Anorak

Sports | Anorak - Part 3

Sports Category

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.

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


Manchester City: how much compensation can a club owned by trillionaires afford to pay victims of sexual abuse?

barry bennell abuse
The star maker – Barry Bennell

Former Manchester City youth coach Barry Bennell abused children at the club and at Crewe Alexandra between 1979 and 1990. He is serving a 31-year prison sentence.

To date, City are aware of 40 men who could take up the club’s decision to offer them compensation and a face-to-face apology.

But how much cash is enough? City say any claims will be dealt with within seven weeks. That’s faster than the civil courts. And how would City defend the indefensible?

The BBC says there are also allegations against a second man from the club’s youth set-up in the 1960s – John Broome. He was involved at City from 1964-71. He’s dead. He’s accused of raping children.

Gary Cliffe, one of Bennell’s victims, goes on the record: “They [City] let us down, they didn’t challenge him. They knew who he was and they allowed it to continue because he was producing results.”

How much is the right amount of compensation for being raped and abused as a child? And should the payment be linked to the club’s extraordinary wealth? The BBC says victim can apply for general damages, “potential loss of earnings if their careers have been affected, therapy fees and legal costs. The list had me up to “if”. Everything is affected. No ifs. No buts.

The talk if of six-figure sums. Enough? The Guardian:

…Bennell, who was convicted last year of 50 specimen charges relating to 12 boys, aged eight to 14, from 1979-91, and has been described by the police as one of the worst paedophiles in UK criminal history, numbers-wise, with potentially hundreds of victims – in one case, even taking one of City’s youngsters on to the pitch at Maine Road, the club’s former ground, to abuse him behind the goal…

Police documents from the 1990s question City’s stance during the criminal investigation, with one detective suggesting the club’s priority was to avoid damaging publicity. The now-deceased Len Davies, a scout who worked alongside Bennell, admitted that one of England’s major football clubs was “beguiled and hoodwinked” by the man, now 65, who liked to be known as “the star-maker.”

Of course that was then. Nothing of the sort happens now, does it?

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


Transfer balls: Zidane to Real Madrid, but Spurs boss on shortlist

The big football news on the BBC’s website is that Zinedine Zidane “is set to return as Real Madrid manager just 10 months after leaving the Spanish giants”. Wowzer! That fact amplified by the Beeb is “according to European football expert Guillem Balague”. That would be the same Balague who has also told us: 

“Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu, according to Guillem Balague” – – Sky

Alvaro Morata was signing for Arsenal. He joined Chelsea and now plays in Madrid.

Santi Cazorla was on his way to join Atletico Madrid. He joined Villarreal.

Juan Mata was joining Liverpool. Mata remains at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo was returning to Manchester United. He left Real Madrid for Juventus.

He also told us: “Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu.”

I read it on the BBC

Undaunted by circumspection, the BBC continues: “The Frenchman will replace Santiago Solari, who was in charge for less than five months.”

He will? Maybe…

PS: Why is the BBC treating guesswork as fact? Guillem Balague hosts BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast Euro edition.

Posted: 11th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Preparing for Cheltenham with Kayley Woollacott

Kayley Woollacott became a National Hunt trainer after her husband, Richard, who took his own life in January 2018. She guided Lalor to a debut win over fences in their first outing of the campaign at the Cheltenham November Meeting. Can they do it again at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, where Lalor is among the early favourites for the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy?

Spotter: Betway

Posted: 11th, March 2019 | In: Sports | Comment


Spurs balls: Son on marriage and a childhood of marathon keepy-uppy sessions

No running a pub in the New Forest or stints sat on the Sky Sports sofas for Tottenham and South Korea forward Son Heung-min, 26, after he hangs up his playing boots. When Son retires he plans only to marry.

The Tottenham forward’s father, Son Woong-jung, a former professional footballer, has issued a decree for his son to marry only after his playing days are over. Son agrees. He dare not. “He gave us four hours of keepy-uppies,” Son tells the Guardian of training in his youth. “After about three hours, I was seeing three balls. The floor was red [through bloodshot eyes]. I was so tired. And he was so angry. I think this was the best story and we still talk about it when we are all together. Four hours keeping the ball up and you don’t drop it. That’s difficult, no?”

The 10-year-old Son kept the ball from touching the ground for fours hours straight? Well, so he says. He describes his dad as strict and “scary”. So when dad said not to let the ball touch the ground, Son did his best to comply.

But the marriage thing? Given Son’s high level of fitness and that footballers continue playing into their late 30s, might the lad end up being an old first-time husband and father? And what of Sir Alex Ferguson’s dictum that “marriage helps footballers. It helps them settle down. You know where are they are too! It’s good for the stability of a footballer”?

One fat: any future Mrs Son has been warned – your father-in-law knows best.

Posted: 9th, March 2019 | In: Sports, Spurs | Comment


Chelsea balls: Sarri not sacked (day 236)

sarri sack mirror

If you get your news from the Daily Mirror, the shocking realisation is that Maurizio Sarri is still the Chelsea manager. He was not sacked when Chelsea lost the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City. (The Mirror has form with predictions – see here.)

Sarri Mirror chelsea

But clickbait is as clickbait does, and the Mirror today reports that Sarri has dropped the “biggest hint yet he WILL be Chelsea manager next season”. What tosh. He signed a a three-year deal to mange Chelsea in July 2018. But that’s more of a fact than a hint. If you want clicks, you need to conjure ‘hints’ and ‘five things we noticed’ and all manner of other drivel from football. So a few weeks after telling readers Sarri was getting sacked, the paper reports: “Two weeks after the Chelsea axe seemed set to fall on their new boss Sarri, he is now plotting their future.”

He never did stop plotting their future. It’s his job.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Spurs and Liverpool fans: Klopp, Pochettino and Mourinho ‘almost 100%’ certain to get Real Madrid job

Mourinho madrid

The BBC says former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is “almost 100% certain” to rejoin Real Madrid this summer. In 2013, Mourinho left Real to return to Chelsea. The Daily Telegraph agrees that the Portugueses is heading to Spain. But neither broadcaster nor newspaper can cite a source for their story. The roots of the story are unnamed “sources”.

Mourinho is currently taking time out from coaching to work on his insults having been sacked by United and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He’s looking for work. And his agent could use a few quid. Maybe the ‘sources’ are pretty close to the subject?

Mourinho Klopp Madrid
Klopp liverpool madrid

And then talkSport pops up to say “Jurgen Klopp is reportedly Real Madrid’s No.1 target”. Reported by whom? talkSport links to the Independent. It declares: “Next Real Madrid manager: Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp made No 1 target in wake of Champions League exit.” The website cites not a single source for its news, only that:

Jose Mourinho has not been completely ruled out, and still has a good relationship with president Florentino Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez, but there is a view at the top level of the club that the Portuguese is “finished”.

The Sun

Whatever the facts, Klopp or Mourinho to Real is good news for Spurs fans because back in June, Mauricio Pochettino suggested that “when Real Madrid call you, you have to listen”. He later responded to interest from Spain: “It is like you are with your wife and you are holding hands, walking down the street,” he told the Guardian. But because you are so handsome, another woman is looking at you. But your wife is so proud and, rather than worrying, she is so happy to be with you and falls more in love with you.”

The Argentine earns £8.2m a year at Spurs. He’d earn a lot more at Madrid and maybe even win something. “Jorge Griffa [his former coach] told me once that I have to let football take me wherever,” Poch opined “to not get bogged down in trying to change my own destiny.”

Clear as mud, then. And the media hasn’t a clue. So they’re guessing. Which can men only one thing: Unai Emery to Madrid.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Overmars and Matthijs in; vote Mustafi out

Arsenal fans get to feel the warmth of a rosy-fingered dawn as news hits the cycle of Ajax director of football Marc Overmars’ return to the Gunners. And that’s not all. Last night Ajax knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League. The holders were thrashed. And Overmars says if he arrives at Arsenal he’d like to be accompanied on the short flight from Amsterdam by Ajax’s brilliant 19-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt. He would sign De Ligt “immediately”.

Arsenal may need to sell some flesh to get their man. The Telegraph says Manchester City will have to break the world record transfer fee of £75m for a defender, which Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk, if they stand any chance of signing Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell. De Light is better.

Maybe Arsenal should take a democratic response to their malaise? Real Madrid fans are being given a vote on which players should be sold. Arsenal fans form an orderly queue. First up: Mustafi. Any takers? I’ll start the bidding and 10… Ten pounds… Anyone…. Bueller…

Posted: 6th, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Hurray for Troy Deeney: Watford’s anti-role model role model

david cameron
Cameron and someone else’s child

If Wayne Rooney is your role model, you’re either one of his sons or mentally negligible. The Government loves to portray footballers as our moral guides, whether they’re being wheeled out tell us what to eat, who to shag and what not to smoke.

The nadir was when David Cameron saw Liverpool’s Luis Suárez bite an opponent and lamented how the Uruguayan had set “the most appalling example” to children. Dad might have ordered the bombing of Libya, accidentally left his eight-year-old daughter in the pub, said he supported West Ham having already declared an allegiance to Aston Villa but all that was small fry to stories of a stranger biting a stranger. You can topple Muammar Gaddafi, creating a power vacuum and instability in North Africa, encourage the rise of Islamist militancy within range of Italy, but it’s a footballer who teaches by example.

And so it was that Watford striker Troy Deeney was asked what he could do to stop knife crime in Britain. “I don’t like the word role model, first and foremost,” Deeney told BBC Radio 5 Live. 

“The role model should be in the house at all times. We’re all humans – people make mistakes. We’re putting emphasis on being famous as more important than being a good person. What are we basing the role model on? Because we’re in the limelight. I don’t like that. If my kids look up to a man bigger and better than me, then that’s me not doing my job. My dad was not a footballer. He wasn’t anything remotely what the average person would say was a role model – but in my eyes he was Superman.”

Next up: why no-one in politics ever talks about politicians being role models for the kidz.

Posted: 4th, March 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Maxi Gomes to Liverpool; agent Luis Suarez on the phone; Timo Werner waits

Liverpool are willing to spend £35m on Celta Vigo and Uruguay striker Maxi Gomez. The BBC says Liverpool will spend all that money after the club’s former player Luis Suarez recommended his compatriot. And what better pat-time job for ‘Honest Luis’ Suarez than being a respectful football agent? You can imagine how his first foray into recruitment went down:

A phone rings at Fenway Sports Group.

Luis Suarez: “It’s me…” Receptionist: “Fernando!” LS: “No. It’s me Luis.. Luis Suarez.” R: “Who?” LS: “The guy who nearly won you the title…” R: “Oh, the biter. The guy who hand-balled at the World Cup, admitted to diving and called…? LS: “Yes. Tell Mr Henry to buy my friend Maxi Gomez.” R: “OK. Will do!”

The Sun says Chelsea also want Gomez – a player who back in January was said to be on his way to West Ham. The Guardian reported that the Hammers were prepared to trigger the striker’s £43.5m release clause.

If not Gomez, then Liverpool will move for RB Leipzig and Germany striker Timo Werner, 22. Luis Suarez’s views on him are not revealed. But the Liverpool board will be doubtless hoping for his call.

Posted: 4th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Spurs v Arsenal balls: Gunners cheated; Spurs score both goals in North London Derby

How did the two clubs’ respective websites see the Spurs v Arsenal match? The game ended 1-1. Arsenal scored a terrific breakaway goal. Spurs scored a penalty which replays showed should not have been given.

Spurs on Aaron Ramsey’s goals for Arsenal:

But it was Arsenal who found the breakthrough on 16 minutes, although it was a goal all of our own making.

Arsenal on the goal:

Aaron Ramsey gave us the lead in his final north London derby with the coolest of finishes. The Wales midfielder – scorer of two FA Cup final winners on this ground – ran through from inside his own half and feinted to shoot before nipping around Lloris and slotting the ball into the net.

Spurs on the penalty:

To be fair, chances were at a premium but we were given the opportunity to level on 74 minutes when Mustafi pushed Kane in the area at a free-kick and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. Our England striker made no mistake, drilling into the corner to the delight of most inside Wembley.

Arsenal on the penalty:

We expected a Spurs onslaught after the break but it never materialised as we kept our shape and kept them at arm’s length. That just made the home side’s equaliser all the more galling. Kane was again in an offside position when a free-kick was floated into the box, but he was awarded a penalty after a nudge from Shkodran Mustafi..

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs Balls: FA sing ‘Harry Kane is one of our own’; England captain escapes ban for Chelsea headbutt

The FA will not ban England captain Harry Kane for sticking his head into the face of Chelsea skipper César Azpilicueta during Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. They won’t because Harry Kane is one of their own. The FA never was going to sully their clean-cut star. Anyone else would have been banned for one match.

Here’s another honest England footballer keeping his head. Jamie Vardy went down hard. Samir Nasri was red-carded. Azpilicueta did not sink to the floor clutching his face. Would Harry Kane have?

Posted: 28th, February 2019 | In: Chelsea, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs Balls: Harry Kane’s Chelsea headbutt; banned for Arsenal match; it’s England captain Alan Shearer all over again

Kane headbutt Chelsea
His hair never moved an inch

Did Spurs and England captain Harry Kane attempt to headbutt Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and miss in last night’s Premier League match? There’s a think layer of hair lacquer on Kane’s bonce making it near impossible for his head to get within an inch of anyone’s without causing an acute hair fracture. Kane played on unaffected. Injury averted.

Of course, Kane should have been sent off. But Azpilicueta did not make a meal of it, helping the match officials to ignore the England’s man’s blatant offence. But the FA should now take retrospective action against Kane and ban him for three matches. That would mean him missing the North London derby with Arsenal.

If the FA don’t act, well, it’ll be like Alan Shearar all over again. In 1998, England and Newcastle United skipper Alan Shearer appeared to kick Leicester City’s Neil Lennon in the face. “I have now seen the television pictures of the incident and I am amazed how bad it looks by comparison to what actually happened,” said Shearer. “I was brought down by Neil Lennon over by the touchline and we both fell clumsily. As I tried to get to my feet I had to really tug my left foot free and the momentum of doing this looked on television liked a kick. It certainly wasn’t and the fact that Neil is virtually unmarked confirms this. If I did accidentally catch him, I certainly did not mean to. I would never try and deliberately hurt a fellow professional.”

The FA agreed. The England captain had no case to answer. Shearer was free to play on – and play in the FA Cup final against Arsenal. Here’s that moment when Lennon headbutted Shearer’s boot:

Harry Kane is a saint. And England players never dive.

Posted: 28th, February 2019 | In: Chelsea, Key Posts, Sports, Spurs | Comment