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Newcastle are interested in signing David Beckham for £120,000-a-week (Mail)

Marcello Lippi will become a coach at Manchester Utd (Sun)

Real Madrid are willing to pay £22m for Cristiano Ronaldo (Various)

Manchester City are prepared to offloads Joey Barton (Mail)

Italy’s Rino Gattuso wants to join Manchester United (Sun)

Birmingham have accepted a £5.5millin offer from Wigan for Emile Heskey (Mail)

Porstmouth and Sheffield United want Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Mail)

Reading’s Steve Sidwell is set for a move to Charlton in a £2.1m (Mirror)

Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse will sign for Marseille (Times)

Nicolas Anelka is interested in playing for Newcastle (Times)

Posted: 7th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


“UNDER federal law, German businesses are obliged to remain closed on Sundays,” begins George Caulkin of The Times, writing in Baden-Baden.

All very interesting, Mr Caulkin, but why is this item not nestling in the business pages, among the latest news of Ottaker’s and Peugot?

Ah, here’s the clever bit. The story is about Sunday’s World Cup final, which is, in footballing parlance, a “shop window”. Of course, the whole World Cup is a shop window, but Sunday takes on a particular significance, because the spectacle of a bunch of Italian players with uncertain club futures will create a feeding frenzy for football agents, who will, depending on your view, either gather like vultures, or circle like sharks, or swarm like bees, or skip straight-legged with their chests puffed up like frill-necked lizards.

Come August, some of these Italians could well pitch up in the Premiership, but until they are signed to English clubs they will have to wait for their day in the Sun – or the Star or the Mirror.

The English papers are focussed, as ever, on all things English, and that means domestic transfer news. The Mirror’s back page hails “HESKEY’S £5.5M MOVE” which has “smashed Wigan’s transfer record”. The Telegraph tells of Bruno N’Gotty’s move from Bolton to Birmingham on a free, and Reading’s failure to tie down Steve Sidwell – “reportedly the subject of a £2 million offer from Manchester City, whose manager, Stuart Pearce, yesterday reiterated his desire to keep midfielder Joey Barton at Eastlands.”

All good stuff, yet nothing compared to the Sun’s story that Marcello Lippi is set to work alongside his “longstanding friend” Alex Ferguson at Manchester United – who also, if reports are true, intends to hang onto his winking winger.

Yet the biggest news concerns an Old Trafford old boy and another United whose supporters believe it to be one of the four biggest clubs in the world. The United whose most recent trophy was the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969, and whose last domestic honour was the FA Cup, more than half a century ago.

Yes, it’s Newcastle United. They’ll be a-greetin’ down the Gallageet when they read the Star’s back page (“OWEN OUT FOR A YEAR”). But then they’ll wipe away the tears as they turn to the Daily Mail (“Newcastle go for Beckham”).
Yesterday we were told that Real Madrid were keen to tie Becks to a new three-year deal worth £75million.

Yet today the Mail publishes pictures of Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd and singing sensation Victoria Beckham emerging from Claridges. Discounting the more likely explanation (they were indulging in an illicit tryst), the paper concludes that David is Toonward-boond for 100 poond a week, a crate of Broon and a bottle of perfume for the weef.

The paper contrasts Beckham’s arrival in Madrid to the crowds at St James’s Park for the unveiling of Alan Shearer and Michael Owen. It concludes that the north-east has the edge. And there’s plenty there for “Posh Lass” too, with the Metro centre (Europe’s largest shopping complex) offering a choice to rival Madrid’s Calle Serrano.

Yes, it looks like Mr Football’s coming home. A season ends and a new one begins, and the Premiership is the place to be.

But what’s this? Theo Walcott pictured wearing a Brazil shirt? Well, with England on fire and ferocious competition for places, it’s probably the lad’s best chance of getting a game.

Posted: 7th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Spot On

Quotes Of The Day

“I will never understand why Wayne Rooney was left to play up front on his own. To leave him without any support was asking too much” – Pele

“I have always said the presidents of each football association should take them [penalties] because the responsibility is so great” – Pele

"It’s lovely to see two strikers playing with each other" – David Pleat enjoys Germany’s Klose and Podolski partership.

“I have a dreaded feeling that we’re not gong to win the World Cup again” – Graham Taylor (and, no, he hasn’t applied for his old England manager’s job)

“We did everything possible but if you don’t score you don’t win the game" – Luiz Felipe Scolari accepts the simple truth of football

Puns Of The Day

“You’re not winking any more” (Mirror, Sun) – Ronaldo’s Portugal crash out

“Nice and ZZ does it” (Mirror) – Zinedine Zidane scores the penalty to take France into the final

“Zid’s spot prize” (Star)

“Zidane claims the spot prize” (Mail)

“ZZ top of the world” (Star)

“Simply Ze best” (Sun)

“We’re glad to see the bag of you” (Sun) – Sven Goran Eriksson jets off to Sweden

“On me dread” (Sun) – Jamaica want Sven as their new manager

Posted: 6th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Write On


Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, has revealed three measures that he believes could improve refereeing standards at the World Cup. They include an amnesty on yellow cards after the quarter-finals, computer chips in the balls to determine if they cross the line and the introduction of two referees.

Coleen McLoughlin is getting over the disappointment of Wayne Rooney’s red card by doing what she does best: shopping. She was spotted in London’s Harvey Nichols department store investing £2,500 in a green snakeskin handbag.


Reports are that Steve McClaren’s staff have prepared a dossier for journalists. The hacks are divided into “pros”, “antis” and “don’t knows”. We are unsure how this will help England. Ideas in the form of a scribbled note to the usual address.

England were the only team in Germany that did not have sponsored training tops. Which is a scandal. Isn’t it?

David Beckham is no longer England’s skipper. And that could be bad news for the FA’s sponsorship department. Branding experts say the absence of the marketable one could cost the FA up to £20million.

Joe Cole burst into tears on a night out in London. While having a quiet drink in Faces club, in Gants Hill, Cole was approached by England fans keen to speak to him. He is said to have answered their questions politely but things soon became too much for him to handle. And he cried.

Posted: 6th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Harry’s Big Business

Anorak Gossip

Real Madrid say Roman Abramovich allowed them to discuss signing Dutch winger Arjen Robben (Sun)

Arsenal will secure the services of Argentine striker Javier Saviola for just £2m (Sun)

Arsenal are keen on Ghana’s Stephen Appiah (Express)

Spurs boss Martin Jol will offer £7.5m for Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing (Mirror)

Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth will offer £13million for PSV Eindhoven’s Peruvian striker Jefferson Farfan (Mirror)

David Beckham could well be offered a new three-year contract at Real Madrid (Sun)

Robbie Savage does not want to join Wigan (Sun)

Wigan want Birmingham’s Emile Heskey (Mail)

Hernan Crepso is in talks to join AC Milan (Mirror)

Kanu will quit West Brom (Mirror)

Shaka Hislop has joined FC (Dallas)

Posted: 6th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

England Expectorates

“YOU’RE NOT WINKING ANY MORE,” jeers the Daily Mirror, while the Sun, in similar vein but with a more restrained lower-case typeface, opts for “You’re not winking any more”.

Both appear above the predictably tearful Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured after Portugal’s defeat to football’s equivalent of the Rolling Stones – a French side who groaned “Start me up!” and roused themselves from retirement for one more tour.

It was Ronaldo’s misfortune to play last night’s match in front of a large contingent of England fans who had booked semi-final tickets in the hope that “The Boys of 06” would be appearing. They showed their appreciation for the tricky winking winger by booing and whistling every time he touched the ball, but this seemed to spur Ronaldo on, and he turned in a tremendous performance full of direct attacking play and imaginative athletic diving. Did it get him the man-of-the-match award in the English papers? Take a wild guess.

So the stage is set for a dramatic final between those two historical enemies, France and England. Yes, that’s right, it’s Zidane and Co versus Simone Perrotta’s boys. Perrotta, as we informed you the other day, hails from
Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, which also happens to be the birthplace of hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst.

“Englishman makes the World Cup FINAL,” announces the Sun. “Perrotta a Lancs lad.” We see pictures of “HIS HOUSE” (caption: “Humble beginnings”) and “DAD’S PUB” (caption: “The old Yates Wine Lodge”). The Lancs lad, whose family returned to Italy when he was six, reckons he still has “a little bit of England in me” (probably a piece of undigested gristle from a school dinner) and holds fond memories of a place where “it was always grey and raining”.

Simone reveals that he was eligible to play for England, but chose Italy. Did his Italian parents influence his decision? No – apparently his friends and family were happy for him to don the three lions. Yet “there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to play for Italy”. Looking at England’s current golden generation, he probably made the right choice, as it would have been unrealistic in the extreme to expect a place in the present squad.

How is Ashton-under-Lyne preparing for the final? Has the Coronation bunting been retrieved from the old biscuit tin and hung proudly aloft? Will there be street parties? “Sales of Italy shirts have been ‘nothing to shout about’,” says The Times, rather missing the point that Perrotta is ENGLISH, and that ENGLAND shirts have been selling rather well.

The paper spoke to the mayor of Tameside, councillor Margaret Sidebottom (crazy name, sensible lady), who says that if Italy win, the council might consider commemorating the contribution of The Man With the English Gristle Lodged in his Digestive Tract. “We’re proud of all our citizens, whoever they represent,’ avows Sidebottom. “I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the final and cheering him on.”

There might be a few more English citizens considering switching their football allegiances if the Mirror’s “GRIM VERDICT ON OUR FUTURE HOPES” is anything to go by. Former England supremo Graham Taylor reckons that England will emulate Scotland and regularly fail to qualify for tournaments. Of course, England didn’t regularly fail to qualify for the World Cup under Taylor – his impressive 100-per-cent failure rate was achieved through just one solitary attempt.

But he knows what he’s talking about. “I’m a very depressed Englishman at the moment,” he admits. “I have a dreaded feeling that perhaps we are not going to win the World Cup again.”

Come off it, chum! With the golden generation hitched to Steve “Magic” McClaren’s bandwagon, we predict nothing less than triumph in South Africa 2010. You read it here first.

Posted: 6th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

United They’re Not

Red-card fool Wayne Rooney faces a possible five-match ban from Fifa if he fails to apologise for his inexcusable sending off in the quarter-finale against Portugal (Mirror)

Liverpool remain interested in Birmingham’s Jermaine Pennant (Sun)

Cristiano Ronaldo has no intention of playing for Manchester United again (Mail)

West Ham will make a move for Chelsea’s Carlton Cole (Star)

Manchester City and Bolton want Liverpool’s Didi Hamann (Star)

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has been released by Middlesbrough; Celtic are interested is signing him (Mirror)

Martin O’Neill could be next coach of Australia (Star)

Cesc Fabregas wants to join Real Madrid (Mirror)

Reading are in for Ghana’s John Mensah (Mirror)

Posted: 5th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Losing It

Quotes Of The Day

“I’ve seen the video and it doesn’t look like Graham Poll refereeing. Any supporters, if they watch the last 10 minutes, would say it doesn’t look like Graham Poll referring, that’s true” – Graham Poll looks at that other Graham Poll, the fool who gave a player three yellow cards

“We had played quite a lot of the game with 10 men and I think we took the penalties in a tired way” – Peter Crouch explains why England had trouble hitting a ball 12 yards into a net

“Wayne will get some sort of revenge in training. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will then say ‘you’re all square – get on with it’" – ex-Everton player Nigel Martyn looks at the Ronaldo-Rooney spat

“To win in their own backyard – there aren’t any words that describe what I’m feeling right now” – Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero enjoys beating the Germans

“A big compliment too to Italy, they are in the final and good luck to them" – Germany’s Juergen Klinsmann takes defeat with good grace

Puns Of The Day

“Roo la la!” (Star) – Back France to beat Ronaldo and those Portuguese

“Here oui go!” (Star) – More of the same

“Grosso is the bosso” (Star) – Italy’s Fabio Grosso scores the goal that matters

“Del boy’s joy” (Mirror) – Luverly jubberly for Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero

Posted: 5th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Red-Top Alert


Germans have attempted a spot of satire, with the England team as their favoured target. After their poor showing in the shoot-out, German newspaper Bild produced a cut-out-and-keep guide to kicking a ball. “The player must shoot from their penalty spot with either his right or his left foot. This is the goal. This is where the goalkeeper will stand. It is his job to stop the ball.”

Sven Goran Eriksson shows that life goes on, taking delivery of a £375 pop art picture of Bobby Moore lifting the, er, World Cup for England


The Daily Star is going in with its studs up on Portugal’s Ronaldo. A sample of text messages sent to the paper by readers, and published, runs: “I would hit him so hard that his name would hurt…and snap his legs”; “I would pull his Portuguese head off and bite his ears off”; “I’d break his ankles”; “”kneecap him”; and “snap his legs”. All that for a wink? Imagine the reaction if he’d stamped on Wayne Rooney’s groin as he lay on the turf.

The Sun is asking England fans to log on to the Fifa World Cup site and vote for Wayne Rooney(!) as the player of the tournament(!!). Well, he did help Portugal beat England…

Almost 400 passengers were left waiting when pilots and cabin crew failed to show up for work because they were watching the World Cup. As Italy kicked off against Ukraine, passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport waited in vain. An Alitalia source says: “If Italy get to the final and you have a flight booked for Sunday forget it.” Forget it.

Posted: 5th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

It Gets Worse

IF you thought it was all over, you were wrong. The papers are chock-full of England (of which more later), and the Mail reminds us that there will be an Englishman in the final on Sunday.

This news awakens Mr Anorak from his slumbers. He wipes spittle from his lips and hauls himself upright. Like Sir Francis Drake, he is ready at any time to rise and come to his country’s aid. ‘What’s that?’ he asks, reaching for his ankle-high footer boots and trusty tin of dubbin. “Has my day finally come?”

No, sir. You go back to sleep now.

A look of alarm comes to his face. “You don’t mean that Graham Poll has been awarded the final, do you?’

No, sir. The Mail is simply pointing out that Simone Perrotta will be playing in the final. The lad was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, you see. If Anorak’s sources are correct, he is a former pupil of St Anne’s Roman Catholic Primary School. The Mail reminds us that Perrotta’s essential Englishness “gives us the excuse (like we needed one) not to support Portugal or France”.

Perrotta has no plans that we know of to make an emotional return to his place of study, but the paper says that seven of his Italian team-mates could be. The imminent relegation of clubs like Juventus means that there is likely to be the football equivalent of a fire sale.

One of the players mentioned is Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The paper reckons that Arsenal ‘admire’ him, which is a curious thing to say. After all it would be odd if they didn’t admire the man generally considered to be the finest ‘custodian’ in the world. But we assume that this is a mealy-mouthed way of implying that Arsenal are planning a bid. Where does this idea come from? Before yesterday’s semi-final, Buffon’s advisors apparently put the Arsenal story out. Given that Germany’s goalkeeper is Jens Lehmann, who has been outstanding for club and country, could it be, as some have suggested, a simple case of mind games?

If so, it had no discernible effect on the Arsenal man, who made several good saves before being cruelly denied the opportunity to use his penalty crib-sheet. The papers are united in their praise for both sides, who contributed to a classic football match full of skill and intelligence, but also the bite and thrills of a proper cup-tie.

The immaculately coiffeured Brian Woolnough of the Star turns his eye to the spectacle, and as usual there is not a word, nor a hair, out of place. “WOOLLY’S VERDICT” is stark and simple: “England, at this World Cup, would not have got near these sides.” Sad but true.

Which brings us back to Our Boys. Before the rebuilding of the team commences, there are important off-the-pitch matters to consider. The FA, as ever, has its priorities right. First, there is the problem of David Beckham’s resignation, which is expected to lose £20 million of sponsorship money. Then there is the news that England were the only team without sponsored tops. Thank goodness they devoted their energies to securing a new improved deal for Eriksson instead.

There are pages and pages devoted to the aftermath of Black Saturday. The Mirror offers a pull-out Becks souvenir: “BECKHAM: 21ST CENTURY FOOTBALLER.” It is divided pretty much 50-50 between the football and the fashion, which is probably how he will be remembered.

Meanwhile, his team-mates are finding it tough going. “Embarrassed to go out the door,” declares the Sun. “RIO: MY AGONY.” And there is Rio, with his hand over his head. The gesture is not intended to hide his cornrows, and the headline has nothing to do with the lad’s physical appearance. He is embarrassed to meet the public after England’s performance in Germany. “I went into Sainsbury’s with my girlfriend Rebecca and people were coming up to me and saying ‘Well done,’ reveals the central defender. ‘They all had the best of intentions but all I could think of was ‘Well done for what?’ We hadn’t done anything. It’s better than being told you’re c**p I suppose, but it was still uncomfortable.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher is fighting back after claims by England’s fitness coach Ivan Carminati that he ‘bottled’ his penalty. (Of course that isn’t what the coach actually said, but the Sun helpfully interpreted his words in this way.) The paper says that last night “Carra” told Carminati to “belt up”. Or rather, he told a Sun reporter that “What happened in the shootout is one of those things that happen in football and you have to get on with it… The fact is, we didn’t go out because we lost on penalties – we went out because we didn’t do enough to win in 90 minutes.”

And if Sr Carminati is reading this, we’ll translate it once again into simple English: Belt up, and tell your countrymen that if they win on Sunday it will be mean nothing because the moral champions are ENGLAND.

Got that? Good.

Posted: 5th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

The Fence Of God


Had enough of John Motson? Fancy eating David Beckham for breakfast? Well you need not be cannibal to have your heart’s desire. Peperami has fashioned a series of six celebrity fanimals, its sausage-shaped mascots. As well as Motty and Becks, you can rip into Wayne Rooney, Gary Lineker and Ian Wright. And Sven Goran Eriksson, although we’ve had our fill of him.

The Pope will support Germany for one half of tonight’s semi-final and Italy for the other. Benedict XV was born in Germany and supports Bayern Munich. He lives and works in Rome. His personal secretary Father George Gaenswein says: “His Holy Father is always impartial and so he will be tonight. His heart is with Germany and Italy.” And his money is on..?

Race horse owner Gary Martin had his horse Ronaldo gelded in an act of revenge on the Portuguese winger. “It would have given me much more satisfaction if I could have had the real Ronaldo’s nuts cut off. But this is the best I could do,” says he.


England have scored just one of their last five penalties in shoot-outs, and one of their last five kicks taken in normal time.

Former France forward Youri Djorkaeff told his paymasters at the New York Red Bulls soccer team he needed time off to deal with a family emergency. "We were told by Youri on Thursday that he had to leave the team and attend to an unexpected, serious family matter in France," a spokesman for the team, formerly known as the MetroStars, said in a statement. "As with any player in a situation like this, we granted his request with the understanding that he would rejoin the club immediately after the personal matter was resolved.” And that personal matter? The cameras panned the crowd at France v Brazil and there was Yuri. Oops.

For all his apparent lack of desire and skill, Sven Goran Eriksson’s England team created four good goal scoring changes to Portugal’s one. Should we blame the Swede for failure? Or Rooney for getting himself sent off?

Posted: 4th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Barton Fink


Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will launch a £20million bid for Arsenal’s Ashley Cole (Sun)

Real Madrid’s new president Ramon Calderon says Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Chelsea winger Arjen Robben are his top targets (Independent)

Middlesbrough are interested in signing Manchester City’s Joey Barton (Mail)

Niall Quinn wants Martin O’Neill to manage Sunderland (Mirror)

Charlton will not allow Darren Bent to leave (Sun)

West Ham have failed to sign Charlton defender Luke Young (Mail)

Tottenham have bid £5.5m for West Brom’s Curtis Davies (Times)

Rangers will sign Lyon midfielder Jeremy Clement (Record)

Posted: 4th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Captain Courageous

BRIAN “Woolly” Woolnough, the Star’s respected football writer, is a man who sports an impressive coiffeur. One gets the feeling that if his house caught fire he wouldn’t leave until he had checked that there wasn’t a hair out of place.

Today he turns his attention to Chelsea skipper John Terry, the man widely expected to be the next captain of England. Woolly is keen on him, and no wonder. He writes that after every game, Terry “goes to all his team mates and asks if they can look in the mirror”.

But Woolly’s point is not that Chelsea’s players are well groomed and immaculately turned-out – although they are, of course. His point is that Terry makes sure that they can look honestly at themselves and know that they have done their job to the best of their ability.

John Terry is in stark contrast to David Beckham. He looks as if he’s in his forties, as footballers did back in the black-and-white days. (Indeed, with Steve McClaren appearing ever more youthful, we could soon have an international team captain who looks older than his manager – a feat Terry has already achieved at club level.) Terry’s character is also reminiscent of a bygone age, and will be a welcome break from the celebrity circus that surrounds Beckham and has expanded to take in most of the England camp.

Woolly points out that as a no-nonsense teenager, Terry bollocked Gianfranco Zola on the training ground and crocked manager Gianluca Vialli. He reckons that Steve McClaren’s image is of ‘a man lacking in personality’, and that JT can help him win the nation’s confidence. As an illustration of Terry’s courage, Woolly recalls how he stayed on the pitch after having his leg gashed by Wayne Rooney, because he wanted to lift the Premiership trophy after the match. “It was only pain and as captain you have to lead by example,” said Terry. Echoes of Dave Mackay playing with a broken leg: “The pain can wait.”

Being crocked by Rooney is an occupational hazard of being an England player, as the volatile striker likes to put himself about on the training ground. But at the moment Wayne is keen to play down his aggressive side.

The Times has “exclusive” evidence that quarter-final referee Horacio Elizondo had intended sending Rooney off for “violent play”, and claims to have been uninfluenced by Cristiano Ronaldo’s interference. This news has repercussions for the whole affair. Rooney himself is busy telling all the papers that his stamp was not a stamp at all, but an accidental dragging of the foot. Meanwhile both Rooney and Ronaldo are busy trying to build bridges now that the departure of the Portuguese winger/winker from Old Trafford looks less certain.

The Guardian reports that because the Real Madrid presidential election did not go the way Ronaldo’s advisers expected, the United player might not be on his way to the Bernabeu. “There is no problem between me and Rooney,” he announce via his advisers’ website. “At the end of the game we exchanged a series of text message just as we had the day before.” Whether the tone of the texts was the same, he doesn’t say. Perhaps Rooney’s promise to “split him in two” was a joke, or, who knows, part of some private sex game. One thing is for sure, though: behind the scenes there is a huge amount of patching-up and damage limitation going on.

England’s former backroom boys have no need to worry about diplomacy. “BOTTLER,” says the Sun. “Top England coach slams Carragher.” Well, yes and no. Former England fitness coach Ivan Carminati dismisses as a “joke” Jamie Carragher’s claim that he didn’t know he had to wait for the ref’s whistle before taking his penalty. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment, but it’s also hard to see where the Sun gets the “bottler” bit. “Normally Carragher is a good penalty taker,” says the not-really-very-offensive Italian, “but anything can happen when the pressure gets to you.”

The World Cup post-mortem looks likely to rumble on for days, but in the meantime, there are lots of other things for the papers to get excited about. Like Andy Murray, for example.

What’s that?… Oh dear.

Posted: 4th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

No Saint Andrew

HOLD the blue felt-tip! There’s no need to alter your flag of St George into a Saltire. Andrew Murray is out of Wimbledon.

The Scot’s Wimbledon dream ended with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-2) defeat to France’s Marcos Baghdatis.

Murray is ranked No. 44 in the world. Baghdatis is at number 55. In football terms, this is Serbia & Montenegro losing to Zimbabwe.

Not that football has much to do with tennis. Since Goran Ivanisevic retired from the game, we struggle to remember any player who has kicked a ball on court, let alone attempted to juggle it on his toe, as the affable Croatian was wont to.

Boris Becker has commentated on the “beautiful jackets” in both sports, but this we feel has less to with his sporting knowledge and more with his role as our favourite German; a condition aided by the fact that the only other German we are supposed to like is Jurgen Klinsmann, and he’s too busy leading his country to World Cup supremacy to talk to Sue Barker about umpire’s blazers and Comfi-Slax.

Football and tennis rarely if ever mix. Which is why it was odd for Murray to say that he’d be supporting “anyone but England” at the World Cup.

And all the odder because tennis players – especially British tennis players – are as controversial as wet toast.

Murray’s error was not only to voice an opinion, and so make the kind of people who watch tennis – middle-aged, middle-class and middle management – baulk, but to look like he cared about football.

Football. Eu! That’s the sport for sweaty oiks and thugs. Tennis is so much more refined, less a sport than a chance to discuss Gavin’s promotion at work and Lucy’s custard tarts.

And here was Murray talking about football. In a single comment he had alienated many of us.

England football fans noticed him and did not like what they saw. Tennis fans thought him crass and vulgar. Unsurprisingly, Murray’s blog has attracted over 1,000 unflattering comments and no little abuse.

Pete Wishart, of the Scottish National Party, said in the Commons that his “sickening hate mail” has to stop.

And so it should. Hate mail in tennis? How so? Football has the tabloids mutating men’s heads on turnips, sticking players’ faces on dartboards and likening games to war. Football has wives and girlfriends who dance on tables and tell Germans to “f*** off”. Tennis has Lucy Henman in a silk scarf and bob.

Thankfully, it is now all at an end. Murray can disappear until next summer. He is out. As, of course, are England.

Indeed, defeat is perhaps the one thing that unites both sports and their sets fans. And balls.

Posted: 4th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Texting Times

Quotes Of The Day

“At half-time, Big Phil would have spotted a weakness in our formation, whereas Sven would have spotted a woman with big tits in row G” – Frank Skinner

“Is it a day for cool heads, Wayne?” – Rooney nodded to the BBC’s Garth Crooks when that question was put to him before the Portugal game

Between me and Rooney, there is no problem. At the end we texted each other and between us everything’s been cleared” – Ronaldo proves that Wayne Rooney does have opposable thumbs

"But we should have been beaten Germany as we did Ivory Coast and Serbia and Montenegro as Germany is not much better than Ivory Coast" – Departed Argentina coach Jose Pekerman gives hope that an African team can win the World Cup one day

"I want to say absolutely categorically that I did not intentionally put my foot down on Carvalho" – Wayne Rooney

Puns Of The Day

“Italy gets Frings benefit” (Mirror) – Germany’s Torsten Fings is suspended for the semi-final

“I Roofuse to say I’m sorry” – Wayne Rooney refuses to apologise to the nation for his red card

“Fit? You must be Juergen – Klinsmann’s preparations make Sven look amateur” (Mail)

“Coleen Asda be a model” (Sun) – Coleen McLoughlin is the face and body of the supermarket chain

“World War Roo” (Sun) – Trouble at Manchester United between Ronaldo and Rooney

Posted: 4th, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

After The Ball

THE World Cup is a party to which we are all invited – and that includes Britain’s paedophiles.

On Saturday night they will have headed to south-west London to join the revelries of our ex-pat Portuguese community and then headed home to sleep soundly in their beds for the first time since June 2004.

That’s because they know that once every two years England will crash out of a football tournament, and for a brief period they will be knocked off their spot as public enemy number one. The only question this year was who would replace them: Rooney or Sven? We turn to the Sun to discover Rebekah’s name-and-shame selection. And the winner is…. Neither!

Sven’s apologetic press conference, and his plea not to slaughter Rooney seems to have paid off, because the man who can no longer safely set foot on Britain’s tolerant soil is not English at all – he’s Cristiano Ronaldo, aka the “slippery Portuguese winker”.

Ronaldo’s crime was to wind up his Manchester United team-mate before the match, point out to the ref that Rooney had committed a foul, and allegedly suggest a card, and then wink and pout provocatively afterwards. Rooney is understandably furious, and, having failed to get into the Portuguese dressing room after the match, has now threatened to ‘split him in two’.

The Sun provides a Ronaldo dartboard, with the slippery one’s winking eye as the bull. Underneath is Bully from Bullseye, holding up the World Cup with the words “…and here’s what you could have won”. Clearly no room for the words “with a decent team and manager”.

Once we turn to the back pages, Sven and Rooney have to take their fair share of stick. “GOODBYE TOSSER,” says the Sun of the Swede who “tossed away” our cash, our talent and our world Cup dreams. “Sven stuffed his pockets, and then he stuffed us all,” declares Ian Wright, whose World Cup Super Goals section is adorned with the flag of St George, the patron saint of penalty shoot-outs.

The Daily Mail’s prize-winning Chief Sport’s Writer Paul Hayward “delivers his withering analysis” over two full pages, but it is helpfully summed up in three quotes. Eriksson is “the man who vandalised our team in five awful years”. Rooney “disgraced himself in his first big match”. And David Beckham “has dodged the silver bullet”.

The latter refers to Beckham’s emotional announcement of his resignation as England captain, which Hayward sees as an opportunity to “escape the celebrity culture of the Eriksson years”. He says that England (surely Team England, Paul) is “not a brand or a vehicle for advertisers” but “a football team hurtling towards a half-century of Wilderness Years”. We assume he means a half-century post-’66, rather than starting now, but in the current climate of gloom it’s hard to tell.

The Mirror offers a more conciliatory approach, and includes a poster of our David waving sadly, with the words “BYE BYE SKIP”, and some snapshots of his golden moments, for which it offers thanks.

But there’s no respite for “flop Eriksson”. The paper claims that the ice-man “stunned players” by bursting into tears as he thanked the players in the dressing room. An “insider” says that the players then consoled him. (Later, when they had finished, they all got into their pyjamas and had some cocoa and a group hug before going to bed.)

As for the future, the Telegraph quotes Eriksson on his successor Steve McLaren. “He will be a very impressive manager for England,” says Sven. “I’ve been working with him for five-and-a-half years.” And that, ladies and gentleman, is as good an example of a non sequitur as you will ever see.

Steve should take heart from the fact that if he does half as badly as his mentor, he’ll be doing very well indeed.

Posted: 3rd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Later, Ron

Cristiano Ronaldo will be sold by Manchester United, probably to Real Madrid (Sun)

Middlesbrough still want Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (Mirror)

Glenn Hoddle has resigned as manager of Wolves (Guardian)

Paul Ince is favourite to be the new Wolves manager (Mail)

Liverpool have signed Valencia’s Fabio Aurelio (Mirror)

Sir Clive Woodward is to discuss his future at Southampton with new club chairman Michael Wilde (Mirror)

Manchester United want Derby’s Giles Barnes, who has also attracted interest from Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle (Mail)

Sheffield United want Ghana’s Derek Boateng (Mail)

Everton want to sign Brett Emerton from Blackburn (Mail)

Posted: 3rd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Forty Years Of Hurt


Frank Skinner and David Baddiel can now sing about 40 years of hurt as England fail once more to recapture the spirit of 1966 and all that.

A poll by GMI found that 56 per cent of Americans did not even know their country was competing in the World Cup. “We are not very passionate about soccer,” says a spokesman for the pollsters. He’s not kidding.

The vast majority of England fans behaved better than Wayne Rooney. Over 315,000 England fans made the pilgrimage to Germany for the tournament. In all, 711 England fans were arrested. “The behaviour of our real fans has been absolutely superb,” says Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Thomas, Britain’s police representative in Germany.

Owen Hargreaves went from zero to hero. Jeered earlier in the tournament, Hargreaves proved to be a terrific competitor. “I’m very happy that the tide has turned,” says Hargreaves. Incidentally, Hargreaves plays his football for Bayern Munich in Germany, which may explain why he was the only England player to score a penalty.

Theo Walcott had a lovely holiday in Baden Baden.


The Mirror has blamed England’s defeat on Portugal and Manchester United player Ronaldo. “BANNED!” screamed the headline. “Do not allow this man back into the country”. How dare he try to beat us! How dare he wink at Wayne Rooney! Hanging’s too good for him! Let’s invade Portugal! Cheating foreigners etc…

Sven Goran Eriksson’s farewell speech was met by one clap from the assembled media. And even that stopped when the clapper realised no-one else had joined in.

Posted: 3rd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Wayne On Our Parade

Quotes Of The Day

“Is it impossible for one nation to have so much bad luck, so many poor decisions, so many obstacles thrown in their way?” – Sam Allardyce thinks England were unlucky.

“Dutch football has lost its innocence. Even though there were a lot of provocations from the Portuguese side, there’s simply now excuse for what happened. We can all get carried away – it happened occasionally with me – but this was something different” – Dutchman Edgar Davids

“Hooligans with visas” – A German magazine headline’s comment on the Wags

“I’ve lived the dream” – David Beckham steps down as England skipper

“Wayne and I were teasing each other, I told him Portugal were going to win and he said I was crazy because England were going to beat us easily. But it was all good natured and we were having a laugh” – Cristiano Ronaldo says what passed between he and the disgraceful Rooney

“He’s the man who vandalised our team in five awful years” – The Mail’s Paul Hayward assesses the England career of Sven Goran Eriksson

“God is Portuguese” – Portugal’s goalkeeper Ricardo reveals why England really lost

Puns Of The Day

“Roo’ll be all right Wayne” (Star) – Wayne Rooney is back at home

“Chris off!” (Star) – Paper demands Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo is not let back in the country

“Spot the fall-guys” (Mail) – A look at those awful England penalties

“Rood Mist” (Mirror) – Wayne Rooney, England’s saviour, tries to start a fight with the Portuguese

“He done me Ron” (Mirror) – Rooney says it was Ronaldo’s fault he was sent off

“Sven bawls it up again” (Mirror) – Sven burst into tears

“He banked, he bonked & he ballsed it up” – The life and times of Sven

“Stevie: That little winker disgusts me” (Sun) – Steven Gerrard thinks Ronaldo’s wink was so low; and much worse than Rooney stamping on someone

“Goodbye tosser. He tossed away our cash, he tossed away our talent…now he’s tossed away our World Cup dreams” (Sun) – Goodbye Sven

“Bexit” (Sun) – Beckham quits as skipper

Posted: 3rd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Cole’s The Goal

Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz is trying to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at the club (News of the World)

Wayne Rooney will never play with Ronaldo again (Mirror)

Arsenal will buy Tottenham’s Michael Carrick (Mail)

Manchester United want Ukraine’s Maxim Kalinichenko (Star)

Juan Riquelme is to reject Manchester United (News of the World)

Arsenal will sell Ashley Cole to Chelsea (Mail)

France’s Frank Ribery is to join Lyon (News of the World)

Liverpool are in for Chilean Mark Gonzalez (News of the World)

Barcelona are not interested in signing Ruud van Nistelrooy (Star)

Manchester United will bid for Fernando Torres (Express)

AC Milan want to sign Blackburn defender Lucas Neill (Star)

Tottenham and Portsmouth are both chasing West Ham’s Marlon Harewood (News of the World)

Arsenal are interested in Kolo Toure’s brother Yaya (Star)

Charlton are confident they can fight off Manchester City to snatch Steve Sidwell from Reading. (Daily Star Sunday)

Chelsea are interested in Milan Stepanov (News of the World)

Reading have bid £4.2m for Ghana’s John Mensah (News of the World)

Aston Villa are keen on Manchester City’s Danny Mills (News of the World)

Posted: 2nd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Ref Off

Quotes Of The Day

“Germany: momentum, support, feel good” – ITV commentator Peter Drury brings his esoteric brand of English to the Germany v Argentina game

“Argentina: poise and pattern and simply, very, very good players” – More Drury-isms

"One of their players attacked me even though I did not do anything. I have three or four red marks on my thigh and then he kicked me again in the groin" – Germany’s Per Mertesacker remembers the end of the Argentina match

“It could not happen to a nicer man” – Referee Jeff Winter watches Graham Poll get sacked

"We are just totally devastated and are incredibly disappointed” – Jamie Carragher speaks for a nation

Puns Of The Day

“Nuts” (Mirror) – Wayne Rooney stamps his mark on Portugal

“Dreams Roo-ined” (Mirror) – Rooney is sent off

“5m for sweet FA” (Mirror) – Goodbye Sven

“Our dream in Rooins” (Mirror) – Why did Wayne’s metatarsal heal?

“Tear we go again” (NOTW) – England out

“Red and buried” (Times) – Rooney is off

Posted: 2nd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Cheerios All Round


James Hunt famously said that the breakfast of champions was sex. Times have changed and now we learn that for breakfast Wayne Rooney eats Frosties, Peter Crouch Weetabix and David Beckham has Cornflakes. Everyone else has Cheerios.

Germany’s Jens Lehman acted brilliantly to save twice in the penalty shoot out against Argentina. But did he act alone? A closer look at the build up to Roberto Ayala’s miss shows World Cup mascot Goleo IV standing behind the goal and doing his utmost to put the defender off.


“Ladies and gentlemen, our team needs our support" So said Berlin’s Olympic Stadium announcer as Germany took on Argentina. Fifa spokesman Markus Siegler said rules dictated that stadium announcers must not show any bias towards teams. Said Siegler: "We have said he must stop this. This is part and parcel of the principle of fairness and this cannot be accepted. The local organising committee has replaced him with immediate effect."

Not all the Beckhams crave the limelight, it would seem. Reports form Baden Baden are that Brooklyn has taken to calling the paparazzi “scumbags”.

Two England fans are in trouble with their bosses. The pair, who work for a company in the Lothians, claimed they were ill to work at just the time England were playing Ecuador. The company hired private detectives who found the poorly lads watching England in a hospital ward that looked remarkably like a pub.

Graham Poll has retired from international football. The referee with the pack of cards has now taken part in three tournaments, leaving his own indelible mark on each.

Should England have made it to the final the FA would have been true to its word and flown all staff from FA headquarters in Soho Square to watch the game in the Germany.


Posted: 2nd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Roo-in The Day

“SORRY!” So says the headline in the News Of The World. “Sven apologises after penalty heartbreak.”

But what is Sven apologising for? Surely penalties are in the laps of the gods. They are more about luck then skill and know-how. Should Sven be saying sorry for that?

Or should he be saying sorry for what the Times’s Hugh McIlvanney calls “dishevelling England’s World Cup challenge”; for moulding talented individuals into a perfunctory, non-scoring team; for making England dull, their reputation lest damaged by the drama of penalties than saved by it – at least the penalties were exciting.

But it is no use guessing what Sven is thinking. If his lover Nancy Dell ‘Olio doesn’t know what’s on his mind, what hope do we have?

So here’s Sven: “We lost on penalties and I am really sorry about it.” He continues: “We are out of the tournament and it hurts incredibly. It’s very painful.”

He goes on to say that the quality of his squad was so good that the team should have made it to the final. Curse those penalties. Forget the fact that they were poorly struck, and that England failed to score a goal in two hours of open play. And curse those penalties.

And curse Wayne Rooney. “NUTS!” says the Mirror’s headline. And there’s a picture of idiotic Wayne planting his boot into the tender parts of Ricardo Carvalho’s groin.

But wait a moment. Rooney is not as brainless as he appears. You see, stamping on someone as they lie on the ground is not his fault. We should blame that dastardly Portugal winger Ronaldo, Rooney’s team-mate are Manchester United.

“Ronaldo was goading Wayne before the game and said he was going to get him sent off,” says an England player. This sounds bad. Rooney was actually warned that he would be targeted. His actions now look even more stupid than they did before. And who would have believed that possible?

And then there are Rooney’s team-mates. Steven Gerrard says: “He won’t get any blame from me.” Frank Lampard says: “I am sure it was a foul on Wayne in the first place.”

And dear old Sven says: “I saw what happened with Rooney on a small TV screen and I need to see it again before I can have any more ideas about it.”

So, you see. Sven should not apologise about producing an ordinary team. And Wayne must not feel guilty about scuppering so much hope by kicking someone in the knackers. It was not their fault. It was just cheating foreigners and bad luck…

Posted: 2nd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

This Is War


This isn’t football, this is war. Portugal is England’s oldest ally but it counts for nothing in the World Cup. Squaddies based at a British military base have been driving past the Portugal team’s hotel late at night honking their horns and generally making us much noise as possible.

“You can still smell the grass,” says the advertising blurb. “Which stadium you like, I can give you its air.” Chinese entrepreneur Li Jie is trying to cash in on his country’s love of football by selling bags of genuine World Cup air.

Ronaldinho gets in the mood by playing bongo drums on the team bus. Gilberto Silva is on guitar and Robinho provides the vocals.

Want to take Jurgen Klinsmann home with you? Now you can. Figurines of the German coach have been selling fast. Sold by the German FA, these statuettes are: “Absolutely lifelike and amazingly true to life”. And yours for €14.50.


The Germans are trying to make friends, right? Someone should tell newspaper Der Spiegle which called the Italian team “oiled up and greasy”. The article was late withdrawn.

The biggest team in the world Cup have been Australia. In a study comparing teams at the two World Cups to be staged in Germany (1974 and 2006), Australian had grown the most. In 1974 the average Australian player weighed 165lb and stood at 5ft 10½ in. Today’s Socceroo is 179lb and 6ft 1in.

And Goleo, the World Cup mascot, has been banned from making an appearance at a German school because he is naked from the waist down.

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Winning Ugly

Quotes Of The Day

“I am unconcerned. If they play poorly all the way to the semi-final and final nobody will give a damn if they finish up winning the World Cup” – Geoff Hurst forgets the beautiful game

“I get tense, especially when you arrive at the stadium. You arrive 1½ hours before and there’s nothing to do. You can’t speak for one hour to the players. So you sit there drinking tea and things like that” – Sven Goran Eriksson whips the lads into a frenzy

“For two or three days I did think about retirement” – Graham Poll. So which is it Graham, two or three?

Puns Of The Day

“You country needs Roo” (Times) – Rooney is ready for battle

“Our country needs Roo!” (Mirror) – Rooney is even more ready

“We’ll be in this till the very Svend (Mirror) – Sven says England will win

“Raise the Roof” (Mirror) – England fans get behind the team

“Phil’s highland sting” (Mail) – Scolari draws his inspiration from William Wallace

“Germany spot on for glory” (Mail) – You know win on you know what

“Germany hit the spot yet again” (Times) – Yes they did

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)