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

Standard Liege: No cactuses were harmed during the making of this video

21 November 2014

Our willingness to peer into the odour imbued, jock strap festooned places that professional sportsmen get changed took a knock this week when former England rugby international Matt Dawson shared an anecdote about being molested on the bottom in a locker room with a cactus.

daws

Indeed, having watched the opening moments of this video, which features Standard Liege’s 2013/14 squad, we feared the chap in the cardboard box was about to meet a similar, indelicate end. Aimlessly wandering around the locker room, his vision impaired, to our addled imaginations he seemed destined for a vigorous thwacking with the nearest pot plant. It was a sight we weren’t sure our conscious minds could cope with.

Some of you may find what happens next even more offensive, but much, much smarter.

Our faith, has (at least temporarily) been restored.

Happy Friday, Ramblers!

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By Kelly Welles

EURO 2016: Channelling the spirit of the Gauls!

21 November 2014

drib

With Millwall, Puma and the New England Patriots all suffering the consequences of allowing fans and followers to influence their public image, UEFA have applied a necessary degree of caution to the process of naming the mascot for EURO 2016.

griez

The popularity of football authorities is at an all time low, and if thrown out to the general public, the chances are the small, enthusiastic man boy (presumably modelled on Antoine Griezmann) would end up being called something superbly offensive.

Which is why ‘our’ options range from the mildly inane (Driblou) to the moderately stupid (Super Victor), with Goalix falling somewhere in between.

asterix

We’ll take it. If any sport is analogous to the story of a small band of proud fanatics in brilliant trousers fighting to defend their turf from an evil empire intent upon exploiting it for their own prosperity, it’s football.

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By Kelly Welles

Marcus Speller Presents: Three’s company…

20 November 2014

marcus

Two days ago, we presented you with this.

It was our ‘Breaking the Internet’ moment and at the time we wondered whether we could ever top Marcus having his picture taken with Ramble Hall of Famer, Friend of the Ramble & ‘unofficial’ Fifth Rambler Craig “Nuthink Nuthink result” Brown.

Turns out we can. Brace yerselves, Ramblers. It’s only a ruddy video of the interview our man conducted with Brown and Terry ‘T-Ven’ Venables!

 
We’re so proud. And while it’s tested our bandwith capacity, we have enough left to remain comfortably online for the foreseeable future.

Unless, of course, he runs into Sven during his big shop. If a picture of that hits his Twitter we’ll be back in the Dark Ages before you can say ‘‘Wellllllllll”.

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By Kelly Welles

Andy Awford’s Guide to Football PT4: Player management

20 November 2014

awford

“Things needed to be said, and they were. That will remain private. I haven’t punched anyone but there has been a lot said.”

Portsmouth manager Andy Awford, after his side were eliminated from the FA Cup by Conference side Aldershot.

brent

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By Kelly Welles

Google Translate says: Ooh. That’s a dig

19 November 2014

xabi

“If Neuer won the Golden Ball would be absolutely deserved.”

“I have to say that he is not only by far the best goalie I’ve ever played [with], but it is also excellent as a field player.”

Xabi Alonso to Bild.

iker

By far?! Ooh, burn, Iker. Five years, a World Cup, two European Championships and a Champions League meant nothing.

And we thought Xabi was such a nice man.

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By Kelly Welles

International Friendlies: A Song For Europe

19 November 2014

Scotland 1-3 England

 
You can be sure that if England manage to cobble together a bright performance against competitive opposition, somebody, somewhere, will find a way to ensure no one is talking about it the following day.

So while we remain aware of Jack Wilshere’s visionary cross and The Ox’s tender steer, they’re mostly lost beneath the debris.

 
Wayne Rooney’s positioning for England’s second, his startling ability to shift the momentum of that not inconsiderable bulk from one direction to another to ensure contact with the ball, while mentioned in dispatches, are also buried.

Never mind that it’s precisely the testament to his quality the media were demanding before the Slovenia game. The reminder we needed that he has been special, if not the legend we wanted. That was last week’s agenda.

roy

Nope. Everyone’s talking about England fans anti-IRA chanting to the occasional (inadvertent) accompaniment of the England Supporters Band. The fact that the FA were forced to ask them to stop playing during the first half. That Roy Hodgson felt obliged to apologise for the conduct of the singing fans after the game.

Barney Ronay of the Guardian said on BBC Radio 5Live this morning that the press box at Celtic Park was close to a stand of Scotland fans, who appeared to him to be mostly bewildered by the chanting, uncertain as to the purpose behind it.

Says it all really, doesn’t it?

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Argentina 0-1 Portugal

Were you hoping that last night’s clash between the top two players in the world might offer some definitive proof of who’s better?

It didn’t. It won’t. Ever. But we can be sure of one thing. Neither will be emulating the acting success of Eric Cantona once retired from the game.

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Spain 0-1 Germany

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos broke Spain’s record of 34 games unbeaten at home with this 89th minute effort. Spain also had less possession than the opposition for the first time in six years.

Further proof (if it were needed) that Pep Guardiola has a worryingly effective influence on world football.

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Slovenia 0-1 Colombia

With the defensive awareness of a FIFA 15 side set to ‘Amateur’, Slovenia conceded this goal to Colombia.

Alright, the best players in the world have struggled to contain the precocious nightmare that is James Rodriguez, but turning your back on him?

perry

We’re with Perry on this one.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Pointless England

17 November 2014

 
Is it a nadir in England football or life itself when a EURO 2016 qualifier and an England talisman’s 100th game draws fewer viewers than an episode of a gameshow the objective of which is to end up with no points?

aka

There are television events for which this irony would have been acceptable. The launch of a new series of Bullseye, perhaps, featuring a freshly botoxed Jim Bowen but the same shit prizes. (A speedboat? But we live in Birmingham).

spped

Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Mel B and Cheryl Cole being arrested for crimes against music during X-Factor’s live show? Jeremy Kyle’s Finest Fistfights?

But then, should we be so surprised?

Alright, while watching Kriss Akabusi and Vanessa Feltz stand about in a purple studio looking bewildered might not be the most edifying way to spend a Saturday evening, is watching our national team burn through a qualifying campaign like contenders, only to collapse in a smoking heap when the balls graduate to the plinth, any better?

 
Not to mention Wayne Rooney organising his mini-mes into formation. It’s not his fault his kids look so much like him (well, it is, but fate’s enduring sense of humour must bear some of the blame) and it’s not entirely his fault (see above) that his tenure as England’s talisman should have coincided with our most uninspiring decade in football since records began, but it’s still galling to watch the FA’s illuminati go through their tasselled-gold-encased-in-Perspex motions.

Closing one’s eyes, gritting one’s teeth and pretending everything has been brilliant is a very English way of dealing with our problems, it’s true, but even we, the notoriously susceptible to pre-tournament hysteria, are beginning to waver in the face of the relentless gulf between expectation and achievement.

Suffice to say, we can get as sniffy as we like about people’s Saturday night entertainment choices but on this occasion, either selection was ultimately pointless.

Even for Wayne Rooney.

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By Kelly Welles

Dapper Laughs v2.0: Level up with Blackface!

17 November 2014

They say nature abhors a vacuum and with Dapper Laughs being manually forced back into the grubby hole (fnar) from whence he came, we should have expected this.

Set the Attention Seeking Bell End artillery to ‘Obliterate’, please. And call Mario. He’s going to want to be in on this.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @Adam_M_Ali, Bleacher Report.

 

Pepe: An exciting new role?

14 November 2014

pepe

Someone in the Real Madrid press department has been watching way too much Dexter.

Unless they’re planning a sports based spin-off show in Spain’s capital.

In which case, fine. We’d watch it.
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By Kelly Welles

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Image via Instagram.

Jessica Ennis-Hill: Taking a stand

14 November 2014

ennis

Olympic heptathlete Jessic Ennis-Hill has stated she will ask Sheffied United to remove her name from a stand at the club’s Bramall Lane ground if former player and convicted rapist Ched Evans is offered a new contract.

ennis1

“Those in positions of influence should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example,” said Ennis-Hill.

The club re-named the stand in her honour after her gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics.

Funny, isn’t it, how someone who has channelled their entire focus into athletic achievement is able to effortlessly perceive and articulate the morality of an extremely complex situation in a sentence, while the so-called football & media authorities bumble about in agenda driven, misinformed ethical mazes of their own making?

tweet

We’re more than capable of doing that ourselves, by the looks of things.

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By Kelly Welles

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More on this story: Ched Evans, Moving Forward.

Tim Lovejoy: Our Kim Kardashian

13 November 2014

break

If this doesn’t break our particular corner of the internet, nothing will.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T DoctorBenjy.

Umbro: What colour is win?

13 November 2014

There aren’t too many opportunities in life to celebrate the outlandish geekery we Ramblers revel in.

Indeed, far from impressing those around us, the ability to reel off the backline for our team’s horrific capitulation to lower league giant killers back in 1993’s FA Cup third round frequently identifies us as a target for people who spend their time engaged in more ‘worthy’ pursuits. Like shopping.

everton

Occasionally though, a kindly sportswear manufacturer takes pity on our ilk and offers a reward for our diligence and commitment. (In short, pay attention to the next bit. There’s something in it for you.)

shirts

To celebrate their 90th year in (and around) football, Umbro have created this video, which celebrates the teams who ply their trade in the double diamonds. There are 49 teams represented and all you have to do is identify them, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with the list and the five peeps who get closest get to pick a shirt from Umbro’s worldwide collection.

The added bonus being that your family will be so annoyed by your insistence on wearing your new PetroJet FC top every day that they’ll probably refuse to let you travel with them to the out of town shopping centre.

Exactly how much more win is it possible to carry?

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By Kelly Welles

For Your Consideration: Who killed Andres?

12 November 2014

Frank Leboeuf’s foray into acting inspired Marcus to ask the chaps “Who’s your favourite footballing actor?” in this week’s show.

fitz

As usual, you were disappointed with their choices (despite Jim’s quite staggering contribution of Fitz Hall in The Fifth Element) and immediately overwhelmed us with your own suggestions.

stan

Our favourite so far is Spanish farce ‘Quién mató a Bambi?’ (Who Killed Bambi), submitted by @GameofThrowIns, because driving a car into a stadium containing Andres Iniesta who then approaches and is hit in the face with the car door is the most mystifying automotive related decision in filmmaking since Collymore was cast in Basic Instinct 2.

Lasts about as long, too.

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By Kelly Welles

Our man in Beijing…

11 November 2014

For reasons we’ve been unable to ascertain, Simon Clode is trapped in Beijing.

While he waits for his visa to be expunged, he’s been at the football, and he’s dying to tell you about it…

1

Last weekend but one was the final round of games of the Chinese Super League season: Marcelo Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande won the title, Beijing Guoan came second, and Sven’s Guangzhou R&F finished third.

Sven seeing out a 19 month contract you say? Is he a changed man? Well, Guangzhou R & F are owned by the property firm of the same name, with the R standing for Rich.

That said, the F does stand for Force.

sven

Whatever his motivation, Sven seems to like it so much that he could be staying in the CSL next year, with rumours of a move to Shanghai abounding.

2

The first thing you notice about a big football game in China is the level of security; a threefold affair starting with the stadium security, followed by the police and culminating in a large contingent of the People’s Liberation Army.

Ticket prices are cheap, especially season tickets, but are often bought in by touts, creating a huge secondary market on match day. At Sunday’s season finale in Beijing someone behind us had paid £50, half the average weekly salary, for his ticket.

guoan

The standard of football ranges from Championship-esque, wide-open ding-dongs to Conference level festivals of violence. In the final round of games, the tie between Beijing Guoan and Henan Jianye was firmly from the latter category, with two-footed challenges abounding and an almost admirable commitment to the mindless lumping of the ball into the box. 

This was not always the case though.

In 2012, the CSL produced the most entertaining game of football I have seen live, the China Derby between Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua.

The levels of support are hugely imbalanced as the number of away supporters is limited because making the journey for away games is a challenge only the hardcore are prepared to take on. Because of this, the atmosphere at this particular game was a wall of uniform noise. 54800 - 200 does not make for a fair shouting match.

The most popular chant is to shout the equivalent of “stupid c#nt” relentlessly at the away fans, breaking only for a major incident on the pitch, which inevitably leads to the crowd shouting “stupid c#nt” at somebody involved in the incident instead.

3

This game was Nicholas Anelka’s debut for Shenhua, but in the first half he was isolated as a lone striker. Thanks to some comical defending by Shenhua and with no attacking threat to defend, Guoan were one goal up at half-time.

The second half saw Jean Tigana, Shenhua’s manager, give Anelka some support by moving former Guoan player Joel Griffiths (a man who once punched a linesman) into a more advance role.

This opened the match up into the kind of game where a second half substitute could be, and indeed was, sent off. Margins became chasms and Guoan extended their lead, before Griffiths scored against his old team. Within a matter of minutes Anelka managed to stop laughing at the standard of defending long enough to slide the ball into an open net. 

4
It seems he learned a lot from Wenger. Not least how to dress between November and March.

All was adhering to a very convenient script. You know, the one where the bad guy and the superstar rescue the game.

However. Little did Shenhua know that Guoan had their own cartoon villain; Mao Jianqing. Mao is a product of Shenhua’s youth academy, who the club’s CEO once called a “filial son”.

In 2008 Mao spent a week in custody following a brawl in a restaurant that happened only hours after Shenhua had blown the league title. In traditional Chinese fashion he was eventually banished thousands of miles away.  Four years later he turned up in Beijing as a bit part player, making only 18 appearances in his solitary season there.

Mao Jianqing
“Let’s all do the Mao Jianqing!”

On 79 minutes he came onto the pitch. On 82 minutes he scored. The fact that the records show he was booked a full two minutes later for his celebrations give you some insight as to how long he was running around the pitch waving his shirt around his head.  It was magnificent, Beattie-esque even. This was his only goal for Beijing Guoan, but what a time to score it.

I also had a premonition about the goal. It was the first and only time that I have performed that most heinous of crimes and filmed the game, but just have a look at this reaction.


令人难以置信的场面

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By Simon Clode.

Sepp Blatter: Reaching critical mass?

11 November 2014

Sepp Blatter has had a tough couple of weeks.

zurich

Last Wednesday he was reportedly ambushed by protesters at Zurich University as he attempted to give a lecture.

Around 60 people attempted to gain access to the building but were repelled by riot police and continued their protest on the streets.

Their concerns ranged from FIFA’s scorched earth policy on the favelas in Brazil prior to World Cup 2014 and the awarding of the hosting rights to the competition to Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively.

claim

This pesky matter cropped up again yesterday after reports emerged that the FIFA president had told football executives in Norway that “Qatar would be stripped of the World Cup”, calling the country’s rulers “arrogant.

According to International Business Times, he also allegedly “rebuked the Qatari Sheikhs for backing terror group Isis.”

deny

This was quickly (and in their terms this counts as immediately) rebuked by FIFA, who stated that the claims, which originally appeared in German news magazine Der Spiegel, were “unfounded,” adding, “The 2022 Fifa World Cup will take place in Qatar.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the Seppy, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term at the helm of football’s governing body, has this morning found himself on the end of one of Diego Maradona’s outbursts.

diego

El Diego, who recently appeared in a video apparently advertising that fact that he’s a fairly hefty toolbag in his own right, told reporters, “Blatter knows nothing of what happens in the world of football.

He must first realise that it is the football players who bring so much joy to millions of fans across the world, while he and his friends sit in air-conditioned surroundings and drink.

This cannot continue. This needs to stop. Anyway, he is too old and it would be a shame for my sport to see him contesting the elections yet again.”

He does have a point, as well as a catastrophic lack of self-awareness.

But the whole situation, coming seven months before that vital election, must be a worry for Blatter. Apparently untouchable for most of his career, there’s an air of critical mass developing around the public opposition he’s receiving.

Could Qatar be the fatal flaw in his own personal Death Star of football?

We can but dream.

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By Kelly Welles

The Reducer: We’re gonna need a bigger scale

10 November 2014

You may have recently heard of the man (not Luis Suarez) who was banned from football for 50 years for “kicking a ball in the referee’s face and spraying him with water.”

If that forms part of a sliding scale of punishable offences, this guy might as well invest in cryogenic freezing while he’s still fit.

He’ll be eligible to play again around about the age of 403.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @RobbieSavage8.

Weekend Highlights: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy (football)?

10 November 2014

weng

Realism cut a swathe through the Prem this weekend, as Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal both admitted that their respective sides are nowhere near where they need to be.

It seems that mind games have gone the way of tiki-taka and having been abandoned by their master, they have slunk off to a corner to die horribly, their only comfort the memory of being loved.

dropped

In their place is honesty, or at least some version of it.

Having dropped nine points from winning positions this season in the PL alone it’s difficult to see what else Arsene could have said, but one hopes he’s not experimenting with the patented ‘Roberto Mancini’ technique to put the wind up Jose Mourinho.

mou

It won’t work. Mou is like Superman - impervious to even the most sophisticated attacks on his psyche.

What Wenger needs to do is raise the stakes. Invoke Mourinho’s own personal Kryptonite, which followers of the Chelsea manager’s career to date will instantly identify as Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas. If he brings them to the Emirates, he can just sit back in his duvet coat, relax and watch as Mourinho slowly but surely turns into a normal human being.

About as likely as Arsene actually spending that kind of money, isn’t it?

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dg
But what brings pain for some inevitably brings joy to others; the distinct sound of purring accompanied the tweeting of this photo of the table by West Ham co-chairman David Gold, while Ronald Koeman and Southampton’s record of 11 wins in 12 games has officially been declared a stick to beat other teams and managers with.

Like Brendan. And Mauricio. But definitely not Pardew. Not now.

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Other people having a terrible weekend included Christoph Kramer, who gave Borussia Dortmund a third win of the season with this staggering 50 yard punt.

If he played for them he would have been in a different section of this article, but sadly he was wearing the colours of opposition Borussia Mönchengladbach at the time, so looks a buffoon of Santiago Vergini proportions.

kehl

Luckily Sebastian Kehl was around to cheer him up. Otherwise he might have been really depressed about that.

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Then again, if Mönchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer had been a bit more imaginative, he could have saved it. Like Matias Cano of UAI Urquiza, who made this astonishing save from a similar shot.

Think that’s good? The opposition team were Deportivo Moron, who are our new favourite side from the regionalized third level of the Argentine football league system.

Obviously.

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And while we’re on the subject of the quite frankly unbelievable defending, here’s Diego Godin’s clearance against Real Sociedad. There are some strikers (no names, let’s just say he’s pretty, blond, Spanish, currently playing for AC Milan) who couldn’t score from there.

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And to finish, Demba (in off the) Ba with this Thunderbastard for Besiktas vs. Istanbul Basaksehir.

Woof, as someone from a rival (some might say inferior) podcast would say.

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By Kelly Welles

Why England Lose v2.0

7 November 2014

Apparently, it’s because Owen Hargreaves spent virtually his entire career on the treatment table.

Wowzers, as Joe Hart might say.

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By Kelly Welles

Twitter: Respect the rules of engagement

7 November 2014

Twitter is a great leveller, wouldn’t you say? It certainly has no respect for achievement.

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You might be one of the finest strikers of your generation and your target a gobby, self-absorbed pretender to the throne, but if you choose to engage him you better be damn sure he’s an inarticulate cretin.

bent

Otherwise he may just neatly skip around your legacy and leave you with a mouthful of grass.

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Lord ‘Bandtner’ indeed!

3

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: In Briefs

6 November 2014

Ajax 0-2 Barcelona

breaking records messi

The race to tip Raul off his Champions League goal scoring perch is but the latest in a series of stand-offs between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Between them, Captain Crispy and The Atomic Flea are attempting to break every single footballing record ever set and last night Messi took the initiative by equalling Raul’s record of 71 goals, albeit it in a staggering 54 fewer games.

mesron

He looks the favourite to take the mantle too, which will piss the ultra competitive Portuguese off no end. He’ll always have the comfort of knowing that he looks marginally less alarming in a pair of pants than Messi, though.

Is there some sort of record for that? There should be.

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Bayern Munich 2-0 Roma

That would never have happened at Chelsea.

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Manchester City 1-2 CSKA Moscow

peanut

Like everyone else, we’re wondering why Manchester City are so baffling shit in Europe.

Unlike other, more sensible news outlets though, our remit does not confine us to purely footballing reasons when speculating upon such serious issues.

 

That’s why we were extremely perturbed to see the photos of this person preparing a peanut butter sandwich during last night’s fixture. Those of you familiar with international football will not doubt be aware of the ‘Nutella Curse’ that inexplicably but resolutely ruined the careers of several promising German youngsters.

Clearly, spreadable snack foods have an impact upon players that science cannot yet explain. If this problem is to be solved before Manchester City are embarrassingly eliminated from this year’s competition (again), this individual needs to be found and relieved of his protein based ephemera.

easy

If this isn’t stamped out now, it’s only a matter of time before someone sneaks in a can of Easy Cheese and all hell breaks loose.

You can’t say you weren’t warned.

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Paris St Germain 1-0 Apoel Nicosia

Edinson Cavani scored the fastest goal in the Champions League season so far to secure victory for PSG, but is likely far more interested in the fact that the win equalled Ipswich Town’s 31-match unbeaten home record in Europe.

zlatan

We tried to reach the club for comment, but apparently they’re too busy rolling in all the fundage they’re making from Zlatan-related products like the one above.

Seriously. What the hell is going on?

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @Barzaboy, @Sky_Gernot

Champions League: Letting it slip

5 November 2014

Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht

He might have an exciting new duvet coat with a functional zip, but Arsene Wenger’s team remain the same baffling composition of attacking prowess and defensive ineptitude that is the affliction of many of their Premier League counterparts this season.

“Maybe subconsciously we underestimated Anderlecht at 3-0,” an obviously peeved Weng told the BBC after the game. Maybe.

arse

Then again, if you spent a little less time allowing your players to bond on the training pitch and make (admittedly lovely) videos of each other doing commentary and kissy faces and trained them to be unforgiving bastards, maybe they wouldn’t be so emotionally traumatised by Belgian sadface that they let in three.

Just saying.

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Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool

Due in no small part to our article last week about Mario Balotelli being held solely responsible for Liverpool’s travails (#InfluencingTheGame), fan and press ire has now turned on manager Brendan Rodgers.

Faux outrage ricocheted off the walls of Twitter as Liverpool’s team sheet emerged, with Rodgers explaining his decision to drop seven of the starting eleven from the Newcastle game by stating “I didn’t see this as a big showcase game where I had to play the so-called names,” said Rodgers.

That would have been marginally less awkward if the radio and tv hadn’t been trailing their coverage of the game as one of the great European clashes, and the Spanish press hadn’t responded to the benching of Gerrard, Sterling, Balotelli et al by calling it “a crime against [the] club’s history”.

ronaldo

Even Gary Lineker got involved, and if Kolo Toure hadn’t ruined the narrative by neutering Cristiano Ronaldo for large parts of the game, Brendan would be looking like a right big arse this morning.

ok

As it stands, his job is safe until the weekend, at least. Ok?

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By Kelly Welles

Quentin Tarantino Presents: An Evening with Frank Leboeuf

5 November 2014

Chelsea defenders have extraordinary sex lives, don’t they?

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By Kelly Welles

Unnerving Musical Interludes

4 November 2014

You may have clicked on a link this morning. Once the new page opened, you will have been confronted by the reason why Wayne Rooney always mouths and never sings the words to the National Anthem at international games.

Fortunately, Petr Cech arrived shortly after, with this fabulous rendition of Foo Fighter’s ‘Walk’ on dem skins.

But if we take the gaping talent gulf and put it to one side for a moment, does anyone find the sincerity oozing from each clip a little disconcerting?

trvi

What next? A moving cover of the trumpet solo from ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, performed in and around the Trevi Fountain by Ashley Cole?

Just stop it. Ok?

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By Kelly Welles

Eyal Berkovic: Master of the understatement

4 November 2014

Remember last week, when I had a sarcasm spasm in the general direction of pitch invaders?

I take it back. That scarf waving prannock is welcome every week if the alternative is the Hapoel Tel Aviv ‘fan’ who somehow managed to lumber onto the pitch during their fixture with rivals Maccabi and attack Eran Zehavi last night.

hit

And sadly, that was just the start of the mayhem. The ref issued a red card to Zehavi for his response to the attack, everyone went mental, the game was temporarily suspended and upon resumption the pitch was invaded again.

red

The game was eventually abandoned, presumably after officials decided that a significant minority of the crowd were so intellectually compromised, they couldn’t seriously be expected to behave themselves in public.

Hapoel general manager Eyal Berkovic(yes, that one), described it as “a dark day for local soccer.”

He’s not wrong.

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By Kelly Welles

Match officials: An inconvenient truth

3 November 2014

Already a ‘big game’ in its own right, yesterday’s Manchester derby was a watershed moment in English football.

ronay

Even the Guardian’s Barney Ronay, usually a bastion of literary sobriety and precision, had a spasm, producing this inadvertent spoonerism that summed up Chris Smalling’s afternoon and his manager’s response far more succinctly than any of the 23,000 memes that were circulating on Twitter within seconds of his second yellow card.

red

So what was different about this particular game? It certainly wasn’t the red card issued to Smalling, who is simply the latest in a long line of players unable to cope with the unique demands of a derby – specifically the measured application of physical and mental control.

Nor was it United’s spiky, disjointed, frequently panicked attempts to keep up with the game. We’ve seen Louis van Gaal’s side enough this season to have become familiar with their bewildered flailing as they desperately try to work out why all the stuff they used to do so easily is now so beyond them. 

plane

To put it bluntly, they’re playing like a light aircraft flies when it’s received a crippling blow. Which in that airspace is not an unlikely event.

hart

No, the moment that lifted this game beyond standard Premier League hysteria and into previously unexplored (but almost certainly apocalyptic) territory occurred in the thirty-first minute, when referee Michael Oliver stoically pretended he didn’t notice the 6ft 4inch blond that had temporarily alighted on his forehead.

For those of us on the sofa, it was one of those moments that has you reaching for the rewind button. Like when Peter Crouch scored ‘that’ goal or Luis Suarez bit Chiellini.

A genuine WTF note in a symphony of manufactured thrills.

pard

Not because Hart did it. We’ve seen too much to be genuinely startled by such an act of primitive masculine aggrandising. Rather more because it was completely understandable why Oliver did not immediately send him off.

Refs have come in for a huge amount of criticism recently, as though upon appointment to the role they are afforded some supernatural ability to see and respond correctly to a split second action the rest of us need several replays from six different angles to decipher. That’s not to say they’re above censure – I gave Clattenburg a good old dig just last week – but maybe we need to be a little more realistic about our expectations and the role they play in the game.

shreeves

After all the build-up, the hyperbole that surrounds the Manchester derby in this brave new world of giant shiny iPads and Geoff Shreeves down in the tunnel trying to make it pay, would you have had the nuts to send off the England goalkeeper half an hour into one of the most important games of the Premier League season?

Really? And have the heat of a thousand suns applied to your derriere for hours, weeks, days and probably months after the event?  Accusations that you spoiled the game for a paying public who believe they have a right to complain because they’re forced to fork out so much cash to see it? The wrath of the press, for whom a derby is just an opportunity to ride whoever screwed up the most? (See: Chris Smalling, above). And that’s before we even start on the no-holds-barred, accuse first, ask questions later hinterland that is Twitter.

mario

Why should we assume that match officials are impervious to criticism? We don’t assume that players are, indeed, we’ve talked about little else in recent weeks, as the impact of a lack of love for Mario Balotelli has played itself out across the papers and opposition penalty boxes.

And for no other reason than we’ve run out of other excuses, we’re grudgingly coming around to the idea that players struggle to recreate club form in an England shirt because we’re all waiting for them to screw up.

ref

I fully accept that hating the ref is an intrinsic part of the matchday programme. There isn’t a football fan alive who hasn’t been to a game and had good reason to question the eyesight, the sanity and/or the parentage of the man in black. It’s part of the fun.

But when something like this happens, when, to all intents and purposes, a man feels he can’t do his job to the best of his abilities because of the response he will receive, we all need to take a look at ourselves.

Joe Hart, for putting him in that situation. The FA and the Premier League, who complain about the treatment of match officials by the clubs and fans and fall silent when those same match officials need support. The press, for the same reasons as always.

It’s a deeply inconvenient truth, even a facetious one, but match officials are the guys that hold this whole drama together. Football isn’t about getting it right 100% of the time. The managers don’t, the players don’t, and we, the fans, striding confidently through all manner of self-delusion because of our club allegiances, certainly don’t.

roboref

Why should the expectations be any different for the people making the decisions? There won’t be any more rousing choruses of “she fell over” when the robot refs are in charge, with their 100% success rate and stability enhancements, you mark my words.

And, where, pray tell, is the fun in that? This is still supposed to be fun, right?

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By Kelly Welles

(Stolen) From the desk of Marcus Speller…

3 November 2014

sven

At least now we know why he never lets us anywhere near that particular drawer.

Ever.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T tumblr.

Halloween & Football: Separating the blood from the ketchup

31 October 2014

suarez

Forget all those photoshopped images of Luis Suarez in cape and fangs.

oggy

Dismiss Steve OGRIZOWITCH and his er… plastic spider.

pump

Ignore the chap who spent several hours of his life carving Louis van Gaal & Manuel Pellegrini’s faces into pumpkins.

A lovely effort but they’ll rot and the whole enterprise will have been a complete waste of time and money.

chelsea

Scroll down past this effort from Chelsea, which, given their resources, is rubbish.

costume
Seriously. No spinning.

For this is Josh Sundquist of the US National Amputee soccer team.

His Halloween costume, the preparation of which you can see in the video below, is work of ruddy genius.

 
We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

alan

Except you, Alan. Obviously.

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By Kelly Welles

How money has ruined the game: A pictorial guide

31 October 2014

zizou

In 1995, Zinedine Zidane, Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry posed with Miss France for reasons we are unable to fathom.

neymar

In 2014, Neymar posed with Daniela de Jesus for Police sunglasses.

Case closed.

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By Kelly Welles

Mario Balotelli: Hat’s all, folks!

30 October 2014

finally

Oh, Mario. There you go thinking all will be well now you’ve done what everybody has been criticising you for not doing since you arrived at Liverpool.

If only things were that simple…

torres

A striker needs confidence. That’s what they say and what Fernando Torres’ career to date has proved, but in these complicated days of global football, mass media attention and agendas, there’s a lot more to it than that, as Mario is learning.

Already lacking the support of his manager, both publically and privately if the press is to be believed, Mario’s real problem is the army of ex-pros desperate to make their mark in punditry.

Where once the retired player would buy a pub, get fat and see out his days leaning against a bar complaining about his knees, the route out of football is now lit by TV lights, the destination a comfy chair in a thematically appropriate studio in (or around) Brentford.

There are two problems with this.

Firstly, ex-pros don’t necessarily make good analysts. There is an assumption that a career on the pitch offers an angle most professional pundits and commentators can’t provide, but as the likes of Mark Lawrenson, Andy Townsend and Michael Owen are famously and frequently proving, there is a lot more to football analysis than advising viewers that a player “Would’ve expected to do better than that, Clive” and making claims that defy the laws of physics.

The elevated status they receive as ex-players also, in some cases, manifest itself as a belief that their mere presence in the studio is enough. Actually bothering to find out anything about the game they’re watching or the players involved is a rarity.

copa

Despite this, increased competition between media platforms has required the BBC, ITV, Sky Sports and BT Sport to find even more arses to fill the spaces on their sofas, behind the hastily erected desks in the corners of football pitches and, in the case of ITV’s World Cup coverage, some recently vacated deck chairs.

cann

Their doors are thrown open to virtually anyone boasting the qualifications of having played football at a professional level and the ability to string a sentence together, not even necessarily in English. The conveyor belt to the couch begins with a full respray, before they’re forced into unfeasibly tight trousers, terrible shirt, sleep through their diversity awareness courses and are hurled into the fray with not a moment’s notice.

While hilarious for us, there is a downside to the number of disconcertingly rouged men popping up on our screens to talk rubbish.

 

While the likes of Gary Neville and Robbie Savage have the knowledge and/or the personality to make their mark, others have to rely on more conventional methods to manually insert their names into football discourse.

And this is where Mario comes in. You may not have noticed, but Liverpool’s frontline had a massive Luis Suarez-shaped hole in it before the season began, and the effect that this would have on a team just a slip away from their first title since 1989/90 was a hotly debated topic even before the controversial Italian was linked with the job.

When he got it, his record, both on and on the pitch, was the perfect grist to the army of perma-tanned millers, who shouldered barged, elbowed and jostled their way to the front pages with, in some cases, a hell of a lot more enthusiasm we’d seen them apply in their former career.

But nowhere near as much skill.

 
Gary Neville overcame his (almost) universal status as most irritating man in football by having cogent, well-thought out opinions to back up his occasional lapses into hysteria.

His views became news not because they were controversial (they were) but because they made sense, and offered an entry point into tactical analysis for those of us who yearn to be Michael Cox, but frequently end up sounding more like Michael Crawford.

 
Yes. On rollerskates.

Stating that Mario Balotelli “should be dropped” (Jamie Carragher), “should never have been bought in the first place” (Michael Owen), “only plays for himself” (Phil Neville) and described in his typically articulate and incisive fashion as “a big lump” by Mark Lawrenson, is at best unhelpful, and at worst, deeply damaging to the future of the game.

How many mercurial talents will look at Mario Balotelli’s experience in the so called BestLeagueInTheWorld™ and wonder whether it’s really worth the risk?

How many is too many?

balo

The stench of opportunism is making the air unbreathable for the twenty-four year old, and while he does himself no favours by generously handing out excuses for the press to batter him, there’s something horribly ironic about former players trashing current players, and by extension, the game they loved so much they dedicated their former lives to it.

The best chance Mario Balotelli has of relocating his mojo at this point in his career is moving somewhere else and forgetting everything that happened.

The pundits carry on truckin’ and we get boring football to go with their boring opinions.

Congratulations, lads.  You win. We lose. Nice one.

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By Kelly Welles

Frank Ribery: A close shave

30 October 2014

Franck Ribery returned to Bayern Munich’s starting line-up last night for their DFB Pokal Cup fixture vs. Hamburg, but apparently not everyone was pleased to see him.

Ribery was instrumental in Bayern’s 3-1 victory, but was set upon by a pitch invader during stoppage time and struck with a scarf. Sensibly, he then backs off and offers a few hand gestures from a safe distance before being grabbed by stewards and carted off the pitch.

Usually this sentence would be a sarcastic riposte in the general direction of pitch invaders (or the efficacy of Ribery’s face fungus in dealing with him) but the distance that guy managed to cover and number of players he was in proximity to in the time it took for a steward to get anywhere near him is terrifying. 

Goddamit. Bloke stole my mojo. I don’t know if Manuel Neuer’s latest foray into the Midfield Keeper position during the same game is enough to restore my faith in the game.

Alright. I’ll give it a go if you will.

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By Kelly Welles

Bibiana Steinhaus: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her”

28 October 2014

Gentlemen. Ever inadvertently touched a lady’s breasticle in public?

If you’re not a sex pest (or disgraced former television presenter, say) you’ll have probably had a small aneurysm and turned into Hugh Grant on the spot, spluttering apologies and denials, just as Hertha Berlin defender Peter Niemeyer was about to do to ref Bibiana Steinhaus in this clip from a game a few years ago.

Thankfully, everybody involved was working on the premise that grown up men and women can interact professionally without being crass or offensive and everyone had a good old laugh.

Bibiana Steinhaus simultaneously became the coolest match official in the universe.

 
The reason for digging up this clip is because Steinhaus has once again fallen victim to ‘inappropriate touching’, this time at the unlikely hands of Pep Guardiola. She was acting as fourth official during Bayern Munich’s fractious and ultimately fruitless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend, when Pep became agitated at the amount of stoppage time his team were allowed to play and tried, among other things, to put his arm around her shoulder.

She shook him off like the ineffectual irritant he was at that point and the game continued. Pep was left contemplating a touchline ban while we wondered not what it might be like to have a regular female match official (we take it as read that our readers of both sexes don’t have a problem with that) but whether we might ever see a match official in the English top flight as cool, competent and unaffected by reflected celebrity status as Bibi Steinhaus.

clat


Outlook: Unlikely.

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By Kelly Welles

Star performer excluded from major award shortlist for biting?

28 October 2014

One of the year’s star performers has been excluded from the shortlist of a prestigious award, due to an unfortunate incident involving a bite on a fellow player.

edu

The as yet unnamed hound was on the pitch during a vital cup match between Sao Paulo-RS and Farroupilha last weekend, but bit teammate Eduardo Mandai during what appeared to be a misunderstanding over a substitution. Such was the dog’s influence on the game, Mandai scored a spectacular strike shortly afterwards, but officials were obviously not persuaded by his contribution and he was left off the prestigious Ballon P’Aw shortlist released this morning.

The shock exclusion has led to intense speculation on social media, although the reasoning behind the decision remains unconfirmed at this time.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T 101greatgoals.

 

Weekend Highlights: BOOM Shake shake shake the room

27 October 2014

el

The first fifteen minutes of El Clasico is supposed to drift past in a cloud of sustained bliss.

Two of the finest football teams on the planet right now, boasting team sheets that are essentially the Ballon D’Or longlist, lining up to face each other in what is arguably club football’s biggest fixture.

Instead, due to rights issues, we in England had to make do with Scott Minto’s frown lines dancing about on his forehead as tried and failed to fashion a functioning distraction out of statistical analysis and observation.

minto

It was never going to work.

Presumably the Sky executives knew this, and decided not to blow the budget on a co-panellist with multi-tasking skills (an extra fifty quid on the night) and chose Chris Coleman, who fulfilled his remit of sitting staring at the off-camera TV and answering Minto’s increasingly desperate requests for information with the same disassociated panic that your Mum exhibits when she’s driving on a narrow country lane.

coleman

Indeed, the only person to emerge from the whole affair unscathed was Guillem Balague, who, safely ensconced behind his own personal iPad, was able to offer insightful commentary and witty repartee without any time lag, visible hesitation or unnecessary, panicked blinking. 

Bet he’s never left his passport lying around on the eve of a crucial World Cup qualifier, either.

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While you’re still reeling, here’s an audioclip of Robbie Savage reading an extract from a Dylan Thomas poem.

Love him or hate him, the blond, toothy bombshell is nothing if not game, and Thomas’s granddaughter, Hannah Ellis, tweeted her appreciation to BBC 5Live’s breakfast team after the clip appeared on their programme this morning.

When Pete honks the entirety of War & Peace in Robbie Savage’s voice tonight instead of the lads doing a show, be sure to pay a similar, respectful tribute.

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During Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea, Phil Dowd and Cesc Fabregas came very close to solving the Irresistible Force Paradox.

Until Phil Dowd proved that immovable objects do in fact exist, and ruined the whole thing. 

Next week, Mark Clattenburg attempts to demonstrate ‘Schrödinger’s cat’ thought experiment using Jose Mourinho and a laundry basket.

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Congratulations Gerso, of Portuguese second division side Moreirense.

You need never leave the house again.

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Was Harry’s bizarre rant at Adel Taarabt last week actually a convoluted way of getting QPR’s owners to invest in better facilities?

it wouldn’t be the first time the wobbly one has used nonchalant observation techniques to score some investment and judging by the facilities on show in Joey Barton’s Instagram post this morning, the thriving hub of elite athleticism and dodgy wiring is in need of some attention.

Either that, or Taarabt has been banished to train alone on the treadmill installed in the cupboard above the gym. Little else could explain the volume of that terrible music.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T ‏@fistedaway.

Senzo Meyiwa: “His spirit will live forever.”

27 October 2014

meyiwa

Orlando Pirates and South Africa team captain Senzo Meyiwa was shot dead during a robbery while staying at a friend’s house near Johannesburg last night, it has been reported.

tweet

According to local news sources, Meyiwa, 27, died protecting his girlfriend after two men burst into the building and demanded mobile phones and cash.

The day before, he had captained his club side to a 4-1 victory over Ajax Cape Town in the Telkom Knockout, earning a spot in the semi-finals.

He also captained South Africa’s national team through four Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches without conceding a goal.

meyiwa 2

At a press conference this morning, national team coach Shakes Mashaba described Meyiwa as “a peacemaker, a good guy [who] will never just vanish. His spirit will live forever”, while the chairman of rival club Kaizer Chiefs, Kaizer Motaung, described his death as a “national tragedy”.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his Senzo Meyiwa’s family and friends at this difficult time.

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By Kelly Welles

Sergio Leone Presents: Spurs In Europe

24 October 2014

Mauricio Pochettino’s inconsistent side played Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League last night. They won 5-1.

But that was the least of it.

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The Good

David Dunn really, really wishes this hadn’t happened.

Sorry, Dave.

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The Bad

Under normal circumstances, an outfield player going in goal (whether he’d scored a hattrick or not) would ALWAYS be in the good category.

Harry Kane has changed that.

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The Ugly

Oh Hugo. And we thought you were such a nice, polite boy.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Outrage Enclave: K.O 19.45 (quarter to three in the morning)

23 October 2014

Simon Clode asked us to shut him in the Outrage Enclave. It’s the only place he can catch a nap AND avoid the football results.

flat earth

On the down side, they did lose an awful lot of balls.

Christopher Columbus, the boat bothering bastard, ruined everything when he stopped the world being flat.

Back in the autumn of 1491, a three o’clock kick off in Burnley was three o’clock in Buenos Aires, and Beijing too. A century earlier, Marco Polo found nothing more convenient than not having to adjust his daily routine to tune into Union Venezia matches whilst loafing around Mongolia.

yurt

Possibly in this very yurt.

Some schools of thought maintain that football fans were directly responsible for maintaining horizontal integrity up to that point. Zheng He’s crossing of the Pacific Ocean almost a century earlier led to the systematic dismantling of the Chinese navy by the Ming dynasty, just so that they could continue to watch their beloved Ross County on an illegal feed. Similarly, the Norse people, all die-hard York City fans, had the decency to keep quiet about their trips to the same land Columbus discovered.

Now though, thanks to the meddling of a man who makes spelling Colombia correctly an improbability, we have a spherical earth, along with the wildly different time zones such a shape necessitates.

grandad

For a second time in my life I am now living in China, meaning I am either seven or eight hours ahead of British kick off times. During my first brush with the legacy of the man who looks like Jay from the Inbetweeners’ greatest of grandads, I refused to bow to the concept of time zones. 

Within my first month I had watched my team win with an 87th minute goal at 2am on a Monday morning and lose to a last minute winner at 6am on a Tuesday morning; both situations that guarantee you will not go back to sleep. Yet I pressed on with this ridiculous commitment for the duration of my first stay here.

This time, being three years older and living with my girlfriend, I have made a promise to myself to not willingly submit to football lag.

I’m not perfect. There are going to be special occasions where I break this rule ( Real Madrid in the Champion’s League, for example) but for 98% of the season I will be treating 2am-6am on work nights as darkness intended.

Only it’s not that simple is it?

green

Once I had discovered Radio 5 at the age of nine, my parents had lost the very same battle I’m fighting now. Just because it’s past your bedtime it doesn’t mean it’s past football’s bedtime.

Football, like Columbus’s mate Time, waits for no one.

bob

I am not of that glorious generation with the patience to avoid Final Score and watch Match of the Day as if it was live. I am of the generation that carries around a videprinter in its pocket. Videprinters don’t have a bedtime either. You can turn off the screen but they’re still processing goal after goal. After goal.

And so I lie in bed with my eyes closed, within touching distance of the answers that are keeping me awake. Eventually I crack and reach for my phone, it is only the League Cup after all. So it doesn’t matter. Only it does matter, of course it matters, because it’s football. I’ll be able to sleep after this, the game will be over by now. I swipe the screen and then I press the blue button. The brightness emanating from Jeff Stelling’s teeth stings my eyes before disappearing to reveal a screen that reads Liverpool 2 v 2 Middlesborough - it’s gone to penalties. 

At least it was day time here by the time they had finished.

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by Simon Clode.

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If you want to be handed the reins of the Outrage Enclave, send your witty, well articulated, properly researched and within the 600(ish) word limit post to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Or don’t. No pressure.

Champions League: Questions, questions

23 October 2014

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid

Is Rodgers pissed off about this because Balotelli’s blouse exchange with Pepe is indicative of the fact that the player doesn’t give a shit about his club?

Or because he can only dream of a defender of Pepe’s calibre anywhere near a Liverpool kit at this point in time?

pepe

He might be a terrible bloke with upsetting hair, but there isn’t a sniff of Pepe’s grit, desire to win and ability to defend crosses in the Liverpool back line.

Olympiakos 1-0 Juventus

 
With that in mind, should we write off Mario because he’s a pain in the arse to work with?

Four years ago, Roberto Mancini told the press he wanted Carlos Tevez “out” of Manchester City after the striker refused to haul his chiselled bot bot off the bench to warm up during a tie vs. Bayern Munich. 

tevez mario

At the time it seemed Tevez was determined to stifle his boundless talent in the box beneath layer upon layer of pointless, tiresome controversy, and yet now he’s on 25 goals in 36 games for Juventus in Serie A and responded to their shock defeat against Olympiakos with a startling emotional maturity.

“We need to turn the page and figure out what it is that’s not working.” he said after last night’s game. “We must remember that we’re Juventus and that we shouldn’t be losing games like this.”

“We’re a great team and we need to aim to do well in the Champions League as well as Serie A. It depends only on us and on our mentality.”

bus

Not bad for a bloke who celebrated City’s first league win in 44 years by prematurely announcing the death of Sir Alex Ferguson, is it?

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Galatasaray 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

Speaking of defending, given the number of goals conceded on Matchday 3, it’s beginning to feel like a lost art. Here’s Neven Subotić seeing off Burak Yilmaz, just to restore your faith.

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Ludogorets Razgrad 1-0 FC Basel

ludo

Anyone see this coming when the draw was made? We didn’t.

If Ludogorets keep this up, can we have a loan?

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Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal

rsenal

I could write thousands of words about the nature of this win, riff on that goal being Podolski’s birthday gift to his manager/reparations for *that* assault with a champagne bottle etc, but who needs all that rubbish when you can articulate the same points using just a picture of a car and a bloke with balls the size of watermelons?

No one, that’s who.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League: This time ten(ish) years ago…

22 October 2014

CSKA Moscow 2-2 Manchester City

city 

Lazio are forced to play European games behind closed doors as a result of racial abuse allegations. (2004)

CSKA Moscow are forced to play European games behind closed doors as a result of racial abuse allegations. (2014)

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Roma 1-7 Bayern Munich

 

Ashley Cole is taken apart by a nippy winger. (2003)

robben 

Ashley Cole is taken apart by a nippy winger. (2014)

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Chelsea 6 Maribor 0

The sight of John Terry’s penis disturbs an otherwise pleasant evening. (2005)

The sight of John Terry’s penis disturbs an otherwise pleasant evening. (2014) 

tery

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By Kelly Welles

Oculus Rift: Putting you ‘in and around’ football

21 October 2014

Dutch tech company Triple IT have created an Oculus Rift application that allows immersive analysis of football matches.

According to wired.com, the device “uses data from stadium cameras and tracking systems to create a VR replay of a soccer match”.

better

Players can then whack on a headset, replay the game from their own perspective (or that of a team mate) and see precisely how they managed to score an own goal on the volley from the edge of the area.

For example.

It’s not a question of if this tech will be adapted for use by your average punter, but when. So with that in mind, if you could put yourself into any game from any era, which would it be? Who would you play as? Why?

miller

The best answers will be awarded points. These, as per Ramble tradition, will be worth nothing.

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By Kelly Welles

Andy Carroll’s Wang photo

21 October 2014

wang

Occasional West Ham striker Andy Carroll recently signed a contract with Select Models and was chosen from over 200 candidates to take part in US designer Alexander Wang’s H&M campaign. Here’s a picture from the shoot.

What did you think I meant?

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Big balls are back!

20 October 2014

cesc

Chelsea have got big balls. We know this not because they held their lead against Crystal Palace, even though they did. Not even because Jose Mourinho wrote it on a journalist’s notepad, although he did.

No, we know it because Cesc Fabregas and Oscar showed us during the celebration of Chelsea’s second goal.

Incisive football analysis. That’s why you keep coming back, people.

[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Friend of the Ramble @Terry_Nutkin for the pic. This was not the most alarming image of a footballer’s genitalia he sent during an unfortunate Twitter exchange #BEARDO).

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taraabt

Across town, Harry Redknapp responded to rumours that his job is in jeopardy… by calling one of his strikers fat.

Redknapp insisted that Adel Taarabt is “three stone overweight”, a fact that can be easily disputed by reference to QPR’s website, which currently features images of Taarabt training prior to the defeat against Liverpool.

It’s not the first time that Harry has mistaken the facts for corpulent speculation, and QPR fans will not be reassured to hear that Harry still believes he is the best man for the job

redknapp

“I can’t do any more.” he puffed, during a particularly energetic rendition of YMCA. “There ain’t no-one that can do any better here than me, of the other names mentioned. They couldn’t do any better than what I can do, that’s for sure.”

table

Is it rude to stick a screengrab of the Premier League table here? Nah. Can’t see why.

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foyle

What better souvenir from a proper drubbing than an actual bruise from the man who kicked the whole thing off?

Southampton fan Samuel Foyle picked up his very collectible memento of Sunderland’s 0-8 (EIGHT) defeat by his club by pulling the old ‘score on the fingers’ selfie stunt on Santiago Vergini. The expression on Vergini’s face as the snap is taken offers support to Foyle’s claim that he was “genuinely hit” afterwards.

He ‘s lucky he wasn’t kicked to death by that extremely efficient right foot.

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And finally, Tim Lovejoy’s explosive predictions for the 2014/15 Premier League title/bottom three have been issued. You should probably sit down for this, readers.

lovejoy

Anyone get the feeling he’s still being haunted by Luis Garcia?

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By Kelly Welles

Marcelo Bielsa: You’ve Been Burned!

20 October 2014

Here’s Marseille manager and notorious video addict Marcelo Bielsa sitting on a cup of coffee.

One for Harry Hill, perchance?

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By Kelly Welles

Ched Evans: Moving forward

17 October 2014

ched

Let’s get one thing clear here. The decision as to whether Ched Evans should be invited to represent Sheffield United after his release from prison for rape should not be made by Twitter. Or the media. Or the PFA. It certainly shouldn’t be made by the likes of Judy Finnigan, who sought to make her debut on Loose Women a memorable one by ham-fistedly attempting to grade rapes in order of severity.

If we extrapolated Finnigan’s Law, which basically states that it’s worse to get raped in an alleyway than a Premier Inn, we’d end up with the argument that Judy Finnigan’s opinion is more valuable because she’s on the television.

Even the most intellectually bereft citizens of our country would struggle with that.

We all have opinions. They’re based on personal experience, how much information we’ve gathered in our lifetimes, the sources of that information and a million other things. Some people’s opinions are more well informed that others, but that doesn’t make them right or wrong. They’re opinions.

petition

Let’s deal in the facts. A young man was convicted of raping a nineteen-year-old woman in a hotel. He served two years of his five year sentence and was released today. His former club, Sheffield United, are considering re-signing him, despite heavy opposition from the public in the form of a petition, which has, as of this morning, 148,768 signatures. Evans maintained his innocence throughout and retains the full support of his girlfriend and family, who have described him as a “role model”.

Many of Evans’ supporters cite his right to earn a living, claiming, as one did on BBC Radio 5Live’s phone-in this morning, that if Evans were ‘a binman’, he’d be able to return to his former employment. This is probably true, but utterly, worryingly, irrelevant and indicative of the lack of understanding that pervades every orifice of this nasty little story.

Evans is not a binman. He’s a professional footballer earning a substantial wage, which brings with it a significant fanbase and the attention of a certain demographic of young woman willing to exchange sexual favours for a share of his wealth and celebrity. A perfectly reasonable arrangement if both parties are comfortable with the rules of engagement (and one that is, again, entirely separate from this case) but not one any binman I’ve ever met would recognise as part of his ‘benefits’ package.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine any other profession that comes with similar perks. Or horrific repercussions for the victim. If she had been raped by a binman, it’s unlikely she would have been named across social media and sent death threats.

The hyperbole surrounding this story blinds us to the stance we, as football fans, should take. Which, incidentally, isn’t separated along gender lines. As a woman, I don’t have more of a say than you if you’re a guy. A decent, rational human being should be revolted by this stuff. I expect that of you, and assume you do of me. Anything else is a cop out.

We’re all fans. We support our clubs because they represent us. We choose to define ourselves with colours and allegiances and pit ourselves against others every week because we love competition. Win or lose, we do it together.

sheff

Ched Evans was selected to represent Sheffield United FC. A club with a history and a narrative, just like your own. It should be up to the people who support them every week, who pay money to watch the chosen few represent them on the field. Nobody else. Not me, or you, or the directors, or the club chairman, but the fans.

tweet

Even the ones responsible for this (above). Or this. It’s their club, let them choose. If the fans decide that Evans is their man and want to stand by him, then good for them. They, as a club, will be remembered for making that decision and other fans will have plenty of opportunity to voice their opinion when Ched Evans starts for Sheffield United against their club. And they will.

That’s what this about, isn’t it?

Because it certainly isn’t about Evans’ victim, whose only crime was to get pissed on a night out. Much as it makes us uncomfortable to admit it, we’re deceiving ourselves if we believe that we’re somehow avenging the crime and supporting the victim by abusing Evans and trying to prevent him from returning to football. We’re not. Regardless of what Judy Finnigan thinks, or anyone else for that matter, this woman has suffered a horrific violation of her person, not once, but several times. Her family, her friends, counsellors and her own inner strength will determine her future.

The best we can do, as individuals, is to try and prevent it happening to someone else. What is your football club doing to educate players about personal responsibility, decision making and informed consent? Have you asked? As decent human beings, we have a responsibility to bring football up to our own moral standards, not allow it to be dragged through the shit by people whose IQs hover around the level of room temperature.

This is our problem, just like racism, homophobia and all the other depressing forms of abuse that we constantly have to defend our sport against.

At present there are no positives to this story. If we genuinely care as much as we say we do, the least we could do is try to make some.

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By Kelly Welles

Dear Sky: This is our Super Sunday

17 October 2014

 
Dirty shorts. A mouthful of mud. A surface like a recently ploughed field. Dog poo.

This is where the real beauty of football lies.

Liam Roberts, Piers Rossiter, Chris Saltmarsh & Tom Henderson, we salute you for reminding us with this superb effort.

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By Kelly Welles

Pep Guardiola renounces Tiki-Taka, foul play suspected

16 October 2014

 
“I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal. It’s not about passing for the sake of it.”

                                                                      Pep Guardiola via Telegraph Sport.

Bloody hell. Zlatan’s relentless campaign of hate has finally got to him, hasn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

Is that you, Barton?

16 October 2014

letter

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @GreyLondon

Boris Johnson: Terrible feet for a big man

15 October 2014

And this, people, is why sport and politics do not mix.

Oh well. At least he wasn’t wearing shorts.

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By Kelly Welles

Michael Owen: Have you got any more stories like that?

15 October 2014

hate

This must be why his punditry is so fascinating.

film

Seriously. I can’t even be arsed to make a joke about the fact that he’s seen Jurassic Park and still hates films.

cctv

The long winter evenings huddled round the CCTV cameras must just fly by.

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By Kelly Welles

England Expects: That entitlement complex in full

14 October 2014

raheem

I’m tired. Are you?

Probably. You have a job. A family. Hobbies. A life. Like Raheem Sterling.

Tiredness isn’t objective. You can’t touch it, or poke it with your finger. You can’t tell it to go away, or minimise its effects with money. It gets worse with age, sure, but being nineteen year old athlete earning 40k a week doesn’t make a person impervious to it. Even if the individual in question stays up too late sometimes, playing FIFA or reading Pinter or whatever else he does when he’s not kicking a football.

pinter

Let’s be clear here. The backlash against Sterling’s sitting out the qualifier vs. Estonia didn’t gain traction because he told Roy Hodgson he was tired. It didn’t evolve into another weapon with which to beat the England team with because Hodgson failed in his duty to explode and kick the ‘spoilt entitled’ kid up and down the training ground until he begged to play the full ninety minutes.

Even though that would have been worth the price of a flight to Estonia alone.

rooz

No, it was born of an embarrassingly outdated view we seem to wear like a badge of honour in England. The idea that the only way to prove your commitment to something is to do it relentlessly until you’re sick to the back teeth of it. Until it becomes a chore and you learn to resent everything it represents, to dread or loathe or fear everything you once loved about it. In some unfortunate cases, until you break.

Then, of course, you’re adjudged to be weak, and probably not cut out for it in the first place.

Does that sound familiar? Only if you’ve watched the England National Football team play in the last twenty years or so. Then nodded in faint agreement with the self-appointed judges in the media who manipulate expectations and economic circumstances to imply that your ability to achieve something is directly proportional to how much you get paid.

diouf

Footballers are paid too much. There’s no denying it. No one deserves to earn thousands a week when there are people living in poverty, And when we see them frittering it away on gold plated buffoon-mobiles and fish tanks with more luxurious facilities than we could hope to afford for our own homes, it’s perfectly normal to resent them. Especially if you’re worried about how you’re going to buy enough food to feed your family this week.

But the question we the fans have to ask ourselves is whether we’re going to let ourselves be manipulated by a media with an agenda to sell product or support our national football team. For me, the two are mutually exclusive.

shout

Could you do your job effectively with five or six people standing over you heckling and shouting abuse? Waiting for you to make a mistake so they can laugh and make gifs? Yelling that you make too much money to be “tired” and forcing you on until your mind is shattered and your body breaks down?

Would you thrive and want to represent those people to the best of your abilities? No. You’d resent them. You’d definitely be afraid of taking risks in front of them. You might even learn to hate them.

hair

Raheem Sterling has already made mistakes in his career but telling his manager he was too tired to play is not one of them. In fact, if you leave put the conventional take on the matter aside for one moment, his decision could be viewed as beneficial to the England team in the long term.

At nineteen years old, he could have another six (SIX) major tournaments in him. Unless, of course, he plays so much football in his formative years that the ability and desire to do so is battered out of him.

own

Because that’s never happened before.

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By Kelly Welles

Andy Townsend: In and around the top spot

14 October 2014

townsend

The Independent asked readers who their least favourite football co-commentator on TV was after Andy Townsend got slaughtered for his punditry during England’s Euro 2016 qualifier vs. Estonia on Sunday.

to

Guess who won?

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By Kelly Welles

Mario Götze: Articulate!

13 October 2014

 
He might look like a choir boy sex doll (H/T JamesOrJimCampbell) but the disgust Mario Götze manages to convey using mere facial expressions and a grunt is more than the entire England team could manage after a year of intensive media training and a bout of electroconvulsive therapy.

Is the German National Team in crisis, as this genius of a journo asks in the mixzone after Germany lost 2-0 to Poland?

We’re going with no. Now shut up. He’s got a bus to catch.

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By Kelly Welles

It’s UNBELIEVABLE, Jeff! No, seriously

13 October 2014

Imagine the scenes.

It’s the last day of the season and three teams are in the hunt for the title. Chelsea are top on 26 points with a difficult fixture against newly minted Manchester City, Birmingham City are second on 25 with a home fixture vs. Notts County to play and Liverpool lag behind in third, with Bristol City the visitors.

Alright, a little suspension of disbelief is required to fully embrace the notion that Notts County and Birmingham City have a say in the title race, but Arsenal can help you with that. They’re in and around fourth with pretty much nothing to play for.

Anyway. Chelsea are but a win away from lifting the trophy, and with City fielding a weakened side due to their league cup final commitments later in the week, it should be a shoo-in.

But you know football.

duggan

Birmingham do their best to rule themselves out of contention immediately, conceding within three minutes, then shipping another on twenty. With Liverpool unable to break down Bristol City, Chelsea have a solid three minutes of belief that fate may be on their side, before Manchester City bang in two in quick succession.

But suddenly Birmingham pull one back and are awarded a penalty two minutes before half-time. They’re back in it!

carney

They’re not back in it. The penalty is missed and Birmingham head into half time 2-1 down. It’s UNBELIEVABLE, Jeff!

Chris Kamara literally explodes three minutes into the second half when Birmingham do eventually scramble their equaliser,  but then Liverpool do what every Chelsea fan has been dreading they might do and score. As bits of Kammy rain down on football, the Reds take advantage of the confusion, doubling their lead.

Is it over? NO! Chelsea have pulled one back and just need one more to pick up the point they need, and with a City defender sent off for an elbow, it’s surely just a formality, isn’t it?

As the stewards scrape Chris off the floor and pop him into airtight containers for reassembly, Chelsea toil away but are unable to break down the makeshift City defence and the final whistle blows.

Liverpool win the title on goal difference. Their manager, formerly of Chelsea, is “surprised”.

kammy

This isn’t a product of my fevered imaginings, but events in the Women’s Super League yesterday. Apart from Chris Kamara exploding, obviously. But you know he would have, if he hadn’t been dealing with domestic disputes by popping sleeping pills.

 
Women’s football is so bloody boring, isn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

European Qualifiers: What we learned

10 October 2014

Spain 1-2 Slovakia

sp

The pain in Spain falls mainly on the plane.

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Belarus 0-2 Ukraine

 
Singing “Putin Is A Dickhead” at an international football match is a criminal offence.

Regardless of the statement’s accuracy.

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England 5-0 San Marino

roon

Wayne Rooney’s face has the structural integrity of Mount Rushmore.

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Sweden 1-1 Russia

translate

Google Translate is hilariously inefficient when it comes to translating Swedish player ratings.

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Macedonia 3-2 Luxembourg

goal

There are more than twice as many living people living in England’s capital than there are in Macedonia AND Luxembourg combined.

Didn’t stop ‘em winning Sky’s Goal of the Night award. 

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By Kelly Welles

STOP! Is it Roger Federer?

10 October 2014

Even those of you with Bielsan levels of dedication to football will be familiar with the work of Roger Federer.

One of the finest tennis players ever to grace the court, he’s won virtually everything there is to win, several times, and has transcended the game with his capacity for pulling off insane shots in high pressure situations.

 
Oh, and there was that time he casually smashed a can off a nervous looking crew member’s head from distance during a Gillette shoot.

But while impressing the likes of us with your abilities isn’t hard (on the scale of athleticism that runs from ‘Utterly Inept’ to ‘Elite’, we’re dozing comfortably in the ‘Sloth’ area) thrilling people capable of their own feats of genius is something else entirely.

When you can make the likes of Paolo Maldini & Andriy Shevchenko shake their heads in awe at your insouciant flair, it’s only a matter of time before someone builds a statue.

Gits. The lot of ‘em.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T 101greatgoals.com

Daft little stage, silly show, f**k off

9 October 2014

gold suit
That suit in full.

It’s raining. It’s chilly. Winter’s looming like Peter Crouch in a giraffe costume.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Just a few short months ago we were looking forward to third degree burns, contemplating the sartorial dos and don’ts of shorts in the workplace and the possibility of England not being rubbish in a World Cup.

Heady days indeed.

 
Allow us to help you recapture those glorious moments.

Turn the heating up, put your mankini on and watch two more videos from the Football Ramble’s first ever live show, during which the boys discuss the pitfalls of renting an apartment from Ronaldinho and cast their eyes over the FIFA bus slogans for the aforementioned tournament.

 
Then take a picture and send it in. Dare ya.

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By Kelly Welles

Millwall FC: Real men wear pink

9 October 2014

pink

In itself, there’s nothing wrong with Millwall FC allowing their fans to select the colour of next season’s away kit via an online poll.

It’s a nice idea that allows people to engage with their club and have a say (albeit a small one) in how the club represents itself on the pitch.

shirts

But making one of the options bright pink? On an open poll? When thousands of ‘traditional’ fans will make it their business to ensure that Millwall’s finest will be striding around Bermondsey festooned in fuschia?

It’s the Colin Bell End saga all over again, isn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

United vs. City: The Hundred Years War

8 October 2014

united

The 1999 treble. The Noisy Neighbours. Welcome to Manchester. 6-1. That Sergio Aguero goal. The 2012/13 fightback.

We’re all familiar with the key battles in the Great War of Manchester. In fact, it’s fair to say that the rivalry between these two behemoths of football has kept us all engaged since Sheikh Mansour tipped up with pockets full of cash and a desire to flood the place with talent and hipster hairdos.

city

For this reason alone, many United fans refuse to acknowledge their pale blue enemy’s role in establishing the Manchester as a global footballing superpower at all, citing their club’s comparative longevity and success in the English top flight.

City fans, with the insouciance of youth and excessive wealth, couldn’t give a crap and continue to bask in their own successes, supplemented by the warm glow of United’s recent woes.

scho

But (and this may come as a shock to people who don’t remember Philip Schofield before the grey set in), there was football before 1992 and Manchester was regarded as something of a football powerhouse even back then. Strip the money, glamour, superstar players and televisual glory out of the equation and whose flag do we find planted in the industrial landscape?

A couple of clever types at Manchester Metropolitan University have made it their business to work it out, and it’s fair to say their conclusions are unlikely to improve the mood at the Aon Training Complex.

According to Gary James and Dave Day, the establishment of Manchester’s footballing identity can be traced back as far as the 1904 FA Cup, way before the combover was a irritation in Bobby Charlton’s dad’s eye.

squad

James & Day reckon that “Football in Manchester was not embedded in the city’s life prior to the 1904 FA Cup success. It was mostly the dedicated followers of the city’s teams who paid notice to the game. But that all changed when Manchester City beat Bolton in the 1904 FA Cup final and the game established itself as part of the Mancunian way of life.

Apparently, Manchester’s efforts in “music, theatre and art, together with its politics, economy and industry” all contributed to the city’s prestige, but “Manchester was still some way behind other cities, in terms of its reputation for association football.”

Until that fateful day, it appears.

It’s a fascinating piece of work, and not just because the timing makes it feel as though fate is intent upon punishing Manchester United for their ridiculous success over the last twenty years. The ease with which we can engage in the pantomime of modern football without knowing anything of its history is quite terrifying, and it’s nice to be reminded that once it was a game with real significance to local people and communities.

Right. Lecture over. You can now go out and use it as a weapon in the latest round of trolling wars. All I ask is that you read it first.

Deal?

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By Kelly Welles

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Soccer & Society, Gary James & Dave Day, published by Taylor & Francis. Read the full article online here.

Russell Griffiths: Well done, he’s thirteen (stone)

8 October 2014

This POV video of Everton U21 Russell Griffiths being put through his paces during the club’s summer training camp in Austria certainly dispels the myth that a keeper’s fitness requirements extend to pulling off the odd jump between fags and Mars Bars chucked at them by the crowd.

Or does it? In the interests of completeness, we obtained this exclusive footage from Neville Southall’s POV cam, circa 2000.

van

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

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By Kelly Welles

Roy Keane: Obtaining compliance through origami

7 October 2014

roy

One look into those steely eyes and we fold.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @MatOneTee1867.

Weekend Highlights: Dastardly. And Muttley.

6 October 2014

dat

What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

 
Having parried with Sir Alex for most of his career, it’s hard to believe that Mourinho’s ‘Specialist in Failure’ barb was the one to pierce Wenger’s battle scarred hump and propel him into pushery.

 
Having a fall and getting pictured in his pants this year may also have taken their toll, but unless I’m massively understating the extent of Mourinho’s Machiavellian manipulations, I’m fairly certain he had nothing to do with either.

Nope. Having studied this at length - the confidence with which Wenger strides forward, the careful placement of the hands on the suddenly much smaller man’s chest, the expression of scorn and righteous indignation that he wears on his face - I’m pretty sure Wenger heard his archrival’s comments on the Rooney Rule during Friday’s press conference and, like the rest of us, has simply had enough of Agent Provocateur Mourinho.

“No racism in football? You absolute arse. You know people can hear you, right?”

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Bananarama circa 1988.

This is all we need.

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Argentina’s Superclásico was the proving ground for a series of new measures to be brought into international competition during World Cup 2018. The tournament will not be held under the auspices of FIFA, but a new, breakaway body with the express intention of making football more entertaining and sexy for everyone involved.

Among the changes tested by Pete’s International Football Atrocities (PIFA) in yesterday’s fixture between River Plate and Boca were an extension of last year’s ‘Goalmouth Full Of Water’ proposal, which was successful on a number of levels. Not only were viewers able to see exactly how hard the ball was kicked by reference to the tidal wave that resulted, but PIFA argued that the slower pace of the game would open it up to a whole new audience of people who can’t keep with the pace of traditional football.

And if that fails to augment the viewing figures, the see through shirts will do the job. 

Most importantly, the changes did not prevent the game running to form, as had been feared. There were several swerves into fisticuff territory, the ref took a bucket load of abuse and Rodrigo Mora skied a penalty.

A run of the mill Superclásico, basically.

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No wonder Alex Pato has so many injuries. That’s Kaka, you idiot!

Do you know who he belongs to?

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By Kelly Welles

Francesco Totti: Never afraid to stick a foot in…

6 October 2014

 
“It’s a huge shame after a good performance. We came to Turin to play our game, but you saw what happened and that affected the match. For years the same old incidents keep happening. I don’t know if we were beaten by referees, but we certainly were not beaten by Juventus tonight.”

“Yes, we are angry, but also aware we are a great team and must lift our heads straight away. This was a match we really cared about, but Juventus ought to have their own League, as by hook or by crook they always win.”

“Are we back to the same doubts? I am not the only one saying this, as these are things everyone in Italy should discuss. With Juventus when there is any doubt whatsoever, it’s always a penalty. I have to stop now, as if I keep talking then I’ll get suspended.”

Roma’s Francesco Totti to Sky Sports Italia after last night’s controversial 3-2 defeat to Juventus.

No splinters in his backside, are there?

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By Kelly Welles

Outrage Enclave: Not like the other Bhoys

3 October 2014

In this week’s visit to the Outrage Enclave, we find Vincent Forrester nursing a terrible secret. 

He wants to share it with you…

lonely

I need to get something off my chest. I’ve realised I’m not like other football fans. It’s taken me a while to understand and accept how I feel, but I hope my friends and family will love and respect me all the same.

The truth is, I don’t care about my team any more.

I’ve supported Celtic since the early ‘90s, when my friends at primary school in the south of Glasgow persuaded me it was a good idea. It seemed like a no-brainer: they won stuff; they had a handsome kit; and they shared my Irish Catholic roots (did I care about this as a child? I can’t remember and I doubt it, but SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO MY HEART-WARMING STORY).

The alternatives posed by my parents – my dear departed father was an Aberdeen fan, while Mum had developed a vague attachment to Dunfermline as a result of living nearby as a youngster – were decidedly less sexy. Besides, Dad only supported the Dons because he was the youngest of nine (did I mention my Catholic roots?) and his dad adopted the admirably arbitrary policy of forcing each child to pick a different team.

aberdeen

My dad actually lucked out, seeing as he was in his prime when Aberdeen were shit-hot in the ‘80s. But, by the time I rolled around towards the end of the decade, things were starting to peter out a bit, and the prospect of travelling all the way to the granite city to watch them play didn’t exactly stoke my enthusiasm.

Mum, on the other hand, didn’t seem that bothered about the Pars. In fact, these days – after years of trips to Parkhead with me and my younger brothers – she’d probably say she’s a Celtic fan, even if only out of habit.

Things were good for a while. Although the club was enduring one of its most turbulent and unsuccessful eras when I first became interested – Rangers won nine titles in a row between 1989 and 1997, and we nearly went bust in 1994 before Fergus McCann stepped in – I wasn’t bothered: the title tussles with Rangers were tense and exciting, and it was fun to be part of that. My innate competitiveness was delighted.

martin

My attachment to Celtic grew massively during Martin O’Neill’s five years in charge in the early ‘00s. Oh, those were halcyon days. The erudite Irishman remains our most successful manager since the legendary Jock Stein, winning three league titles and three Scottish Cups and taking us within an inch of Uefa Cup glory in 2003. It was early in the O’Neill years that my dad and my uncle went halves on a couple of season tickets for me and my cousin. So, having only been to see the Bhoys a handful of times previously, I became part of the furniture at Celtic Park at a time when business was booming.

I was 12 when O’Neill was appointed, and just beginning to explore the world of football in greater depth. Having largely ignored football outside Scotland up to this point, I started watching Match of the Day and the impossibly exotic Football Italia. I subscribed to World Soccer and When Saturday Comes, where I got my fill of fantastic tales of fiery Serbian derbies and international maestros like Raúl and Ronaldo. Even then, when both halves of the Old Firm regularly spent £10 million-plus in transfer windows and we had HENRIK BLOODY LARSSON, the grass was beginning to look greener on the other side.

My nascent SPL fatigue was exacerbated when I moved to London in 2005 to go to uni. Naturally, I stopped going to home games; 15 visits a season became the odd friendly during the holidays. I didn’t have a TV in halls in first year, so I couldn’t watch our league games, and they certainly weren’t shown in the pubs of Camberwell. I could usually convince a few friends to visit some manky Irish pub to take in our Champions League ties, but this was my only concession to active support, other than browsing the BBC Sport website for titbits of news.

jt

Meanwhile, my consumption of English football rose significantly. Most weekends involved watching a game, often with the chaps from the King’s College London Men’s Thirds after our own weekly tête-à-tête. As one of few Scots in the mix, it was much easier to get involved in the chat about John Terry being a total dick than it was to rake over the passing stats from a 1-1 draw with Hibs.

My first year in London, where I still live, set a precedent I haven’t managed (or bothered) to break almost 10 years down the line. Excluding Europe, I can count the number of Celtic games I’ve watched in full in that time on my hands, and with every passing match I feel my association become more remote.

Apart from anything else, there’s absolutely heehaw to play for at the moment: the league is barely a contest – thanks to years of administrative and financial mismanagement that is only now being addressed, plus the ludicrous behaviour of our only genuine rivals that got them all kinds of relegated – which makes the step up to European competition increasingly difficult.

Being stuck in the gaffer-taped paddling pool that is the Scottish league system – especially when the Scudamores next door have the funds to add underfloor heating to their pool-side tiling and build a complementary hammam – is galling. This isn’t Celtic’s fault, of course: we’ve outgrown the competition and we’d leave in a heartbeat. But there’s nowhere else to go, which is fair enough – why should there be? That’s the thing: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

The Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain once described himself as a “Catholic atheist”; when it comes to football, I’d say something similar. I’m a Celtic fan who doesn’t actually support Celtic. Sure, the club will always be “my club”, and I get excited a few times a year when we play in a competition that’s worth anything, but I struggle to muster the enthusiasm the rest of the time. Celtic was a big part of life when I was growing up, but we’ve grown apart. It’s nobody’s fault – it’s just one of those things. I love you, Celtic, but it’s just not the same any more.

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by Vincent Forrester.

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Vincent Forrester is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter @vjforrester

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If you want to be handed the reins of the Outrage Enclave, send your witty, well articulated, properly researched and within the 600(ish) word limit post to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Or don’t. No pressure.

Rio Ferdinand: Up Yer BT Sport telly pipe!

3 October 2014

rio

“One time Wayne Rooney and I were on the massage table just after the story came out about Sven’s relationship with Faria Alam,” RIo Ferdinand writes in his new autobiography.

“I was going: ‘Look at her! I bet he was throwing her all over the gaff!’

“All of a sudden I notice it’s very quiet and Sven, standing behind me, goes: ‘Well, it wasn’t quite like that’.

“He then starts to laugh, says goodnight and walks out.”

And with that, Rio Ferdinand simultaneously cements his place in Ramble hearts forever and extinguishes any need for us to bother reading his autobiography.

He’s not going to top that, is he?

We’re just joshing. Anyone whose professional career has spanned eighteen years (to date) will have tales to tell, but one whose represented England at the highest level, been involved in all manner of mayhem and was in the locker room of one of England’s biggest clubs as the foundations began to crumble is going to have the attention of the world when he shares his story.

rooney

Among the anecdotes to emerge from The Sun’s serialisation of #2sides: Rio Ferdinand - My Autobiography (he loves a hashtag, that boy) so far are David Moyes insistence that Manchester United make 600 passes per game, that a pair of snug trousers were ultimately responsible for Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from the club and Wayne Rooney’s hair travails were enjoyed as much by the players as they were by the press.

 
But it’s the insights into the inner workings of Manchester United that have proven to be the most fascinating. In an interview with Clare Balding, due to be shown on BT Sport 2 tonight at 10.00pm, Rio reveals that Ferguson’s side rarely celebrated their victories and genuinely believes that was integral to their continued success.

 
He also tells of the shockwave that went through the dressing room when the players learned that Sir Alex was retiring, and, in news that won’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to football for the last ten years, confirms that Craig Bellamy is a bit of a loonbag.

We’ll be reviewing the book for our now biannual ‘Book of the Week’ segment in the coming days, but while you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for that, keep yourself busy with Balding.

Bt Sport 2. 10.00pm tonight. Be there or be Rooney’s hair.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League Chuntering: Oh, Danny Boy

2 October 2014

Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray

welb

Aside from Danny Welbeck, two other players have scored Champions League hat-tricks for Arsenal FC.

This morning, Arsene Wenger will be desperately hoping his latest thoroughbred will emulate the glory of his finest creation to date - the elegant but deadly Thierry Henry - although given that Arsene’s judgement has gone the same way as his eyesight in recent years, Welbeck could just as easily end up being the new Nicklas Bendtner.

Last night’s performance will have given Wenger hope that Welbz may yet avoid naked interactions with transport. But don’t rule it out.

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Anderlecht 0-3 Borussia Dortmund

And while we’re on the subject of people performing poorly at United, leaving and shining, here’s Shinji Kagawa’s assist* in Dortmund’s 3-0 victory over Anderlecht.

*Chip and a clonk. Officially authorised by Marcus C.Speller.

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Ludogorets Razgrad 1-2 Real Madrid

liverpool

It was a like that when the first goal went in, wasn’t it?

Momentarily we all felt a bit bad for giving Liverpool such a hard time when they scraped a 2-1 victory over wilfully misrepresented group minnows Ludogorets.

Then Cristiano had a penalty saved. We checked our phones, wishing we’d stuck a tenner on Ludogorets to take the three points.

Normal service was resumed in the 25th minute, when Crisps converted a penalty and later, Karim Benzema, presumably exhausted by that crash diet, headed the winner on ‘77.

Don’t be too complacent though, Ramblers. It says something when Gareth Bale’s harrowing footwear is the most eye-catching thing on the pitch.

bale

This group is wide open.

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Atletico Madrid 1-0 Juventus

 

You. Are. No. Longer. A. Player. We’ve been through this before, Diego.

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By Kelly Welles

The FA: Administrative error or just banter?

2 October 2014

espn

The club vs. country argument develops a slightly different hue when you realise football’s governing body thinks that Danny Welbeck still plays for Manchester United.

Keep up, people!

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By Kelly Welles

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Image via espnfc.

Champions League Chuntering: The Importance of Being Francesco

1 October 2014

Manchester City 1-1 AS Roma

francesco

Was Big Sam Allardyce in charge of the City Twitter feed yesterday?

As we know, Manchester City’s communication channels have proven to be vulnerable to violation with disastrous consequences at least once before, and it would take someone with a staggeringly misplaced self-confidence of his own ability in Europe to make such a statement.

 
It would have been rude of Totti not to, really.

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Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Chelsea

This, people, is Sporting Lisbon ‘keeper Rui Patricio having the very definition of ‘an absolute blinder’.

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Paris St Germain 3-2 Barcelona

 
“Shit. Is that your sister over there?”

Does anyone know what actually happened during the game? It’s just that with Beyonce and Jay-Z accompanying D-Beck to the game, Zlatan & his wife Helena Seger in a director’s box and Cannavaro and Kluivert gladhanding their way around the stands, it’s been quite difficult to get information.

Oh well. Nothing important can have happened or someone would have mentioned it.

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Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 FC Porto

score

Despite a staggering stoppage time comeback, Porto fans are reportedly discontented that a major media outlet in Portugal claimed the team had actually lost the game 3-1.

The club’s website has released a statement complaining about the error, claiming that the problem of misreporting “continue(s) to occur… always to the detriment of our club.”

Ooh, we love a conspiracy theory. Is Marcus involved?

He’s got form when it comes to dishing out the points fairly too.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T ‏@Portu_Goal

“And now it’s time to play football, you pussies”

1 October 2014

 
Here’s animal behaviourist Kevin Richardson shilling Van Gils suits and having a kickabout with his mates.

They should show it to Tony Pulis. If Richardson can wear a suit and look sharp while wrestling the ball from a team of committed and enthusiastic carnivores, there’s no reason why Pulis can’t wear one to stroll up and down the touchline.

Think on.

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By Kelly Welles

adidas Real Madrid CL Kit. Or what Karim Benzema would look like in a fat suit

30 September 2014

 
The best thing about this adidas video promoting Real Madrid’s new Yohji Yamamoto designed Champions League kit is that it gives elite players like Asier Illarramendi and Karim Benzema the opportunity to experience life as John Parkin.

karim

Well, they say the camera adds ten pounds.

illarra

Obviously animated pencil adds another thirty to that.

ronaldo

Oh, and if dragons and fatsuits and cartoons that remind you vaguely of He-Man cartoons aren’t enough, Cristiano Ronaldo is in it too.

Bet the Nike lawyers love that like they gave birth to it.

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By Kelly Welles

The Manchester United Fear Factor

30 September 2014

 
This is one of those rare moments in football when we can put our club affiliations and personal feelings aside and laugh together.

 
A bit like this one.

 
Oh, wait. And this one.

Paging Mr van Gaal? It might be time to drop your trousers again. They seem to work better with the fear of god in ‘em.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: It’s a shame about Wayne

29 September 2014

Manchester United’s captain getting sent off for doing something stupid. There’s news.

 
If you were feeling deliberately provocative, or at least unwilling to immediately jump to the first available response, you could claim that far from being another blow, Saturday’s incident vs. West Ham gives Manchester United fans a reason for optimism.

After all, if you’ve been following Premier League football for any reasonable length of time, what’s more recognisable?

scholes

A Manchester United side that has played six games, won two, drawn two and lost two, has a defence made of tissue paper and held together with gaffer tape and recently capitulated completely to a newly promoted side that while feisty, are still struggling to find their feet?

Or a captain with fire in his belly chasing the ball down with such intensity he fluffs the timing and produces what is commonly known in those parts a ‘Paul Scholes’?

As a neutral it feels odd for me to defend United. And yet I feel like I’ve been doing it all season in the face of virtually incontrovertible evidence. And yet I persist.

 
Maybe the absence of Rooney for the next three league fixtures - Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea -  will prove to be the catalyst in what has so far been equivalent to Lewis Hamilton climbing into a supercar and then backfiring his way around the block.

That cloak of invincibility, indoctrinated into the players by Ferguson and singularly responsible for making Manchester United the bane of everyone else’s lives for so long, is as much responsible for United’s on pitch success as the individuals playing.

kuffour

Everyone thinks they’re toast. Ask Sammy Kuffour what happens when United look beaten and broken. He’ll tell you.

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southampton

Speaking of people leaving themselves wide open to ridicule, Southampton’s continuing success in the Premier league has led to a little over excitement in some quarters.

 
Yes, it’s 29th September. Yes, there’s a lot of football still to be played. But who’s going to begrudge Southampton fans the right to crow when everyone and their cousin Robbie Savage had them as first pick in the pre-season relegation predictions due to the summer exodus?

Especially when they’re playing with such style and verve in front of the most universally hated man in the south coast region.

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kolo

We have to find our merriment somewhere, Ramblers.

And while we can’t ever count on experiencing pure joy of opening our Sunday papers to find Kolo Toure peering out behind a shower curtain, having allegedly told a woman he was a car salesman so she would have an affair with him for two years, rest assured the tabloids are doing their best for us.

In this weekend’s news, a woman has claimed she had an eighteen month relationship with a man because he was Hull City captain Curtis Davies, only to find out it was someone pretending to be Curtis Davies, while a sub-editor at the Daily Mail had the pleasure of typing out this statement:

tiote

Poor Pete. He’ll be heartbroken.

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hrist

Oh, and Zlatan has a lookalike who sounds almost as batshit as he is.

“I know very well who is Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” Hristo Hristov told Swedish paper Expressen. “He is a national team player for Sweden, has played for a number of great teams and is currently at Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.”

I am a serious, investigative journalist and would rather not comment on cases where people in Sweden think that I look like a football player.

No, there have been times here in Bulgaria where people have told me I look like Nikolai Gogol and Johnny Depp.

And it makes me smile.”

If he has an honorary black belt in taekwondo, it is so on.

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By Kelly Welles

Managerial Tips with Pep Guardiola: Attention to detail

29 September 2014

pep

It’s no wonder Zlatan hates him.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @Petenufc.

Outrage Enclave: The North London derby

26 September 2014

Why did we spend time scouring the hills and crevasses of an unnamed location somewhere near the bowels of hell? To locate the Outrage Enclave.

Why did we want to locate the Outrage Enclave? So you can get a break from Kelly’s incessant and occasionally deranged waffling, thus allowing people like Adonis Pratsides can get a word in edgeways.

We told him to ease you in gently so he’s gone for a subject unlikely to raise ire in any colonial outpost of football - the North London derby.

Godspeed, Adonis, my good man. Godspeed. 

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lennon

In recent years, the native North Londoners had peeked their heads out from behind the obtrusive shadow of their unwelcome neighbours, to bask in the warm glow of the sun and to soak up the attention they had been starved of.

The cockerels dared to spread their wings and fly higher and higher towards the sun, only to have been ruthlessly gunned down and sent crashing back towards earth.  Having come so close, with their left wing irreversibly damaged and a terribly sore ego, the plucky Spurs remain convinced they can soar even higher this time.

And it is this boundless optimism - the kind that can endure historic disappointment - which makes Tottenham’s rivalry with their North London neighbours, Arsenal, forever enticing. 

 
The Gunners have made a progressive start to their league campaign, and appear to be improving with every (domestic) game. They are unbeaten as yet and as the new additions settle in and the squad begins to find its natural rhythm, fans have, as yet, only seen flashes of what their side might be capable of achieving this season.

Tottenham, on the other hand, have made a far less consistent start to the season, having been beaten twice already, by both Liverpool and West Brom, with both defeats coming at White Hart Lane. But while their home form must improve if they are to challenge the likes of Arsenal for a place in the top 4 this year, no Spurs supporter is able to look beyond Saturday afternoon and the 17:30 KO at the Emirates – and who can blame them?


In case you’re one of those terribly pragmatic people, who takes form into consideration when heading into a derby; while Arsenal were knocked out of the Capital One cup, at home, by Southampton earlier this week, Spurs responded to their defeat to West Brom with a 3-1 win over high-flying Championship side, Nottingham Forest, to book their place in the next round.

Spurs are without a win in their last three Premier league games, which could suggest to some that they are due a victory, and when coupled with the fact they have lost four of their last five meetings with Arsenal, they will be desperate to secure all three points as well as to gain an early psychological advantage over their bitter rivals.

While Arsenal’s new boys take time to adapt to the league and to their new surroundings, Tottenham’s newest recruits look to have finally settled and after a baptism of fire last season. Mauricio Pochettino appears to have ‘found’ Erik Lamela and even Roberto Soldado has been amongst the goals.

While Spurs wait on the return of right-back Kyle Walker from abdominal surgery, Arsenal’s treatment room is far more crowded with Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Debuchy all still unavailable for selection.

The North London Derby is a singularity of its own on any Premier league calendar, and with good reason too. A stirring concoction of attacking prowess and defensive frailty, which, when garnished with their ferocious rivalry, makes for a hurricane in a glass.

The cockerels are ready to take flight once more. And while I admire their resolve, Arsenal have been successfully gunning them down for years now, and as for this season, their aim is getting better each week.

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By Adonis Pratsides.

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If you want to be handed the reins of the Outrage Enclave, send your witty, well articulated, properly researched and within the 600(ish) word limit post to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). She loves getting emails.

The Week In Football. Allegedly.

26 September 2014

gyan

At face value, the notion of a football player denying that he ritually sacrificed a Ghanaian rapper to further his career, is grist to the football soap opera mill.

It boasts all the key elements. Murder. Suspicion. Personal gain. Indeed, the only thing missing from the tale of Asamoah Gyan’s involvement in the disappearance of Theophilus Tagoe AKA Castro & friend Janet Bandu, is the presence of a glowering Pauline Fowler.

What else are we to do but embrace it to our heaving bosoms and love it for what it is?**

**Remembering all the while that when you peek under the hyperbole, two people are missing presumed dead here.

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This man, the magnificently named Malaga centre-back Weligton, claims that he grabbed the sainted one around the throat during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw because Messi called him a “son of a whore”.

Did he? Can you lip read? Is Weligton’s parentage under scrutiny by one of the greatest footballers in the world? Why? Hasn’t he got enough to do?

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Gareth Bale drove over a lady fan’s foot while attempting to escape from training this morning. Or perhaps yesterday morning. The timing is more or less irrelevant.

The story itself isn’t a surprise - a large mass of people being driven out by young men in extremely powerful sportscars isn’t exactly an advert for road safety - but the fact that the woman decided she wasn’t going to press charges because it was her own fault is.

We need to put a stop to this immediately. Personal responsibility is like a virus. It’ll spread into the football population and before you know it, the world will be a better place.

Shudder.

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By Kelly Welles

Famous football people in unexpected photo opportunities, Pt 4: Hello, old fruit!

25 September 2014

tino

Well, given his recent adventures it’s probably not all that unexpected.

But Tino Asprilla grinning wildly at a banana that has been manhandled into a condom is undoubtedly startling enough to warrant inclusion in this section. And if not, there’s more.

“I’ll recommend the guava flavour condom,” Tino said during an interview promoting his new condom range, which is presumably (hopefully?!) when this photo was taken. “When I was growing up, we had a guava tree in our garden and that’s a flavour and aroma that’s very good for romancing.”

Sexy just isn’t the word.

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By Kelly Welles

Shut up & drive (traffic to the YouTube channel)

25 September 2014

Any relationship becomes stale over time. Even the most passionate.

 
The truth is, we love you, Ramblers. We’ve been together for a long time, but we’re worried that the concept of a free weekly podcast full of searing analysis and sardonic humour might have become stale for you.

Late at night, when we’re asleep you might be sneaking to the computer, looking at other football media, thinking about other football shows presented by different blokes and contemplating how much greener their pitch looks than ours.

lions

So we’ve done something about it. We’ve smartened ourselves up. We got haircuts and new shirts. Began experimenting with other social media platforms. Facebook. Instagram. YouTube.

thrones

That’s right. You can see our faces. See us in costumes. What we’d look like if we all had a beard like Roy Keane’s. Realise that far from being a nefarious Gollum type we keep in the basement, Pete is a nattily dressed chap who knows how to operate a pocket square.

 
That Marcus bears a passing resemblance to a lot of handsome chaps, not just Peter Andre & Paul Peschisolido. James or Jim doesn’t look like Ellen Degeneres and it is but a vicious rumour perpetuated by the aforementioned that Luke’s beard looks like it is made from hay.

pete

Bask in us, Ramblers. You might as well. You can’t avoid us. We’re everywhere now.

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By Kelly Welles

Where’s Ronaldinho?

23 September 2014

goal

This clip of Liga MX fixture Queretaro vs. Chivas de Guadalajara could have been filmed from Kevin Keegan’s helicopter, it’s so far away from the action. It’s practically impossible to identify the teams, let alone the players.

Except one. His genius always finds a way to shine through.

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By Kelly Welles

The Eloquence of the Long Haired Midfielder

23 September 2014

Andrea Pirlo wrote about the racism he’d witnessed when playing against Mario Balotelli in Serie A and for Italy in his recent autobiography.

It’s beautiful, it’s eloquent and goes some way to restore faith in a game that has shown its deeply ugly side in recent days.

Read it.

pirlo

“I’m not sure he really appreciates it yet, but he’s a special kind of medicine, an antidote to the potentially lethal poison of the racists you find in Italian grounds. They’re a truly horrendous bunch, a herd of frustrated individuals who’ve taken the worst of history and made it their own. And they’re more than just a minority, despite what certain mealy-mouthed spin doctors would have you believe. Those guys would use a fire extinguisher to put out a match.

Whenever I see Mario at an Italy training camp, I’ll give him a big smile. It’s my way of letting him know that I’m right behind him and that he mustn’t give up. A gesture that means ‘thank you’. He’s often targeted and insulted by opposition fans. Let’s say that the way he goes about his business perhaps doesn’t help him get much love, but I’m still convinced that if he was white, people would leave him in peace.

pir

‘Jump up high so Balotelli dies’ is an unspeakable chant that, sadly, I’ve heard at the Juventus Stadium amongst other places. Even worse are the monkey noises that I’ve listened to pretty much everywhere. But instead of depressing Mario, moronic behaviour of that kind actually seems to fire him up. He won’t let this human trash get their way, and it’s the most intelligent response because if you listen to what a stupid person says, you elevate them to the position of interlocutor. If you simply ignore them (still acknowledging that, unfortunately, they exist) you’re leaving them to stew in their own polluted sea: one where there are no friends and no shore. The good news is that even sharks can die of loneliness after a while. Prandelli has given us national team players some firm direction on the matter.

lips

If you hear people in the stands disrespecting Mario, run over to him and hug him.” In that idea hate can be cancelled out by an equivalent dose of love. Not a fashionable choice, but a pretty forceful idea. ... I’m happy that Mario is the way he is. He’ll react (wrongly) to provocation on the pitch, but doesn’t let what’s going on in the crowd affect him. If he scores, he might put his finger to his lips to mock the opposition fans, something that really infuriates them, but if they tell him he’s got the wrong colour of skin he’ll simply laugh in their faces. He makes complete fools of them and emerges a convincing winner. The way I see it, he’s capable of becoming a symbol of the fight against racism, both in Italy and throughout the world.”

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By Kelly Welles

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Extract from ‘Andrea Pirlo: I think therefore I play.’ Via reddit.

Jose Mari vs. Real Salt Lake: As bangin’ as a ‘g’ can be

22 September 2014

work

This incredible goal by Colorado Rapids midfielder Jose Mari has introduced us to the descriptor ‘Worm Burner’.

Back of the net.

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By Kelly Welles

Mario Balotelli: Take the power back

22 September 2014

tweet

Whether we like it or not, football is no longer a contest between two teams of eleven players on a pitch.

Investment by television companies coupled with advances in technology have opened up a game that was once played out within the confines of a stadium in front of those who paid to be there and experience the atmosphere to anyone with a tv, a satellite package, a computer or a phone.

balo

Every incident, every shock, every nuance that once rippled around that stadium like a shiver, contributing to an interpretation and an experience, is now witnessed at close quarters and instantly critiqued in the wider world. With every observation, every post, every tweet, we’re each contributing to the story of football and writing its history. We all have a say. It’s a great power, and we should remember that great power comes with great responsibility.

Mario Balotelli has made a huge contribution to Football v2.0. Where once tales of a player inadvertently blowing up his bathroom with fireworks, wearing a ridiculous hat to a match and failing to dress himself correctly would have contributed to a legend within the confines of a club, they would have remained mere rumours outside of those walls. In these days of instant communication they define the player and the man. Balotelli is young, he has no experience of football other than being in the eye of the hurricane and is more than willing to court the attention.

The rules of this new game are complex and obviously difficult for some of our slower friends to grasp. Fierce rivalries between fans have survived the transition to new football intact - something we should be grateful for given that a game of football without a crowd, whether you’re in a stadium or watching from the sofa with your mobile phone in your hand is hardly worth watching - but have dragged other, less joyful traditions with them.

Racism. Homophobia. Anti-semitism. Misogyny. You’ve got to hand it to those guys and gals. Resisting the desire to be a part of something great must take a hell of a lot of self-discipline, but by god, they’ve done well.

Yes, Mario Balotelli knew his tweet would inflame those who cling to their ignorance like a drowning man clinging onto a rock. Does that justify the response? The litany of abusive language, racially offensive retorts and outpouring of hatred he received? In some people’s minds it does. Which, I’m sad to say, makes it as much a part of the weekend’s football as the result of the Leicester City/Manchester United fixture and the heartwarming response of the Chelsea fans to Frank Lampard’s appearance in the colours of a rival club.

The only positive to come from this revolting episode in our story was pointed out by Ian Wright on last night’s 606. In the old days, those afraid of difference were smart enough to keep use the anonymity afforded to them in a crowd. The abuse would be hurled from the stands where in the days before CCTV, anonymity was virtually guaranteed. These days, we can track them and report them, know their faces and what they are.

Love him or hate him, Mario Balotelli is part of our game. Our game. Not theirs. He might be a pillock, but he’s our pillock and like all of us, deserves the right to express himself without fear of abuse by people whose minds instantly leap to visible differences and use them as a weapon.

The rest of the world won’t bother differentiating between ‘good’ football fans and ‘bad’ football fans when they’re remembering this season or talking about why they hate football. It’s our responsibility. My responsibility. Yours.

Our generation’s football legacy is at stake here. And we’re going to let a bunch of ignorant, fearful neanderthals write it? Are we hell.

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By Kelly Welles

Outrage Enclave: Do some work for us, will you? We can’t be bothered.

19 September 2014

Situated some way past Diego Corner and slightly to the left of Balotelli’s Basement in Ramble HQ, the Outrage Enclave is flinging open its curtains to give you, the Rambler, an opportunity to have your say on a football related matter you care about.

If there’s an issue that irritates you - whether it be ticket prices, tv coverage, too much money in football, not enough money in football, allegations of corruption arising from Marcus’s allocation of ‘The Points’ - pop it in an email and send it to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

If it’s witty, well articulated, properly researched and within the 600(ish) word limit, it could appear on this very website, offering you a glimpse into the hedonistic joyride that is the life of a football writer.

Here’s our very own Lukey Moore’s measured response to the attendance at Wembley for England’s friendly vs. Norway earlier this month to give you an idea of what’s required…



Viewers of Wednesday night’s game between England and Norway would have been stunned at the scenes that greeted them upon turning on the television. No, not Adrian Chiles’ mental face (that’s always there, sadly) and not our brave Three Lions being utterly shit (that’s always the case, too), more the sheer lack of fans bothering themselves to buy a ticket and attend.

Going to watch England play at Wembley used to be a rite of passage, a vital part of the football fan’s Road to Damascus on the way to pure football obsession. If you had never been to Wembley, you weren’t a proper fan.

carls

‘It’s the home of football!’ you would scream when you saw the two towers/massive arch for the first time. You’d probably have travelled up by coach, organised by your Dad’s mate down the local, and once you stepped over all the Carlsberg-flavoured puke and jumped off the ‘banter-wagon’ (think trying to avoid singing along to ‘hilarious’ songs about Germans. Yeah, it’s mostly just songs about Germans. Oh, and the Falklands), you’d be excited for a feast of football, junk food and loads more Carlsberg (which is the official beer of the England team by the way, although I have never once seen any international footballer drink lager…ok apart from Wayne Rooney, but he doesn’t look like he distinguishes between brands) before sleeping all the way back to the satellite town from whence you came.

But now, it seems, this legendary English day out isn’t enough to tempt many of us to get out of our stinking living rooms and actually support our national team. Funny what yet another embarrassing showing on football’s biggest stage will do. So what have the Football Association decided to do? Reduce ticket prices? Offer family discounts? Dish out a free Mars bar (official confectionary of the England team, although I’ve never seen an international footballer eat a Ma….ok yes, yes, Wayne Rooney) with every ticket?

attendance

Nah, why bother doing that when you can keep the ticket prices high and just lie about the amount of doomed souls that shuffle through the turnstile? That’s right, the official attendance for the most boring night out since Ed Sheeran announced a spoken-word tour was just a shade over 40,000 on Wednesday, but what the FA didn’t tell you was that they automatically consider every Club England season ticket holder an attendee even if they don’t turn up. And there are 17,000 of them. Let’s assume half of them bothered, as I’m feeling in a generous mood. That would still mean the attendance was only about 31,500, in a stadium which holds 90,000, cost £827m - £70m over the agreed budget, almost bankrupting the FA - and was delivered eight years late.

So yeah, it’s the ‘Home of Football’ alright, but at the moment it seems like a home that was bought for way over the asking price at the top of the housing boom, spent so long being built you had to live in a shelter for your entire kids’ childhood, they’ve now grown up and buggered off to live in a squat in Hackney after failing their A Levels anyway, the Dad’s moved out without leaving so much as a note and all that’s left is you, a skint housewife, weeping and wondering where it all went wrong. Which is coincidentally what I was doing while watching the fucking thing on ITV.

bake

And it wasn’t just the stadium itself which had hardly any viewers. Apparently, 4m more people watched Great British Bake Off than tuned in to watch their national team play their national sport in their national stadium. Which is hardly surprising. I mean, they’re practically the same thing anyway. One features incompetent people getting kicked out of a competition very early for not being able to do what they said they could do in an issue usually related to flakiness, and the other is Great British Bake Off.

And at least the Bake Off doesn’t involve Adrian Chiles.

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Alright? Get going then. And mind Diggory on the way out, will you? He tends to bite when trodden on.

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Luke Moore & Kelly Welles

Ronaldo: A short tutorial

19 September 2014

In case we didn’t make it clear how we feel about O Fenomeno when he turned 38 yesterday, here’s Zlatan to take you through it. (Watch it with the sound up).

Excellent. Now everybody knows where everybody is.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @S_derlund

Champions League Chuntering: Why do you have to be a Hart-breaker?

18 September 2014

Bayern Munich 1-0 Manchester City

boateng

Joe’s Hart wasn’t the only thing shattered when Jerome Boateng soared into the air in the final moments of Bayern Munich’s tie vs. Manchester City last night. The irritating pretension of not celebrating a goal you’ve scored against a former club also took a pounding, but if the former City defender was expecting praise for securing the three points, he would have been sorely disappointed.

Seconds after his fly past the dug out, Boateng was strangled by manager Pep Guardiola, who is presumably leading by example in his quest for more aggressive football.

Either that, or he’s found Felix Magath’s tips for terrorising a top flight team nestling in amongst the discarded sweet wrappers and used lederhosen stowed in his desk drawer.

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Roma 5-1 CSKA Moskow

totti
According to BBC Sport, Gervinho has now scored “as many goals in one Champions League game for Roma as he did in 11 matches for Arsenal.” His two goals (not quite as impressive when you put it that way) contributed to a heavy defeat for CSKA, whose fans responded in the time honoured tradition by smashing shit up.

 

 
Come on, guys. Football meant to be fun for all concerned. Tell ‘em, Totti, there’s a lad.

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Chelsea 1-1 Schalke

Julian Draxler. Getting on it and sailing it home.

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Ajax 1-1 Paris St Germain

While this gif boasts not one, but two hugely prominent features.

FIrstly, Lasse Schone’s wonderful freekick for Ajax’s equaliser.

zlatan

The second is hidden beneath Zlatan’s right hand. RIGHT hand. We’re making no assumptions about any other prominent features he may or may not have.

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By Kelly Welles

The Patented Luke Moore Penalty Algorithm (Patent Pending)

18 September 2014

 
As you’ll be aware, the patented Luke Moore Penalty Algorithm (patent pending) was a crucial factor in your enjoyment of the World Cup.

Indeed, a recent survey concluded that 97% of the Ramble demographic would be UNABLE to continue enjoying football without access to the algorithm. Fearing that without immediate action, the game as we know it might die out, Luke spent several minutes over the summer testing and developing the algorithm, eager to play his part.

His findings were presented to an audience of respected academics in the United States, with early exit polls indicating that football is now safe.

The Football Ramble. Influencing the game. You’re welcome.

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By Kelly Welles

Champions League Chuntering: Smart casual

17 September 2014

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal

You might be forgiven for missing the details of Borussia Dortmund’s dismantling of the Arsenal facade last night.

Tight marking, doubling up and constant pressure were the themes and all were executed with a precision that will both terrify and inspire Anderlecht and Galatasaray, who will play both sides later in the group stages.

sq

Arsenal’s self-expression, arguably their most reliable weapon, was stifled from the off and the stats reflect the efficiency with which Dortmund did their work.

If it wasn’t pretty on the pitch, it was even worse off it.

The match officials forgetting their shorts and having to wear the grubby ones from the bottom of the changing room cupboard was distracting enough, without Jurgen Klopp’s decision to come straight to the game from a day on the couch eating Doritos.

arsene

It was effective though. Don’t be surprised if Arsene tries something a little different for the return fixture.

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Real Madrid 5-1 FC Basel

 
Real Madrid’s poor start to the domestic season was not reflected in the opening match of their Champions League defence - the latest generation of Galacticos queuing up to take their turn in front of goal.

Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema all struck to leave Basel languishing at the bottom of the table on goal difference and Cristiano contemplating the very real possibility of having to share the accolades.

cris

Theoretically, that means less of this…

put

... and more of this, which we’ll take all season long.

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Juventus 2-0 Malmo FF

tevez

The Football Ramble are not impressed.

Have a word, Pirlo.

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Benfica 0-2 Zenit St Petersburg

“HELLO ROMAN? ARE YOU WATCHING?”

Andre Villas Boas’ Zenit side also enjoyed a winning start to their campaign, beating Benfica 2-0 and bringing to an end a staggering run of 51 games unbeaten.

Hulk scored on five minutes, earning an ‘I scored the first goal in a Champions League campaign’ which our fact checking dept has advised is relevant only to those who enjoy pub quizzing and ITV phone-in competitions.

gutted

Nonetheless, his contribution to the game was roundly booed by Benfica fans upon his substitution. He was clearly mortified.

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By Kelly Welles

Flashback Football: Now you’re just showing off

16 September 2014

save

See that? That bloke diving to his right, realising he’s made a mistake, scrambling to his feet, diving to his left and making the save anyway ISN’T EVEN A KEEPER.

 
He’s Michael Tarnat, a man who began Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga fixture vs. Frankfurt in September 1999 in defence, before watching not one, but two keepers capitulate to injury and manfully stepping into the breach.

You want more?

 
When he played for Manchester City he scored this absolute blunderbuss of a free kick.

Tarnat is now a talent scout for Bayern Munich. Figures.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @gabeh7.

Tim Wiese: Natty or no?

16 September 2014

wiese

We all gain weight when we’re made redundant. It’s a natural human reaction.

But former Germany, Werder Bremen & Hoffenheim goalkeeper Tim Wiese has let us all down by not only gaining the correct kind of weight (muscle mass vs. fatty fatty fatster) after being given his marching orders in January, but simultaneously paving the way for a new career.

wiese 2

Apparently, Wiese, who used to look like this (above), has been approached by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) with a view to spearheading their foray into German broadcasting.

And why not? Would you pick a fight with him?

Next week: Ade Akinfenwa applies to the Royal National Ballet.

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Message in a bottle

15 September 2014

A quick snurfle around the Premier League fixtures first, good Ramblers, then a nosedive into the cool, clear waters of European football.

At least that was the idea. The waters at the end of this post are anything but cool and clear. Eurgh.

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alan
Basic, Alan.

“I’m not sure he’ll be the main man, but he’ll certainly be mainer than he was at Old Trafford.”

                                    Alan Shearer on Danny Welbeck, 5Live’s Weekend Preview.

It’s lucky that Danny Welbeck’s footballing ability outweighs Alan Shearer’s grasp of the English language, isn’t it?

arsenal

The latest addition to the Wenger Boys (football’s answer to One Direction, but boasting a better barber) looked bright and bushy tailed on his debut, despite failing to score with a beautiful chip that came off the post. The final score and Pellegrini’s protestations aside, there was a sparkle about Arsenal and a sense that the opportunity is there for the one they call Welbs to become something of an Emirates icon.

He’s got time on his side. It took some geezer called Thierry Henry nine games to score his first goal for the Gunners and at the time he was mocked in the press for his wayward shooting.

Whatever happened to him?

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pard

Having been summarily banned from discussing anything to do with Newcastle United, I shall congratulate Southampton and Ronald Koeman for proving the naysayers wrong and move swiftly on to Mario Balotelli - a man who, if he continues to be bothered by defenders of the calibre of Philippe Senderos - is likely to prove them right.

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Balotelli had a mare during Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, struggling to shrug off the attentions of the former Arsenal man and accumulating a grand total of 2 shots on goal - the same number as Dejan Lovren. Indeed, if we’re going to get all statty on yo ass, Super Mario currently resides at No. 304 on Squawka’s Player Rankings Index, between David Meyler and Jonathan Walters.

At least it’s not just him any more.

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gourcuff

He was probably hoping for a low key return to the first team after a string of injuries, so Yoann Gourcuff would have been delighted to have seen his pretty face badly photoshopped onto a body full of arrows before Lyon’s 2-1 over Monaco.

L’Equipe didn’t leave it there, either. If you have more time on your hands than you can reasonably handle, click on this link and you can hover over each injury to learn what it was and what date it occurred.

“Blessure à l’adducteur gauche” is a far finer way to say “hip injury” anyway, isn’t it?

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While we’re on the subject of languages we yearn to learn but can never be arsed, pastry eating lady handler Antonio Cassano may have lost the war when his Parma side were defeated 5-4 by AC Milan on Sunday, but he certainly landed a rabbit punch.

As the teams were making their way out of the tunnel, Milan defender Ignazio Abate shouted the Italian equivalent of “Come on, boys!” at his teammates.

Cassano, known across Italy for his diplomacy skills, responded with a helpful “Abate! Shut up, for fuck’s sake!”.

He’s a tool bag, isn’t he? We still love him though.

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urine
Urine not pictured. Thankfully.

If you haven’t eaten yet, best avert your eyes from this next story, which takes ‘bants’ to new and gruesome levels.

According to Swedish daily AftonBladet, a bunch of people claiming to be FC Baden fans convinced a ballboy to pass them the opposition keeper’s water bottle during their 1. Liga Classic fixture vs. Muri on Saturday. Hilariously, they refilled it using their own ‘water supply’ and passed it back, gleefully screaming “You are infected! You have AIDS!” when Reto Felder drank from it.

There’s plenty we could say about this, but quite honestly, if you need clarification on how revolting and utterly pathetic this kind of behaviour is, you probably need more help than we’re qualified to give you.

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By Kelly Welles

Jérémy Ménez: Getting the admin out of the way early

15 September 2014

Dear Mr Ibrahimovic,

We are sorry to inform you that your application for ‘Goal of the Season’ has been rejected.

Our staff have carefully reviewed your material, and while outstanding, it doesn’t come up to the standard required for this level of competition.

Thank you for your interest and we look forward to receiving further applications from you in due course.

Regards,

Football.

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By Kelly Welles

 

Aston Villa: Fear as a motivating factor

12 September 2014

keane

Surprised to see Aston Villa are third in the Premier League?

Don’t be.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T AViD from the FR Forum.

SSC Napoli: Disappointing in denim

11 September 2014

Several Rambles ago (none of us can remember when, but 76% of us are convinced it actually happened), the Ramble discussed the viability of a full denim kit.

shirt

And while we admire Napoli for making the effort, we have to say we’re a little disappointed with the execution of their 2014/15 away ‘look’, which attempts to project the sartorial elegance of the early 80’s onto the very backs of Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik.

shorts

The kit looks fine at first glance.

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But the catwalk aficionados among you will immediately note that the key elements discussed during that incendiary Ramble episode (seriously, can you remember which one? We’re starting to look like dicks here), specifically the requirement that the shirt, shorts and socks should be made of denim, have not been fulfilled.

boots

And there are no boots to complete the look. We’ve had to find our own.

Ramble verdict: Must do better. Now take yer denim-lite and get in the sea. Seriously.

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By Kelly Welles

Jose Mourinho: Hitting below the hairline

11 September 2014

pep

If one enjoys what he does, one does not lose his hair. He’s got a bald head. Guardiola does not enjoy the football. “

                                                                                  Jose Mourinho on Pep Guardiola.

It’s Freud vs. Jung all over again, isn’t it?

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By Kelly Welles

Boot Porn: The ‘Nigel Tufnel’

10 September 2014

1

Or to give it it’s ‘official’ name, the Puma EVOSPEED 1.3 X-RAY LE.

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A replica of the “exact inner structure [of the foot], done in a football boot. Exactly medically accurate. See?” **

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** Seriously. If you don’t know who Nigel Tufnel is, buy, rent or download yourself a copy of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, sit back, watch it, then come back and see us. You’ll be a better person for doing it.  wink

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By Kelly Welles

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Boot images via soccerbible.

Inexplicable Photo Of The Week: Wedding Belles

10 September 2014

davro

Our crack team of investigators (me, Google, Twitter) have learned that alleged comedian Bobby Davro was a guest at Kieron Dyer’s wedding last month.

It must have been effing mental at that reception. Mental.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @DavidHartrick.

Diego Fagundez: Only in America. Please.

9 September 2014

gunner

In England we have Gunnersaurus, who fires gifts into the Emirates crowd with his comedy cannon.

He is rarely involved in goal celebrations but has been known to join in the odd tribute before a game. With confusing results.

 

In the United States they have the Minutemen. They wear American Revolutionary War costumes and carry muskets. When the New England Revolution score, they fire their (loaded with blanks, but still) muskets into the air.

This seems like a marvellous idea when you have players like Diego Fagundez knocking around. Mario Balotelli?

Probably not so much.

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By Kelly Welles

Lionel Messi: I owe it all to Darren Bent

9 September 2014

 

At first glance, this stunning footage (shot prior to Argentina’s friendly with the USA on March 26, 2011) of Lionel Messi scoring twice from one kick is just further confirmation that he is the finest player ever to tread god’s green turf.
 

 

Then you remember Darren Bent did it for Sunderland in a Premier League match in 2009 and you’re confronted with the possibility that, for at least thirteen seconds of his life, Lionel Messi might have been inspired to emulate the work of England’s second most unfortunate striker.

It’s a funny old game.

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By Kelly Welles

Emile Heskey: SHOOOOOOOOOOOT!

8 September 2014

Very clever, Soccer AM.

There does come a point when you’re just mocking the afflicted though, doesn’t there?

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By Kelly Welles

Weekend Highlights: Nut jobs & near misses

8 September 2014

high

So do me under the Trade Descriptions Act. See if I care.

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The teams in Group G haven’t played a competitive game yet, but a small snag like that isn’t going to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the front pages.

He scored twice in Sweden’s friendly vs. Estonia, the second a typically audacious back heel that not only broke Sven Rydell’s record of 49 international goals, but completed Zlatan’s record of scoring in every sixty second period of 90 minutes.

You will remember Cristiano Ronaldo achieved this feat in February, but even the shiny Portuguese would have to admit, how Zlatan got there was infinitely more inspiring than most.

 
Even we English have managed to come to terms with that, so there’s still hope.

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In actual, meaningful, results-based football, Scotland came within a whisker of a fabulous draw against the world champions - Thomas Muller ruining the party with a 70th minute winner after Ikechi Anya’s equaliser.

Charlie Mulgrew was sent off in the final few minutes after receiving a second yellow card. I didn’t watch the game but am reliably informed neither was shown because he was waving Little Charlie about, or even pretending to. Which must be a relief to everyone.

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gib

The Polish national team proved they have no respect for essential services after trouncing a largely part-time Gibraltar side 7-0.

The Gibraltar line-up featured two police officers (not quite a Police Machine - just a wheel, or perhaps even a designer mudflap), a fireman, an electrician, a couple of clerks and a Customs dude alongside two professionals.

Robert Lewandowski scored four and wants to hope his iPad doesn’t short circuit and catch fire while he’s entering Gibraltar carrying more than a litre of Alcoholic Beverage, Spirits, liqueurs or cordials’ because no one’s going to rush and help him.

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Bet he didn’t think of that while he was dancing through the Gibraltan defence, did he?

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After the first round of fixtures, Portugal are the team most likely to be found driving to the Iberian equivalent of Dundee in their bare feet.

The Guardian described the Ronaldo-less side “slumping” to a 1-0 defeat against Albania, which shattered their “hopes of bouncing back from a miserable World Cup”.

crisps

Keep an eye on their shirt sponsors. If it changes to Toblerone for the next competitive fixture, we’re on.

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nuts

Oh, and England’s goalkeeper has ‘gone nuts’. And by ‘gone nuts’ we mean, someone at the Daily Mail presumably spotted a couple of agency photos of Joe Hart eating and flicking nuts off a balcony in Basle, went to their editor with the ‘gone nuts’ headline proposal and was not immediately fired.

Is it vaguely reassuring to learn that England Football is not the only organisation in need of a top down review? No. No it’s not.

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By Kelly Welles

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Images: @jfpenman, @mailsport, @foxsoccer.

Diego Corner: LIVE from the Vatican

5 September 2014

 
He’s not fist pumping because he met the Pope. He’s fist pumping because he got into the Vatican without attracting the attention of the Italian tax authorities.

Allegedly.

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By Kelly Welles

Rainbow Laces: Is your homophobia keeping you warm?

5 September 2014

 
While Paddy Power’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign received a lot of positive coverage last year, many (including us) questioned whether encouraging top flight players to brighten up their already blinding footwear was a little low key to promote real change.

We feared that while certain players might use the campaign to ingratiate themselves with a cause they deemed worthy and popular, real solidarity and progress would only be assured if a significant number of big name players got involved.

To those supporters out there who hurl homophobic insults at players and fans from those spaces in football built on insecurity, fear and ignorance: how’s it feel in there?

Getting a bit tight now, is it?

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By Kelly Welles

CLICK HERE FOR FREE BOYFRIEND POINTS!!!

4 September 2014

thu

Pissed off your ladywoman friend?

Well, if you haven’t yet, FIFA 15 is but 20 days, 9 hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds away, so you’re going to soon.

red2

When that happens, just show her these photos of a recent wedding in Kenya, posted by our friends over at 101greatgoals.

While you might have attempted to convince your wife-to-be that theming your wedding to your club affiliation was a brilliant idea, you didn’t/aren’t going to go through with it.

Regardless of your crime(s), next to this guy, you’re a saint.

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By Kelly Welles

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Images via redpepper.