Back pages | Anorak - Part 72

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

A Torres Time

Despite his injury, Marseille still want to sign Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse (Guardian)

Liverpool are willing to pay £6m for Blackburn striker Craig Bellamy (Mail)

West Ham are interested in Chelsea’s £2m-rated Carlton Cole (Mirror)

Manchester United will offer £25m bid for Spain’s striker Fernando Torres (Mirror)

Celtic will to sign Feyenoord teenage midfielder Evander Sno (Independent)

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Toilet Training


Danny from Amsterdam entered a competition to win tickets for the World Cup final. All he needed to do was stay awake longer than anyone else. And he did, going without sleep for three and a half days. All the more impressive when you realise that he watched all the live games – including England’s…

He shoots… Oh! He misses. Urinals in Baden Baden, where the England team are based, are equipped with green rubbers mats, goalposts and an orange ball dangling from the crossbar.

Ecuador’s Austin Delgado says the goal celebration that saw team-mate Ivan Kaleides pull on a yellow Spiderman-style mask is a tribute to former international Otilino Tenorio who died in a car crash last year.


France midfielder Florent Malouda said he had missed his side’s opening game against Switzerland because his piles were playing up.

Argentina’ diminutive winger Lionel Messi wears boots saluting Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal scored against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

England Have A Prayer

“THANK HEAVENS,” cries the Telegraph. “HEAVEN SENT,” opines The Times. Notice a theme emerging?

The latter paper’s Simon Barnes says that the chants of “Rooney! Rooney!” that filled the Frankenstadion during England’s increasingly desperate performance were emitted with “a force that was almost prayerful”. Amazingly, the prayers were answered: the Chunky One appeared. And suddenly everything changed.

“The bizarre thing about the whole business is that the hype is actually right,” says Barnes, “It really is all about one player. With Rooney back in the team, England are back with a chance.”

A chance, yes. But Rooney aside, there are still grave doubts as to England’s prospects. Even the Mirror’s aptly-named World Cup Mania supplement splashes the damning verdict of Trinidad & Tobago boss Leo Beenhakker “You’re impatient long-ball game merchants who will struggle against the top sides.”
Sour grapes? Maybe. Others share his view, though, and some of them are working as fifth-columnists among our boys in the media. “Witless England dig their way to victory,” sneers the Guardian, while the Mail offers the more balanced view that “Sven’s men have a stinker… but they’re in the next round.”

Still, never mind, Sven’s boys are through to the last 16, and it’s a time for looking forward, not backwards, as Tony Blair would say if his party’s publicity people had any knowledge of basic grammar. (And by the way, why is Blair keeping such a low profile in this year’s Eng-er-land circus?)

The Times is looking forward – rather presumptiously, some might say – all the way to Berlin. It has printed the “route to the final” depending on whether England qualify as group winners or runners-up. As winners, their likely opponents would be, in order: Ecuador, Portugal/Holland, Brazil, Argentina. As runners-up they would face Germany, Argentina, Italy/France, Brazil. Sounds easy put like that, doesn’t it?

Earlier in the week, we reported how Tim Henman described the World Cup as “a fun distraction for both the public and myself”. This of course depends on two factors: how long Tim survives at Wimbledon and how long England survive in Germany.

A clue to the football side of the equation might lie in the Star’s picture of Peter Crouch celebrating his goal. Crouch promised not to do his “robot dance” when he scores in the World Cup, and he was as good as his word yesterday. However, his new celebration is hardly an improvement. Indeed, having scrutinised the picture, we have come to the conclusion that he has pinched his new routine from Tiger Tim himself. It’s all there: the fists, the roar.

An omen, clearly, but what kind?

Posted: 16th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Weighty Issues


Holland coach Marco van Basten wants to repeat the performances that won the Dutch the 1988 European Championship. Back then, the Dutch team attended a Whitney Houston gig. If they reach the World Cup final, he has promised his players a night at a pop concert.

Germany are using a psychologist to help them prepare for games. Players are made to visualise reaching the final and winning the cup.

Greg Boyd has named his week-old son after England winger Aaron Lennon. “Lennon did us proud,” says Greg – “and at 52cm, he’s almost as tall as his namesake!”
Trade union Amicus has published advice to its members on how to skive off work to watch the World Cup. ‘World Cup Fever – Can You Play Away?’, a guide to bunking off work, is available on the union’s website.


A joke about Ronaldo’s weight is proving popular in Germany:
Ronaldo goes into a Burger King.
Ronaldo: “Two Whoppers please.”
Waiter: “You’re not fat and everyone loves you.”

Mauro Camoranesi, Italy’s Argentina-born midfielder, did not sing his country’s national anthem before their game with Ghana. He does not know the words.

While the England team in Nuremberg was kept awake by chants and shouts from their fans in the streets outside their hotel, Ukraine’s players are losing sleep over frogs. Defender Vladislav Vaschyuk says: “We will take fishing rods to hunt these frogs.” Let’s hope he and his team-mates have better luck catching them than they did chasing the Spanish attack.

Police in Dortmund say there were 429 arrests after the Germany v Poland match, including 119 from Poland and 278 Germans. Who were the other 32?

Posted: 16th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

For Whom The Chimes Chime

Chelsea’s troubled defender Glen Johnson is set to join Portsmouth on loan next season after rejecting a transfer to PSV Eindhoven (Express)

Paris St Germain are looking to sign Newcastle defender Jean-Alain Boumsong (Sun)

West Brom will sign Celtic’s John Hartson for £500,000 (Mirror)

Wolves and Birmingham are both chasing Spurs centre-back Calum Davenport (Star)

Bayern Munich say they will reject any attempt by Chelsea to sign defender Philipp Lahm (Telegraph)

Huddersfield will sign St Johnstone goalkeeper Matt Glennon (Star)

Posted: 16th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 16th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Toe To Toe

“JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG,” intones the Sun. What’s this? A sober recapitulation of Abby Mann’s indictment of Nazi atrocities?

No, something much more important. This is “OWEN ON TRIAL”, not Eichmann. But on trial for what? Match-fixing? Impersonating an off-duty police officer? Being a tiny bit dull in interviews? No, not that kind of trial. This “trial” is the match against Trinidad & Tobago, in which he has the opportunity to “prove why he is England’s No 1 striker”.

Shaun Custis reports that Eriksson has finally admitted why he took Michael Owen off during the Paraguay game – because the team were losing the ball too much. Custis reckons this is “the closest Eriksson has ever come to criticising Owen, 26 [love that 26, Shaun] – and it is clear the Newcastle striker’s position is under scrutiny.’”

Opinions differ as to whether Owen’s substitution was a “snub” or a pragmatic decision. Similarly, it is by no means clear whether Owen is “on trial” in Sven’s eyes or simply being protected until he is fully fit and in-form.

However, today’s match could be a “trial” for Owen in the other sense of the word, ie, an ordeal to be endured. “DIRTY SANCH,” the paper splutters. “Brent: I’ll give crock Owen a hard time.” The headline appears to allude to Dirty Sanchez, the home-grown version of Jackass, in which various Welsh nut-cases staple their scrotums to surf boards, squirt sulphuric acid up each other’s rectums, and generally torture and humiliate themselves for the amusement of a jaded public.

It further appears to suggest that Brent Sancho, the brickshithousesque Trinidad & Tobago defender whose name is the excuse for the tortuous headline, is planning to give the fun-size England striker a hard time. What kind of hard time? Well, Sancho has “promised that he will take no prisoners in Nuremberg tonight”, so presumably he doesn’t have plans for anything as dignified as a proper gallows. “I won’t be pussy-footing around,” he hints. “We are a tough band of players with a tough nose and we take that onto the pitch.”

Hmm. We at Anorak don’t like the sound of this. Especially that “tough nose” they intend to take on the pitch, which must surely be in breach of some FIFA directive or other. Sancho’s assurances that he is “hard but fair” don’t allay our fears either. On reflection, perhaps this isn’t the best game in which to be risk players recovering from foot injuries.

Which brings us to the other damaged foot. Eriksson’s announced yesterday that Wayne Rooney is fit, and that he has not had a falling-out with FA boss Brian Barwick over whether to play him. But the papers sense a smokescreen, and are urging Eriksson to stand up for himself. The FA problem with this is that if Eriksson goes against medical advice and plays Rooney too soon, there could be claims for compensation and a nasty situation with Manchester United to boot.

“It all points to Rooney,” announces the Mirror, but others are more circumspect, and they are probably right. Despite intense media pressure yesterday, Eriksson wisely declined to make his decision public, and this has allowed time for various medical experts to examine Rooney again.

Their decision, whichever way it goes, could save face for Sven while also getting the FA out of a tight spot. With the prospect of a tough physical game in very hot temperatures, it could be a blessing in disguise if Rooney’s return is delayed until next week. Then Olof Mellberg can stamp all over him without risking the FA’s cash.

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Fortune Hunting

Benfica’s Portugal midfielder Armando Petit says he has been contacted by Manchester United (Mail)

Eidur Gudjohnsen says he was told he “had to leave” Chelsea – he has moved to Barcelona for £10.5million (Sun)

Manchester City want Quinton Fortune on a two-year deal (Sun)

Leroy Rosenior is the new manager of Brentford (Sun)

Bob Murray has resigned as chairman of Sunderland (Sun)

Wigan are to offer Scotland international Lee McCulloch a new contract (Mirror)

Wigan will offer £4m for Newcastle winger James Milner (Times)

Niall Quinn’s consortium expect to know on Monday if their £80m takeover of Sunderland will go ahead (Express)

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Ministry Of Funny Walks

Quotes Of The Day

“As captain you have to notice things like that. I think I just said to Crouchie, ‘You don’t have to put your arms up to jump’ – because, at the end of the day, no one’s going to out-jump him” – David Beckham stops Peter Crouch getting a second yellow card against Paraguay.

“If we were to beat them, Trinidad & Tobago would be closed down for month – it would be a non-stop party” – T&T’s Carlos Edwards looks forward to playing England.

“England have had problems in the past winning major tournaments, which is a bit of a worry for them” – Arsenal and Germany’s Jens Lehmann examines the English mind.

“I think they should show more respect to our hosts but if they are sung in good humour we have to accept them and hopefully our German hosts can see the humour” – Assistant chief constable Stephen Thomas, in charge of the British police operation in Germany, hopes the Germans’ famous sense of humour will help them see the funny side England fans goose-stepping in Nuremberg.

“We’re here for a war. It’s do or die. We’re going to do whatever we can, whatever it takes” – USA’s Eddie Johnson keeps things in perspective

Puns Of The Day

“Roo as we say” (Star) – Sven is forced to seek medical clearance from the FA before picking Ronney

“I’ll crock ‘n roll Owen again” (Star) – T&T’s Brent Sancho vows to fight for his country

“Alonso targets Spanish reign” (Mail) – Spain’s Xabi Alonso scores in his sides 4-0 win over Ukraine

“Toebago” (Sun) – Rooney to play

“Use TNT on T&T” (Sun) – Rooney is ready to explode

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Shout Of Order


England fans are now able to turn off the commentary on the BBC by pressing the red button on their remote controls. Viewers can replace John Motson with Alan Green of BBC Radio Five Live. Or just turn all the voices off. Hurrah!

Trinidad & Tobago’s players are to receive a barrel of their local Angostura Rum each if they beat England. If successful, the team should not see the barrel as a challenge, but are allowed to dine out on it for years to come.

Dutch magazine Gay Krant has voted Cristiano Ronaldo “the most beautiful, the most attractive and the sexiest player” at the World Cup


Arsenal and Brazil’s Gilberto Silva was left stranded at the stadium after his team’s victory over Croatia when the team bus left without him.

England have been staying at Nuremberg’s Le Meridien Grand Hotel. It’s opposite the main railway station, by the bars, just up from a spot where fans congregate to watch matches on TVs. You can’t miss it. Players can hear chanting throughout the night as fans sing them a drunken lullaby.

Fans should not shout too loudly. Professor Carsten Stick, of the Institute for Climatological Medicine at Kiel University, warns fans that in yelling “you risk fainting when you breathe too quickly and too deeply”.

Saudi Arabia’s footballers are forbidden from accepting any man-of-the match award because the prize is sponsored by a beer company.

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

A Rallying Cry

“ONLY salutes in Nuremberg will be for new spirit of England fans.”

That’s the headline in the Mirror. And so it is we enter the city where, as Olive Holt (SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR AGAIN) says “200,000 brainwashed idolators” massed to cheer Hitler.

It’s place full of ghosts. And now it’s full of England fans. “So it is a measure of how low the reputation of England fans has sunk that their convergence on Nuremberg tomorrow should be anticipated with so much trepidation.”

Like you we are unsure what Holt means. Are we to believe that singing song about Ten German Bombers, wearing plastic Nazi helmets and even yelling a few sad chants about not surrendering to the IRA can instil a fear in the locals in excess of the horrors of Hitler and his Herrenvolk?

Sure, some disgusting England fans have been complicit in act of violence and even death, but the Germans and their partners killed 6 million Jews and 20 million Russians.

Holt, seemingly intoxicated by Nuremberg, goes on. “The fear is that something about this beautiful city’s place at the centre of Nazi folklore will stir the bestial instincts that many sceptics believe only lie temporarily dormant within many travelling fans.”

That’s right. It is the location that gets some England fans pissed and encourages them to start smashing the place up. If they can do it in Holland and France, imagine what will happen in darkest Germany. Go on. Imagine. Holt is.

But wait a moment. Our man with a pen has not yet finished writing his postcard home.

We hear the strains of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda. He’s in the forest about to be eaten by a bear. Take me home. His bunk mate has malaria. Take me home.

But wait a minute. The guys are organising a cricket match between England and a combined Trinidad & Tobago and German side. Call off the searching party. Teams of English football fans are kicking a ball for a mental health charity.

“From the ruins of the reputation that once damned England football fans, a new spirit is rising.”

Which is better. So kindly disregard Oliver’s letter…

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Owen’s Goal

“AT times in Frankfurt I felt proud to be English,” reflects Stephen Thomas, in conversation with the Mirror’s Oliver Holt (“SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR – AGAIN”).

Stephen Thomas is over in Germany with a bunch of mates whose idea of a good time is to visit another country, dress up in uniforms and tell people what to do. Thomas is Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and for the duration of the World Cup, his jurisdiction extends beyond Salford and Stockport and takes in whichever city the England fans happen to be occupying at the time.

The idea, of course, was to work with German police to control England supporters, but so far there has been little sign of trouble. Indeed, in a strange turn of events, it is the England fans that are being held up by the authorities as “role models” for other nations.

The Telegraph takes up the story, explaining that Fifa has noticed the increasing numbers of black and Asian fans following the England team, and has been working with the organisers of the Kick It Out campaign.

There could be another reason for the unthreatening nature of modern England fans. Most seem to be too busy booing Owen Hargreaves to worry about the opposition, and it has got to the stage where David Beckham feels obliged to comment about it during his press conferences (he’s against it, by the way).

Hargreaves himself has spoken to several papers, and the Star reports that the “boo-boys’ target” has pledged to “turn the jeers into cheers”. By retiring? No, by winning the World Cup, “I’m not there to spray balls with the outside of my boot and do step-overs,” he explains, for the benefit of anyone labouring under that particular misapprehension. So what is he there for? “I’m in there to win tackles, lay it off and make the game easier for the team.”

The Mirror’s headline sums up Hargreaves’ position: “I’d rather be a World Cup winner than Mr Popular.” The truth is, it’s not a case of one or the other, but of both or nothing. Help England win it, Owen, and you’ll soon be forgiven. If not, you’re in line to be the scapegoat for Eriksson’s shortcomings.

Yesterday’s matches included the unexpected sight of Ronaldo being taken off during the second half of Brazil’s opening match, Unexpected, that is, until he walked onto the pitch looking as though he was expecting to film a Carlsberg ad for the greatest pub team in the world.

During the pre-match team talk, captain Cafu had told his players that winning the World Cup was like walking up a set of stairs. At this point, the great Rotundo must have been feeling worried indeed. Fortunately, there were no stairs on the pitch, so he waddled about for 69 minutes until he was substituted.

“We have just walked up the first step,” continued Cafu after the match. “There are now six left.” Don’t expect to see Ronaldo again, unless he receives special dispensation to use a stair lift.

From now on, our thoughts will be on England’s own chunky striker, who is looking lively, but is also unlikely to play in the near future. “Team England” is apparently worried that their insurance might not cover Wayne Rooney in the event of an injury during the group matches, and the Daily Mail says that FA chief Brian Barwick is putting pressure on Sven to keep him out until the knock-out stages.

With Owen still no properly fit, and Owen Hargreaves cemented in the holding role, expect to see Michael Carrick to make his tournament debut – up front next to Peter Crouch.

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Eidur Gone Too

Manchester United are bidding £25m for Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres (Star)

Chelsea are interested in a £10m move for Bayern Munich’s left back Philipp Lahm (Mail)

Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips could be loaned out to Portsmouth (Sun)

Manchester United player Quinton Fortune’s move to Celtic could still be on (Record)

Liverpool are interested in signing Seville’s Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves (Times)

Chelsea’s Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen is all set to move to Barcelona for £8m (Sun)

Sheffield United are looking to take Nicky Butt from Newcastle (Mail)

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Rio Or Bust


Coleen McLoughlin’s brother has taught his pet parrot to squawk “Rooney…Goal!”

West Ham fan Gary Marling received a free ticket after his flag was mistaken for a Nazi symbol and seized.

According to the Co-ordination Fan Project, there are more England fans in Germany than 12 other countries combined. Aside from the Germans, the 100,000 England fans in Germany make them the biggest contingent, ahead of Poland (80,000) and Holland (65,000).

Because of soaring gold prices, the 11 lb World Cup trophy is worth twice as much as it was in 2003. It is valued at £57,000.


An Italian court prosecutor has called for Brazil’s captain, Cafu, to be jailed for alleged passport fraud. Now if we can get Ronaldinho jailed for crimes against dentistry, and Ronaldo for being overweight, England may have a better chance of winning.

Fifa officials are to warn Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe about his habit. Lavolpe was seen puffing away during his team’s victory over Iran and it will not do. “We looked at the tape and in fact we realised he did smoke,” says Fifa’s head of communications Markus Siegler. “An official letter will be sent to the Mexican federation underlining that neither the coaches nor anyone else on the sidelines is allowed to smoke.” What will happen if Lavolpe ignores the directive is not stated.

A bus driver in Bedford refused to allow a mother onboard because her son’s buggy was flying an England flag.

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Oz & Them

Quotes Of The Day

“The start of 32 years of bad luck, missed opportunities, and false dawns for a team and sport considered by many Australians as suitable only for Sheilas, **** and poofters” – The Sydney Morning Herald looks back to the last time the enlightened nation was at the World Cup.

“He has everything. The whole package. He has the figure, the look, the hair, everything. He is metrosexual” – Miss World Unnur Birna Vilhjalmsdottir eyes up David Beckham.

“Some people tend to have an opinion who don’t know me, they don’t see me week in and week out” – Owen Hargreaves hears the England fans boo him.

“We have a back four of players from Gillingham, Wrexham, New England Revolution and San Juan Jaboleth – heard of them?” – Trinidad & Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker asks the questions.

“I find it sad that one person drops to the level of criticising my family, but it is one sad person thinking what they can do to put me off my next game” – David Beckham responds to a German newspaper calling his sister Joanne a fat pig.

Puns Of The Day

“Kaka Cracker Starts Party” (Mail) – Brazil’s Kaka scores decisive goal in win over Croatia

“Boys from Brazil are Kaka hoop” (Star)

“Sven does a Roo turn”” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney will not play against Trinidad & Tobago

“Girls just want to have Sun” (Sun) – Footballers’ wives wear bikinis

“Thierry’s drought of order” (Star) – Thierry Henry fails to score as France draw 0-0 with Switzerland

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Football’s United Nations

Quotes Of The Day

“To get the goals is the icing on the cake. We look to moments like these from when we were kids dreaming of this situation” – Australia’s Tim Cahill lives the dream

“Roy’s obsession with winning and the demands he put on others made him the most influential player in the dressing room” – Alex Ferguson looks back on the career of newly retired Roy Keane

“It was not a fight, but a short, but hot, dispute between some players. Two of those players were Mellberg and Ljungberg. It was a typical dressing-room situation, nothing serious” – Sweden spokesman plays down reports of a fight between team-mates

“I wish we had more of that sort of competition in the family of nations. Countries vying for the best standing in the table of respect for human rights, and trying to outdo one another in child survival rates or enrolment in secondary education” – Kofi Annan, Secretary general of the United Nations envies the World Cup

“Look at her arms, look at her breasts, look at her bum, very British. She belongs on a beach in Majorca drinking sangria out of buckets and you can count on her to be the first one up on the table topless” – German newspaper Bild looks at David Beckham’s sister Joanne

“[Robben] needs to take his team-mates into account. Sometimes he makes choices that are good for himself but not the team” – Robin Van Persie brings harmony to the Dutch camp

Puns Of The Day

“Don’t do a Gazza Wazza” (Sun) Rooney must not self destruct

“Robo Stop” (Sun) – Peter Crouch says he won’t dance again until England win World Cup

“He’s up ‘n at Tim” (Sun) – Australia Tim Cahill wants more glory

“Pirlo Kings just 2 good” (Star) – Italy’s Andrea Pirlo scores one as Italy beat Ghana 2-0

Posted: 13th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Roy Of The Mackems

Manchester United have upped their offer to £15million for Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick (Telegraph)

Ruud van Nistelrooy has kissed and made up with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (Star)

Roy Keane might be the next Sunderland manager (Various)

Matt Jansen could be on his way to American side New York Red Bulls (Times)

Peter Taylor is Crystal Palace’s new manager (Various)

Graham Rix hopes to be the new manager at Wycombe Wanderers (Mirror)

Posted: 13th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Kiss Me Katty


Ecuador’s players enjoying their victory over Poland were delighted to get an unexpected surprise – a kiss from Miss Ecuador, the distinctly kissable Katty Lopez. She kissed each team member in turn.

So far players in England’s Premier League have scored more goals than players from other leagues. To date, seven of the 25 goals scored have come from players plying their trade in the Premiership.


Two England fans have been arrested outside Frankfurt’s World Cup stadium with SS insignia inked onto their bodies. The men, aged 21 and 24, are from Bolton. They are accused of displaying unconstitutional symbols. A total of 23 Britons were arrested over the weekend in Germany.

The BBC’s programme of broadcasting matches on big screens in London and Liverpool has been scrapped because of violence. When England played Paraguay, 16 fans were hurt in London and fans in Liverpool threw bottles and cans into the crowd.

Croatia’s Stjepan Tomas, who has won 48 caps and plays as a defender for Galatasaray, has been photographed preparing for his team’s match against Brazil by drinking beer in Bad Brückenau, near Frankfurt.

Posted: 13th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Crunch Time For Crouch & Co

“GROUP B CRUNCH – 2 DAYS TO GO,” announces the Sun, in an attempt to generate some much-needed breakfast table excitement. But the truth is that with two matches still to play, England’s match against Trinidad and Tobago has about as much crunch as a bowl of soggy Rice Krispies. Or Coco Pops, if you prefer.

As a consequence, the England ‘news’ is rather insipid. “Crouch: I will not dance again until we win the World Cup” appears to suggest that England’s beanpole has officially decided to stop scoring until he is bestriding a stage that is commensurate with his status. Closer examination reveals that he simply intends to drop his robot dance in favour of a more dignified goal celebration ritual.

What Peter Crouch does depends a lot upon Wayne Rooney, and the Mirror echoes the feelings of the Anorak sports desk as we watch the pugnacious talisman fling himself around the training ground, clattering into all and sundry. “Calm down Roo!” the paper cries, amid fears that the lad’s Gazza-style exuberance could end in Gazza style-tears.

Elsewhere, there is further discussion of England’s tactics, with several papers reporting that Newcastle United officials are unhappy about Eriksson’s long-ball game, which they feel is doing Michael Owen no favours.

The Guardian seems happy enough, though, and they have even printed a colourful diagram showing exactly how far Paul Robinson managed to launch the new FIFA beach ball during the victory over Paraguay. Robinson’s prowess means that the team now has three players capable of spraying fifty-yard passes all over the pitch. What’s required now is someone who can pass it accurately and lethally over ten yards – preferably into the path of an England striker.

In an attempt to spice up Thursday’s game, the Mirror has helped generate a “war of words” by making space for T&T coach Leo Beenhakker’s remarks about the England team. Mr Beenhakker compares them to Real Madrid’s “Galacticos” – that is to say, a bunch of pampered underachievers who are there to make money and generate publicity rather than win trophies.

Of course, his actual words are a bit more diplomatic, and he acknowledges that England have “great players” and a “great coach” – something which many England fans would regard as a rather premature judgement, given that none of them has yet to reach the semi-final of an international tournament.

If this counts as a war of words, and Thursday’s game is a crunch, then perhaps England have less to fear in than we had thought.

With no England action, the Times attempts to cash in on the exploits of other countries in order to extol the virtues of Sky’s major asset. “PREMIER PUNCH” declares its football supplement, reporting how Australia’s Tim Cahill “leads English clubs’ goal rush”. And to Cahill’s name must be added that of Arsenal’s new signing Tomas Rosicky, whose two superb goals for the Czech Republic would have been part of a fantastic hat-trick, had another terrific shot not crashed against the bar.

All in all, it’s shaping into a pretty good tournament, and with Rooney on the way back, even England have cause for optimism. Should it all go horribly wrong, though, another hero waits in the wings.

Alan Ball recently compared the scenes at England’s opening game to Henman Hill. And there on page 57 of the Mirror is the great man himself, insisting that he likes to play during the World Cup because it’s “a fun distraction for both the public and myself”.

So come on England, do your bit and keep us distracted for another month. Or at least as long as Tim’s knocked out…

Posted: 13th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

An Enigma Wrapped In A Mystery Wrapped In A Swede

“ENGLAND players perplexed by Eriksson’s substitutions,” announces the Guardian’s sport supplement, explaining that “England’s senior players” are beginning to express doubts about the enigmatic Swede’s bizarre tactics and selections.

So who are these senior players? Only one of them is actually named, but he’s a real heavyweight. It’s Sir Bobby Robson – the kind of senior player whose opinions are based on a wealth of international experience. Admittedly, his last game for the national side was in May 1962.

But he certainly knows what he’s talking about, even if his somewhat opaque verbalisations tend to hide his meaning from others.

Unfortunately for Eriksson, Sir Bobby has chosen this particular occasion to be uncharacteristically clear and concise. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says simply, when asked about Sven’s idiosyncratic use of Stewart Downing and Joe Cole during the second half of England’s opening match.

And as if Sven’s antics on Saturday weren’t strange enough, there’s the baffling decision to send back Jermain Defoe.

The Telegraph reports that Defoe “was understood to have been sensational in his final training session before flying home”, and the Spurs striker has been expressing his disappointment and disbelief to anyone who’ll listen, including the News of the World.

Defoe’s departure leaves Eriksson with four forwards: Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, Theo Walcott and You-Know-Who. Peter Crouch is doing well, but needs a suitable partner in order to be effective. Michael Owen is clearly unfit and out of sorts. Theo Walcott has never played in a full international or even a Premiership match, and Eriksson says he “needs more time, more training” before he is ready to play in the World Cup. All things considered, it is looking increasingly likely that Wayne Rooney will make his return sooner rather than later.

The imminent return of the saviour has sent the hacks into frenzy, and some are even suggesting that he could play in Thursday’s game against Trinidad and Tobago.

Rooney himself is said to be desperate to get stuck in, although we are told that he’s not taking any chances. That would be sweet music for Alex Ferguson’s ears, were it not for the fact that Rooney’s idea of not taking chances seems to involve hurling himself into tackles with no regard for his own safety or anybody else’s.

One way in which he does appear to be taking no chances is by ensuring that Theo Walcott has no chance of keeping him out of the side. The Sun reports that young Walcott was “clattered” by “wild Roon” during training – an incident observed by Lee Sharpe, who confirmed that Rooney “didn’t seem to be holding back” and “smashed Theo from behind”.

The Mirror confirms the story, with pictures of Walcott limping around with his leg bandaged while his girlfriend, for reasons best known to herself, is grinning from ear to ear.

Rooney’s return is a genuine cause for rejoicing, but as he puts himself about like a hyperactive kick-boxer, he should remember that those who live by the sword often die by it too.

The nightmare scenario is that Rooney returns to a hero’s welcome, only to be crocked once more.

Sir Bobby Robson is certainly worried about this, and has been confiding his fears to the good people of Radio Five Live. According to the Telegraph, he told the station that “you can’t say that an opposition centre-half is not going to think about the opportunity of standing on Rooney’s bad foot”.

Well, it is possible to not say it, Sir Bobby. But given that you decided to say it on national radio, we’ll just have to hope that no opposition centre-halves were listening.

As they used to say in your day: careless talk costs toes…

Posted: 12th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Now You’re Ghana Believe Us


In anticipation of the arrival of England’s footballers’ wives and lovers, the Gucci and Hermes shops close to the team’s hotel have ordered in an extra £200,000 of clothes.

The World Development Movement, part of the Make Poverty History campaign, has ranked teams for national ethics and “global citizenships”. Top of the league are Ghana, followed by Sweden and Tunisia. Bottom of the list are the USA, Saudi Arabia and Australia.


Accountancy firm Grant Thornton calculate that absenteeism and staff being distracted by the games could cost business up to £1.26 billion.

Brazil and Italy should note that no team with an average age of more than 28 has won any of the past 10 World Cups. Both Brazil and Italy have teams older than that, and Trinidad and Tobago are the oldest squad with an average of 29.5. England’s average age is 25.5.

Loser: Serbia and Montenegro’s Ognjen Koroman, who received a yellow card for waving an imaginary card at the referee in his team’s match with Holland.

An administrative error meant FA chairman Geoff Thompson was asked by FIFA to board the Paraguay team bus for the journey back to his hotel in Frankfurt. He declined the offer and waited for a car.

Posted: 12th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Shooting From The Lip

Quotes Of The Day

“Because I can” – USA goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann explains why when at home in Seattle he carries a handgun

“If we had attacked them from the start, we could have scored. We also might have lost by several goals but at least it wouldn’t have been in such a cowardly fashion” – Serbia & Montenegro’s Ognjen Koroman reviews his team’s defeat to the Dutch

“We’re very competitive people. We like to win and we will never pull out of a tackle. But it doesn’t mean that we go out to hurt people” – Australia coach Guus Hiddink confronts accusations that his side are dirty

“I couldn’t believe it” – Bobby Robson wonders why Michael Owen was taken off in England’s opening match

“I’ve been coach for 3½ years, we’ve played around 50 matches and I can’t believe people are judging me by what happened in one 40-minute training session” – Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira responds to his side’s defeat to Brazil’s reserve team

Puns Of The Day

“RAIN ROONEY” (Sun) – “Sven boosted by return of Wayne and wet forecast”

“HOLDEN BALLS” (Sun) – Rio Ferdinand says England must retain possession better

“This benchmark is sub-standard” (Mail) – A look at the England substitutes

“THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVEN” (Star) – It’s hot in Germany

“Omars’s a Bravo two hero” (Star) – Mexico’s Omar Bravo scores two in his side’s 3-1 over Iran

Posted: 12th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Chasing Shadows

Manchester United have made offers totalling £45million for midfielders Michael Carrick, Aldo Duscher and Mahamadou Diarra (Star)

Birmingham will complete the signing of Tottenham defender Stephen Kelly (Sun)

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp is interesting in signing former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka (Telegraph)

Porto want to swap Benni McCarthy for Everton winger Andy van der Meyde (Independent)

Robert Huth is moving from Chelsea to Middlesbrough (Guardian)

FIFA have ordered that all future day games at the Waldstadion should be played with the roof closed. The shadows made by the rods holding the massive TV in place made watching England’s opening game yet more difficult

Posted: 12th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Rives To Cross

World Cup Winners

A gambler has wagered his life savings – £27,000 – on Brazil winning the World Cup. The man says he has placed the bet to stop his wife getting her hands on the cash in a divorce settlement. At odds of 5/2 he stands to win £94,000.

World Cup Losers

German police are trying to track down the owner of 800 World Cup tickets found in a sealed palstic bag on a street. The tickets are worth £78,000.

The Britsh emabssy in Berlin is refusing to allow the English flag to flutter from its roof. The ambassador says he will only display the Union flag. “It’s political correctness gone mad,” says Tory MP Philip Davies.

Elen Rives, girlfriend to England’s Frank Lampard, was not allowed to take her considerable kit on board a flight to Germany as hand luggage. Reports say a discussion with British airways staff grew heated until she was “barred” from her intended flight.

Posted: 11th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Turf Luck

After their scrappy win over Paraguay, England will use Wayne Rooney for their next match against Trinidad & Tobago

England defender John Terry says blisters and the wrong kind of turf were to blame for the team’s performance against Paraguay

Spurs have told Manchester United they want £20m for midfielder Michael Carrick (News Of The World)

Ruud Gullit is in line to take over the vacant manager’s post at Crystal Palace (People)

Liverpool are interested in signing Real Zaragoza midfielder Alberto Zapate (NOTW)

Portsmouth have given Harry Redknapp the go ahead to make a £12million offer for Jermain Defoe (Sunday Mirror)

Reading are to offer £2m for Manchester City keeper David James (People)

Posted: 11th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment