Back pages | Anorak - Part 79

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


‘HERE’S another story about the Football Association to make you wonder what it is they do at headquarters all day.

Mutu faces a stiff sentence

The Express says that David Beckham will not be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, being a yob or whatever his crime was in deliberately fouling Wales’ Ben Thatcher, because – get this – there is insufficient evidence to charge him.

Given that, as the Sun says, Beckham admitted targeting the Welsh defender to earn himself a yellow card and was seen enacting the foul by millions on TV, this is odd.

Perhaps if Becks were to text message his confession to the limp-wrists at Soho Square, they’d take matters more seriously.

Or, perhaps, he could tell all to one of the FA’s secretaries, who could then pass it on to the highest bidder?

This might not be as bad as “Anarchy At The FA”, as the Mail screams from its back page, but when the player himself says he is “pleasantly surprised” to have got off scot-free, something seems to have gone awry.

Meanwhile, the Adrian Mutu case rumbles on. In the Sun, the Romanian now says that he did not take cocaine and will soon tell all.

The Mirror gives its readers a clue as to the nature of the banned substance he tested positive for, using its back page to say how Mutu took drugs to boost his sex life.

“I am not hooked on drugs,” says Mutu. “The only reason I took what I took was that I wanted to improve my sexual performance. It may be funny but it is true.”

He’s right – it is funny. And pathetic. But what is less amusing is the Sun’s news that the test that snared Mutu was not so random.

The story goes that it was requested by Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manger, who had already exchanged words with Mutu, and may have been out for some kind of revenge.

Mutu even admits that during one heated debate, he almost hit the Portuguese manager.

And on the subject of violence in football, the Sun hypes up Sunday’s game between Arsenal and Manchester United a notch by hearting from United’s Gabriel Heinz.

In “IT’S GUNNER GET UGLY”, the defender says he and his team-mates are ready to scrap and claw their way to victory.

“We’ll do everything we can to stop them,” says he. “We want to win whatever the cost.”

Which sounds very much like the Red Devils may have finally learnt something from last season’s encounter after all…’

Posted: 22nd, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Gifts For The Greeks

‘WHILE Chelsea march on in Europe – they’ve now won three games on the trot in their Champions’ League campaign – Arsenal continue to misfire.

Jens Lehmann couldn’t even catch a cold

While the “Blues Cruise” in the Mail with a customarily prosaic and battling 2-0 win over CSKA Moscow, the Sun focuses on Arsenal’s 2-2 draw in Greece.

True enough, Greek football is none too shabby and Panathinaikos are not a bad outfit, but this was a game the Gunners should have won.

In “WHAT A GOON”, the Sun attributes both of the Greeks’ goals to Jens Lehmann, the Arsenal goalkeeper.

He managed to make a complete hash of a clearance to gift the Greeks their first equaliser and then get nowhere near a cross for their second.

“I don’t want to criticise him,” says Arsene Wenger. “Of course, it’s important for a keeper to make correct decisions but I’ll sit down with him and ask him about tonight.”

And after that chat, Wenger will be hoping that Lehmann will have cleared his head ahead of his team’s next game against Manchester United.

Meanwhile, Tony Cascarino is writing in the Times about Adrian Mutu.

Having read that the disgraced Romanian striker wanted to meet his idol Diego Maradona, and tried to visit him in Cuba, only to be prevented from doing so by his agent, Cascarino laments a missed opportunity.

“He should have let Mutu go,” he writes. “Seeing up close how cocaine has ravaged his hero would be the best deterrent possible.”

Indeed, posting a picture of a fat, bloated Maradona in every changing room, alongside another of a paunchy Mark Bosnich, may work where more expensive anti-doping campaigns have failed.

The FA could also print other posters, these ones of the idiotic Rio Ferdinand returning from a late night out on the town.

Having been excused from attending United’s trip to Sparta Prague earlier in the week to attend his grandmother’s funeral, the tainted defender was seen the same night by the Mail returning from a jolly in London’s West End.

We already know about his short-term memory loss – which has nothing whatsoever to do with drugs.

It’s just a shame his mental state has affected his ability to learn from past errors…’

Posted: 21st, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Taking The Michael

‘MICHAEL Owen last night did his utmost to prove that scoring a goal is better than text sex – and maybe even cocaine – as he struck in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Dinamo Kiev.

”Can I have a piggy back? Can I?”

The look on Owen’s face is positively orgasmic as he wheels away after his debut strike provided what the Times calls the “perfect answer to media criticism in Spain”.

Well done to him.

But not so well done to his England colleague Wayne Rooney, who, like the rest of his Manchester United team-mates, failed to find the net in their 0-0 draw with Sparta Prague.

Going into Sunday’s much-hyped Premiership match with Arsenal, the Sun says that United have a “big problem” – the club’s lack of goals.

United have scored just once in the past three matches – something of a worry given their multi-million pound strike force.

How Fergie must be wondering about ways to beat free-scoring Arsenal!

Perhaps, given his hyperbolic rant after the teams met in the corresponding fixture last season, Fergie may expect Arsenal to be forbidden from ever playing at Old Trafford again.

Indeed, given his stirring of emotions before the kick-off, Fergie may well want the Gunners kicked out of the Premier League and football. Or shot.

Yes, that’s the thinking of Arsene Wenger, who uses the back page of the Express to tell Fergie to “Keep Your Cool, Alex”.

Had he only used those exact words, chances are that Fergie would be even more purple than usual.

But what Wenger actually said was: “What did Ferguson want? For us to be lined up against a wall and shot?”

Er, yes, most likely.

But not shot by Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha or Alan Smith, who all would blaze their bullets high and handsome over Patrick Vieira’s head.

In any case, if anyone is in line to be offed, it’s surely Craig Bellamy, a player who seems to be on a mission to destroy a career that was once about more than his ugly belligerence and reputation as an unlovely little scrote.

The Sun’s backpage “SCRAP” tells the story of how Graeme Souness and Bellamy had a “sensational four-letter scrap” that left team-mates at Newcastle “stunned”.

Having got involved in a similar spat with Dwight Yorke while he was at Blackburn Rovers, Souness has now become embroiled in a row with Bellamy, with the pair having to be “pulled apart” lest they rip each other in two.

Or else grapple and roll around in the mud like a couple of lovesick teenagers…’

Posted: 20th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Mistaken Identity

‘IS it merely coincidence that on the day the Sun hears Alex Ferguson admit to having made mistakes in his tenure at Manchester United, the Telegraph says Malcolm Glazer is edging closer to control of the club?

‘Regrets, I have a few…’

With the season not going to plan and the club’s ownership in the balance, might it be that Fergie is reappraising his own position at the club?

Fergie is not usually one for self-criticism, but here he is the Sun telling all and sundry that he’s been picking the wrong teams.

Since his job is to pick the right ones, the simple deduction is that he’s been failing in his role. And when United’s manager fails, United’s manager soon goes.

Indeed, such are the boardroom machinations at Old Trafford and Fergie’s undoubted abilities, it might be soon time for him to say goodbye to the club he has led with so much skill.

But it’s all conjecture, and no sooner has Fergie shown contrition than he’s banging on in the Mirror about his favourite bugbear: Arsenal.

“You never know what impact a defeat against us would have on Arsenal,” says Fergie, a thought based more on hope than genuine promise.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re a match for them. None at all.”

Of course, he has first to pick the right team…

And after Fergie’s admittance of wrongdoing, the Mirror hears Chelsea’s Adrian Mutu confess to having taken cocaine.

In a letter delivered to the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Romanian striker writers: “I made a mistake, for which I apologise.”

That may secure him a reduced sentence – especially if he can argue that as a highly-paid sportsman in London he’s a victim of some sort.

It’s a move that may reap some rewards, given that PFA chairman Gordon Taylor says it’s “inevitable” players will come into contact with drugs.

“The fact is Chelsea is in London,” says Taylor rightly. “And London is a big city [right again] where players – and probably anyone with a high disposable income – will come into contact with drugs.”

Although he goes onto say that drug-taking is wrong and “it’s down to the individual”, the inference is that drugs go hand in hand with wealth.

As anyone who has seen a poor man scratch around for money for a fix knows, this is bunkum, utter nonsense.’

Posted: 19th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Crossing The Line

‘THOSE blessed with a working knowledge of the Chelsea squad may recall the name Adrian Mutu.

Who feels a right Charlie?

You may also recall the names Scott Parker, Glen Johnson and Carlo Cudicini, but them for another time.

For today the papers shine a light on the Romanian striker, who when he arrived at Stamford Bridge for the better part of £16m 14 months ago, looked a more than decent player.

But then, as the Sun’s front and back pages explain, he discovered – as many at the Blues have – that he could earn his money just by breathing.

So he became a playboy instead of player, as the paper sees it, and partook of some cocaine.

Now, if he tests positive on a second sample for the drug, he faces a two-year ban from the game and the prospect of being sacked by Chelsea.

If found guilty, the Mail says that the Blues will write off the fee they paid for the player, who will lose more than £10m from the remaining three years on his generous contact.

But while football looks on, Chelsea may not even notice Mutu’s passing and, given past form, will already be lining up his multi-million pound replacement.

And the club might contact Craig Bellamy, who, judging by the Mirror’s back-page news, could soon be on his way out of Newcastle.

In the course of being substituted in his club’s 1-1 draw with Charlton yesterday, the foul-mouthed, odious, uni-toothed dick was seen to mouth the words: “What me? You f***ing p**ck!”

Everyday words on the field of play maybe, but not the kind of thing Newcastle manager Graeme Souness likes to be called on live TV.

But while Bellamy goes on the record, the Times watches Jamie Burnett set a new record.

The snooker professional who has yet to pass the quarter-finals of a major tournament, has just achieved the notable score of a 148 break.

During the qualifying rounds of the Travis Perkins United Kingdom Championship at Pontin’s Prestatyn, Wales, the Scot saw his chance.

When his opponent, Leo Fernandez, missed all 15 reds and left a free ball, Burnett was on for a massive score.

And he duly took it the opening, making the highest break in professional or amateur competition.

And thus transforming himself into a trivia question to be posed in pubs and clubs the length and breadth of the land…’

Posted: 18th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Glazed Over

‘IT is hard for anyone who is not a Manchester United fan to feel even the slightest twinge of joy at news that the club have seen off the takeover bid from American Malcolm Glazer.

‘Foul, ref! Book him!’

The game itself has long since become a mere distraction for the world’s biggest football club as it goes about its primary purpose – making money.

And that is just as well because United have hardly been setting the world alight with their performances on the pitch in recent months.

So much so that the Sun’s back-page headline screams: “Fergie’s History.”

Further investigation reveals not that the Old Trafford boss is facing the axe, but that Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger believes the current side are maybe not as good as their predecessors.

Hardly incendiary stuff – in fact, an observation with which Sir Alex would probably agree.

But anything that keeps the interminable row over David Beckham’s deliberate yellow card out of the papers is good news as far as we’re concerned.

The latest, for anyone who is still awake to this saga, is that the FA could well take action against the England captain.

The Mail says Sven Goran Eriksson’s attempts to draw a line under the whole affair have come to nought and Beckham may now face some sort of punishment.

However, Beckham would do well to listen to his manager’s advice, as conveyed via the Independent.

“I think on this occasion that David should think next time that talking is silver, being quiet is golden.”

If Eriksson must wonder sometimes what he took on when he agreed to become England boss, it’s nothing compared with Berti Vogts’ trauma.

The German has been roundly criticised for his record as Scotland boss and is next week likely to be relieved of his job.

The Daily Record has been particularly vociferous in its campaign against Vogts, its back page yesterday inviting him to “gae tae f***”.

But it is worth reminding ourselves that Scotland were in freefall before Vogts took over.

If he has made a pig’s ear of things, it’s only because he started off with a sow’s ear – and we all know that they are not easily made into silk purses.’

Posted: 15th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Blowing Hot And Cold

‘“THE answer for Sven is Owen in the wind.”

An Owen goal

How the Mirror hacks must have chortled over their back-page headline celebrating the stand-in England captain’s goal that earned a 1-0 victory in a stormy Azerbaijan!

It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than the Sun’s abysmal “Colden Balls” – a reference to the man who can’t stop hogging the news even when he’s not playing.

The Express might moan about the manner of England’s 1-0 victory in Baku, but anything that keeps David Beckham out of the papers has got to be a good thing.

However, Beckham’s shadow – in the form of an apology for getting himself deliberately booked in the match against Wales – still looms large over the game.

The Express and Mail both refer to it in their headlines, while the Sun reports that Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is demanding an FA investigation into the whole incident.

Are we at Anorak the only ones who are fed-up with this display of self-righteousness by the likes of Blatter and certain elements of the Press?

Beckham’s only crime was being stupid enough to think that he would receive anything but abuse if he revealed that the foul on Ben Thatcher was deliberate.

If he wanted it known that this wasn’t an act of petulance but of professionalism, then he should have leaked that to the papers without attribution.

He could have them denied it in public in a tone of mock outrage, thereby confirming his “guilt” to all but the game’s authorities.

Whichever way you look at it, though, this is a fabricated row that has long since passed its ‘best before’ date. Enough, people. It’s boring.

To the game itself and the Guardian reminds its readers that England’s football “could only be as neat as unpredictable conditions and frozen feet permitted”.

The game was won by a first-half Michael Owen header, but even that, he said, “bent in the wind”.

With Poland scoring three times to ruin Mark Hughes’s last match as Wales manager, England will just be happy with the three points.’

Posted: 14th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Brought To Book

‘“I AM sure some people think I have not got the brains to be that clever, but I do have the brains.”

‘Brain, brain. I know it’s down here somewhere’

David Beckham may have been clever enough to deliberately get a yellow card during last Saturday’s game against Wales, but he wasn’t smart enough to keep his gob shut.

And thanks to his boasting the England captain is now in trouble, with the world of football lining up to have a crack this morning.

The Sun leads with the view of Sir Geoff Hurst that Becks has brought shame on the country with his deliberate foul on Welsh full-back Ben Thatcher.

The Star and the Mirror give a platform to Fifa boss Sepp Blatter, who says the Real Madrid midfielder has brought the game into disrepute with his actions.

And the Mail leads with the views of both Hurst and Blatter to the effect that Beckham isn’t fit to lead England.

All this because Beckham couldn’t resist trying to show off how bright he was.

As Lee Dixon said yesterday, players have always gone out to get themselves booked so they can serve their suspension against weaker teams.

It’s just that not only were most more subtle than the England skipper, preferring to throw the ball away or argue with the ref rather than assault an opponent, they didn’t advertise it.

Whether Beckham is fit to lead or not, he wouldn’t be fit to play in this evening’s match against Azerbaijan even if he wasn’t serving a ban.

But while everyone confidently expects Shaun Wright-Phillips to step into his shoes after his excellent debut against the Ukraine, the Mail has other ideas.

It says Newcastle’s Jermaine Jenas is the man in the frame – a selection that would make more sense if Sven Goran Eriksson plans to continue with his three up front experiment.

It is a view shared by the Times, which nevertheless reminds us that all of Jenas’s seven caps have come as a substitute and none of them have been in a competitive game.

However, the Indy thinks the Swede will revert to a 4-4-2 formation, with Jermain Defoe being relegated to the bench and Owen Hargreaves coming in to central midfield.

All of which shows one thing – you wouldn’t want to play poker against Eriksson.’

Posted: 13th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Beckham’s Brain

‘“I AM sure some people think I have not got the brains to be that clever,” says David Beckham in the Sun, “but I do have the brains.”

‘Hooray! Another million in my bank account!’

Whatever can the England captain be talking about? Hs he solved a really hard sum? Or worked out the meaning of Dannielle Heath’s coded text message (see tabs)?

The truth is revealed earlier on in the piece when Becks says that his foul on Wales’ Ben Thatcher was a deliberate attempt to earn himself a yellow card.

Already on one yellow from an earlier game, Becks knew that another would see him suspended from the next game – and, since he knew his injury would prevent his playing in that encounter anyhow, he used his massive intellect to launch himself at his opponent.

While we boggle at the genius of the Beckham thought process – that involved him trying to injure an opponent and, possibly, further injure himself – the Times brings news of the bid for control of Manchester United.

With the gnome-like Malcolm Glazer lining up a possibly £800m takeover bid, the paper says that supporters groups have threatened something called a “customer revolt”.

One group, Shareholders United, has begun a “shares not shirts” campaign, inviting all its 15,000 members and other United fans to stop buying the club’s official merchandise until Glazer is seen off.

This is an interesting idea, but will United notice if fewer tops are flogged? United’s deal with Nike is fixed for 13 years, regardless of shirt sales.

Better, perhaps, to boycott the games themselves – gate receipts remain the biggest single source of income for the club.

This, of course, is unlikely – indeed, such is the demand for United seats that the spare places would be filled by the next punter in line, someone happy to get the chance to see their heroes in the flesh.

But a bigger issue than Beckham’s brain or United’s ownership is the Times’s story on racism in football.

The Commission for Racial Equality has published a damning report into the state of the national game.

While many black faces grace the leagues, there is not one non-white member on the FA board or the 92-strong FA council.

The are also only three back managers in professional football – Keith Curle at Mansfield Town, Leroy Rosenior at Torquay United and Keith Alexander at Lincoln City.

In all, fewer than 1% of professional football positions are held by non-whites.

This encourages the belief that racism exists in the game. An impression not aided by looking at the abilities of some of those white managers and coaches…’

Posted: 12th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Becks In The Routine

‘ARE we supposed to laugh or cry at the Times’s front-page picture of three hooded Manchester United supporters trying to set an American flag on fire?

Becks is now off sex for a few weeks

Overlooking the idiocy of it all, there’s the ludicrous fact that a bunch of United fans are up in arms at the idea that their club may be sold to Malcolm Glazer, a very rich American entrepreneur.

This is Manchester Untied, the global brand that invites fans from Torquay to Tokyo to don its shirts and tune in to see the multi-national side run around on the telly.

This is the club that went on a tour of Brazil – to the detriment of the FA Cup – and then on a jolly to the USA, in a bid to make themselves even bigger, even more branded.

And now some of the club’s fans don’t want their club to be sold out… Laugh? We would if we could stop crying.

Better than looking at the ridiculous protest is to instead see the Sun’s back page and thereon check out what’s been happening to United’s marketing legend of old, David Beckham.

There he is on the Old Trafford turf, this time dressed in his England kit, writhing in agony at the pain caused by a largely self-inflicted wound to his ribs.

He’s injured. So he’s out of England’s World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan – his place, according to the Sun, being taken by Shaun Wright-Phillips.

In all, the fractured rib means Becks is out of action for the next six weeks.

Only, he might not be because Becks’ current team, Real Madrid, want him to play next week in their vital Champions’ League match against Dinamo Live.

A Real insider is quoted by the Sun as saying: “Coming back from an injury like this depends on the player.

“If he is a hard player then he should be able to play after a week – and Beckham IS a hard player.”

And if you want confirmation of that, just ask Wales’s Ben Thatcher, with whom Beckham was involved in a 50-50 blind chase for a ball that neither seemed to be looking at.

Beckham’s subsequent lunge at Thatcher – for which he was yellow-carded – leads to the Guardian’s headline: “HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER”.

Especially since the yellow card – injury or not – earned him a suspension from Wednesday’s match in a far-flung part of Europe.

Beckham’s petulance also allows the Times to list what it believes are the 50 worst tackles, elbows and stamps to have scarred football.

And the No. 1 worst foul ever? Well, no contest there – it’s that nice Mr Harald Schumacher and his uncomplicated assault on France’s Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup finals.

It was a bout of ABH that didn’t even concede a foul, let alone a yellow or red card. But then, the unconscious Battiston was one hard bastard…’

Posted: 11th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Sven’s Threesome

‘SVEN Goran Eriksson has not exactly got a reputation for being adventurous on the football pitch or off it – hell, he even loads the dishwasher before taking his lover to bed.

Lucky he’s not Spanish

But the signs this morning are that the England coach is preparing the country for the football equivalent of making love with the lights on.

The papers all agree that England are likely to line up with three strikers in tomorrow’s crucial World Cup qualifier with Wales.

And that prompts the Sun to dust off its Sun Book Of Innuendo and tell its readers how “Sven fancies a threesome”.

The three in question, however, are not Ulrika, Faria and Nancy but Michael, Wayne and Jermain of the Owen, Rooney and Defoe variety.

The Telegraph says the attractions of playing Defoe and Owen up front with Rooney just behind are obvious.

“Wales are vulnerable to pacey attacks,” it says, “while it would save the Swede having to make an awkward choice between Owen and Defoe for such an important World Cup qualifier.

“Yet it is not a strategy devoid of danger. Owen and Defoe are single-minded predators who may collide making the same goal-obsessed runs for the ball.”

The 4-3-1-2 formation would also allow Welsh wingers Ryan Giggs and Simon Davies space to run at the English full-backs, Ashley Cole and Gary Neville.

But no strategy is without risk and it would be a bold statement of intent by Eriksson if he were to go into such an eagerly awaited game with three strikers.

Indeed, substituting a fit again Steven Gerrard for Nicky Butt in midfield and this England XI looks a potent attacking force against any team in the world.

Whether or not it can keep the goals out is not so clear.

While the Sun does its best to keep the Luis Aragones row rumbling on today, the rest of the papers have already moved on.

And the question of doping in football is again to the fore, and not only because Rio Ferdinand is preparing to play his first England game since his ban.

The Independent has picked up on remarks by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to the effect that some of his foreign players may have been using performance-enhancing drugs prior to their arrival at Highbury.

“We have had some players come to us at Arsenal from other clubs abroad,” he said, “and their red blood cell count has been abnormally high. That kind of thing makes you wonder.”

Indeed, the surprise is not that some players are using EPO and other such drugs, but that anyone should be surprised by it in a sport awash with money and questionable ethics.

And so finally to cricket and all England fans who were beginning to detect symptoms of decline among the mighty Australians might need to think again.

Centuries from Michael Clarke (on debut) and Adam Gilchrist, fifties from Justin Langer and Simon Katich and three wickets from Glenn McGrath have put the Aussies in a great position in their first Test against India.

And they’ve still got Ricky Ponting to come back into the side for the next match…’

Posted: 8th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Race Row

‘HAVING started their build-up to Saturday’s World Cup qualifier between England and Wales so early, the papers are staring to lose momentum this morning.

‘Some of my best friends are shits’

And so they look to Spain for their lead where it comes courtesy of remarks made by national manager Luis Aragones to Jose Antonio Reyes.

In trying to gee up the young Arsenal striker, Aragones referred to Reyes’s Highbury team-mate Thierry Henry as “that black shit” – a remark that was caught on camera and quickly relayed throughout Spain and beyond.

The Sun and Mirror are both outraged on the Frenchman’s behalf, but it is the Spaniard’s defence that we prefer to concentrate on.

“I am a citizen of the world,” the 66-year-old said, before adding the immortal: “Some of my best friends are black, including some that I had from childhood.”

Reyes insisted that the comment was a joke. If it was, then both he and his coach probably need a new sense of humour.

But we do question whether a throwaway remark like that in the context in which it was said really merits the fuss that is being made.

And so to the Times, which prefers instead to focus on the upcoming game and profiles the duel between Manchester United team-mates Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

“It is,” the paper says, “as if two friends have been shoved into a boxing ring and asked to knock each other out.”

Meanwhile, John Hartson has issued a warning to his old team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

“Rio knows what to expect,” the muscular Celtic striker says.

And indeed he does – he was there at the West Ham training ground when Hartson decided to use Eyal Berkovic’s head as a football.

If, as suggested in today’s Broadsheets, political endorsements from popstars make precious little difference to the way people vote, then what about sportsmen and women?

We ask because the Times has a list of five sportsmen who have come out in favour of George Bush and five who are supporting John Kerry.

And if you needed another reason to dislike Jack Nicklaus, on top of his voice, his dress sense and the fact that he wasn’t Arnold Palmer, know that the Golden Bear is a Dubya fan.

We look forward to a similar parade of sportsmen and women ahead of next year’s General Election, with both parties fighting hard for the Wayne Rooney vote.

Word is at the moment that the 18-year-old is leaning towards Michael Howard – if only because he prefers them a bit older.’

Posted: 7th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

On His Owen?

‘IT says something both about the depth in the England squad and about Michael Owen’s situation that many will be hoping the 24-year-old is not fit to play Wales on Saturday.

Wayne on his parade

Owen has a back injury, but it is his future at Real Madrid that dominates the back pages this morning after a poor start to his career in Spain.

The man himself insists he will fight to the death to prove himself at the Spanish giants, but at the moment he can’t get enough minutes on the pitch to do that.

And the picture on the back page of all the tabloids this morning has something of a haunted look to it.

If Owen is not fit, then the Guardian expects Jermain Defoe to take his place at Old Trafford – a 22-year-old stepping up to partner 18-year-old Wayne Rooney.

It is “an enthralling possibility”, the paper says, and Wales’s likely centre-half pairing of Danny Gabbidon and Andy Melville is less equipped than others to block their way.

But Owen is likely to get the nod if he is fit.

“You know what you’re going to get with me,” he tells the Indy. “You’ve seen it 63 times for England with 27 goals and with a constant supply of goals throughout my career.

“I’ve scored in four big tournaments and I don’t think I’ve got to prove myself in any way.”

But prove himself is just what England fans expect Owen and his team-mates to do every time they play for their country.

David Beckham may insist he is back to his best, but England fans will need some convincing.

“Criticism is part of football,” he tells the Guardian, “but I feel my performances for Real Madrid have been good and I’m hoping that, playing at Old Trafford against Wales in a massive game, I will perform well again.”

There, Beckham is likely to come up against his old team-mate Ryan Giggs, who will also meet Manchester United colleague Gary Neville down England’s right.

“It’s a great occasion for all the lads to be involved in,” said the 30-year-old Welsh winger, “but even more so for myself because it’s at Old Trafford and because I am up against so many of my team-mates.”

While Saturday’s game may provide a distraction to the wrangling over ownership at Manchester United, there is good news for Arsenal fans in the Telegraph.

Manager Arsene Wenger says he is just days away from signing an extension to his contract, which will see him stay at the club for “a few more years” after the end of this season.

Arsenal will, however, not be at Highbury for that long – instead they will play their home games at the Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove.

The club has given the Middle East airline, who currently sponsor Chelsea, naming rights over their new ground as part of a £100m sponsorship deal.

The decision has upset some Arsenal fans – but, if that’s all they’ve got to worry about, then they should just enjoy the good times.

As Michael Owen can attest, they don’t last…’

Posted: 6th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Malcolm In The Middle

‘IF Malcolm Glazer, the owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was under any illusion that he would be welcome as the new owner of Manchester United, he won’t be after this morning.

Glazer celebrates another Rooney touchdown

All the papers agree that fans will do whatever they can to prevent the American taking control of the world’s largest football club.

And, even if Glazer persuades the Irish duo of JP McManus and John Magnier to sell their 28.9% stake in the club to add to his 19.2% share, he is far from home and dry.

The Telegraph explains that a banner at the Stretford End of Old Trafford proclaiming “Not For $ale” is indicative of the reaction in Manchester.

“If the American was to consider how that sign came to be displayed over £100,000 of advertising space,” it says, “he might come to realise why he would never be welcomed in the Theatre Of Dreams.

“The banner is a small but significant concession by the plc board to the supporters, but it speaks loud about the three key elements for which the club are run: the team, the fans and the shareholders.”

The fact that Glazer has never even visited Old Trafford, combined with his track record at Tampa Bay (where he has consistently raised ticket prices and even changed the team colours) suggests that even notoriously fickle football fans will make his path as hard as they possibly can.

Were David Beckham still at United, then Glazer could be looking at an even fatter cash cow.

The Guardian reports that, for all his struggles on the field, the England skipper has done wonders for Real Madrid’s bank balance.

The Spanish club’s income is expected to double from £103m in 2002 to £204m this season – almost half of which is expected to come directly from marketing.

All of which does make you wonder whether selling Beckham for only £25m was the worst bit of business Manchester United have ever done.

To another England captain, and both the Times and the Independent leads with news that Jonny Wilkinson has been named as the new England rugby captain.

Not that Wilkinson will be grabbing headlines in the same way that his footballing counterpart does – as the profile of the clean-living superstar in the Times makes clear.

“I won’t take my clothes off for pictures, for instance,” he says. “My reticence is partly to do with appearances, I don’t find images of people without their clothes on all that attractive – I prefer to leave something to the imagination.”

Thoughts he no doubt shared with the ubiquitous David Beckham at the filming of one of their adidas commercials…’

Posted: 5th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Insult And Injury

‘AFTER yesterday’s 1-0 win over a directionless Liverpool, Chelsea’s credentials as genuine title challengers are beyond doubt.

‘I’ll leave the price tag on so you can always get a refund if it doesn’t fit’

What is less clear is the mental state of their manager, Jose Mourinho.

What at first glance looked gregarious and cocksure, now seems a little unbalanced and highly strung, as the Telegraph leads with how the Portuguese coach viewed Joe Cole’s match-winning performance.

In “Bubbling Cole is brought to book”, we learn how the Chelsea No. 10, and the game’s solitary goalscorer, was knocked off Cloud Nine by his manager’s comments that he “still has a lot to learn”.

“He has two faces,” says Mourinho. “One is beautiful when he attacks with the ball…the other face is not so good, defensively, and I don’t like it much.”

Mourinho is clearly quotable. But he speaks so directly that you can’t help but think that should things not pan out for him at Chelsea, he’ll begin alienating his players and just about everyone else.

You can excuse much of Mourinho’s arrogance on his position as a winner – if that success becomes a fading memory, he will sound increasingly ridiculous.

Another of his post-match views appears in the Sun, where he says that Chelsea are the best English team in Europe.

“But I want all English teams to get through in Europe,” says he, “play lots of games, get tired and pick up a lot of little injuries.”

How very gracious of him to say that they should be only little injuries. His hope is not for broken legs, rather fractures, bad bruising and some tendon damage.

But while Mourinho treads a fine line, and Chelsea turn into George Graham’s Arsenal, the Independent has been casting an eye on Michael Owen’s most recent performance in Madrid.

That we should care what the England striker is getting up to in Spain owes much to his new club’s location in what makes for a nice weekend break for Wapping’s finest.

Indeed, there was little to see of the man himself who played for just 52 minutes in Real’s home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna and missed two decent chances to score his first goal for the club.

The result of Owen’s dip in form is, according to the Guardian, the distinct possibility that he will soon see his England place go to Jermain Defoe.

But that would mean a lack of experience alongside the young Rooney. And one less reason to send hacks on jollies to sunny Madrid.

For which reason, the paper says that Owen remains a class act. An economy class act, but class, nonetheless…’

Posted: 4th, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

The Pits

‘SPORTS fans who get their kicks from sitting in massive traffic jams as they queue to watch a procession of cars are upset this morning.

What next year’s winner would have looked like

The Times leads with the news that after 54 unbroken years of racing, the British Formula One Grand Prix is no more.

Bernie Ecclestone, the man who effectively controls the sport, declined to accept an offer from the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which runs Silverstone, to stage the event, it falling £3 million short of his £9 million asking price needed to guarantee the future of the race until 2007.

This has deeply upset not only British motor racing fans but, as the Telegraph says, Sir Jackie Stewart, president of the BRDC.

He is disappointed not only by Eccelstone but also by the British Government which he sees as having sold the sport short.

“And I regret that the Government, unlike governments in almost every other country which hosts a grand prix, have not been able to pull together a package to help the retention of the grand prix in this country,” says he.

It is a shame that a mainstay of the British sporting calendar is no more. But this is a sport seemingly awash with money, and it appears odd that an extra few million could not be found to secure its future.

Odder still, though, is the story of the “Arsenal feud”, as the Mail says how a fight broke out on the champions’ team bus as the players left the ground after the week’s 1-1 draw with Rosenborg.

Apparently, the team’s Lauren and Patrick Vieira had a disagreement after the Frenchman blamed the Norwegian’s equaliser on his teammate.

The story goes that police and security guards were called and boarded the team bus to break up the melee.

However, the club seem not to be overly bothered by the fracas.

Arsene Wenger saw little wrong with it (if, that is, he saw anything at all) and the Mail suggests that “full and frank exchanges of views are not uncommon among Arsenal players”.

Given that it been quite some time since any of the squad received a red card, it’s understandable that some steam had to be let off.

Just like with Michael Owen, who’s releasing the pressure by telling the Guardian about the frustrations of life at Real Madrid.

Though happy with his form – so he says – the 24-year-old is worried about his limited chances at the Spanish giants.

“At Liverpool,” says Owen, “I was first choice every week…I was a big important player. The big difference is that I’m not playing as much in Madrid.”

And with Raul, Ronaldo and Morientes ahead of him, chances are high that he won’t be collecting too many playing bonuses this season.

After which period, he says he’ll reassess his future. And then, as with Ian Rush, Jimmy Greaves and, dare it be said, Luther Blissett, come home…’

Posted: 1st, October 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

An Ugly Shower

‘JOSE Mourinho may be arrogant and cocksure, but it’s a state of mind based upon his magnificent record in European football.

Just good friends

But football fans – at least the more knuckle-dragging ones – are cursed with appallingly short memories.

Having turned Porto from a nothing team into European champions, the new Chelsea manager was within his rights to expect a rousing reception when his old and new clubs met last night.

Instead, we get the Mirror headline: “DROG AND FLOB.” It’s an ugly, clumsy headline, but it is in keeping with the matter in hand.

The Porto fan(s) who spat at his former idol should be ashamed – although he’s probably too stupid to feel contrition.

But credit to Mourinho – whose side won 3-1 – for sticking to the good times and thanking the Porto fans who came up to greet him.

While Chelsea were doing a professional, if unattractive, job on Porto, Arsenal were labouring in Norway.

In what the Independent calls a “careless display”, Arsenal failed to capitalise on an early goal and take one of the many chances they had to win the game (it ended 1-1).

The paper calls their performance nothing less than “maddening”.

Not that Arsenal’s inability to transfer domestic brilliance to European domination is the most maddening thing in sport.

This is Britain, the country that can boast Wimbledon tennis – and still have no player able to win the title.

With Tim Henman seemingly doomed to never succeed and Greg Rusedski now wearing a headband, we are craving a new hero.

And the Telegraph thinks it’s found him. Step forward, Andrew Murray.

Despite being in the British Davis Cup squad, Murray is far from being a household name.

So his management team have lined up a match for their 17-year-old hopeful against that old stager, John McEnroe.

The game will take place under spotlights at Wembley Arena and feature in mini-tournament with the likes of Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and dear old Rusedski.

If Murray wins, he’ll collect £250,000. And by next summer, he’ll be the name on everyone’s lips. And most likely, have a hill named after him…’

Posted: 30th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

United They Stand

‘LAST night Manchester United went to Old Trafford to love Wayne Rooney. The game over and players and fans alike left with his name etched on their hearts.

What (always) happens next?

The Times says that memories of Rooney’s debut performance – in which he scored a superb Champions’ League hat-trick in the 6-2 thrashing of Fenerbhce – will live long in the minds of United’s fans.

And the papers are happy to keep Rooney’s name high on the agenda, all leading with the boy wonder, who, as the Indy says, has begun his “love affair” with Old Trafford.

The Mail goes further – perhaps a little too far at this early stage in his career – and says Wayne joins the “list of legends”, speaking of Rooney’s burst in the same breath as “Best against Benfica, Charlton at Wembley”.

No pressure, then, Wayne. Just go out and do the same thing every week.

Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, is mindful of piling massive expectation on one player, especially one so young.

In the Indy, he compares Rooney to Arsenal’s own tyro, the Spaniard Jose Reyes.

“He is in a Rooney situation as well,” says Wenger. “Everyone expects Rooney to play and make a difference. That is what everyone expects from Rooney – that he will score in every game. That is what everybody expects from Reyes but football is not like that.”

Try telling the Mail. And given the form of both the Spaniard and the Englishman to date, Wenger’s words seem disputed by fart.

But football does not always go to plan and only a fool would expect otherwise.

So, tonight, Arsenal fans shouldn’t expect their new star player to score, even if he is playing up front against Rosenborg in place of the non-flying Dennis Bergkamp.

Hmmm… We wonder what Claudio Ranieri would have done if he had had such talent at his disposal? Shuffled his pack. Changed the team. Tinkered.

If he were in charge at Manchester United, Ranieri would probably now drop Rooney to the reserves.

But we can only guess about such things because the Italian’s new book – Proud Man Walking – makes no mention of La Roon.

Instead, in the Times’ book review, we hear the Italian reminisce about the time he asked Roman Abramovich for a lift in his jet to Rome.

The Russian was flying to Moscow, but still took time to indulge his then manager and take in an unscheduled trip to the Italian capital.

“What a man,” says Ranieri, who goes onto talk of the good relationship he enjoyed with his chairman.

You know, the one who sacked him…’

Posted: 29th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Back Up Front

‘WHO’S that chubby lad on the back page of the Independent kicking a ball around with some athletes?

He can score in a brothel

Why, it’s Wayne Rooney, the Roonster, La Roon, star of Euro 2004 (well, the bit before England got knocked out) and new Manchester United legend-in-waiting having a laugh with some of his new playmates.

Tonight, as the Telegraph says in its lead story, Rooney will make his debut at Old Trafford as the Red Devils renew hostilities with Turkish club Fenerbahce.

And United will have to watch out, since, as the paper reminds the club’s legion of fans, the last time the Turks were in town, they became the first visiting team to win a European mach at Old Trafford in 40 years and 56 matches.

And, as the Sun reports, Alex Ferguson may be at the club to see that European run surpassed.

David Gill, United’s chief executive, says of Ferguson: “He is very fit and we hope he will continue to manage the club for many years to come.”

If that were not good enough news for Arsenal and Chelsea fans, the better news is that in buying the aforesaid Rooney, United have spent not only this year’s transfer budget but next year’s as well.

They will have to sell before they plunge into the market in human flesh once more.

Anyone tired of this Manchester Untied bulletin can now find some relief courtesy of the Times, where the paper’s hacks have found something else to talk about.

And the mission to rescue sport from United’s grasp is launched by Tanni Grey-Thompson.

The disabled athlete has just won her eleventh Paralympic gold medal, her second of these Athens games.

She is now the most successful British paralympian of the modern era.

But in a world dominated by football, not as successful has Wayne Rooney…’

Posted: 28th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

The Old Routine

‘HARD luck on Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, who narrowly failed to beat Austria and so elevate Britain’s Davis Cup team to the top division.

A tired double act

However, their gallant failure is tarnished a little by Rusedski’s lament to the Telegraph about the blister on his left hand.

“It’s hard to hold the racket, it’s hard to serve and it hurts when I hit the ball,” explained the British No.2.

And it’s a pain unaided by the fact that had he not played in the final rubber against Stefan Koubek, Britain tennis fortunes would have rested on the narrow shoulders of Andrew Murray or Alex Bogdanovich.

Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of them – the team’s captain, Jeremy Bates, showed little signs that he recognised their abilities either, sticking with the pain-affected Rusedksi.

But sports can toss up a few surprises. And while we wonder what night have been had youth been given its head in Austria, the Independent notices the Premier League table.

And there, hovering in third place, ahead of Manchester United and just three points behind league leaders Arsenal are Everton.

Yesterday, the Toffees’ Tim Cahill scored the only goal in an away game victory at Portsmouth, a win that took a Wayne Rooney-less Everton to new heights.

Of course, as George Graham was wont to say, the league is a marathon not a sprint. And with so many matches left, the thinking is very much that the natural order of things will be restored.

And that means a rise for the likes of underperforming Liverpool and Newcastle and a steady drop down the table for Everton.

If the British men’s tennis team and the status quo in English football were not enough to suggest that competition was dying, the state of Formula One says that it is all but dead.

The Guardian may well heap praise on the “BRAVE NEW WORLD” of F1 racing in China, but though the track was new and the crowds were excited, the result was the same: Ferrari won.

The red flag flying over a bit of China at the weekend may have had a horse on it, but it pointed to world every bit as uniform as that heralded by Chairman Mao Zedong’s famous flag bearers.’

Posted: 27th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Off The Clough

‘AFTER the wreaths come the brickbats as the Express leads with the news that someone has dared question the legacy of the dearly departed Brian Clough.

The Comfi-Slax sweater only comes in green

The man who has gone against the grain is Rick Parry, the former chief executive of the Premier League, who once headed a three-man inquiry into the sale of Teddy Sheringham from Clough’s Forest to Spurs in 1992.

“On the balance of evidence,” says Parry, “we thought he was guilty of taking bungs. I was surprised when the FA took no action against him or Forest.”

Anyone surprised at FA inaction might be either new to the game or horribly naive. Parry is neither.

And neither are the nodding heads who line to say how upset they are, outraged even, that with his body barely cold in the turf, Clough’s name should be dragged through the mud.

Former Forest hero Kenny Burns is “very angry”. His colleague from those heady days of European glory, former carpet fitter Garry Birtles, says Parry is “beyond contempt”.

And even the paper’s Harry Harris, writing in a piece entitled “Respect the rascal”, says how Clough should not be remembered “just because he liked a sweetener”.

No, he shouldn’t. He should be stuck in a museum and lionised as one of the greats of the game, a character, a one-off, a showman and have bestowed upon him all manner of epitaphs.

You can’t libel the dead, but, by ‘eck, young man, you sure can praise them to the skies.

You can also, as the Guardian says, buy one of Clough’s trademark hideous green jumpers, which have been flying off the shelves at the Nottingham Forest club shop.

Sunday has been designated Green Day at Forest, and for their home televised game against West Ham the fans will wear green jumpers, tuck their tracksuits bottoms into their socks and playfully cuff young lads hard round the head.

West Ham’s travelling support will then begin to sing about how they won the World Cup. It’ll be like the Premier League never happened.

Meanwhile, the Indy says that all of China is excited at this weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix.

The track – 3.387 miles long; nine straights and 14 bends (seven left, seven right); space for 200,000 spectators; 174,000 tyres in the barriers – is all ready for what the paper calls “the biggest sporting event to date held in the country”.

And what we call, a terrific result for Ferrari…’

Posted: 24th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Life Of Brian

‘FOR a few moments in yesterday’s ICC Champions Trophy match between Pakistan and the West Indies, the bedraggled crowd held their breath.

‘Catch it!’

As the Telegraph reports, having already told Brian Lara that he’d kill him (an intention the Windes’ Ramnaresh Sarwan took to be said in jest), Pakistan’s express train, Shoaib Akhtar, launched a ferocious ball that stuck the batsman below the helmet and behind the ear.

Over four slow motion stills, readers look on as Lara is struck and collapses to the turf. He then lies still.

But he’s alright. And, despite some mild concussion, should be fit and ready to play England in Saturday’s final – where, as the paper’s Derek Pringle says, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff will attempt to knock his block off once more.

The injury to arguably the greatest batsman of his age is not of prime importance, however, to the Sun, which leads instead with news of Real Madrid.

Since buying three English players of questionable quality, Real have become the Sun’s favourite topic of conversation.

And in today’s instalment from Madrid we hear that the club are after Bobby Robson.

Having sacked Jose Camacho, the fickle powers at the Bernabeu now, apparently, want Robson to take charge of team matters for the remainder of the season.

But the headline (“REAL OFFER SIR BOB A JOB”) is a little countered by the story which says that, er, they haven’t.

The Spanish club are thinking about it. Although if they did offer Robson the job, the paper is just certain that he “would find it impossible to turn down Real”.

If this nonsense were not enough to make us question what it is the Sun’s sports desk does of a day, the paper then tells us how Sven Goran Eriksson has also been linked to the job.

Linked by whom is not stated – although the Sun and its ilk are many people’s first and last guess.

But Sven says he’s not spoken to any club and is committed to England. But still the Sun gives odds of 3-1 on his taking the job.

Why we ponder those odds – and wonder what marks out of ten the Sun gives Sven’s chances of being Real’s next boss – we note that Arsene Wenger is said to be the man Real truly want.

However, he’s only given odds of 100-1 on taking the post. And in the Indy, we hear that Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, is convinced his man will stay loyal to the Gunners.

“I don’t think he would be attracted to a club like Real,” says Hill-Wood, “where, we hear, the president buys players without telling the manager.”

Or the Sun…’

Posted: 23rd, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

A Final Fling

‘IT’S hard to believe, so let’s check for ourselves.

Michael Vaughan tries out the Aussie salute

Yep, the winning team are wearing navy blue pyjamas with flashes of red and white.

Yep, that is the Michael Vaughan on the back page of the Express, a finger held aloft as he roars like a winner.

And that is the word “ENGLAND” emblazoned on his chest – he has not adopted a new country.

So this can only mean that for the first time in 15 games England’s cricketers have beaten Australia.

And not just beaten, but well beaten, convincingly beaten – England won the semi-final of the one-day ICC Championship Trophy with 21 balls and six wickets in hand.

England now play either Pakistan or West Indies in the final, and, if their summer has been any guide to the result, they’ll thrash the tourists out of sight.

And Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, tells the Express that’s just what he wants.

“I hope England go all the way and win it,” says the pugnacious batsman. “We were outplayed. Our guys weren’t tough enough and we all got disappointed.”

Is that music we hear? The sound of a beaten Australian captain comes close to the sound of angels playing harps.

But there’s another sound in the background. It’s a snap of a breaking bone. Which can only mean it’s the Times’ story on Steven Gerrard and how the England footballer has broken his foot.

Make that his metatarsal, which, as the paper reminds us, is very much the fashionable bone to break when it comes to foot damage.

Thanks to David Beckham, Gary Neville, Wayne Rooney and now Gerrard, football fans are expert in metatarsals, broken and otherwise.

But while Gerrard and his foot sit out the next 12 weeks, we note that football’s Carling Cup has reached phase two.

The Telegraph tells its readers of wins for Colchester over Premiership side West Brom (2-1) and how Crystal Palace have won a match.

Yes, whatever England’s cricketers can do, so too can Palace’s footballer, who have just beaten Hartlepool by two goals to one.

That’s Palace’s first competitive win of the season. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!


Posted: 22nd, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

Dead Reckoning

‘OF all of Brian Clough’s many bons mots listed in today’s commemoration of the manager who died yesterday, one stands out.

”God better give me his favourite armchair”

“I want no epitaphs of profound history,” said “Old Big ‘Ead” in words now reproduced by the Guardian.

“I contributed – I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me.”

But Brian fails to get his wish granted as the papers lament the man who, the Times says, “single-handedly created the cult of the football manager”.

Page after page – front and back – is given over to the man who took provincial Nottingham Forest from nowhere to the pinnacle of European football.

He does at least achieve his other ambition of being liked, as the Guardian asks various Nottingham locals to say how much they admired the man who put their city on the map.

The Independent sticks with the great man’s quotes, producing the largest collections of Cloughisms.

So, before we turn to the other big sports news (Rio Ferdinand’s return to the pitch last night), let’s hear a few of Clough’s words.

When Manchester United opted out of the FA Cup in favour of a Brazilian jolly a few season’s back, Clough offered the opinion: “I hope they all get bloody diarrhoea.”

And now, with that image in mind, we move to the back of the Sun and, below a large picture of Clough, we see that Manchester United have beaten Liverpool 2-1.

And although it was United’s other centre-back, Mikael Silvestre who scored a brace of goals to win United the game, the news is all about Ferdinand.

How much the Londoner had to do with United’s win is open to conjecture.

But, as the Independent’s Tim Rich puts it, “Rio Ferdinand’s positioning for his eight-month suspension…was forever faultless”.

But Ferdinand’s England colleague Michael Owen’s sense of timing is brought into question in the Sun.

In “OWEN SPARKED REAL REVOLT”, readers learn that Jose Camancho was forced out of his job as coach of Real Madrid when his decision to replace Raul with Owen met with universal disapproval.

Far from being an agent provocateur, as the headline suggests, Owen’s role in the affair is less than glorious.

For the player who has yet to score for Real, this is hardly an auspicious start to life at his new club.

Perhaps he’ll have more luck with his new manager, Mariano Garcia Remon.

Although how long he will last is open to much speculation.

Which is something the Sun is all too happy to engage in, suggesting that Sven Goran Eriksson is ready to take over.

And his first task will be to buy Patrick Vieira. Or so the Sun will say soon enough…’

Posted: 21st, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment

VE Day

‘CONGRATULATIONS to Team Europe for thrashing the Americans to retain golf’s Ryder Cup.

The moment of victory

Indeed, the Europeans have now won four out of the last five biennial challenges with only Brookline a few years back – when America plunged a stiletto shoe into the European dream – bucking the trend.

And few if any golfers have played a bigger part in Europe’s successes than Colin Montgomerie.

The Telegraph says the Scot is “the toast of Europe” after his putt scored the winning point yesterday.

But while the papers see Europe celebrate, the Times wonders what lies ahead for the Americans, who must be wondering why players who look better on paper than their European opponents underperform in the team game.

The paper even asks the question: “Is Tiger Woods the Americans’ weakest link?”

The suggestion is that the playing legend casts a long shadow over his teammates and fails to inspire those playing with him.

And the record for such a great player does little to counter the notion that Woods plays better as an individual.

In his 16 Ryder Cup matches to date, the world No.2 golfer has won five, halved one and lost 10. That’s hardly the stuff of heroes.

Woods is also accused to talking a good game – something that football Jose Mourinho is prone to do.

And after his Chelsea side’s stale 0-0 draw with Spurs, the Portuguese manager has been talking some more.

In “TOTT ROT”, the Sun hears Mourinho moan about how unfair it was of Spurs not to let his team score.

“People do not pay money to see one team play and another team defend, kick balls, away, fall down, demand medical help and take five minutes to sub a player.”

No, they come to Chelsea to see the home team win and any number of expensive new players score loads of goals.

“If I was a fan and had to pay money, I wouldn’t come,” says Mourinho.

But he’s not a fan. He’s a manager who gets paid lots of money to make Chelsea win.

However, he’s got a decent imagination and, after wondering what it would be like to come as a supporter, Mourinho wonders some more.

“If I was a referee, I would protect the team who want to play,” he says.

Perhaps. And if money were the only thing needed to guarantee success, Chelsea would be European champions and have beaten Spurs 10-0.

But, quite plainly, it isn’t…’

Posted: 20th, September 2004 | In: Back pages | Comment