Thursday, March 31, 2011

International Friendly

Fiona Shoots Over the Largest Defender
Coach Tom returns to our pages with a heartwarming story of how football transcends language and culture, and helps to makes the world a friendlier place:

I just returned from my annual trip with a group of US students to Honduras. Through Grace the Americas, a charity supported by volunteers working to make a difference in the lives of those who live in rural Latin America, we spend a week building a home for a family living without adequate housing. It's also become a tradition while we're in Latin America to play a game of footie against the locals.

This year we got upgraded from the small pitch (a generous term, as it's usually half submerged by floodwaters and constantly surrounded by a moat of slimy filth that would keep even the most exuberant Brazilian from storming the pitch) to the town’s main field. This seemed to my eyes to be roughly 110' x 75', although without any lines I was making  a best guess, and even had a small section of concrete “stands.” Notably, it also featured a number of sizable cow patties and, naturally, a cow, which soon moved off for quieter pastures as Los Gringos took the field.

Joe Looks to Dribble Around Defenders, Garbage and Cow Patties
This year our group from the US featured two varsity boys and five varsity girls; the other five players on the team consisted of three girls, our translator, Franklin, and me. Our opponents were a mix of Honduran boys and girls who averaged 13 years of age. In other words, it was an even match.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Perfect Storm

farlieonfootie would like to extend its sincere congratulations to our faithful readers on the U-11 girls soccer team of Scarsdale, New York, the "Scarsdale Storm," which won first place in  the Rye Brook Invitational Soccer Tournament on March 27, 2011.

"We're so proud of our girls", said coaches Mitch Berger and Chris Saenger (pictured without his traditional sideline puffer coat).  "Our girls' and boys' high school teams had great seasons in the Fall, both going deep into the state tournaments, which really inspired our girls. They worked hard over the winter months, and kicked off the Spring season in grand style.  We can't wait for the regular season to start this Sunday!"  And neither can we, Chris and Mitch.  Neither can we....

Team USA and Other Thoughts

photo by fdrizovia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed once again graces our pages with some thoughts on Team USA and more:

Watching the USA stumbling through a game on turf in the Meadowlands – and I mean literally stumbling – I have quite a few thoughts about our men in red, blue and a smidge of white, as well as some other random thoughts from the international break:

n   Tim Howard may not be the tallest keeper out there, but he’s extremely fast and aggressive.  He attacks dangerous situations and probably saved the US two goals at least in the their match against Argentina.  Hahneman is a definite step down.  Competent, but not Howard. 

n   Clint Dempsey continues to show that he may be the most complete player on the US team.  He’s terrific with the ball as well as without the ball, and often puts passes in places where his teammates should be but somehow aren’t.  It’s also kind of weird that he’s from Texas.

n  I’ve really had about enough of the Bocanegra’s and Bornstein’s on the US team.  These guys are the most rigid guys on the team and, I think, a constant liability.  Until the US puts together a good back line, we’re going to going to have a hard time climbing above the top 25.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Send in The Clowns

The World's Most Biased and Incompetent Referee, Michael Leslie Dean
On the off chance they could slip the news by you during an otherwise quiet week, the Football Association announced yesterday a couple of important refereeing assignments for the next few weeks: Lee Mason will oversee Manchester United's trip to West Ham this weekend, while Mike Dean has been handed the whistle for the Red's FA Cup Semi-Final clash with Manchester City.  With these appointments, the FA has made their agenda strikingly clear: not content to ban Sir Alex for five games on the touchline, the biased and despicable characters who run the FA have assigned referees to oversee Manchester United who will do their level best best to keep United from winning any trophies this season.

For those of you who don't believe in conspiracy theories, consider this: the only refereeing appointment the FA could have made which would have caused greater controversy would be assigning Martin Atkinson to oversee the Red Devils' journey to the Emirates in early May-- and that may still be in the cards, as I wouldn't put anything past the incompetents, malcontents, liars and cheats who run English football.

I've made the case against Mike Dean many times here at farlieonfootie, beginning with my very earliest columns, continuing throughout the Fall and Winter, and criticising his performances virtually unabated right through the present day.   It's not just that he's poor, or consistently makes errors on the pitch, but the fact that he's biased is so obvious to the casual observer as to make it absolutely scandalous that he was selected to oversee another important game involving the Reds.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not So Friendly

photo by tedkerwinvia PhotoRee

Argentina met the United States last night on a pitch specially designed to deaden the ball and make curling look like a fast-paced sport. The grounds crew at the New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey must have worked overtime placing sand under the green carpet they laid down to muffle the ball's bounces and cause both teams to come up repeatedly short on their passes.  Playing slightly like the swamp it's built on top of, the New Meadowlands pitch acted as a 12th defender against Argentina, slowing down their vaunted attack and allowing the US to stay in the game in the first half when it could have easily lost the evening.

Instead of scoring, Argentina put on a passing show in the first half, keeping the ball away from the home side for several minutes at a time. The Americans packed it in on defense, sitting deep and looking for the rare counter-attack opportunity, but they had precious little to offer in offense after spending so much time defending. Working with a specially designed gameplan under beleaguered Coach Bob Bradley, the Americans attempted to outnumber and outhustle the Argentines as the defense came under the repeated attack of Lionel Messi and his boys.

Things changed in the second half, as the US began to show some ambition and matched the Argentines in their attacking intent.  Scoring a second half goal through newboy Juan Agudelo, the US Mens' team held Argentina to a 1-1 draw, a positive result for the home team and hopefully something for the Red, White and Blue to build on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Over-Matched vs. Over-Hyped

The Welsh National Team in Pre-game Warm Ups
photo by Jon Evansvia PhotoRee

So, the United Kingdom?  It was somewhat surprising -- to this American at least -- to hear the Welsh crowd in Cardiff yesterday booing the English national anthem. And then the English repaid the favor (or is it favour?).  Her Majesty must have been very pleased with her subjects by the time the game kicked off.

Herewith, a few other brief observations on a contest that was essentially over before it began:
  • The Welsh managed to pull off a neat trick: not only did they look like The Ronald McDonald All-stars in their red, white and yellow kits, they played like them, as well, as England jumped out to a quick 2-nil lead in the game's first 20 minutes.
  • England looked sharp early on, but let's remember this was a Welsh side that's been leaking goals under bossman Gary Speed. It's a bit like testing out your gameplan on a boys' U-7 side (and the B-team, at that).

Game Day Beer Review: Brooklyn Brewery's American Brown Ale

(5.6% ABV). Brooklyn Brewery's Brown Ale pours root beer brown, with a thick, two-fingered head that dissipates quickly and leaves behind only spotty lacing.  The beer's smell is very mild, with really only roasted malts and a certain sweetness evident.  The taste follows the nose, and Brown Ale is full of roasted malts, followed by some caramel and chocolate notes, and the beer finishes with a certain dry hoppiness.   This is a very straightforward brown ale -- not my favorite, but I wouldn't turn it down, either: B.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Break

photo by Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resortvia PhotoRee

I've spent some time during the past several days contemplating the dreaded International Break (okay, not a lot of time, granted, but enough to figure out a solution to an issue that's been vexing me in a matter of minutes).  Although it's obviously come at an opportune time for Manchester United -- allowing the players to heal from the various knocks and niggles which have piled up over the course of the season -- I'm not sure I understand FIFA's scheduling logic that led to the break in the first place.

Surely, there has to be a more sensible way to work out the world football calendar than the manner in which it's currently calculated.  Just as I begin to get really excited about the EPL run-in, and the eight (or nine) games left on my team's schedule, here comes FIFA and UEFA to tell me to hold it, just calm down and wait a week or two, because we've got important friendlies and Euro qualifiers to play .  I know I'm dying to see England square off against Wales, and the USA take on Paraguay, but that could be just me.  The dates of those matches have been etched into my mind since...well, since never, actually.  In truth, I'm not sure I'll even watch either game (unless I need a column idea).

So let me make a proposal here.  Feel free to accept it FIFA, and I won't demand monetary compensation for the idea -- just free tickets for the next World Cup and the naming of the new break as the "FIFA International Break, presented by farlieonfootie."  Let's bunch all of the international matches together, and play them over the course of a month, or even six weeks.  They could be held over a "winter break," during January, for example, or even at the end of the league season (which would now end in April, of course, rather than mid-May).  There.  Was that so hard?  Here's my logic, as well as a quick look at some of the benfits which occur to all parties:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Ballast Point Brewing Company's Sea Monster Imperial Stout

On draft (10.0 % ABV). Sea Monster pours a hearty black, like the depths of the ocean, with a thick head that leaves behind generous lacing. I get mellow fruits on the nose, and maybe a little subtle hoppiness.  It's boozy, full of dark fruits and chocolate, with just a little touch of Belgian candy sweetness. Sea Monster has a much thinner mouthfeel than Old Rasputin. It's better than good, but not great: B+.

Game Day Beer Review: North Coast Brewing's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

On nitro-draft (9.0% ABV). Old Rasputin pours a pitch dark black, with a two fingered, milk chocolate head that looks as if it's gonna stay awhile, and leaves behind epic lacing. I get malt, licorice and other dark stuff on the nose; Old Rasputin smells kinda boozy.

And the taste?  Wow!  Liquid heaven. Very complex, and oh, so smooth, like a velvet hammer. This stuff could kill you. I taste hops, roasted malts, and then rich, dark chocolate before the long, sweet finish. This beer is not for everyone: Big Boys only need apply. It's one of my absolute favorites; it just doesn't get any better than this: A.

Game Day Beer Review Cosmic Brewery's Hell Hound American Brown Ale

On draft (5.3% ABV). Hell Hound Brown pours darkish brown, almost like a root beer, but with a two fingered white head that sits and stays for awhile. Despite the name, it offers only a mild smell.  The beer's initial taste is hoppy, with cigar-type flavoring. As it lingers on the mouth, though, I'm getting thin cocoa and leather, and then a switch to coffee, before the ultra-long finish, which is almost porter-like. Hell Hound is highly carbonated, in fact jarringly so, as the bubbles fight with the taste.  Not my fave: B-.

Game Day Beer Review: Strand Brewing Company's 24th Street India Pale Ale

On draft (6.10% ABV). 24th Street pours a murky, reddish brown with a one fingered, white head that lingers and leaves behind a thick film. I get strong hops on the nose. It tastes first of citrus -- I'm tasting grapefruit, just like back home -- and  then mellow west coast hops that linger on the tongue. It's not overwhelmingly bitter, just nicely so. The beer is relatively low in carbonation, and easy to drink. I give it an A-.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

California Dreamin'

A slight departure from the norm today, as the footie news is slow, and the beer (and weather) in Southern California is cold. Enough said -- I'm going way off the reservation here:

I had a few hours to kill on a recent overnight at LAX (that's the Los Angeles airport for those of you not living here in the US) so I decided to check out one of the local beer joints. (Actually, it was either that, or go to see Marilyn Monroe's crypt and attempt to steal some flowers for Correspondent Ed, who -- it turns out --has some sort of sick fetish with Marilyn; something involving dressing up in a Some Like it Hot costume, but I couldn't bear to hear all the details.  Ed also has a crush on Merv Griffin, who's interred nearby, but we'll save that story for another day.).

In any event, armed with my trusty research from Beer Adocate, I ended up at Naja's Place in Redondo Beach, as much for the fact that it sits on the pier overlooking some boats and the Pacific Ocean as for its recommended beer selection, with 78 taps in all.

There were a few things I noticed on my way to Naja's.

First: the Song "It Never Rains in Southern California" is based on a lie. It was pouring when I drove to Naja's. In truly tantalyzing Southern California style, though, the fading sun arced through the clouds and sat resting gently on the horizon as I arrived. And there's nothing like a west coast sunset.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Once again, columnist Ed is wrong on both the facts and his point of view.  But by now you've come to expect all that, wrapped up in the neat little package that is farlieonfootie:

Turns out my attendance at a certain 40th birthday party this weekend saw me and the girlfriend put on a bit of a show as Laverne & Shirley (what can I say, other than that I’m a team player with a bubbly smile?), and ended up with a little over the top social drinking, some difficulty in remembering the appropriate safe-word (turns out it’s “Mufasa!!!” and not “Oklahoma!!!” for months beginning with “M”), and ultimately, a lot of “My head’s going to explode if someone doesn’t do something about the sun, like put it out” the next morning. 

So I’m sorry to say to you, Mom, and to my other 57.3 loyal readers worldwide, that I missed the return of Charlie Adam (my second-favorite Charlie went big in a 2 - 2 draw that kept the Tangerines alive), as well as a miserable effort by Spurs (which I won’t even discuss parenthetically, although I will use a parenthetical comment to make that point).  But fortunately for you, I did get to see Sunday’s games, and I think a few comments are appropriate.

First, I have to say that the bossman was so caught up on hating David Luiz that he almost forgot to notice how much better Chelsea is with a healthy Lampard and with . . . . . David Luiz.  Who was it that said that Luiz was more important a pick-up than Fernando?  Oh that’s right, it was me.  Me, me, me.  Oh how I’d like to gloat more, but sadly we all know there is no credit to be taken because it was pretty obvious that Torres was both unneeded and would prove to be unhelpful.  I’m not sure what happened to this guy, but in addition to losing any ability to shoot, he seems to have lost all of his pace.  Seriously, I think farlieonfootie might give him a race right now -- at least if there were some kind of boiled ham trophy for the winner.
Anyhow, despite the fact that it is simply verboten to say it, Lampard looked good all game, as he pushed the ball to each open area and helped Chelsea completely dominate the match.  As for City, I hate to agree with the bossman, but there is absolutely nothing to enjoy about City right now as they play with zero style and even less creativity.  Only Silva is of any interest to watch.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Too Close for Comfort

Gonna be brief today, just time for a couple quick observations from Sunderland's poor home loss to Liverpool on Sunday.  In case you feel like complaining, talk to the hand, and take a look at the beer review I also put out today.

Anyone else wonder what Andy Carroll was doing to Martin Skrtel when he put his hands on the defender's hips for a corner kick in the Sunderland 18 yard box (see picture below)?  It looked like either the pair were rehearsing the police frisk that typically ends Carroll's Saturday nights out, or were reliving their activities at a "boy's weekend" that went horribly awry.  Either way, I'm not sure I want to know the intimate details of the duo's corner kick "training regime."

Add Kevin Friend to the growing list of EPL referees who can't do their job properly.  For the second year in a row, the Sunderland - Liverpool match had a controversial goal as Friend incorrectly pointed to the spot after consulting with his assistant referee.  After initially indicating -- correctly, in my opinion -- a free kick outside the box, Friend appeared to have his mind changed by his linesman.  If I were a visitor from outer space this season, my understanding of the assistant referee's main responsibilities would be that it's his crucial -- and often only -- duty to get offside and penalty calls wrong.  Full stop.

This is farlieonfootie for March 22.

Game Day Beer Review: Boston Beer Company's Samuel Adams Noble Pils Czech-Style Pilsner

(4.90% ABV).  Served on tap. Noble Pils pours a translucent golden yellow with almost no head. It has a mild but hoppy smell, with just a slight hint of sweetness. The beer is well carbonated and lively on the tongue.  It was served a little bit too cold for my liking -- making it difficult to discern the various flavors --  but it tasted mildly hoppy and mellow, with some grass or wheat notes added before the crisp, clean finish. Even as it warms the taste remains relatively mild. This is a nice Spring sipper, but not my favorite Sam: B.

Monday, March 21, 2011

£650 Million Worth of Nothing Much

photo by a.drianvia PhotoRee

So, Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour spent a combined £650 million on the two teams that met Sunday at the Bridge. Value for the money?  I'll let you decide. Chelsea's 2-nil victory was hardly the convinving home effort I expected to see. And City?  I'm not sure the word offense is even in Roberto Mancini's vocabulary.

The dapper Italian got what he deserved yesterday when David Luiz scored a late winner before Ramires confirmed the victory in stoppage time. Once again Scarved-One  played for a nil-nil draw on the road -- something we've seen way too many times this season -- and this time he paid the price. Mancini kept the ineffective Milner and Toure on far too long, and waited until it was much too late to bring on Adam Johnson and add some attacking flair to his flaccid offense.

A few other observations on the game, while they're still hot out of the oven:

  • It's O'fer eight for Fernando's Chelsea career. Looked a bit more lively yesterday, but really?  Is that what £50 million buys these days?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


photo by wwarbyvia PhotoRee

Old Trafford / Manchester, England / March 19

The Reds take the pitch once more this afternoon with a back four that isn't first choice by any stretch of the imagination, but with hope that their attacking lineup will create more opportunities than the visitors from just up the road in Bolton. Today marks the first start in ages for both Nani and Valencia on the wings -- forcing Ryan Giggs into the middle of the pitch -- and once again Sir Alex looks to the in-form pairing of Rooney and Chicharito to provide the offense.

Despite the Gaffer's intent, it's Bolton with the game's first real opportunity, and when Elmander lays a ball off in the box United are fortunate that Fabrice Muamba's resulting shot is rushed and poor when the ball gets stuck in this feet. It's not the most confident of beginnings for the makeshift back four -- composed today of Brown, Smalling, Evans and Evra -- and Sir Alex must be crossing both fingers and toes that the patchwork defense will hold together for the full 90 minutes.

The teams trade wild shots in an active opening, with Rooney coming closest for the home side. There's a shout from Chicharito for a handball on Bolton defender Gary Cahill, but referee Andre Marriner wants none of it. The call could have gone either way, in my opinion, but Chicharito looks peeved while flashing a hint of frustration, an emotion which has rarely been seen from the Little Pea.

Game Day Beer Review: Williams Brothers Brewing Company's Fraoch Heather Ale

(5.0% ABV) Fraoch Heather Ale pours a light sherry-colored brown with a one-fingered head that lingers like an unwanted guest.  The smell is malty and relatively straight forward -- I get little else, maybe just a hint of very faint herbs. Fraoch tastes dry, herby and wine-like, and I get grapes and floral notes on the finish. I'm no expert on this style, but Fraoch is very subtle, not in your face at all.  It's clearly different, decently drinkable, and a change up from your every day beer: B.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drama Time

photo by eye of einsteinvia PhotoRee

So: anyone for some drama?  Cue the music and pull up a chair....  In the span of roughly ten days in the middle of April, Manchester United will play Chelsea twice in a Champions League quarterfinal knockout round, and then face City in the FA Cup Semi-final.  Could it get any more delicious?

Yes, I know the Champions League draw is a tough one -- I would have loved Schalke, too.  I would have taken Shakhtar, but I think they're a little better than the credit they're being given.  They're an attacking team with a dynamic midfield, and that matchup with Barca could be the sleeper of the quarterfinals.  Inter might have been more our style -- I fancy almost any English team's chances against the holders -- but to be honest I think Sir Alex will be pleased with the draw.  If this doesn't motivate his men, nothing will.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I believe Manchester United is a better team than Chelsea this season.  It's not exactly as if Chelsea is on a barnburning run through the Prem and Europe.  Did anyone manage to sit through the turgid 90 minutes they turned in on Wednesday against FC Copenhagen?  If you did, congratulations, because to say the game wasn't overly exciting is an understatement.  In case you managed to miss it, the Londoners managed to put in zero goals -- that's zero, as in none -- at Stamford Bridge against a team that hasn't played regular football in several months.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blast from the Past: This Week in United History

He's Baaaaaack!  It's Columnist Ed with his semi-famous, semi-regular, and semi-funny report on a "classic" Manchester United game from the past, probably shown on FSC here in the States.  It's funny how much has changed with the team, and yet how much still remains the same over the past 14 years:

It’s been a slow, slow week.  So slow that I couldn’t even get up enough pulse to put together a column last week.  So slow it would make even Cesc Fabregas’ performance against Barca last week look kinda sorta of fast-ish (well, maybe not).  And so slow that instead of fighting back the sleep for 90 minutes of Manchester City v. Reading (ugh), or watching a beat up, exhausted, and defeated Gunners' squad try to make a go against Manchester United  (seriously, Arsenal needs some rest), I thought I’d finally tackle my “This Week In United History” column, something that the bossman decided to require of each of us after it occurred to him that we weren’t covering quite enough of United if we focused only on the present.

So the year is now 1997 -- Boom:  I just did that – and here we are taking a quick look at the FA Cup match between Manchester United and Wimbledon FC.  These were better days for the Wimbledon (see "To The Ends of the Earth"), coming off an FA cup championship only a few years before, and with none other than Vinnie Jones playing midfield and captaining the squad.  In fact, Vinnie was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the game, foreshadowing his berating of LA teens with literally dozens of extemporaneous shots at his teammates that feature a word that sounds something like “flock.” 

United’s side looked very much like they do today except for some nasty oversized jerseys made of a “fabric” that only Umbro could have thought was a good idea.  Paul Scholes was in the center of the field, just as petulant as he is today, only sporting a hairstyle that came dangerously close to a Mary Stuart Masterson wedge.  Gary Neville was out there as well, and the 1997 version could actually keep up with some of the players on the other team.  Ryan Giggs was also running around out there sporting his 1980-something John Oates hairdo (or was it Daryl Hall?  Hard to say, really).  Floppy good times were these.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Elite Eight

photo by eschipulvia PhotoRee

Some quick thoughts on last night's events in the Champions League:

  • My friend John would like to know who designed Copenhagen's away strip.  The team looked like a Christo art project gone horribly wrong.
  • Speaking of uniforms (as we call them here in the States), did it impress anyone else watching the Lyon - Real game last night how very french-looking the Olympique Lyonnais uniforms were?  Very avant-garde, lots of lines going in different directions, tres chic, and so ultimately frenchified.  Rarely have I seen a team's uniform so perfectly encapsulate their culture.  Bravo!
  • By the way, I had to laugh at how Fox Soccer Channel chose to abbreviate Copenhagen's name for the box showing the match score in the upper left-hand corner of the screen: "FCK".  The neat part about that acronym is that not only does it mirror the team's official team name -- FC København, after all -- it's probably pretty close to the sentiment their supporters were feeling after their goalless draw with Chelsea last night.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


photo by Alaskan Dudevia PhotoRee

Oh man, that was painful, and absolutely agonizing. Having just suffered through a tortuous 90 minutes of watching Manchester United and Marseille, I'm a bundle of nerves and not in the best of  moods after United finally -- and thankfully -- dispatched Marseille from the Champions League and moved into the quarterfinals. Suffer may not be the right word, as I watched the match with a close friend (we'll call him Dion), was celebrating a birthday, and managed to knock back a beer or two -- Sierra Nevada was the best choice on tap -- while keeping track of the game.  So I use the word "suffer" in the general sense, to convey the sense of anguish (especially after Marseille scored on a Wes Brown own goal in the 83rd minute) that I felt during the match's waning moments, knowing that one more goal -- one more goal! -- would put United onto the Champions League sidelines for yet another season.

First things first: I'm glad we won.  Relieved may be more like it.  United was clearly a superior team to Marseille, displayed more attacking intent throughout the tie, and deserved to progress.  It says all you need to know about the 180 minutes of play with Marseille that they were never once able to pierce the United goal line; only Wes Brown was able to do that.  I would hate -- and although hate is a strong word, I'll repeat it -- hate to have to watch Marseille for an entire season, because the two games played with them were absolutely stultifying to watch.  I'm not sure if I've seen a worse game this season than the first encounter, and this second one was only marginally better.

Next up: Wayne Rooney had a great game.  I've been holding off on saying this, but Rooney is well and truly back.  He sprayed the ball around the pitch today with great accuracy, vision, and touch.  Sure, he had the odd ball or two that didn't quite end up where he wanted it, but overall he was by far the best player on the pitch for either side.  His hustle, commitment and desire rang through loud and clear, and it seems we have put the early season issues well behind us at this point in the campaign, and can focus on the one thing that matters: when Wayne Rooney plays well, United tend to win.  Not all of the games mind you, but a lot of them.  Enough said.

Game Day Beer Review: Dogfish Head Brewing's Aprihop India Pale Ale

(7.0% ABV). The release of Dogfish Head's seasonal beers are something I always look forward to, and Aprihop is no exception. It pours a light reddish brown color, almost the color of iced tea, with a thin head that hangs around just long enough to get noticed. Aprihop is, appropriately enough, very hoppy on the nose.  That's the first and most overhwhelming thing I notice before I get hit with the apricots -- they're definitely there even before I've tasted the beer -- and some pine notes kick in, as well. The beer is aggressively hoppy like a good IPA should be, but the finish is smoother and fruitier for my money. Nicely carbonated, and it's good; very good. Recommended: A-.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Poppin' Out of My Head

photo by marclehvia PhotoRee

Difficult to control the footie thoughts today, popping out of my head from seemingly nowhere at all:
  • What in the world did Dimitar Berbatov do to lose his starting place, and what does it all mean for him and Manchester United?  The Bulgarian still to this day leads the EPL in scoring for the season, and his general play, attitude and hustle -- yes, hustle -- have been outstanding this season. So how is he rewarded for all his hard work?  Have a seat, Dimi.... I'll be the first to admit Berba's been streaky this season -- putting up big numbers against Liverpool, Blackburn and Birmingham, and often going dry for a number of games.  But it seems as if just when he last hit top gear -- against Birmingham, in late January, with his third hat trick of the season -- that he was shunted aside yet again.  Am I missing something, or does he just not fit into the Reds' current scheme?  I don't ask this question lightly, as it's impossible to dismiss the preternatural rise of young Javier Hernandez this season, or the undeniable fact that Rooney is finally beginning to play himself into the form that we expected a bit earlier in the campaign, or recognize that Sir Alex prefers a five man midfield in "more important" games, but again I ask: Where does Berba fit in?  I love the guy and I would like to see him on the pitch more often.
  • Is Valencia really going to play at that level right from the get go?  Was anyone else astonished by his performance on Saturday?  I mean, doesn't Antonio need a game or two to warm up?  The Ecuadorian's 45 minute shift against Arsenal was simply astounding, and he looked as if he hadn't missed a game all season.  Showing pace, verve and confidence, Tony V reminded us all what we've been missing this year: directness on the ball, terrorizing defensive backs with breakout pace and stinging crosses, and providing a quick outlet for the 'keeper to get the ball up the pitch.  I hope it continues, 'cause if it does it will make all the difference in the run-in.  Talk about a new signing...!  My guess is Valencia will fit in a bit better with his "new" teammates than Torres is doing down in London.

Tying One On at The FA Cup

photo by Thirteen Of Clubsvia PhotoRee

If ever one needed proof that the English require marketing lessons on instilling some drama in their sporting events, look no further than the FA Cup:

Is there anyone out there that would rather see Manchester United and Manchester City playing for the FA Cup Semi-final, rather than in the ultimate game itself? I know, I know, the draw is held at "random."  But somehow I have to feel there might be a way of making this appealing match up happen the way we would all want to see it rather than the way it turned out.

Compounding the issue, the FA -- in its infinite wisdom -- has decided to stage the semis at Wembley itself, not saving that venue for the final. Kinda takes the magic out of singing "We're going to Wembley" when four sides can sing the same tune....

And I'm certain you're all -- like me -- chuffed to bits over the Stoke - Bolton Semi-final blockbuster. Uncertain if I'd watch this one in the League, let alone in the Cup. I'll have to make a snap decision, depending on how full my laundry bag is looking at gametime....  If Bolton didn't have avid tweeters (and USMNT star)  @stuholden and @kevindaviesbwfc (and his wonderful donkeys) I'm pretty damn certain I wouldn't watch at all....

And again, why does the FA hold the draw before all four teams are announced?  If you want to see a proper sports draw, take a look at the one held last night by the NCAA. That's how it's done, Mr. FA.

And herewith, some further thoughts on the weekend's Cup matches:

Sunday, March 13, 2011


photo by O. Taillon Photographyvia PhotoRee

I can't remember the last time I had this feeling....  I'm so excited I'm bouncing off the walls.  The famous Man United are back, after almost two weeks of doubt, misery and consternation, the pace, the excitement, the hustle and flat out desire were all on exhibit today in the 2-nil thrashing of the fomer quadruple candidates, Arsenal.  Backs to the wall, the team responded with what I think and hope will be a season-making type of performance.  Fielding an unusual lineup, Sir Alex justified his reputation as a strategic genius, firing up the squad to play one of their most complete games of the entire season. 

This one had it all: the old Wayne Rooney, the one with the pace, touch, and finishing skills; the legend that is Edwin Van der Sar, rolling back the hands of Father Time to produce yet another Man of the Match performance, rejecting Arsenal's advances time and again; the Gunners punching at twin shadows on the flank, the speedy Brazilian Da Silva brothers injecting infectious excitement that rippled throughout the entire squad and home crowd; Vida and Smalling, laying down the law and showing once again who's boss in the middle of the pitch; O'Shea, Evra and Brown turning in steadily confident performances; Gibson, battling back at his critics and offering a stellar performance in midfield, suggesting he does have a future at Old Trafford; Chicharito lurking like a silent killer, providing dangerous runs and creating space where none seems to exist; Giggs reaching back for inspiration and channeling days of the past; and most unbelievably of all, most incredibly, Antonio Valencia looking as if he hadn't missed a day of practice in the past five months. To say Valencia was a revalation is to understate the matter.  He's been missed, but today gave us a beacon of hope, the hope that his steady touch and devastatingly direct brand of football will once again be on regular display for United.  Only Paul Scholes looked slightly off-key for the home side, but even he had his point to prove: this is our house, our trophy, and we're not backing down an inch.

What a sharp contract to the other side of the pitch, as once again the media darlings from London have proved curiously fragile.  Let me be clear here: I enjoy watching Arsenal, and I don't hate them in the same guttural way that I do Liverpool, Chelsea, and (increasingly) City.  They even have some likeable and skilled players, and I'm growing more impressed by Jack Wilshere with each passing performance (call me late to this party, but I had some early season doubts).  And I think Wenger is a damned good coach.  But at the risk of alienating my entire French readership, like many a Frenchman, Le Professor is stubborn.

Game Day Beer Review: Oskar Blues Brewery's Mama's Little Yella Pils Czech-Style Pilsner

(5.3% ABV). Mama's Little Yella Pils pours a thick yellowish-orange color, with only a gentle head that quickly recedes. The smell is mild but citrusy, with perhaps just a hint of yeast to it. Little Yella Pils is cool, crisp and refreshing, perfectly capturing summer in a can, with a mouthfeel that puts the major brands to shame. This is a no-nonsense session beer, bright and frisky. It's a refreshing change to the never-ending parade of American IPAs. Have one; you won't regret it: B+.

This is farlieonfootie for March 13.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's Just A Game

photo by ohdarlingvia PhotoRee

As any employer knows, the hardest part of running a business is dealing with employees.  And we're not immune to those issues here at farlieonfootie.  Correspondent Ed's column was supposed to run this morning -- actually, it was originally supposed to be submitted by Tuesday, but did any of you miss it?  Anyone?  Anyone...?  No, didn't think so. -- but I was just told a few minutes ago that Ed "couldn't get it done," was "headed to a family vacation in the Florida Keys," was "very busy this week," yada yada yada.  And so you get me.  Again.  Here it is:

So, it's days like today that put life in perspective.  I expected to be writing a weekly roundup, or an article discussing Nani's importance to Manchester United this season, or a blog entry offering some pre-game thoughts on the FA Cup matchup at Old Trafford with Arsenal tomorrow.  But I can't.  I just can't do it.

Instead, I'm struck dumb by the devastating and horrific images coming out of Japan tonight.  As light comes up on that country on the day after one of the worst natural disasters of our time, the immense scope of the problems are just coming to light.  Smoke, fire, water, and scenes reminiscent of the End of Days.  Reports of hundreds and possibly thousands of of people dead, and millions more with lives impacted or ruined.  Normal, innocent people, people just like you and me, people who had little to no warning of what was to come.  People half a world away, but for whom my heart breaks here on this distant shore.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spurs' Fantastic Four

Delicious AND nutricious!

As I post this blog, I'm attempting to figure out which fact amazes me more: that Spurs have qualified for the final eight of the Champions League, or that you can buy a Margarita (with a salted plastic rim, no less) from a drive-through window in the State of Louisiana.  While I continue to ponder the question, Columnist James revels in Spurs' remarkable Champions League campaign:

One has been likened by Martin Samuels to Homer Simpson’s famous line about alcohol (“The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”).  One was an almost afterthought, free transfer acquisition who had played for a despised North London rival and who was consequently slow to gain acceptance from supporters.  One was a complete afterthought, South American signing who arrived at the club inexplicably two weeks late and whom the manager claimed to have forgotten about.  The last has been adequate but never quite lived up to the bulldog central defense role that so many teams need to experience league and cup success, and had an infamous vapor-locked brain implosion which resulted in his sending off and his club’s crashing out of the FA Cup against lowly Fulham. 

It is perhaps a testament to how much can change over the course of six months, Spurs’ maturation as a club in the same time period, and Harry Redknapp’s brilliant stewardship that a team which found themselves down 3 - nil to Young Boys (Young Boys!) 28 minutes into the opening round of qualifying have now advanced to the last eight of the Champions League, 1-0 aggregate, over the seven-time European champion AC Milan (AC Milan!).  And the second leg 0-0 nail-biting slog of a draw was due in large part to the heroics of Heurelho Gomes, William Gallas, Sandro and Michael Dawson.  Not the magnificent Bale.  Not the Dutch Talisman.  Not Modric.  Not even Defoe (who at one time was, and perhaps is, showing signs of again becoming a prolific goal scorer).  Gomes, Gallas, Dawson and Sandro were the undisputed heroes of this match.

First, Gomes.  This game was a microcosm of Gomes.  He withstood 16 of Milan’s shots (contrasted to only 8 of Spurs').  He made two horrendous errors – one an ill conceived challenge out of his goal another a throw directly to the other team.  The first resulted in a goal mouth clearance by the ultra steady Gallas and the other a superlative save by Gomes himself.  The series of events encapsulated the maddening inconsistency of the goalie – capable at times of supreme brilliance and at others of colossal idiocy.  We Yids live by the Heurelho, and we die by the Heurelho.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lessons in Life

photo by Bromiskellyvia PhotoRee

Our Hammers' fan, Ian, returns with the latest installment of his ode to the Irons.  He would have graced our fine pages sooner but for his undercover work serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Olympic Park Legacy Company.  Please feel free to disregard any of his Lessons as you see fit, especially Lesson #7.  Herewith, Ian:
In my previous article, I discussed how being a fan of West Ham has taught me lessons in how to live my life that I wouldn’t have learned by supporting a more successful team. It sounds like I’m obsessed but I get upset when people tell me that football is “just a game.” Actually, I have been more than upset on occasion and almost flown into a rage, swear words pouring out of my mouth. I stand by my convictions though – it is more than just a game.
I don’t say this just because it means so much to me and influences my mood so heavily. I say it because I also believe that football (and many other sports) can help develop positive character traits. This takes me back to an essay that I had to write at university on the social history of sport (I studied and loved history and needless to say, I really enjoyed writing that particular essay). I won’t bore you with too many details but one section of that essay focused on how the better-off Victorians thought that they could help decrease the violence and alcoholism of the working classes by organising sports teams. They could use sport as a tool for teaching social skills, while keeping people active and off the streets. It is no coincidence that so many English football teams started off as church teams or workplace teams, including my beloved West Ham – the Thames Ironworks F.C.
So, just to reiterate (in case I wasn’t clear enough earlier) football is and always will be more than a game to me. Without meaning to marginalise the outstanding efforts of my parents in raising me, football – and West Ham in particular - helped to form part of my character as it is today. Actually, my dad can take credit for that too because it was him (and my brother) that introduced me to the sport in the first place. The lessons that I have learned are certainly not all totally from the school of football (again, my parents take most of the credit) but football has definitely reinforced those lessons through the years. Anyway, what have I learned?

Game Day Beer Review: Brasserie Du Bocq Blanche de Namur Biere Sur Lie Belgian White

Friends of mine know this is a personal fave, especially after a couple sets of tennis, 'cause it's just a damn good hot weather beer.  The temperatures are beginning to heat up already down here in the Southland, but as they warm up in your part of the world, too, keep your eyes peeled for this intriguing Belgian White.  Blanche de Namur pours a cloudy golden yellow with a fat, two-fingered head that leaves behind little to no lacing. The smell is citrus and belgian spices; I know, the bottle says orange, but I always get more of a lemon zest out of it -- maybe it's just me.  The coriander and licorice hit you first upon tasting, but are then followed by some citrus flavors and a muted Belgian spiciness.  Overall, this is a  very mellow, smooth and refreshing beer. It's the malted equivalent of an after-workout drink, thirst quenching and easy to pound. Blanche de Namur is definitely sessionable, and even more definitely recommended by this reviewer. It may not be considered the best of this style by others, but it's one of my top "go to" choices.  It's an easy drinking introduction to the world of high end beer -- have one soon and enjoy: A.

This is farlieonfootie for March 10.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jeopardy, BArsenalona Style

photo by Oh-Barcelona.comvia PhotoRee

And now for the lighting round of Jeopardy, in which we celebrate the highlights and lowlights of Barcelona's 3-1 win over Arsenal in the Champions League.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, in Jeopardy the answers are given first, and the contestants try to guess the question:

AThis journey is familiar, yet is also one of the world's longest trips.

Q. What is traveling from Barcelona to London, after your team has been ousted from the Champions League yet again?

 A: As a young man, he dreamed of playing for the Blaugrana. Then, for a brief and bizarre moment deep in first half stoppage time he actually did, as his giveaway on a too-fancy-for-its-own-good backheel gave the first goal to the home side just before half-time.

Q. Who is Cesc Fabregas?

A: This Swiss native was either on the take, just plain incompetent, or both, and his soft red card on Robin Van Persie was most likely ordered by none other than Michel Platini himself to make sure Barcelona advanced to the next round of the Champions League.

Q. Who is referee Massimo Busacca?


A. This was Arsenal's most effective offensive play of the entire evening.

Q. What is a Barcelona own goal?

A. None.

Q. What is the number of shots Arsenal had on goal last night?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Warning: Rough Seas Ahead

photo by Tom Mascardo 1via PhotoRee

The title chase tightened immeasurably this weekend, with the two leaders surrendering massive points, and the chasing pack gaining ground.  Whether we'll look back at this weekend at the "Week that Was," or whether it's a momentary blip in the smooth sailing of United's and Arsenal's seasons will play out over the next several weeks.  Herewith, some thoughts on a portion of the weekend's activities:
  • Someone forgot to tell Wolves they were supposed to lie down and be relegated. Showcasing a fighting spirit they seem capable of locating only when they play a top side, Mick McCarthy's boys outclassed a Tottenham side that had one eye cast nervously toward their European mid-weeker against Milan, and Wolves were unfortunate to gain only a 3-3 draw on Sunday afternoon.
  • Controversial officiating reared its ugly head again, as Mark Halsey continued the run of clueless refereeing decisions blighting the EPL this month. He somehow saw fit to keep Alan Hutton on the pitch, despite the Spurs' defender being the last man between Nenad Milijas and goal when he pulled the Wolves' man down. Compounding his error, in the second half Halsey disallowed a late Ryan Stearman equalizer, claiming interference on the Wolves' man despite video replay indicating there was little wrong with Stearman's leaping challenge for the ball.

Monday, March 7, 2011


photo by jurvetsonvia PhotoRee

Outplayed, outclassed, and most damning of all, out-desired, as Liverpool clearly wanted today's showdown at Anfield more than their fierce northwestern rivals from Manchester.  Despite featuring an attacking 4-4-2 lineup on the road -- or maybe because of it -- United was shown the door today and dismissed by a club adrift of the erstwhile league leaders by a mere 21 points entering today's match.

Not a single United representative can be spared blame -- not even a manager who may have gotten his tactics wrong on this occasion.  In a gutless, soulless display, United were overrun in midfield and outhustled at every corner of the pitch in an emphatic 3-nil beating that threw the title race wide open and may even have swung the outright advantage to an Arsenal side that still has a home game left with the Reds.

There were shockers galore this afternoon and almost too numerous to count: Wes Brown and Chris Smalling repeatedly losing their marks and letting Suarez and Meireles loose with intent in the box; Carrick and Scholes being run over and well off the pace in midfield; Giggs and Nani uninvolved and off the mark; Rafael impetuous and immature; Evra impersonating a new superhero: Captain Invisible; and Berbatov and Rooney struggling to create even the merest whiff of goal.  Even the big man in between the sticks for United, Edwin Van der Sar, can't be spared the pointed finger of blame for letting a free kick spill into Dirk Kuyt's onrushing feet (not a United defender within five feet, mind you) to gift the third and final goal to Liverpool.

Perhaps most inexplicable of all the day's errors was Nani's header back toward his own goal when the game's outcome was still in question, the Portuguese winger getting his 15th assist of the season in the form of a header back to Kuyt, which even the Dutchman -- known to miss a shot or two in his time -- could not help but netting for a 2-nil advantage.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Double Standard

photo by prayitnovia PhotoRee

Arsenal unbeaten 10 games in a row.  Sunderland four straight losses.  Game at The Emirates.  Arsenal with everything to play for. Prescription for a blowout, right?  Didn't quite work out that way Saturday.

Arsenal looked decidedly indecisive and looser with the football than Sven Goran Erikson is with women without Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Alex Song and Theo Walcott on the pitch against the Black Cats. Mark my words: if the Gunners look like this against Barcelona on Tuesday they will get eaten alive. Last year's 4-nil spanking at the Camp Nou may be looked back at fondly.

I don't want to say I called it, but I called it. Nicklas Bendtner, fresh off beating up on the hapless Leyton Orient mid-week, displayed all the killer instinct of a Tibetan monk in front of goal against Sunderland. Missing chance after chance, and reverting back to form after his once-every-few-months outburst, Bendtner showed Arsenal fans why they shouldn't count on lifting too many trophies this season. 

Laurent Koscielny has the physical presence of a stick figure on a hunger strike in central defense for Arsenal. The Gunners better hope they don't play any upcoming games in breezy conditions, because Koscielny looks as if he might blow away in any gusts greater than about 10 miles per hour.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Only Diamonds Are Forever

photo by johanoomenvia PhotoRee

In anticipation of the game Sunday, I was reading a piece by Daniel Taylor in The Guardian yesterday in which he alluded to an interview conducted recently with Kenny Dalglish.  While talking about the bitter rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool, the Anfield head man admitted to a sense of regret over United's ascendancy in recent years:
"I never considered they would catch us," [Dalglish] admitted.  "You take greater satisfaction from when your own team is successful, and [Manchester United have] been more successful than Liverpool over the past 20 years."
The quote got me to thinking.  Nothing in life is guaranteed, and those of us fortunate enough to be fans of Manchester United have had it pretty good of  late: 11 League titles, five FA Cup trophies, two European Champions League titles and a bunch of other awards and honors (35 in total) during Sir Alex Ferguson's time in charge alone.   That's quite a haul by any stretch of the imagination.  Laissez le bon temps rouler, as they'll be saying next week in Louisiana.

And it's tempting to think it'll go on forever.  I'm certain it must have felt that way to Liverpool supporters in the '70s and '80s, good times continually abounding, the League title coming back to Anfield 11 times in that 20 year span, and the next one seemingly always right around the corner.  But nothing lasts forever.