Monday, January 31, 2011

Asia's First Footballing Superstar

German football legend and father of the current Celtic right back Cha Bum-kun (written for In Bed With Maradona).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bent Goes

"There's no way Aston Villa are a bigger club than Sunderland," said the BBC Look North reporter, admirably managing to keep a straight face. "We get bigger attendances than Villa and we've won the league the same number of times," said A Love Supreme editor Martyn McFadden, though the first point is debatable and the second is plain wrong: Sunderland were English champions on six occasions, the last time in 1936; Aston Villa have won it seven times, including 1981, which they followed by winning the European Cup (Sunderland's European record consists of four games in 1973). "We're sixth and Villa are relegation-haunted," said McFadden, which, coincidentally, is where Villa have ended the last three seasons and what Sunderland have been in every Premier League campaign this century. McFadden said, "We've got lots of top players". But who? Titus Bramble? Anton Ferdinand? Lee Cattermole?

The truth is Bent was their biggest star in half a century, his one England goal the first scored by a Sunderland player since Len Shackleton's in 1954. Like Rooney before him, he began agitating for a move because he didn't feel financially valued where he was. Call it greed if you will, but that's what players do, and when it comes to their own jobs most football fans would do exactly the same - something the people now sending Bent death threats would do well to bear in mind.

The only way to keep an unhappy player is to pay them more than you think they're worth, and Manchester United may yet live to regret acceding to the demands of Rooney and his agent. Sunderland made a hefty profit on a disaffected player; most people would say they got the better half of the deal.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Made in Britain: South Korean Football

The English influence on South Korean football, featuring Dalian Atkinson, Ian Porterfield, Seoul's Royal English School and the crew of the HMS Flying Fish. Written for Les Rosbifs, as part of its Asian Cup series.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

England's Player of the Year

As you may expect, there's fierce competition for the title of England's Player of 2010, with a short-list including all 44 players to be capped last year. Will the winner be Carlton Cole, who "made one appearance during 2010...and failed to live up to potential", Emile Heskey, who "brought to an end his eleven year association with the England team, during which time he scored seven goals" or goalkeeper Robert Green, who had quite an "eventful" year?

"Green had started six consecutive games under Fabio Capello in 2009, and played in the opening two matches of 2010 to indicate that he was the first choice England goalkeeper. So it proved as Green lined up against USA on 12 June, but it would be his last cap of the year.

Green showed great strength of character both on and off the pitch, denying a potential matchwinner from Jozy Altidore in the second half, before fronting up by speaking to every media outlet that who wished to guage his reaction after the game. "

And wasn't there something with Clint Dempsey too?

The accompanying comments suggest the (Liverpool-supporting) public see only one worthy winner of the honour of being England's least worst player of the year. "Stevie G. all the way!" says one, "Steven Gerrard is truly England's Number One," another (which, if true, implies Green's plight may be much worse than even he realised) and "It's got to be Stevie G. all the way! There can be no-one else?" offers a third, his punctuation suggesting he'd realised by the end that he might have gone too far.

Which is not something this current England team are likely to do themselves.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Pancrate: On a Wing and a Prayer

Without a club since his release from Newcastle, Fabrice Pancrate is hoping the power of prayer will succeed where his agent has failed. "Hoffenheim, Malaga, Blackpool, and Nancy is possible. Amen," he said into a microphone, as cameras rolled, the congregation whooped and a man blew into a musical instrument in the shape of one of Pancrate's headless runs down the wing. Like his crossing, though, he's probably aiming a bit too high.


This time last year I was wandering around the backstreets of Lisbon, an activity which involved the expenditure of slightly more physical energy than sitting on a chair for a week writing 4,500 words in answer to the question 'How can listening skills best be taught?'. With another two assignments to finish after this one, I'm not back at BNU until the end of January, which also marks the halfway point of the course.*

* But only if you exclude the massive software portfolio I'll probably wind up spending the whole summer on.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Death at the Grassroots

In one of the few Northern League games to survive the frost, strugglers Ryton started the new year with a 3-1 defeat at FA Vase holders Whitley Bay. It was an improvement on 2010 - their last game of the year ended 8-0 - but leaves them rooted to the foot of the first division, with just three points from twenty-one games and a goal difference of -70. I recently wrote about their problems for twohundredpercent's (otherwise) excellent Clubs in Crisis series.