Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.
ARSENAL’S Lukas Podolski yesterday enacted one of the best pre-game handshakes of the season, greeting referee Jonathan Moss with rare affection.
The pre-match handshake has been mired on controversy. We’ve wondered whether or not Anton Ferdinand would shake John Terry’s hand before or after wiping his nose on his own palm? Would Rio Ferdinand shake Ashley Cole’s hand, or simply hand him a choc-ice? Would Luis Suarez eat the hand of Patrice Evra; would Evra, wise to the possibility of cannibalism, coat it in hot mustard or black boot polish? Would Wayne Bridge be invited to sniff a smirking John Terry’s fingers?
The handshake had become so complex, so political, that we had led calls for the pre-game handshake to go.
But then along comes Poldi to remind us that more handshakes are what are required.
LIVERPOOL Balls: And on Easter did the Messiah of Anfield rise again on the Carrow Road pitch. It was a miracle:
LUIS Suarez on toward the title for Liverpool!
YESTERDAY it became clear why the so-called neutrals would least mind Liverpool winning the Premier League: Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea would not. Mourinho is a graceless sideshow. His assistant Rui Faria, yapped like a foaming chipmunk in the face of defeat.
When Fabio Borini, on loan to Sunderland from Liverpool, struck the winning goal from the penalty spot, we realised it was all good. Football could still toss up a happy shock. Mourinho’s Chelsea had been undefeated in 77 league games, winning 61 of them, before mighty bottom-of-the-table Sunderland arrived yesterday.
CHELSEA lose 2-1 at home to bottom-of-the-table Sunderland, and Jose Mourinho’s assistant Rui Faria lets a long day in the sun and the excitement of being allowed to stay up with the grown ups get the better of him.
It’s all tremendously entertaining, of course:
What a bad sport, eh. Wonder where he gets it from?
IT’S a Liverpool love in as Paul McCartney meets Luis Suarez.
On the eve of the former Beatle’s show in Montervideo’s Centenario Stadium, Uruguay, loveable Luis Suarez appeared on satellite to chat with McCartney about his homeland, football and music.
Well, sort of chatted. It’s pretty clear that Suarez recorded his questions well in advance. And one-time enemy of the State Macca might not be the biggest Reds fans, unable as he is to name the club’s manager, referring him to as “coach”…
LUIS Suarez should be crowned this year’s Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
But can other professionals overlook the repeated racist abuse of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, the diving and the biting? We should all of us admire Suarez’s abilities, but how much do his disciplinary offences weigh down opinion?
Suarez has so much baggage he could not afford to fly Ryanair.
1973: Arsenal Hooligans Ejected From The FA Cup Third-Fourth Place Match With Wolverhampton Wanderers
FLASHBACK to August 18, 1973:
At the short-lived annual FA Cup Third-fourth Place Match (mote here) between Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Gunners’ Highbury Stadium, a small group of ‘hooligans’ are escorted out of the ground by the Police prior to kick off.
It was all about the boots.
BACK in the Pre-Premier League days, the losing FA Cup semi-finalists competed to see which one of them qualified for a non-existent bronze medal and the other nothing. The match lasted just five years, played between 1970 and 1975.
Initially, the game was played at a neutral ground, lending it the aura of a real Cup Final. At the inaugural Cup, played one day before Chelsea and Leeds United contested the final at Wembley, Manchester United beat Watford 2-1 at Highbury. The crowd was 15,105.
Was that encouraging? Footballfansite has transcribed the Arsenal programme notes from that, which explain how the match came to happen:
THIS is the eleventh occasion we have staged a match for the Football Association on the eve of the F.A. Cup Final, and this time the fixture takes a new form. The idea of a match on this particular date on the football calendar first came about in 1954, it being felt that with people descending in thousands on London en route to Wembley the following day, many of them would welcome a game at which to spend the eve of the Final.
So, 16 years ago, England met Young England here on this corresponding night, and a crowd of 43,000 gave full justification to the experiment. The following year the title was changed to Old England v Young England (the old ‘uns cheered to a 5-0 victory by 38,000), but except for 1963 when the match was styled England v The Football League the fixture became permanently one between England and Young England. On five occasions it switched to Stamford bridge, but otherwise it remained at Highbury.
Inevitably what was basically a friendly representative match could not retain all its early novelty appeal, and after last season’s 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, watched by just over 18,000 spectators, the F.A. decided the time had come to change the style of the fixture. Among suggestions thrown up was a North v South match – that particular argument seems to have been going on among football fans since the game began! – but the idea to gain favour was to stage a “play-off” to decide third and fourth places between the two beaten F.A. Cup semi-finalists.
Tonight’s game is the first such fixture, and with it we have, in any case, a North v South clash, just as there will be another at Wembley tomorrow between Leeds United and Chelsea. Whether this becomes a regular fixture will, presumably, how well the fans turn out to support it……
One year on and Stoke took on Everton. To further entice paying punters, the game was played one day before Arsenal played Liverpool on May 8. The footy-starved neutral and fans of the two finalists would surely lap it up. Well, that was the plan. But only 5,031 turned watched the game at Selhurst Park.
FLASHBACK to October 7 1978:
On display at Scotland Yard are some of the weapons believed to have been abandoned by supporters attending the West Ham against Millwall game at Upton Park. Six policeman were injured and 70 people arrested after fans clashed in the street after the game.
HOW football reporting works: The Daily Mail obliges its promise to feature one story a day on the big clubs. It tweets: “On £20,000 a week…and he plays for Chelsea’s youth team.”
He’s Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen, signed from Danish club Brondby in 2012.
The Mail writes:
“Meet Andreas Christensen, the 18-Year-Old Chelsea defender who is on £1million a year but has never played for the first team. Andreas Christensen, described as a ‘gazelle’ by pretty much anyone who has ever watched him play, turned 18 on April 10. He earns £20,000 a week and has not made a first team appearance. Something, somewhere, is going wrong when youth team players are walking around with that kind of money.”
THE Manchester Evening News was as one with the mainstream press in lamenting City’s 2-2 home draw with Sunderland last night.
But something got lost in the rush for hyperbole:
GARETH Bale scored a terrific goal last night to win the Copa Del Rey for Real Madrid. But he never thanked God, as many players do. Bale thanked the ball. He thanked the Adidas Brazuca for obeying his foot and not behaving like a beach ball on a windy day on a Bridlington beach.
The former Spurs and Southampton man tweeted:
“Luv u babe lol xx”
And then the ball tweeted Bale back:
Chris at Pies calls it “a brand spanking new low in the commercialisation of football”.
But is it. Football’s have gone out of fashion as objects of desire. Back in the days of pre-Premier League England, kids would gather round the Christmas tree as wonder what was inside that round parcel that wouldn’t sit still. Was it a big black bomb from a comic? A giant fat-ball to hang above the bird bath? A soap-on-a-rope for Giant Haystacks?
No, it was a proper leather football.
Once upon a time a ball, like a dog, a football was a treat, an object of wonder what you nurtured for years. They cost an arm and a leg, and that wasn’t the half of it: when it rained they were heavy and hard enough to break the other arm and leg.
The Encyclopaedia of British Football summed up the impact of a regulation Size 5:
“On wet days the ball grew increasingly heavy as the leather soaked up large amounts of liquid. This, together with the lacing that protected the valve of the bladder, made heading the ball not only unpleasant but also painful and dangerous.”
Stan Cullis of Wolves and England was knocked out and seriously injured twice during matches as a result of heading the ball and having it fired into his face, and retired on the advice of doctors. Like many players of his era, he suffered dementia, often attributed to heading the old-style balls.
If there was no proper ball, children in the Sixties and Seventies made do with a plastic substitute. A youngster would have trouble getting a corner into the box using the leather ball, but these black-and-white plastic baubles would fly into the air at the slightest touch, making it impossible to score from any range further than three yards.
Better by far was the Wembley Trophy – a heavy orange ball with fake panels embossed upon it. It came in a special presentation box, and could do almost as much damage as a leather ball, especially on cold days, when it would sting the thighs, smash the testicles and bring tears to the eyes of any boys foolish enough to block its path.
Help was on its way. In the 1970s balls were coated with polyurethane to stop water retention. Today’s versions have a latex bladder and a synthetic leather casing, while Adidas World Cup balls are thermally bonded and machine-pressed.
They are soulless. But thanks to Bale, the football could once more be sold as part of the player. We’d investigate the ideal of Bale and the ball further, possibly though the Saturday morning comic strip Bale & Ball, available in all newspapers.
What’s that you say. No-one buys newspapers anymore?
Sounds like a job for Bale & Ball… Gareth! Crank up the maketingometer, it’s gonna be a long day!
BACKPAGES: Manchester City draw 2-2 with Sunderland at the Etihad and the talk is of City’s crisis. What about’s Sunderland’s inability to hang on and win at the ground where not to long ago the talk was of a 100% home record?
Didn’t Sunderland blow it? Just seven minutes from time, the league’s bottom side were 2-1 up.
1930 Grand National: Jockey G Goswell Is Helped To An Ambulance As His May King Flounders In The Beecher’s Brook Ditch
FLASHBACK to March 28 1930:
Jockey G Goswell being helped into the ambulance, whilst his horse May King still flounders in the ditch after getting caught at Beecher’s Brook during the Grand National horse race at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England on March 28, 1930.
No ambulance for horses.
IN the race to produce a new story on every leading club every day of the week, the Daily Mail does not flinch. Today, the paper of record leads with news that Manuel Pellegrini has visited a cashpoint machine.
The Mail bought and published a picture of a grown man using his bank account.
This from the “Sports Newspaper of the Year’. And that’s this year.
AFTER Hillsborough and the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final, the Reds played the final. They won, beating Everton 3-2 in extra time at Wembley Stadium.
After the horrors of Hillsborough, the cage around Wembley had been removed. When Everton scored their equaliser with virtually the last kick of normal time, Blues fans celebrated by running onto the pitch.
FIVE weeks after the horrors of Hillsborough, when 96 Liverpool fans died at the FA Cup semi-final, the mighty Reds won the FA Cup. The final was a Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, played at Wembley Stadium, London, on 20 May 1989. Liverpool won 3–2 after extra time, with goals from John Aldridge and two from Ian Rush. Stuart McCall scored both Everton goals.
Liverpool were on for the Double. Kenny Dalglish’s team needed only to avoid losing the season’s final game by a two goal margin to win the League title.
That final match had been originally scheduled to be played on 23 April. However, the deaths at Hillsborough had caused the Liverpool-Arsenal fixture to be postponed, with no suitable date found until after the FA Cup Final.
So. On May 26, 1989, England’s dominant team hosted Arsenal, the team needing to win by that two goal margin, a result the Gunners hadn’t achieved in years. The title would be decided on a Friday night. The Gunners did it, of course, with Michael Thomas scoring the title clinching goal in injury time.
I was there. Indulge me. It wasn’t just the shock of seeing Arsenal win the title that made that warm night unforgettable. It wasn’t just the joy of being able to run on to the pitch and ruffle Paul Merson’s hair. It was the Liverpool fans. I had watched the match from the Main Stand at Anfield, me and one friend having lost a draw for tickets. While everyone else from the coach stood with the Arsenal fans, we were with the Liverpool supporters.
As that second goal went in, and we cascaded madly down the steps to the pitch, Liverpool fans congratulated us. As we stood at the pitch-side, no policeman shoved us back or grabbed us in a headlock. No truncheons were drawn.
Everyone seemed to stay in the ground. They sang Walk On. And we joined in. Fans mingled on the Anfield Road End. There was no trouble. Seats were ripped up as souvenirs. Liverpool fans helped.
Was this the game that a 1985 Sunday Times editorial had called “a slum sport watched by slum people in slum stadiums”? It was. But the Times was only right about the stadiums, neglected and inadequate. In May 1985, the Bradford City stadium fire in May 1985 killed 56 people.
In 1985, 38 Italian fans died following a charge by Liverpool supporters at the Heysel stadium. The dead were killed when a faulty wall collapsed.
So. Why were Liverpool fans given the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough while their less well-supported opponents Nottingham Forest stood in the bigger end of the ground? Because that was how the police wanted it.
The deaths were accidental. But they were the result of a policy that portrayed and treated football fans as scum.
The elite never did understand football. They just use it – still do – to empathise with the working classes and sell TV packages. Anyone who blamed football fans for Hillsborough, should have been there that night at Anfield.
The elite will tell you how sorry they are for the 96 dead and that “lessons have been learnt”. Government and police will bow their heads in grief, sharing the mood with those who lost loved ones and survived the horror. And the elite will hope that the anger will melt away. They will tell Liverpool that its people are mawkish for holding onto the pain. See how we all lament your loss, say the powerful. You don’t need to sue for compensation and justice. We feel your pain. We’re all in this together. We got over it. So can you. Stop wallowing.
More lies. More control.
The 96 who died at the match were not killed by hooliganism. Their deaths were a result of those in power treating football supporters as a problem to be caged and whipped into line. The 96 who died were killed by police acting on Government orders to control the mob. Don’t help them. Just prevent a riot.
As the injured were being treated, the police stood guard lest distraught, shell-shocked and injured fans attack the dying.
As the fans were being crushed in their pens, police lined up military style and shoved them back into the wire cages.
As the fans tried to escape, the police didn’t send for the 40 ambulances parked by the ground. They sent for the attack dogs. They then let one ambulance drive in to help.
This was a result of football fans being used to test new methods in keeping order. Margaret Thatcher’s Government wanted fans – what one Tory called “the yob class” – to carry ID cards. Baron Peter Hill-Naugton, admiral of the fleet, said football was “a slum game played by louts in front of hooligans”. Football fans were the Untermenschen on which all new methods of control could be tested. One doctor present at Hillsborough said the only difference ID cards could have made that day was to make it easier to identify the young corpses.
The police will tell you that all-seater stadium and filming the fans with CCTV prevents another Hillsborough. That’s balls. It was the police treating the football fans as animals that created the deaths of so many. The police have just found new ways to control the mob. You can now be ejected for swearing or saying something offensive. The culture of fear and loathing continues.
Anyone who went to a football match in the 1980s will understand that the Liverpool fans who died could have been them. Amid all the guff about the “football family”, this is one truth that binds all fans.
FLASHBACK to April 15, 1989:
A lone supporter sits by the damaged fencing at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield. Twenty years after the Hillsborough disaster, English football is enjoying a golden age with multi-millionaire players starring in modern stadia, reaping the rewards of lucrative TV deals. But in the aftermath of the disaster at the Sheffield ground in April 1989, that saw 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, things never looked so bleak.
WE love crazy Golf. But we don’t much like sensible golf. YouTuber Simon Connor has found a way to make sensible golf crazier. CAn golf be improved with a miniature castle and moat? Is crazy golf the TV-friendly short format golf has been looking for?
Is it a case of ‘Today Blackpool, tomorrow, the world”?
Can Tiger Woods get the uniform 1983 putters – great levellers – to guide the 1982 irregular ball – ditto – up the clown’s leg and through the mermaid’s mouth into the hole that full of leaves and a broken bookmaker’s biro? Will Tiger design his own crazy golf course and through it finally reveal the depraved and frightening images that form in his inner mind as he lines up a putt at Augusta?
Much to ponder:
TONIGHT, former teenage prostitute Zahia Dehar, 22 – famous for her alleged sexual warm-ups with French footballer Frank Ribéry at age 16, is Marie-Antoinette.
She’s not really the old decapitated Queen. She’s just the subject of a picture by Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard, aka Pierre and Gilles. In the photos designed to look like a portrait. Dehar’s portrait is in a room is surrounded by Marie’s chairs. It sits above a marble mantelpiece from Versailles Chateau, Marie’s palace.
THE hacks spending their days discussing Luis Suarez have yet to create a single word as entertaining as the man himself’s actions. The racism and cheating and biting have all been terrible, just terrible. But – boy – has he kept us entertained.
Everything the hugely talented and unpleasant Suarez has done has been clouded by his status as filthy foreigner. He has given the elite a chance to engage in some cheap moralising about enlightened England. His fearsome bites were worse than Jermain Defoe’s nibbles. His dives are worse than Gareth Bale’s slips. His cheating is so much worse than Team GB’s efforts in the cycling. When he spits, he does so because as a filthy foreigner he knows no better. But we – says Gary Neville – can teach him.
LIVERPOOL Balls: The very big-spending, foreign-owned Reds are at the Top of Premier League. Having beaten very very very big spending foreign-owned Manchester City 3-2, Liverpool are two points above very, very big spending, foreign-owned Chelsea. All three clubs have
To the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel this is a triumph of the English spirit.
These days, to rise from seventh last season to become champions is the equivalent of Nottingham Forest winning promotion, and then the championship a year later. To do so with a predominantly British starting XI is equally a feat from a bygone age. We had accepted that champions were foreign entities now. A title-winning team with an English spine? We thought its time had passed.
AT today’s FA Cup Semi Final between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, 96 seats were left empty as a tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans that lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
And at the Sky Bet Championship game between Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers at Hillsborough, 96 blue seats at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough were replaced by 96 white seats to represent the innocent who lost their lives at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.