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Monday, January 30, 2006

7 games of destiny for Liverpool

We have seen Liverpool lose their unbeaten run to one of their arch-rivals last weekend, and how. We outplayed Man Utd and held the most chances, but with a defensive stalemate keeping a firm barrier in front of goal, it seemed destined to be a no score draw, until a set piece in the last minute of normal time found Liverpool exposed defensively as Rio Ferdinand glanced a freekick past a despairing hand from Pepe Reina. A proverbial dagger to the heart. I digress a little to state Gary Neville's celebrations were less of the innocent overtones he professes to submit and more of a retributory essence. I would be happy to say the FA have found so, but the FA's movements have been questionable at best recently, but they were informed as such by the Greater Manchester Police, who have no doubt that the celebrations instigated a stand-off between a section of both fans outside Old Trafford.

Since that we have had to overcome a very resilient Portsmouth to advance into the last 16 of the FA Cup. While in the first half a somewhat dubious penalty decision gave Steven Gerrard the opportunity to put us ahead and a John Arne Riise fierce low drive doubled the lead before half time, Liverpool were kept on the back foot by a South Coast side determined to fight back. Sean Davis got ahead of most to glance a header past Reina. It is at set pieces that Liverpool have been found recently to be hesitant. Someone must call and make a decision to clear high balls, be it someone already designated pre-match or on the pitch, but someone must take heed of such a call. We should tighten up on set pieces, one of a few areas which need attention.

Doing the unbeaten run of 12 league games out of 13 since our defeat to Fulham away, with one draw and one defeat, we had conceded only 4 goals, scoring 24, a return of almost 84%. According to the premiership form guide over the last 8 games, Liverpool are second behind Chelsea. As last week's defeat came as a bitter pill to swallow, the FA Cup game on Sunday served as a decent turn of recuperation. The medicine has to be in the overview of the previously mentioned data. Plus, we have two games in hand on Utd, if not they and Chelsea, and it is up to Liverpool to continue that step forward.

We wait for the arrival of Chilean Mark Gonzalez from Spanish side Albacete, now on loan back to La Liga with Real Sociedad until the end of this season. We also have from La Liga's Villarreal Jan Kromkamp, Brondy defender Daniel Agger, and have acquired our prodigal son back in Robbie Fowler, whose experience and passion for the club is hoped to be equalled by training and fitness to further strengthen our resolve and drive ahead.

Starting with Wednesday, there are 7 games which can shape our step ahead. Birmingham at Anfield; Chelsea, Charlton and Wigan away; the FA Cup tie with Man Utd followed by Arsenal in the league both at Anfield; then the 'small issue' of a trip to the Estadio de Luz in the Champions League to face Benfica. After these 7 games, we'll be facing Charlton, Benfica and Arsenal in our following four games after. For me, the next 7 games are very, very key to our success.

We have lose some edge to our game at Old Trafford and had to stand well against a determined Portsmouth comeback on Sunday. Now we need to get back to our basics as we had done previously, get that edge back into our game and continue a good rich vein of form, because I believe we can obtain quite a lot at the moment.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Robbie Fowler rejoins LFC!

The headline is one of the most shocking headlines I've ever read. Liverpool needed a striker but who would have thought they would bring back one of their greatest ever goalscorers. As a Liverpool fan I am absolutely over the moon. No Liverpool fan wanted him to leave the club and every Liverpool fan wanted him back. I'm not talking about Michael Owen; I'm talking about Robbie Fowler.

After struggling wih injuries and a severe lack of fitness, I never thought I would see Fowler back to his electric goalscoring form which made him one of the best finishers in the Premership but we all saw him get a hat trick recently and score one of his trademark goals against Man Utd. Is this the return of the player we once called God?

God certainly moves in mysterious ways . . .

The bottom line

The financial figures released today by Chelsea FC PLC underline the unprecedented financial power that has catapulted Chelsea to the top of the Premiership.

The announcement of a £140 million pre-tax loss for the 2004-05 season explains why some have called for serious consideration of a soft salary cap to mitigate the excesses of Abramovich's football empire in London.

This massive deficit comes on top of the £88 million pre-tax losses for the 2003-04 season. So, in all, the bottom line of securing the Premiership title for Abramovich's football club is a deficit of approximately £228 million.

Chelsea's players fully deserve their current success. Jose Mourniho deserves quality recognition for his management of the team. And Claudio Ranieri deserves greater-than-at-present recognition for building a nucleus of an excellent team for Mourinho to inherit.

But the announcement of such staggering deficits hopefully becomes the exception and not the rule - and not just for Chelsea, but for all football clubs - in future seasons. This is because fair competition is not achieved by allowing any club to excessively spend at will with no real reference to their actual income.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hiddink to England; Sven to Madrid

The title says it all.

Gus Hiddink has expressed his interest at becoming England's next manager. Hiddink guided Australia to the 2006 World Cup and has taken both Holland and South Korea to the semi-finals. He is without a shadow of doubt a good manager and has proven he can do well in the international arena. But of course he is not English and I don't think the FA will go abroad again to find Sven's replacement. But I ask you this - do you really want someone like Allardyce, McClaren or Curbishley in charge of England? Hiring any of them will take us back to the dark days of Keegan. That's not to say that Hiddink is the right man either. But if we're looking for someone with tactical awareness, experience ofbeing in the 'big time' and with a portfolio of trophies, then we should be looking at the likes of Ferguson, Wenger or Mourinho. Fabio Cappello anyone?

And what about the ice man Sven himself? He says - "In football you don't phone clubs or countries and say 'can I come and work for you'. They offer you the job." Real Madrid have probably already offered him the job. Backham and Sven linking up at Madrid - its a done deal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Step forward Allardyce, Curbishley, McClaren, Pearce

Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley, Steve McClaren, Stuart Pearce : are you ready for the England manager's job?

After yesterday evening's statement that the FA and Eriksson had reached an agreement for the latter's immediate departure after the World Cup, I'm sure each one of these individuals will be asking themseleves this question right now. This is beacuse the race to replace Eriksson has no obvious favourite and each one has more or less an equal chance of gaining the poisoned chalice.

If you are an ambitious personality than the potential rewards that come with being an England manager are unbeatable: leading a proud footballing country to international football success.

This is the bait that lures candidates in. However, the reality of the position is that after an inital honeymoon period, the media will go on unremitting attack if you don't produce convincing excellent performances on a match-by-match basis.

Who is good, ambitious and mentally strong enough to take on this challenge?

At present, I make Allardyce the best English candidate (assuming the FA won't look overseas after the Eriksson debacle?). He has a lot of managerial experience, he is proven at being able to get the best out of his players, his team has consistely been on an upward curve, he is tactically astute, he is a progressive coach in terms of being open to the latest training techinques and technological aids, and finally he has the requisite passion that English fans are looking for after putting up with monotone Eriksson. In fact, he is a fearsome individual when it comes to match-time and I imagine any England player would immediately respond to his demands.

The next few days and weeks will all be about potential candidates ruling themselves in and ruling themselves out. Allardyce, Curbishley, McClaren, Pearce: are you ready and willing to step forward?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Three reasons why the AFC 4-5-1 should be abandoned by Wenger

I wrote about the terrible 4-5-1 after the Man Utd match, and produced the stat that it averages AFC only 0.166 goals per match. Since then, AFC have had two more matches with the 4-5-1, and true to form the team did not score in either (a 1-0 loss to Wigan, and a 1-0 loss to Everton), nor barely created a chance worthy of the name in the 180 minutes of play. The stat now reads 0.125 goals per match, or in other words just one goal in eight games dating from the FA Cup final.

Here are three core reasons why Wenger should abandon the 4-5-1:

Opposition teams love the AFC 4-5-1

I have always believed that anything about AFC that the opposition loves is something that needs immediate rectification. A record of only one goal and one win in the eight games employing the 4-5-1 is ample evidence that the opposition must love to see the recent 'invincibles' in the AFC 4-5-1.

4-5-1 neutralises Henry

Thierry Henry has won the European Golden boot in the previous two seasons. More than that, he has produced loads of assists in the same period. Yet the AFC 4-5-1 has seen no goals for Henry, nor is he creating chances for others. Instead we see Henry confined to the centre of the park putting in a really unconvincing impression of a target-man. Henry is no Drogba, is no Beattie, is no Davies. A system that destroys Henry and tries to re-construct him into someone he isn't is one that destroys Arsenal.

4-5-1 betrays the Wenger legacy of fantastic, fluent, positive, winning football

Since 1996, Wenger has transformed Arsenal from a defence-first team into an attack-first team. He has produced a fantastic style of play that has won championships and broken magnificent records. And it has been achieved by drilling an attacking 4-4-2 system into his players.

Conversely, the 4-5-1 is a relatively negative system, favouring a team that primarily has a defensive mentality and a strong target-man. This is mainly why AFC players have no fluency in the 4-5-1: they do not have a defensive-first mentality nor a target-man. Moreover, it sets an alien, negative tone into their mentality in comparison to the attacking spirit they are used to when setting up in a 4-4-2. In other words, it is a totally wrong fit for the AFC players- and it shows in the 4-5-1 performances and results.

So on a number of levels, the 4-5-1 is a wrong system for this AFC squad. I reckon Wenger has persevered with it in preparation for the match in Madrid because the extra midfielder theoretically provides added protection to the defence. Yet this protection has now consistently been proven to come at too high a price.

I hope Wenger now realises he can't go to the Bernabeu playing this system because away goals are a crucial asset: and the 4-5-1 holds out very little hope that Arsenal can gain away goals.

Overall, the Arsenal 4-5-1 system frustrates me because it is self-inflicted damage on the Arsenal players who simply can't find any attacking fluency playing within it. I was happy to see it changed on Saturday at half-time, but by then the damage had been done as Everton had a goal advantage, self-belief and the bit between their teeth.

Post-Everton, I hope Arsene's analysis comes to the same conclusion as me: don’t go back to the 4-5-1 because it is simply a wrong and failing system for this AFC squad.

P.S. Kerrea Gilbert was fantastic on his league debut: pace, tenacity, kept things simple and solid, made constant overlapping runs. He created AFC's best chance just before Everton's goal with a deadly run and cross that Ljungberg took away from a better-positioned Reyes. For a few months I have been anticipating his break-through, and his peformance on Saturday underlines the fact that he has a lot of potential to be a right-sided Ashley Cole.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Liverpool lose as Chelsea are held and Sunderland win

Sky Sports

Man Utd 1 v Liverpool 0
The Man Utd v Liverpool game looked a tight fixture on paper and almost ended that way in reality. Liverpool kept restricting Utd their space and time as Man Utd's defence kept resolute and focused. Utd were winning a number of headers as Liverpool kept good build-up play for a couple of good chances from Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was through but offside and then again by Ryan Giggs but couldn't put power behind his left foot effort. And so it went on, both sides had possession and either side looked like scoring, so it would take something like a lapse of defending or a bad pass to make the kind of mistake to separate the two.

The ball nearly went over the line but for Rio Ferdinand's clearance and Harry Kewell hit the ball back into the box which Edwin Van Der Sar parried to Cisse, who then missed from mere yards. Wayne Rooney brought down sub Florent Sinama-Pongolle and I felt a John Arne Riise left foot would have curled an effort better than Steven Gerrard taking it. However, Utd had their freekick and didn't squander it. Ferdinand was unmarked for his headed goal off Gigg's ball, despite a great hand to it by Pepe Reina. A kick in the teeth, it would have been more justified for another no-score draw.

Chelsea 1 v Charlton 1
Alan Curbishley played a 4-5-1 to match Chelsea but I felt he could have been more ambitious and include new signing Marcus Bent to partner namesake Darren upfront, as Chelsea's back four were quite stalwart in watching one striker and with M Bent's height and pace, he could cause more problems for them. Damien Duff whipped in a delightful corner for Hernan Crespo to beat his marker and head down, Thomas Myhre almost got control of it but it spilled for Eidur Gudjohnson to push in. Charlton had so many in midfield it seemed very congested with mostly red shirts muddled with themselves as Chelsea played the ball quickly through the midfield. M Bent came on for the injured Dennis Rommedahl and so had a full 2nd half to make an impression. Looking to pounce, M Bent waited for Darren Ambrose to float a ball over the defence and got a head to it before Petr Cech and it lobbed in.

Match of the Day

Newcastle 0 v Blackburn 1

Simon Brotherton: "Morten Gamst Pedersen was claiming credit for the goal but as [Shefki] Kuqi knocked it goalwards, Pedersen was there....inadvertently or otherwise, that definitely went in off the Norwegian's hand."

The post-match protests were a main point of this match. I felt Michael Chopra was quite impressive, almost like Michael Owen in getting about and causing concern amongst the Blackburn defence. This was an even match, Brad Friedel kept out a number of shots and kept off Alan Shearer, while Shay Given dived down to superbly deny Paul Dickov. Lucas Neill chipped a ball across goal that came back down off Kuqi's shoulder and then bounce for Pedersen to guide off his hand. Lee Bowyer appealed at the time but to no avail and it made for the single goal that killed Newcastle at home. Ironically, the same happened to Souness as Blackburn manager at St James' Park, the ball went in off Paul Gallagher's hand. There are still 16 league games and the Cheltenham cup game next week to make more of their season. The fans chanted "There's only one Bobby Robson." And I'm afraid he is now occupied elsewhere.

Everton 1 v Arsenal 0

Steve Wilson: "And Alan Wiley has got a real task on his hands here, right at the end of the 90th minute of the game. A game which has always been fiercely contested, has just bubbled over completely."

[At the final whistle]: "Arsenal were outmuscled and outgunned by Everton, who were completely committed."

Arsene Wenger may look on this game as yet another physical game which ill-suited the Gunners. Leo Osman played behind James Beattie as David Moyes was content with four across the midfield. Beattie seemed very eager to get at the Arsenal defence that may have done well with the tenacity of Kolo Toure to match that of Beattie's. As the ball bounced towards goal, Beattie jumped onto it to capitalise on Phillippe Senderos's hesitancy to clear, Sol Campbell came to aid but Beattie had gotten across him and nudged the ball further, settling it up to tuck away pass Jens Lehmann.

Talking point came in the last minute of normal time as Thierry Henry teased Tim Cahill and went past him, the Australian's tackle seeming to aim to catch Henry late. Henry went back to speak to Cahill about it, in his own way, but Cesc Fabregas grabbed Cahill by the throat with his hand. Cahill goes down easily and a melee ensues. Fabregas is dismissed, Cahill booked. Little to discuss, both decisions were correct. Arsenal are in action in the Cup, another potential physical match against Bolton, though the Gunners have fared better in the competition at the The Reebok.

Spurs 0 v Aston Villa 0

Jonathan Pearce: "Well, they haven't been the most adventurous but David O'Leary will be happy if it stays like this, another solid away point."

Pearce was right. Spurs had the most of chances and couldn't make them count. Had it not been for Thomas Sorensen keeping out a number of shots, this could have been a well earned home win. Gareth Barry was caught out twice by Aaron Lennon's quick pace and was booked for both occasions.

Bolton 2 v Man City 0

Conor McNarama [as Nolan shapes to shoot]: "Nolan?!.....well, that really would have put the cap on a fine performance from Kevin Nolan....and from Bolton Wanderers."

Both managers have been touted for the England managerial position as if it was already free. Rightly, Pearce mentioned that when Man City were doing well, he was mentioned but when they were not, no mention of his name. Could this have been on his mind going into this game, or even future games? The possibility of coaching the national squad, for Pearce? Bolton have now conceded three goals in ten home games. It's a great emergence from the relegation fight that occurred routinely at The Reebok to the heights of the European places. If Newcastle want to bring Sam Allardyce to St James' Park, it may just take more than Newcastle have to do so. New captain Kevin Nolan has new vigour in him to lead Bolton to more European football.

Birmingham 5 v Portsmouth 0

John Motson: "It's David Dunn for Birmingham......and it's 5-0....ohh, its a landslide....and this is a drubbing for Portsmouth, and it's a jubilant day for Birmingham City."

I don't know what the odds were on this but I wouldn't have wagered on it happening. If form was a guide, the home side would shade this by a single goal, 2-1. But the fight to stay up has hit the wind out of Portsmouth recently. Harry Redknapp's recent return was expected to rejuvenate the club but it is a hard struggle at the moment. Results like this usually lead to relegation, sorry to say for Portsmouth fans. With the possibility of Sunderland and Portsmouth going down, Birmingham could drag West Brom into the zone to slug it out for the third team to go. Five goals and none conceded is a nice way to round off your football weekend but the next game is Reading next week and then a trip to Anfield, so the emphasis from Steve Bruce is to definitely keep such momentum going.

Middlesbrough 2 v Wigan 3

Guy Mowbray: "Neil Mellor's won it for Wigan!....It's prompted a mass exodus from the Middlesbrough fans inside the Riverside."

New signing in central defence, new captain, new players contributing, who were English. Paul Jewell is touted as potential manager for England. He signed Paul Scharner, Neil Mellor and David Thompson. Jason Roberts was gifted the kind of ball strikers thrive on to hammer past rookie Bradley Jones and Thompson came across to head home a cross to put the away side 0-2 at half-time. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink came on as the last sub at half-time and headed Boro back into the game, with Aiyebeni Yakubu touching their second to level the scores and even then Boro weren't done. But Mellor is known for scoring when least expected. He did so against Arsenal for Liverpool last season at Anfield and he did it again, nipping in to guide the ball from 5-6 yards in the last minute of the game.

Ugo Ehigou came on for Chris Riggott in the first half and was greeted with boos. Perhaps Boro fans can write in and say why, he isn't happy at the club, wanted to leave, was granted permission, passed a medical, both clubs agreed terms, he agreed terms and was due to practically sign when he was stopped from going any further, only to be given the green light eventually and now the deal is scuppered because Boro want him released on loan and WBA want to permanently sign him. That, to me, isn't a fault of the defender at all.

West Brom 0 v Sunderland 1

Ian Gwyn Hughes: "Last time the Sunderland support tasted victory, September 25th at Middlesbrough by two goals to nil....and they'll be celebrating this evening, the fans, as if they'd won the league rather than just won away from home for only the 2nd time this season."

Mick McCathy must have been thinking 'at last' when the final whistle went. Not only did it end West Brom's battle to equalise but signaled another vital win for the Black Cats. It was the kind of win that their desire deserved but desire cannot fuel victories often on its own. The goal may have been fortuitous, Paul Robinson and Steve Watson looking to thwart Anthony Le Tallec but The Frenchman swiped the ball and it deflected off Watson to go agonisingly past keeper Tomasz Kuszczak. You may remember the Pole made a excellent textbook dive across goal last week to deny Wigan's Jason Roberts to earn a vital away win for WBA but he was powerless to stop this goal. Sunderland managed to sit on the lead and ride out the storm that was West Brom coming to equalise. As I said above (Birmingham review), WBA could find themselves in a Midland scrap with Birmingham to avoid the drop.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Walcott has two crucial assets at an exceptional level to ensure his success at AFC

So the day that London suddenly sees blue skies is the day that Theo Walcott becomes an Arsenal player!!

It's a good omen for a fantastic signing. This is a big day for AFC because Theo Walcott is an extraordinary talent. His signing also confirms the intent of the club to progress and meet the Chelsea challenge.

His distinct qualities are a perfect-fit for AFC: high technical quality, supreme speed combined with total balance, and a pure athlete/footballer. He compares to Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney as evidently magnificent young striking talents to be produced in England in the last ten years, and it is great for both him and AFC that his progression will be in an Arsenal shirt.

Walcott won't be able to find a better coach anywhere to maximise his talents than Arsene Wenger. The AFC manager is a master of developing gifted young players into fantastic footballers: Henry, Vieira, Cole to name just a few. Also, the ultra-quick and precise attacking gameplay of AFC is the best type of footballing system for a pure attacking footballer like Walcott.

Comparisons with a young Thierry Henry are spot-on. Arsene Wenger constantly refers to Henry as having 'unlimited potential' because of his amazing 'talent and motivation'. I agreed with Wenger when he first said this about Thierry- and TH is still living up to this statement.

I'm convinced we are going to hear the exact same phrase from Arsene Wenger when discussing the merits of Theo Walcott. For aside from his devastating talent, he also looks to have the other crucial asset necessary to take him right to the very top: a great mindset.

All the evidence I've seen indicates he has a fantastic temperament. This is a decisive quote from TW:

"Staying level-headed is the most important thing for me. I just want to play, improve as a player and play at the highest level."

I've heard him speak and he certainly comes across as level-headed. His demeanour on the pitch solidifies that impression. The Soton scout has talked about his great 'level-headedness'. And the former Soton player, Graeme Le Saux, has said he has 'all the mental qualities to go to the top'.

It's not enough to have great talent if you want to reach and stay at the very top over a long period of time. You need a world-class mindset too: just look at Henry, or Tiger Woods, or Roger Federer. It's great that Walcott has this vital asset and does - as the quote suggests - recognise the importance of it.

Walcott is only 16 years old. He is talented enough to make an instant impact for the team but his true worth lies in what he will bring to AFC over the next decade.

The addition of Walcott to a squad already comprising fantastic young talents like Senderos, Toure, Clichy, Fabregas, Reyes, Van Persie, Diaby, Eboue, Gilbert, Song, Hleb, Lupoli and Adebayor shows that Arsenal's future is looking very bright. Add a Captain Henry and a fantastic new 60,000 capacity stadium into the equation, and the potential definitely exists for Wenger's 'next-generation' AFC to emulate their predecessors.

P.S. Nice quote from Arsene on TW:

"His attitude is predominant. What happens until you are 16 is because you are a talented player. Between 16 and 18 your mental state takes shape and that shows how much you want to be a special guy, how much you want to be the best and that is the next step. I believe he has the ingredients in his personality to be steady, determined and motivated enough to achieve that.”

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sven-Goran Eriksson misleading his employers yet again??

Sven-Goran Eriksson is yet again the subject of newspaper revelations regarding lucrative secret dealings. This time, additional to previously where he was involved in talks to join Manchester United and Chelsea behind the backs of the FA, Eriksson is said to have joined his agent, Athole Still and a lawyer in company with a sheikh to discuss a possibility of coaching a football academy in the United Arab Emirates captial of Dubai. While wining and dining, talk arose of buying a football club in England, and Mr Still revealed Aston Villa Football Club was under takeover talks and £25m would entertain a controlling interest. Eriksson then spoke of the possibility of such a circumstance where the sheikh would have control over Villa Park and install Eriksson as manager (which would mean David O'Leary being dismissed, regardless of whether Villa were riding high under his management or not at the time).

Eriksson explained his current salary deal with the FA and to be manager of Villa would mean a bigger salary of £5m per year for 3yrs to equal that of Chelsea's Jose Mourinho. The mention of Doug Ellis is said to be on the lines where Eriksson and his agent described the Villa chairman as old and sick, therefore should be stepping down with little fuss. Eriksson spoke of leaving the England job if he went on to win the World Cup and said he could talk David Beckham into leaving Real Madrid to come to Villa, impressing the England captain of the attractions of the Midlands.

So in a nutshell, Still is contacted by an unknown party to discuss a deal for Eriksson to teach football at an academy in Dubai. Eriksson and Still are joined by lawyer Richard Des Voeux to discuss with a sheikh this possibility. Talks turn to purchasing an English football club, Aston Villa is suggested, Eriksson speaks of being manager at the club for a £15m contract, with David Beckham leaving Spain for Birmingham. Eriksson can get out of his current contract with the FA if need be and be available to take over at Villa Park, no problems there. After the World Cup, Eriksson says he will leave the managerial post if England win the trophy.

The 'sheikh' turned out to be an undercover journalist with the 'News of the World' Sunday newspaper, affiliated with 'The Sun' daily newspaper. Perhaps both are known more for notorious sensationalism reporting but rarely shown to be wrong. I said 'rarely'.

I personally feel that after the World Cup, it would be irrelevant how England do, Eriksson would leave with the enticement of a £15m Aston Villa contract like a cushion to comfort his departure, being on more than his current salary. So were this sheikh to suddenly enter a £25m bid for Villa Park, that would signal to the Swede the beginning of his end as national coach. Would his preparations then be distracted, would he be less enchanted with England's progress knowing win, lose or draw, he would be leaving whatever mess or triumph behind to venutre elsewhere? Does he have a more ulterior motive in his links with Beckham, which would add to the 'favouritism' he has been accused of in not dropping certain first-team selections when England were not producing better football? Does Beckham have an ulterior motive in his links with the coach, which would ensure the unlikelihood of being dropped if or when Beckham's performance is questioned or even poor?

Eriksson also revealed to the 'sheikh' conversations he had with a number of England players, where he described one player as "lazy", another as having a bad upbringing and a third as not being worth is transfer fee. Michael Owen was said to have been mentioned by Eriksson as being unhappy at Newcastle and being there only for financial reasons. Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd stated he had spoken to Owen and Owen stated he was happy.

Yet, does this now undermine Eriksson's relationship with the players in question as well as the other England players? They cannot discuss anything with him for fear of it being repeated to dinner guests as a source of amusement? But all of this appears to be immaterial to the FA. They won't be sacking Eriksson so close to the World Cup, and I don't think it would be ideal unless his position was rendered untenable because it unsettled the players. Beckham is his good confidante and if he is OK with Eriksson, the others will follow. Most, I believe, are content with playing for England and what appears in the papers regarding Eriksson is Eriksson's business, and that of the FA. The FA have stated they are behind Eriksson and give him their full support. Still stated the conversations as hypothetical and sheer fantasy and regarded the set-up by the News of The World reporters as "disgraceful entrapment". He has revealed Eriksson had actually asked if his contract with the FA could be extended.

The News of the World investigations maybe viewed as ill-timed but the paper had stated rumours were in the pipeline that Eriksson and Still were looking out for lucrative deals, which attracted the reporters to the idea of an operation to see how far these rumours could be proved. Still entertained the contact made to him from the 'sheikh'. They met the 'sheikh' and discuss matters in relation to a new deal. The thing with accusations of entrapment is that those caught are not persuaded to take part or forced to be involved, they become involved at their own accord. Police operations have caught numerous suspects in entrapment scenarios as the safest way of enticing them out of hiding. Furthermore, if you do not have the intention initially, why entertain the idea in the first place?

The case is proven for me, neither Eriksson nor Still or even Eriksson's lawyer have denied these conversations took place. But in revealing the conversations, the newspaper has done little to hamper Eriksson's position, I don't think anything will where the FA are concerned. I'll be interested to see if Eriksson's position is extended because while there are good candidates for the position, the FA have their own preferential list, and, to quote Peter Kenyon, it is from "a small group of one". And when you add the FA investigation into Luton Town manager Mike Newell's accusation of 'transfer bungs' being prolific in the English game, I know which subject takes priority.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Diaby is six foot two inches!

With the immense Patrick Vieira and hugely underrated Edu leaving Highbury last summer, it is with some urgency that Arsene Wenger needed extra CM back-up to Fabregas, Flamini and Gilberto.

So it is good news that Arsenal - according to breaking news reports - has signed the 19 year old Auxerre central midfielder Vassiriki Abou Diaby in a four-year deal.

The L'equipe website says he is 1 metre 88 cms. This is fantastic because Arsenal has desperately lacked a central midfielder with natural physical presence this season.

He won the European Under 19 Championships with France last summer which means he has the same pedigree as Phillipe Senderos.

And as he has been schooled in the French youth international set-up, plus at Auxerre, it is fair to conclude he should be a highly technical player as well as having a good physical presence.

After the Portsmouth match, Arsene Wenger made these analytical comments about Mathieu Flamini:

"Mathieu is more of a mobile player than an impact player. He would benefit from the pitch being 10 yards longer and wider because he can run unbelievably well. Vieira was more an impact player. Every fight was better for him and he won the ball. On a short pitch and squeezed pitch like we have at Highbury you need to be an impact player or have really quick technique."

I hope Wenger has bought Diaby because he has the attributes to be a successor to Pat in the sense of being an 'impact player' with excellent physical power and high technical ability. If he does meet this description, it will just be what AFC has been looking for.

I look forward to seeing Diaby in action and the exact potential that he has. If anyone has seen him play in Ligue One or in last summer's Under 19 European Championships it will be great to have your opinion on him.

P.S. Found this comment on Diaby from Amy Lawrence of the Observer in her analysis of the victorious French Under 19's:

"Arsene Wenger would be crazy not to snap up Vassariki Diaby, who did an outstanding impression of a young Patrick Vieira."

Pedersen is one of the stand-out players of season 2005/2006

Blackburn Rovers left-winger, Morten Gamst Pedersen, is the answer to any Newcastle supporter who doubts Graeme Souness's ability to make a good value acquisition. The £1.5m buy from Tromso in Norway is turning out to be one of the best players of the 2005/2006 season.

Last night Pedersen scored his seventh goal of the season for Blackburn to level the first leg League Cup semi-final against Man Utd at 1-1. It was the left winger's third goal in two games against Man Utd this season. And more than that, it was another goal of stunning technique that saw the ball soar of his right boot into the top right hand corner of the net.

Pedersen is creating his own personal goal of the season competition. A left-foot volley on the run from an extreme angle that rocketed into the roof of the net against Fulham caught everyone's attention about the awesome technique of Pedersen.

Then on New Years Day he demonstrated his technique is so excellent that he can repeat stunning goals: this time blasting another left foot volley from an even more acute angle into the roof of the net at Wigan. A game letter he curled a delicate left-footed free-kick against Portsmouth to start a come-from-behind victory.

I'm sure I heard a commentator say that until the age of thirteen he was solely right-footed and then made a deliberate decision to become left-footed. The perfect technique of his right-footed goal last night is evidence that he indeed is fully two-footed. Aside from this relatively rare attribute, he has an excellent shooting technique that repeats, a good work rate, and is an accurate crosser of the ball from the left wing. Overall, he is a pure footballer that brings a lot of class and quality to Mark Hughes well-coached Blackburn side.

At only 24 years old, Pedersen will surely become a transfer target of the elite clubs in Europe if he continues his rapid progression in the Blackburn shirt.

When Souness bought the player in August 2004, he said:

'Morten is a working left-sided player who chips in with goals. I would say he is a very good all-rounder at this time. He is a young man who is athletic, not short of technique and who has a great future in our football. We think we've signed a very good player.'

Sixteen months on, and it certainly looks like Souness was spot-on with his judgement on Morten Gamst Pedersen.

Monday, January 09, 2006

De Vries effort will long live in the memory

I have only seen Mark De Vries play once before Sunday evening. This was in an FA Cup defeat at Ewood Park last season. I remember thinking that he was similar to Dion Dublin with his height and strength in the air, and that he was a useful acquisition for Leicester City.

In expectation of Spurs visiting Leicester, I thought of the prospect of De Vries troubling the young centre-backs from North London with his attributes.

But what materialised during the match blew away my highest hopes. The 100% non-stop effort and fantastic hold-up play of big De Vries was fantastic to watch, and he crowned a magnificent match with a deserved winner in the 91st minute.

De Vries phenomenal spirit and stunning display of powerful target-man play was one of the best performances I've seen from a footballer in a long time, and I'll definitely remember it for some time to come.

I love cup upsets. And a comeback from two goals down to beat a Spurs team enjoying their best season in many years is definitely a huge cup-upset. But it was also certainly deserved given the commitment, desire and quality shown by each one of Leicester's players.

A special note should go to the Islington-born, Arsenal player Ryan Smith who is a left winger with huge potential. He is only 19 and yet has already had cruciate ligament damage in his fledgling career. I had looked forward to seeing how he's progressing, and I thought his dribbling skills and crosses during the match were excellent.

Clyde provide more shocks in Cup competitions

The Sky cameras were present during the Scottish Cup tie at the Broadwood ground for Clyde v Celtic as Roy Keane made his debut for the Hoops, but it was to end on a sour note for the former Red Devil skipper. Clyde practically ran a tight gauntlet to the Cup holders and allowed Celtic little room to manoeuvre, and some signs showed up of nervousness particularly from Stephen McManus on two occasions when he had nervy ball control.

Clyde had two goals disallowed which both seemed legitimate enough, but they continued to harass and close down Celtic and were awarded with two good goals either side of a penalty miss. Craig Bryson capitalised on hesitancy by Celtic's Polish keeper Artur Boruc as Eddie Malone crossed, and headed into an empty net. Celtic debutant defender, China captain Du Wei, looked out of sorts at the back and he was outmuscled by Tom Brighton for Clyde's first disallowed goal, and the defender was at fault again when he pulled down Brighton in the box. Stephen O'Donnell aimed but Boruc excellently saved to his right. Clyde got their second via the best goal of the game, Malone's left foot volley that Artur Bobic got a hand to but couldn't keep out.

These two sides met at Broadwood last season in the 5th round of the competition in February, where Clyde defended very bravely yet relented to Celtic's 5 goals, but yesterday they claimed revenge and were clearly the better against the best side in the SPL at the moment, being from a division below and having been assembled from applicants who answered the club's advertisements for potential footballers! Clyde manager, former Spurs stalwart defender Graham Roberts, said on Friday: "In the end, we know we have 11 players against 11 players and our 11 players will run through brick walls."

Makes it all the more sensational.

Leyton Orient came to Craven Cottage from League Two, currently in 4th place but that made little way for Fulham to command proceedings. Collins John ran practically the length of the pitch to feed Tomaz Radzinski but was ruled offside, and then Fulham were hit for two by Orient's Craig Easton and Joe Keith before half-time. John got one back after the start of the 2nd half and had a penalty excellently stopped by Orient keeper Glyn Garner.

Leicester are in the relegation zone, 21st place, in the Championship and were 0-2 down after 40mins via Jermaine Jenas and Paul Stalteri's striking first goal for Spurs but still maintained on course to score through Elvis Hammond before half time and then equalised through Stephen Hughes's deflected shot off Matt Dawson (Stephen Hughes previously with Rangers, not the former Arsenal player). The replay seeming certain, striker Mark De Vries was found with a ball from Joey Gudjonsson on the left in injury time, beating the offside trap and pushing the ball past Paul Robinson.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Luton Town v Liverpool - Excellent FA Cup Saturday finish

The best FA Cup tie on Saturday saved to last. From the start, Luton Town had little fear and much more courage than anticipated. They have won more at home this season and have emerged from the lower leagues to the Championship and at the moment are settled three places from the play-offs in 9th place. But on paper their form seemed impressive, while on the BBC cameras, they came out to scalp. These two last met in the competition in January 1987, where I recall two matches beginning with Kenilworth Road and 0-0, a fortnight later it was Anfield and again 0-0, back to Kenilworth Road again, possibly astro-turf (QPR and Luton were renowned for their astro-turf in those days), and we were humbled 3-0, by Brian Stein, Mick Harford and Mike Newell. Newell is the current manager with Stein his assistant at Luton now.

Liverpool settled into the Kenilworth Road stadium, good link play with Djibril Cisse and Peter Crouch to find Steven Gerrard for our 1st, and then after that we seemed laid back, to be polite. Luton aimed to be first to the ball, good, firm accurate passing and we seemed somewhat lethargic. Our defence duo of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia were at times chasing around as Luton's forwards kept them busy, and we were opened by Luton's own Steves', Howard and Robinson, the latter touching a great through ball to the former, Howard rounding Steve Carson to equalise.

But Liverpool couldn't keep shape to attack with any ability to pressure Luton, almost every ball was met by a Luton Town player and they made a number of head-ons too, despite the height of Hyypia. But height wasn't needed for their 2nd, Carlos Edwards fed Robinson from the right and Robinson touched the ball skillfully round Carragher first time, which teed him to strike past Carson. This was a big shock for me, as Liverpool looked painfully abject in form. This wasn't Ataturk but we needed another big comeback, 2-1 to the home side at half-time.

Come the 2nd half, Liverpool looked lively as Harry Kewell, who seems to be getting better in form, came down the left and passed for the advancing Gerrard, the ball was too hard and it rolled past, yet Gerrard came down in the area under Paul Underwood's touch and a penalty was given, which was a good decision. Cisse stepped up but Marlon Beresford guessed right and held onto the effort too. And to make it worse for Liverpool, a pass back to Hyypia was miscontrolled, leaving Rowan Vine one-on-one with the keeper and then judged to have been fouled by Carson in the box, which produced a booking for the keeper. Replays showed it was actually Vine who stamped on Carson's right foot, which incidentally happened outside the box and the Luton man certainly didn't step forward to admit to the error, making more dispute of the challenge that could have had Carson sent off. Carragher and John Arne Riise recovering probably persuaded the ref to produce the yellow anyway. Skipper Kevin Nicholls put it away, despite Carson going the right way. It seemed we would be out again at an early stage.

So, a penalty that was but not scored for Liverpool, and then one that wasn't and scored for Luton Town. But Liverpool are of a resolve now where they may not play well but they do not give up. They came back against Bolton and now they aimed to do so against Luton. Rafael Benitez changed Mohamed Sissoko for Florent Sinama-Pongolle, another Frenchman at the club clubs were seeking to obtain, and he made an excellent contribution almost immediately. Five minutes on and he raced onto a Gerrard through ball to fire past Beresford. Then seven minutes later Xabi Alonso picked onto a loose ball some 35-40 yards out in the Luton half and sent a looping effort high and completely over Beresford with acute accuracy. This is how I expected Liverpool to answer, how they should answer.

This was better from Liverpool, coming alive when the chips are down. We sensed we could get something, having equalised, and came forward with more lethal intent. Steve Finnan is looking better at right back and in coming forward. Five minutes after Alonso's goal, Finnan crossed from the right for FSP to jump and head his 2nd and Liverpool's 4th. And even then Luton were still coming at us. Benitez introduced new signing Jan Kromkamp, for Crouch, 10mins from time, leaving Cisse and FSP upfront. The Dutchman went on the right wing and got into stride, creating an attack to square for FSP, who dummied for Gerrard but his shot went wide. Finally, Cisse made way for Stephen Warnock, and was booked for taking too long. Warnock allowed Riise to float down the left, Kewell up with FSP.

But in the dying moments of injury time Luton attacked and Finnan cleared a dangerously loose ball in the box for a corner after it came off Riise's foot. Beresford came up but the ball was headed out. As it came back towards goal Gerrard headed it away, it went high and came down outside the box and was met by Riise with a high foot, from which a Luton Town player seemed to have been injured but the ref waved play to continue. Alonso picked the ball up in the middle of our half, Gerrard to his left eager to tear towards goal if passed through quick enough, Beresford remained up and challenged Alonso but was evaded, leaving the Luton goal open. Instead of finding Gerrard, the Spaniard aimed a curling left-foot effort towards goal from within his own half, and it bobbled and bobbled in the Luton half nearer the goal and went in. Gerrard exclaimed annoyance and then congratulations as the aim was achieved. Funny moment.

In summary, Liverpool started well and could have looked to add to Gerrard's goal but Luton Town have great courage and vigour and had settled well into a routine of battling for the ball, creating runs and opening up the Liverpool defence to be 3-1 ahead. This was another FA Cup classic for the archives, for me, and could have been another early exit at the hands of another Championship side. The Liverpool players showed excellent spirit to not let their heads down and to get more effort into their game, and Luton Town showed that they have spirit themselves to ascend into the Premiership.

"If we do not keep progressing, there will come a time when players move on. Premiership clubs and big Championship teams will be aware of our better players. It might be something that concerns me in the long run, but we have a great opportunity in the second half of this season, and we have to grasp it....and we are in a position where we can go and claim the big prize." - Mike Newell in December.

After this tie, clubs will be aware and Luton almost got that big prize. But they also showed they have a good claim to be there come May in contention for promotion.


Arsenal is great for Thierry, and Thierry is great for Arsenal

It's fantastic to be an Arsenal fan and see the headline on teletext stating that Henry wants to stay at Arsenal!

My own conviction has always been that TH would not turn his back on the club that he has often stated in the past that he owes so much too. When I recently heard Jamie Redknapp say he was sure TH would be at Barcelona next season, this conviction became even more rock-solid… Redknapp's analysis is never the best!

It's the right decision for Thierry. He is Captain and the main personality of a football club with a magnificent tradition and set of supporters; he plays under a magnificent coach with whom he has a special relationship; he will be a leader of a magnificent new generation of young footballers; and AFC is moving to a magnificent new stadium which will bolster revenues for team-building.

Arsenal has been great for Thierry, and Thierry has been great for Arsenal. He is already AFC's top-ever goal-scorer, and in his six seasons at the club he has won championships, cups, and in two consecutive years been voted the second best player in the world (in 2004 he was robbed of being number one by dubious voting!).

TH only needs to see how the fans adore Dennis Bergkamp for his loyalty to AFC to see how great it would be for him to commit his long-term future with the club. Conversely, Arsene only needs to say the names Marc Overmars and Emmanual Petit to put across the point summed up by the phrase: 'the grass is not always greener on the other side'.

TH is a winner and his continued presence in the team will be invaluable for the likes of Francesc, Reyes, and RVP who need winners to look up to and emulate. His presence will also be vital in attracting top players to the club, and for not allowing opponents to think that AFC are on a major slide.

Of course Thierry needs to sign the new contract before everyone connected to AFC can totally rejoice, but I'm prepared to be confident that he will do so because of the above reasons and his own words published today. It's a fantastic prospect for all Arsenal fans and fans of Premiership football in general.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

4-5-1 system is averaging Arsenal just 0.166 goals per match!

When I see Arsenal line-up in their new 4-5-1 system my instinctive reaction is to lower my expectations for the match.

And after seeing Arsenal play out a goalless draw with Man Utd last night using the 4-5-1 system, I racked my memory of recent past matches where Wenger has opted for this formation and came up with a stat that explains my instinctive negative reaction to it.

Starting with the 2005 FA Cup final - where Arsenal looked really makeshift with Bergkamp as a target man and Reyes lost on the right wing! - I can count six games including last night where we have used the 4-5-1 system. These are:

Man Utd (cup final); Chelsea (away); Ajax (home); Chelsea (home); Charlton (away); Man Utd (home).

These six matches have seen Arsenal score just one goal… coming from Reyes at Charlton. This averages out at 0.166 goals scored per match.

This poor statistic says a lot about our attacking success with the 4-5-1 system. It also betrays the AFC that all Gunners' are rightly proud to have seen revolutionise attacking football in recent years.

On the plus side, these six games have seen four clean sheets plus a Drogba shinner. So 4-5-1 has proven merits for keeping the goals out.

But the high price for defensive stability is - as backed up by the above evidence - a lack of an attacking threat that is the AFC trademark and helped produce real fear and intimidation in the opposition during the previous eight seasons of the Wenger era. I don’t want AFC to lose this special trademark.

For me, 4-5-1 should be used sparingly because our attacking movement in the system is not grooved to high standards. It should be reserved for tough away matches or as a plan B at home if Wenger wants to defend a lead.

I really don't want to see it as the starting system for a home match. It puts AFC on the back foot in an uncustomary system for the players; when we should be on the front foot using the 4-4-2 system that the attacking players at AFC have incorporated into their DNA over the years.

Every Arsenal player played with great commitment yesterday. But the system let the team down when it came to looking to hurt Man Utd.

In particular, Henry loves to rove, but was inhibited to play his natural game because as the sole striker he was aware that if he left the centre of the park than AFC would effectively be playing a 4-6-0. But when stuck in the middle - as has happened on past occasions using this system - he can't get free of his defensive markers.

A system that negates Henry is a system that negates AFC. And the stats prove the 4-5-1 system negates goal scoring and attacking threat for both. Because of this, I'd definitely prefer it if Wenger does not start with the 4-5-1 system at home for some time to come.

FA non-action on Gerrard, Sissoko and Reo-Coker

Sam Allardyce has mentioned before about teams fearing coming to The Reebok, the side had conceded only one goal to Everton and Aston Villa before Liverpool came there Saturday. This game had 'draw' written over it because of Bolton's home form and Liverpool's winning form. These were two in-form sides prepared to battle hard, Bolton particularly after their publicised display against Arsenal and Liverpool particularly to keep up 3rd place and on the tail of Chelsea. Incidents that happened in the game highlighted by both managers were the lead-up to Bolton's goals, a potential penalty for Bolton and two alleged stamping moments by Liverpool.

Rafael Benitez stated that there were diving from Bolton, and I agree with that. Stelios Giannakopoulos dropped to the ground very easily following a body nudge by Steve Finnan, which looked worst in replay. Yet Liverpool should have defended the freekick much better, Pepe Reina didn't hold the ball, should have, and Sami Hyypia should have left it to the keeper to gather. For Bolton's 2nd, El-Hadji Diouf was offside but it was allowed and yet Liverpool still failed to defend better, Diouf was between Hyypia and Djimi Traore.

Jamie Carragher came in on Kevin Nolan with a good tackle and then followed it up with a rash 2nd that could have been given, and would have done with other referees, but fortunately not in this case. It was a penalty.

When Nolan came tumbling towards Steven Gerrard, this was where Mr Allardyce said Gerrard looked at Nolan and then aimed his studs into him. From the replay, Gerrard was watching the action around the ball and saw Nolan coming to him late, aimed to jump out the way and his foot came down. It was accidental, why would Gerrard want to deliberately do this? But when Mohamed Sissoko came in on Diouf with his boot landing on Diouf's right lower calf, that seemed to be reckless, not intentional, and deserving a booking. But both incidents of alleged stamping were seen by referee Mark Clattenburg and considered not an offence, so the FA are powerless to intervene.

Mr Allardyce stated that he wanted action to be taken on the pitch and not at FA HQ, and appears to have now stated, upon hearing of no action from the FA: "Our procedure has to be seriously flawed. I have to find out the reasons why neither player has been punished." So he now wants action to occur off the pitch too.

Another incident from the weekend was Nigel Reo-Coker's tackle on Michael Essien. The ball was loose as Reo-Coker lost possession, he looked to recover it but Essien got there quicker and Reo-Coker's studs caught Essien on the left ankle and it looked very hurting, like a sprained ankle or worse. Essien was stretchered off and the West Ham skipper was not cautioned. The FA saw that this too was not within their powers. I felt it was a rash challenge and deserved a yellow.

On Match of the Day, the Chelsea coach was asked on his comments regarding the conduct of Geremi during alleged incidents involving contact on players with his hands, arms or elbow, and he rightly stated that the interviewer didn't ask questions about Essien's injury, asking for comments on Reo-Coker's tackle, but instead inquired about Geremi, a point that is seen as negatively against Chelsea.

This is probably why Mourinho considers the whole league, additional to the FA, are against Chelsea, why he must form Chelsea into a team to be shielded and to convene behind closed doors, because people seem to pick at anything to get at him and/or the club. Perhaps on this occasion, it was a oversight by the interviewer, eager in seeking sensationalism.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Is Newcastle the unluckiest team in the Premiership?

When Newcastle went to West Brom nine weeks ago and comprehensively beat them 3-0, they looked to me a side finally ready to fulfil its potential.

Emre and Scott Parker were tenacious and skilful in the CM.

Steven Taylor was continuing his rapid development in the CB role alongside the first-choice French international Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Michael Owen put on a display of goal-scoring that reminded everyone why he is worthy of a £17m pound tag.

And Kieron Dyer then came off the bench after a long injury lay-off and showed the dribbling prowess that made him an England international squad regular; eventually setting up Alan Shearer for yet another goal to the striking legend.

Add the outstanding Shay Given, plus the mix of talent and experience of Carr, N'Zogbia, Luque, and Solano, and I was reckoning that this was now the time that Newcastle would finally break-free of the injury, disciplinary and general behind-the-scenes problems that had unsettled the club for a prolonged period. But I should have known better.

There seems to be a permanent cloud over St James'. Dyer, Emre, Taylor, and Owen were soon injured after the West Brom match. Taylor then returned against Liverpool last Monday only to re-dislocate his shoulder and put him out for a lengthy period.

And then yesterday at Spurs, Michael Owen broke his metatarsal and is expected to be out for a minimum of 8-10 weeks. As an AFC fan I know this injury is a bad one and will be surprised if Owen does make it back in the specified minimum time-period. Ashley Cole has been out for over three months with this injury, whilst Gael Clichy is expected to have a recovery time of 5 months for the same injury.

To compound this injury woe, Newcastle's most consistently excellent player, Shay Given, damaged his thumb in yesterday's match and it is unclear yet whether or not it is broken.

Newcastle is a heavy-investment side. They are full of players with big price-tags and big potential. But injuries keeps preventing them from fielding their full side and maximising their collective potential. All teams have injuries but Newcastle seem particularly plagued by them over the last few seasons.

Do Newcastle need to overhaul their fitness-training/medical staff? Or is it just a consistent run of bad-luck that seems to have no end?

Whatever the case, Graeme Souness, in my opinion, should not be held solely responsible. Matches against West Brom, Arsenal, and West Ham showed that a team coming close to his first choice is capable of good things. I think its fair only to definitively judge him once he has been able to field his full, first-choice team on a consistent basis; not whilst Newcastle continue to be badly struck down by injuries to key players.

Happy New Year to one and all!

On behalf of everyone at EFT, I would like to wish all our readers from around the world a Happy New Year that sees all your main hopes and wishes come good!

Thanks for supporting the site in our first year, and its true to say that EFT is better for each one of your football comments so definitely keep on contributing during this new World Cup year!


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