Anorak

Back pages | Anorak - Part 70

Back pages Category

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

Going Dutch

Middlesbrough have offered £5m offer to Fulham for their French star Steed Malbranque (Times)

West Bromwich have signed John Hartson from Celtic for £500,000 (Mail)

Arsenal are interested in signing Holland’s Dirk Kuyt (Mirror)

Crystal Palace and Cardiff are chasing Charlton’s Francis Jeffers (Sun)

Chelsea’s Glen Johnson is mulling over a loan move to Feyenoord (Mail)

Inter Milan will offer £12.5m offer to Villarreal for their Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme (Times)

Mexico’s Rafael Marquez will sign a contract extension to remain at Barcelona until 2010 (Times)

Tottenham are in advanced discussions to sign Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zakora from St Etienne (Mail)

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Get It To Rooney

Quotes Of The Day

“Quito is 1,439 Peter Crouches above sea level” – BBC pundit Adrian Chiles

“If we give him [Rooney] the ball he will create chances or score himself – it is simple" – Ashley Cole gets to grips with Sven’s Plan A, B, C, D….

“Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek, but Luis Figo isn’t Jesus Christ” – Portugal’s Luiz Felipe Scolari on his captain’s loss of cool against Holland

“We can meet England in the semi-finals and wouldn’t that be nice for the Australian and English fans” – Australia’s Lucas Neill speaks too soon

“A team that has a problem with a compact, but frequently inflexible Ecuador, can’t hope to measure up to a modern, strong and offensive side” – German newspaper Der Spiegel dismisses England’s chances

“Graham Poll sent me off when I tried to tell him he should have already sent me off” – Croatia’s Josip Simunic tells us about his three yellow cards

“I think you have to suffer in a tournament like this” – Sven Goran Eriksson makes anyone watching England suffer

Puns Of The Day

“Down and out” (Times) – Australia go home

“Luc of horror” (Sun) – Australia’s Luca Neill foolishly goes to ground in the penalty area with an Italian striker within ten yards of him. Result: penalty.

“Tot of the world” (Sun) – Franscesco Totti’s celebrates scoring for Italy by sucking his thumb

“Plane crazy” (Sun) – Steven Gerrard says England must play better or they’ll be on their way home

“Sleepy Swiss have to clock up overtime” (Mail) – The Mail goes to press before Ukraine can beat Switzerland on penalties

“We need more bottle” (Mirror) – England want to have more water breaks during matches

“Milla: They Ghan win it” (Star) – Cameroon legend Roger Milla backs Ghana to beat Brazil

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Urs And Them

Winners

David Beckham has come under fire for his performances. But the statistics suggest that he is a potent attacking force. Thus far Becks has played 356 minutes of football. He has struck seven shots, of which three have been on target. He has been fouled five times, and fouled three times. And has delivered 51 crosses.

Ever wondered what happened to Urs Meier? England fans will remember him as the referee with the Duran Duran hair-do who disallowed Sol Campbell’s goal in Euro 94. Some less enlightened England fans bombarded him with threatening emails and letters. Well, he is no longer in hiding and is popping up on German TV to give the expert view on all those fouls – real and imagined.

Who says Americans aren’t into football, or soccer? After their victory over the Dutch, the Portuguese neighbourhood living in the Ironbound district in Newark, New Jersey, came out to party like they’d won the World Series of Superbowl Soccer. Way to go!

Losers

Is Franz Beckenbauer a true football fan? Der Kaiser took a break from things World Cup to get married in the Alps. “It was supposed to be a day for just us without any stress or troubles,” says the newlywed who married Heidi Burmester, with whom he has two children. “We wanted to avoid all the commotion. No one expected us to get married in the middle of the World Cup." Indeed they did not. During the World Cup, we expect men to only acknowledge women who: a) understand the offside rule; b) bring them meals and drinks on trays; or c) wear boob tubes inside the stadium.

World Cup organisers are less than pleased with one photographer allocated a precious pitchside pass for England’s match against Ecuador. For the entire game he trained his camera on the Wags in the stands.

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Suitable For Miners

GELSENKIRCHEN is a mining centre in the heart of the Ruhr Valley – a “football-mad town” according to the Guardian, but one which “has never witnessed the kind of scenes it can expect when more than 50,000 English fans arrive for England’s quarter-final against Germany”.

Why, are there no televisions is Gelsenkirchen? Have they not seen the clips of England fans on tour in previous tournaments? Are there no newspapers? Have they not read the dire warnings? Come to that, have they never heard the theme tunes of the Great Escape or the Dambusters – not regular Sunday afternoon viewing in Germany, we admit, but surely not unknown to the city’s good burghers?

Even if they haven’t seen England’s barmy-but-sometimes-charmy army, they will certainly have seen the England team in action, and will know exactly what to expect from Eriksson’s workmanlike side, who have been workmanlike in the sense that they have conformed to the worst newspaper stereotype of English workmanship – unskilled, commanding extortionate fees, shoddy performances, and the rest.

With four more newspapers to go until the match, the papers have yet to dream up a suitable angle for the mining connection. They could talk about the “lumps of Cole”, but both Ashley and Joe are two of the more cultured players, and are disinclined to lump and hoof. Any reference to “strikers” is obviously out. Perhaps they will settle on “digging deep” and “mining a rich seam of courage”. This seems a better bet.

The ground is already being prepared for this, with a variation on the “lions led by donkeys” theme. The argument appears to be that Eriksson simply doesn’t have the passion to inspire his players. Indeed, the Mail reports “Sven’s astonishing plea” to John Terry to “be our leader”. Eriksson is said to have asked Terry to make a speech in the dressing room before the game. Perhaps Terry is at this very moment studying the recordings of Lord Birkett and other masters of the art. Or perhaps he is thinking more along the lines of head-butting the wall, Terry Butcher-style.

Either way, the implication appears to be that Sven doesn’t think either he or his captain is capable of rallying the troops. Of course, the most likely explanation is that Eriksson senses that Terry is going through a bad patch, and needs a confidence boost. All good psychology, no doubt, but in the context of Sven’s own anaemic style this is likely to be seen as a weakness on his part. Sitting impassively on the bench looks clever and authoritative when you are beating Germany 5-1 in Munich, but it looks like helplessness when you are drifting out of a quarter-final.

To make things worse, Eriksson is once again pitted against “Big Phil” Scolari, who is not only a highly successful shaper of attractive football teams, but also a man whose public displays of passion and commitment make Alex Ferguson look like Graham Kelly. The Star says that Scolari has “arrogantly” claimed to be a “better manager” than Eriksson – and “warned that England are in for a fight”. At this point it has to be said that Scolari doesn’t appear to be particularly arrogant. In his recent BBC interview he appeared to be polite and friendly. It’s not inconceivable that he does believe that he is a better manager than Eriksson, but who can blame him? In the last two international tournaments his teams have been winners and runners-up and knocked out Eriksson along the way.

“What we needed in there was Churchill, but what we got was Iain Duncan Smith." That was how Gareth Southgate described Eriksson’s half-time talk during the first of those exits, against Brazil. The papers have decided to return to this theme. In the absence of any new injury and selection developments to report, they focus on the differing styles of Sven and Phil. “MR BURNS v GENE HACKMAN,” says the Sun, along with a list of the men’s characteristics (Sven: sitting still, looking constipated, scratching head; Phil: letting players know who’s boss, waving arms about, etc). “MR MOTIVATOR SHOWS SVEN UP” declares the Mail. “Passion? Energy? Does Eriksson even know what those words mean?” asks the Mirror.

Sven remains calm. “I think you have to suffer in a tournament like this,” he reflected at yesterday’s press conference. “You have to trust me –
You don’t have any choice.” And with that, the icy Conspirator-in-Chief returned to his HQ to put the final touches to his master plan for England’s demise.

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sick & Tired

“SICK OF WAITING FOR A SVEN-SATION,” says the Star’s big Cheese Brian Woolnough, or “Woolly” as he is known to his fellow hacks when his immaculate coiffeur appears on the football chat shows.

Woolly is right – England looked tired and their captain was physically sick on the pitch. In this respect, he has now emulated Zinedine Zidane, who once puked up after scoring in the European Championships. In other respects, he is emulating the Zidane of 2006 – a shadow of his former self.

There has been “paper talk” for some time about whether Beckham should keep his place in the team, although nobody believes that Eriksson would ever drop him, despite his protestations that he is “not married” to Becks. They may not be married, but they have been cohabiting for long enough to ensure that the Swede will stick by him in through the rocky times,

The inevitability of Beckham’s presence, and the fact that he did, after all, score the winner for England, has encouraged the press pack to look elsewhere for scapegoats.

John Terry has been earning nothing but praise for the past couple of years, but now he is experiencing the sharp side of the tabloid tongue. He does what all good defenders do when they make mistakes, and holds his hands up (“Terry: I owe you one Ash” – the Star).

Few players receive plaudits. Even Michael Carrick, praised to the skies by the BBC pundits for what Alan Hansen called a “masterclass”, is awarded a paltry 5 in the player ratings in the Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Star and Sun. Only the Mirror gives him a decent mark (7), but that doesn’t look so great when you realise that they gave the same to Lampard, who managed a mere four out of ten in other papers.

Indeed, there is now a debate about whether “Lamps” is worth a place at all. He still gets up and down, thanks to his aerodynamic waxed torso, but where is the end product? Some say he’s getting nearer to scoring all the time; others, that he couldn’t hit Wayne Rooney’s arse with a banjo (nor should he, we hasten to add – that would be precisely the kind of inappropriate behaviour that we are all trying to stamp out).

With five days’ papers to fill before Saturday’s quarter-final, expect the selection debate to run and run. But don’t expect Eriksson to take any notice of it.

One further talking point, entirely of Anorak’s own invention: will there be an acknowledgement of Beckham’s puke after England’s next goal? A vomiting celebration, with the boys doubled-up and retching? Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether there will there be another England goal at all.

Saturday’s opponents are Portugal, who shared 16 yellow cards, four reds, and one goal with Holland last night. There is some ill-advised crowing in The Times about how Portugal will now be without Deco and Costinha (both suspended), and it has been noted that Ronaldo might not be fit after suffering a thigh injury. This is pathetic – what team with aspirations of greatness wants to win by facing weakened opposition? It also shows a dangerous underestimation of Portugal’s strength.

When one of England’s big names is injured there is panic, as nobody believes in the rest of the squad. But Scolari is used to making the most of his players, and his reserves will fit in without a complete overhaul of the system.

The Portugal fixture is billed as a “GRUDGE MATCH” by the Mirror, with Scolari cast as the villain who “snubbed the FA”. Interestingly, in a recent BBC interview with Leonardo, Scolari explained that he had been very interested in the England job, that the Football Association had been very pleasant and done everything by the book, but that he had felt honour-bound to turn them down because they wanted to announce his appointment before his contract with Portugal expired. This, he said, would have put him in an impossible position if Portugal had to play England in the World Cup. He also suggested that he would like to manage England in the future.

The Mirror prefers to ignore this, (presumably because the interview was not with a member of the press corps) and stick to the line that “Big Phil” snubbed the FA (who bungled the negotiations, but are, at the end of the day, “our” bunglers after all).

More plausibly, it is a grudge match for Eriksson in the sense that Scolari has proved to be his nemesis in both his previous tournaments as England boss. Scolari’s Brazil beat England in the quarter-final of the 2002 World Cup, and his Portuguese side beat them in the Euro 2004. And if England play on Saturday the way they did in those two games, then Scolari will beat them again, with or without his big names.

England can undoubtedly beat Portugal, if they play to their potential. Can they raise their game when it counts? Expect five more days of panic before we find out the answer.

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Cheap Shots

Winners

England fan Ben Marks has had his teeth decked out in the style of a St George’s flag. A dentist friend of the 27-year-old Bristol local fitted the specially painted veneers for less than the usual £14,000 fee.

The red shirt worn by England World Cup winner George Cohen in 1966 is to go under the hammer tomorrow. The Number 2 shirt is expected to fetch £20,000 and is being sold by Lothar Emmerich, the German player who died in 2003.

The good news is that England’s Frank Lampard has struck more shots than any other player in the World Cup thus far. The bad news is that his 21 shots have resulted in no goals.

When pounding on the treadmill at the gym in her Baden Baden hotel, Nancy Dell’Olio keeps her sunbed free by placing a huge red rose on it. So much more civilised than a Union Jack beach towel.

Losers

A war of words had broken out among the Wags. The Mail reports that Victoria Beckham is not taken with Joe Cole’s lover, 20-year-old Carly Zucker. A source says: “Victoria is aware Carly is very keen to steal her crown.” And she has, apparently, confided in Cheryl Tweedy, Ashley Cole’s fiancée. “She was overheard telling Cheryl how much attitude she thinks Carly has and saying, ‘Who the hell does she think she is. No one’s ever heard of her.’” Well, they have now…

More on the Wags, as the Mail hears that some of the orange-skinned band have been telephoning the players as late as 4am. The FA says the phone calls are a private matter. Until Joe Cole takes his mobile onto the pitch…

England and Germany fans flung bottles and chairs at each other in Stuttgart. Over 200 England fans were arrested.

Over 100,000 subscribers to Telewest cable TV missed the entire England match. The company’s customers in Bristol, Bath and the Cotswolds were unable to watch England scrape home when a mainline fibre broke.

And around 25,000 England supporters in Stuttgart missed the moment when Beckham scored because their jumbo TV went blank.

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Us & Gems

Quotes Of The Day

“Jewellers reckon profits are up as much as 200 per cent because of the Wags” – a jeweller in Baden Baden looks on as the footballers’ wives and girlfriends spend £500,000 on designer watches

“We could have gone – but who would have looked after the children” – Germania Reasco, wife of Ecuador’s Neicer Reasco, explains why she did not follow her husband to Germany

“One of the chaps has a private jet which we take off from Farnbrough airport, while Ray sorts out the tickets” – A friend of actor Ray Winstone says how to do the World Cup in style

“Can you have someone [David Beckham] in your team purely because of their set-pieces? I don’t think so” – BBC pundit Alan Hansen shows why he is not a manager

“It was an ugly performance but the victory was what we wanted and we’re happy to take ugly performances” – David Beckham forgets all that guff about the beautiful game

“No-one has nicer teeth than me, why would anyone have to laugh at my beautiful teeth” – Ronaldinho jaws on

Puns Of The Day

“Stutter in Stuttgart” (Mirror) – England labour to a 1-0 win

“Here we throw!” (Mirror, Star) – David Beckham vomits on the pitch after scoring

“The spewtiful game” (Mirror) – More on that Beckham sick

“Queasy does it” (Sun) – Beckham heaves again

“Becks gave all he’s gut” (Sun) – And again

“One-ill to England” (Star) – And again

“Beckham provides sickness benefit as England luck turns” – And again

“Roosons to be cheerful” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney doesn’t break his foot

“Ashknee Cole” (Sun) – England’s Ashley Cole prevents a certain Ecuador goal

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sporting Chances

Portsmouth plan to offer £12m to bring back Yakubu from Middlesbrough (Mirror)

Harry Redknapp also wants Celtic’s Stilian Petrov (Sun)

West Brom will pay £2m for Wigan’s Jason Roberts (Sun)

West Brom are all set to sign John Hartson (Mirror)

Fitz Hall has signed for Wigan (Mirror)

Middlesbrough want to take Sporting Lisbon’s Rudolphe Douala on loan (Star)

Liverpool are threatening to withdraw from the deal for Seville winger Dani Alves (Sun)

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


New Balls

“ENGLAND babes are rated the hottest on the planet.” So says the Star with understandable pride.

The paper has seen a survey by a company called Carma, and notes that the World Cup Wags have attracted more media coverage than any other nation’s Wags.

(Just yesterday, England’s decisive goal against Ecuador was marked by the BBC’s cameras honing in on Victoria Beckham hugging one of her sons.)

But the girls are under pressure. Their crown may slip from their hair extensions. Their fake orange tan may run. For they have competition.

Summer is here and leggy lovelies have begun to wander around Wimbledon in short tennis skirts.

The Star produces a photograph of Maria Sharapova. The paper says that Wimbledon spoilsports have ruled that girls competing in this year’s tournament must wear only white.

So here’ a shot of Maria in her pink baby doll-style tennis dress. There’s a peek at “Tasty” Tatiana Golovin’s black knickers and a look down Maria Kirienko’s beige top. “Volley gosh,” says the paper and we agree.

It’s much the same over in the Sun. In “You setsy thing”, readers hear that to go with the all-white dress code, players must not wear clothing “deemed too sexy or too low-cut”.

This is a “glaring fault”. Maria peers seductively over one of her golden shoulders and invites us to check the length of her skirt.

And there’s Daniela Hantuchova looking “ace”; Elena Dementieva bending over; and another shot of tennis “Smasher” Kirilenko.

It’s pretty clear the Wags have their work cut out. Look out for Posh and her tangerine team wearing tennis skirts. And grunting…

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


The Double Bluff

GIVEN that football is about getting the ball into the opposition’s net, reading on the Mail’s front page that England are “CONFUSED” is more than a little worrying.

Thus far things have been very straightforward for England. The team have stripped the game down to its barest of bones. England get the ball. They then get it as quickly as possible to a) Peter Crouch, who scores, or b) Wayne Rooney, who scores. The one piece of trickery is when England get the ball to c) an opponent, who forgets what he’s doing and scores in his own net.

But now the squad are getting confused because, as a source tells the paper, Sven Goran Eriksson intends to introduce Michael Carrick as a holding midfielder. If he does, then this will be the third different formation England have tried in four games.

And now the players are in a state of “REVOLT”. According to the People, “players fear Sven hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing.” A source looks at the latest formation and says: “It doesn’t make mush sense to the players.”

But the cunning things is this: if it doesn’t make sense to England – and remember that Frank Lampard has nine O-levels, including two As and an A-star – it makes even less sense to England’s opponents.

“Ecuador plans thrown into confusion as Eriksson springs midfield surprise,” says the Telegraph’s headline. And at once we see the genius of Sven’s plan. Just listen as Ecuador’s assistant coach Armando Osma fields a question about Michael Carrick. “We know very little, very little,” says he. “We just know that he is very quick and strong like all the English players, but that is all we know.”

Michael Carrick is not quick. Granted, he is quicker than most of the population, and would be expected to finish in the top half dozen in a race involving the country’s MPs, train drivers and supermarket checkout girls. But in the world of football, Carrick is not quick, much less “very quick”.

Osma is wrong. But he does know something. “What we do know,” says he, “is that England will play 4-1-4-1 and we therefore obviously have to look for a solution that will be a surprise to them.”

And at once Sven is the master tactician. Ecuador have been knocked out of their stride. They are now trying to second guess England.

And what if it’s all a bluff? Sven might just keep it at 4-4-2. Carrick might not play. The Ecuadorians will look foolish when they set out their stall to counter a 4-1-4-1.

Of course none of this really mattes. Don’t tell Ecuador, and whisper it to Sven, but whatever the formation, the England game plan remains simple: a) get it to Crouch; b) get it to Rooney; c) get them to score an own goal.

Genius.

Posted: 25th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Kissing Up

Winners

The German police have been a marvel. And now they have helped a young American fan find his hotel. After the Poland v Costa Rica match the American abroad wandered round Hanover for six hours. He eventually told police his problem and they spent an hour driving him through the city until he spotted his hotel.

Should they beat Ecuador, England could face all of the South American teams in the World Cup finals. Having seen of Paraguay, if they beat Ecuador and win any quarter-final against Portugal or Holland, England could face Brazil in the semis and Argentina in the final.

It’s been one long party for the Wags, the England players’ wives and girlfriends. On Friday night, they spent £5,000 during a seven-hour drinking session at Garibaldi’s bar in Baden Baden. The ladettes worked their way through 30 bottles of champagne mixed with strawberry syrup, 20 flaming sambucas, 12 Amarettos, 16 Double vodka Red Bulls, 6 double vodka and Cokes, 8 large white wine spritzers and a £3,000 dinner.

Should they beat England, Ecuador’s player will receive a herd of cattle each from their country’s president.

Togo players have finally got their money. Having threatened not to play unless their pay was sorted out, the lads have each pocketed about £50,000. Every player was given a suitcase with the cash inside.

Losers

The whole world is not watching the World Cup. In Bangladesh the games are hard to see. Football fans in that country formed a human chain round the government secretariat in downtown Dhaka demanding that the state-operated TV station shows more matches.

Oliver Bierhoff, who once led the line for Germany and is now on Jurgen Klinsmann’s management team, has complained that families of the players are not being good enough seats. But shouldn’t they be shopping?

Diego Maradona has fallen foul of royal protocol. He has kissed the lips of Maxima, the Argentina-born wife of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

Posted: 25th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Dropping Off

Quotes Of The Day

“We cannot tolerate a situation where an association participating in a World Cup causes a kerfuffle that they [Togo] have” – Fifa president Sepp Blatter displays good use of the word kerfuffle

“There were times when he even picked me when I wouldn’t have picked myself” – Joe Cole thanks Sven for picking players on past form

“My players always end up falling asleep” – Spain coach Luis Aragones explains why he has not show his team any videos of their opponents playing, especially England

“Here’s Kalac – a goalkeeper I know from old. He was the goalkeeper when I arrived at Leicester City. He’s now reserve goalkeeper at Milan and I would never have believed that to be perfectly honest” – Martin O’Neill on Australia’s butterfingered Zelijko Kalac

Puns Of The Day

“I’m Roo hot to handle” (News of the World) – Wayne Rooney is hotter than the weather

“Roo must be joking” (NOTW) – Wayne laughs

“Shin-ply the best” (Daily Star) – Joe Cole says his lucky shinpads are to thank for his goal against Sweden

“Joe’s Shin-credible” (NOTW) – More on Cole’s lucky kit

“Ice Cold Becks” (People) – England players will take half-time ice batch to keep cool

“Beware the flying Dutchmen” (Telegraph) – Holland look good

Posted: 25th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Duff Deals

Spurs are looking to sell Jermaine Defoe and sign Obafemi Martins (People)

West Ham are winning the race to sign Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (News of the World)

Spurs will bid £7m for Chelsea’s Damien Duff (Sunday Mirror)

Manchester City and Chelsea are both chasing Spanish international Fernando Torres (Sunday Mirror)

Newcastle are preparing to offer £12m for Charlton’s Darren Bent (News of the World)

Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt is wanted by Newcastle (Mirror)

Manchester City are to sign Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell (Star Sunday)

Liverpool and Chelsea are both interested Benfica’s Samao (Star Sunday)

Real Madrid will bid £13m for Chelsea’s Dutch winger Arjen Robben (Daily Star Sunday)

Portsmouth want Newcastle’s French defender Jean-Alain Boumsong (People)

Reading want Ghana defender John Mensah (Star Sunday)

Posted: 25th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sven’s Lucky Seven

“WAYNE’S ready. Are you?” Who needs the former twinkle-eyed BBC presenter Des Lynam to deliver inviting teasers onto the box when you can have headlines like that, and on the front page of the Times, no less?

Of course, Wayne Rooney is not ready. He is only half ready. England’s good parts and bad parts in their last two matches have coincided with Rooney’s arrival on the field against Trinidad & Tobago and his departure from it against Sweden.

As another headline in the Times says: “ON TO GLORY WITH ROONEY…OR OUT.”

Rooney’s role in the England set up is pretty clear. But for those of you who imagine the plan is more cunning than “Get it to Rooney”, the Express produces a graphic. It’s called “Letting England off the leash” and features all manner of arrows snaking from the feet of Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham and Joe Cole. That all these arrows should point toward Rooney illustrates the tyro’s importance to the team.

That none of the arrows emerge from the feet of England’s faltering back four and jittery goalkeeper is more wishful thinking than any attempt to make the game with Ecuador a five-a-side contest.

Not that England need even five players. All they need is Rooney and Beckham. In the Express, readers hear the England captain outline his plan for tomorrow’s big match. “The way to get the best out of me is to give me the ball,” says David. “If I get the ball and have got a yard of space I will deliver it to someone to score a goal.”

Of course, this is David being diplomatic. His “someone” is merely a more inclusive way of saying “Rooney”.

It’s a great plan. And while Becks wanders deeper and deeper into his own half to find that precious yard of space from which to deliver a big diagonal pass to Rooney, the Mirror says that it England will win the match. Indeed, England will win the World Cup.

Why? Because the number 7 says so, that’s why. “In “7 REASONS WHY WE’LL WIN THE WORLD CUP” the paper says: This is England’s 7th finals appearance since 1966; the words winners, England and captain all have 7 letters; England finished top of their group with 7 points; England have had 7 full-time managers who have not won the World Cup; Sven’s full name is Svennis, which has 7 letters; David Beckham wears the number 7.

Oh, and “the final’s on Sunday, the 7th day of the week, in July, the 7th month of the year.” Or not. Sunday is the first day of the week. England need to find another lucky number 7 lest the magic fail them.

Perhaps they should start the game with seven players. Sure, it is a lot more than the two players they need to win the match – Rooney and Beckham – but needs must.

And then we have it. The Mirror says the Wags (those footballers’ wives and girlfriends) have been on a “7-hour bender”. Hoorah! Who still says taking them to Germany was a waste of time?

Posted: 24th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Hitting The Bar

Winners

Flavio of Angola has won a special prize for scoring his country’s first ever goal in a World Cup finals. He is now the proud owner of a new house. The house is worth £100,000 and was donated oil tycoon Elias Chimuco. Which is nice.

Pub landlords in the UK expect to pour 32 million pints during the England v Ecuador match. Let’s hope England fans aren’t left crying into them.

Landlord James Banbury has turfed the inside of his pub, the Old Swan in Kibworth, Leicestershire, for the World Cup. “It took me a few hours to do, but the response I’ve had from the punters has been good,” says Banbury. “Everyone who has walked in and seen the grass has burst out laughing.” So keeping it watered.

Losers

The Ghanaian foreign minister has apologised to Arab ambassadors after his country’s footballer John Paintsil celebrated a gaol against the Czech Republic by pulling an Israeli flag from his sock. Paintsil plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel. Newspapers in Egypt called Paintsil a "Mossad agent", said he’d been paid to do it and branded him “ignorant and stupid”. Painstil says it was “a sign of appreciation to my God and fans in Israel”.

The Costa Ricans performed fairly well at the World Cup. Granted, they did not win a game. Sure, they did not win a point. But they were there. And they tried. But when they arrived back home the team were jeered. “Coffee pickers needed,” read a sign that greeting them at the airport. “The only requirement: lack of shame.”

Posted: 24th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Snapping Up Camera

Newcastle are interested in signing Wigan striker Henri Camera (Star)

Neil Lennon has agreed to remain at Celtic for another season (Mirror)

Ruud van Nistelrooy wants to meet Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to talk about his staying at Old Trafford (Sun)

Blackburn defender Lucas Neill is being looked at by Barcelona (Star)

West Brom have rejected Wigan’s £10m offer for Curtis Davies, Zoltan Gera and Nathan Ellington (Sun)

Fulham want Portsmouth defender Matthew Taylor (Express)

Posted: 24th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Talking Shop

Quotes Of The Day

“Although David Beckham is the skipper, he isn’t the most vocal player. That’s normally Gary Neville… But that lasts for no more than a couple of minutes. Then Sven steps in, tells everyone to it down and listen to what Steve McClaren has to say” – An England player (unnamed) tells us what life’s like at half-time in the dressing room and what Sven does for his money

“Rivals try to offend me due to my teeth, but it doesn’t bother me. It is not a problem, I’m a footballer not a model. For some people, these things are important, but I am more than my teeth” – Ronaldinho isn’t kidding

“If we pray to Almighty God, we will beat Brazil 2-0” – Ghana fan Joseph Chukwu fails to realise that unlike God, Brazil have Ronaldinho

“That Michael Beckham is one of the most overrated players I have ever seen” – An American summariser shows the big impact football has had on his people

“He’s gone from silver fox to golden retriever” – Daniel Galvin on Terry Venables’s barnet

Puns Of The Day

“Ghost busters – England must stop ex-Saint Delgado being latest premiership flop to come back and haunt us” (Mirror)

“I’ll Muller the scoring record (but I’d rather win the World Cup again)” (Mirror) – Ronaldo has equalled Germany Gerd Muller’s all-time record of 14 World Cup finals’ goals

“They think it’s Poll over” (Star) – England referee Graham Poll is finished at the World Cup

“Fool Poll’s coming home” (Sun)

“Four-midable” (Express) – A look at Argentina’s Saviola, Crepo, Messi and Tevez

“No more Bexcuses” (Sun) – David Beckham says the time is now

Posted: 24th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Poll Axed

Old Mr Anorak can remember a time when England regularly failed to qualify for international tournaments, and in the absence of a national team to support we had make our own entertainment. One of the most popular methods among the commentating community was to follow the progress of the English referee, who was always “in with a chance of being awarded the final”.

Last night, old Mr Anorak tuned in to watch Australia v Croatia, and was surprised to hear the commentator boast before the kick-off that match referee Graham Poll of England was indeed in with a shout of the final. He even suggested that Poll might be the only Englishman who actually wanted the national team to be knocked out, in order that he should be granted the honour of adjudicating in Berlin on the 9th of July.

Perhaps Poll overheard him. Perhaps, overcome with anger at having his patriotism impugned, he vowed to rule himself out of the running by turning in a performance that took the concept of the “English eccentric” to new heights. Whatever his motive, last night’s performance not only put paid to any fanciful notions of getting the final, but might well have achieved the rare feat of being kicked out of the tournament before his own national side.

The warning signs were there early on, when Poll failed to notice Croatian captain Josip Simunic dragging down Mark Viduka in the penalty area. At this point old Mr Anorak turned to his Australian wife, who was shearing a sheep by the fireside. “He’s is a lucky chap to get away with that one,” he remarked. “Should have been a yellow card and a penalty.”

Later, after Poll had awarded a penalty against Sjepan Tomas for handball, the same defender handled in the area again, but got away with it. “He’s another lucky one,” said old Mr Anorak, whose conversation tends to be rather limited these days.

Then Simunic finally got a yellow. “He’s a lucky chap,” said old Mr Anorak. “He should have had one before, and this one should be red.”

Then Simonic got another yellow. “He’s off!” cried old Mr Anorak. But Mr Poll had other ideas. He booked Simunic again but failed to spot that this was his second booking. Then Simunic got a third yellow. “He’s off!” cried Mr Anorak again, and this time he was right.

In the meantime, Poll had sent off two other players and awarded Australia an offside goal. When Australia scored a winner, Mrs Anorak hurled her sheep at the wall in delight. But no – Poll had blown for full-time, Clive Thomas-style, as the ball was crossing the line, and the goal was disallowed.

Old Mr Anorak recalls that Mr Poll recently appeared on Match of the Day 2 to comment on the “top five” worst refereeing decisions of all time, one of which was Clive Thomas’s infamous decision to blow for time as a Brazilian shot was headed goalwards. Poll declared he would never do such a thing, but he proved last night that anything is possible in the heat of the moment.

At full time, old Mr Anorak threw his plate of Chocolate Olivers in the air, clapped his hands and declared it the best entertainment since the Millwall riot at Luton in 1984.

The papers, however, are less amused. “POLL’S THREE CARD THICK,” scoffs the Sun. “He loses plot in World Cup farce.” The Times points out that Poll is facing “the humiliating prospect of being sent home from the World Cup for a second time”. This refers to Poll’s dismissal from the 2002 World Cup after just one match, during which he disallowed two perfectly good Italian goals. Their opponents that day happened to be Croatia, so maybe Poll was indulging in a bit of subconscious “evening up”.

The paper recalls that Poll tried to make light of the situation at the time, saying that he wouldn’t have been able to officiate beyond the last 16 because England had progressed to the quarter-finals. Let’s hope for his sake that they do so again, and his sacrifice is not in vain.

Meanwhile, the FA is already looking ahead to the post-Eriksson era, which could be upon us any time from Sunday onwards. The Mirror reports that Terry Venables will be back on board, as part of a “Three Lions Dream team”. No word yet from Keegan and Thomas, but fingers crossed…

Posted: 23rd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Ecua-War

Quotes Of The Day

“He became shorter whenever he tried to jump” – Peter Crouch’s former team-mate Alex Solderberg dissects the England forward’s style

We don’t fear anyone. Who’d have thought it two weeks ago?” – Franz Beckenbauer looks at a German team reborn

“Kasey is very intelligent. When he is not playing football he wears glasses” – An American commentator mistakes Casey Keller for Clark Kent

“Wayne Rooney is obviously a very good player, everyone knows that, and he is someone I love to play against. But the fact he is probably still not totally fit gives us a boost. Perhaps I can give him a bit of a kick to test it out, although I don’t want to end up with a red card. But I will certainly be doing my best to see whether he is 100% or not" – Ecuador’s Ulises De La Cruz prepares to scupper England’s plan A. B, C, etc.

“[I] am not married to David Beckham, even if you think I am. I’m not even engaged to him” – Sven Goran Eriksson confronts accusations that he will pick Beckham no matter how badly he plays

Puns Of The Day

“Kav-a-go hero guns for Sven” (Star) – Ecuador’s Ivan Kaviedes, who likes to pull on a Spiderman mask, says his team will win

“ROOyal Ascot” (Sun) – Racegoers cheer on Wayne Rooney

“We’re Ghana shock Brazil” (Mirror)

“Sven: I’m no Poshover” (Sun) – Sven says he is not afraid to drop Beckham

“Ess oh Ess” (Sun) Michael Essien is delighted by Ghana

“EN-GER-TANNED!” (Mirror) – Footballers’ partners fly three beauticians to Germany to give them fake tan

“Backlash” (Star) – Sven tells his defenders to shape up

Posted: 23rd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Klose Run Things

Anorak Gossip

Liverpool are in for Sevilla’s Brazilian Daniel Alves (Express)

Germany’s Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose’s is wanted by Manchester United (Mail)

Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann wants Arsene Wenger to take Klose to Arsenal (Mirror)

Blackburn want to sign ex-Tottenham and Egypt striker Mido (Mirror)

West Brom’s Zoltan Gera wants to quit the club (Mirror)

Spurs are all set to complete the £6m signing of Ivory Coast’s Didier Zokora (Sun)

Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt wants to leave Feyenoord after the World Cup (Independent)

Middlesbrough have offered to swap Franck Queudrue for Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (Sun)

Wigan are interested in signing Crystal Palace’s Fitz Hall (Telegraph)

Posted: 23rd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Going Ape

Winners

The scores so far – brought to you in conjunction with German tabloid Bild – now follow: Coleen McLoughlin is the top spending Wag (footballers’ wives and girlfriends) so far. She has spent £2,290 on: a Fendi handbag (£1,440), Gucci sunglasses (£154), a pair of Roberto Cavalli shorts (£300) and two Louboutin stilettos (£395). Wine and other alcoholic beverages are not included.

German striker Miroslav Klose has been getting in his eye for goal by hitting a ball at light switches in his home. Klose says the switches are quite big, but not big enough to stop him breaking a vase and a picture.

A priest in Oberhausen, Germany, has kitted out his church with goals and artificial turf. Father Bernd Walhard says the “worst thing that can happen is for a candle-holder to fall from the altar”. As the saying goes: “Jesus Saves! But Satan heads in the rebound.”

Losers

Baboons at Merseyside’s Knowsley Safari Park have been getting in the spirit of the World up by snapping England flags off cars driving through their compound. “This is hardly surprising,” says the park’s manager. “All the baboons were born on Merseyside so they are probably as football-mad as everyone else.” (Insert terribly unfair, cruel and misguided joke about them not being able to reach the tyres here.)

Nancy Dell’Olio has had to step in to stop the bitching among the Wags. She hosted a banquet at a mountain-top castle and told the girls: “Sven’s got the men fighting as one – we must do the same.” Of course, the men all have to wear the same thing – what happens when the girls see one new top that all want? It could be carnage.

Posted: 23rd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


A Dead End

Winners

Who says the Corinthian spirit is dead? Not Petr Cech, the Czech Republic’s very tall goalkeeper. He wants Fifa to rescind the yellow card dished out to Ghana’s Asamoah, who took a penalty without the referee’s permission. “He heard a fan blow a whistle behind the goal,” says Cech. “He is not guilty.”

Luiz Felipe Scolari, aka ‘Big Phil’, has achieved a new record of leading a team to ten successive wins as a coach at the World Cup.

The schoolchildren who missed out on watching Ghana play the Czech Republic in an alleged ticket scam have been given tickets. Thanks to Fifa, the pupils will now fly out to watch England play in the quarter-finals on July 1. Or Ecuador.

Losers

Two England fans parked their car in a Cologne street. Ever the Boy Scouts, they took care to write down the name of the street. Sadly, on their way back to the car they became lost. They asked the locals, who responded by laughing at them. How cruel they thought. No matter, the police would help them. So they asked them. And they too laughed. But why? As the police told them, “Einbahnstrasse” means one-way street in German.

According to the New York Times’s man in the know, Mogadishu is not the best place to watch the World Cup. As he writes: “A week ago, when Mexico and Iran were still playing the first half of their World Cup soccer match, gunmen allied with the Islamic courts burst into a tiny theatre in the Hiliwaa neighborhood of north Mogadishu, condemned the place as ungodly and angrily switched off the television set.” Coincidentally, Iran were losing at the time…

A boy of seven was attacked for wearing an England kit while playing football with his dad in a Scottish park. Hugo Clapshaw was playing in Edinburgh when a man in his twenties approached and punched him on the head. The loser then punched the boy’s father.

Posted: 22nd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


The President’s Man

Anorak Gossip

Real Madrid presidential candidate Juan Miguel Villar Mir says Arsene Wenger will join the Spanish giants after the World Cup (Mirror)

Arsenal want Argentina striker Javier Saviola (Mirror)

Barcelona will not try to sign Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (Sun)

Manchester United have offered £14.2m for Michael Carrick to (Sun)

Manchester United are looking to sign Villareal’s Marcos Senna (Times)

West Ham have signed Manchester United’s Jonathan Spector (Telegraph)

Bolton Wanderers have bid £1m for Argentine defender Leandro Gioda (Express)

France’s nippy Franck Ribery has turned down approaches from Arsenal and Manchester United (Guardian)

Fulham wasn’t to sign Lilian Thuram from Juventus (Mirror)

Portsmouth are to sign Steaua Bucharest’s Mirel Radoi (Sun)

Everton hope to build a 55,000-seater stadium in Kirby (Telegraph)

Posted: 22nd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sven The Pelvis

Quotes Of The Day

“He’s the same size as me” – Fifa president Sepp Blatter reveals why Wayne Rooney is one of his three favourite players at the World Cup

“If Brazil is the best team in the World Cup, then I’m Geri Halliwell” – Elton John

“There must be changes in personnel. We may be forced to act” – Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz mixes football and politics

“When Wenger told David Dein, the Highbury vice chairman reacted like a hyena and did not like it at all” – an “associate” of Villar Mir, campaigning to be the next president of Real Madrid, says Arsene Wenger is on his way to Spain

“That’s a good question. We talked about it. At half-time we talked about it again, saying ‘come on, come on, come on’ and so on” – Sven Goran Eriksson reveals the essence of his, er, motivational half-time pep talks, and Elvis Presley impersonation

“Everyone’s gutted he won’t play again in the World Cup" – England Paul Robinson gives the reaction to Michael Owen’s injury

Puns Of The Day

“Slack four” (Times) – The problems with England’s defence

“We’ll Cruz past Sven’s men” (Star) – Ecuador’s Aston Villa defender Ulises De la Cruz looks is undaunted by facing England

“I wanna Joe all the way” (Sun) – Joe Cole wants to win the World Cup. No, really, he does.

“He’s got the Cole world in his hands” (Mirror) – Joe Cole is just great

Posted: 22nd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Fair Play To Him

“THERE’S no awful pain, but you can feel the crunch.”

Right, hands up anyone who knows the source of that quote. Yes, you at the back in the bath chair… Oh, sorry, didn’t recognise you for a moment, sir. (Old Mr Anorak sometimes gets his nurse to wheel him into the news room for a surprise visit.) No, sir – good guess, though. (Old Mr Anorak thinks it’s taken from the fondly remembered advertisement for Super Wernets denture fixative – the one where the man in the pub says that he would love to have try a ploughman’s lunch, but can’t risk it because of his loose gnashers.)

Here’s a clue. He’s a famous footballer. One of the elite few known by a single name, like Pele and Maradona. That’s right, it’s “Michael”, the only Englishman ever to be afforded the one-word treatment by Alan Hansen and his fellow pundits.

The quote is used as the headline for The Times’ exclusive interview with the crocked England striker, who has returned to England holding a pair of crutches in each hand instead of a Golden Boot and a winners’ medal. As you would expect, he isn’t too happy about it. More surprisingly, he insists that his mood is not one of self-pity, but of guilt.

“I feel really guilty when I think of the people at Newcastle United. I think of the chairman, Freddie Shepherd, who has invested all that money, and Glenn Roeder, the manager, who has kept in touch through the tournament and been very supportive. And those great fans who have only seen me for 11 matches.”

But he’s philosophical, and reminds us that “worse things happen to people every day. When I told my daughter that Daddy had hurt his knee, she just asked me to put on Postman Pat.” You’re right, Michael, even worse things than that happen to parents every day – we suggest you avoid CBeebies during your recuperation. But we take your point: you are not going to sit around feeling sorry for yourself; you are going to sit around feeling sorry for the lads in Germany, as they stumble on without their top goalscorer.

Michael sums things up with admirable fortitude, referring to himself in the third person, as great players do, but using his full name, as befits the Paper of Record. “My World Cup is over,” he announces, “but there will be more big tournaments for Michael Owen.”

In the meantime, the people he thanked are responding in their own different ways. The Star reports that Newcastle United are getting ready to “sue FIFA for £25 million”. Glenn Roeder tells the Sun that people will now understand “why Sir Alex Ferguson was jumping up and down about the Wayne Rooney situation”, although he insists that “my first thoughts were for Michael”.

The players, on the other hand, are taking their lead from the Boys of ’70, who promised to “give all we’ve got to give for the folks back home” – especially folk on crutches. The question is how they are going to give all they’ve got to give.

There is a growing feeling that it would be better if David Beckham gave a bit less, as all he’s got to give is long balls into the box. “GERRO BECKS BUST-UP,” claims the Sun: “Stars in training clash over too many long balls. Apparently "Gerro” complained to Becks, who then “had a pop back and the pair had a frank exchange over tactics in front of the other squad members”. The paper reports that the coaching staff were “not overly concerned” – and why would they be, given that they are employed by Eriksson as part of his sinister plot to get England eliminated from the tournament?

Meanwhile, the defenders are taking a long hard look at themselves after the set-piece shambles against Sweden. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry hold their hands up in the Star, and Terry promises that “the manager will go through it with us”. That, of course, is exactly what we were afraid of.

“I am not worried about the goalscoring situation at all,” Sven tells the Star, which seems to confirm our fears. With the front-line and midfield now in chaos, he can now devote his energy to ruining the one part of the team that has – until Tuesday, at least – been working properly.

Michael Owen has vowed to be back in Germany on 9 July to collect his medal. Unfortunately, it looks likely to be another Fifa Fair Play gong to add to the collection.

Posted: 22nd, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment