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Sports news, sport betting, featuring football and Premier League teams, players from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. And David Beckham. Rugby World Cup. Backpage stories from the newspapers and BBC sport

Media balls: eight reasons Burnley scored a penalty at Southampton

Media bias: a look at monocular football reporting. when Southampton beat Burnley 3-1, the away team’s goal came via the penalty sport. Should it have been given? What was it given for? The reporters reveal all:

Daily Star: “Definitely not what you’d call a stonewall penalty.”

Southampton Echo: “Referee Mike Dean felt Tadic had fouled Ben Mee, allowing Sam Vokes to become the first to score against Southampton in 612 minutes.”

Southampton Echo Live blog: “Looked soft, but referee Dean is in no doubt… Dusan Tadic shoved over Ben Mee in the box.”

Burnley Express: “Clarets striker Sam Vokes scored a late consolation from the spot for the Clarets after Ben Mee had been felled by Tadic.”

Lancashire Telegraph: “Southampton 3 Burnley 1. Mike Dean gives a pen for a block on Mee from a corner. Vokes sends penalty down the middle.”

The Guardian: “Don’t pull an opponent’s shirt when Mike Dean’s in town. Tadic has done so, and it’s a penalty to Burnley.”

The Indy: “Referee Dean took pity on Burnley, awarding a very soft penalty after Ben Mee collided with Tadic

Daily Mail: “Dusan Tadic did nothing more than stand his ground as Ben Mee goes to ground underneath him”

The Sun: “Classic Mike Dean. He’s given one against Dusan Tadic for giving the slightest nudge to Ben Mee in the box at a corner. Never a spot kick.”

The penalty was given for a feeling, a shove, felling, a block, pulling a shirt, colliding, standing your ground and nudging.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 16th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal v Swansea balls: Xhaka’s mad red card, Walcott’s cruel misses and Swans pride

Media Balls: a look at reporting on Arsenal v Swansea City in the Premier League. Arsenal won the pulsating game 3-2.

Arsenal’s Xhaka was given a straight red card in the 70th minute for a cynical trip on the half-way line. What says the media?

Luke Redy (BBC):

Arsenal saw Xhaka sent off for a petulant trip and despite seeing Walcott squander two late chances, they held on as Swansea equalled their worst start to a league season.

The Sun employs two journalists – two – (Duncan Wright and Sam Morgan) to report:

THEO WALCOTT was cruelly denied a hat-trick…

No. Walcott was denied a hat-trick because having scored a brace he bhit a post and then missed a simple chance from about five yards out. The BBC calls it “one of the misses of the season”.

The Sun then delivers a typo – “the ball ruled across the line without going in“. got that – it ‘ruled’ [rolled?] across the line but did not go in.

 

the sun balls arsenal

 

The Guardian says of the Xhaka red card:

Barrow had outstripped Xhaka and the Arsenal player’s reaction was cynical in the extreme.

The Mail notes:

Xhaka lunged at him from behind and brought him down. Referee Jon Moss showed him a straight red card, which seemed harsh.

Says Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “It looked harsh to me. A dark yellow. But the referee went for a bright red.”

In the Islington Gazette (Arsenal’s local rag) the red card is headline news:

Ten man Arsenal beat Swansea City 3-2 after open game marred by Granit Xhaka’s harsh sending off

Layth Yousif writes:

Yes it was a cynical trip. But a straight red when there were plenty of men covering and no apparent danger. If new rules were designed to clarify situations such as these, the fear is that changes – however well-intentioned – have only served to muddy the waters. Again.

In the South Wales Evening Post (Swansea’s local news source), the headline accentuates the positives:

Arsenal 3 Swansea City 2: Bob Bradley’s team proud in defeat against 10-man Gunners

Xhaka’s afternoon then went from bad to worse, the Swiss hardman seeing red for a cynical challenge on Modou Barrow. Arsenal protests were waved away by referee Jon Moss.

And Walcott’s hat-trick, the one the Sun says he was “cruelly denied”?

Walcott misses a sitter just before the full-time whistle. Swansea gave 10-man Arsenal a massive fright here

As for the red card, the rules were altered, as the BBC writes:

Players who commit a foul to deny a goalscoring opportunity will no longer automatically be sent off, football’s rule-making body has confirmed. The previous ‘triple-punishment’ rule required a red card – and therefore a suspension – as well as the award of a penalty under those circumstances.

However, players committing accidental fouls that deny a goalscoring chance will now be cautioned instead. But deliberate fouls will still incur a red card.

Those include holding, pulling or pushing, not playing the ball, serious foul play, violent conduct or deliberate handball in order to deny a goalscoring opportunity.

Was this a goalscoring opportunity?

 

Posted: 15th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Spurs Balls: all hail the newest new Messi

Have you seen the ‘New Messi”, a player the Sun dubs “Mini Messi” after the brilliant Barcelona player? He’s called Marcus Edwards. He’s 17. And he plays for Spurs. Well, Spurs reservers because this new Messi isn’t good enough play for the first XI.

Having dubbed him Mini Messi, the Sun then says, “When he’s got a bag full of Ballon d’Ors like his La Liga nick-namesake you can compare him with Messi.”

Or when you’ve got  column to fill.

PS:  The Mini Messi tag is attributed to a few words Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino shared on 5ft 5-inches of Marcus Edwards. He said: “His qualities … it’s only looks – his body and the way that he plays – remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi.”

Yeah, he’s a little bit like Messi was before he became exceptional.

PPS: The real Messi was 16 years, four months, and 23 days old when he made his debut in the Barcelona first team. Spurs’s Messi is 17 and still waiting.

Add him to the list.

 

Posted: 15th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Gareth Bale and the obscenity of a £350,000-a-week tax bill

Is Gareth Bale obscene? The only comment beneath the Times’s article on the likeable Wales and Real Madrid player says he is. The story is that “Bale expects Real to match Ronaldo’s £750k a week.” The comment says: “Obscene amounts milked from the fans – disgusting!”

There is is again, that footballer’s salary being delivered in terms of money-per-week. It’s a huge number when delivered in terms of yearly wage: £39m. But it’s too big for all but a very few of us to relate to. Break the cash into weekly instalments and readers can easily compare it to their own yearly wage.

How dare Bale – the player who quickens the pulse and gives us “I was there’ moments – earn vast sums of money for kicking a ball. How dare a man who adds a crackle of excitement to weekends and summers make so much cash. Better the club kept the huge sums and used the money to invest in grounds and pay bigger dividends to shareholders. How dare a working-class lad who never went to college earn so much money.

The Times says Bale earns a net salary of “£260,000 a week”. He wants to join Ronaldo in “an elite group of global sports stars who earn £20 million a year after tax, with gross weekly wages of £750,000.”

Wow, indeed. Bale will pay £19m a year in tax – £365,000 every week to the Spanish government!

Do you find that obscene?

 

Posted: 15th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Ched Evans: The witch-hunt continues

Former Sheffield untied footballer Ched Evans is innocent. You might not like him. You might think him a scumbag, a low-life or hard done by. But one thing he is not is a rapist. A conviction for rape was quashed on appeal. A retrial found him not guilty. End of. What might have been a typical night out has damaged lives.

So how do you report on the Evan’s acquittal?

The Star goes for his apology and crying.

 

Ched Evans sobs

 

The Sun goes for his balls.

Ched Evans innocent the sun

 

An innocent man – one guilty of committing no crime – is branded “GUILTY” on the front page.

Is this part of a ploy to woo the woman Evans was accused of raping? She is now able to sell her story. The Sun would surely buy it.

The paper follows an attack on him with another story about idiots on Twitter who rush to judgement.

‘A DIRTY LITTLE B****’ Ched Evans’ supporters troll his accuser as footballer is found not guilty of rape

THE teen waitress who accused Ched Evans of raping her in a hotel room has been viciously trolled on Twitter in the wake of his not guilty verdict. The woman – who cannot be named – was subjected to a barrage of online abuse after Evans was sensationally cleared of rape this afternoon.

Her life has been damaged. She has a new identity and has “moved far from her North Wales home”. Do not name her. It is a criminal offence to do so.

The Sun picks out a few quotes from bleeding hearts in the Twitter mob who want the woman to suffer more.

One wrote: “Hope the stupid s*** who is guilty for getting for getting Ched Evans sent to prison and ruining his life gets named and shamed for life ruined.” Another added: “Poor Ched Evans. The girl who accused him of rape should be locked up. She basically ended his career that piece of s**t.”

The case against Evans was approved by Crown Prosecution Service. Their task was to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. They failed.

In the Daily Mirror, Alison Phillips writes: “What woman in her right mind would go to the police this morning if she were raped last night after too much to drink? I wouldn’t.”

Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales Ed Beltrami says:

“We respect the decision of the jury today. This case hinged on the issue of sexual consent – that someone consents if they agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Being drunk does not mean a person relinquishes their right to consent, that they are to blame for being attacked or that they were ‘fair game’.”

The trial judge words should be noted. Ms Justice Nicola Davies instructed the jury:

“Your decision must be made calmly, objectively and without emotion. You are not here to judge the morals of any person in this case and this includes the complainant and the defendant. You are to try this case on the evidence you hear in this court in this trial and nothing else.”

She directed the jurors to consider three questions:

Question 1:

Are you sure that when the defendant intentionally penetrated the vagina of the complainant she did not consent to it? If you are sure that she did not consent, go to question two. If you conclude that she did consent or may have consented your verdict is NOT GUILTY.

Question 2:

Are you sure that the defendant did NOT genuinely believe that the complainant consented? If you are sure that the defendant did not believe the complainant was consenting, your verdict is GUILTY.

If you conclude the defendant did believe or may have believed that the complainant was consenting go to question three.

Question 3:

Are you sure that the defendant’s belief in the complainant’s consent was unreasonable? If you are sure it was not a reasonably held belief then your verdict is GUILTY. If you conclude that it was or may have been a reasonably held belief then your verdict is NOT GUILTY.

Matt Dickinson nots in the Times: “Just because it isn’t rape, doesn’t mean it isn’t misogynistic and nasty.”

In the Telegraph, we read: “‘Team Ched’ show just how sick football culture in Britain is.”

The established facts of what happened at the Premier Inn near Rhyl on the night of May 30, 2011, are sordid enough: Evans lied, as he admitted in court, to obtain the key that gained access to the bedroom, did not speak to the young woman before, during or after sex, then left the hotel by a fire exit…

As for the impression of contrition, forget it. His statement on Friday that he “wholeheartedly apologised to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question” does not square with the fact that he has stood by while a website has published horrendous character assassinations of the woman concerned. Her life, to a greater extent even than his, has been ruined. If a man such as Evans is now to be made a martyr, then the culture of football in Britain truly is sicker than we thought.

The Indy has more:

Robert Brown, a partner at Corkerbinning, told The Independent: “In a jury trial, as in this case, it is for the prosecution to persuade the jury beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

“The verdict means that a particular jury was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of [Mr Evan’s] guilt. It is not the same as saying the woman has lied.

“Saying she should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice is a complete non sequitur. The Crown Prosecution Service could prosecute her if there’s evidence she was deliberately lying, but there is no evidence of that.

“The fact that the jury don’t give any motive for their decision is one of the reasons why you cannot say this woman should be prosecuted. “Because it may be that the evidence from the woman was not the deciding factor in the case.”

Do you believe in the rule of law? Do you believe a person is innocent until proven otherwise? If you do, you can read about Ched Evans and move on. If not, you can continue to use an ugly story to support your own pet theories, businesses, causes and prejudices. You can join in the witch-hunt.

 

Posted: 15th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea balls: Antonio Conte sacked and not sacked

Did you read the news that Chelsea are all set to sack Antonio Conte, their manager? It’s nonsense. He isn’t being sacked. The Sun has confirmed that Conte is not being sacked by Chelsea:

Antonio Conte sacked: Chelsea boss’ future at Stamford Bridge is safe after betting firms spark sack rumours

 

Antonio Conte sacked

 

Which betting firms started that rumour then?

The Sun had more:

 

the Sun Conte sacked

 

Which bookmakers were no longer taking money on Conte’s sacking? The paper told readers:

Sun Bets, Betway and Paddy Power have both suspended betting on Conte being the second Premier League boss to get the boot.

 

the sun bets

 

Three betting companies have “both” suspended betting on Chelsea sacking Conte?

But only one bookmaker was talking to the Sun. Can you guess which one?

A spokesperson for Sun Bets said: “We’ve currently suspended the next Premier League manager to go until the rumours about Antonio Conte’s future at Chelsea settle down… Diego Simeone is Sun Bets 7/2 favourite to take over the reigns.”

There is no word from any other betting companies.

To recap, then. Antonio Conte has not been sacked. He was never going to be sacked. It was all just a rumour rooted in bookmakers’, like Sun Bets, and amplified by that company’s sister publication The Sun newspaper, which thoughtfully reproduced the odds on something not happening for its readers to study.

And, boy, did the Sun milk the non-news news story about its betting arm:

 

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 17.17.23 Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 17.17.13 Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 17.16.58 Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 17.16.49 Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 17.16.20

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 14th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: The Sun creates a Gareth Bale to Manchester United out of nothing

Is Gareth Bale moving to Manchester United? No. We told you he was staying at Real Madrid. Every story you ever read about Bale wanting to join Man United is wrong. Stories like these from the Sun in recent days:

28 Aug 2016 – MANCHESTER UNITED are plotting an audacious £100million move for Real Madrid’s Welsh wizard Gareth Bale.

23 Sep 2016 – Gareth Bale to Manchester United: Real Madrid star wants to leave Bernabeu with Old Trafford preferred destination.”

And so to today’s Sun news that Bale is not going to play for any club other than Real Madrid. He does not want to leave the Bernabeu.

And how does the Sun present this story. Yes, as a story about Manchester United story:

Gareth Bale to Manchester United: Real Madrid superstar to sign new contract at the Bernabeu until 2022

In tomorrows news: “Manchester United: Ronaldo not signing for Man United either.”

Posted: 13th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Manchester United prepare to sell Wayne Rooney – the symbol of ineffectual English football

Much chatter over Wayne Rooney’s future. The BBC says, Manchester United “could look to offload captain Wayne Rooney, 30, in the summer”. They could. Or they could not.

The BBC adds that getting rid of Rooney “may” mean United paying him the 20 months of his £300,000-a-week contract.

The Mirror adds that this is United’s £26m dilemma.

Eh? United will either pay Rooney and maybe let him play or pay Rooney and sell him to another team. Is that a dilemma?

Over in the Sun we hear from “CAPTAIN FANTASTIC”, former United and England captain Bryan Robson. He says: “At least United fans will show him the love and respect he deserves. Wayne’s always given everything for England… and that should always be appreciated. He doesn’t deserve to be booed like he was against Malta and one thing I do know is that the United supporters will stick by him. Wayne will know that the next time he pulls on a United shirt the fans will be right behind him – as they should be.”

United fans support the club they have seen reach the heights and raise the heart rate. When Rooney goes, other gilded stars will replace him. Manchester United fans expect the next best thing to arrive at any moment.

England fans expect nothing but more dross.

They did have the young Rooney, a lightning rod of hope and expectation. He was England’s Roy of the Rovers, a winner in a sea of mediocrity. “Our country love it, creating a drama around one player,” said Gary Neville. “I’ve never known there not be an obsession around one player. It was Gascoigne from 1996 to 1998, Beckham from 2000 to 2006. From 2006, it was Rooney and Beckham. Now it’s Rooney to 2014. Unfortunately – or fortunately, because he is a big player – this time it’s Wayne Rooney.”

We put him on a pedestal. And now we’re hacking away at the legs.

England fans crave more. But all they see is an underachieving team of pampered individuals get outplayed by Iceland. This shambolic England team is currently managed by Gareth Southgate. The FA are paying him £500,000 to manage four England internationals, including matches against – deep breath – Malta, Slovenia and Scotland. In the greedy, overpaid world of football that’s not a lot when compared to the £400,000 his predecessor Sam Allardyce thought a speaking engagement was worth.

See anything to cheer about? No, not you, Gareth and Sam, rather the fans who watch the team of overpaid solo acts?

So, there’s the captain, the ineffectual Wayne Rooney, who no longer a striker sits marooned in England’s midfield. Rooney hasn’t played well in a tournament for England since 2004, when he was sensational. His presence reminds us of all the false dawns and hype that surrounds the now dubbed ‘Three Lions’. He is yesterday’s great hope in a team that holds no promise of a bright future. Fans can boo him because his declining form represents failure. And, besides, anyone mad enough to pay to watch this current England team in the flesh needs to make their own entertainment.

 

Posted: 13th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Liverpool: The Sun fails to Watch Henderson

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is subjected to the Sun’s “Hendo Watch”. The paper kept a constant eye on the likeable and hard-working Henderson as he captained England in Slovenia.

Facts:

The Liverpool midfielder led from the front..

But it was still a decent audition from Henderson…

Hendo was the player organising the troops and trying to get something on a tricky night…

He dropped really deep to try to dictate play from the back, a role he could adopt in the future instead of raiding forward…

And that’s it. The BBC didn’t operate a Henderson Watch. But it notes:

He [Joe Hart] twice denied Josip Ilicic when he was played in by poor backpasses from Eric Dier and captain Jordan Henderson

The Sun never saw that pass. The BBC mentions it twice:

Hart – who was the clear man of the match in this game – looked back to his best, rescuing Dier and Henderson when dreadful backpasses let in Ilicic.

Make that three times:

Shambolic England… The errors by Dier and Henderson would have been punished by opposition of a higher calibre and England threatened to crumble in the early moments of the second half – only to be saved by Hart.

Is there any reason the Sun – a paper hated by the Reds’ faithful following its hideous Hillsborough coverage – failed to see the error from Liverpool’s captain as it watched his every move?

Posted: 12th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Liverpool’s James Milner is the English footballer who plays like a German

Becauae Germans are good at taking penalties, when one of them says an Englishman is the ‘best penalty taker ‘ he’s ever seen, we take notice. The penalty king is none other than Liverpool’s James Milner, who hasn’t missed any of the seven spot kicks he’s taken for the Reds.

This season he’s scored four from four.

The BBC has the headline news that Milner is the King. But in the Liverpool Echo, we get more. The German with the praise is Emre Can.”I’m young but I haven’t seen in any of my teams so far such a good penalty taker,” says Can. “In training, every ball is in the net. He’s a very, very good penalty taker.”

Milner is the powerhouse player any manager would love to have in their squad.

When James Milner announced his retirement from international football, he robbed England of a versatile player who has, as George Caulkin puts in in the Times, “always valued proficiency ahead of individuality”.

What does that make him sound like? Yeah, a German. And you now how good they are at football – and penalties.

 

Posted: 12th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Liverpool balls: The Reds made a huge mistake buying Jordan Henderson

We love peculiar job titles in football. Chelsea have “loan player coaches“. QPR have “kit monitorers”. Liverpool used to have “director of football strategy”. What that means is unclear. But at one point the man with the job was Damien Comolli.

When Comolli got the job in 2010, the BBC explained what it was, in the words of Liverpool owner John Henry:

“Today’s announcement is just the first step in creating a leadership group and structure designed to develop, enhance and implement our long-term philosophy of scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football. Damien has a proven track-record of identifying exciting young footballing talent and we are delighted that he has agreed to join Liverpool.”

He had us right up to “philosophy”, then we kind of zoned out. Conelli is not the manager, not the coach and not entirely just a scout. ‘Director of football strategy’ seems to be job made in the corporate world, a title based on presentation over presence.

In March 2011, we got more:

Comolli’s role has been extended to oversee all football-related matters outside of first-team training and selection, which are under the remit of the caretaker manager Kenny Dalglish, who replaced Hodgson on 8 January.

“It covers pretty much all of the football side,” added Comolli. “It’s basically a day-to-day relationship with the manager and his coaching staff, it’s also medical and sports science, performance analysis, player liaison, team travel, scouting and negotiating transfer contracts. A big part of it is the academy.”

We’re talking about Conelli because he’s told Talksport:

“The day I got sacked they [Liverpool’s owners] told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and he was a waste of money.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I think we paid the right price. He was a young English, British player and we know very often that British players are overvalued. But we were more than happy to pay the price because we thought he would become an outstanding player.

“I never said it publicly, but I was convinced he would be the future captain. People will say it is easy to say now, but I was convinced at the time that he would become the Liverpool captain. Now he is and he is also the England captain.”

Manchester United looked at Henderson. And passed. In his autobiography, former United manager Alex Ferguson had issues with Henderson’s gait:

 

Jordan Henderson

 

 

In 2015, the Telegraph reported:

Henderson has a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis, a problem that deteriorated last April. Despite consultations with renowned surgeons, and even taking advice from the Royal Ballet about how to deal with a problem that afflicts dancers as well as sportsmen, Henderson has accepted he will have to manage pain rather than rid himself of it…

Henderson is well aware comments made in Sir Alex Ferguson’s book that his running style would cause injury problems will be seen as prophetic. In fact, it is believed a change in boots was the catalyst for the issue last season allied to a work overload which has prevented the 25-year-old having a summer break for 14 years. “I don’t think it has anything to do with my gait, it might have, but I very much doubt it,” said Henderson.

The trade in footballers is about making an educated guess. Players can be lucky and unlucky, careers ended by injury and elevated by chance. To say you knew for certain Henderson was going to be the Liverpool captain is nonsense. It was a good guess – and one realised by the luck of Henderson, a talented player, being part of a very poor England team and a Liverpool side with few options.

And as for Henderson’s rise being foreseen by Comelli, this is what Kenny Dalglish said after the Frenchman left the club:

“He’s been really helpful in every transfer target we’ve gone for. Everyone who has come into the club since Damien has been here was of my choice. Once I made the choice who I wanted. Damien went away and did a fantastic job of bringing them in. It’s sad to see anyone leave the club and he goes with my best wishes.”

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 12th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


List: every Premier League manager’s favourite team

Much hoo-ha over the appointment of Manchester-based referee Anthony Taylor for the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United. The idea is, presumably, that Taylor will favour Man United over their rivals? Or maybe he’s a diehard United loyalist who hates the club owning Glazers and wants their version of United to fail and will favour Liverpool? Or maybe his loved ones support Manchester City or Everton and to keep them happy Taylor will go studs-up on United’s David De Gea and red card Paul Pogba for having non-regulation hair?

Twitter user @TheLFCPoll investigates another options: “Manchester born referee Anthony Taylor will be in charge of the Manchester United game. His wife is a Manchester United fan. Seems neutral.”

 

Manchester United referee Taylor

 

Taylor doesn’t support Manchester United, preferring the allure of non-league Altrincham. The rules state that referees can only be barred from officiating matches featuring a club they support.

So what of the criticism of Taylor? Former referee Keith Hackett says Taylor’s treatment has been “grossly unfair”. Ex-ref Graham Poll says Taylor “should certainly not raise any eyebrows despite him living and working in the Manchester area”.

Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was fined in January 2014 for pointing the finger at Bolton-based referee Lee Mason and his officiating of the Reds’ 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad. “I was surprised that we are playing in Manchester and we had a referee from Greater Manchester,” Rodgers said. “Hopefully we won’t have a Greater Manchester referee with Liverpool-Manchester games in future. We had nothing that went our way at all. I never go on about officials but I thought they were horrendous.”

A referee’s address is not a factor in selecting them for matches.

Keith Hackett explains more:

“At the beginning of every season the referees’ background information is audited. They complete a form that includes who they support, the history of if they’ve played the game and with the addresses where they are residing. That gives you a picture that comes into use when you’re appointing.”

Anyhow, if you want to know which ref supports which team, here you are:

Mark Clattenburg (County Durham): Newcastle

Mike Dean (Wirral): Tranmere

Roger East (Wiltshire): Unknown

Kevin Friend (Bristol): Bristol City

Simon Hooper (Wiltshire): Swindon

Mike Jones (Chester): Chester

Robert Madley (Wakefield): Huddersfield

Andre Marriner (Birmingham): Aston Villa

Lee Mason (Bolton): Bolton

Jon Moss (Sunderland): Sunderland

Michael Oliver (Ashington): Newcastle

Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire): Sheffield United

Graham Scott (Oxford): Swindon

Keith Stroud (Dorset): Luton

Neil Swarbrick (Preston): Preston

Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe): Altrincham

Paul Tierney (Wigan): Wigan

Conclusion: If you want to be a top-flight referee, the advice is to support a team that is either never there or one prone to relegation.

Posted: 12th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Manchester United balls: Agent Pogba fails to land Griezmann and Memphis Depay rejected croissants

Manchester United fans looking for news have been treated to a welter of clickbait balls today. We’ll round-up a few gems – and save our favourite for the end.

Metro: “Agent Pogba: Man Utd fans get excited as star is snapped with TWO top targets.”

Neyma? Ronaldo? George Bellshaw dishes the goods:

Every time Paul Pogba goes on international duty, he seems to be snapped with Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann, which sends Red Devils fans into a frenzy.

Raphaël Varane took a selfie in the changing room following France’s 0-1 over holland. Pogba and Grteizman are in the background. The contracts are being drawn up as we speak.

No wait!

Metro: “Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann admits he could join Paris Saint-Germain ‘someday’”

Daily Express: “Manchester United midfielder makes unexpected return to former club.”

Who left?

Mata started his youth career with the Spanish second-tier side before being snapped up by Real Madrid in 2006. And it seems the 28-year-old hasn’t forgotten his roots and made a return to Oviedo on Sunday during the international break.

Yeah, Mata went on holiday to see his old club play.

And now the top story:

Daily Mail: “Paul Pogba danced on a plane while Memphis Depay rejected croissants as the Manchester United duo prepared to meet in Holland vs France showdown.”

After the international break, the Premier League begins again very soon. The Press cannot wait.

 

Posted: 11th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: BBC clickbaits Manchester United fans with moves for ‘Manchester City’s’ Isco

More BBC Transfer Balls as the State broadcaster tells readers to its website – and why doesn’t the BBC just publish a newspaper?  – “Manchester United target Isco has hinted he may leave Real Madrid at the end of the season.”

Hinted. May.

With not a single fact to support its headline news, we follow a link to the Manchester Evening Post, which declares: “Manchester United get Isco boost as he explains Real Madrid situation.” What said the player who started one league match for Real last season? “If I’ve still only made a few appearances by the end of the season, I’ll look elsewhere,” says Isco. “At 24 years of age I have to right to better myself.”

Over on TalkSport that becomes: “Tottenham transfer news: Top target Isco admits he could leave Real Madrid if his situation doesn’t change.”

May. If.

The Metro is less precise, saying all top-flight clubs are in for the players: “Isco puts Premier League clubs on red alert by revealing he could leave Real Madrid.”

Bournemouth, Hull and Swansea have heard Isco’s words and sounded the klaxon.

Is Isco really leaving Real? The Press hasn’t got the foggiest.

The Mail told us on October 6: “Real Madrid midfielder Isco ‘is primary transfer target for Juventus’.”

That followed the Express’s news of 19 Sep 2016: “JUVENTUS are not interested in signing Tottenham target Isco from Real Madrid.”

In June, El Confidential reported that Isco had agreed to join Manchester City 25 million euros.

In March, the Metro had other news: “Isco is a priority for Guardiola, with City now seemingly ready to beat the Gunners to his signature.”

They didn’t. Isco stayed at Real Madrid.

Time, then, to hear from the player himself. On October 5, Sky Sports told us: “Isco determined to fight for Real Madrid place under Zinedine Zidane.”

Asked by Marca if he considered an exit, Isco said: “Not really, I have two years left on my Real contract, the club said nothing and I never looked for anything to leave… In the end, if I’m not the star man with (Carlo) Ancelotti, (Rafa) Benitez or Zidane, I will not be foolish and look for problems where there are none. In the end, I’m responsible and that’s where I must improve. There are ups and downs and I won’t give up, I fight to the end and want to prove that I’m fit for Madrid.”

Turn the red alert off. He’s going nowhere.

 

Posted: 11th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment (1)


Celtic heap pressure on their young protege Karamoko Dembele as Manchester City circle

Transfer Balls spots a story about a trade in underage flesh. The BBC says Manchester City want to sign 13-year-old Celtic “playmaker” Karamoko Dembele. Dubbed a wunderkind, earlier this month Dembele made his debut for Celtic’s Under-20 team, playing the final ten minutes of the Bhoys’ 3-1 victory over Hearts at Cappielow.

If you want to feel even older, know that the youngster came off the bench to replace Jack Aitchison who, at 16 years and 71 days old, became Celtic’s youngest-ever player in the final game of last season.

 

Dembele Celtic

 

 

The Sun picks ip the story of Manchester City “looking to pounce” on the child. They want to transport Karamoko Dembele to England and add hims to “their growing academy of young stars”. City, we leanr, “have been tracking the talented teenager for the past few months”.

Should he go? The Mail reminds its readers of Islam Feruz, who at just 13 represented Celtic in a memorial game for the late Tommy Burns.

But after being carefully nurtured by Celtic, he turned his back on them after six years and moved to Chelsea on a lucrative contract. The accusations were that his head had been turned, which Feruz now admits himself.

Says Feruz:

“I hope he stays with Celtic, plays for their first team and score lots of goals. Never forget that playing football makes you happy. If he does that, the next step of his career will be a natural progression. He will not need to chase anything or rush into anything. He just has to keep his head down, stay focused and not allow himself to be distracted. That’s the best advice I can give him.

“I remember it all just seemed to happen at once and hit me overnight. There was so much publicity. It was very hard to handle. My family and friends were also thrust into the spotlight. It’s hard to cope when you are so young. It’s easy to put your faith in other people and it becomes easy to lose focus on football. People will now want to get involved with him and, no doubt, promise plenty. People will try to sweet talk him.

“But you must trust in your family, that is so important. And stick to football. It’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of the necessary development required on and off the field. The people of Scotland, in every walk of life, must try to protect him. I wish him luck.”

He’ll need it. Eslewhere in the Mail, you can read:

But the ultimate tale of ‘too much too soon’ is undoubtedly Islam Feruz, whom Celtic legend Tommy Burns fought to keep in Scotland as his family sought asylum from war-torn Somalia. Feruz duly turned his back on Celtic to earn more money at Chelsea, where he has developed only into a first class waste of space.

So how good is Dembele? Gordon Parks is unimpressed: “Celtic said Dembele was chosen on merit. Sorry but it’s disingenuous at best, a cheap publicity stunt at worst.”

He seems to have a point when you listen to one Celtic insider.

“Karamoko is still a young boy and has a lot of growing to do, both physically and mentally,” head of youth, Chris McCart, told the club’s website. “The coaches at our U13 and 14 levels have been fantastic in nurturing his potential but it is crucial that we do not push him too far, too soon. He has a lot of hard work ahead of him to make it to the top and we won’t rush that, but we also know Karamoko, and the other talented young players we have here, is at the perfect place to continue his progress and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

If he has so much growing to do, why expose the talented teenager to intense scrutiny at such a young age?

Scotland assistant coach Mark McGhee said last Tuesday: “I’ve heard our youth people talking about Karamoko Dembele and he’s supposed to be outstanding, fantastic.”

No pressure, son.

PS: Some way to go on building the kids profile. The Express says he was born in the Ivory Coast.

 

DEmbele Celtic

 

The Mail says he was born in London.

The Sun says: ‘The teenager was born in London to parents from Ivory Coast and moved to Scotland before his first birthday.”

The Telegraph mistakes him for another Dembele, reporting beneath the headline “Celtic 13-year-old Karamoko Dembele makes Under-20s debut”:

 

dembele error celtic

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 11th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Media balls: Arsenal’s Granit is better than Man United’s Rooney but not a ‘capable’ as Southampton’s Steven Davis

Who are “The 50 best players in the Premier League”? You could decide this with transfer fees, goals scored, goals conceded, where a player polled in the PFA awards and the Football writers’ awards, FIFA 17 ranking and any number of statistics betting shops and fantasy leagues use to gage players.

The Mirror has opted for with guessing. Lowlights are:

48: “He’s still trying to find his feet at the Emirates, but there have already been signs – notably his goal at Hull – that the quality he has could lead him to be a top-15 player on lists such as this in future.”

Fingers crossed Granit makes 15. Will he be happy with a Top 20 spot?

We also learn that Anthony Martial (46 – Manchester United) is better than Wayne Rooney (50 – Manchester United).

Others are capable:

Steve Davis (47 – Southampton): “Capable in a variety of roles.”

Martial (as above): “He’s capable of beating a man to tee up a teammate or score himself.”

Ross Barkley (45 – Everton): “He’s capable of running a game from midfield.”

And on it goes. Over the next few days the Mirror will continue its countdown.

PS: For those of you who can’t wait to see who is top of the heap, in September 2016 the Mirror said the best player in the Premier League is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s a capable lad.

Posted: 10th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Chelsea want to sell Hazard, Manchester United offered £170m for Neymar, Arsenal re-buy Higuain

Transfer balls: a look at football reporting. The BBC says Chelsea are looking to cash in on Eden Hazard, the player once billed as the “new Lionel Messi”. The BBC says Chelsea will tie a big bag of cash to the 25-year-old Belgium and offer to swap the lot for Juventus and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29.

The Sun says Juventus don’t want Hazard. They want Cesc Fabregas and an even bigger bag of cash – £50m – for Bonucci.

In other Chelsea news, the Star  says the blues are keen on Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Manchester City also want him. Aubameyang doesn’t want to play for either of them, preferring a move to Real Madrid.

City have loads of cash. Will they outbid Real? News is that last summer they offered £170m for Barcelona’s Neymar. The Citizens thought they’d get their man. Mundo Deportivo says Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain matched that bid. And all failed. Odd, indeed, that no other news sources got wind of these bids.

Maybe City will have better luck with Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin, 21. Marca says Barcelona head the queue for the Arsenal flyer, who is happy at the Emirates.

As for the Gunners, well, Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis says Arsenal made a good offer for striker Gonzalo Higuain over the summer. “We received a request from Arsenal,” he told the Evening Standard. “Personally I also received a request from Atletico Madrid but they didn’t put enough money on the table. We were not ready to sell him – for me Higuain was not for sale.”

He was for sale. Higuain went to Juventus for £75.3m.

Of course, Sun readers know that Higuain joined the Gunners years ago:

 

higuain arsenal

 

And Manchester United a few years later:

 

Higuain Manchester United

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 10th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Manchester United should have no regrets over Burnley’s Mike Keane heading to Chelsea

The BBC says Manchester United are “kicking themselves”. No, not because one of their myriad sponsors has slapped own a big wad of cash and told them to. They are kicking themselves, says the BBC, because they failed to add a sell-on clause to Burnley defender Michael Keane’s contract.

Keane, 23, joined Burnley from United for £2.5m in 2015. He is now being eyed by Chelsea. And in the mad world of football transfers, Keane is worth £25m.

Given that one other option is for Chelsea to give Juventus Cesc Fabregas plus £50m for Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29, (source: BBC), Keane’s fee looks a little more reasonable.

The Sun picks up the story of Keane to Chelsea and that sell-on clause. It says “United are believed to have not been able to get Burnley to agree to deal which means they will receive cash if he moves to another club.” Believed. In other words, the Sun and the BBC don’t know.

The M.E.N. says there is no sell-on clause.

If Keane is so good, why don’t United buy him? The Sun confronts that: “It is not known whether United have first-option to buy-back Keane if a fee is agreed.”

The BBC and Sun’s story add up to a lot of nothing – unless:

a) You’re a rival news organ keen not to miss out on a non-story. “Man United gossip: Red Devils having huge regrets over Michael Keane sale,” says the Mirror.  “Michael Keane’s emergence is another indictment of the Louis van Gaal reign at Manchester United,” says EuroSport. Which makes you wonder what EuroSport has to say about Paul Pogba, a player overlooked by Sir Alex Ferguson who rejoined United for a king’s ransom.

Having been loaned out to Leicester, Derby and Blackburn, on 2 September 2014, Keane was loaned to Burnley. On 8 January 2015, Keane joined Burnley on a permanent deal. Van Gaal replaced David Moyes as the new Manchester United boss on 19 May 2014, managing his first game on 24 July. The hammer-headed Dutchman was not a raving success at United but the club was hardly fighting to keep Keane, let alone make him a Premier League starter.

b) You’re a Burnley fan facing the prospect of losing one of their best players in January – a player who has improved under the excellent Sean Dyche. As Keane has said, “Burnley gave me the platform to showcase myself and show my talents in the first place.”

Manchester United have no regrets. They wouldn’t have picked him.

 

Posted: 8th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger quits, stays and torments tabloids and the FA

Is Arsenal manger Arsene Wenger all set to be the next England coach? No. Yesterday he told media it is “very important” that the FA appoint an Englishman for the job.

The Mirror leads with Wenger’s words:

 

wenger arsenal

 

Just one day ago the Sun reported that the FA wanted Wenger. They were “boosted” by news that Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, had said the Gunners are not just about the Frenchman.

 

wenger arsenal

 

When the internationals are on and the Premier League pauses, the football media looks for anything to fill the void. The Mirror and Sun have conjured a news story from dust.

The Mirror works at the apogee of such reporting. On 28 Sep 2016, it told readers: “Arsenal are bracing themselves for an England approach in pursuit of Arsene Wenger – but are ready to fend them off by handing him a new contract.” That as followed by a welter of balls, not least of all the October 6 story: “Ivan Gazidis drops huge hint that Wenger may not be Arsenal boss next season.”

Tomorrow look out for the papers debating whether or not Wenger, who has lived and worked in the UK for 20 years, qualifies as English.

PS: No questions about Wenger’s future, please.

 

wenger

 

No need. His future is decided:

 

wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 8th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Howard Gayle and ‘Digger’ Barnes: When Liverpool FC rejected racism

Howard Gayle was the first black footballer to play for Liverpool. The State wanted to reward Toxteth-born Gayle for footballing whilst black and working with the anti-racism charity Kick It Out with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). But Gayle, 58, was unimpressed.

 

howard gayle liverpool

 

He explains why he rejected the gong:

If they want to be inclusive and accepting of black people around the UK and the Commonwealth, then they need to change the title of it – as it’s an exclusive club being an MBE or OBE or one of those gongs.

A lot of people around the world contacted me to say they accepted my decision and that the title of MBE did rankle.

In his book 61 Minutes In Munich, Gaytle talks about the racism that was rife in football and society. In the 1970s and 1980s, English football was infected by racism.

Gayle recalls an episode with Liverpool enforcer Tommy ‘Anfield Iron’ Smith.

Tommy tried to distract me by making nasty comments related to the colour of my skin. For a while, I somehow managed to restrain myself…

I received the ball, controlled it, and lashed a shot towards goal. Tommy Smith was on the other team and it hit him on the leg. It clearly stung and some of the other players started laughing. I had a smile on my face as well. I saw it as karma. Tommy responded with a tirade of abuse. It was ‘black this, black that’.

The place went quiet. Everybody could hear it, including the staff. He was a legend. I was a nothing. Nobody said a word.

I’d had enough of him (Smith): this bitter old man. So I went over and squared up: nose to nose. I looked at him dead in the eye.

“You know what, Tommy; one night you’ll be taking a piss at home and I’ll be there waiting for you with a baseball bat,” I said, calmly. “And then we’ll see what you’ve got to say.”

I wanted to start a fight with him. And then he walked away…

Graeme Souness was the only one that came over in the immediate aftermath. “Well done, Howard,” he said. “Tommy deserved that”. Graeme was a true leader.

Other might have just lamped Smith.

He adds:

After I left, John Barnes became the first black player to be signed by Liverpool from another club. He quickly earned the nickname of ‘Digger’, after Digger Barnes in the Dallas television series. Personally, I wouldn’t have accepted that because of its closeness to the ‘N’ word.

Hyper-sensitive? Seeing racial undertones in a nickname given to player who would be idolised at Anfield?

Things have changed. Now professional football might well be the lest colour conscious occupation in Britain – one in four of professional footballers is black.

Via: Guardian

Posted: 7th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Books, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Arsenal fight to keep Bellerin, Ozil and Sanchez and Man City go shopping

Is the Premier League a video catalogue for Manchester City’s shoppers? Manchester City invested £175m on new players in the summer – and they have another £150 to buy some more.

As ever, the first port of call on the City owners’ shopping trip is Arsenal. City manager Pep Guardiola is batting his eyes at Arsenal’s flying right back Héctor Bellerín. Look out for lots of reports on Hector and Pep’s shared Barcelona roots.

Can Arsenal hang onto their rising star?

Can Arsenal afford to reject a bid of £50m for a player they signed for free?

Arsenal’s most pressing concern is keeping Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez. The players are said to each want a huge pay rise. Reports suggest Sanchez and Ozil each take home around £140,000 a week. At Manchester City, players or lesser ability take home more than that. So Arsenal need to cough up to prevent their top names leaving the club. The sum of £250,000 a week has been mentioned.

One player nearer the exit than those three is Per Mertesacker. The injured German’s current deal ends at the end of this season. “I am a person who likes to create options for himself,” says Mertesacker. “Of course, I ask myself what would make sense if things were to end at Arsenal? Where can I be of any help? What do I want? Could I maybe return to Germany?”

Could he reach that glass on the top shelf and paint the cornices?

It’s all about options.

 

Posted: 7th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


BBC trolls Liverpool and Arsenal fans with clickbait headline news

The BBC website is the font of all knowledge. It might as well be a newspaper. But instead of opting to compete in the open marketplace, the BBC news site consumes and rules. On today’s BBC football pages, for example, you can read: “Football gossip: Wenger, Ozil, Sanchez, Griezmann, Klopp.”

 

BBC football gossip

 

 

Arsene Wenger, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are names that appeal to all Arsenal fans worried that all three will leave the club. Jurgen Klopp news seduces Liverpool fans hungry for news of their charismatic manager. Griezmann is the top striker at Atletico Madrid wanted by a host of Premier League clubs.

We clicked. And we get a single ‘news’ item on anyone mentioned in the headline. That story is ab vout Klopp. This is the news: “Outgoing Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre believes Jurgen Klopp is ‘the perfect man’ for the manager’s job.”

That’s not exactly “gossip” is it.

The BBC is funded by the licence fee tax. Why does it need to resort to clickbait to attract readers?

By way of proof that this is the BBC’s ‘news’, here’s more of today’s BBC’s football page:

 

BBC gossip fotball

Posted: 7th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger ‘leaves’ on the strength of a ‘hint’

The BBC says Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has “hinted” manager Arsene Wenger’s contract “may not be renewed at the end of the season”.

Turn that around and it means he said nothing has been decided and Wenger’s contract may be renewed at the end of the season.

The Daily Mirror says it is the “biggest hint yet” that Wenger is heading out of the Emirates.

So what did he say? This: “He’s been clear and we’ve always been clear, that’s a mutual decision as to how long he’ll continue. Both need to be on the same page on that. In a football sense, he has transformed the club.”

That needs some spin to make it a hint about Wenger leaving. It sounds a lot like an executive making a diplomatic response to a journalist’s question.

The Sun picks up another comment:

 

Swuennger sun

 

Said Gazidis in reply to another question: ““Arsenal is not Arsene Wenger. They’re not one in the same thing.”

That’s a “SHOCK” to the Sun.

But not to Mirror readers, who all know when Wenger will leave:

 

wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

 

Or not.

 

Posted: 7th, October 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Gareth Bale gets £91m to ‘snub’ Manchester United

Gareth Bale is not heading to Manchester United. The BBC says Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have agreed new contracts to remain at Real Madrid. Bale has been offered £91m to keep playing for Real and reject Manchester United’s advances.

The Express says the BBC is correct. Bale will remain at Real Madrid and get a ton of cash to “snub” Manchester United next summer.

The source for all this is Spanish radio station Cope. It says  Ronaldo, 31, has signed a new deal until 2021. It says Bale has agreed to stay in Spain until 2022. But there is no word of that bumper pay packet. Only the Express has news on that, reporting: “Bale’s admirers at Old Trafford will have to accept the 27-year-old is staying in Spain after agreeing a six-year deal worth around £350,000 a week.”

Unless, of course, United offer a massive pile of cash of cash for the star. After all, Bale wants to come to the Premier League. We read that in the Daily Express.

 

bale man united

 

And in the BBC, which on 11 Jun 2016 reported: “Manchester United are confident of signing Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, 26, for a world-record £94.6m fee.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 6th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Chelsea double their offer for Juventus and Manchester City’s Leonardo Bonucci

Transfer balls:  The BBC says Chelsea’s owners Roman Abramovich has sanctioned a move for  Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29.  The Blues will offer the Italians £60m.

The Telegraph says this would be a world-record fee for a defender, beating the current record £50m PSG paid for Chelsea defender David Luiz – they bought him back for £30m.

Bonuccio is, says the paper, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s “dream signing”.

Bonucci has been full of praise of Conte, who managed him at Juventus and Italy. “Conte will be a big success in England, Chelsea are already a very good team and he will have them challenging both in England and in Europe,” said Bonucci, who might care to look again.

But the British Press know not all that much about Bonucci.

 

Bonucci

 

In June, the Metro said the player had agreed to join Chelsea.

The Sun said a “three-year deal for defender Bonucci, worth around £130,000 a week, has been accepted by the player and his agents.” The headline tol readers: “ANTONIO CONTE is plotting an amazing £57million double swoop for Italy stars Antonio Candreva and Leonardo Bonucci.”

Three months ago Bonucci cost £25m.

He’s now apparently worth £60m.

And in July he singed for Manchester City. The Sport Bible told us that:

 

manchester city bonucci

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 6th, October 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, Reviews, Sports | Comment