologna.
21:00 Real Madrid v Levante, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Levante are fourth in the LagerLiga table but have not won a match since 10th December. Home win I think.

One year to bring the golden days back to ‘Gladbach

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s rise to the upper echelons of the German top flight has been so sudden that you want to soak up as much of it as possible lest they fall back to where they were just over a year ago at the bottom of the Bundesliga. But as their coach, Lucien Favre approaches his first anniversary in post, is this sudden success sustainable?

“Last season is like a bygone era.” said Borussia Mönchengladbach Sporting Director Max Eberl on DW Sport “We were bottom of the table and we took a lot of grief for that and so did the fans.” It would have been more than interesting to be a fly on the wail of Ebert’s office when Lucien Favre was offered the coach’s job at Borussia Park. Was the job sold to him or did the former Hertha coach do the selling? Did he tell his prospective boss that one year from now he’d be pushing for a Champions League qualification place? Unlikely.

Yet there they are, one year later, fourth place in the Bundesliga and in the Semi-Final of the German Cup. After a last ditch relegation play off in May and an attempt in the Summer from former player Stefan Effenberg to depose Eberl, both he and Favre have engineered an extraordinary turnaround for a club that may have had some bookies paying out on their relegation as early as the Winter Break, last season.

Since taking over, Favre’s team have conceded only 21 goals in the Bundesliga. Marco Reus has realised his potential and become the talk of the Bundesliga. Patrick Hermann has proved that ‘Gladbach does not have a one man attack and that perennial underacheiver Mike Hanke is a player transformed since his transfer from Hannover 96. At the back, Marc Andre Ter Stegen, the 19 year old who, according to his captain Filip Daems, has the “charisma of a 30 year old” is arguably the in form goalkeeper in the Bundesliga and has given renewed confidence to the regular back line of Filip Daems, Dante, Martin Stranzl and the excellent Tony Jantschke.

However, probably one of the more compelling of the ‘Gladbach narratives is whether their success can be sustained not just until the end of this season but for campaigns yet to come. Is this the beginning of another golden age at Mönchengaldbach?

A foundation stone for their building blocks has to be the coach, Lucien Favre. But this is more that just a question of whether he will stay or move on to another challenge but if he does remain, will he be properly resourced? Irrespective of where ‘Gladbach finish in May, the squad is set to lose both Reus to Borussia Dortmund and the influential midfielder, Roman Neustadter who’s contract expires at the end of the season and has agreed to join Schalke. While these players may not to be immediately replaceable, it will be necessary bring in players to succeed them.

When Favre took Hertha Berlin to fifth place in the Bundesliga in 2009, he lost a some influential players at the end of that season (most notably the imposing Ukraniain forward, Andriy Voronin) and was unable to replenish his squad. After a poor start to the following campaign, Favre was dismissed. This is a fact that will surely not be lost on him in the Summer as he thinks about the next season. To avoid history repeating itself, the ‘Gladbach’s squad needs to grow. Presumably a portion of the transfer fee of €17.5 for Reus will be available. That sort of money can go along way if spent wisely. However, if Favre can get his team into a Champions League spot and subsequently into the group stages then the possibility exists to not just fill the gaps in the squad but to move it forward to such an extent where a second consecutive top four finish may be a realistic ambition.

But there are of course so many variables involved in that particular equation. For one, while ‘Gladbach may be able to raise plenty of money from Champions League football, there is the club’s wage structure to consider. While the Borussia Park regularly sells out, the club is by far from the richest in the Bundesliga and will have a wage structure in line with their turnover. Being able to afford the transfer fee for top players is pointless if they are not in a position to meet their wage demands.This raises the further possibility that their remaining players become the subject of transfer bids. Even if they could offer the player’s Champions League football, would ‘Gladbach be in a poisition to fend off Bayern Munich if they came calling for Tony Jantschke or Patrick Hermann?

And then of course there is the small matter of actually finishing this season in the top four in the first place. Failure to achieve this will render all other permutations moot. In 2009 Favre’s Hertha looked in a strong position to finish in the top three and perhaps even win the title. Instead they finished fifth which although impressive, could have been so much more and indeed, Hertha were relegated the following season. If ‘Gladbach don’t make it to the big show, next season, could the same fate befall them?

The good news is that all will be revealed over the next few crucial months of this season and the early week’s of next season. The mission is straightforward: If Favre can keep his squad onside and be given sufficient funds to bring in replacement bodies while keeping hold of his top young players plus qualifying and securing a place in the Group stages of the Champions League then maybe this is the start of a new golden age for ‘Gladbach. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at the same time but there is a healthy gap between themselves and fifth placed Bayer Leverkusen. It is entirely likely that one year hence, Lucien Favre will be celebrating a second year as coach of Borussia Mönchengladbach. That alone would be some feat.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 6 - 9 February 2012

Monday 6 February

20.00 Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Monday night's visit to Anfield gives Spurs the chance not only to consolidate in third but take a step closer to a Champions League spot by effectively knocking Liverpool out of the battle for fourth. The Reds remain inconsistent and only Manchester City have beaten Spurs in the league since early December.

Tuesday 7 February

19.45 Sheffield Wednesday v Blackpool, FA Cup Fourth Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Owls came close to upsetting Championship high-flyers Blackpool in their Fourth Round tie on 28th January, but Clinton Morrison's first half goal was cancelled out in the last minute by a penalty kick from another former Birmingham City striker, Kevin Phillips. They go again at Hillsborough on Tuesday and this time there will be a winner.

19.45 Swindon Town v Barnet, JP Trophy Area Final Second Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Football League Trophy's at its pointy end, and the Southern Area Final is finely poised at 1-1 after the first leg at Underhill. Barnet have joined in with the trend for bringing back retired or ageing players; their equaliser was scored by Mark Hughes. I know, I know.

21.00 Athletic Bilbao v Mirandes, Copa del Rey Semi-Final Second Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Third-tier Mirandes gave themselves an unexpected lifeline at the very end of their first leg match against Athletic Bilbao. Fernando Llorente's brace had given the visitors a healthy lead but a last minute Ander Lambarri strike keeps the underdogs in the tie with 90 minutes to go.

Wednesday 8 February

16.00 Zambia v Ghana, Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final, British Eurosport/HD / ITV4/ITV4 HD
Ghana needed extra time to see off Tunisia in Franceville in the quarter-finals. After John Mensah's opener, Saber Khelifa equalised for Tunisia before the break. One of the brightest of Ghana's Black Stars secured the extra time winner, Andre Ayew striking ten minutes into the first period.

19.00 Mali v Ivory Coast, Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final, British Eurosport/HD
Mali's passage to the last four was somewhat rougher than that of their semi-final opponents. Pierre Aubameyang's missed penalty for co-hosts Gabon was punished by Bakary Traore and Seydou Keita to send Mali into a clash with favourites Ivory Coast, who beat Equatorial Guinea 3-0 the previous evening.

19.45 AC Milan v Juventus, Coppa Italia Semi-Final First Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
In-form Juventus had no problem disposing of Roma in the previous round. Simon Kjaer's late own goal added insult to injury, capping a 3-0 Juventus win built upon first half goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Alessandro del Piero. Their semi-final opponents came from behind to beat Lazio 3-1 in the last eight.

19.45 Middlesbrough v Sunderland, FA Cup Fourth Round Replay, ITV1/ITV1 HD
As if once weren't boring enough, the FA Cup cruelly serves up another north-east derby. ITV snapped it up, perhaps sensing their chance to show some long lingering shots of St Martin O'Neill, he who is incapable of doing wrong and must be judged a genius after just five minutes in the job. To put it another way, come on Boro.

19.45 Hearts v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Celtic haven't dropped a point since early November, a run of twelve matches that's impressive even in a league so lacking in competition. They've hauled in Rangers in the process and a win at Hearts on Wednesday evening will take them four points clear blah blah.

20.00 Barcelona v Valencia, Copa del Rey Semi-Final Second Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
After seeing off Real Madrid in the quarters, Barcelona still have work to do in the semis of the Copa del Rey. After conceding an early Jonas goal in the first leg, Carles Puyol led by example and scored the equaliser that puts Barca in the driving seat for a place in the final.

00.00 (Thu) Vasco da Gama v Nacional, Copa Libertadores, Premier Sports
The Copa Libertadores group stage begins this week, and Premier Sports' coverage begins with an attractive tie in Rio between Brazil's Vasco and Nacional of Uruguay. Nacional have the historical Libertadores advantage, with three triumphs compared to Vasco's solitary 1998 win.

Thursday 9 February

19.45 Siena v Napoli, Coppa Italia Semi-Final First Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Two goals from Edinson Cavani, one a scintillating solo effort, eased Napoli past Inter Milan in the last round. Up next, a first leg semi-final clash against Siena, who reached this stage by winning at Chievo despite playing a third of the game with only ten men.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #226

Golden gloves
The 12 Most Successful Goalkeepers Ever According to The International Federation of Football History & Statistics

1. Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
2. Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)
3. Iker Casillas (Spain)
4. Oliver Kahn (Germany)
5. José Luis Félix Chilavert (Paraguay)
6. Walter Zenga (Italy)
7. Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands)
8. Petr Cech (Czech Republic)
9. Michel Preud’homme (Belgium)
10. Claudio André Taffarel (Brazil)
11. David Seaman (England)
12. Fabien Barthez (France)


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weekend TV Preview: 3 - 5 February 2012

Friday 3 February

19.45 Nürnberg v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
BVB managed to get through another transfer window safe in the knowledge that Lucas Barrios isn't going anywhere. Good news for Dortmund as they attempt to break free of the three-way tie for top spot in the Bundesliga - bad news for Nürnberg as they try desperately to scramble clear of the relegation zone.

Saturday 4 February

12.30 West Ham v Millwall, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The Hammers' 5-1 spanking at Portman Road this week will come as a stern wake-up call if they thought they could simply coast back to the Premier League. A home tie against the team on the worst form of any in the Championship could be just the tonic to maintain their place at the top of the table.
12.45 Inverness CT v Celtic, Scottish Cup 5th Round, Sky Sports 3/HD3
ICT's current unbeaten run of seven games would ordinarily be good enough to unnerve most opponents but Celtic are bulldozing their way through all comers at the moment and have the scent of a treble in their nostrils. It's a shame to say it, but Terry Butcher's men will almost certainly see their Cup run end here. Should be a good match, though.
15.45 Bangor City v Prestatyn Town, Welsh Premier League, S4C
If you've not yet checked out S4C's Saturday afternoon live match coverage, you really should. Not only do you get to see some cracking football but you're also gifted with the added bonus of a live videprinter showing all the latest scores in-vision from across the UK. 'Ardderchog,' as they say over the Severn Bridge.
16.00 Zambia v Sudan, 2012 African Cup of Nations Quarter Final, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Sudan have done remarkably well to reach the last eight, but they only got here on goal difference and will almost certainly find a super Zambia team too much to get the better of.
17.20 Birmingham City v Southampton, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Twenty goals scored and only two conceded - that's the sparkling record Chris Hughton's Birmingham have earned over the last six games. Southampton, meanwhile, could be down to third in the table by the end of the day. Only one league win in the last five shows an urgent and dire need to return to their pre-Christmas form.
17.30 Man City v Fulham, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Fulham were the last team to deny a Premier League win at home thanks to a 1-1 draw almost a year ago to the day. A repeat performance might be unlikely as Fulham have won only one of their last eleven away games in the league although they can at least take heart from the absence of Balotelli due to *that* red card.
19.00 Ivory Coast v Equatorial Guinea, 2012 African Cup of Nations Quarter Final, ITV4/ITV4 HD/British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
With a forward line consisting of Drogba, Kalou and Gervinho, it won't come as any surprise to learn that Ivory Coast reached the knockout stages with consummate ease. As predicted in a previous TV Preview, co-hosts Equatorial Guinea qualified for the quarter finals - largely on the back of an impressive win over Senegal - but they'll be without captain Bodipo through injury just when they need him most.
19.00 Getafe v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
If Real's squad is currently divided in its loyalties towards Jose Mourinho, it's hardly showing. Seven points clear of Barcelona, they hardly need rush to boot out the manager as their closest rivals might be doing if things carry on the way they are.
19.45 Roma v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Despite scoring all four of his side's goals on Wednesday, Inter still only managed to draw 4-4 at home to Palermo. Roma also conceded four, this time losing 4-2 at Cagliari. A case of 'could do better' for both sides here.
21.00 Barcelona v Real Sociedad, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
What's there to see? The title's all wrapped up. Nothing to see here.

Sunday 5 February

11.30 Genoa v Lazio, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Genoa earned a rare win over Lazio last time they played in September. Another three points would come in handy for a campaign that's rather lost its way of late for I Rossoblu.
12.15 Rangers v Dundee United, Scottish Cup 5th Round, BBC1 Scotland
A 6-2 win for United over Airdrie in the last round will provide a feint glimmer of optimism but there won't be many people betting on Peter Houston's men to do a job on Rangers. The Terrors have won only two of their last 20 games against The Gers.
12.15 Derby County v Nottingham Forest, Championship, BBC1/BBC1 HD
As long as I don't mention it, no-one will know I tipped Forest to win the Championship title this season. Mum's the word, etc...
13.30 Newcastle United v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Few of you will be shocked to hear the Scotsman in charge of Villa failed to get his wallet out during the transfer window, but if Villa are to replicate The Magpies' success so far this season, perhaps he should have done. Villa could be down to 15th by the end of the day if results conspire against them.
14.00 Fiorentina v Udinese, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Little Zebras kept up the pressure on the top two midweek with a 2-1 win over relegation strugglers Lecce while La Viola had to sit out their match in Bologna due to snow. Providing the awful weather conditions across Europe don't scupper this match too, Udinese look a decent bet to edge the win here.
14.15 Hearts v St Johnstone, Scottish Cup 5th Round, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Both teams were relieved to see their squads left virtually intact after the shutting of the transfer window but of more concern to Hearts will be the fact that St. Johnstone have won three of the last four meetings between the two. Form-wise, there's little to chose between the two and both teams are level on points in the SPL.
16.00 Chelsea v Man Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Will Rio Ferdinand shake hands with John Terry? Will the two men ever play side-by-side in a future England side? Will either side stop insulting our intelligence and actually play like a genuine title-winning side? Some or none of these questions will be answered today...
16.00 Gabon v Mali, 2012 African Cup of Nations Quarter Final, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Mali's place in the last eight looked in doubt early in the second half of their final group game against Botswana. A goal down, they eventually came back to win 2-1, but they'll have to up the ante by quite a margin if they're to knock out a Gabon team that beat Morocco and Tunisia in their group games.
16.30 Kaiserslautern v Cologne, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Frankly it's a toss-up as to whether ESPN bother to show any given live Bundesliga fixture these days, but if this one's on, expect to see one team currently in the bottom three and another that could be in it by the end of the weekend.
19.00 Ghana v Tunisia, 2012 African Cup of Nations Quarter Final, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Arguably the pick of the quarter-finals. Remarkably, it's been 30 years since The Black Stars last won this competition and they'll have their work cut out against the 2004 champions who should be back to full strength after various players were rested or suspended for their last match.
19.00 Real Zaragoza v Rayo Vallecano, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Zaragoza have notched up the princely total of 12 points from a possible 60 so far. They're bottom of the table and aren't going anywhere for the foreseeable future, even if they win this one.
19.45 Milan v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
One league win in the last eight tells you that Napoli are sliding down the table in no uncertain terms. Milan's midweek defeat to Lazio means they failed to return to the top spot and with Juve's game postponed, it means The Old Lady now has the advantage going into this weekend's games.
21.00 Atletico Madrid v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Former Argentinean captain Diego Simeone continues to work his magic at Atleti. Ten points from the last twelve and none conceded have seen his team rise to seventh in the table and a place in the top four is a distinct possibility if they can beat third-placed Valencia in this tough encounter.