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Back Pakistan now!!

03 Mar 11 12:29
If any of my followers would see this in the next half hour....

The pitch is a nightmare to play on.  Plenty of swing for seamers, plenty of bounce and turn for spinners and Pakistan are better at both of these.  Gul for top wicket taker too if you can get any volume matched.  I'd be tempted to lay Canada 50 too.  This could turn in to a mission for them in the early overs.

Site outage really not helped close out my position today
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Jol for Newcastle?

07 Dec 10 12:11
Every so often two events happen coincidentally that must be correlated.  Whilst it's been clear for some time that Hughton's good results were an inconvenience for Mike Ashley and that Martin Jol has been pining for a move from Ajax since the summer, that the latter's resignation should follow the former's sacking feels like it has to be related.

It's easy to see why Newcastle would want him.  Jol is charismatic, well repsected and clearly has strong ties with the Premier League where he left under a cloud at Spurs with board level interference a part.  As for the Newcastle job, even though you have a very questionably motivated employer, the team is strong, confident and has a lot of experience.  There's no immediate relegation worry and a European charge isn't out of the question.

I'm definitely backing Jol at 3.55 here.  Surely even Mike Ashley won't hold Pardew in higher esteem than Jol (or Martin O'Neill for that matter) and it looks like Jol might be keen.
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Mike Ashley is a hard man to please.  Chris Hughton's appointment was the first time in Ashley's tenure that a sound managerial choice was made and even at the start it was one Ashley was trying to avoid. 

But Hughton started making a Premiership midfield play as one and suddenly all were swept before them.

This presumably upset Ashley but ultimately his wallet was involved and it made sense, if he was ever to sell that club, to get promoted back so he could put another over-inflated price tag on and avoid it being bought for a while, this was the only way.  Almost inevitably promotion and the title was secured, with Ashley again mentioning how they might need a more experienced manager.

Except they didn't, and Hughton took them in to the top half on merit with a few disappointing home results the only thing stopping a Champions League run.

By now, Ashley was presumably fuming.  No-one wants the caretaker as headteacher for long, he presumably thought, but again couldn't drop him with the Champions League in sight.  Sportsdirect could rule the affordable sportswear world, he may have thought - Real Madrid playing benefit matches in a Barnsley warehouse.

Out of nowhere, suddenly the chance presented itself.  Hughton made his first serious mistake of the season - putting out a footballing hit on Elmander - and lose his two first choice centre backs prompting a dip in form. 

This was the chance, open went the metaphorical trap door and let's get Alan Pardew on the phone.  A man who left his last two Premiership appointments in the relegation zone.

It's reassuring to see that the one constant in Newcastle United has returned though. The familiar gut punch of disappoinment.

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For those unsure on the merits of the two countries to be holding the next World Cups...

Russia Qatar
Rivals Two of the 4 favourites to win the last World Cup Two countries holding the tournament in the last 20 years and one who can't pay people to go to club matches
Temperature Warm but mild in summer Hot enough to make a Brazilian baulk
Population 141m 1.4m ~3x the amount of people who will attend English professional football each week
National Team will... Play impressive football but lose bravely in the semis hopefully still exist by then but even in 10 years will be worse than Austria were
Fans will... Hopefully turn out in numbers pending FIFA ticket policy, European fans will help numbers Presumably be shipped in for games where they can, maybe decide that even watching in 40 degrees is ridiculous
Stadiums Long history of football means 5 will be ready by 2013 and the remainder to be built No natural league to support it, everything to be built
Stadium Legacy Potential shot in the arm for Russian football Shipping them out somewhere else, apparently
Token inclusion so that your region can claim to have hosted a World Cup     Yes
Competition will be remembered as The first behind the iron curtain and one of the fastest paced ever a waste of time that will give curious interest to kids making sticker albums in 2050


As for England, even after the event, I'm pretty unmoved.  Russia will be a new territory and probably long overdue.  What a colossal waste of everyone's time and money for the other bidders though.
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It's sometimes hard to understand exactly why football has become the global dominating force which it now represents when it seems to have almost completely eroded any goodwill.

The truth and accuracy of the recent press allegations at FIFA officials taking bribes almost doesn't matter.  FIFA's reaction has been exactly what you'd expect of a gravy train masquerading as a charity - dispute the right of the media to investigate in that manner rather than investigate or even condemn the reported offences.  Many charities struggle to follow a capitalist business model to maximise profits and yet FIFA's specialisation in profit making suggest there are indeed many personal profit-driven interests within the business. 

In the World Cup in South Africa, GDP increase for the economy was estimated at 0.5% yet FIFA's profits eclipsed those at approximately 0.7% of GDP.  Additionally, the tax free status FIFA demands led a spokesman for the South African Revenue Service to say "this will not be a revenue-raising exercise for us".  Our hosts in Pretoria pointed out how local prices were inflated while we were there but it was hard to appreciate this social commentary when it was clear that we were charged a mark up price to stay, cheap as it was compared with alternatives.  In reality, the only benefit left in South Africa seems to be for business owners which will most likely serve to widen the already huge poverty gap. 

The more you look, the more it's a struggle to see if anyone other than FIFA and professional footballers benefit from a World Cup.  The US had more fans travelling to the World Cup than any other country and yet ABC and ESPN barely seemed to break even on coverage.  The ticket prices may have been paying to watch some of the best players in the world but a comparable seat at the Camp Nou would cost around two thirds of the price for invariably a higher standard of football.  The World Cup was never designed to solve socio-economic problems in the host country but to demand such a long and rigourous lobbying process, they should also allow countries to make some sort of economic advancement as a legacy.

The question is, really, do England even want to host a World Cup?  Somehow, a country with a rich football legacy, developed infrastructure and not one but two of the best attended leagues in Europe has been tricked in to thinking that FFIA would be doing England a favour by allowing FIFA to draw vast profits from an economy hardly needing money sucked out of it.  Contrary to popular belief, Euro 96 wasn't nearly sold out for every game and when fans are asked to spend £80 on tickets in 2018, you're going to get exactly the same situation.  Personally, I think someone major needs to make a stand refusing to stand based on the one-sidedness of the agreement.  Maybe this is the perfect time to rebalance the relationship.


Source of figures:

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2010/tc20100714_994644.htm
http://www.emmatrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28507&Itemid=38
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10091277
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Barcball

30 Nov 10 12:34
It's become clear that Barcelona are no longer playing the same game as everyone else but are in fact playing Barcball instead.  It's no wonder no-one's beating them at football.  Barcball seems to involve players fairly near each other keeping the ball for as long as possible with a second set of players optional.  Last night Barcelona actually played a pretty poor game of Barcball knocking the ball off the pitch at least 5 times but everyone seemed happy about things.

Due to a mess-up in scheduling, Real Madrid's kickboxing team were double booked for the Camp Nou.
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Wie was stoppen Dortmund

30 Nov 10 12:37
or something like that in correct German, was a question posed to local readers of a Dortmund paper asking who can stop Dortmund.  The overwhelming answer (60%) was klein (no-one).  You'd have to say on the basis of the 4-1 win at the Westfalenalsonamedsomethingcorporatestadion that the league don't look ready to stop them just yet although struggling Monchengladbach's opener to take the lead really started anything of quality.  Dortmund don't seem to really control games in a way top English teams do but they were technically far too good and much stronger aerially.  Hard to see them getting caught with a 7 point lead already and no sign of Bayern yet but 1.5 is there if you fancy it.

Almost in contrast, Koln struggling at the bottom of the table controlled much of the game against Shteve McLaren's Wolfsburg yet created very few good chances.  Had they won by virtue of a speculative long range free kick hit like a rocket but palmed gently back to a striker by the keeper, it would have been slightly harsh.  Cicero didn't seem to do much at all on the pitch but the technique for his bicycle kick equaliser was excellent.

The support of Germans to their teams seems completely unwavering.  43,000 were there to watch Koln and Dortmund sold out their 80,000 tickets for a game of top v bottom.  There's a lot to be jealous of with their behind the goal terraces and beer allowed in the stands.  Sadly, I'm not sure I could ever see it happening in England while the support is as partisan as it is still.
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Aston Villa v Arsenal      12:45    Villa seem to be the only team not overly concerned with winning at home and have drawn 4 of their last 5 home games giving Chelsea and Man United the same treatment as Birmingham and Bolton.  Arsenal have impressed me most with Walcott playing in away games which I'm assuming is how they will line up and Nasri tends to become more influential to help fill the Fabregas hole.  Arsenal (2.26) over evens usually should be taken.

Bolton v Blackpool      15:00    We might as well herald a new dawn in the Premiership as is fashionable and herald the new entrants to the Big Club.  Ear-flicking paper scissors stone champs Bolton romped in to 4th last week with a stunning defeat of Newcastle who couldn't even win the foul count with Operation Smash Elmander.  Blackpool are exactly the fun promotion team everyone wants but none of the neutrals will be there at the end of the season when they go down with 35 points in to a downward spiral of overspending.  I don't want to go near predicting this match although backing Bolton at 1.6 sounds horrible so maybe a lay there for teh sadists.

Everton v West Brom      15:00    When Chris Brunt is your star man with whom you can't function, even if he is playing like Essien, it's worrying.  It's more worrying when he's injured and doubtful.  It's even more worrying when your opposition are getting their act together and holding conquerors of Chelsea to a draw.  Conceding has become a matter of course and with Everton set up to win 2-0, backing Everton (2.0) on the -1.0 Asian handicap at anything over evens looks good.

Fulham v Birmingham      15:00    The only point of interest will be what noise is made when Hangeland and Zigic go for a header - big boom or awkward crunch?  It may be like the Transformers battle scenes.  While this is going on, 90 minutes will pass and everyone will go home wondering what happened to their lives.  Back 0-0 at 9.2 and don't look back

Man Utd v Blackburn      15:00    I don't really know what Blackburn are right now, score most games, tend to keep it quite tight, try and get rid of Roberts when he's your most influential player.  Whatever they are, they're not Man United and haven't scored 17 goals in 7 home games.  The frequency with which United are scoring 2 and 3 goals is unerring and with Rooney miscontrolling a penalty home in midweek, maybe they've found a way to harness that terrible touch that has become his new trademark.  All that said, Blackburn don't concede many that often and United look disjointed.  I'd back Blackburn on the Asian Handicap +1.5 at 2.02

Stoke v Man City      15:00    Apart from the finesse, the aspect striking me about Man City was the physical size of them. If anyone is ready to go to the Britannia fighting for every ball, competing and winning headers, it's Birmingham or City. Defensively, i think they're going to be able to hold Stoke off and they have the fitness to close out late surges.  You can't rule out set piece induced pinball producing a goal but I'd back both City Clean sheet (2.72) and a city win at 2.24

West Ham v Wigan      15:00    The footballing equivalent of two drunks fighting in a street.  Best bet is usually to back the one making less noise which I suppose is Wigan.  Teams beginning with W are really struggling this season.

Wolves v Sunderland      15:00    Wolves may be second bottom but they've put in some really solid unrewarded performances.  Right now, their defensive solidity and Doylegoals just arne't happening but with the addition of Hunt and Fletcher they should improve.  Sunderland have looked solid with Bramble in the team this season but missing him and Turner I think they're going to struggle and may well be edged out here.  I think the markets have moved slightly to reflect this but backing Wolves at 2.7 feels generous.  Henry v Cattermole may be the more interesting contest.

Newcastle v Chelsea      13:30    Two other teams with centre back issues are Newcastle and Chelsea.  Chelsea's decline has been exaggerated  - last week they made enough chances to win three games.  Drogba would have been a test for Collocini and Williamson, he'll be all over the chance to take on (probably) Campbell and Steven Taylor.  Could be a few for Chelsea and suddenly crisis talk changes to title winning talk.  Again.  Any Other score at 9 please

Tottenham v Liverpool      16:00    At home, Liverpool are 3rd best in the league, away, they're 15th best.  There is the question of lethargy but I think the potential return to the starting line up of Defoe and van der Vaart being rested midweek should give them plenty of firepower, 2-1 Spurs seems decent at 9.2
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Cancel your plans, get some takeaway in and turn on the TV because there could be a lot of market suspensions tonight.

In the white corner, Tottenham Hotspur started the season on the slow side but have scored 10 goals in their last 4 Premier League games.  In the Champions League games so far, there have been 29 goals in their 6 games played (including qualifiers) with Spurs scoring at least twice in every one.  Add to that a returning Jermain Defoe, chief demolition man in the merciless 9-1 Wigan defeat last season and a manager not content to wring the life out of games and it seems any other score at 4.4 is screaming out to be taken.

Most games this season are played with two teams though yet Werder Bremen, in the green corner, seem to be bucking this trend lately.  Their last two league games away from home have ended 0-10 on aggregate and their last outing in the Champions League was a 0-2 loss to Twente.  With them not having scored in November so far in any competition, Tottenham Clean Sheet at 2.68, in spite of the home team's distinctly average defensive record this season, looks worth a shot as well.
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Tuesday Champions League

24 Nov 10 10:51
Spartak v Marseille - Massively impressive win for Marseille to secure qualification with a game to spare.  Top of the form guide in Ligue 1 and with improving form in the Champions League, Marseille look an interesting proposition at 130, especially if Lyon's success in the Bernabeu last season is any indicator of the relative strength of French teams.

Roma v Bayern - Hard to get excited watching the first half of this game with Bayern's walking pace attack somehow getting rewarded with two goals.  Missed the second but I refuse to believe Roma won.  Bayern will probably beat most teams left in, Roma look likely to exit in the next round against anyone who can defend.

Basel v Cluj - Looked decidely Europa League this game but disguised as Barcelona, Basel may be able to scare Bayern to defeat.

Ajax - Real Madrid - Unfortunately it's not 1995 any more and Jari Limanen is long gone.  Ajax were so well beaten that Mourinho, bereft of media spotlight for too long, could order two of his key players to get sent off for time wasting to keep a clean sheet for the latter stages.

Auxerre v Milan - Watched about ten minutes of this and found it hard to believe Auxerre have ever had enough composure to get a shot on target before.  Milan very narrow and lacking in pace.  presumably Milan won after Auxerre got fed up of attacking without any result and went for defending practice which went badly.

Partizan v Shakhtar - Shakhtar, destroyed in the Emirates looking likely to win the group.  It's like the Arsenal Tottenham game in an extended league format with Shakhtar replacing Spurs.

Chelsea v Zilina - Probably the least entertaining team in the Champions League so far against plucky underdogs.  Once again, Chelsea opened up straight down the middle for 1-0.  Still they have a 100% record though and the most serene of serene qualification stages.

Braga v Arsenal - It's not long before Fabregas will stop training like Ledley King and be kept in a wheelie bin during the week for deployment at the weekend.  Probably a Wenger ploy to make him look injury prone and scare off Barcelona.  Judging by Mascherano pitch time, Fabregas will only be needed for about 5 games a seasons at Barca.

Our six a side team v some other no marks - continued to destroy football fun with a solid 1-0 win.  I managed to get a 3 yard shot saved.  Everyone was cold
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