The Football Ramble
Est 2007. The most entertaining voice in football

Weekend Highlights: And then we go and spoil it all…

26 May 2015

delia

The curtain is down, people.

The Premier League season has drawn to a typically baffling conclusion, the final spots in the respective leagues have been filled and Delia Smith has got a bit ‘tired and emotional’ in the vicinity of a microphone.

 
Managers are dropping like flies, Herve Renard is back in club management and about as close to Ramble Towers as it’s possible to be while still technically in France and I am on the very precipice of two months of ‘light duties’ on the Ramble website.

It’s been ace.

beck

And then we go and spoil all by doing something stupid like nicking a shirt off a kid. At Wembley. On the telly. Then putting it on gumtree, like no one is going to put two and two together.

Prompting a huge social media backlash, forcing the woman in question to delete her social media accounts because of a subsequent ‘campaign for justice’, which in these modern times seems to mean bullying someone until they beg for mercy.

throw

Yes, if the events that unfolded after Jermaine Beckford scored a hat-trick against Swindon and chucked his shirt at a bunch of people have been accurately represented, it was an immensely shitty thing to do and the individual involved should know better.

But let’s not pretend it’s the most horrific thing we’ve ever seen and it’s our duty to hound the woman until her life is ruined and she can’t leave the house or go on the internet without fear of being abused.

We’re not the morality police. Far from it.

 
Have your say, for sure. But if you really love the game, a sustained campaign of bullying, trolling and threats in its name will do it significantly more reputational damage than one person acting like a dick, while the other 48,235 people in attendance had a marvellous day.

Just because she appeared to act like a five-year-old doesn’t mean you have to.

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By Kelly Welles

Newcastle United: Good luck tonight, Peetles. You’ll need it

22 May 2015

geller

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse at Newcastle United, Uri Geller has reportedly offered to swoop in and “save the club from relegation”.

 
Ramble aficionados and old people will remember Uri as a chap who used to bend spoons on daytime TV, but his CV is not without football experience.

At EURO 96, Geller may or may not have used his psychic powers to move the ball on the penalty spot during England’s fixture vs. Scotland, while in 2001 he claims to have helped Newcastle end a run of 29 matches without a win by running round the Highbury pitch eleven times.

geller

If that wasn’t amazing enough, during his tenure as director of Exeter City, he tipped up at St James Park with his great mate at Michael Jackson. No one really knows why.

If his offer is accepted and he is successful, it’s possible that Geller will be offered the position of manager on a full time basis, replacing the permanently befuddled John Carver.

newc

Alright. That’s just me specualting. But answer me this. Would Newcastle United be be any more of a clown show than it currently is if he did?

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By Kelly Welles

Dick Advocaat & the Purple Gloves of Doom

22 May 2015

He claimed he’d never cried over football before.

This view of the incident, presumably captured from a previously overlooked grassy knoll, offers an entirely different (and far more plausible) interpretation of Dick Advocaat’s behaviour on that fateful day.

Remember kids. You shouldn’t always believe what you read in the papers.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T Rambler John Thorpe!

Xavi: Got ink

21 May 2015

 
Xavi Hernandez has just announced he will be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season for Qatari side Al Sadd.

xavi1

Everyone knows what an astonishing career he’s had, but if you’re not a close follower of the office stationery market in Spain, the fact that he’s a great guy might have escaped you.

xavi2

These pictures were taken back in 2010 as part of a promotional campaign for a friend’s cartridge company.

xavi world

That’s 2010. About three months after he’d won the World Cup.

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By Kelly Welles

STOP! Is it Ramble FC?

21 May 2015

mal

It has been announced this morning that AC Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini will be the co-owner of Miami FC, the twelfth franchise to be launched in the second tier of US soccer, NASL.

beck

The team will reportedly “play its home games in one of the existing world-class stadiums of Miami,”, news which effectively gazumps David Beckham, whose plans to bring his own soccer franchise to the Miami area have been hindered by a failure to secure permission to build their own stadium.

nasl

Paolo Maldini. NASL. Gazumping D-Beck.

God, it’s like some sort of fantasy sequence from the early days of the Ramble, isn’t it?

mal1

Like Steve McClaren: Time Lord. Only sexy and without the crap Danny Dyer impressions.

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By Kelly Welles

Matty Taylor: Tonight Matthew, I am Justin Timberlake!

18 May 2015

cock

Well, sort of. Cock in a cup is the same principle as dick in a box, just a bit more budget.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @terry_nutkin, @thegirlsilver.

Weekend Highlights: Looking a bit thin

18 May 2015

 
The media came close to ruining it.

By the time Steven Gerrard’s final game at Anfield rolled around, most of us were so sick of the tributes it would have been quite easy to dismiss watching the game in favour of whatever hideous offering ITV wheels out at that time on a Saturday evening.

gerrard

But perhaps because we know football well enough to understand that Alan Pardew might just have a little something up his sleeve to ruin Stevie G’s day (an invite to Crystals, perhaps?) we tuned in anyway and got a little tingly as we watched one of the faces of our age wave goodbye.

Oh, come on, you cynical bastards. It was a moment.

ger

Gerrard has represented Liverpool for as long as most of us have been interested in football and love him or hate him, things will be different next season.

Like Ferguson before him, he represents something we might not ever see again; an unerring presence that characterises a club and a style of play.

she

As another club legend pointed out last week on the 20th anniversary of Blackburn Rovers lifting the title, modern football simply isn’t set up to accommodate this sort of thing anymore.

A one club player from the local area. A manager who survives long enough to lead a team to glory, then rebuild it and do it again. A ‘small’ club splashing the cash and booting the big boys off the infamous perch, however temporarily.

 
Big JT and his satirical genius are all we’ve got left, people. Bloody hell.


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har

Joe Hart is confidently sporting what was formerly known in football circles as the Raheem Sterling.

hair

I’ve long suspected that England’s No.1 has been increasing the volume of his bouffant to mask a little thinning, but the principle behind this thinking has always eluded me.

Surely you’d want to draw attention away from the offending follicles, not towards them?

trump

No good can come of this, Joseph. Mark my words.

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It was the A-League Grand Final on Saturday.

Melbourne Victory beat Sydney FC by three goals to nil, but no one cares about that and quite honestly, it wouldn’t have received the coverage it did if 84-year-old Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy hadn’t plummeted head first off the stage during the trophy presentation.

 
Apparently he’s ok apart from some minor shoulder pain, which is lucky for Melbourne captain Mark Milligan, who stood about with a face like a stunned mullet as the scene unfolded, but I think I speak for everyone when I say,

Frank Lowy? Yeah, he’s had his fall”.

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And while we’re on the subject of league wins, Barcelona secured the La Liga title with a 1-0 victory over Atletico.

They could now do the treble, which isn’t bad for a team universally agreed to be in crisis in January.

 
All Messi needs to do now is release a video of his son doing twenty sit ups and Cristiano will literally explode in a cloud of bronzer.

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By Kelly Welles

Meanwhile, over at Sky Sports…

15 May 2015

gerrard

Or perhaps a hog roast? Paintballing? Trip to Center Parcs?

Please. Let us know.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Boca Juniors vs. River Plate: Live streaming

15 May 2015

 
The source of the pepper spray that burned and temporarily blinded several River Plate players and caused their game vs. Boca Juniors at the Bonbonera to be abandoned last night has yet to be established.

 
Some people reckon it was something to do with this guy, shown trying to burrow his way into the tunnel around the time of the incident by broadcaster Setanta.

 
Others suspect this drone dressed as a ghost, which was filmed flying across the pitch beforehand, was involved.

water

In fact, the only thing we can say for certain is that we’re really getting arsed off with people using football as therapy for their inadequacies and putting the lives and careers of players in danger,

Not to mention ruining it for the rest of us.


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By Kelly Welles

Nigel Reo-Coker: Alan? Alan! ALAN? ALAN!!!!

14 May 2015

voyage

“[Pardew] is a fantastic manager to work with. I learned so much under him.

I had my best football education under him. If there is an opportunity to work with someone like that again, it’d be fantastic. It’d be an opportunity you’d have to take.”

Former West Ham midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker speaking to MLSsoccer.com, seconds after confirming that he’d had no contact with Crystal Palace whatsoever.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @ChrisNeeFC.

Champions League: Meme fatigue

14 May 2015

So this was thrilling.

And not just for Jack White, who must have been overjoyed to hear Scudetto winners Juventus singing the riff from Seven Nation Army while celebrating reaching the Champions League final at the expense of Real Madrid.

jack white

He was bound to be watching.

The man’s a massive sports fan, as we all know.

peed
You do realise that’s my destiny you just pissed all over?

Sadly, by the time the final rolls around on June 6th, the excitement will have eroded a little.

 
Within seconds of the final whistle blowing, even before Cristiano Ronaldo fled to the dugout for what was presumably the mother of all tantrums, social media commentators across the world were simultaneously hitting send on messages that included (but were not limited to) the words Suarez, Chiellini, bite, racist and handshake.

Actually, most were limited to those words, because it anyone had bothered to be a bit more creative, a thriling narrative could have been fashioned out of those loaded letter combinations.

teeth

And by a bit more creative, I don’t mean whipping out the MS Paint and sticking some vampire teeth on the already dentally abundant Luis Suarez.

This is the Champions League final, people. One of the biggest single football matches that happens in an increasingly competitive calender, and yet because of the nature of our information consumption, it’s increasingly being forced to fit inside messages of 140 characters or less.

 
There are so many narratives we could use to bring ourselves to the very edge of the football excitement precipice.

Buffon, Pirlo and Barzagli’s destiny.

The possibility of Luis Enrique responding in the best possible way to the critics who, just a few short months ago, were kicking his arse around the Nou Camp.

messi

Cristiano Ronaldo’s face as first Lionel Messi and then Neymar score in the final to bounce him into third place in the Champions League top scorers competition, and then Messi snatches his Ballon d’Or back after an incredible season.

You’re excited about Luis Suarez facing Giorgio Chiellini and Patrice Evra? Really?

Do you actually like football?

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By Kelly Welles

Chris Smalling: Flux Capacitor

13 May 2015

hot tub

Rumours that he deliberately spilt a radioactive energy drink on the controls because he thought it would turn into a time machine have not yet been confirmed by the club.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T utdreport.

Steven Gerrard: Midfield engine

12 May 2015

 
Looks a bit more comfortable in that position, doesn’t he?

If only British Airways had replaced Brendan Rodgers at the end of last season. Things could have been so different.

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By Kelly Welles

Arsene Wenger: Well, if you feel THAT strongly about it…

12 May 2015

 
“We were unlucky I think against a team who refused to play completely and just defended. We’ve scored plenty of goals until recently.”

“In the last two home games we didn’t score and that was frustrating when you have so much of the ball and play with such accuracy around the box.”

 
“They defended well. They came just to defend with four defenders and six midfielders, and they defended. That’s it.”

That’s Arsene Wenger, speaking after Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Swansea City at the Emirates last night.

You want exciting, attacking football, Arsene? Really?

 
Go and manage in League One. They’re bloody swimming in it down there.

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By Kelly Welles

QPR: The statement formerly known as…

11 May 2015

statement

... the Chairman deals with all that.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T ‏@RobHarris.

Weekend Highlights: Arrested development

11 May 2015

This job has put me in a number of awkward positions, but writing a defence of Chelsea fans has to be the Inverted Locust of football writing.

locust

Seriously, my muscles are screaming.

 
I’ve nothing against Chelsea per se, but even the bluest of the blue would agree that the actions of a minority have cast a dark shadow over the club’s reputation in recent months.

Not to mention the fact that since they’ve just arrived at the league title at a leisurely stroll, they require my support about as much as Jose Mourinho needs PR advice from John Carver.

gerrard

But still.

If you’ve gently chided those Chelsea fans pictured holding ‘Caution: Steven Gerrard’ signs, it’s only right you should reserve equal disdain for the lad ‘imself for his petulant pout while lining up for Chelsea’s guard of honour.

 
Even if those signs were laminated, which, in a court of law, could be perceived as wilful provocation.

Yes, it was Gerrard’s last game at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps you could argue that as a player of his calibre deserves more respect on such an occasion.

But no player is bigger than the game. Chelsea have played an absolute blinder in performance terms this season, and as an elite professional, Stevie should be able to applaud their achievement without looking like he’s been told there’s no Phil Collins in the DJ’s record bag.

collins

Personally, I think it’s all part of the pantomime. Going into a football stadium should be about leaving the responsibilities of being a grown up aside and letting go.

Not being racist, sexist, homophobic or a drunken, leery twat, you understand, but shouting and singing your heart out, surrending your emotions to a group of ill-equipped, overly moisturised men to toy with and ultimately crush.

 
Because on those rare occasion when they don’t, when they score in the final minute of the play-off final or to stay up, when you win the cup after being 3-0 at half-time, even if you’re a 6ft 5in bearded bald bloke with a beer belly and a van, you get to cry on telly and everyone loves you.

cech
Don’t push it, mate.

In no other sphere of life is it ok to run onto some grass and grab a sweaty twenty year old boy’s shirt off his back and refuse to let go of it for three days, but you can in football.

It’s better than any feeling in the world. So good that all the purple prose in the world comes nowhere near describing it and rightly so.

If we’re going to have that moment, we’ve got to have laminated signs, ostriches, bedsheets, bitchface and chants taking the piss out of people who made a mistake.

memory

Oh. And really short memories. They help too.

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By Kelly Welles

Falling down is temporary. Class is permanent

8 May 2015

boateng

Posted on Jerome Boateng’s Instagram account an hour ago.

Smooth, yah?

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By Kelly Welles

Nigel Pearson & John Carver: Mind games v2.0

7 May 2015

 
“Nigel, you’re a man who knows his way around a hostile press conference. What do you suggest I say to get them off my back, give me a bit of breathing space, y’know?”

 
“Try something like this:

“I still think I’m the best coach in the Premier League. That’s what I think. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I still do. If I have the right tools, I can do the job. I’m doing the job to the best of my ability at the moment and I’ll continue doing that for the next three weeks.”

“You know the press. They admire a man who exudes excessive, baffling levels of hubris, especially when they’re coming off the back of a run of defeats and facing a relegation dog fight with three games to go.”

 
“I know! I honestly didn’t think he’d fall for it either. Bird brain!”

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: “Nothing short of sensational.” And Messi wasn’t bad, either

7 May 2015

Forget the memes about the still inside out Jerome Boateng. Forget Jamie Redknapp’s joyously baffling analysis. The facetious and woefully misguided efforts to award or deny Lionel Messi the title of Greatest Player Ever.

Seriously, how you claim to be comparing like with like when football today is virtually unrecognisable compared to the version played by Pele or Maradona, Di Stefano or Best? 

mesron

Even comparing him to a contemporary like Cristiano Ronaldo is a fool’s errand; the vast differences in their physicality, style and approach is like trying to analyse the comparative importance of football and sex in your life. 

(You can decide for yourselves which player represents which essential element).

But as I said.

Forget all that. Summarising Messi’s performance against Bayern Munich last night and his contribution to the game of football as a whole might seem as impossible a task as keeping your feet (and your) dignity in the penalty area while he’s running at you but last night one man managed to capture the magic without invoking those trite analogies.

lawro

And that man was Mark ‘Stuck in the middle with you. Stealers Wheel’ Lawrenson.

I know.

lawro

As anyone who’s spent any time at all listening to the former Liverpool defender’s ill-informed waffle (or indeed the Football Ramble) will know that Lawro is one of the most insufferable pundits to trouble the unsympathetic contours of the Match of the Day sofa. 

 
Frequently criticised for his lack of enthusiasm and miserable delivery, Lawrenson often sounds like he’s been dragged into the studio under sufferance; his habit of leaving presenters hanging after petulant one word answers make him one of the few pundits to make watching or listening to football coverage a genuinely uncomfortable experience.

 
And yet last night, you couldn’t shut him up. Asked for his thoughts on BBC 5Live after the Messi inspired 3-0 victory, Lawrenson described the Argentine as “nothing short of sensational”.

Reader, he gushed. For ages. He eulogised. He sounded genuinely thrilled to have witnessed such an exhibition of football and, as someone who’s struggled through many of his bleak reviews of football matches, I can say, without caveat, that it was a wonderfully, gloriously infectious experience.

You want an accurate summation of Lionel Messi’s performance last night? Ok.

Lionel Messi made Mark Lawrenson sound like a man who loves football.

That, I think you’ll agree, is an incredible, unprecedented achievement.

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By Kelly Welles

“You headbutt a girl and you’re labelled a prat, and that’s the game.”

6 May 2015

And to think we could have missed this if @ElFutlosofo hadn’t drawn my attention to it.

Deep breath, Ramblers.

pudd

According to reports in the Conneticut Post, University of Bridgeport midfielder Danielle Puddefoot attacked a team mate after her club failed to honour her at their end of season awards.

The newspaper states that, Puddefoot, who comes from Slough and used to play for Reading FC Women, was angered after a colleague picked up the coach’s player of the year prize and “head-butt[ed] Hailey Marquis before she was restrained by other players”.

pudd
Danielle Puddefoot. Almost certainly not wearing this hat when the alleged incident occurred.

The NY Daily News reports that Marquis “was treated at a local hospital for swelling on the right side of her face and two black eyes.

Puddefoot has been charged with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

brent

Reports as to whether she then threw a shoe over the building in order to extend her delusions of winning have not yet been confirmed.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: THIS IS JUVE!!!

6 May 2015

juve

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By Kelly Welles

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Image via tumblr.

Weekend Highlights: Costume drama

5 May 2015

bourn

They reckon the Premier League is the “most envied league in the world” but honestly, unless you support one of the clubs floundering about in the relegation waters without armbands, why would you have given a crap about the top tier when there was so much mayhem going on in the Championship and beyond?

 
English football is virtually unique for its strength in depth; attendances outside the Premier League frequently usurping those of the major European countries’ equivalent leagues, but coverage of the Championship, Leagues 1 & 2 is scant compared to the big, shiny corporatised world of the top twenty.

It’s a crime. Or perhaps a blessing. You be the judge. 

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roth

Rotherham United boss and latest candidate for the vacant-since-Keysy-buggered-off-to-Doha post of Archbishop of Banterbury, Steve Evans, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday by arriving at Elland Road in this outfit.

somb

He pledged to do so earlier in the season if Rotherham stayed up and after they were deducted points for fielding a player whose loan period had expired, it looked as though we’d be spared the sight. But a 2-1 victory over Reading last week secured safety and after rubbing Millwall’s relegated noses in his celabratory pink champagne, Evans arrived at Leeds United for the final game of the season in his beach garb, including sponsored sombrero.

At least someone in the marketing department has their finger on the pulse.

Less so human resources, it would seem

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blackpool

Also difficult to look at, but far more worthy of praise were the scenes that unfolded at Bloomfield Road.

oys

Far be it from us to encourage pitch invasions, but Blackpool’s fans have had to put up with so much shit from the Oyston family (including Karl Oyston driving around the town with this number plate on display), it’s tough to feel anything other than sympathy for their cause.

mort

What else are they supposed to do? Complaints on forums have resulted in multiple legal actions, boycotts ignored and planned demonstrations outside their ground pre-empted by spiteful strikes such as the removal of the Stan Mortensen statue.

It’s only logical that fans should try and force the Oystons’ hand; making the atmosphere so poisonous that have no alternative but to sell up and move on.

 
A challenge that Karl Oyston seems happy to accept, if this video taken during the protest is any evidence.

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The amateur dramatics weren’t limited to the relegation places though.

With automatic promotion already secured by Bournemouth and Watford, all Derby County needed to do to earn a place in the play-offs was draw against Reading. Whether it was nerves or the spectre of Newcastle United hanging over manager Steve McLaren’s shoulders as some have speculated, the Rams were unable to capitalise on their early season form and conceded early, eventually capitulating 3-0 to Steve Clarke’s men.

clown

Ironically, McLaren has this morning rejected an offer to fill John Carver’s clown shoes at Newcastle, with BBC Radio Derby reporting “he will not leave for Newcastle this summer” either.

 
Could the last person to leave St James’ Park turn out the lights, please?

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By Kelly Welles

UPDATED! Kanu: How old?!

1 May 2015

kanu

Kanu’s real age has always been a source of speculation on the Ramble but has the internet sensation that’s sweeping the nation finally caught the big man out?

For the record, in 2008 when he scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final for Portsmouth, his ‘official’ date of birth had him at 32.

minala

Due to public demand, we also ran Lazio teenager Joseph Minala through the HowOld.net scanner.

It didn’t go well for him, either.

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By Kelly Welles

The Clare Balding Show AKA The Sum of all Fears

30 April 2015

So if average home attendance at the Boleyn Ground is 34,860,

 
Liverpool welcome about 44,658 to Anfield for every home game,

 
and Bournemouth entertain 10.265 at Dene Court, Clare Balding has managed to evoke terror and/or anger in nearly 90,000 fans in less than three minutes of interview time.

Fair play, Clare. You’re nothing if not efficient.

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You can see these interviews with Chris Eubank Snr, Chris Eubank Jnr and Harry Redknapp in full on the Clare Balding Show tonight at 7.30pm on BT Sport or tomorrow night at 10pm on BBC2.

Midweek Musings: Featuring “Birds”

30 April 2015

What are the dressing room walls like at the King Power?

 
We can only assume they’re sufficiently thin for Leicester City to have overheard Jose Mourinho’s half time impression of Roadrunner and become so bewildered they forgot to play in the second half, with boss Nigel Pearson still babbling on about big birds in his post match comments.

Alright, enough of the sarcasm.

Chelsea have done superbly this season, all but tying up the title with four games to play and with 34 year old John Terry putting in a shift that earned him a spot PFA Team of the Year alongside centreback bezzie Gary Cahill.

That said, the big man’s call for respect for his team still put me in mind of this scene from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia when I saw it this morning.

 
It’s ok. If yesterday’s video showed us anything at all, it’s that Terry’s got a sense of humour.

 
You heard him.

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dost

They managed to smother the mighty Bas Dost, but ‘plucky’ Arminia Bielfeld’s fairytale cup fell victim to the wily ways of Die Wölfe last night.

Despite beating Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen and Borussia Monchengladbach on their way to the semi-final, Wolfsburg took control early on, Maximilian Arnold scoring on eight and fifty-five minutes, bookending strikes from Luiz Gustavo and Ivan Perisic.

wolfbee

Dieter Hecking’s men now face Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Cup Final, meaning that Jurgen Klopp’s last game in charge will essentially be a decisive battle between wolves and bees.

Which feels sort of appropriate.

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He’s only scored two goals in sixteen appearances for boyhood club Atletico Madrid, but now it seems that Fernando Torres has embraced the fact that his legacy won’t be quantity, but quality

The syncronicity with which those defenders drop. Almost like our collective jaw.

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By Kelly Welles

Dear Didier…

29 April 2015

A video posted by didierdrogba (@didierdrogba) on

 
Thanks for posting this video entitled ‘Boring boring Chelsea’ to your Instagram account.

Unfortunately it doesn’t counter the argument that your team plays boring football. It merely tells us that you have no table manners.

Lots of love,

Football.

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By Kelly Welles

Bayern Munich: They need a hero

29 April 2015

Pep Guardiola went all Incredible Hulk last night when Robert Lewandowski sustained a suspected broken jaw in Bayern Munich’s bizarre DFB Cup semi-final defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

 
Manuel Neuer, Mario Gotze, Xabi Alonso and Phillip Lahm all missed penalties after extra time failed to separate the two sides, the latter two slipping on the Allianz Arena turf.

 
The defeat puts paid to Bayern’s hopes of nabbing the treble and possibly even progressing any further in the Champions League after Lewandowski was caught in the face by Dortmund keeper Mitch Langerak and Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara suffered further injuries.

badman

Watching Jurgen Klopp lead his team to an unlikely farewell final may have stung but it looks like the Bayern fans are well placed to retain their good humour, producing superhero homages to crocked Franck Ribery and the aforementioned Robben before kick off.

robben

At this rate, it’s likely to be the duo’s most productive appearance at the ground before the end of the season.

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By Kelly Welles

Kaka: And we thought he was such a nice boy

28 April 2015

kak

140 characters or less, mate.

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By Kelly Welles

The Fairy Tale of Bourne Mouth

28 April 2015

 
Every fairy tale worth its salt has a hideous troll hanging about spoiling the view and threatening to ruin the handsome Prince’s happy ending.

Bournemouth’s promotion to the Premier League is no different.

 
Even as Eddie Howe’s boyband face was screwing itself up with joy after his team secured the points necessary to pip Middlesbrough to the second automatic spot, Harry Redknapp was lurking in (and around) the Sky Sports studio, yapping on about what the team need to do to succeed next season.

Noted expert that he is.

port

He fancies this, doesn’t he? Bournemouth to struggle in the first half of the season, Howe is sacked and Harry swoops in, spends a shit load of cash on Sandro, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Tal Ben Haim and leaves when he’s driven them back into the Championship.

Assuming his knee surgeon has deemed him fit for swooping and driving, of course.

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By Kelly Welles

Algeria Championnat: Careful what you wish for

27 April 2015

table

Before the weekend, no one but the most terrifyingly bearded football hipster (yes, you) could name a single club in Algeria’s Championnat Premier Division.

Now, with four games to go and the potential for any one of the sixteen competing teams to win the league, you can’t move for people yapping on about it. But while most are using the story as a stick to beat the comparatively sedentary Premier League with, a quick drill down reveals that this might not be as thrilling as it first appears.

According to MC Oran striker Kamel Larbi, “Most of the teams defend a lot. Their first objective is not to concede goals. If they can win, it’s a bonus, but I feel the fear of conceding is stronger. Avoiding defeat can become an obsession, due to the pressure of the press and supporters. So there is less risk-taking and a lot of games end up in a draw.”

So what you’re essentially saying is that it’d be like watching Chelsea protecting a lead, only with every team at every game?

Hmm. Maybe things aren’t so bad here after all.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T Soccerway.

Weekend Highlights: For whom the bells toll

27 April 2015

cam

Word is, there’s an election in ten days.

As you know, we’re apolitical here at the Ramble, preferring to concentrate instead on grown men embarrassing themselves in a sporting context, but when the Prime Minister nefariously uses the sport to curry favour with we proles and then cocks it up, we’re literally forced to comment, Ruud.

cam

Allegedly ardent Aston Villa fan David Cameron told the gathered masses during a speech on Saturday that:

”[Britain is a place] where you can support Man Utd, the Windies and Team GB all at the same time. Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.”

He’s obviously been ripped on social media, with many attributing the gaffe to the fact that the teams play in the same home colours, but let’s not be naive here, people.

Whatever you think of his politics, he’s not a stupid man.

sher

A more far more sound (and way more imaginative/photoshoppable) explanation is that Cam isn’t that ideologically aligned to Tim Sherwood - a man who has inspired his team to a resurgence in form and popularity at a crucial stage of the season.

Cameron’s position in the polls prior to the election on May 7th is more akin to that being endured by Big Sam, who has simply used the forward propulsion gained from a decent start to drive his claret and blue contingent into the comfortable and uninspiring middle ground.

Despite this, people of every hue dislike him and the chances are, he’ll be binned once the games are over.

sam

As for Sam, he’s never made a secret of the fact that he believes he should be dining at the top table. Maybe he was just aiming too low with Real Madrid or Inter and 10 Downing St is a natural next step.

He’d be brilliant at party conferences,  if nothing else.

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Arsene, sort it out. You look like a bird in a bag.

You Arsenal fans had a bloody mare yesterday, didn’t you?

Not only did your boss fail to beat Mourinho for the first time ever, but your poorly thought out chant of ‘Boring boring Chelsea’ allowed Mr Hubris himself to dust off a zinger.

mou

“I think boring is 10 years without a title - that’s boring. If you support a club and you wait, wait, wait for so many years without a Premier League title, then that’s boring.

At least make him work for it. Come on.

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morgan

Still. At least you comfort yourselves with the notion that it was just a minor oversight brought on by the knowledge that Piers Morgan strides confidently among you.

leah

You’re not an utter embarrassment to the sport as a whole like the people who responded to the PFA’s tweet about Leah Williamson like this:

comms

Bells.

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By Kelly Welles

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Thanks to @acegirlgail, @KellyCates.

Middlesbrough FC: Something for the weakened

24 April 2015

Ten point deduction, effective immediately.

And an extra five for that revolting, greasy battered thing he eats at the beginning and then ‘raps’ through, which Luke Moore reliably informs me is a ‘parmo’. (He knows way more about poisonous post beverage snacks than me.)

The Football Ramble.

Tough on promotion happy punters.

Tough on the causes of promotion happy punters.

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By Kelly Welles

The FA Cup ticket allocation: FIFA-esque?

24 April 2015

You may laugh, but in a few years time, this will probably be true.

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Vine borrowed from the unfeasibly kind and not just a little bit handsome @tylrwllsn.

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By Kelly Welles

 

The writing’s on the wall. In crayon.

24 April 2015

tweet

Cheltenham Town FC are second bottom of League Two with two games remaining. They’ve won one game since Gary Johnson was appointed manager on 30th March, when he made the players sign this carefully drafted charter.

“They all signed it.” Johnson told local radio. “Some signed it and meant it, and some signed it and didn’t mean it.”

With that kind of insight available, it’s amazing to see them fighting for survival really, isn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @thegirlsilver.

Let us rejoice in Pep Guardiola’s trousers!

23 April 2015

 
On Wednesday morning, I had to explain to a non-football fan why a photo of a balding Spaniard with burst trousers was the lead photo in all the coverage of a Champions League match that began with the hosts 3-1 down and ended with them doing this.

 
To me, a seasoned observer of modern football (or, as some may call me, Part of the Problem), it was nothing unusual. Indeed, I’d mentally bookmarked the image for use in this very post, so I’m not going to criticise.

But in order to answer their question, I had to carefully consider something I do every day, claim to love and yet never think about.

Which is weird in itself.

supp
Oh come on! I’d fit in perfectly!

Over the last few weeks I’ve expended a fair bit of prose bemoaning the influence of the media on the modern game.

Whether it’s critiques of the constant sniping at young players followed up by honking queries as to why they fail to meet expectation or the relentless pressure on the England team as a whole, it might feel like I’m just sniping at mainstream media outlets because I secretly desire a berth on the Sunday Supplement and they won’t answer my letters.

fin
That said, some things were much more fun back in the old days.

You see, it’s always easier to build up a head of steam about an issue than find something positive to say. But while ruminating on my friend’s question, I realised there is something that I love and I wanted to share it with you.

Whether you like it or not.

The myth that’s sustained the footballing press for the last forty odd years is that writing about the game is a specialism. It’s not.

Football’s simplicity has made it the most popular game on the planet, that can be enjoyed by anyone with access to a vagely spherical object. If you have the capacity to grasp which team is which, what a goal is and the offside rule, you’re able to report on the points of interest.

Which goes some way to explaining how Richard Keys and Andy Gray have enjoyed such enduring success.

keys

But I digress. 

The flow of information isn’t tightly controlled any more but disseminated by us all over social media and legitimised by mainstream networks and their demanding 24 hour rolling news.

Conventional coverage is nowhere near enough to sustain us and so gossip, hearsay and an intimate knowledge of player’s pecadillos all inform the narrative to the point where the fact that a team’s manager busting his trousers is a bigger story than a first half performance which rivalled that of the German national team vs. Brazil during the World Cup.

webb

At face value, that sounds awful. And there are plenty of downsides, not least trolling, disinformation and utter crap making headlines.

But there’s something wildly liberating about having a voice and the ability to be heard. If a group is sufficiently organised, they can have a real impact on the running of their club, for example. Agendas and press hubris can be openly and sensibly critiqued.

sun

And on a serious note, it’s hard to imagine the sickening lies that resulted in Liverpool fans taking the blame for the Hillsborough disaster being accepted as truth for a second if people had been tweeting their personal experiences.

I’ll still bitch about the pervasive, joy-exsanguinating media, I’m sure, but for now, while it’s sunny, let us rejoice in Pep Guardiola’s trousers. For they represent a new era in football that, if respected and handled with care, can have a brilliantly positive effect on the future of the game.

After all. If not for you lot demanding snarky remarks and smart arse observations woven into their coverage, the Football Ramble wouldn’t exist and I would be unemployable. wink

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By Kelly Welles

It’s The Sun wot done it!

23 April 2015

gre

There’s nothing…

ster

....like finding a theme…

crack

...and running with it, is there?

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By Kelly Welles

No Keggie ‘Copter? Don’t make me sick!

21 April 2015

One merry Twitter punter called the boys out recently for failing to mention Kevin Keegan’s helicopter exit after his last game for Newcastle.

You’ve embarrassed yourself there, chap. During historic Rambles, they very rarely shut up about it.

 
But nevermind. It’s gives us the excuse to not only publish that magnificent scene again, but avail you of this one sent into us by Top Rambler Ian Hawkins, featuring our Keggles vomiting while driving around the Nürburgring.

One of the few of the great man’s embarrassments we haven’t covered in worrying detail.

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By Kelly Welles

BREAKING NEWS: Lionel Messi is human!

21 April 2015

And not some sort of football robot machine of death.

You reckon Cristiano has this on a loop?

rc

Probably.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Don’t be a dick

20 April 2015

obama

Someone’s always got to spoil it, haven’t they?

Scrolling through my timeline this morning, I was delighted to see almost universal support for Reading ‘keeper Adam Federici, whose mistake at Wembley cost his side a place in the FA Cup final.

 
And then this happens. Alright, it’s not an invitation for Federici to self-immolate, like those Sue Perkins received after she was erroneously linked to the Top Gear job, but it’s the same principle. An utter failure to grasp that the effects of social media are tangible on a human level.

And just because you can say something, it doesn’t mean you should.

 
Even Arsenal fans, who, given the trophy drought their side have experienced in recent years, value the opportunity as much as Liverpool (more on them later), have largely supported Federici. Mostly, I presume, because they’re football fans and would much rather see Arsenal beat Reading through skill and guile.

Not a bloke making a mistake in front of millions during the biggest game of his life.

fed

In this case, the support for Federici has overwhelmed the few negative responses and with any luck he’ll be able to get over this and continue his career.

But while Perkins remains in absentia, we still have little to be proud of.

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While we’re on a self-reflection tip, it’s only right we chuck a word or two of credit in the general direction of Tim Sherwood.

Sherwood has provided countless hours of lols with his gilet chucking ass hattery and win percentages, but he’s somehow defied the laws physics to turn a spluttering, sinking Villa side around and steer her into safer waters and an FA Cup final at the expense of Brendan’s tragedy of titanic proportions.

 
The once-thought-unsinkable fantasy of Steven Gerrard’s career came to a grinding halt against opposition that just a few months ago presented no threat whatsoever, and Liverpool fans are rightly shattered. 

With the most skilfull crew members reportedly contemplating abandoning ship, Brendan is going to have work pretty hard to get his own juggernaught on the right course again.

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Speaking of unexpected collapses, World Football Phone-In’s very own legendinho Tim Vickery mentioned that Argentina’s Alejandro Sabella recently claimed to be in talks with Manchester City over the soon-to-be vacated management position.

It’s not a bad shout. Even the biggest clubs have to have fallback positions.

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By Kelly Welles

Churchill & Blatter: More in common than you might think

17 April 2015

blatterhill

“Never was so much owed by so few to so many.”

Well, now you come to mention it...

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By Kelly Welles

With apologies to The Sugarhill Gang…

17 April 2015

A new series of “sports-based comedy panel game” A League of Their Own starts in May.

I seriously suggest you go out.

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By Kelly Welles

Ich bin ein Telegraph reporter…

16 April 2015

klopp

We don’t go to press conferences.

That’s mostly because we’re not a proper press outlet and we don’t often get invited, but another reason is that a wilful lack of organisation leaves us wide open to the possibility of setting out to live blog an important announcement involving a major European club and at the last minute finding out it’s all in German.

bloom

Thanks to the Telegraph and Ben Bloom in particular for reassuring us that hideous gaffes aren’t confined to hapless,ill-prepared buffoons like our good selves.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @_dangibson.

Champions League: Bite me

16 April 2015

Paris St Germain 1-3 Barcelona

meg

Think what you like, but it’s a testament to Luis Suarez that he can generate more headlines through skill than a man who may or may not have bitten Mario Mandzukic in the same bundle of Champions League fixtures.

eiffel

But while the former Liverpool striker basks in the glory of the brace that effectively ended PSG’s hopes of a Champions League semi-final place, Sideshow David Luiz will need all of his famous sense of humour to appreciate the memes the internet spewed forth seconds after his equally notorious defensive indiscipline was exploited for the second time in twelve minutes.

“I had to nutmeg Luiz twice because there was nothing else I could do.” Suarez said afterwards.

You could have taken a chunk out of his face, Luis. At least he’d have been able to look in a mirror this morning.

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FC Porto 3-1 Bayern Munich

 
A man who’ll probably be doing little else is Ricardo Quaresma.

The Porto winger wouldn’t have been criticised for looking on in bewilderment as Manuel Neuer and Dante made early errors, but he capitalised on both, putting Porto 2-0 up after ten minutes and startling the hell out of those of us watching events unfold via score update apps.

It ended 3-1, leaving us with the tantalising prospect of an incredible Bayern fightback at the Allianz, or the slightly less tantalising prospect of Porto sticking ten men behind the ball for ninety minutes.

Sigh.

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Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid

mand

If tactical mindgames are a less enticing prospect to you than bloodshed and tarting about, you’d be better off getting your busy work done next Tuesday night, so you can devote your full attention to the second leg of this match on Wednesday.

bite

The 0-0 scoreline not only presents us with a ‘competitive’ replay of last year’s final but the very real possibility of Mario Madzukic being beaten to death on live television. Or eaten.

Either works.

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Juventus 1-0 Monaco

 
I refuse to comment on Juventus until Arturo Vidal sorts out his hair.

arturo kid

Seriously dude. This is not ok.

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By Kelly Welles

Iain Dowie: That’s what Sky Sports do to ya!

15 April 2015

We knew Sky Sports was having a detrimental effect on football in this country but we had no idea their influence was so pervasive.

This guy’s got a masters degree in engineering, for crying out loud.

jamie

That said, at least we now have a plausible explanation for Jamie Redknapp.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Charles N’Zogbia: STOP! HAMMER TIME!

14 April 2015

hammer

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By Kelly Welles

Portsmouth FC: Return of the Slack (jowled manager)?

14 April 2015

harry

There comes a point when supporting a football club becomes less of a vocation and more of a cruel and unusual punishment.

One wonders what crime Portsmouth fans could possibly have committed in order to earn this possibility from the cosmos, on top of all the other crap they’ve had to put up with in recent years.

Nah, you say. It’s just scaremongering by one of Portmouth’s news outlets.

pompey

Then you’re directed to the other runners and er…riders.

tayler

I reached out to our Portsmouth FC correspondent Luke Moore, but he was unavailable for comment.

He’s presumably on a flight to Bermuda.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @tylrwllsn.

Weekend Highlights: Hedging it

13 April 2015

tree

It didn’t take long for Manchester United to become annoying again, did it?

ash

There we were, all rejoicing in seeing the club who’ve dominated football in the Premier League era flounder about in the murk of mid-table, sack their manager, continue being awful under the auspices of a man whose tactical nous inspires nothing but awe in his fellow professionals, and then they go and put a run together that (at least mathematically) puts them in contention for the title.

It’s actually worse now, isn’t it? At least when they were dominant, we were used to it.

This feels like getting a glimpse of the sunshine only to have the trapdoor slammed shut on your head repeatedly to the sound of Simply Red’s ‘Fairground’.

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neymar

Fear not though. There’s a race on in La Liga after Barcelona went 2-0 up and ended up drawing 2-2 with a sprightly Sevilla side whose unbeaten run at home now extends to thirty-two games

The first of Sevilla’s goals was scored byEver Banega, whose biggest claim to fame until this point was that he drove over himself at a petrol station.

knickers

One of the few feats in Spanish football that Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to emulate. He’ll have to make do with using his Twitter feed to shill his comfy, microfibre knickers.

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If I wanted to be horribly unfair to Jon Parkin (who thankfully doesn’t shill pants on Twitter), I could say that the reason he went for this shot from just over the halfway line was that he couldn’t be arsed to run with the ball.

But then I’d be no different to certain pundits who dismissed Charlie Adam’s effort vs. Chelsea as a Goal of the Season contender because it was “long & straight”.

Where’s the joy (and dignity) in that?

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NAC Breda manager Robery Maaskant made Tim Sherwood’s cagoule tossing antics look like the work of an amateur on Saturday evening, punching clean through his dugout after his side let a 2-0 lead slip against fellow relegation strugglers Dordrecht.

sarpong

In other ‘breaking’ Breda news, former T4 presenter June Sarpong appears to be playing midfield for Breda.

That’s nice, isn’t it? I’ve been wondering what happened to June.

-

Speaking of handsy men with anger management issues, Samuel Eto’o nutmegged Philippe Mexes in the build-up to Roberto Soriano’s opening goal.

mexes

Has he not seen what happened last time Mexes lost his rag?

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By Kelly Welles

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Images via facebook.

Dion Dublin’s Dube-ilant Debut

13 April 2015

dube

Five seconds into his ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ debut, Dion Dublin is already working the product placement angle.*

*He’s not. It’s a dastardly Photoshop gag. But if the BBC wasn’t a publicly funded organisation…

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By Kelly Welles

From the inbox of Kelly Welles…

10 April 2015

schmuck

... this arrived in my inbox earlier.

I honestly can’t remember whether I signed up for ‘Lady Fashion’ or ‘Schmucks’.

I should be more careful with this interweb business, really.

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By Kelly Welles

England U19 Women: You couldn’t write this

10 April 2015

 
If I was commissioned to write a piece of fiction specifically designed to articulate the differences in perception between men’s and women’s football, I’d probably talk about the vast discrepancies in investment, media coverage and grass roots support.

I’d also probably mention Sepp’s infamous shorts remark, but only because, eleven years on, it still irritates me.

 
I certainly wouldn’t come up with a convoluted story about encroachment into the penalty area that resulted in the referee awarding an indirect free kick to the opposition instead of a retake, seconds before the end of a match.

 
It wouldn’t occur to me in a million years that any reader would buy the idea that a men’s game could end, then be ordered to restart in injury time five days later and the penalty to decide whether a team qualified for a European tournament be retaken.

Mostly because that would be totally unbelievable and my credibility (shush) as a writer would rightly be in tatters, wouldn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

Mario Balotelli: Get well soon

9 April 2015

mario

The thermometer in a hot beverage to heat it up, the pained, weak expression.

Proof that we’re actually ill and not simply pulling a well deserved sickie is easy enough to fake, assuming you remember to not update your facebook page with pictures of yourself down the boozer later in the day.

In fact, the only confirmation that Mario was indeed too poorly to play in Liverpool’s FA Cup replay vs. Blackburn Rovers last night was that he hadn’t bothered to do his hair.

Poor bugger. He must be feeling like shit.

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By Kelly Welles

Innocent Emeghara: By fair means or foul?

8 April 2015

fair

Guilty by way of foul.

Next case, Olmes Garcia. Has anyone seen him?

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By Kelly Welles

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Screengrab by Stephen I. Tucker. Thanks Stephen!

To gilet or not to gilet? That is the question

8 April 2015

Whether it was a gilet or a coat appears to be a point of contention.

What is not in dispute is that this mascot is definitely, certainly, unarguably sporting a gilet.

gilet

Something died in football yesterday evening, people. Mourn its passing.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Easter Weekend Highlights: Voyeur-check Szczesny & other disturbing pictures

7 April 2015

shez

Benched since the smoking unpleasantness, it was always likely that Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was going to find something else to do in the showers.

Hanging about in your pants and socks with a camera though? Really? What will Arsene say?

arsene

Oh, never mind.

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ronaldo

Being a football writer of sorts, I’ve given Cristiano’s Alaskan hat-trick against Granada a lot of thought.

My conclusion? He could have scored all nine and it still wouldn’t make me feel any better about this haircut.

cabella

It even startled Rémy Cabella, whose ‘do in the Wear/Tyne derby was brave to say the least.

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lavezzi

Ezequiel Lavezzi. A popular figure on the Marseille football scene

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knifes

Putting the utterly catastrophic timing aside for a second (seriously, does no-one involved have an advisor?) this has to be one of the most baffling product tie-ins football has ever produced.

toater

And yes, I’m including the St Pauli toaster in that, too.

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By Kelly Welles

Raheem Sterling: Short changed

7 April 2015

 
Listening to Raheem Sterling’s now infamous interview, one thing is clear. For a footballer of twenty reportedly earning about thirty grand a week, he sounds like a remarkably well-adjusted, sensible person.

The kind of kid we’d all love to have in our team. Committed, mature, and eager to play football without the distraction of a high profile contract negotiation and the inevitable press furore that would provoke.

Not here, you don’t, son.

koptalk

If you read the media coverage of the interview with the BBC’s Natalie Pirks, rather than listening to it in full as I finally got round to doing on Friday, you probably believe Raheem Sterling’s assertion that he’s refusing to negotiate his contract because “he wants to focus on his game” is a tactic to alert ‘bigger’ clubs to his availability for the right price.

You might have shaken your head at the Machiavellian maneuvering of his agent Aidy Ward, and scoffed at how foolish he was to do the interview in the first place.

sakho

And that take on it may well be accurate.

But have any of the reporters and news outlets covering the story stopped to consider the possibility that Raheem Sterling might have been telling the truth? No, because that outcome is dull and conclusive. Not open to discussion or worse, further, wilder interpretation.

kyl

Come on, be honest, who’s not disappointed when the devious, feckless, frequently toothless protagonist passes the lie detector test on The Jeremy Kyle Show and proves he’s the kid’s dad?

It defeats the point of the whole sordid exercise.

Popular culture isn’t about the truth, it’s all about the narrative. At best, about getting the headline that generates the most sales, the most clicks, the most lather. At worst, having something to stick on that caterwauling front page that needs feeding every half an hour in these days of twenty-four hour news.

And that’s just the outlet.

For the writer it runs deeper. Finding that angle no one else has. Attracting the most attention so you’re spotted by the faces and yanked into the VIP area to be showered in champagne and the recognition you so richly deserve. Because otherwise, you’re just the same as every other fucker with a keyboard and an ambition.

I should know.

headline

No one would give a rat’s arse, or indeed know anything about Sterling’s contract negotiations if the press hadn’t made a huge story out of it.

In much the same way as no-one would have questioned Sterling omission from the team to face Estonia back in October if we hadn’t been obsessing over every detail of Hodgson’s team for that Euro 2016 qualifier. As it was, the question was asked, and answered.

steling

“He came to me and said: ‘Look I really am feeling a little tired,’” Hodgson told a press conference.

How was that honesty rewarded?

“How can a kid of nineteen possibly be tired?!” screamed the headlines, in a font usually reserved for impending nuclear attack. At the time, I found the question so ludicrous I was moved to write a piece about it for this very website.

The conclusion being that it we now live in an age where if anyone does anything that is perceived to be remotely unusual or different from accepted practice, the media go absolutely postal.

einstein

Despite the fact that Albert Einstein, senior football correspondent for The Daily Pillock, once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I read a book a few months ago about Aussie Rules football and the relationship between the clubs and media and how that influenced the public perception and development of the sport itself. Although the focus of the book (Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport by Anna Krien) was an allegation of rape on a female fan by a player, the book frequently cited the incestuous relationship between reporters and clubs as being an inhibiting factor in transparency and accountability of the sport.

The author concluded that, as fans of the game since boyhood, white, male journalists are thrilled to become part of the fabric of the game and this can, in turn, affect their impartiality.

supp use

Is it unreasonable to suggest that English football culture might suffer a similar malaise?

I don’t think so. Even putting aside a ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality that has been blamed by some for the game’s failure to limit incidents of racism, sexism and homophobia, this commitment to a particular way of doing things has to stem from somewhere.

tucker

In other words, we’ve become so used to the the media’s interpretation of events that we allow ourselves to be drawn into that narrative, regardless of whether it’s true, partially true or simply the fevered imaginings of some hack with a deadline to fulfill and an editor who thinks Malcolm Tucker is a bit soft in the delivery.

I’m very aware that I keep saying this. But while pretty much everyone else’s stock in trade remains “how shit are England?”, I plan to continue.

We, as fans who would collectively explode with the heat of a thousand suns if England were to lift a major trophy, need to remember that while a media narrative is entertaining, it’s not necessarily the only take on an issue. If there even is an issue. And it’s certainly not conducive to our players performing in major tournaments.

Let’s just take a breath before we start on Sterling for being a money-grabbing fancy dan, shall we? If nothing else, the kid seems to have a mind of his own.

We could at least do him the courtesy of the same thing if we want him to perform in a tournament for us.

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By Kelly Welles

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Images via koptalk, twitter.

The Magnificent Gorgie Boys: All Heart

2 April 2015

hearts

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for Marcus Speller’s Magnificent Gorgie Boys, it’s been announced that Hearts will wear a charity logo on their shirts when they return to top flight football next season.

The club, whose financial state under the auspices of Vladimir Romanov was neatly (if not altogether sensitively) summed up by the logo of controversial payday loan company Wonga being emblazoned across players’ chests as they trudged Championship-wards, will wear Save The Children’s logo next season after a deal was struck between owner Ann Budge and a group of Hearts supporting donors.

wonga

The group, who have chosen to remain anonymous, are reported to be making a seven figure donation that will be split between the club and the charity; money Hearts say “will be used to repair key infrastructure at Tynecastle Stadium and strengthen [the] academy programme.”

rom

Budge said of the deal, “It demonstrates that - with a bit of lateral thinking - things can be done differently in football. We don’t have to be constrained by the statement that we hear all too often: ‘This is how things are done in football.’”

This really is tremendous news for football. And we’re saying this despite the fact that Spellsy’s gone all vain glorious.

Certainly not because of it.

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By Kelly Welles

International Incidents: Pound Land!

1 April 2015

Italy 1-1 England

buff

Alright, it wasn’t the scorching, free scoring romp we were all secretly hoping for after Harry Kane’s debut, but when you look at how we’ve treated those who came before him and the effect it’s had on their careers, it’s probably for the best that the Spurs prodigy can return to his club, play for the U21s and be relieved of the pressure being England’s Great Hope brings.

I know. This “patience will be rewarded” approach bores the shit out of me, too.

But not as much as the It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming! football’s coming home! ... oh, wait, we’ve failed to get out of the group stages one.

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Israel 0-1 Belgium

 
Vincent Kompany got sent off in Belgium’s Maroune Fellaini-inspired victory over Israel.

Not for this though, surprisingly.

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Portugal 0-2 Cape Verde

Cape Verde fans celebrate/look on with rising disbelief as their side beat Portugal in their own backyard.

Pete Donaldson was just out of shot.

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Netherlands 2-0 Spain

Spain lost.

Del Bosque’s face in this picture goes some way to explain their success in recent years.

I mean, you wouldn’t want to piss him off, would you? If Victor Valdes is in goal for Manchester United on Saturday, we’ll know why.

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Switzerland 1-1 USA

brek

Instagram revolutionary and brief Barnsley botherer Brek Shea “pounded” one into the top corner last night In the USA’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

We love you, American cousins!

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By Kelly Welles

Let’s see if we can get a couple of the lads…

1 April 2015

Given the resources at their disposal, you’d imagine that Manchester City could have come up with something a little better than their kit man in a ginger beard for April Fools’ Day.

Although, saying that… does anyone get the impression Bacary Sagna still doesn’t get it?

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By Kelly Welles

20 Seconds In. AKA…

31 March 2015

... the startling moment when you realise that Dani Alves continuing to studiously ignore a media intrusion would have been the best course of action.

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By Kelly Welles

Kevin Keegan says: Ooh, that’s a dig!

31 March 2015

 
“I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to stay at Liverpool after returning from my loan spell with Napoli and then Bayern approached me,” Pepe Reina has reportedly told German sports magazine, Kicker.

“It is not easy to join a club realising you will be a substitute. It was clear Manuel Neuer would be the No.1 at Bayern.

“But the prospects at Liverpool were not good for me. I preferred a move to a major club like Bayern over a spot on the bench at Liverpool.

kev

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T goal.com

What a contrast to the previous nudity!

30 March 2015

ramos

It’s Sergio Ramos’ 29th birthday today!

What better way to celebrate than to remind ourselves of the days when smearing yourself in chip fat and hanging around local recreation grounds seemed like a fun way to meet people.

Speaking of ill-advised nudity…

massive

A big (sunburned) thank you to Rambler Shane Rynn for bringing that to my attention.

He called it his ‘Highlight of the Week’.

You lot really need to get out more.

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By Kelly Welles

England vs. Lithuania vs. Us?

30 March 2015

 
4-0. Top of the qualifying group with maximum points. Proper goals from players who won’t require walking frames by the time the next World Cup rolls around.

Super Harry Kane.

Reading that back, it’s perfectly clear to me why I thoroughly enjoyed Friday night’s game (before I even mention my Lithuanian friend who attended and told me it was shit), and why I tuned into BBC606 fully expecting to hear some good cheer and merriment.

Don’t I feel like a pillock?

606

There was the odd positive vibe, it’s true, but the majority of punters preferred to concentrate on the usual tropes of English football and fifty minutes later, The Problem With England was identified thusly:

 
‘Inferior’ teams like Gibralter, Andorra, Luxembourg and San Marino should be forced to pre-qualify for major tournament qualifying groups because in order to be in the best possible form for competition, England need to play against good quality opposition.

But England also play too much football so there should be a winter break and more specifically, fewer friendlies. For example, after the Lithuania game, the players should have been sent home, because travelling to Turin is pointless.

Each argument, taken in isolation, has its merits. But having listened to the debate in full, I can’t help but feel that our continual, yet utterly inconsistent, criticism of the format, scheduling and quality of opposition is at least partially responsible for England’s contrasting fortunes before and during a tournament.

italy

Surely the statement that the teams named above should be forced to pre-qualify because the argument that they will get better by playing better opposition has been disproved, contradicts the idea that England need to be playing more challenging opposition to improve. (And breathe.)

And the suggestion that England shouldn’t be playing Italy on Tuesday because too many friendlies are a bad thing conflicts with both?

You can see why I developed a headache. But in all seriousness, have we reached a point where we’re arguing because that’s what we’re used to doing and we don’t really think about the cogency of our points any more?

 
Maybe we should pack it in and concentrate on showing our support for our players as a nation like those present at Wembley did on Friday.

Otherwise we’re in serious danger of blowing out our next great hope before he’s even had a chance to shine.

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By Kelly Welles

Copa 90: Oh, and they’ve smashed it on the volley, Clive!

27 March 2015

Social media is responding to the news that Mark Hughes has signed a new three year deal with Stoke City.

A massive congratulations to our friends at Copa 90, who won Friday afternoon by reminding us of this gem.

Stand down everyone. It’s over.

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By Kelly Welles

International Round-up: You’re shit, you’re shit, you’re even shitter…

27 March 2015

Bahrain 0-6 Colombia

 
“Flop” Radamel Falcao sent a signal to Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal last night by scoring two goals against the team ranked one place above the Faroe Islands in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings.

Twitter confirmed that the striker scored “an actual goal, between the posts, past a keeper,” in the match that finished 6-0 to Los Cafeteros.

This apparently confirms that the player, who has scored 168 goals in 314 games for club and country isn’t rubbish after all.

It’s almost as though constant criticism and piss taking makes it harder to play to the best of your abilities, isn’t it?

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France 1-3 Brazil

dunga

Brazil have a 100% record since Dunga took charge last July.

dunga1

He also seems to have stopped taking fashion advice from his daughter. Which is really disappointing, actually.

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Denmark 3-2 USA

 
Never one to settle for a small victory, Nicklas Bendtner followed up his first hat-trick for Denmark by stating that he is now aiming to break the Danish goalscoring record of 52, currently held jointly by Jon Dahl Tomasson and Poul Nielsen.

bend

Bendtner’s currently on 29. Which hopefully means he’ll spend less time titting about on Instagram.

Germany 2-2 Australia

 
Second worst Serie A signing of the season Lukas Podolski took a different approach to scoring the winner for his country, asking reporters whether he should give up football altogether.

The notoriously serene striker took offence as the unfortunate award was brought to his attention once again after the game, telling journalists that, “People keep bringing up how the Italian media looks at me.”

“What can I do about it? Should I just dig myself into the ground and give up playing football?”

Probably just stop taking corners like this, LuLu. It would be a start.

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In summary then, Ramblers, it’s the international friendly break of the out-of-form striker.

kane

That augurs well, doesn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

Port Vale: The Chairman deals with all that

26 March 2015

smurth

My next door neighbour is a Port Vale fan.

He’s a very supersitious chap and the complexities of his pre-match, in-match and post-match rituals render them unfathomable, even to someone to who spends as much time leaning over the fence sympathising with him as I do.

vayle

So you’ll understand my inner conflict when this monstrous advertisement for Port Vale’s end of season awards evening rolled past my eyes on social media.

What to do? Tell my neighbour and send him into a spiral of depression that can only result in the donning of three Vale shirts for the next away game (one of them back to front), assuming it kicks off at 3pm on a Saturday, unless it’s against Walsall?

Don’t tell him and let him find out on his own, potentially provoking him into rejecting his club, burning his shirt collection and suffocating on the toxic fumes?

smurthwaite

Bewildered, I retweeted the offending flyer, only to be availed with this series of photographs of club chairman Norman Smurthwaite, by long suffering fan and newly promoted to Friend Of The Ramble status, @valedave.

wet

Vale fans, I had no idea you were being traumatised to this extent.

I apologise for every thumping Cheltenham Town have given Port Vale on FIFA 15 while under my control.

onesie

I’m sorry for mocking the onesie I saw in the club shop when we drove up to Burslem to see Vale draw 1-1 with Brentford.

shirt

As for you, Alex, I’ll promise I won’t laugh when you hurl your keeper’s jersey into the nettles after Vale concede in the fifth minute. Again.

Meet you by the fence at six?

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @Terry_Nutkin.

♫ Celebrate good times ♫... COME ON!!!!

26 March 2015

The moment elaborate goal celebrations jumped the shark.

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By Kelly Welles

Don’t Worry. Be Happy?

25 March 2015

green

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has this morning announced plans for a joint initiative to tackle the approach to mental health problems in sport.

Governing bodies including the FA, RFU and the England & Wales Cricket Board will sign a charter aiming to eliminate the stigma attached to associated discrimination, while promoting further investment and accessibility to help from Mind and Sporting Chance.

The relationship between sport and depression is an awkward one.

On one hand, there is the fact that exercise is proven to be as effective as antidepressants for those with mild clinical depression. On the other, you have the (necessarily?) bullish, “pull yourself together and work through the pain” mentality that defines sport.

Arguably the last thing those suffering from mental health problems need to hear.

For many years, these two realities have co-existed peacefully, the former rarely disturbed by the acknowledgement of the latter. But an increasing number of events involving high profile athletes – Robert Enke, Gary Speed, Jonathan Trott, Victoria Pendleton, and Clark Carlisle to name just a few – have forced us to face the fact that athletes are as susceptible to depression as the rest of us.

But while investment in mental health provision and encouragement for sporting bodies to increase awareness of the issues surrounding depression will always be welcome, is this initiative likely to force sport to undertake a critical examination of itself and why the problems have remained hidden for so long?

pend

In an interview with 5Live back in 2012, Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton spoke about how she had felt discomfited by the training regimes she was subject to as an athlete, the motivation techniques used and the psychological environment of a sporting team. She implied that she may have benefitted from a less ‘tough it out’ approach.

While this may seem at odds with what’s required to achieve at the elite level, the number of athletes whose careers are blighted by anxiety and depression suggest that sport is obliged to at least look how it conducts itself, and whether there are alternatives to the traditional paths to success.

With violence, racism, sexism and homophobia still leaving their mark on sport, it might seem like an impossible task.

But the most important step we can take as sports fans and participants is to talk about mental health issues.

If this initiative and the accompanying press coverage helps one person to step away from their abyss, it’s a great thing for all of us. 

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By Kelly Welles

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Lead image via theguardian.com.

Dion Dublin: A good day to bury bad news?

25 March 2015

gem

Are the BBC seeking to mitigate the Clarkson ‘fracas’ with this glorious (if utterly baffling) announcement?

If so, congratulations. Your work here is done.

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By Kelly Welles

All together now: I AM FLORIAN DICK!

24 March 2015

Let’s be honest, there aren’t many days you’d be thrilled if you had answer to the name Florian Dick.

Apart from April 20th 2014, of course. That’s the one day in history you’d be thrilled to leap to your feet, wave your arms in the air and scream “ME! IT’S ME! I AM FLORIAN DICK!!”

A volley in off the bar. Wear that shirt with pride, Florian.

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By Kelly Welles

Less Manuel Neuer, more Manuel from Fawlty Towers

23 March 2015

Or Rob Green, if you want to be really harsh on the Bayern Munich keeper.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Stamp duty

23 March 2015

stamp

Late back to your seat after queueing for a wee at Anfield?

That’ll teach you to go to football matches.

slip

If, like most of us, you were enjoying the delights of Super Sunday from the comfort of your couch, you’ll have appreciated the rewind facility even if you saw Steven Gerrard’s opening minute on the pitch live.

Since his unfortunate slip against Chelsea last year, Liverpool’s talisman has been under pressure from sponsors adidas to prove that his boots do work to specification and with time running out before he departs for the MLS Retirement Complex, it was imperative he leave his mark in a big game.

heat

As his ‘heat map’ clearly demonstrates, he wasted no time in doing just that.

Rumours that casts of Ander Herrera’s calf have been taken for data verification purposes have been made up. By me.

But it’s a good idea, no?

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madrid

While we’re on the subject of heat maps, have a look at the Global Hypercolour-esque effort created during Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in El Clasico last night.

alves

Let’s try and keep this away from Dani Alves, shall we? He’ll invariably use it as a template for a pair of commemorative trousers.

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While El Clasico was the usual blend of spite and petulance interspersed with incredible football, the Scottish Championship was a far more grown up affair.

Rangers beat Hibernian 2-0, handing the title to Marcus Speller’s Magnificent Gorgie Boys, but as this Vine suggests, some Hibs fans struggled to overcome old rivalries and celebrate the victory for football.

On the plus side, at least we’ve learned theres a man in the world with more anger issues than Pepe.

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Many are seeking an explanation for David Villa’s baffling free kick vs. Colorado Rapids.

dan

If, like Rambler Daniel McKenna, you’ve just caught a glimpse of Rapids manager Pablo Mastroeni’s magnificant moustache, you are not one of them.


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By Kelly Welles

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Images via Twitter.

Lionel Messi: Causality. With a chance of meatballs

20 March 2015

rex

According to reports, Lionel Messi got fat and crap at football because he ate too much pizza.

Lionel Messi stopped eating pizza and is now brilliant again.

Is this a thing? Are we fat and crap at football because we eat too much pizza? If we were to give up eating pizza would we, in a matter of weeks, be as fleet footed and fantabulous as the diminutive Argentine?

What a ludicrous suggestion.

pizza

As if we’d ever give up eating pizza.

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By Kelly Welles

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Image via bleacherreport.

#PeakEclipse

20 March 2015

peak

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By Kelly Welles

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Image via https://twitter.com/PReina25”>@PReina25.

Google Translate says: The referee’s a ... what now?

19 March 2015

Here’s Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt (sixteenth in Romania’s Liga 1, you ignoramus) defender Milos Markovic getting all cross after a refereeing blunder saw him receive a red card for a team-mate’s handball. (3.22)

Fresh from failing to deliver a decisive blow to the advertising hoardings, young Milos explained his behaviour thusly:

wizard

Ah well, he almost certainly meant to call the referee something beginning with ‘W’.

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By Kelly Welles

Pep speaks for all of English football when he says…

19 March 2015

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By Kelly Welles

Stephanie Roche: Kicking like a girl

13 March 2015

Scoring one goal worthy of nomination for a Puskas Award in your career is one thing. But two?

If Steph Roche carries on like this, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is going to have to actually consider rethinking his organisation’s attitude towards women’s football.

Well, assuming he sees this and still thinks the goal would have been better if she’d been wearing tighter shorts when she scored it, that is.

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By Kelly Welles

 

 

Chelsea 2 - 2 Paris St Germain: Dirty deeds…

12 March 2015

We neutrals rarely have anything to get TOO excited about in football because our masts remain firmly colour free but the sniff of an upset on Tuesday night put us all in the mood.

And at the risk of irritating you Blues even more, Jose’s all conquering bandwagon being brought to a shuddering halt by an unusually stubborn Paris St Germain side was a sight to behold.

This was likely to be a sizzling steak of an encounter after the rather continental-in-style chilled platter of the first game, but Jeremy Clarkson once again left a venue disappointed after his team failed to live up to expectations.

queue

Chelsea’s precious away goal dictated the pace and tone of play until Zlatan fouled Oscar and found himself at what is becoming a British tradition; a queue of Chelsea players waiting to have a go at him.

Then it was simply foul and counter foul until Gary Cahill broke the deadlock on 81 minutes and Chelsea were all but through.

PSG’s Brazilian defensive contingent then took it upon themselves to offer a timely reminder of the World Cup; David Luiz scoring and celebrating like a madman before replays of Thiago Silva’s handball in the first half of extra time had us all squinting and trying to work out whether what we had just seen could possibly be true.

Thank god he rectified the situation. It’s possible that he’d have been sporting matching black eyes if he hadn’t equalised to send PSG through on away goals and Jose Mourinho directly into the do-do.

Who left that there anyway? Was it you, Zlatan? Have you even got a dog?

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By Kelly Welles

Spray it again, Ref!

12 March 2015

Actually, don’t.

They’ll be a global shortage and then where will we be?

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By Kelly Welles

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Gif via reddit.

Real Madrid 3-4 Schalke: Cris Cross

11 March 2015

Real Madrid eventually won this frenetic tie 5-4 on aggregate , but did anyone think to mention it to Cristiano Ronaldo?

Football’s premier preener had a right one on him last night, ‘celebrating’ his first goal with a grim faced stomp around the pitch, the second with a defiant version of his now notorious Jumpy Stamp Roar (PPP)*.

The word in the Spanish media is that he is pissed off with his supply line and the lack of support the team are receiving from the Bernabeu crowd. The flames have been fanned by footage showing him murmuring “shame, shame” at Karim Benzema as they watched Nacho take a throw-in.

Either way, they’re claiming he stated in the mixzone last night that he won’t be speaking to the media for the rest of the season.

That’ll thrown ‘em off the scent, won’t it?

*Patent Pendng Presumably.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Steve Mandanda: Football casual

11 March 2015

Everyone saw this video of Steve Mandanda catching a water bottle hurled at him from the crowd during an interview after Marseille beat Toulouse 6-1, right?

Cool. Just checking.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Jozy Altidore: Universally adored

10 March 2015

altidore

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By Kelly Welles

Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal: There’s a good tradition of love and hate

10 March 2015

Arsene Wenger made his name by shrugging off tradition in this, the most traditional of sports.

Rejecting steak and booze in favour of chicken and mineral water.  Playing good players out of their favoured positions and thus shaping them into legends.

arsene

Transforming the standard stadium coat into a object of humour.

Is eight years of something sufficient to call it a tradition? In football, a game in which a split second decision is sufficient to wreck lives, I reckon so.

keown

It feels like tradition for an Arsenal side to travel to Old Trafford and get beaten anyway, and for a significant proportion of the first twenty minutes of last night’s FA Cup quarter-final, Arsenal appeared to be respecting it; a touch off the pace, lacklustre and a bit bewildered by all the noise in the cauldron that was Old Trafford.

Per Mertesacker looked ready to drop a proverbial at the first available opportunity and his boss, watching from the dugout, was every inch the agitated budgerigar as he (and we) waited for the inevitable.

But even Wenger’s innate innovator would have been startled by the manner in which that tradition was broken. Nacho Monreal,  a left back of reasonable (but nothing more) repute running onto the end of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s neat pass and opening the scoring.

keano
Roy Keane and Alan Shearer simultaneously realise that Ian Wright is wearing guyliner on the telly.

When half-time had rolled around, Wayne Rooney had restored parity and with it, the natural order of things.

Danny Welbeck, the United alumnus deemed surplus to his club’s requirements by Louis van Gaal, scored what turned out to be the winner on the hour mark, propelling social media into a bants fest that then descended into an Angel di Maria pun-off after the Argentine pulled referee Michael Oliver’s shirt and got himself sent off.

oliver

What did we learn? Well, Arsenal can hold onto a lead when it suits them (although the precise conditions that suit them have yet to be narrowed down), Angel di Maria’s on pitch decision making is dodgier than his fashion sense off it and Robbie Savage doesn’t even have to be ‘in and around’ the studio to receive criticism for his punditry.

sav

As I say, it’s tradition.

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By Kelly Welles

Because Gunnersaurus

9 March 2015

g

You beautiful denizens of Twitter will already be aware of #DancingMan.

If not, it’s a story that offers hope to those despairing that social media can only be used to bully and hurt people and tangentially involves Gunnersaurus.

A win/win, if you will.

Sean from London was photographed having a bit of a jig at a public venue. As you can see, Sean is a big guy, which, as we all know, means he shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy himself in public.

dance

They took him aside and quietly reminded him of this. By taking his photo, yelling abuse at him and posting the resulting images on 4Chan, thus ensuring that anyone else who isn’t as physically perfect as them doesn’t commit such an offence.

gunner

A bunch of people saw this, were rightly disgusted and set about finding him, so they could throw him a party.

moby

One Twitter campaign later, Sean is off to LA to dance with several thousand people, to music supplied by Pharrell Williams, Andrew WK and Moby. Twats aren’t invited.

do

Bet Gunnersaurus is, though. He loves a caper.

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By Kelly Welles

We think this is what Chris Waddle means when he says ‘Pelanty’

6 March 2015

Austrian side FC Pinzgau have effectively legitimised the dizzy stick by incorporating it into a training routine.

The Football Ramble approves.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @mikeylaidlaw

Eva Carneiro: White lines? (Don’t do it)

6 March 2015

carneiro

This is Dr Eva Carneiro. She’s a qualified medical practitioner with an MSc in Sport and Exercise, whose experience includes stints with the British Olympic Medical Institute’s Intensive Rehabilitation Unit and the UK Sports and Exercise Medicine Specialist training programme.

She’s also Chelsea FC’s first team doctor.

Eva was the target of verbal abuse at recent games between Chelsea and Arsenal and Chelsea and Manchester United. A group of grown men shouted “Get your tits out for the lads” and “Show us where you piss from, you slag, show us your minge” at her while she was treating an injured player.

Obviously, it’s pathetic, but I’ve heard worse at football matches.

It’s the inconsistency that kills me.

carneiro

Imagine for a moment that one of these guys was seriously injured outside the stadium and required immediate medical attention. Carneiro, being both a professional and a normal human being, would treat them, regardless of whether they’d been vile and offensive towards her five minutes earlier.

But would they have the nuts to scream “Get your tits out for the lads” into her face as she helped them? Or even refuse her assistance on the basis that she’s female and, according to their logic, an inferior object?

Doubtful. So why does the white line between the stands and the pitch make a difference?

Seriously. Pull yourselves together. For the sake of your mothers and daughters, if nothing else.

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By Kelly Welles

Ralf Haley: Living the dream. So you don’t have to

4 March 2015

nuts

Ralf Haley has just kicked himself in the nuts. For most blokes, that’s an achievement in itself, but Ralf is not most blokes.

Ralf’s a maniac.

kick

At the age of 23, most of us have grudgingly acknowledged that the possibility of being scouted and signed by a professional football club has passed us by.

If it ever existed at all.

That’s not to say we don’t still surreptitiously glance about the sidelines on a soggy Sunday morning after scoring a screamer, just in case a bloke in a cagoule is making notes, but y’know.

We’ve mostly come to terms with it.

Not Ralf. He decided that his desire to play for a professional club was too great to be allowed to die a peaceful, dignified death and set about getting himself a trial, despite being, in his own words, “a terrible footballer”. He wrote a thousand emails and seven clubs across the world offered him the opportunity to strut his stuff.

As insurance against that lucrative professional contract failing to materialise, he wrote a book and didn’t prevent his brother from filming his adventure for documentary purposes.

bib

The Beautiful Dream is the story of an ordinary man ignoring good sense and the advice of his friends to pursue a desire that has, at one time or another, burned within us all.

If it still burns within you, you owe it to yourself to see what happens when reality smacks into your dreams, studs up.

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By Kelly Welles

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The Beautiful Dream, a witty, entertaining but cautionary tale about a man running blindly after his dream is available for purchase right here. y’all.

Aston Villa 2-1 West Bromwich Albion: An apology

4 March 2015

I tried so hard for you, Ramblers. I know you rely on me but I’ve let you down. Badly.

I’m ashamed.

fletch

I watched the whole shebang on BT Sport last night.

Build up, pundits, Fletch and Sav’s supposedly endearing but actually horrendous post-ironic bants, but could I summon up contempt for Tim Sherwood’s increasingly animated touchline performance as Aston Villa hauled themselves to their first win under his stewardship?

No. No, I couldn’t.

Not one but two abortive goal celebrations. The pre-penalty hysteria. The post-penalty hysteria. The blood pressure check.

All of them, in isolation, are bench presses to my sarcasm muscle but it simply buckled under the weight of the significance of this win for Villa, who played well vs. West Brom and on balance, deserved the win.

hut

Apart from Alan Hutton, obviously.

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By Kelly Welles

El Clasico: Slappy talk keep talkin’ slappy talk

3 March 2015

slap

With just under three weeks to go until the first El Clasico of 2015, it’s no surprise that the smack talk has started.

But Barcelona’s opening salvo suggests that the route to the biannual happy slapping event we have come to enjoy will be more circuitous than usual, and unless Real Madrid are careful, their response could get them into more trouble than Sergio Ramos at a refereeing convention.

rex

“Florentino Perez looks at the world market and wants a team of Galacticos for everyone to admire. Do you understand what I mean?” Barcelona’s assistant director of football, Carles Rexach (above), told Catalan media outlet Regio7.

”[Cristiano] Ronaldo is the flagship of the club. Perez is selling an international brand.

“Vicente del Bosque and Di Maria are too ugly for Real Madrid. They are different from Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.”

pepe

Unless you’re prepared to stoop to their level (in which case, publishing photos of Pepe and Luka Modric would be the obvious course of action) the only way to deal with this is to maintain a dignified silence.

We look forward to their inevitable, inflammatory riposte with interest.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T goal.com

adidas Present: The School Shoes Collection?

2 March 2015

Everyone loves it when a manager takes a spill on the pitch because he’s wearing ‘proper’ shoes, but this is probably taking it a bit far.

boot

The question that’s vexing me is whether adidas have released these patent leather look boots - the latest in their #ThereWillBeHaters campaign - for the benefit of players or managers?

liverpool

Oh well, as long as the studs work*, I’m sure they’ll be fine either way.

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By Kelly Welles

*Sorry Liverpool fans. That was cheap. But irresistible wink

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Image via soccerbible.com

Weekend Highlights: Help us, Obi-Wan Pellegrini. You’re our only hope…

2 March 2015

Or at least you were, until you abdicated from your position as the people’s representative, effectively ceding the title to Chelsea and ensuring more scenes like the one above.

Sorry Chelsea fans, but you know the score.

Your captain’s superb form and your manager’s annoying habit of being right (not to mention the routine hatred that trails in the wake of whichever side happens to be strolling to honours) are extremely irritating to the rest of us, and when the only team with a hope in hell of preventing South West London’s Death Star from gaining control of the footballing galaxy crashes spectacularly into a hostile planet managed by the footballing equivalent of Jar Jar Binks, it can be quite galling.

Like you care.

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sher

At the other end of the table, Aston Villa’s love affair with Tim Sherwood is on the wane after just two games.

gilet

Was it ever a love affair though, or more like a quick shag round the back of the pub that was never going to amount to anything meaningful and wasn’t really worth the trouble of removing the gilet?

Fear not though, Villa fans. For your enthusiastic suitor has a devious plan to win your affection and a place in next season’s Premier League.

“We need six wins. We have 11 games left and, as players, they need to start taking responsibility. Now is the time for points. We need a siege mentality.”

With that kind of Machiavellian genius at work, how can they fail?

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Anyone know what Lu-Lu-Lu-Lukas Podolski was trying to do here? No? Ok, move on.

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Here’s Sean Wright Philips, down in the tunnel trying to make it pay.

No wonder his career is in Dire Straits. BA-DUM-TISH!

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ten

Thanks for all your enquiries regarding the health and wellbeing of our illustrious presenter after his beloved Jambos put ten past Cowdenbeath.

Last time we saw him, he was driving up to Edinburgh in his bare feet. We have no idea whether he’ll be back in time for the recording of this week’s show, but that (as long time listeners will testify) could be a mixed blessing in itself.

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By Kelly Welles

 

The Unbearable Triteness of Being (Joey Barton)

27 February 2015

barton

Dear Lord,

Please don’t ever let Joey Barton become self-aware.

Lots of love,

Football.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @PaulSarahs.

MLS Flashback: Tasty dip, anyone?

26 February 2015

Lovely scenes from the magnificently named Dax McCarty there.

Want more? How’s about this from Newcastle United Hall of Famer Obafemi Martins during Seattle Sounders game vs. San Jose Earthquakes?

 
That won the MLS Goal of the Year Award 2014.

So, you know. Watch more MLS n’ that. It’s great.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: “It’s mental”

26 February 2015

Arsenal 1-3 Monaco

Alright, it wasn’t the most spectacular collapse of the evening.

But unlike Madonna’s cape-related collapse at the Brits, Arsenal’s performance against Monaco failed to live up to expectation.

Once again they were defensively inept and woefully susceptible to the counter attack; a point articulated beautifully after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attempt to grab the game by the scruff of the neck in a David Beckham vs. Greece manner resulted in him scoring on ninety minutes and his team getting caught on the break seconds later.

All this begs a question. Does there come a point when dragging Arsenal, kicking and screaming, into fourth place is less of an achievement and more of a burden to Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal massive? They’ve qualified for the competition for the last eighteen seasons but haven’t moved past the last sixteen since the 2009/10 season. And unless something utterly spectacular happens in the Stade Louis II in a couple of weeks, they’ll be on their way again.

I think yes. Which has given me one of my ideas.

Let’s say, (hypothetically, please don’t blast my inbox with the financial implications of what is, quite obviously, a joke) regardless of where they finish in the 2014/15 Premier League, Arsenal should be suspended from European competition for next season.

Stay with me. You’ll love this.

arsene

Instead of midweek Champions League games, they can all go to the water park and relax, watch videos of other games to learn about the importance of “nerve & rationality” in high pressure situations and more generally how to play football for 90 minutes.

Their confidence will improve, they might even break out of this ridiculous qualifying/crashing out cycle, their spot can be passed on to someone who might use it and the fans can be spared the ignominy of performances like the one that unfolded last night.

crater
The Emirates East Stand, yesterday.

The gaping holes in Emirates stands opening up like those craters in Siberia suggest something drastic needs to be done.

We should take our lead from FIFA here, who have this week proved what has long been suspected; f**king about with the rules is fine if it suits our purposes.

It’s for your own good, Arsenal fans. You’ll thank me when you’ve stopped banging your head off the nearest solid object.

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Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Yep, that’s him.

Think of it this way. The likelihood of Arsenal coming back from a two away goal deficit is so low that you’re freed up to watch the second leg of this game, which is delicately poised after ten man Atletico Madrid conceded their first goal in six games.

Bayer Leverkusen will take a slender advantage to the Calderón and despite misfortune finally relocating Fernando Torres in glorious fashion, the chances are the Mattress Makers (almost up there with the Chair Boys, that one) will have enough to overturn the slender deficit at home.

There will be some sort of game, anyway. No one needs him to see him cross again.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Sam Allardyce: Royale with gravy

25 February 2015

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You’ve all seen it. But exactly where did John Travolta get the terrible idea to approach Scarlett Johansson from behind at this year’s Oscar ceremony?

Big Sam. It seems he’s bigger than we thought.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: He’s behind you!

25 February 2015

Manchester City 1-2 Barcelona

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Rumours of Barcelona’s demise have been grossly exaggerated.

That’s the impression they gave at the Etihad last night, particularly after speculation that their loss to Malaga at the weekend was due to their having half an eye on this game gained traction.

There were moments of respite for City, but Pellegrini’s boys spent most of the first twenty-five minutes camped in their own half, desperately trying to repel wave after wave of what appeared to be quick footed toxic waste.

Cheap sartorial criticism aside, Barcelona might as well have been radioactive, for all the contact Manchester City were able to have with them. And by the time Luis Suarez had reacquainted himself with English soil, they were 0-2 down and staring down the barrel of a cricket score.

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Fair play to the home side, though. Their diminutive Argentine (every team should have one) grasped the rapidly withdrawing lifeline and despite having Gael Clichy sent off for a second yellow card and conceding a penalty in the final minutes, they remain in the fixture.

Seriously. Joe Hart saved a Messi penalty. Between that and the death stare, I can’t imagine he got any sleep last night.

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Juventus 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

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Should Ashley Barnes be honoured that his tackle on Nemanja Matic was emulated by the ambitiously coiffed Arturo Vidal?

This is just one of the questions no one was asking as Juventus huffed and puffed their way to a narrow 2-1 home win over Borussia Dortmund.

An early goal by Carlos Tevez gave the Bianconeri an early lead, but Dortmund, who’ve become used to overcoming adversity in recent weeks, quickly equalised via Denzel Washington... sorry… Marco Reus. Klopp probably keeps a copy of Reus’s recently signed contract extension next to his bed, such is the player’s importance to the relegation threatened Germans.

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And fair play to the blonde, toothy lunatic. Juventus were unable to capitalise on Dortmund’s perceived weakness; despite several more chances for Tevez, Pereyra and Chiellini they will only take a one goal lead into the second leg, courtesy of Alvaro Morata.

Expect scenes in the Westfalenstadion, people!

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By Kelly Welles

Kelly’s Game: YOU are the ‘supporter’

24 February 2015

Your team is in last place in the Bundesliga. Your eighteen year old centre back has just failed to control and distribute the ball and the last person you want to see bearing down on him in that situation has just nicked it and scored, putting the result beyond you.

What do you do?

1) Adjust your combat shorts and run across the pitch, simultaneously attempting to symbolically rip your season ticket up and hurl the pieces into your baffled manager’s face?

2) Start booing until Timo Baumgartl (who looks like he should still be in nappies) feels so bad he actually gives up football and becomes a milkman?

3) Hug him and tell him it’s ok?

Can we try number three for a bit? Seriously? Just for a change?

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By Kelly Welles

So here it is, Seppy Christmas, everybody’s having fun!

24 February 2015

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Austerity measures at FIFA #702: The boardroom

You’ve got to hand it to FIFA.

As global leaders in identifying brands that give people of all economic backgrounds pleasure and then commercialising the life out of them, it was only a matter of time before Christmas popped up on their subterranean volcano HQ radar.

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In case you missed this morning’s news, a FIFA task force (above), has recommended that the World Cup 2022, awarded to Qatar on the basis that it would take place in the summer, should be played in November & December of that year, with 23rd December earmarked for the final.

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We can only assume that the task force considered the implications of holding a global football tournament in and around the festive period -  the impact on domestic leagues and other competitions, player fitness, transportation difficulties for travelling fans, Richard Scudamore feeling “a little bit let down,” - but decided these were all surmountable and went with it anyway.

Not massively surprising, given that the issues already prompting concern about the tournament itself - the exploitation of migrant workers, perilous working conditions, infrastructure, Qatari law, to name a few - have either been ignored or dismissed.

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The decision has yet to be ratified, but with the momentum heading in that direction, the only conclusion we can draw is that FIFA act in the best interest of FIFA.

The good of the game, the pleasure of the fans, the safety of workers, player welfare, even the legality of the bidding process are all matters of little to no significance when viewed alongside the organisations desire to open football to a new world and a new culture.”

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As a great man once said, “Don’t make me sick in my mouth”.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: And the testosterone flowed like cash…

23 February 2015

Drug testers were on high alert this weekend as several on-pitch incidents led to speculation that someone has been slipping testosterone into players’ pre-match sippy cups.

It wasn’t all fun and bodyslamming though, despite what you might have seen on social media.

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Commentators found themselves in the invidious and confusing position of agreeing with Jose Mourinho as he issued malevolent threats to Martin Atkinson via his numeric code algorithm; a fact that propelled our own Luke Moore further into patent law than he ever wanted to be.

 
Chelsea have already appealed against the red card issued to Nemanja Matic for his response to Ashley Barnes’ attempt at amputation; a response that prompted Chris Waddle to state on BBC 606 that, given the nature of the tackle “any player would have done the same”.

Whether Ashley Barnes will receive retrospective punishment remains to be seen, but given that it was just one of four decisions Jose had an issue with, it’s fair to say that the FA and Referee’s Association will be having a good old look at the game.

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It’s easy to agree with Waddle once you’ve winced your way through the different angles on that tackle. We’ll hazard a guess that he’d be less inclined to commit on Shab Khan’s work at Worcester City though.

Mainly because most players probably couldn’t pull such an efficient body slam on a fellow professional without months of practice.

Terrifying, both in reasoning and execution.

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But astonishingly, not an isolated incident.

Admittedly not *quite* as impressive in terms of clean and jerk, but still.

Dude was wearing a reflective vest, for goodness sake.

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Need a rest from unusual behaviour? Let me ease you back into more familiar territory by telling you that QPR captain Joey Barton flicked Tom Huddlestone in the knackers and got sent off.

His teammates are getting tired of it.

Next!

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Barcelona put forward two entries for the Football Ramble Durrty Award in their game vs. Malaga.

Well, three really, if you count Neymar’s horizontal body slam, the shin pad efficacy test he issued seconds later AND Jordi Alba kicking Juanpi in the back like he’s just a ballboy.

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I could go on and tell you about Oxford United having their goalkeeper sent off for the fourth time in six games. Or the triple jeopardy rule that’s giving Bayern Munich the hump and Bundesliga officials a headache.

But instead I’ll just leave you with elegant wordsmith Carlton Cole’s guide to dealing with social media trolls, which also functions as the most efficient summation of the current football climate I’ve seen lately.

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Thank you, Carlton. That hit the target.

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By Kelly Welles

Chelsea FC: Distance learning

23 February 2015

Football fans don’t generally need any encouragement to mock their rivals, but a group of West Ham fans seized the opportunity to get one over on Chelsea this weekend by issuing this video tutorial of train etiquette.

It provided some much needed levity after a weekend pondering a BBC Radio 5Live interview with a Chelsea fanzine editor on Friday evening. David Johnstone of CFC UK told Anna Foster & Simon Cox of the station’s Drive show that the incident on the Paris Metro was “in no way the club’s responsibility, and they cannot be held accountable for actions of four or five individuals.”

He went on to say that the account of the victim, Souleymane S, was “full of inconsistencies” and a defence lawyer would “rip his story to shreds”.

“My heart goes out to him,” Johnstone continued, “but if he’s experienced racism all his life [as Souleyman S has claimed], why is he so devastated about something that’s been caught on film? It’s a terrible thing to have happened, in the back of my mind I feel like he might be trying to make the most of it.”

Naturally, everyone is going to have their own opinion on this matter, and that includes Johnstone, but his words were, at best, unhelpful to his club, their fans and the current situation.

The Guardian’s Barney Ronay, interviewed immediately afterwards, made his opinion clear from the outset.

“I’d like to distance myself completely from what David Johnstone just said.” he told Anna Foster.

Unfortunately, I can only presume that by that point, the vast majority of Chelsea fans were too mortified to hear him.

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By Kelly Welles

Vintage Kits: Unleash your inner geek!

20 February 2015

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We’ve long since given up lamenting the fact that we’re utterly sad acts when it comes to football memorabilia.

So without any apologies whatsoever, I’ll tell you that we’ve spent a highly productive morning dribbling over this gorgeous gallery of retro shirts from world football, designed by Emilio Sansolini for our friends at goal.com.

What have we learned? Well, we like polyester mix a lot more than is healthy and picking a favourite is a bitch.

Still, after getting all 50 Shades on the boys (and not in a good way) I was able to narrow their choices down. Well, apart from Marcus, who picked a top three.

Then awarded himself the points.

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Luke ‘Algorithm Hunter’ Moore: Celtic

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Pete ‘Diggory’ Donaldson: Valencia

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Marcus ‘ MC Skibadee’ Speller: Marseille

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AND Fiorentina

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AND Paris St Germain

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James (or Jim) Campbell: Monaco

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(The Elusive) Lord Ramble: Sampdoria

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Kelly ‘Kellstrom Kellinha Kelloggs’ Welles: Velez Sarsfield

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Honorable Mench: Newell’s Old Boys (for obvious reasons)

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By Kelly Welles

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Images courtesy of
goal