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Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.

Transfer balls: £60m is more than £65m as Spurs beat Manchester United to Giovani Lo Celso

Transfer Balls hears the rumours that Spurs want to sign Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso. The tabloids are confused as to his value and what Spurs are willing to pay:

“Tottenham are refusing to pay £60million for Real Betis’ Giovani Lo Celso” – The Sun

“Spurs are set to smash their transfer record for a second time this summer as they finally step up their interest in £70million-rated midfielder Giovani Lo Celso” – Daily Mirror

The Mirror says Spurs are “desperate to land Lo Celso after shattering Tottenham’s transfer record to sign Tanguy Ndombele for £65million”. But the Sun says they’re not all that desperate for the player who flopped at PSG and won’t pay over £60m.

Giovani Lo Celso transfer

The tabloids don’t have the foggiest. The Mirror (prop. Reach plc) says Spurs will get their man – it’s a sure thing. But Football.London (prop Reach plc) says Lo Celso could be off to Manchester United.

Such are the fatcs.

Posted: 19th, July 2019 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Zaha to Everton clickbait or slowly to Arsenal

The Liverpool Echo says there is an increased chance of Wilf Zaha joining Everton. There is also an increased chance of Zaha joining Wrexham or your local pub side. The Echo’s story is based on news that the player has told Crystal Palace he wants to leave the club. And if your side has anything from £80m (BBC) to £120m (Sun) lying about the place, they can buy him. So the Liverpool Echo seduces Everton fans with a headline based on a muon of truth.

Sky Sports says Arsenal, who’ve already seen a £40m bid for Zaha fail, are “expected to raise their offer in the coming days”. To what sum is unknown, but rumours are that they’re holding a car boot sale next Sunday and Carl Jenkinson, Calum Chambers, Mo Elneny and that bloke who used to walk about the North bank shouting ”Eanuts” are being pushed into the hatchback.

Posted: 19th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer Balls: The Arsenal ‘ace’ to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka might be a joker

CArl Jenkinson Crystal Palace
‘ACE’

Transfer Balls likes to spot clickbait – and the Daily Star’s news that an Arsenal “ace” is to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Crystal Palace is a cracker. Wan-Bissaka is now at Manchester United, which means Palace are in search of a replacement right-back. Step forward the “Arsenal ace”. No, not Hector Bellerin. It’s Carl Jenkinson – the same Carl Jenskinson who was hooked off at half-time when Arsenal last played Palace, having made “the sort of errors you would not expect to see in the third or fourth tier”.

Maybe the “ace” can be worth the £40 million Arenal need to take Wilfried Zaha from Palace to Arsenal? Maybe. The Sun says, “Eagles boss Roy Hodgson has always been a fan of the defender and even gave him his England debut against Sweden in 2012.” It might happen…

Posted: 18th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Spurs balls: Kieran Tripper thanks San Antonio Spurs for making it all possible

Spurs defender Kieran Tripper hailed his transfer to the Atletico Madrid bench by thanking Spurs for making it all possible – that’s NBA team San Antonio Spurs. On Instagram, San Antonio Spurs are the real @Spurs; Tottenham Hotspur are the less concise @spursofficial. Trippier made the obvious error.

Poor old Tottenham. All that money spent on a new stadium and an NFL deal in pursuit of becoming a global brand and everyone in the USA – and even their own players – think they’re basketball team.

Go Spurs. Yay!

Posted: 18th, July 2019 | In: Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Matthijs De Ligt joins Juventus but ‘agreed’ terms with PSG and Manchester United

Dutch defender Matthijs De Ligt has joined Juventus from Ajax for £67.5m. That must come as something of a shock to Manchester United and PSG fans because on July 6, the Sun bellowed: “Man Utd and PSG ‘agree transfer fees with Ajax for Matthijs De Ligt.” That news followed the Express’s July 5 scoop: “Barcelona transfer news LIVE: Matthijs de Ligt AGREEMENT in place.” Also on July 5, the Daily Star told its readers: “Man Utd and Ajax come to agreement over Matthijs de Ligt transfer.” The Daily Mirror agreed.

The Google News bots picked up the balls:

Matthijs De Ligt
Matthijs De Ligt
Matthijs De Ligt
Matthijs De Ligt

More clickbait every day…

Posted: 18th, July 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer Balls: Arsenal sign William Saliba, Everton medical, Cabellos close and Zaha is for sale

The Sun says the deal is done: William Saliba has joined Arsenal. But he won’t kiss the badge until 2020. The Gunners have paid £27m for the 18-year-old and allowed him to spend the season at Saint-Etienne. This suits Arsenal because the fee is being paid in instalments.

“Hi @arsenal loving the away new kit,” quips one Gooner on Twitter. “I’d like a Medium Men’s. I’ll pay £5 now. £5 on delivery and £40 based on bonuses and appearances.”

In other Gunners, news, the BBC says they are “very close” to securing Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos 22, on loan. The Spanish central midfielder was voted player of the tournament at the Under-21 European Championships.

It’s also widely reported that Arsenal have signed Gremio winger Everton for £36m. Apparently he’s having his medical in Brazil. Which leaves the club’s interest in Wilf Zaha where? “I don’t think Arsenal have actually made a bid that has come anywhere near our valuation,” Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson told Sky Sports. “I’m sure the player realises that if someone’s going to take him away from us, he’ll expect clubs to pay the market value. Until someone does that, there’s not much to discuss regarding Wilf.”

In other words, Zaha is for sale. If Arsenal can get him on the the drip, he could yet arrive at The Emirates.

Posted: 18th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Josh Kroenke knows talk is cheap

Can it be true? Arsenal manger Unai Emery says Arsenal are trying to sign some “very big, very expensive players” this summer. “Our target is to achieve three or four players who really improve our team and our squad now,” says Emery. “We have very good players and very good young players who can progress to take and get big performances with us. Other players can come here to help us. We are being very, very demanding and we are first speaking about the possibility to sign very big, very expensive players.”

Arsenal have invested in one new player this summer: 18-year-old Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli. They are being linked with Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba (18), and have bids of £25m for 22-year-old Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, plus £40m for 26-year-old Ivorian Zaha rejected.

The fans are upset about the club’s stagnation under owner Stan Kroenke. But Arsenal chief executive Josh Kroenke (qualifications for the job: absentee owner Stan’s his dad; knows the Gunners player soccerball in London), tells one and all via an open letter, in which he guffs:

“For us, the most important thing to achieve was not simply change for the sake of change, but to ensure we put the right people in the right roles to work together in a positive environment to achieve our stated goal of winning silverware both domestically and in Europe.

We know this can bring uncertainty, and perhaps everything we’ve done in the past 12-14 months has brought about additional uncertainty during a period of unease when supporters, coaches, players and management are rightfully frustrated by lack of success on the pitch.

“With all the work we’ve done on the structure of football, commercial and operational departments, we would say that the club now needs a period of stability rather than additional change.”

To translate: we drifted along collecting fat dividends whilst Arsene Wenger’s regime was winning the occasional tin pot and finishing fourth but now that’s all gone because the patriarch got too old, we’re clueless about what to do. You’re all hungry for success but I’m stinking rich and don’t really need it.

Key part:

“While we’re not going to be in the market for some of the top players in the world at the moment whilst they are the top players, we’re actively scouting the globe to find the next big thing to become great at Arsenal Football Club. And not only will we bring them to the club, we’ll be able to retain them in the fold going forward.”

Translation: We’re desperate and buying cheap. And dad won’t be putting a penny of his absurdly large fortune into the pot. (That ok, dad? Can I come home yet?)

Posted: 17th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Sports | Comment


Transfer Balls: Bale ‘agrees’ Manchester United terms and ‘agrees’ Spurs return; plays for Real Madrid

The latest transfer balls has Spurs buying Gareth Bale from Real Madrid for £55m and somehow managing to finance his £600,000-a-week wages. The 30-year-old player’s agent declined to go on talkSPORT to discuss his client but said of the Spurs rumours: “I don’t comment on rubbish.” Having thus offered a loud comment, Manchester United fans can wonder what happened to their target?

Bale spotted in Manchester; Lord Lucan sighted in Norwich

And as for Bale returning to Spurs, well, Daily Express readers know that he rejoined the club last summer:

Such are the facts.

Posted: 16th, July 2019 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Greed over glory: Arsenal fans send desperate letter to their disinterested owner

How can Arsenal get themselves out of the mess created by greed, laziness and a culture of failure? Chief contract negotiator Huss Fahmy is fighting firs, doing his best to correct the disaster of Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law’s work that saw Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck leave for nothing and Mesut Ozil offered the absurd sum of £350,000 a week to stay.

Unai Emery’s squad is a strange collection of journeymen, overpaid plodders, two top strikers and talented youngsters. Can Edu, the new technical director, and Freddie Ljungberg, now promoted to assistant to coach Emery, restore some swagger and purpose to a moribund team? Can they help Emery, who desperately needs it? When Arsenal needed reinforcements at the back, Emery pushed the board to recruit the dire Denis Suarez in January. Is he up to the task?

The fans are restless. Leading Arsenal fans’ groups have written a letter asking owner Stan Kroenke, to “reinvigorate” the club.

As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade,’’ they argue. “When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final [in 2006]. Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running. Off the pitch, fans have never felt more marginalised, less listened to or valued. This was sadly illustrated when Stan Kroenke forcibly bought out the last remaining supporter-shareholders without even a word of appreciation for their custodianship role in the club. It feels as though Arsenal is at a crossroads. Things need to change…

“…our club feels like an investment vehicle. It is sad that an institution like Arsenal has such passive ownership. All of us want to see a clear sense of purpose and direction. KSE should start by being more open and accountable and explain how they intend to achieve the goal of winning the game’s major trophies…

“On a matchday the Emirates Stadium can be a soulless place. The atmosphere is poor and there are thousands of empty seats blighting almost every game. If Arsenal really cared they would make sure seats weren’t left empty by investing in an improved ticketing system and actively supporting initiatives like safe standing. The club uses the strapline: ‘Always ahead of the game’. It would be good to see action to demonstrate this.”

An absentee owner bodes badly for Arsenal. It is an investment for him and nothing more. Kroenke won’t take a gamble and invest in players in the hope of success. He’ll tick along and collect his dividends. Greed not glory is the Arsenal way. But at east one thing won’t change: at season ticket renewal time Arsenal will be linked with a big money buy.

Posted: 15th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Key Posts, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Laurent Koscielny knows how bad Mustafi is

People in the know chose Bordeaux. And like a fine whine – yes, yes, a weak joke but that’s Arsenal for you – Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel on the club’s pre-season tour of the US because he thinks the team are rubbish and wants to live and work in La Belle Endormie.

Koscielny’s current deal expires at the end of the season. At 33, he wants more than the one year extension Arsenal are offering and thinks a three-year deal at Bordeaux the better option. “We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions,” say Arsenal. “We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”

Koscielny will win. He’s one of Arsenal’s very few top-class players. And he knows how sub-standard the alternatives are. If he leaves, Arsenal will boast – and that’s a boast akin to the scarred squaddie returning from active duty without herpes – Sokratis and Mustafi as their first-choice central defenders. Sokratis is likeable at least because he sticks the boot in and has the soulful mien of a man troubled by something bigger than cutting down Harry Kane.

Mustafi is just as poor as the Greek at passing out from defence but is affected by an unappetising combination of arrogance and limited ability. Arsenal are desperate to get shot of the German. And in a market where Aston Villa invest £20m in recruiting the doltish Tyrone Mings from what must be a delighted Bournemouth, Mustafi should be worth around that. But he won’t go to a bigger club unless one of them has read his CV without ever having seen him play. And Mustafi cuts the figure of man who think he’s destined for better things. So he’s stuck at Arsenal and Arsenal are stuck with him until his contract dies on the vine in 2021.

Posted: 12th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Malcom to Arsenal (again), Pepe to Everton and Newcastle to Championship

A year or so ago, Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs and Fulham were competing hard to invest £45m in Malcom, a raw Brazilian winger playing for Bordeaux. Roma were “on the verge of signing” him (BBC). And then he joined Barcelona for £36.5m. One year on and the talent is not wanted by the Spaniards and worth £31m, the sum Everton have bid.

Barcelona want to resign Neymar. They need to offload Malcom because regulations in Spain mean that each team is only allowed to register three non-EU players. Barcelona have Arturo Vidal, Arthur and Malcom. Neymar makes four.

Apparently Arsenal now want Malcom to wait and see if Louis Zaha hands in a transfer request at Crystal Palace. Or if Palace accept Arsenal’s new offer of £40m plus Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny and Carl Jenkinson. How flattered Malcolm must be to know that his future rests on Jenkinson’s slim shoulders.

Everton fans can just to see if an Arsenal reject will join them for a big transfer fee – and if he’s joined by former Chelsea irritant Diego Costa, now stinking the place up at Atletico Madrid. Or Everton will spend £58.5m on Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, the 24-year-old Ivory Coast forward – unless Liverpool, who also want him, get there first.

As Everton fans wonder if their revolution is based more on cash than substance and Gooners try to work out where all the money has gone, all clubs can look down on Newcastle United. The Magpies have asked Sam Allardyce to mange them. And he’s turned them down. Your club might be struggling but at least it’s not Newcastle.

Posted: 11th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Manchester United transfer balls: Paul Pogba yo-yos between homes

Whoever takes the penalties for Juventus had best watch out: the Turin club is preparing a £120m bid for Manchester United’s 26-year-old France midfielder Paul Pogba. United should bit their hand off at the shoulder.

Juventus know what to expect from their former player – which makes you wonder how they think he’s worth such a vast sum of money. Having retuned “home” to United – his word for rejoining the club he left for Juventus in 2012 – Pogba told us in 2016, when his then world-record £89m transfer to United was completed, that “the time is right to go back to Old Trafford… This is the right club for me to achieve everything I hope to.”

The collaboration with Kanye West on a range of leather shorts and a starring role in Game of Thrones were surely near the top of the list of Pogba’s hopes. The football was okay in parts (those penalties taken in the style of a dressage pony) and less ok in others.

The tosh that heralded Pogba’s return to Old Trafford was not confined to Pogba Inc. BBC pundit Danny Murphy told us that “with their summer signings and with Jose Mourinho in charge, United will soon have their old fear factor back.While Pogba has arrived, I do not see Juan Mata being at Old Trafford for too much longer.”

Mata has just extended his United contract by a further three years. Pogba has been telling his United teammates he’s ready to leave. Presumably it’s the ‘right time’ to embark on another marketing project.

The Times says United want Pogba to be the pivot for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new team. Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola says he is “in the process” of arranging a transfer for Pogba. “Everyone within the club from the manager to the owner knows Paul’s wishes. Everyone knows the willingness of Paul to move on. We are in the process of that. Everyone knows what the feelings of Paul are,” said Raiola.

And for the right fee, you can feel the love.

Posted: 8th, July 2019 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: the £76m transfer kitty

How skint is skint? The Sun tells readers Arsenal are “skint” because they have “just” £40m to spend on new players this summer. The Bleacher Report and others agree: Arsenal are “skint”.

A few days on and the BBC tells its readers: “The Gunners have up to £70m available as they prepare to make a second bid for Zaha.”

Arsenal transfers
Arsenal skint

A click over the the Sky Sports scoop reveals: “Arsenal have up to £70m available to make an improved bid for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, Kaveh Solhekol told The Transfer Show.”

Kaveh…who? He’s a reporter on Sky Sports. And he “believes” Arsenal can afford to spend £70m on Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha. Add the £6m the Gunners recently forked out for Gabriel Martinelli and the Gunners transfer kitty swells to £76m.

As we try to fathom the numbers – and work out on what planet or gated community £40m quid to spend means you’re “skint” – The Bleacher Report tells us that Arsenal have “nothing”:

Arsenal have “no money” None. Not a bean. Or maybe they have £76m. It all depends which sofa you’re looking under for change.

Posted: 4th, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal Transfer Balls: Monreal lies and corrections

Arsenal transfer news

On the Sun’s transfer news page for Arsenal, readers see the headline: “Monreal CONTRACT TERMINATED.”

Nacho Monteal has been sacked? What did he do. The hard-working Spaniard has never been a problem at Arsenal. To be sacked he must have done something incredible. Monreal contract runs until the end of the 2019/20 season. Arsenal would surely prefer to sell him. So you click on the headline and get told:

Arsenal transfer news

The Sun says there is “nothing in reports that Nacho Monreal has left Arsenal”. Reports like – yep – the Sun’s reports “Monreal Contract TERMINATED”. Which for those of hard of understanding appears in capital letters at the top of a story saying it’s nonsense.

Not that the Sun is alone in this tosh. Football.London and The Daily Record have the same owners.

As the Sun says: “confusion reigns.” And bullshit.com thrives.

Posted: 3rd, July 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Arsenal bid £40m for lifelong Gooner Wilfried Zaha

Arsenal have opened the bidding at £40m for Crystal Palace’s brilliant Wilfried Zaha. Palace want “up to £80m” (BBC) for the 26-year-old. The Guardian says Palace want “around £100m”. The Sun says it’s £120m and not a penny less. Palace, says the Sun, are “guided by current market valuations”. Whether they’re operating in the market where Real Madrid paid £130m for Eden Hazard or the other market where Liverpool picked up Mo Salah is unclear. It looks a lot like guesswork.

To say that Arsenal fans would love to see Zaha in their colours is an understatement. Arsenal are a side in need of personality and verve. Zaha has both. He’s a hero-in-waiting.

Zaha’s brother, Judicael, told Sky Sports News: “Given all that Wilfried has given to Crystal Palace to help them remain a Premier League club, I hope Palace will be able to see their way to agreeing a deal with Arsenal that allows Wilfried to realise his dream of playing European football for the club he’s supported since childhood.”

Can it happen? The Sun says the offer is “embarrassing”. Such is the the state of football that £40m is presented as a shameful sum of money. It is “derisory”. It’s a fortune. The Sun also notes that Manchester United, who bought Zaha for £10m and sent him back to Palace for £6m, “have a 25 per cent sell-on clause”. The Sun fails to note that the clause is capped at £15m. A sum the paper might well deem to be pathetic and not worth getting out of bed for.

So much for the numbers.

Posted: 1st, July 2019 | In: Arsenal, Sports | Comment


Raheem Sterling’s ‘stolen’ ghost hat-trick: Manchester City beat Watford

raheem sterling fa cup final

The BBC’s report on the FA Cup final hype between Manchester City and Watford at Wembley makes for odd reading. The BBC’s voracious website tells us that City’s England striker Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick and didn’t score a hat-trick. Phil McNulty was there:

He writes:

Raheem Sterling scored the first FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953 as Manchester City rounded off an outstanding season by crushing Watford at Wembley to clinch a historic domestic treble.

Two goals is not a hat-trick. Three is.

McNulty continues:

City’s second goal in the 38th minute was scored by Gabriel Jesus. The Football Association says Sterling is NOT the first scorer of an FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953. He did, however, make sure Gabriel Jesus’s strike hit the net.

And before Sterling is hammered in the Press:

Raheem never did claim the second goal. He was just joyously ramming it home. He responded to media chat about his hat-trick: ‘You’re bantering me. That’s sh*t from me then… poor from me! I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry.” He did not “steal” a goal.

Posted: 18th, May 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Let’s all cherish Ajax

Good news for Spurs: the Ajax team that out-classed and out-played them for the majority of last’s night Champions League semi-final, earning a 0-1 victory that makes the Dutch favourites to reach the final, will be much changed soon.

The composed Ajax captain, Matthijs de Ligt, at just 19 is coveted by all the richer clubs. His shimmies and side-steps at centre-half made Spurs’ tactic of lobbing it up to the big lad in attack, the 6ft 4in cumbersome Fernando Llorente, all the more inept. De Ligt (to be pronounced: ‘delight’) is surely on his way out of Ajax when the season ends. A huge feee will prove irresistible.

The Dutch side’s wage bill is £47m. That’s lower than anything in the Premier League. It’s less than Stoke’s in the Championship. Ajax’s record signing is the £14m they paid Manchester United for Danny Blind.

Ajax’s money comes from player sales, earning the club around £250m in the last three seasons, including the £75m Barcelona have agreed to pay for Frenkie de Jong. Selling Davinson Sanchez to Spurs earned the Amsterdam club £42m. On last night’s showing, only the most monocular Spurs fan would argue the Londoners got the better end of that deal.

Ajax have a plan. Two years ago when they lost in the Europa League final to Manchester United the club’s entire annual spend on players and staff was less than Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Man United salary. Since then the clubs have gone in two different directions. United bought the marketing bilge and took a desperate gamble on Paul Pogba for around £100m. Ajax invested in Southampton’s Dusan Tadic for £10m and Nicolás Tagliafico for £4m. In that 2017 match, the then 17-year-old De Ligt became the youngest player ever in a major European final. He’s improved. Can the same be said of any United player on the pitch that night?

Ajax get it. They understand the economics of football. De Ligt, De Jong and others will leave the club at the end of this season. Their swan song could a Champions League final with Barcelona. How many will be wearing Barca’s colours next season? Counting De Jong, Barcelona have recruited 20 Dutch players. The list of players the Spaniards have signed from Ajax is one to excite football fans: Edgar Davids, Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, Marc Overmars, Johan Neeskens, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Johan Cryuff, Patrick Kluivert and Michael Reiziger.

The semi-final tie’s not over, of course. Spurs can welcome back the excellent Son Heung-Min and only need a goal in the Netherlands to put the match on the knife-edge. But if you are going to lose, defeat to his wonderful Ajax side is no shame.

Posted: 1st, May 2019 | In: Sports | Comment


Chelseaballs: Danny Drinkwater is alive and fighting nominative determinism

Occasional Chelsea footballer Danny Drinkwater, 29, has been charged with drink-driving after a car crash in Mere, Cheshire, in the early hours of Monday. Mr Drinkwater, 29, who lives in that county, will appear at Stockport Magistrates’ Court on 13 May.

Mr Drinkwater is not a product of nominative determinism, the notion that a person’s name can shape their density. He might be the product of nomininative rejectionism or nominative denialism. What’s in a surname? And should Drinkwater change his to something more fitting, like Berk?

Posted: 9th, April 2019 | In: Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Media bias: Lloris ‘saves’ Spurs as Liverpool strike

Liverpool beat Spurs 2-1 in today’s Premier League match, the winning goal coming in the 90th minute courtesy of a Tottenham player. Lucky? Let’s see what the club’s respective websites say:

Spurs see a “save” from their ‘keeper and a Mo Salah “strike”:

…in the last minute of normal time, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saved but couldn’t hold Mo Salah’s back-post strike from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross and the ball trickled in off the legs of defender Toby Alderweireld, consigning us to a 2-1 defeat.

Liverpool, on the other hand, see Mo Salah head tamely in the general direction of the Spurs goal and a rubbish bit of goalkeeping:

The contest looked to be heading for stalemate until Hugo Lloris pushed Mohamed Salah’s header against the shins of Toby Alderweireld and over the line to give Liverpool what could prove a crucial victory in the race to be crowned champions.

Adding:

Robertson hoisted a half-cleared corner back into the area, picking out Salah. His header across goal was fumbled by Loris, with the ball edging over the line off the shins of Alderweireld

For reasons of balance, this is how the Guardian saw it: “The more you see the winning goal, the more it looks like a bad mistake by Hugo Lloris, who should have caught Salah’s header. Instead he dropped it onto Alderweireld’s shin and it rebounded into the net.”

And the BBC: “Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris failed to hold Mohamed Salah’s routine far-post header and the ball ricocheted into the net off Alderweireld.” But to Spurs fans it was a Lloris “save”.

Posted: 31st, March 2019 | In: Liverpool, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Media bias: what the websites said about Chelsea beating Cardiff

In today’s Premier League match between Cardiff City and Chelsea, the visitors equalised with a goal that was two yards offside. It should not have stood. But if you read the official Chelsea website, you get only the merest hint of controversy:

With time running out Hazard and Alonso exchanged passes and the former’s cross was cleared by the omnipresent Morrison. From the resulting corner, Willian’s delivery was flicked on by Alonso and Azpilicueta nodded in. The offside flag was not raised and we were level. There were six minutes to go.

The passivity of being offside if you’re a Chelsea fans can be contrasted with the report on the Cardiff City website:

César Azpilicueta, clearly in an offside position, diverted the ball beyond Neil Etheridge. Despite the appeals of the home support, the goal was given.

The BBC provides the impartial word: “With five minutes left, Cezar Azpilicueta nodded in an equaliser from a clearly offside position.”

What of the red card that wasn’t given?

Chelsea FC:

A long pass split our defence, and Rudiger and Cardiff sub Kenneth Zohore came together. After a lengthy delay the referee deemed it a foul and a yellow card offence. Again the home side were aghast.

Cardiff:

A further moment of controversy came three minutes later as substitute Ken Zohore ran clear on goal. Antonio Rüdiger pulled the Danish striker to the floor as he looked to beat Kepa to the ball and net for the Bluebirds – with the referee awarding a free kick and yellow card, despite Rüdiger being the last man in defence.

And Sky: “Antonio Rudiger was fortunate to escape a red card for hauling down Kenneth Zohore.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 31st, March 2019 | In: Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Manchester United appoint Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – a manager who has won nothing

From the hunt for proven winners – Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho – to the decision to settle for a man who has won nothing as manager. Manchester United have appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as permanent manager on a three-year contract. Solskjær has won the Tippeligaen as manager of Molde. And that’s it.

“This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long term,” says Solskjaer. “From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club. It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here. The last few months have been a fantastic experience.”

The expectation levels are far higher now than when he joined. Much to do…

Posted: 28th, March 2019 | In: manchester united, Sports | Comment


What racism? Raheem Sterling becomes the tabloids’ role model

Raheem Sterling the sun

In a tribute to Jadon Sancho, the England and Borussia Dortmund winger, the Sun’s Martin Blackburn says Raheem Sterling might be “something of a role model” to the tyro. Writing in the Times, Henry Winter calls Sterling “a role model in a divided land crying out for them”. Watford’s Troy Deeney has no truck with footballers being pitched as role models to strangers, arguing that he’s a role model only to his kids. But this isn’t about Sterling’s talents, which are considerable, but how the press portrays him. And the Sun has changed tact.

Winter has called out the media’s bias towards Sterling, an intelligent, driven young black athlete on the receiving end of some monocular reporting. And the Sun has been accused of treating Sterling unfairly.

raheem sterling drugs
Story about drugs: Nothing to do with Raheem Sterling
Young man from working-class background buys house!
raheem sterling tattoo gun
Sterling gets a tribute to his late father – it’s an anti-gun tattoo
raheem sterling the sun
And the Sun’s Star letter is… GET STERLING!
raheem sterling m16 tattoo
Raheem and his part in the Vietnam War

Today the BBC reports the words of Spurs and England full-back Danny Rose, who says players were “over the moon” to see Raheem Sterling criticise the media’s portrayal of black players and says the winger was “spot on”. Sterling opined that newspapers helped “fuel racism” by the way they portray young black footballers.

“Raheem was only saying what we all say in the dressing room,” said Rose, 28.”It’s sad really but he’s 100% spot on with what he said… The stick he used to get from the media was bang out of order. When he put the [Instagram] post up about the media we were all over the moon with that because we all agree. Fair play to Raheem… One of the few positive things about social media now is you have a voice and you can influence people. Now it’s not just boys in the dressing room talking about the media targeting Raheem, the general public have now seen it. We hope it changes but it doesn’t affect Raheem in any way, which we are all grateful for.”

I’ve no interest in a footballer being a role model. I just want them to be brilliant and give their all when playing for my team and rubbish in a rival club’s shirt. Does what Wayne Rooney or Raheem Sterling do in their downtime fill a gap in your parenting skills? Simon Barnes summed it up well in The Times: “Football itself is neither disgusting nor admirable. It’s just a game, it doesn’t have any pretensions to be a moral force, for good or evil. That’s not its job.” Stop holding footballers up as an example to the slack-jawed masses, and stop making examples of them.

Next week: why aren’t MPs role models?

Posted: 20th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, News, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Monchi agrees Arsenal move and joins Seville

On February 25 this year, the Daily Mirror reported: “Arsenal transfer news: Monchi ‘agrees deal’ to become Gunners sporting director.” Yesterday, Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, better known as ‘Monchi’ and blessed with the looks of a detective in the Obscene Publications Squad, started work in his new job at Sevilla.

What happened? Well, the Mirror’s scoop was based on an article in Il Messaggero, which said Arsenal had agreed to pay the “£2million” needed to activate the buy-out clause in his Roma contract. The odd bit is that the Italian website reports two days after the Mirror’s story – and this through Google Translate:

Evening Standard publishes today, Rome would have already resigned itself to salute Monchi. The current Giallorossi ds seems destined to reach Arsenal, one of the most glorious English clubs. The London newspaper notes that Monchi could even leave the Capital in advance, if the ‘Gunners’ pay a termination clause of around 3 million.

To the Standard, then, to read on February 26:

Roma are increasingly resigned to the departure of sporting director Monchi, with Arsenal a leading contender to hire him in the summer…

Monchi has been at Roma since 2017 and his contract, which has two more years to run, is thought to contain a release clause of around £2.6million.

Nothing agreed at all. And the fee is an issue. But one day earlier talkSport said it was a done deal – just look at the URL:

And on March 8, the Sun told us:

Monchi arsenal

Today the BBC reports: “Monchi will return to La Liga club Sevilla as sporting director, ending reported links with Arsenal.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 17th, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports | Comment


The Hidden Dangers of Cheltenham; It isn’t Just the Horses Who Should Be Careful.

This year’s Cheltenham festival is already underway, with scores of racing fans flocking to the four-day event in Gloucestershire. They may come for the horses, but many stay for the food, the entertainment, and of course, the booze! While flat events like Epsom and the Grand National can often be seen as snobby and elitist, Cheltenham, with its thrilling jumps and hurdles, has something for everybody. The passion of the jockeys bubbles over into the crowd, whipping up ardent fans and newcomers alike. For those on both sides of the paddock, Cheltenham is often viewed as the jewel in the jump racing crown, the highlight of the year for everyone involved.

For the jockeys, Cheltenham is the one date in their calendar that they do not want to miss. It is the competition that everyone is training for, and everyone wants to win. Think of it like being asked to play the main stage at Glastonbury, or walking out onto the pitch for the FA Cup final. Except they’re being paid far less than the rock stars and the footballers, and are far more likely to wind up with a broken bone.

When a serious fall happens, it isn’t just the horse who could wind up with a serious injury. Jockeys have been trampled, crushed and dragged along, all by the partner they’ve trained with day-in, day-out, often for years. Ruby Walsh, one of the greatest modern jockeys, often dubbed the King of Cheltenham, has had his fair share of injuries in his 20 year career. His philosophy is ‘move on. Fix it. Let’s go. So you know why it happened and then you do the rehab and get back.’ He’s broken his fair share of bones over the years, so has a pretty good idea of the recovery process. But many others find it harder to bounce back. Which is why there is a specific charity with its own rehabilitation centres to help them recover from the traumas, both mental and physical.

But why do the jockeys need a charity? There isn’t one for footballers, rugby players or even formula one drivers, surely they get injured just as often? Well, over jumps, jockey’s average a fall every 16 rides, 18% of these result in injury, meaning there is one injury every 83 rides. With the average jump jockey taking 215 rides per-year, the charity is certainly warranted.  

To add insult to injury, it might surprise you to find out that some of these jockeys probably get paid less than you do. The average salary for a jockey equates to around £26,000, compared to a staggering £2.6 million for a Premier League footballer. Is the risk of being a jockey really worth it without the paycheck to back it up? CheltenhamFestival.net have created a tool which compares various sports from a risk vs reward point of view, the results suggest they have due cause to be feeling a little Jocked Off.

Of course one thing you can’t measure is the passion these jockeys feel for their horses and the thrill of the competition. And Cheltenham Festival brings them from all over the country for the biggest event of the horse jumping calendar. It’s their chance to show off and compete amongst the best of the best, the time when they might finally be able to answers, once and for all, who is top dog…or umm, top horse!

Posted: 15th, March 2019 | In: Sports | Comment


After the Jack Grealish attack: it’s time all footballers were armed

stone island
Fire at will!

After Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was attacked by a Birmingham City fan during Sunday’s derby at St. Andrew’s, reaction was swift. The idiot was jailed for 14 weeks.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville wondered that would have happened had the criminal been carrying a knife. It was a good question, although I wondered why Neville had thought only of a knife and not, say, a gun, candlestick or length of lead piping?

Neville’s thinking was doubtless shaped by historical events, particularly when Monica Selles was stabbed between the shoulder blades by a keen Steffi Graf fan during a break between games in a 1993 match in Germany. If it can happen in the rough trade of women’ tennis, why not in football’s controlled and marshalled realm?

Such is his breadth of Neville’s sporting knowledge, we should expect to hear the ubiquitous former Manchester United defender commentating at Wimbledon soon.

Meanwhile, over the airwaves on BBC Radio Wales – thus marking the punch as an international incident – ex-Birmingham forward David Cotterill served up the suggestion that police attending football matches be armed with guns. “Shoot” scream the crowd as the players take cover.

Again, the ex-pro is not going far enough. Why not twin football with darts or the javelin? Moreover, if the Modern Pentathlon can test athletes for their prowess with fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running, surely its within the wit of the FIFA to equip all footballers with rifles and print targets on replica kits issued to all fans at the turnstiles. Although given many football hooligans’ predilection for the Stone Island fashion brand, anyone clad in crosshairs is already fair game.

Posted: 12th, March 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Sports | Comment