Monday, January 31, 2011

Ladyboys and Transfer Deadlines

photo by adactiovia PhotoRee

So Fernando Torres (aka, the Ladyboy) has off and joined Chelsea, then.  Is this what the EPL has come to?  I don’t like my current team, or my well paid contract, and despite my protestations to the contrary, I’m ready to move to a bitter rival at a moment’s notice.
It seems indeed as if the culture of English football has definitively changed this year, and not for the better.  And it’s not just Liverpool and the transfer saga they underwent this week with their oft-injured striker, either.  No, this season opened with the “will he or won’t he” storyline playing out on the streets of London and Barcelona, as Arsenal’s Captain Cesc Fabregas sat down with Le Professor to profess his undying love not for the Gunners, but for the Blaugrana.  Although young Ab-Fab was mollified in the short-term, I’m not sure there’s anyone alive who doesn’t believe that his life-long dream will be fulfilled in the next 12-18 months.
The saga next shifted scenes to the tony streets of Cheshire, as balaclava wearing fans milled threateningly outside of Wayne Rooney’s home while he contemplated a move across town to join the nouveau riche gang at Manchester City.  Once again, the dalliance proved fleeting, although not before good ol’ Wayne questioned the very ambition of his club, and the strength of his current teammates (that seems funny in retrospect.  Should’ve been the other way around, huh?), alienating fans and fellow players alike before changing his mind and signing a new five year contract to stay at Old Trafford.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Long March

photo by luigi morantevia PhotoRee

I find myself missing the regular EPL games on a weekend like this past one. Sure, there were some exciting games to be found, including Manchester United's 2-1 win over Southampton, as well as Birmingham's come from behind 3-2 victory over Coventry City, but all in all I found myself longing for Tuesday and the real action to start once again.

On the one hand, I acknowledge that there are way too many competitions in English football -- EPL, Champions League (for the lucky few), Europa League (for the next lucky few), FA Cup, League Cup, etc. -- so many, in fact, that the games and storylines begin to blend into one another. Is Birmingham City fighting relegation or playing for a Cup final?  Or both?

On the other hand, I love the constancy and rhythm of the English football season. One game after another, week after week, the cruel schedules march on. Only the toughest survive, but if your team doesn't, well hey, there's another competition brewing just around the corner.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Have a Feeling I've Seen This Movie Before

photo by ScypaxPicturesvia PhotoRee

Another game, another lackadaisical opening 60 minutes of football.  The end result?  Another win for United in a season full of games strikingly similar to the the FA Cup tie vs. Southampton played earlier this afternoon.  Ryan Giggs and Nani's introduction near the hour mark changed the game in favor of the Reds, and Michael Owen and Chicharito did the damage in a 2-1 game that was even more uncomfortable than the scoreline suggests.

Sir Alex sent out a mix of veteran and youngish talent to take on the Saints at St. Mary's Stadium, in a side that included United new boy Anders Lindegaard between the sticks, and the initial results from the team were not pleasing.  For the better part of an hour, United looked dull, listless, plodding, and totally lacking anything approaching a cutting edge -- looking closer to a spoon than a knife -- and lacked quality and accuracy on their passing (I would add to that "shooting," but there was such a paucity of offense during the first hour that to use the word would stretch the definition beyond an appropriate level).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sex Sells

photo by Sebastian Anthonyvia PhotoRee

And so do transfer rumors, especially with the January window still open.  How else to explain the logic behind @ianprior's boneheaded decision to tease the Twitter-verse yesterday with a "Guardian Exclusive" transfer story that turned out to be nothing more than a reiteration of Inter's desire to buy Gareth Bale?  Thanks, but next time tell me something I don't know.... 

That story was followed in quick succession by a release from Liverpool announcing that they've turned down a Chelsea offer in the vicinity of £35-40 million for striker Fernando Torres, and rumors of fresh scouse bids for both Luis Suarez and Charlie Adam.  What's going on here?  It's silly season, of course, and there's nothing like transfer rumors and stories to get the blood pumping a bit and sell newspapers (or online advertisements).

We're even guilty of it here at farlieonfootie.  Take a quick gander over at the column on the right, which displays our most popular posts of the past 30 days.  I'll wait for you....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ying and Yang

photo by well_luciovia PhotoRee
Once again, it's columnist Ed with the other point of view.  I say black, he says white:

Before United fans get too excited about their gritty comeback, and how this team has the character to win, and how the Sir Alex always makes the right moves, let us remember that the team they beat tonight, the team that took them to the brink, was a team that has only one player who would make the United roster.  Of course, I'm talking again about Charlie Adam, and of course he may very well have been the best player on the pitch, but still, one man does not make an army.

It should also be noted that at the end of the day, for all the young superstars on United, it was Ryan Giggs that was relied on by Sir Alex to stem the tide.  Giggs made an immediate impression on the game, and put together some Adam-esque passes to put United ahead.  Of course the difference between Adam's passes and Giggs' is that when Adam plays the ball to his forwards they are usually outrun and have to turn back, whereas when Giggs plays it to his guys no one is going to slow them down.

Because of their 2-nil lead at halftime, this defeat will likely have a deep emotional impact on Blackpool.  They outplayed and outclassed the 80% line-up that Sir Alex condescendingly and incorrectly believed was enough to beat Blackpool.  It was only after he was down 2-nil at the half that he realized he would have to pull out everything he had to get a win or a draw.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


photo by blahidontreallycarevia PhotoRee


(A thatch-roofed bar that’s seen its best days years ago, located well off the beaten path, deep in the heart of the Florida Keys. A stranger wearing a dark sunglasses, jeans, no shoes, and a red jersey, newish looking, with the number 9 on the back, and the word "Berbatov" emblazoned on the top is sitting by himself at the bar, staring intently at the old television hanging from one of the cabana posts. A series of large green palms rustle in the background, being blown by a forceful wind out of the northwest, as storm clouds begin to gather on the horizon.)

How 'bout a beer, Nick?

     (Glances up from drying some glasses)
Whaddya want?

You tried the St. Martin Brown yet?  I had it at a Beer Festival this past weekend, up in South Carolina.  Went with some friends, and tasted a bunch of beers.  That was one of the best.

You have fun?
Yeah.  Anything not sound fun about the words "beer" and " festival"?            
Give me a St. Martin. And turn up the volume.  United's on.

(fade out)


(A festive Bloomfield Road.  A small but frenzied crowd cheers on the home team, lustily chanting, clapping, stomping their feet, and showering United with prolonged boos and cat calls.)

FAN #1
Cathcart and Campbell.......?!  Can you bloody believe it?

FAN #2
's unbelievable.  Two set pieces, two goals. 

FAN #1
Yeah, but it's all about Charlie, isn't it?  Guy's a fu**in' genius.

FAN #2
God, I hope he doesn't leave.  But the price just went up if he does.

FAN #1
                       That'll show the bloody scousers.  Serves 'em right.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

...And Damned if You Don't

Columnist Ed Explains His Most Recent Column to One of His Many Fans
photo by brennheit bakstvia PhotoRee

Columnist Ed makes his regular appearance, today offering his thoughts in defense of Blackpool's handling of the Charlie Adam situation:

Oh, how weary I am of defending Blackpool....  How often do I have to hear about how refreshing they are but how they also don’t really belong in the EPL...?  And now, at EPLTalk, a new cynical piece by Earl Reed proclaims: “Why Blackpool Should Have Accepted Adam’s Transfer Request.”


As those who support the Tangerines know, Blackpool have only picked up six points in their last six games, and have lost their last two.  The article asks this: “[C]an they really compete? Their recent play may be an aberration, but it’s much more likely that this team was overachieving through the first three months.”  And so, the article effectively concludes, Blackpool should just give it all up right now and sell Adam for £4.7 million because at the end of the year when they're relegated they won’t be able to get much for him anyhow.

Wow.  Let’s begin with some facts. First, right now Blackpool stand on 28 points with 16 games remaining to get the 12 or so points needed to stay up in the Premier League.  They also happen to stand in 12th position, six points above the hapless Wigan, Wolves, and West Ham United. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Going Down

photo by Gideon Tsangvia PhotoRee
Now that the season’s finish line is beginning to hazily appear, as if a mirage still several miles off, it’s time for a semi-famous prediction about how it’s all going to end.  Not for the guys at the top of the table – far too much import in that, and a massive game in hand tomorrow night at Bloomfield Road, which could see United clinging narrowly to a two point lead over the Gunners, or vaulting out to a five point advantage over their nearest rivals.  No, I’m talking about the race for the bottom, for relegation.   It’s just about as interesting, and much more competitive than the race for the title, with arguably as many as ten teams involved.
Let’s start the predictions off with some fireworks: West Ham will not be relegated.   Maybe they deserve to be, and maybe it’s just my latent sympathy for Avram Grant and our farlieonfootie columnist Ian, but I don’t think the Hammers are going down.  And let’s face it: how bold would I really be if I picked the Hammers to fall into the Championship?  If leadership is about having vision, this prediction could look spectacularly good or bad in four month’s time.  In any event, I see the Hammers rallying behind Frederique Piquiounne, Jonathan Spector, and – you guessed it—Scotty Parker to cling, just barely, to their status as a Premier League Club.  This weekend’s draw at Goodison Park was a nice result on the road for West Ham, and their form over their last six matches is actually twelfth best in the league.  Not tops certainly, but not relegation-bound, either.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Carbonated Footie

Some of farlieonfootie's newest fans, from the World Beer Fest
photo by pink_fish13via PhotoRee

In addition to the usual football column, today's version of the blog will include several observations from a recent trip to the World Beer Fest in Columbia, South Carolina. After all, what could be better than a weekend full of footie, unless it's a weekend full of footie and beer? Now how the World Beer Fest happened to choose Columbia, South Carolina as its winter home I'll never know, but I'm guessing the event was rather optimistically named....

First off, regarding the football I saw: Liverpool looked better on Saturday than they have in many weeks, although I wouldn't be getting too carried away about the rest of the season if I were a fan of the reds (which I am decidedly not). True, Torres appears to be finally waking up from his somnambulistic state, hitting the back of the net twice yesterday, but even I could have scored the two goals he did -- and I'm not very good. For his second goal, which capped a 3-nil win over a downtrodden Wolves side, the goalkeeper wasn't even in front of the net, leaving Torres nothing to do but spank the ball home from three feet away.  And true, also, that Raul Meireles is finally showing a bit of the form expected when the Scousers bought him this summer from Porto [Ed. Note: Have any Liverpool supporters thanked Uncle Roy for signing Meireles, or is it not appropriate to show even the smallest sign of gratitude to their former boss man?].  But let's be completely honest here: that was Wolves the reds beat, a side currently sitting one spot north of the southernmost spot in the league, and Wolverhampton turned in an absolute stinker yesterday afternoon after several strong recent performances. So let's not get too hot and bothered over King Kenny's triumphant return. The team he inherited will not be relegated, but they're right where they belong: this Liverpool team is a mid-table club.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top Hat

photo by Nesstervia PhotoRee

If familiarity breeds contempt, this weekend is full of matches between EPL teams that hate each other. All the games on offer today and tomorrow involve teams which played each other less than a month ago, during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. How in the world did the EPL decide to manage its schedule like this...? Clearly, there wasn't a lot of thought went into putting this portion of the season together.....

In any event, United took on Birmingham again this afternoon, in a rematch of the dull and dreary game at St. Andrews in which Lee Mason cheated the Reds out of a couple points on a late goal. And what a difference four weeks made....

In thrashing the Blues 5-nil, United displayed a cutting edge not seen in weeks, absolutely destroying a under-talented Brum side which was never really in the match. From the opening minutes, as a Giggs corner was flicked on by O'Shea and headed home by Berbatov, the Reds were dominant. United piled continual pressure on their former teammate, Ben Foster -- who ended the game looking shellshocked -- and cut open the Birmingham defense early and often in juimping out to a 3-nil halftime lead.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Blackpool and My Other Favorite Charlie

Columnist Ed, on Blackpool, and two of his favorite Charlies:

It appears that few other than us here at farlieonfootie believe that Charlie Adam is worth more than £ 3.5 million, and so as each day passes it becomes more likely that he will remain a Tangerine.  This is obviously good news for Blackpool fans, and, I think, for Charlie Adam.  The Tangerine story is compelling and not yet finished; it would be a shame for him to depart before his work is done.

Last week, the Tangerines were beaten by a bottom-of-the-barrel West Bromwich Albion side.  While the game drew some positive reviews in the press, it was actually the worst game Blackpool has put together in quite some time.  Perhaps this was the result of the emotional game against Liverpool on Tuesday – the lack of depth of the team is always a concern.  Regardless, other than Vaughan, who scored a top flight goal and played extremely well at midfield, Blackpool’s typical rapid and sharp passing was off, and Neil Eardley was once again exposed repeatedly at the right defensive position.  

In fact, Coach Holloway had to pull Eardley in the second half because his play had become such a problem.  It pains me to say this, but while Eardley plays hard, his lack of pace and physical skill are continually a problem.  Expect the opposition to work his side more and more every week until he either raises his play (surprisingly, he’s only 22) or a change is made.

This week Blackpool is at home against Sunderland, whose head was recently removed when Darren Bent was sold for an astounding £18 million to Aston Villa.  I say astounding because that seems a lot for a team like Villa to pay in light of their recent fire sale of their squad.  In spite of this transfer, I expect Sunderland to come out charging in an attempt to prove that Bent is not needed.   However, if Blackpool is able to withstand this initial charge, the confidence of Sunderland should start to wane.  Blackpool will also need DJ Campbell to step up again; his missed opportunities at West Brom were painful.  Prediction?  I expect a Blackpool victory in this one, by a score of 2 to 1.

By the way, what’s up with that Sky Sports News transfer touch screen?  They have their commentators touch the team and then they click the player at issue.  The player does this bit where he turns takes a step and crosses his arms.  I have yet to see them fail to have footage of a player doing this.  Weird.  Kind of makes me want to do it and send it in to them....

More interestingly, a Charlie other than Charlie Adam has caught my attention at the network, and I’m speaking here of Charlie Webster.  The other evening she was commentating in a red cocktail dress and it definitely left me flaring my nostrils a bit (I find the ladies love that move). 

Yeah, this is what I'm talking about.

Kind of crazy, really, here in the US of A we’ve got Chris Berman and Linda Kohn, and in dreary old Britain they’ve got ladies like Charlie winking at me and talking all British like about "Leicester this" or "Newcastle that," or whatever really, doesn’t matter much.  Time to step it up ESPN . . . . .

This is farlieonfootie for January 22.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shut Your Mouth

photo by notsogoodphotographyvia PhotoRee

Did I mention that I'm cold?  Oh, yeah -- that was yesterday....  Still, I find myself in the heartland of this country -- college football country, to be exact --  and it's freezing here.  Not weather fit for football of the English or American variety, and certainly not weather fit for living.  But maybe weather fit for beer drinking (what weather isn't?), so even though this is not a game review article I'm dropping a beer review in at the end of today's blog.

Shut Up:  Cristiano Ronaldo called out the one-month wonder that is Mario Balotelli in an interview earlier this week.  After the Man City striker hit the trifecta by comparing his side's offensive output favorably to Barca and Real, denigrating Wayne Rooney's status as a Manchester-based striker, and elevating Roberto Mancini above Jose Mourinho in the pantheon of coaching greats, @Cristiano injected a bit of realism into the debate.  Now, I fully admit that I don't have the greatest control over the Portuguese language, but even I can translate what Ronaldo was telling Super Mario when he said to "talk less and play more."  'Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Me Neither

photo by Nesstervia PhotoRee

Not much to say tonight, as I made the mistake of visiting a city where the wind chill is measured in the single digits, ice and snow cover the ground, and my fingers are basically too numb to type.  I'm not entirely sure why people, some of whom I even respect, would choose to live here....  But enough complaining, and to each his own.  Now, on with the show:

Pienaar to Spurs: It was a busy day in the transfer market, with Steven Pienaar shunning Chelsea to join cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur.  A year or two this story would have been unthinkable: who would dare join Spurs in the face of interest from Chelsea?  The fact that Pienaar did so tells the tale of how much things have changed between the two London sides in the past eighteen months.  Uncle Harry now holds the whip hand in London town, and there's nothing the Dapper Don can do about it.  Frankly, I can't figure out why Spurs want Pienaar -- a decent player, mind you, but aren't they already covered in midfield, and shouldn't they be more focused on bolstering their defense?  In any event, it'll make Correspondent Ed laugh, so we'll go with it and move onto the next piece of news, which also comes from the transfer market.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

True Mediocrity

Correspondent Ed and Friends Watching Spurs

photo by johnsnapevia PhotoRee

And now for an alternate take on the Spurs vs. Manchester United game, this time from our fearless correspondent Ed.  Although farlieonfootie is publishing the article unedited, the company is looking into suing its own correspondent for blood libel.  Most of his statements are patently false with intent to injure reputations.  In the end, though, coorporate has decided that the only reputation injured will be Correspomdent Ed's own, as his pathetic plea for help will be recognized for what it truly is.

When a team's best case for winning a game comes down to arguing over shirt pulling, and they still can't win with a one man advantage at home for the final quarter of the game, they aren't winning the title.  End of argument; Full stop.

Without further ado, here's Ed:

Just in case you weren’t sure why most people who hear about Manchester United being undefeated react with a yawn, today’s game at Spurs should answer any questions you might have.  United were outplayed, outclassed, and at the end of the day did everything they could to secure one of those figurative sweet kisses with your sister – the zero to zero tie (sorry, Britain, just not ready to use that “nil” word quite yet).  In a league where teams like Blackpool risk their very place in the league every week by throwing all but the kitchen sink at opponents to get wins, Manchester United preferred to send their entire squad into the penalty area for most of the second half. 
Great going guys. 
Way to show heart. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections on a Weekend Full of Football

photo by Mrs Logicvia PhotoRee
Some scattered thoughts from a scatter brain, after a weekend full of games, derbies and otherwise: 

Manchester City - Wolves: City finally figured out how to turn on the offense this weekend. Having scored only 11 goals at Eastlands so far the entire season, the addition of the big Serbian Edin Dzeko inspired City to put four past Mick McCarthy's Wolves on Saturday. The only problem with the game plan was that Roberto Mancini was speaking to his offense when he talked about playing "wide open football," not to his defense. 

The City players certainly appeared confused, as they gave up three goals to Wolves, and could easily have left their home ground with a single point, if not for a timely intervention of Vincent Kompany and another by the woodwork.  Having been criticized before for a lack of offensive effort, it will be interesting to see of Mancini can get his team playing on both sides of the ball in the same game.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

True Grit

photo by Paul Garlandvia PhotoRee

Now that's what I call a game.  Manchester United, showing True Grit and determination, survived a very tough cross examination by Tottenham Hotspur at the Lane this afternoon.   After spending all fall and winter bemoaning the points dropped on the road this season, this was well and truly a point gained for the Red Devils against a very talented Spurs side.

Playing nine against eleven for one death defying moment, United spent the last twenty minutes of the game a man short, thanks to yet another dodgy Mike Dean decision [Ed. Note: how long is one man allowed to keep officiating in the league, when it's obvious his decisions are biased against a team, to say nothing of his general incompetence?  See here and here for examples of me calling Dean out previously for his bias, as well as here for me noting his incredible incompetence.  It's time for this guy to go.]  Despite finishing the game without their right back, United hung tough on the road, and incredibly, had an opportunity to nick the full three points just before the whistle blew.  Sir Alex has to be well pleased with his side's fantastic effort.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Having What it Takes to Win the League

photo by edwin.11via PhotoRee

Another weekend, another footie match, and another opportunity for United to take its unbeaten status a game deeper into the EPL season.  I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to tire a bit of the mainstream media and so-called pundits singling out this current United squad as "unworthy" of the credit due for going the first half of the season without so much as losing a single match -- it's way easier to focus on the nasty draws (Arsenal's "Invincibles" had 12 during their season, by the way), close calls, and the fact that this United team hasn't hit "top gear" yet, rather than on the fact they are leading a very competitive league by an undetermined number of points (due to their status atop the league table with game(s) in hand) and have yet to suffer a defeat -- actually, to be fair, they haven't suffered a setback in the league since April, vs. Chelsea, going back to last season.

But all the carping and moaning in the mainstream media and from opposing fans is misguided.  I don't care if United goes undefeated this season, nor do I think that most Red supporters care.   I'm much more keenly focused on the team gaining the points necessary to take title number 19, as well as going as deep as possible into the Champions League knock out rounds (when a bit of luck often decides the ultimate winner), than I am on United winning or drawing the rest of the games on their EPL season schedule. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tangerine Dreams

photo by Smabs Sputzervia PhotoRee

Not content to take Correspondent Ed's word for it, I journeyed down to Bloomfield Road Wednesday night to see the Tangerines take on the Reds from Liverpool in a mid-week EPL match up.  Ed has been raving about Blackpool for months now, but to know Ed as I do is to know that he raves about many things that aren't worth caring much about: for instance, his fetish with the body parts of small cloth dolls, and his strange habit of ordering a late afternoon lunch every Wednesday consisting of a polish hotdog slathered in peanut butter, cream cheese and celery salt, no bun (an "Ed Dog," we call it around the office) -- but I digress....

"You've got to see these guys play football," Ed shrieks, in his own inimitable way.  "When are they going to be considered the favorites instead of the underdogs?" he asks.  And based upon what I saw last evening, the answer is pretty damn soon.

These Blackpool FC Tangerines are an impressive, attacking football team, one that wins not by playing the game everyone else "thinks" a team just up from the Championship should be playing (that would be Stoke City's physical, "long ball over the top" game), but one that wins by playing the type of game everyone else "dreams" they could be playing.  Blackpool, as coached by the irrepressible Ian Holloway, is a mesmerizing, rollicking, swashbuckling football team that punches the accelerator to the floor and opens the throttle full for 90 minutes of edge-of-your-seat entertainment.  Win or lose, you're going to know you've seen a game, and you're going to love every minute of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Rules Needed

photo by Unlisted Sightingsvia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie's Correspondent Ed has initiated a hunger strike until two new rules are incorporated by FIFA.  Given the light-speed at which FIFA moves, I'm thinking he'll be pretty thin by the time these are actually enacted....
It’s as good a time as any to suggest some new rules.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Egads!!! How can you possibly think of changing the beautiful game? !!! ”  Well, it’s happened before – I remember, for example, the days when “even was off” -- so I think it’s appropriate, but only so long as it’s done pursuant to the following conservative principles:

First, the change should be made only to rectify an egregious problem that affects the fairness or playability of the game.  Second, the change should occur only if it both materially alleviates the problem at hand, and has no more than an immaterial and collateral effect on the game as it stands.  Got it?  Okay, here are two potential rule changes for your careful review -- feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section, and I'll be sure to take them up with Sepp ("Der Blattermeister" to his friends) when I see him next.
1.  Post-match Dive Review.  Following each game, the game film should be reviewed to determine if any players fell to the ground with the intent of causing a penalty. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Senseless Violence

photo by Myrrienvia PhotoRee

I found myself profoundly saddened this weekend by the sickening events in Tucson, Arizona, in which 20 innocent people were shot Saturday morning, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Six of those shot were killed and multiple other lives hang in the balance, all due to the actions of a lone deranged gunman.  I was saddened not only by the shocking and senseless loss of life which occurred, but also by the horrific new low we've reached in our public discourse: if you don't like your opponent, it's acceptable in today's world to hurl ugly invective and hatred at them, even to the point of wishing -- or more dangerously committing -- acts of violence in the name of supporting your cause.

That there is hatred in this world is not new.  Political violence has occurred in this country in the past, and will unfortunately occur again in our future.  But that does not mean we have to accept it or encourage it in any way through our thoughts, language or action.  And the same evil which has infiltrated our daily dialog is also present in sport, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't reject it there, as well, and demand better of ourselves and others.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Notes On Blackpool, Spurs, Howard Webb and Correspondent Ed's Twitter Account

photo by @boettervia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed is back, imparting upon us his dangerous, naive and uninformed opinions.  Make of them what you will:

1.   Blackpool Loses to Southamton 2 to 0 in FA Cup.  Well, Coach Hollaway says that Blackpool couldn’t win the FA Cup anyhow, so he benched his starters in favor of the youngsters and all but fell on his sword in the FA cup.  This one’s a tough one, but I have to agree in part with the Coach.  While I think they could have won the FA cup, the team doesn’t have the depth to do so while simultaneously putting forth the effort required into staying up in the EPL.  The team must out-hustle their opponents every week to win, and cutting down the number of games is not necessarily a bad thing for them.  That said, the FA cup is probably the only cup they have a shot at, so leaving early just isn’t much fun. 

2.   Interest in Charlie Adam.  Apparently both Aston Villa and Birmingham have expressed interest (2.5 million pounds of interest by the Villans, and 2MM for Birmingham) in Blackpool captain Charlie Adam, but both offers have been rejected.  Adam was purchased by Blackpool for 500K pounds, and currently has 18 months left on his contract.  When questioned, Coach Holloway has stated that while the team would not be interested in dealing him to lower level teams, he has spoken with Adam and would feel obliged to consider offers from top six teams for the right price.  It’s tempting to review the best fit for Charlie for these teams, but also a bit cynical.  While it may be true that the bottom clubs are somewhat like the junior varsity squads, sometimes it’s better not to think about it.  Let’s face it, there’s really only one league in the world that has it right when it comes to fairness and parity, and that’s the National Football League.  But its salary cap is impossible on an international level so it’s hard to even dream . . .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

photo by KG Sand Soccervia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie with an Assistant Coaches' corner in the absence of Coach Tom, borrowing a lesson learned time and again in the shadowy hush of the practice pitch:

Friday night I was coaching my daughter's team.  Running late per usual at the end of the work week, I arrived at the practice pitch somewhat distracted and not quite ready for the undertaking.  As if picking up on the cue, several of the girls chattered their way through our quick warm up drills, eager to gossip and catch up on the week's activities.

It was at that point that I remembered the first rule of coaching, and pulled myself back into the present to teach the girls an important lesson about sport: you play the same way that you practice.  If you turn in a tight performance in rehearsal, chances are you're going to play the same way; if you're lazy and indifferent ahead of the game, odds are you're going to regret your next performance.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


photo by JoshMcConnellvia PhotoRee

Kenny Dalglish was spotted stifling a yawn as he exited Old Trafford this afternoon after being handed his FA Cup exit papers in the form of a 1-nil loss to Manchester United.  You can't really blame King Kenny, Liverpool's new/old manager, for feeling bored after witnessing the ineffective and uninspired display his team gave.  I was bored to tears watching them search for a way -- any way -- into a game in which they were never really in contention.

Notable mostly for Steven Gerrard's ugly two-footed challenge on Michael Carrick, and the subsequent red card which ended his day early,  the game this afternoon highlighted the vast chasm in talent that currently exists between the two sides.  Although Liverpool's squad sheet is theoretically filled with some "big" names (e.g., Torres, Kuyt, Rodriguez, Gerrard), the emphasis should be on the word "theoretical," as none of those names played as if they are worthy of the title.  Fernando Torres looked disinterested and distracted -- probably dreaming of bigger and better places to play next season; Kuyt looked ineffective; Maxi clownish while rolling on the ground in mock agony after trying to coax a card from Referee Webb's pocket; and Gerrard -- well, shambolic is the most polite word I can think of.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Making the Grade

An Unauthorized Look at Chelsea's Report Card for the Holiday Season
photo by amboo who?via PhotoRee

Way back on Boxing Day – it seems a long time ago now, doesn’t it? -- we ran a segment asking questions of the teams at the top of the EPL heading into the holiday season.  With the football orgy now over and done, let’s take a look at how each team did over the busy period in which the race for the title has begun to clarify a bit.  Below are the questions we posed at the time, along with the results for the period.  As it’s back-to-school time for most students, we’ve also decided to include a grade for each team’s holiday performance:
Can Arsenal Challenge for the Crown?  The Gunners bested cross-town rivals Chelsea, and won a remarkably easy victory at St. Andrews over a typically tough-at-home Birmingham side.  Although Arsenal sputtered to a dour nil-nil draw at the Emirates with City, it was the Gunners perplexing draw at Wigan – and the weakened side that Wenger picked for the game – that should be the real focus.
Pre-Holiday Minimum Point Haul Necessary: 9; Points Achieved: 8.
Grade: B.
Can Chelsea Steady Their Wobble? The post-holiday Blues are in free fall, with only a fortunate, referee-aided victory over Bolton, and a shocking draw against Villa (a side that all other rivals beat over the holidays) to show for their troubles.  The loss to Arsenal can perhaps be explained, but what is one to make of their most recent loss at Molineux?  Chelsea look uninspired and clueless right now.
Pre-Holiday Minimal Points Needed to Assuage the Doubters: 9; Points Achieved: 4
Grade: F.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ramblin' Man

photo by AmberStrocelvia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie's corporate bad boy Ed is back, and isn't going gentle into that good night:


Blackpool’s loss to Birmingham City on Tuesday hurts, especially due to the fact that Birmingham scored in the last minutes of the game after enduring a barrage of shots and play in their end including a stellar run and shot off the post by Charlie Adam.  That said, it could have been far worse, as the number of chances Birmingham had inside the six yard box of Blackpool was outright frightening. 

Birmingham attacked the advancing outside backs of Blackpool on every counter by pushing the ball up the flanks with their fastest player, striker Cameron Jerome.  Tactically, this was an appropriate response to Ian Holloway’s aggressive style of pushing his outside backs forward and wide, because while both Eardley and Crainey are creative in their passes, neither – especially Earley – have EPL speed. 

The only flaw in Birmingham’s strategy was Jerome.  While he was able to burst past Eardley at will, he was completely incompetent in front of the goal.  Birmingham’s inability to score goals this year is now clear to me.  It appears that Jerome’s problem is in his head;  regardless, he won’t be playing up top for long after efforts like that.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This Roadkill Has More Guts than Manchester City
photo by yuhuivia PhotoRee

Wednesday's EPL results were a serious boon to Manchester United's title chances, as every major pretender to the throne dropped points.  Both teams in Blue -- Chelsea and Manchester City -- suffered yet another setback in their efforts to pin back United, and Sir Alex and the boys had to enjoy watching the spectacle, which was the equivalent of a slow-motion car wreck.  Perhaps best from United's point of view was the listless draw played out at the Emirates between City and Arsenal, in which Roberto Mancini and his boys seemed most inspired by the "adventurous" cantennacio play that typifies the Seria A. 

I have another word for it, though: Gutless. That's the word that best sums up City's approach to the English title race. With a chance to go in and lay down a marker, City instead displayed -- yet again -- a genuine fear of winning and a played with a negative, gutless approach, showing no real intention of even trying to score, and grinding out a nil-nil draw at the Emirates.

Steve McManaman on ESPN had it about right during the game, putting it in a more politic way: Roberto Mancini and the boys in Sky Blue lack ambition. Sure, they're competitive, but they ought to be. Their salaries exceed the team's revenue, which is considerable. But if they want to try and be Champions any time soon, please do so with just an ounce of ambition. Don't go in playing for the nil-nil draw. This is not the Serie A, Roberto.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Again Again

photo by Josep Ma. Rosellvia PhotoRee

January 4 / Old Trafford / Manchester, England

The EPL's worst unbeaten team was back in action again Tuesday night, extending their streak with an uneasy 2-1 victory over a determined Stoke City side. I speak in jest, of course, as I'm growing tired of the chorus of United haters who refuse to recognize the remarkably resilient nature of this year's Red Devil squad. This year's United almost never make things easy, but they always do enough to get a result, and have shown throughout a gritty fighting quality to overcome whatever obstacles may come their way.

The height and physicality of Stoke's team -- back to front -- have caused multiple problems for other teams in the League this year, but not so United. I thought Chris Smalling showed a maturity beyond his years tonight, exhibiting a calming and controlled presence throughout the game. The more I see him, the more readily I begin to accept the comparisons to the man whose boots he was ably filling, Rio Ferdinand. The Smalling I saw this evening was a far more composed version than the raw product I saw in the pre-season and some earlier League Cup games.

Another standout for me on the defensive side of the ball was Rafael.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Letter from a Football Nut

Columnist Ed, on One of His Better Days

photo by Sister72via PhotoRee

Columnist Ed is back, this time with a letter he claims to have burgled from the office of the EPL Chairman:

Sir David Richards
Chairman, English Premier League

Dear Sir Richards:
I am writing because I am interested in a position in your league.  I am not interested in a position in management, or as a coach, or as an assistant coach.  I am especially disinterested in anything to do with taking care of the pitch – I don’t even like to mow my own lawn!  Instead, I am interested in playing soccer for one of your teams in front of thousands of adoring fans.  From what I can tell, this seems like a fun way to make a living, and I understand the pay is quite generous. 
I have a few conditions, however, that you need to know about.  First, I don’t like to run.  At all.  One time I was being chased by a hoard of hungry, wild dogs that were frothing at the mouth and the best I could muster was a light jog.  But hey, does anyone really like to run?  I mean, I’ve seen that guy Drogba play and I can GUARANTEE you that he doesn’t like to run.  I’ve also heard no one on Liverpool likes to run.  Is that true?  Is running a requirement of being a player?  Would Liverpool be a good fit?  How about Fulham? 

Second, I’m extremely ticklish.  Even the sight of something ticklish makes me laugh.  Once I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw someone scratch their own armpit!  I also laugh whenever I read or see the name “Pienaar.”  Sometimes I just like to say it to have a giggle.  Pienaar.  Hah!!  (See?)  So I don’t think I can play on a team with anyone that has a funny name.  I heard that there’s a guy on Manchester City named “Ya Ya”, so if that’s true – which I doubt – I definitely can’t play for them.  I also heard there used to be a guy in your league named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.  I can barely stand up when I hear that.  If he and Pienaar (Hah!) and Ya Ya were all on my team I’d probably pee my pants.  Could you imagine Ya Ya passing to Pienaar (hah!) passing to Jan Vennegor of Hessilink passing to me – and I’m just standing there on the pitch peeing my pants and laughing?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Second Half

photo by dalli58via PhotoRee

Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Villa at the Bridge on Sunday showcased everything we love about this game called football.  Sure, the first half was a bit stop-and-startish, marred by referee Lee Mason's total loss of control of the game, but oh, the second half....

The second half was what makes it all worthwhile, as Villa surged to a stunning 2 -1 lead right after the interval that they then proceeded to defend with all their heart.  The second half was when Chelsea looked to have just done enough to keep their title hopes alive by scoring two goals in the final seven minutes of the match and celebrated as if they had indeed won the Premiership.  And the second half was when Villa scored a shocking third goal to tie the game in stoppage time, only a minute or two after Chelsea's massive pileup to celebrate what they must have surely thought was John Terry's game winner.  Yes, the second half was one of those 45 minutes of football that are sure to stay with you for awhile, long after the season fades into oblivion -- it was that good.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sleepwalking Into the New Year

This Guy Looks More Awake Than Several United Players Did on Saturday

photo by istolethetvvia PhotoRee

So, that was an easy three points, as Manchester United leave the Hawthornes with West Brom done and dusted, clutching their 2-1 victory as tightly as a hobo hanging onto a ham sandwich. What looked on paper to be a tough road trip turned out to be that and more, despite United taking the lead just two minutes after the opening whistle. Nevertheless, a win is still a win, especially when it comes from a game not played at Old Trafford this season.

The match opened with a bang for the Red Devils, with Wayne Rooney ending a shocking nine month drought to finally score from open play. Picked out by Patrice Evra's long arching cross, Rooney gently nodded the ball down, and willed it with all his might to finish its journey resting in the netting behind West Brom 'keeper Scott Carson. With their one-time talisman off the mark so quickly, it looked to be only a matter of time before United extended the lead and secured a precious away win. But a funny thing happened on the way to the three points: United were decidedly second best for large portions of the match, fortunate to end the game with 11 men on the pitch, and were a Peter Odemwingie penalty miss away from dropping more points on the road.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Keeping It in the Family

Bobby Moore Statue, Boleyn Ground, Upton Park

photo by gavindjharpervia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie is very pleased to introduce its newest columnist, Ian, a long-suffering fan of West Ham United based in Houston, Texas.  I know, I know -- it didn't make sense to me, either, but I have a better appreciation for Ian's plight (and some sympathy for his situation) after reading his knowledgeable and passionate piece.  The whole thing's almost enough to turn me into a West Ham fan -- but let's not get carried away.  Without further ado, here's Ian:

As this is my first column/blog, I had better introduce myself – I am an Essex boy living in Texas and I am an avid West Ham fan. By way of that introduction/confession, I almost feel like I’m attending an alcoholics anonymous meeting but … I am not ashamed at being a West Ham fan or an Essex boy. OK, maybe I’m a little bit ashamed of the Essex part but I am proud to hold my head high as a West Ham fan. I was born into a West Ham family – I really had no choice in my team but I’m glad that I ended up following the boys in claret and blue. I warn you now that I tend to go on a bit when I start writing so be prepared for a lengthy piece of script.
I started off at 5 years old watching the reserves in action. I think my dad felt that if the professionals had to work their way through the reserves before getting to the first team, then it was only right that his son do the same. Either that or he was giving some thought to the fact that it was the early 1980s and hooliganism was still rampant and not a great thing for a 5 year old boy to be around. Soon enough though, I was promoted to the first team and never looked back from there. I was gripped. I knew so many (irrelevant) statistics about the players at that age that my brother and older cousins used to joke with me and asked if I knew the players’ shoe sizes. Wow – how I wished that I did! My parents recently gave me some of my school work that they had kept from when I was a young ‘un. Almost every “news” story that I wrote was about West Ham. I lived for the weekends when I would get another chance to hero worship Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Alvin Martin, Alan Devonshire, Ray Stewart, Phil Parkes, Frank Lampard (the original and best one, not the younger, fatter, bigger-headed one), et al.
Now I find myself with a difficult task. I am a father now too -my boy just turned six months old and I feel that I will fail as a West Ham fan if he does not grow up to be a West Ham fan too.  My brother (who lives in Florida) has a son too (a 12 year old) and he is a West Ham fan … kind of. He has the shirt and if you were to ask him who he supports, he’d tell you that he’s a Hammers fan but I see him as a pseudo West Ham fan. Living in Texas I don’t get to see him often but I’m pretty sure that he does not get up every Saturday morning with his heart pounding and race towards the TV to watch the game. If we lose, does he get upset and slump into a bad mood for the rest of the day? I doubt it. What I’m suggesting is that he doesn’t live and breathe West Ham. I want my son to feel the same way about the Irons as I do. I want him to be passionate about many things in life but especially passionate about the Hammers. I don’t want him to be upset about a West Ham defeat or happy about a win purely because I am – I want him to have his own strong emotions about the outcome of the game. I want him to be as angry as I am when someone tells me “cheer up – it’s only a game”. It’s more than a game to me – it sets my mood for the week until the next game. For anyone reading this in the UK, you don’t understand how difficult it will be for me to bring my son up with the same obsession for West Ham. Here are the challenges that I face: