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Back pages | Anorak - Part 22

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Premier League news. Stories from the newspapers and BBC sport – sports news from tabloids Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, the Guardian, Daily Mirror, the times, daily telegraph

Tony Pulis: Crystal Palace spank West Bromwich Albion manager

Tony Pulis, manager of West Bromwich Albion, is a “LIAR”. So says the Sun, which leads its sports coverage with news that Pulis has been told to pay Crystal Palace £3.7m – but his total bill following defeat in a High Court fight is closer to £6m. The Mirror and Express say it’s around £5m.

 

Crystal Palace the sun pulis

 

The story goes that Pulis was paid a £2m bonus for saving Crystal Palace from the drop when he managed the team in 2014. Palace said he was due the money if he stayed at the club until August 31 2014 – after the season had kicked off on August 16. Pulis asked for the bonus early, saying he had an “urgent” need for the cash to buy land for his children. He got the cash on August 12. On August 13, Pulis told Palace he wanted to leave, says the Express. Pulis left the club on August 14.

The matter went before an independent tribunal in March 2016, which ruled in Palace’s favour, saying Pulis had created a “false impression” that he would remain at the club. Pulis took the case to he High Court. And lost again.

The Sun says the case hinged on the date of a “fiery meeting”. Pulis, reportedly, claimed his loyalty to the club was damaged following a “heated player meeting” on August 12. But Palace were able to prove that that meeting occurred on August 8.

Pulis was undone.

High Court judge Sir Michael Burton said the Tribunal found Pulis had “deliberately sought to deceive with his claims about needing the bonus early”. The Sun quotes the Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal report which brands Pulis’s conduct “disgraceful”. His case was “untrue”. “It was must more likely he intended to seek more lucrative employment with another club and that is the real reason he sought early payment.”

Pulis must repay the £2m bonus plus £1.5m as he was “already in employment with another club”.

The Mail says Pulis has been “branded a fraudster”. He “deliberately mislead” Palace chairman Steve Parrish over his intention to stay at the club.

The Mirror says Pulis’ “reputation is in tatters”.

The rest of us marvel at how much money and greed there is in football.

Posted: 29th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment (1)


Media balls: Wilshere’s Arsenal future as clear as mud

How’s Jack Wilshere getting along at Arsenal? He’s playing for AFC Bournemouth but he’ll be back the Gunners soon enough. The Evening Standard confirms the news: “Arsene Wenger confirms Jack Wilshere will be offered new Arsenal contract.”

Good for Jack. And good for Arsenal.

But in September the Metro told us: “Mesut Ozil set to sign bumper new Arsenal deal that will see him inherit Jack Wilshere’s No.10 shirt.”

Ozil hasn’t signed any new deal. He wears the Number 11 shirt.

 

The Metro added that Wilshere “sees his long-term future away from the club”.

He doesn’t.

On October 22, the Mail reported on one of its own columnists: “Jack Wilshere’s future is away from Arsenal after Bournemouth loan, says Jamie Redknapp… Jack Wilshere’s career at Arsenal is over.”

No. It isn’t.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 27th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Media Balls: Mourinho does a Wenger, Pogba does a Van Gaal and Manchester United wait for Fergie

Media Balls: Was it right that Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was red carded as his side fought back to secure a 1-1 draw with West Ham United? Can we know what’s what from reading the experts?

The BBC: “Off to the stands! He aims an almighty kick at a drinks bottle down on the touchline in anger at a booking for Paul Pogba – who looked to be jumping to avoiding getting clattered – and is directed from the touchline by Jonathan Moss.”

Pogba was avoiding a clattering and jumped. It was self-preservation. The referee got it wrong. Jose just reacted to the poor decision.

Manchester United assistant manager Rui Faria: “I think there was frustration from Jose after the yellow card for Pogba. It should be a foul for us but the referee understood it in another way.”

United were robbed.

Saj Choudry (BBC): “The Portuguese boss kicked a water bottle in reaction to referee Jon Moss showing Paul Pogba a yellow card for diving. Replays showed West Ham’s Mark Noble did not make contact with the France midfielder.”

Pogba dived. The referee was correct – he did fool for the player’s cheating. Jose Mourinho did make contact with the water bottle.

The West Ham website: “The Frenchman, falling after going past Mark Noble, was correctly booked for diving, prompting the explosive bottle-kicking moment from his boss.

Dive!

The Manchester United website: “Mourinho was then sent to the stands after he reacted furiously to referee Jonathon Moss’ decision to book Pogba for an apparent dive.”

An apparent dive?

Manchester Evening News: “He [Pogba] appeared to dive over Mark Noble’s challenge and was booked by Jonathan Moss. Mourinho… kicked a water bottle in frustration and was sent to the stands.”

He appeared to dive. Jose was not poorly behaved and wrong. He was frustrated.

The paper does find lots of room for the thoughts of journalist Duncan Castles:

 

jose mourinho red card

 

Picking that apart. The slight on Louis Van Gaal is odd given that the hammer-headed Dutchman was pretty animated:

 


And as for any other manager not being sent off for kicking a water bottle, well, the Arsenal manager was:

 

 

For Jose Mourinho, well, it wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that his old club Chelsea – the one he left spent and in mid-table – are top of the league under their new manager.

PS: Manchester United have failed to win four league games in a row at Old Trafford for the first time since February 1990. And they have drawn four consecutive league games at their place for the first time since December 1980. Yeah. it’s time for Fergie all over again. Oh for a manager who intimidates referees, fails to talk to the BBC and fosters a siege mentality. On second thoughts, as you were Jose…

Posted: 27th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Top politicians cleared of sex abuse but showbiz and sport is full of paedos

Are you confused by all the story of paedophiles in every walk of life? Hopefully by around 2099, the Government’s nationwide trawl of historic sex crimes will be completed. Of course, by then most famous faces will be long dead. The sane move is to forcibly freeze anyone of note and then when they get accused of an awful crime defrost them over burning torches and then beat them with sticks. Sure their brains might be mush but don’t let Lord Janner’s story put you off.

So weird has the story gotten that the Mail is not alone in realising that the story of the systematic sexual abuse of minors has taken on a life of its own.

On the front we get to know that former prime minister and Tory MP Ted Heath (dead) was not a nonce.

 

daily mail ted heath

 

But on the back we get to know that football and all other sports are riddled with paedos – maybe.

 

sport daily mail sex crimes

 

Look down not up, says the class-conscious peado hunter.

As Andy Dawson puts it: “Showbiz, sport, this stuff is/was rife. BUT NOT IN TOP-LEVEL POLITICS, OKAY?”

Posted: 27th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Philippe Coutinho Injury news: Liverpool star does a break, a twist and a Beckham

Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was taken from the Anfield pitch on a stretcher, his leg in a brace. How bad is the injury to Liverpool’s best player? One expert decides it’s best just to guess.

On the BBC website, former Arsenal ‘rash’ Martin Keown says it could be a really bad injury. Or maybe it isn’t. Lest anyone think Keown a medial genius who can diagnose an injury from hundreds of miles away, he tells us that he’s “speculating”.

 

Liverpool Philippe Coutinho

 

The Guardian is unsure what to make of what “appeared a serious ankle or foot injury”.

ESPN observes: “Philippe Coutinho was withdrawn in the first half with an injury to his lower right leg.”

The Liverpool Echo says his leg as in a “splint”. The Star say sit was in an “air cast”.

In the Express, James Cambridge ups the ante and says Coutinho has a broken foot – maybe.

 

Liverpool Philippe Coutinho

 

Why does Cambridge think it’s a break? Well, he quotes a few tweeters who say they hope it isn’t a break. And he also quotes – yep – Martin Keown.

To put the tin lid on the Express’s utter balls, readers are told more about an injury to which Coutinho might not have succumbed :

Wayne Rooney was ruled out of the 2004 European Championships with a metatarsal injury and was sidelined for around two months.

The Manchester United captain has been plagued with metatarsal inuries [sic] and suffered his third in August 2007 and was out for six weeks.

 

james cambridge daily express Liverpool

 

And:

David Beckham famously broke his metatarsal before the 2002 World Cup and was a major doubt for the tournament.

The final word is with someone who knows. Says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “It [Philippe Coutinho’s injury] is an ankle injury but we can’t say anymore until we see a scan.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Media balls: ‘disgraceful’ referee saves Leicester and robs Middlesbrough with ‘stonewall’ penalty

Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting. Today Leicester City took on Middlesbrough in the Premier League. Leicester got a penalty. Should it have been given?

BBC: “A high ball is pumped into the box and catches the hand of Calum Chambers. Referee Lee Mason points to the spot. The Boro defender probably feels a little aggrived [sic] given he looked to be fouled by Wes Morgan.”

Lucky Leicester. It was ever so.

 

Leicester City penalties

 

Sky: “Chambers is having a poor few minutes as he leaps with his hands in the air and the ball hits him. It’s stonewall and after a quick check with the linesman, the referee points the spot. Mahrez is over it…”

Stonewall penalty.

The Sun: “Morgan clearly shoves Chambers into the ball but incredibly Lee Mason points to the spot. It’s another refereeing howler!”

Stone me! Penalty?

 

the sun leciester city

 

Hard luck, Calum Chambers.

Leicester Mercury: “Surprisingly, no second yellow for defender Chambers for his handball despite having been booked just minutes earlier for a foul on Vardy.”

Lucky, Calum Chambers.

Middlesbrough Gazette:

Was it a penalty?

Yes, it hit the arm of Calum Chambers.

But the considerable weight of Wes Morgan had a considerable part to play in that.

The defender was all over Chambers and made his presence felt…

The Gazette then quotes an expert:

 

middlesbrough Leicester

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Football paedophile panic: Hundreds becomes thousands as Barry Bennell grows ever more prolific

The Mail leads with the football sex abuse story. “THERE COULD BE THOUSANDS” thunders the paper’s lead sports story.

 

sex abuse football

 

Be in no doubt it’s getting worse. Earlier in the week it was “hundreds”.

 

sex abuse football

 

The hundreds and thousands are not the paedophiles working as football coaches who abused young players – although given the nature of the reporting, they might be – but the victims.

The Mirror’s front-page story was based on words by their columnist Robbie Savage, who was a youngster at Crewe Alexandra, where convicted paedophile Barry Bennell coached. Bennell has served three prison sentences, amounting to 15 years, since 1994 for many offences committed against boys.

Says Savage: “Sometimes I’d go into training on a Monday and hear some of the lads say, ‘I stayed at Barry’s at the weekend.’ And I’d be thinking, ‘Why not me? Why didn’t he ask me? Am I not a good enough player? Have I done something wrong?’ Of course, I now know what happened to some of those boys and I know I’m one of the lucky ones but, at the time, that’s what went through my mind.”

He then speculates: “We need to know how many more Barry Bennells are out there. And how many victims are still suffering because of what happened to them.”

And from Savage’s guesstimate of hundreds, we turn to the Mail’s “thousands”. “Thousands of young footballers could have been abused by a nationwide paedophile ring,” says the Mail today.

The number is provided by former Manchester City youth player Jason Dunford, “who says he was targeted” by Barry Bennell:

‘There could be thousands of boys abused and I’m not exaggerating,’ said Dunford, who had fought off Bennell as a 13-year-old schoolboy at a Butlin’s camp.

Dunford came forward after Andy Woodward, a former Crewe player who was abused by Bennell, gave an account of his own experiences… triggering an earthquake within the game.

‘Andy has not even touched the surface with telling his own stories,’ added Dunford. ‘He told how he had been on a camp to Gran Canaria and Bennell had a different boy every night. So take the school holidays, training nights, tournaments. Over 30 years, it absolutely could be thousands.’

The story of depraved criminality has taken on a life of its own.

What of the police? Four police forces are not involved in the investigation.

The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force, said it “has received information relating to non-recent sexual abuse in football clubs in London”…

Hampshire Police said its detectives are investigating non-recent child abuse “within the football community”.

Cheshire Police said it had received ”a growing number of disclosures” and that allegations have been “made against more than one individual”…

Northumbria Police said it was investigating an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle United player that he was abused in the club’s youth system.

The Guardian also leads with the story.

 

sex abuse football

The story runs:

Crewe Alexandra, the club most heavily implicated in the Barry Bennell case, were warned he had sexually abused one of his junior footballers but allowed the man who turned out to be a serial paedophile to stay at the club for a number of years, the Guardian has been told…

Hamilton Smith, who was on the board from 1986 to early 1990, has told this newspaper he was so concerned at the time he asked for specially convened talks about concerns over Bennell’s relationship with young boys at the club and, specifically, to inform his colleagues that someone had marched over to him at a junior football match to allege that a friend’s son had been abused.

Crewe, we learn, “have declined to comment.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Reviews | Comment


Manchester United balls: Jose Mourinho adapts the Chelsea philosophy to be more and less like Van Gaal

How are things going for Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho? “From the moment he arrived, the message has been positive, about winning the title. Nothing on philosophies or things taking time,” said the Sun’s Neil Curtis on 6th September 2016. Philosophy is for losers, like Louis Van Gaal, Jose’s predecessor at United, whose “attempts to reprogramme everyone with his much-vaunted ‘philosophy’ succeeded only in inhibiting all their natural instincts”.

Philosophy is balls.

Unless it isn’t. On November 15 the Sun thought philosophy and football were a good blend. “Johan Cruyff’s debut 52 years ago today: Inventor of Total Football whose philosophy influenced Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola,” chimed the headline.

On November 22, the Manchester Evening News agreed, reporting: “Daley Blind’s view on Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho’s philosophy.” Said Blind of Mourinho: “He is pretty similar to Van Gaal when it comes to their commitment to the team. They used to work together so I reckon that is no coincidence.” He adds: “…his philosophy is slightly different to that of Van Gaal. He is very direct, it is all about winning.”

And as Jose Mourinho put it in 2013: “You need stability in methods, in philosophy within the club. With FFP [Financial Fair Play], and Chelsea wants to go in that direction, you also need stability. You cannot change manager and philosophy every few years.”

So much for much-vaunted philosophy.

Posted: 25th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Ian Wight Balls: Chelsea must sell ‘foolish’ Costa, the Blues’ best player

Chelsea striker Diego Costa is playing well. Ian Wright has noticed. He says Chelsea are riding high in the Premier League because of Costa above all else. The former Arsenal striker writes in the Sun:

“I have a message to all those who say Diego Costa has finally got his game under control: It always was. There are plenty of people who reckon it’s all down to the fact he has calmed down. Yet to me, even when Costa was picking up yellow cards, he remained massively in control….  he always knew how far to push it. He’d have picked up far more than a single red card in his time at Stamford Bridge if that wasn’t the case.”

In Marxh 2015, Costa was sent off in the FA Cup at Goodison Park. It was his first red card in a Chelsea shirt. It was his first because he’d been lucky / sneaky. Before that red card, Costa was banned twice in a Chelsea shirt, both retrospectively, by the FA for incidents missed by the officials during games against Arsenal and Liverpool.

So much for the facts, then. And what about all those who say Costa is a hothead? People like Ian Wright, who opined in 2015:

“I would sell him at the first opportunity I get for Costa. I’d sell him… He’s antagonised at the moment. If I was a defender I would just keep talking to him, it takes him away from his game.”

And:

“Martin Keown… would have relished the challenge of Costa. Whatever we say about Costa, he plays on the edge. His hold up play and the runs he makes, honestly, he’s good. Martin could deal with all that and the foolishness as well.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 24th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Media balls: PSG’s Cavani ‘cuffs’, ‘slaps’ and ‘chins’ Arsenal’s ‘playacting’ Ramsey

Should Edinson Cavani have been sent off in PSG’s Champions’ League match at Arsenal? The Star says the striker “cuffed” Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey “on the chin”.

John Cross tells Mirror readers, “Cavani clearly aimed a punch at Aaron Ramsay. No surprise that Cavani missed Ramsey’s face.”

Tony Banks tells Express readers, “Cavani appeared to punch Aaron Ramsey on the jaw.”

Charlie Wyett tells Sun readers, “Cavani lashed out at Aaron Ramsey – he should have been sent off.”

 

cavani-arsenal daily mail

SLAP!

 

In the Mail things become more confusing. We see Cavani “losing it”. He “plants his hand into Ramsey’s neck”. Sami Mokbel says Cavani “aimed a punch at Ramsey”. The Mail says Cavani slapped Ramsey.

 

cavani-arsenal daily mail

SLAP!

 

cavani-arsenal daily mail

IN THE NECK!

 

Writing in the Mail, former referee Graham Poll counters his own paper by accusing Ramsey of “playacting”.  He says “Ramsey was not touched on his face – but Cavani escaped the yellow card he deserved”.

 

cavani-arsenal daily mail

ACT!

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 24th, November 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Arsenal, PSG and the case of the missing Serge Aurier

Drama ahead of tonight’s Champions’ League between Arsenal and Paris St Germain. In an “EXCLUSIVE”, the Star thunders: “Serge Aurier’s career could be ruined after he was banned from entering Britain to face Arsenal tonight.”

You can read the same story on the Sun’s back page, where Arsenal’s hopes have received a boost from the Home Office. Aurier has been banned from entering the UK as a result of his conviction for assaulting a police officer in Paris. In September the 23-year-old Ivorian was found guilty of elbowing his victim as he left a Paris nightclub in May. He was sentenced to two months in jail and fined €600.

The club have not sacked him. The incident has not left his carder in ruins. But, apparently, not playing Arsenal might.

The Star’s twist on the story is based on the words of Aurier’s lawyer, Claire Boutaud de la Combe, who “fears  it could leave his career in tatters”. Really?

“Under France law he remains innocent until this appeal has been heard,” says de la Combe. “But such an appeal can take quite a long time, especially in Paris. It will take several months, maybe one year. We don’t understand why this has become a problem, there is no reason for his. Now this is a worry because maybe it will stop him being able to travel to other countries to play for PSG or the Ivory Coast because they will also not allow him entry.”

In February, PSG suspended Aurier for a Champions’ League match against Chelsea following comments he made about the coach, Laurent Blanc, and his team-mates on social media. The season before that, Uefa banned Aurier for three matches ‘after last season’s Champions League game against Chelsea following a video posted on Facebook in which he labelled the referee Bjorn Kuipers a “dirty son of a bitch” over the sending-off of his team-mate Ibrahimovic.’

PSG are getting used to playing Champions’ League matches without Aurier, who is, nonetheless, picked to play when not banned. His career is not in tatters. Far from it.

Oh, and to put the tin lid on this balls, note that the source is the Star, the paper that told us – yep – Aurier agreed to join the Gunners is 2014.

 

Serge Aurier Arsenal

 

A fact echoed by the Star’s sister paper, the Express:

 

Serge Aurier Arsenal

 

Aurier singed for PSG.

Posted: 23rd, November 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Media balls: Spurs crash out but Jan Vertonghen’s omission was not a shock

Last night Spurs crashed out of the Champions’ League, losing to Monaco in France. The Sun’s Paul Jiggins says Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettinho “sprang a surprise” by playing Eric Dier and Kevin Wimmer in defence in place of the “ever-reliable Jan Vertonghen“.

Really?

When Monaco defeated Spurs 1-2 at Wembley earlier in the CL, Vertonghen was hardly sublime. The Evening Standard reported:

 

Spurs would come to rue those missed opportunities. Lamela conceded possession in his own half and Fabinho fed Silva, who drove into the box past Jan Vertonghen before unleashing a driven effort with his left foot that flew past Hugo Lloris.

The Mail noted:

Silva shimmied into the penalty area and, when Jan Vertonghen showed him the goal, lashed a left-footer inside the far post.

The Telegraph:

Stunning finish, but not great defending from Vertonghen, who lets Silva cut in and get the shot away…

Thomas Lemar jumped ahead of Verton­ghen to reach Djibril Sidibé’s cross. The ball broke back to Lemar at the near post and he lashed it high beyond Lloris from close range.

When Spurs were beaten 0-1 by Bayer Leverkusen at Wembley Stadium, Sky Sports reported:

Jan Vertonghen set the tone when he nervously mis-hit a clearance in the opening minutes. Leverkusen were on the front foot immediately and Spurs, usually so aggressive under Pochettino, couldn’t cope with a taste of their own high-pressing medicine.

The Telegraph:

Tottenham in a bit of a pickle as Vertonghen wildly slices a clearance up in the air that Leverkusen pounce on…

Vertonghen’s a good player, but in the Champion’s League he’s been no rock-like presence.

And he’s been lucky in the Premier League:

The Indy: “Confusion reigned at White Hart Lane on Saturday as referee Bobby Madley failed to award a penalty for Jan Vertonghen’s clear pull on Joel Matip’s shirt at a corner.”

The Mail: “Jan Vertonghen had a full hold of Granit Xhaka’s shirt while defending a corner and even beats the midfielder to heading the ball away. A penalty in the laws of the game…”

 

 

Posted: 23rd, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment (1)


Transfer balls: Bellerin commits to Arsenal and never thought about leaving

Transfer balls: On October 14 2016, the Daily Mirror told its readers: “Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin wants to go to Manchester City.” That headline was part of the Mirror’s transfer rumours round-up. The paper stated:

Hector Bellerin could reject an offer to stay at Arsenal and leave for Manchester City in the summer…

That was based on a Times report: “Bellerín tempted by City and Barcelona.” If he was, Bellerin wasn’t saying as much. All we got was:

Sources close to the player insist that Bellerín’s preference is to join City, where he would be reunited with Pep Guardiola.

The Press has been linking Bellerin, once a winger at Barcelona’s youth teams, with a return to Spain and a move to Man City. In April 2015, the Star told readers:

 

Ballerin Arsenal Manchesrer City

 

He said that? No. He didn’t. “The Arsenal is giving me everything I am with amazing players. I do not think about the future. I just started,” said Bellerin.”I thank the people who speak well of me, but I’m only in the beginning. What has to arrive, will arrive.”

But in this era of clickbait balls, the Telegraph ignored the facts to thunder: “Hector Bellerin could leave for Manchester City or Barcelona.”

And so to the London Evening Standard, which declares today:

Hector Bellerin: I never thought about leaving Arsenal – this is my home

Having just signed a new deal to remain at Arsenal until 2023, Bellerin tells the Arsenal website:

“I’m really, really happy and this club is my home… I’ve been here for more than five years now so I was really, really excited when the club told me that they wanted to extend my contract. I wasn’t thinking about anything else other than staying here and continuing my development here. This is where I’m happy. I’m just very grateful and pleased to have signed. Arsenal is not only about being a footballer, you have to be good person to play here. That’s what everyone transmits inside the club. You represent more than just a football club.”

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 22nd, November 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Liverpool move to sign another Southampton star from the black box academy

Transfer Balls: Liverpool are ready to pick up the hotline to Southampton FC and buy two more Saints’ players. The Star leads with news that Liverpool have £40m to spend on Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Sam McQueen.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, we read, is “confident” he can prise Van Djik away from the South Coast. Well, he has reason to fancy his chances. Southampton have been willing to sell lots of talent to Liverpool in the past few years –  Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana are ex-Saints playing in the Liverpool first XI.

Oddly, the Star’s scoop contains not one single fact to support it.

And such is the way of Transfer Balls that when one newspaper says it, the others slavishly follow.

“LOYAL CUSTOMERS – Liverpool transfer news: Virgil van Dijk and Sam McQueen the latest Southampton players lined up by Reds,” says the Sun. “Jurgen Klopp believes the Dutch giant and classy full-back can help bolster the title-chasing Reds’ leaky defence.”

“Liverpool eyeing Sam McQueen swoop as Reds identify Southampton starlet as defensive target,” echoes the Mirror. The Mirror then guesses: “But they are unlikely to pursue a move for the defender until the summer, when he would become a free agent, after failing to agree a new contract with the south coast club.”

Will McQueen sign a new deal? The Southampton Echo wrote in October: “For McQueen, born and bred in Southampton as a Saints fan, it was an almost overwhelmingly emotional moment to play at St Mary’s.”

McQueen told the Southampton FC website: “…you learn quickly, and Southampton has been amazing with coaching me and teaching me through the years, and recently becoming a left-back, with the manager giving me little coaching points here and there, which have been fantastic. So I’ve been learning a lot and enjoying it a lot, but there’s plenty, plenty more to learn – I know that.”

So will another product of Southampton’s prolific academy leave the club? Maybe. What is clear is that Southampton are getting something right.

In August, Southampton’s academy hosted an experiment. Youth players were grouped not according to age group but by a measure of size and physical maturity. The idea is to counter the Relative Age Effect, “a phenomenon that suggests that athletes at elite level are more likely to be born in the first 3 months after the eligibility cut-off date for a particular age group in sports.” The bigger boys in a school year get picked for the team. The rest get downhearted and discarded.

Gareth Bale’s football teacher at Southampton, Malcolm Elias, told the Times: “He [Bale] was injured a lot and some coaches used to think he was soft. Lots of people questioned whether he wanted it badly enough. I said, ‘Get off his case. He’s a July birthday, is left-footed and can run for fun; what more do you want?’”

But what of money? “You see kids now getting all these things and demanding £50,000 a week,” says Elias. “He[Bale] came here on an ordinary scholarship. There was no haggling, no pro contract. The family was just delighted he was getting an extended opportunity. He was on £45 a week.”

Southampton call McQueen “an incredibly well-spoken young man”. Look at Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, two Southampton graduates sold for big money at a young age to Arsenal. Both speak well and can articulate their thoughts.

Matthew Syed says this is not an accident:

Southampton now have an educational and skills programme running alongside the usual academy functions. This is about building leadership qualities in their young players. They want their future stars to be involved in decision-making on training and rehab, to broaden their minds with education, to widen their social skills, rather than treating them like infants.

“If you want leaders on the pitch, you have to develop their qualities off the pitch,” Les Reed, the technical director, said. “In many academies, education is seen as a waste of time, a distraction from the game. We think that it is central to player development. We need England players who don’t crumble when they are on a big stage and go one-nil down.”

Technology is harnessed and deployed:

In the black box, Koeman can ask to see detailed footage and stats on any player in the world or at the club’s academy. The aim is to make sure that the manager does not need to spend money on a new player when they have one in the pipeline who fits the bill. The complex is shiny and lovely but the principles have been honed over many years. While Arsenal and Manchester United curse how many of their players pick up injuries, Southampton seem serenely to be at full strength. They realised, while at their lowest ebb, in League One, that they simply could not afford to let Lallana become injured, so they devised a way of making sure that all their resources went into making sure their talisman stayed fit.

Southampton aim not for one player to make it thought the ranks and into the first team, but for four or five to progress and play the ‘Southampton way’.

“Our academy vision is to produce a first team year-on-year made up of 50% Academy graduates who are world-class in their technical ability on the field and behaviours off the field competing on the European stage,” say Southampton.

It would be another blow for Saints fans to see McQueen leave. But the club is in great shape. Liverpool, Arenal and other clubs might care to spend less time looking at the end product and more at the process.

 

Posted: 22nd, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Transfer Balls: Harry Kane and Spurs happy to be at loggerheads

Harry Kane, the Spurs and England striker, is at “loggerheads” with his club. Well, so said the Sun on November 14. All “talks ware on hold” Tottenham, are “refusing” to make Kane one of the club’s top earners.

 

Harry Kane Spurs The Sun

 

Says Kane today:

“I am happy at the club and want to be here for a long, long time. We are in talks and I’m sure we will get something sorted. I’m not panicking and I’m not demanding anything as I’ve read in the paper.” We’re having a conversation and I have no doubts that we will get it sorted.”

Or as the Sun puts it:

Harry Kane the sun

 

Harry Kane isn’t cool. Harry Kane is “in a contract stand-off” and “pleading” with the club to give him a rise.

“Hopefully we will have no issues with the contract – we have only just started talking about it. Get that down and get that wrapped up,” says Kane on the BBC. “I’m happy,” said the Spurs player four times in the Mail. “Kane pledging future to Spurs, ” says the Express.

In other words: no news. But lots of balls.

Posted: 21st, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Messi agrees new Barcelona deal, heads to Manchester City for £200m and makes Arsenal fans laugh

Transfer balls: Manchester City are planning to offer over £100m for Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, 29, next summer. This we know because the BBC says so. Messi will be delighted to learn that City will offer him £500,000-per-week.

The Sunday Mirror says the full package will amount to a £200,000m investment in Messi.

How the Mirror knows this is moot. But it can read minds, adding that “the prospect of linking up with Guardiola again is a huge attraction” for Messi.

All very odd because the Daily Mail told us in July: “Barcelona agree new contract with Lionel Messi’s father as Catalan giants aim to tie down superstar to new Nou Camp deal.” Messi’s current deal expires in the summer of 2018. But he’d agreed a new one. Alex Bywater had the scoop:

 

messi contract

 

Bywater then supplied a few facts to prove how much Messi loves Barcelona.

Messi’s partnership with Neymar and Luis Suarez is at the heart of Barcelona’s success, with Brazilian Neymar having committed to the club on a fresh five-year deal this month.

Barcelona’s new 155 million euros sponsorship deal with Nike begins in 2018 and the cash-rich status of the club means they’re able to ward off interest from other clubs.

Messi has been occasionally linked with moves to the Premier League, but it remains likely he’ll see out his career in Spain.

But on October 8, the Sun reported: “WHAT A MESS – Lionel Messi wants new release clause allowing him to leave Barcelona for one club.”

Which club? Yeah, it’s Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s boyhood club. The Sun notes:

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is unlikely to leave Barcelona any time soon, but it says something about his determination to play for his boyhood club that he is already trying to lock the terms of his Nou Camp departure into the contract.

At the foot of a meandering article in which JJ Bull wonders where Messi could go next – Man City, Man United, er, Arsenal (ridiculous reason: “…it’s in London, which is where Messi’s friend Cesc Fabregas lives” – that’s the Fabregas most Arsenal fans are less than fond of and who plays for Chelsea), PSG, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Newell’s, somewhere in China, MSL  – the Telegraph writer realises what utter balls everything he’s just written is by stating: “But he’s definitely going to end up signing a new deal at Barcelona. Can you really imagine Messi in a different team’s shirt?”

Imagine it? Yes. Think it’s going to happen? No. But don’t that let stop you writing about it.

Posted: 20th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Media balls: West Ham hard done by as Spurs trip over the line

Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting in Tottenham’s 3-2 victory over West Hm United in the Premier League.

This is how the Tottenham Hotspur website described the deciding goal, a penalty strike by Harry Kane:

Hammers substitute Harvard Nordtveit tripped Son in the area and the referee again pointed to the spot.

The BBC sees not a clear trip but a dash of the dark arts:

[Son was] smart enough to invite a wild challenge from fellow substitute Nordtveit, cutting inside and leaving his standing leg invitingly in the path of the defender’s needless lunge

The Newham Recorder (in West Ham’s manor):

Havard Nordtveit – on for Payet – was harshly adjudged to have brought down Son as the two jinked and jostled in the area

The Tottenham Independent:

West Ham sub Havard Nordviet clumsily brought down Heung-Min Son, giving Mike Dean no option but to award the second penalty of the afternoon

No opinion or harsh? Having dealt with the last goal, the game’s first penalty, one awarded to West Ham, is couched in caveats.

The Tottenham website: “Janssen was adjudged to have pulled down Reid in the area at a West Ham corner”

The Newham Recorder: “Janssen dragged down Reid

Such are the facts.

Posted: 20th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comments (3)


Ugly, fat and thick: Manchester Untied’s Wayne Rooney takes a wedding night bashing in the Sun

How the Sun will miss Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney when he’s gone. This week the Sun spotted the England captain enjoying a drink at a Watford hotel as a wedding party made merry. It was “ROO’S BIG FAT TIPSY WEDDING”.

 

rooney wedding drunk

 

 

Lest anyone think that mere pun on the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which spawned TV’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, we refer you to past comments made by the Sun’s on Wayne Rooney’s girth and looks.

 

 

rooney wayne shrek fat

rooney wayne shrek fat

rooney wayne shrek fat

rooney wayne shrek fat

 

Rooney ugly

 

As for the news of Rooney’s drinking, the report shares the best eye-witness quote of the week, “He was shit-faced”. Wedding guest said – get this – “Wayne was “not a petty sight”.

 

rooney drunk

 

How they’ll miss Rooney when he’s gone.

 

Posted: 18th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Barcelona and pundits conspire to push Philippe Coutinho out of Liverpool

Football reporting wears the cloak of respectability. But in the 21st century, new organs use players to get clicks and earn cash. The sad thing is that the advert-free BBC is full of this balls. The Beeb has told us – and these five news items have all appeared over the past month:

Liverpool need to give playmaker Philippe Coutinho, 24, a new contract and pay rise to fend off interest from Barcelona.

The Reds are confident of keeping the Brazilian as the player does not have an buy-out clause in his contract.

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, 24, wants to stay at Anfield despite reported interest from Barcelona, says his former youth coach.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo is keen to see 24-year-old Liverpool and Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho at Real Madrid.

Liverpool are ready to offer Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho, 24, a new contract to fend off interest from Barcelona.

In all that time, amid all that utter tosh, the BBC has produced not a single word from Philippe Coutinho expressing any desire to play for any club but Liverpool. Today the BBC has more on one of the Premier League’s brightest talents.

Brazil international Coutinho, 24, has been influential in helping the Reds go top of the Premier League table… His form has led to links with Spanish sides Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Links made by the BBC.

Today Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp tells media firing question about Coutinho’s future: “We all hope and think his future is here at Liverpool. What everybody forgets about Phil is that he is still very young. At 24, he has a long way to go and lot of space for improvement.”

But: “At the end, it will not be money. If there is a club who can play double what we pay then I bring the player there. Who am I to say ‘no, don’t think about your family, kids, grandkids and all that stuff’. But I don’t know a lot of clubs in the world who can do this.”

And that’s the thing, no? The narrative of Coutinho’s departure to Spain continues in spite of any facts. It’s a media story only. Get this from former Liverpool defender and jobbing pundit Mark Lawrenson. He’s been talking to the Press Association:

“Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid to a certain degree, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are the clubs continually successful in Europe. You can’t keep those top players if those clubs come in for them.”

“I don’t think, apart from arguably Manchester City, anyone can stop them. The clever thing is to plan for it. Rather than say ‘Coutinho might be going, what are we going to do?’ you have something in place already.”

And this from former midfielder Xavi: “There are not many players that can improve Barcelona, but if you are asking me if he [Coutinho] is one of them.”

It’s a pincer movement of nodding heads opining on a man’s career and life to deadline and Barcelona stooges doing the same old trick of talking up a player they hope will join them. They negate the fact that at the heart of the chatter is a professional athlete who wants to do his best.

And they should ask themselves why just one season after Leicester City won the Premier League – a club whose turnover amounts to less than Manchester United’s kit sponsorship, who had won nothing of note in 132-years, and whose first XI were bought for less than one Paul Pogba – the talk is so little about glory and creating something new, exciting and unexpected. It’s about the same old teams winning at all costs.

 

 

Posted: 17th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Dead Lions: Vardy gives the Press a dummy

The Press should write a not of thanks to Jamie Vardy, who followed his England goal by doing the Mannequin Challenge. For those of you not suffering from rigamortis, the Mannequin Challenge is a millennial version of dead lions, a parlour game which, in these offence-seeking times, even ISIS and conservationists can find no fault. No music. No hunting. You just stop.

You see how useful it was for headline writers and reporters for England to freeze at Wembley in a friendly against a Spanish side.

Henry Winter writes in the Times:

Vardy had done the Mannequin Challenge after scoring but unfortunately England’s defence then followed suit, freezing late on.

The Mirror, Sun and Mail go for the obvious. England, who tossed way a two-goal leads, are “DUMMIES”.

 

Mannequin challenge england vardy spain

 

Mannequin challenge england vardy spain Mannequin challenge england vardy spain

 

In case you missed it:

 

 

Not that there’s much wrong with freezing on the pitch. After all, English football has been on freeze-frame since 1966.

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


Transfer balls: Daniel Levy holds the cards as Spurs play Harry Kane

The news cycle has lots more on Harry Kane, the Spurs player at “loggerheads” with his club over a new pay deal.  The Mail leads with the story that Kane is demanding parity with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, currently trousering £120,000 a week. But Spurs are “not prepared” to give Kane that kind of cash.

Spurs might have noticed that before Vardy signed his new bumper deal, he was on fire. At this stage last season, hungry Vardy had scored 12 goals. Over the summer he got a new contract. Vardy has now gone 14 matches without scoring. Big pay does not always equate to big performances.

Facts then become a little murky. The Mail says Spurs’ top earner is Hugo LLoris, who earns £90,000 a week. But yesterday the Sun said Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko gets £95,000 a week.

The paper says Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, is a “shrewd” operator. His method is to give improving players “incremental pay rises while adding a year or two to the deal”.

(And who cannot agree that Levy gets value? In today’s Express, David Kidd reminds us of Spurs’s battle with West Ham over the Olympic Stadium. Levy wanted to rip up the running track and joint-fund the venture with AEG. He’d also revamp the Crystal Palace stadium for athletics. Instead of that, the taxpayer now funds a soulless bowl where fans sit a long way from the action. “As for West Ham’s claim they would make football more affordable – well, for their first category A Prem home match with Arsenal, even kids and OAPs must pay £50-£80.” Levy was right.)

The issue for Spurs is that Kane wants a big lift on the £60,000 a week he now earns. The good news, we’re told,  is that Kane is not “demanding” to be paid the £200,000 a week the likes of Raheem Sterling earns at Manchester City. He’s happy to be on par with Vardy and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge.

On the flip side, the Mail says Manchester United and Chelsea can pay that sort of cash and both want Kane. If they want him that badly, they will need to cough up. Spurs have shown they are prepared to sell their top talent for big money. It’s not far-fetched to think of Kane leaving – and Spurs doing very well from the deal.

Posted: 15th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment (1)


Transfer Balls: Spurs and Kane ‘agree’ to be at ‘loggerheads’ over bumper new deal

Spurs fans will tremble at the news that Harry Kane – “he’s one of there own” (insert picture of young Harry in his Arsenal short – ed) – has “KO-ed” a new deal at the club.

Harry Kane Spurs The Sun

 

Reading the Sun’s headline might lead you to suppose Kane will not be extending his Tottenham contract. The deal has been knocked out. Talks have been “called off”. Surprisingly the story does contain a muon of fact, albeit dressed in speculation, clickbait balls and hype.

Tottenham striker puts contract talks on hold with two parties at loggerheads as Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City circle

From being knocked out and over, the Sun sniffs the smelling salts and says talks to keep Kane at White Hate Lane are “on hold”. Not knocked out, then. Paused. The Sun then pretty much does Kane’s negotiations for him  by name-checking a few other clubs and noting: “Kane is paid £60,000-a-week, £35,000 less than Moussa Sissoko.” And, of course,  Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United can offer far higher wages than even the Frenchman trousers.

Oh, and so too can Arsenal. After all, the Express reported that Kane had agreed to join the Gunners:

 

Harry Kane Express Arsenal Spurs

 

Neil Ashton writes in the Sun:

HARRY KANE and Spurs have agreed to put all talks over a new contract on hold.

So both parties are in agreement. Ashton counters that in the every next line:

The England striker’s future is increasingly uncertain as the two parties are at loggerheads.The England striker’s future is increasingly uncertain as the two parties are at loggerheads.

News that Kane and Spurs have “agreed” to be a “loggerheads” will be a “massive worry for Spurs supporters”, says Ashton. Why? Kane’s contracted to Spurs until 2020 and currently earns £60,000 per week. Spurs have no need to rush.

It all amounts to a lot of nothing. But it’s enough for the Mirror to read the Sun’s story and cry: “Harry Kane and Tottenham at loggerheads.”

This is the same Mirror that reported in September:

Kane’s £50,000-a-week basic will be at least doubled in the wake of the money that has flooded into Premier League clubs due to the bumper new television deal.

And back to Sissoko. In today’s Sun, Ashton writes:

There is a feeling at White Hart Lane that Kane’s loyalty is being tested, especially with the club offering Moussa Sissoko £95,000 a week to sign from Newcastle in the summer.

But the Mirror said Sissoko is good news for Kane:

Sissoko’s arrival will see Kane’s basic weekly wage jump to around £120,000 – with bonuses and image rights he could end up taking home a cool £7.5m-a-year – meaning his entire package is likely to be in excess of £35m.

In conclusion: The tabloids haven’t got a clue.

Posted: 14th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Liverpool won’t be drawn on Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona

The news media works in a pack. The BBC says Barcelona fancy Liverpool’s Phlippe Coutinho. The Beeb’s news is based on a reprot in the Liverpool Echo that Liverpool “need” to offer Coutinho, 24, a new deal to see off interest from Barcelona. The Echo says Coutinho to Barcelona is just a “rumour”, albeit one fuelled by the player’s friendship with Barcelona’s Neymar and Luis Suarez.

We read that Coutinho visited Suarez at the Barcelona team hotel in Manchester to collect tickets ahead of their Champions League clash at the Etihad. And there it is. To keep their best player, Liverpool need to be in the best competition. But having given air to the rumours, the Echo tells readers, “Coutinho has never shown any signs of agitating for a move away from Anfield.”

So where does the rumour come from? And it’s growing. The Metro says, “Luis Suarez and Neymar are speaking to Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho about Barcelona transfer.” Well, maybe. Maybe not. The source for that spot of room bugging is Sport, more of which later.

On October 31, the Sun told its readers: “Liverpool transfer news: Philippe Coutinho wants Barcelona move as Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain show interest.”

Having name-checked three of the wealthiest clubs in Europe, we’re interested to know how Coutinho expressed his desire to leave Liverpool and play for Barcelona? Over to Spanish newspaper Sport, thenwhich claims the Brazilian “tried to force a move to the Nou Camp in the last transfer window. His representatives apparently sounded out Barcelona over a transfer but Luis Enrique wanted to strengthen other positions instead.”

Sport reports: “He’s a player who has been liked by Barcelona for a long time and he’d love to wear the Blaugrana shirt.”

He would?

The reality is that Coutinho would like to play in Barcelona, where his style would fit in. His agents, Kia Joorabchian and Giuliano Bertolucci, sounded out the possibility last year, but Barça ruled out any deal due to the price and the fact they had other priorities. They consider his position well covered, but anything’s possible in the future.

Bit murky, no? No quotes from Liverpool, Barcelona or the player. But it’s enough for the Indy to declare: “Barcelona have made Philippe Coutinho their priority for next summer’s transfer window.” They read that in, yep, Sport.

It might be worth noting that Sports’ slogan is “Sempre amb el Barça”. The paper is printed in Barcelona.

On another note, the Times reports: “Liverpool sure Coutinho will not join Barcelona.”

Liverpool are confident of keeping Philippe Coutinho, despite the attentions of Barcelona, because their influential playmaker does not have an escape clause in his contract.

He’s contracted to Liverpool until 2020. The paper adds:

Coutinho’s eye-catching displays will be recognised by Liverpool should he maintain his high standards. Yet there are no plans in place to rip up his existing contract, which was agreed 18 months ago, and an extension would not necessarily safeguard his future.

Quite.

 

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


Transfer balls: Arsenal’s Ozil to Manchester United and Peter Gwargis arrives

Is Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil all set to join Manchester United? The Guardian fans the rumour by musing, “are Manchester United eyeing Mesut Özil?” If the news media don’t know, the answer should be ‘no’.

Jacob Steinberg says Manchester United “have been alerted to Mesut Özil’s hesitation” in agreeing a new deal to lengthen his stay at Arsenal. How they’ve been alerted is moot. Did Ozil’s agent tell United. Did Arsenal? And why mention this now, just a few days before Manchester Untied host Arsenal in the Premier League?

The thinking is that United manager Jose Mourinho “wants a reunion with Özi”, whom he managed at Real Madrid.

The Sun says United will offer Ozil £250,000 a week, far higher than the £200,000 a week the Gunners are reportedly willing to pay.

It’s a story built on wet sand. We know United pay bigger wages than Arsenal. We know that Ozil is happy in North London. We know that Man United are not soaring ion the Premier League.

Maybe Jose can get a new model Ozil, as the Metro says Peter Gwargis – “dubbed the new Mesut Ozil” – is attracting interest from Gunners? “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has his eye on Mesut Ozil’s apparent successor,” says the paper. How good is this younger Ozil. “The teenager is yet to turn out for Husqvarna’s first-team,” says the Metro. Oh, that good, then.

Finally, ESPN assures Arenal fans that Ozil “won’t betray Wenger”. It then delivers a host of reasons why Ozil to United is non-starter. They can be distilled into one salient point: he’s under contract at Arsenal.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 12th, November 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Antoine Griezmann wants to join Paul Pogba at Manchester United, PSG, Atletico Madrid or somewhere else

Transfer balls: France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann, 25, says he “would like to play alongside Manchester United midfielder and France team-mate Paul Pogba, 23, at club level”. So says the BBC.

Which club, Griezmann doesn’t day. But the media klaxon has been sounded. The Daily Star has Griezmann playing at Manchester United.

 

Griezmann manchester united

 

The Indy says, “Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann has talked up a potential move to Manchester United.”

Over on Sky Sports, we hear what Griezmann said in reply to a journalist asking him about Man United:

“I always ask Paul Pogba about Manchester United. I think they are a huge club with a really good infrastructure. I ask Paul about some of the players, and if they’re really that good, or if Jose Mourinho is really that good.

“You hear a lot of things [speculation] about Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but right now I don’t see me moving to a new club. But it would be awesome to play alongside Paul one day.”

Adding via the Star:

“A future transfer depends on how I feel. Right now, I’m a father and moving to another city would the right thing. I’ll see If want to do something else in the future, but right now I’m very happy with Atletico Madrid and I still want to win trophies with this club.”

Pogba to Atletico Madrid it is, then.

Posted: 10th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment