Joe Devine returns to discuss five things that may or may not have happened in the FA Cup this weekend…
1. Bradford’s Pitch Has More Craters Than Moon
According to reports, the Valley Parade pitch has more craters in it than the surface of the moon. Reading manager and amateur astronomer Steve Clarke told reporters on Saturday morning “I’ve had a look at the pitch, and, I’m not a moon ‘expert’, but I’m probably a moon ‘specialist’, and I think there’s more craters here.” Concerned for his players, Steve Clarke requested the assistance of fellow moon fan Nigel Pearson. After a short examination of the pitch, Nigel told reporters “I can look after myself”, before donning his NASA cap and sprinting off into a nearby growth of bushes.
2. Brendan Rogers Officially Bad Again
After a lengthy spell of being good, and a brief spell of being “Jesus” good, Brendan Rogers has reportedly become bad once again. Initial speculation came during Liverpool’s match up with Blackburn on Sunday, and the first confirmation came upon the final whistle. Our reporter spoke to some Liverpool fans outside Anfield after the game, here’s what they had to say: “I don’t know why he’s gone bad again. He was good for a while, then he was really good and we were thinking ‘oh wow, he’s Jesus good’, you know? But now he just seems to have gone bad again and I’m worried about when he might be getting good again, you know?”Continue reading →
Ally Moncrieff looks at the importance of rivalries and knowing your enemies in the world of football…
You don’t need much to get a game of football started, a few willing participants, an open area and an object resembling a ball means you can partake in something that could be broadly recognised as the same sport played by Messi, Ronaldo et al. Its glorious simplicity is one of the things that makes football the greatest game in the world. Obviously once you start adding nets, kits, officials and so on that kickabout in the park becomes ever more like the real thing.
One thing is always going to be missing though, one little factor that takes football from great sport to great spectacle and that’s an enemy. Football without an enemy is just another hobby, another distraction from the mundanity of life. It needs the tribal ferocity that only true enemies can produce to elevate it to something grander, something more important.
All teams have a rival, a side they’d prefer to beat above all others irrespective of how it affects league position or cup progress. Not all though have an enemy. Continue reading →
Simon Smith looks at the narrative surrounding title chasers and the aura of invincibility which made Real Madrid and Chelsea more vulnerable…
After yet another episode of self-congratulation in the endless carousel that is the Ronaldo-Messi show, Ballon d’or finalists Leo and Cristiano returned to business as usual this week with headline dominating performances and five goals between them. Real Madrid have had to contend with another reshuffle of their squad this season following some classic Perez-ing in the summer; he may be the only club president in European Football the British public recognise. The narrative has been much the same as last season too; Ancelotti’s masterclass in ego management, tactical ingenuity and flexibility of approach that has allowed for a near seamless inclusion of James and Kroos into an already star studded side.
And yet this expertise, the ability to field a front six as ridiculous as Isco-Kroos-Bale-Ronaldo-James-Benzema as Real had the audacity to start with in the World Club Cup final, has become in recent weeks almost a stick to beat Madrid with. Questions of fatigue in the squad have cast a spotlight on the lack of rotation. As impressive as Real have been since their early season struggles, as unreal as the all competitions win streak became, the League is not only not beyond Barcelona yet, but likewise local rivals Atleti.
The thorn in Ancelotti’s side is not that Barcelona have failed to implode during a period of off-pitch crisis; it isn’t the way Messi-Suarez-Neymar has shown flickering signs of becoming a real and viable strategy in recent matches; it’s that all this has happened almost by accident. Barcelona have hardly been devoid of strategy this season, but the starting XI has yet to remain unchanged in consecutive league fixtures. The record of having 25 different starting lineups this season is staggering to the point where one wonders if you would stumble upon that if you actually tried to. Continue reading →
TFN debutant and La Liga expert, Muhammad aka MochineGun, goes all Nick Fury on us as he tries to put together a super-powered team to take down Cristiano Ronaldo this weekend…
Yesterday, the internet awoke to something pretty special. After a nefarious leak, Marvel decided to bless us with an early release of the full HD teaser trailer for next summer’s blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The trailer itself was pretty great, but there was something striking about the opening line from Ultron: “I’m gonna show you something beautiful. Everyone screaming, for mercy.” Musa Okwonga was the first to make the link.
“I’m going to show you something beautiful”, said Ronaldo, before last night’s game. “Everyone -screaming, for mercy.” #AgeofUltron
Yes! Those scenes of mass destruction at the hands of a super being: that was Anfield on Wednesday night. It was Cristiano Ronaldo who led the way in Real Madrid’s 3-0 decimation of Liverpool with a beautiful goal that, well, had the Kop screaming for mercy before they applauded him from the field.
Cristiano is ruthless right now, destroying opponent after opponent. In fact in many ways he is just like Ultron; angry at the world for not appreciating him enough, thus he’s out to remind them all how brutally brilliant he is. In the film, The Avengers will try and stop Ultron, but who can stop Cristiano Ronaldo here in real-life? What’s that, El Clasico is on Saturday? A star-studded showdown where Cristiano’s Real Madrid take on Barcelona; a team of superheroes that just a few years ago delighted and thrilled us much like The Avengers? Well there’s only one thing for this then: a Hypothetical Age Of Ultron XI! Continue reading →
Jonny McConnell looks at Diego Simeone’s options beyond Atlético Madrid…
It has been said over and over again, but even in management, Diego Simeone has retained the ferocity and sheer determination that made him such a formidable opponent in his playing days.
Often unpredictable on the pitch, he had enviable talent and he has impressively taken his playing qualities into his role as a manager. Since replacing Gregorio Manzano in December 2011, Simeone has showed his coaching ability to the world, helping the club escape from a period of mediocrity, moulding them into La Liga winners in the space of two and a half seasons. What next though? Can Simeone and the club improve on this, or have they finally reached their ceiling as a club. Continue reading →
Duncan Hart fondly recalls Robert Prosinecki’s time at Portsmouth, and beyond…
The transfer deadline countdown on Sky Sports News surely bores even the most ardent football fan. If you care to check, then you will probably find the latest gossip being repeated ad nauseum on the hour for the rest of August, as the latest mercenary switches between one fat pay cheque to the next.
But, this wasn’t always the case. Transfers used to take us by surprise. The world stopped for a few seconds when the news filtered slowly filtered through that Pelé had retired from his only club in Brazil, Santos, to join New York Cosmos in 1975. Many would have had to double check that it wasn’t April 1st when Middlesbrough signed Fabrizio Ravanelli from Juventus at the peak of his career in 1996. Even manager Alan Pardew looked startled when Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano landed in his lap at West Ham in 2006.
Many other clubs have had surprise transfers over the years, but I would argue that perhaps none beat the shock in August 2001 when my team Portsmouth FC signed Robert Prosinecki. Portsea Island shook itself a few further yards further from the mainland; such was the tremor of excitement that spread across the city when Pompey’s Serbian-American owner, Milan Mandaric, announced he had managed to persuade his Croatian “friend” to move to the South Coast. Continue reading →
Freddie Mickshik believes Gareth Bale’s sparkling performances could pave the way for a new wave of British players abroad…
Of the numerous British exports to Europe, few have delivered. This is undoubtedly due in part to a long era of Premier League dominance on the field coupled with financial clout off it, leaving little incentive for home-grown talent to fly the nest, and partly perhaps because the typical British-born player does not share the cosmopolitan outlook of his European or Latin-American counterpart.
Much has changed since the days of Kevin Keegan’s back-to-back Ballon d’Ors at Hamburg, let alone John Charles’ prolific spell at Juventus, which belongs to another age altogether. A low ebb of British football reached its nadir in the mid-1980s, with Keegan forging a trail for Brits in Europe followed most prominently and with greatly varying degrees of success by Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Paul Gascoigne. Continue reading →