Saturday, February 27, 2016

England's Elusive Hero

Bobby Moore The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson.

Bobby Moore The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson

Yellow Jersey Press

Bobby Moore died in 1993 aged only 51.

A year before I was stumbling boozily through the back streets of Stockholm with a couple of QPR fans I had met in Malmo, ahead of England's make or break Euro '92 showdown with Sweden in Solna (Tomas Brolin scored the winner in a 2-1 win for the hosts which knocked England out and ended Gary Lineker's international career).

As we walked over a bridge, one of them called, "There's Bobby!" and sure enough, strolling beneath us in short sleeves on that warm summer's day, alongside his wife Stephanie, was the legend himself.
In my young fan's fervour I grabbed my camera and yelled out to said icon, asking for a snap.

Bobby Moore stopped and looked upwards long enough for me to take my photo, noble and accommodating as any gentleman could ever be to a wide-eyed sycophant forgetting his manners.

How ironic the demi-god was literally looking up to us mere mortals instead of the other way around.
Moore slipped away a year later to everyone's horror- the announcement he had cancer had only arrived a couple of days before his death.

51 was of course tragically young for a hero to leave the stage and time seemed somehow dislocated when the first member of that sacred eleven who won the World Cup for England on the hallowed turf of Wembley was the most significant.

I recall how the tidal wave of tributes thought Moore was the last of his kind - a Corinthian gentleman in contrast to the car-crash stars of the '90s like Paul Gascoigne.

When he died in 1993 England were struggling again, and ended up not qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, which made him appear even greater, and this year's 50th anniversary of the win over West Germany will surely make Bobby Moore's star shine yet more brightly in the football firmament.

Who knows, in another half century's time he might still be the only Englishman to have lifted the World Cup into the sky.

England's Elusive Hero.


The blond cavalier, as noble as any medieval knight of folklore, on a summer's day on a field in England, aloft upon his comrades' shoulders, clasped the ultimate golden prize for the homeland of football, and in the process created one of the seminal images in his country's history.

That photo has become Bobby Moore, a moment's image cast in gold forever. Of course, no hero is flawless and no person so superficial as a photograph, but a nation starved of subsequent soccer success and the football world at large has been content to live with that fleeting image of ultimate glory as a fitting summary of a man's life.

When Moore died, the legend remained intact, a narrative cemented by the imposing twelve-foot statue that is centre-stage at the new Wembley, an effective replacement for the twin towers.

But as Matt Dickinson explores in his fascinating biography, Bobby Moore the Life in Full, this natural born icon led an amazing double existence.

The national icon did an extraordinary job in keeping his beer-fuelled evenings, every bit as bibulous as those of more famous drinkers like his pal Jimmy Greaves, from encroaching on his public persona.

Moore mastered the art of appearing in control at all times, apart from the odd occasion when he crashed his car after a night of excessive boozing.

He would stand calmly by the bar, apparently able to hold his drink, dressed immaculately and when he eventually stumbled back home, he would fold his clothes neatly before bed, however many units he had downed.

Even when the bizarre Bogota bracelet scandal threatened to keep him out of the World Cup, an incident to which Dickinson devotes an intriguing chapter, Moore stayed cool as a cucumber when the world's media buzzed around an England captain arrested on suspicion of shoplifting. In all probability it was a local scam perpetrated on more than one unsuspecting tourist at upmarket hotels.

His famously gentlemanly conduct can be reasonably traced to the sense of good manners and decorum prevalent in pre-war working-class British culture. Such chivalry in a soccer star seems dated now, and did by the 1970s when Moore was reaching the end of his career.

The years following his retirement cast West Ham and specifically the Football Association in an appalling light, as they carelessly casst aside their greatest asset by not awarding him a ceremonial role or using him to front campaigns.

The F.A. hierarchy seemed excessively pompous and out of touch in that decade, ignoring England's World Cup winning captain because he was a popular Cockney lad who had met some unsavoury characters in the East End, and scandalously dismissing Brian Clough's England managerial ambition because he was overwhelmingly wanted by the general public!

At least the Wembley statue is there to commemorate Moore now, but they should have done more for him when he was alive, as he was reduced to local radio and a sleazy tabloid for money in his final years.

Moore the perfect World Cup-winning skipper remains his life's universally accepted abbreviation and the rest he was happy to keep to himself.

Moore the inner soul still remains an enigma, but Dickinson's digging has got as close as anyone could get to defining him in depth.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, February 26, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions February 27 2016

bet365
Leicester City lost away at Arsenal last time out and hope to get their improbable (at the start of the season) title charge back on track at home to struggling Norwich.

Arsenal have the tougher game away to Manchester United at Old Trafford. This is a tough game to call as Arsenal have a poor record at Old Trafford but United are wracked by injuries and Thursday night in the Europa League apart, struggling to find the net.

Third placed Spurs face Swansea at White Hart Lane and will be hoping their former player Gylfi Sigurdsson doesn't come back to haunt them.

On Sunday, Manchester City take on Liverpool in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley with the Toure brothers Yaya and Kolo on opposite sides.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

West Ham 2 v Sunderland 0
Leicester 2 v Norwich 1
Southampton 1 v Chelsea 3
Stoke 2 v Aston Villa 0
Watford 1 v Bournemouth 0
West Brom 2 v Crystal Palace 1

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Liverpool 1 v Man City 1 (Capital One Cup)
Man Utd 3 v Arsenal 1
Tottenham 2 v Swansea 1

Soccer - Schweinsteiger set for March return

‎ Bastian Schweinsteiger believes he should be back in action for Manchester United by the beginning of March having been sidelined since the start of the year with a knee injury. The German midfielder damaged his medial ligaments in the FA Cup third round win over Sheffield United in January and will once again be absent when the Red Devils face Arsenal on Sunday, a game United are 15/8 to win with bet365. Schweinsteiger is amongst a large number of players currently unavailable to manager Louis van Gaal but he hopes to give his boss a boost at the start of March as he aims to get a run of games under his belt before Euro 2016 this summer. "Unless the European Championships is suddenly brought forward to the start of March, then it looks good," Schweinsteiger told Bild. "In about five days, I'll begin to start running again and five days after that I should be training with a ball again. I should be completely back on board in March."

Last time's predictions

Friday, February 12, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions February 13 2016

bet365
Well who would have believed it? Leicester City, who have lost just twice in 25 Premier League games, remain clear at the top of the Premiership after humbling Manchester City 1-3 at  the Etihad last weekend. On Sunday, Valentine's Day, they face Arsenal and another win on the road could really get us all believing their name is on the trophy. Arsenal are one of the two clubs who have beaten Leicester, thrashing them at the King Power Stadium.

Also on Sunday, Manchester City will be hoping to reassert themselves when they take on second place Spurs in Manchester. So the top four will be in action against each other this weekend

In the chasing pack, Manchester United, who are still fifth, travel to Sunderland and West Ham are away to Norwich. Rock bottom Villa are at home to Liverpool.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Sunderland 1 v Man Utd 3
Bournemouth 4 v Stoke 1
Crystal Palace 3 v Watford 2
Everton 2 v West Brom 1
Norwich 0 v West Ham 3
Swansea 2 v Southampton 2
Chelsea 2 v Newcastle 1

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Arsenal 3 v Leicester 1
Aston Villa 0 v Liverpool 3
Man City 0 v Tottenham 1

Leicester 33/1 Not To Lose Another Game – Title 7/1 To Be Settled By Goal Difference

Leicester City are 33/1 with bet365 not to lose another Premier League game this season as the Foxes visit Arsenal on Sunday – one of only two teams to have beaten them so far during 2015/6.

The surprise packages are 2/1 joint favourites to win the title, 7/2 to finish second and now 8/1 to finish outside the top four and bet365 are betting on the how far the Premier League will be won by – with goal difference quoted at 7/1.

2015/16 Premier League Outright

Leicester 2/1 Arsenal 2/1
Man City 10/3 Tottenham 5/1
Man Utd 40/1 Others on request

2015/16 Premier League Outright – Winning Margin

0 Pts:* 7/1 1 Pt: 4/1 2 Pts: 9/2
3 Pts: 11/2 4 Pts: 7/1 5 Pts+ 2/1
(*Includes GD, GS & Play Off)

Leicester City Finishing Position

1st 2/1 2nd 7/2 3rd 5/2 4th 6/1
5th+ 8/1

2015/16 Premier League – Total Leicester Losses

Under 2.5 33/1 Over 2.5 1/200
(Currently had 2)

Soccer - Iheanacho ready for Spurs showdown

Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho says his side need to treat their Premier League clash with fellow title chasers Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday like a "cup final". City, who are 1/1 with bet365 to beat Spurs at the Etihad, find themselves six points off top place following a 3-1 defeat on home soil to table-toppers Leicester City. Iheanacho knows his side will have to be at their best to bounce back against a Spurs side sat in second place in the Premier League table. He told Sky Sports: "We have to treat it like a cup final and give everything we have in the game. "They have quality players and are second in the league so we have to fight them right to the final whistle. "Everyone is sad that we lost last week and we have to put that behind us and move on. History was made that day but it's not in our mind."

Soccer - Blanc holds Euro dream

‎Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc says winning the Champions League is still the primary goal after signing a new deal at the club until 2018. The Ligue 1 champions, who are 14/1 with bet365 to win the Champions League this season, have decided to extend Blanc's deal at the Parc des Princes as the club continue to dominate domestically. Success in Europe has so far eluded the club under Blanc's tenure but the manager is adamant success in the Champions League is still the main ambition for the Parisian outfit. He said: "I want to thank the club for the faith they put in me. "There's still one competition that has eluded us - the Champions League - and it's very difficult to win. But one day, Paris St-Germain will win it."

Last time's predictions

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Dragon has Landed?

The Dragon has Landed?


The Chinese Super League has just outspent the Premier League but there have been false dawns like this before. It was bound to happen, wasn't it?

China's sleeping soccer dragon has at last caught fire as CSL clubs have outspent England's top flight in the January transfer window.

Their outlay of £199.5 million on new signings compares to £175m spent by the Premier League. With the Chinese window still open until the 26th of February, expect more Yen to be spent.

Top CSL signings:

Alex Texeira (26)           Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning              £38.4 million                 
Jackson Martinez (29)    Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande     £31 million
Ramires (28)                  Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning                             £25 million

These are extraordinary sums for players who while perfectly able internationals, would not make any best XI of European soccer.

Still, they cannot be labelled has-beens or rejects from top European soccer, as perhaps the likes of Demba Ba, Tim Cahill, Asamoah Gyan and Robinho, who all now ply their trade in China, could.

But there are other significant signings too such as 24 year-old Brazilian Ricardo Goulart who left Cruzeiro for Guangzhou Evergrande and his 27 year-old compatriot Renato Augusto who left champions Corinthians for Beijing Guoan and four times his Sao Paulo wages.

Chinese clubs are clearly wanting to make a splash and announce their league on the world stage, but are they making the classic mistake of starting to build from the top down instead of from the bottom up?

The nation's leader, President Xi Jinping, is a football fan and has tried to spread the game to the nation's schools, apparently with the desire to win the World Cup within the next quarter of a century for China.

The support of a giant state for football as a tool of cultural hegemony could make the difference. In the USA by contrast, a lukewarm attitude towards soccer among the establishment has left MLS to the whims of the unforgiving market.

Recent Chinese business investments in European clubs like Atletico Madrid and Manchester City have been underwritten by state money.

"I don't know how deep the desire is in China now," commented Arsene Wenger this week, "but if it is a very deep political desire then we should be worried."

Domestic TV money has leapt from £6 million a season last year to £138 million this. If the CSL maintains its European and South American raids in next summer's transfer window we will all have to sit up and take more notice.

The 16-team CSL still has a modest average crowd of 22,000, but that has doubled in ten years. Managers include Dan Petrescu, Dragan Stojkovic, Li Tie, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Alberto Zaccheroni and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Clearly all this is connected to China's emergence as an economic superpower soon to overtake the USA and the flamboyance of this sudden spending spree should be seen in the same light as their 2008 Olympic Games splurge.

In the 1970s the NASL announced its arrival with similar aplomb, big-name signings and a surge of media interest, before a lack of grass-roots foundations led to a swift and precipitous fall.

Those with longer memories will recall the tide of stars like Alfredo di Stefano who in the early 1950s flew out to join the Colombian "El Dorado" rebel league, which disintegrated four years later.

More recently the J-League and the Q-League have tried to redress their wealthy nations' anomalously low standing in football by the use of 'marquee signings' as they call it in the USA.

The resurgent top American league the MLS could have most to fear from a Chinese rival willing to outspend European leagues, as they have tried hard to build a base of American players to avoid the mistakes of the NASL, which relied too heavily on imports.

"China looks to have the financial power to move the whole league of Europe", said Wenger, but added, "Will they sustain their desire to do it?", referencing a similar phase the J-League went through a while ago.

Without the organic base, funding a Chinese league which can seriously compete with the world's biggest will be a question of throwing billions down a well.

Football is a notoriously bad financial investment, but a great way to stroke an ego, which much of this appears to be about, albeit regarding a superpower nation instead of a locally ambitious investor who wants his name in the newspapers.

The NASL in the 1970s spoke about propelling the USA to become the world's premier soccer nation on the back of its success but the national side failed ignominiously to make it to the World Cup finals in the 1980s. China is in a similar position now.

China's World Cup finals debut in 2002 was an embarrassment - three defeats out of three with no goals scored. They have failed to qualify since then and are currently ranked 93rd in the world, far below their high point of 37th in 1998.

There is only one overseas-based player in its men's squad - Zhang Chengdong of modest Rayo Vallecano. Their women's team are on the decline too - 17th in 2016 having been fourth in 2003.

On paper China should be a major footballing nation as befits the country's economic status and lack of competing professional sports.

But instead it is arguably world soccer's biggest underachiever.

A World Cup hosting would help grow the sport as it did for the USA in 1994, but with the farce of Qatar in 2022 set to go ahead, China will have to wait until 2030 at the earliest.

A sudden splash of cash might look ridiculous right now, but it could also go down as an important step in the uphill yet inevitable march of the Chinese: Sooner or later, like the USA and Australia, they have to join the world football party.

The dragon is not roaring yet, but it has woken up.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, February 5, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions February 6 2016

bet365
Leicester City are clear at the top of the Premiership and beginning to dream of an improbable title. The favorites remain Manchester City in second place who The Foxes face at the Etihad in the big game this weekend with Spurs and Arsenal also still in the race.

In the chasing pack, Manchester United, who are now fifth, take on Guus Hiddink's Chelsea in a Sunday game at Stamford Bridge, in a match they must win to have any chance of reigniting any fading hopes of challenging for the title themselves for which they are now placed at 33/1 with the bookies.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Man City 3 v Leicester 1
Aston Villa 1 v Norwich 0
Liverpool 2 v Sunderland 1
Newcastle 1 v West Brom 1
Stoke 1 v Everton 2
Swansea 2 v Crystal Palace 0
Tottenham 2 v Watford 1
Soton 2 v West Ham 0

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bournemouth 1 v Arsenal 2
Chelsea 2 v Man Utd 0

Leicester 28/1 To Claim Scalps Of Man City & Arsenal

Leicester City remain at the top of the Premier League after dispatching Liverpool with the minimum of fuss and bet365 are 28/1 about the Foxes winning their next two games - away at title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal.

Claudio Ranieri’s over-achievers are now into 9/2 to claim the Premier League crown and Jamie Vardy, who bagged a brace in front of Roy Hodgson, is 6/4 to start the Euro 2016 opener against Russia and 11/2 to finish as top scorer for his country.

Danny Drinkwater, who has been outstanding this season for the Foxes, is 4/1 to make the England squad in France this summer.

Tottenham haven't finished above Arsenal since 1995 but Spurs are now in front of their North London rivals on goal difference and Pochettino’s charges are 6/4 to end the campaign with bragging rights.

Combined Leicester City Points v Man City (06/02) & Arsenal (14/02)

0: 13/8 1: 5/2 2: 16/1 3: 3/1
4: 9/1 6: 28/1
2015/16 Premier League – Leicester City Finishing Position

1st 9/2 2nd 7/2 3rd 3/1 4th 10/3
5th+ 7/2
2015/16 Premier League Outright E/W ¼ 1,2 Man City 6/5 Arsenal 3/1
Leicester 9/2 Tottenham 11/2
Man Utd 33/1
2015/16 Premier League Match Bet Arsenal 1/2 Tottenham 6/4

Soccer - Hazard handled with care

‎Head coach Guus Hiddink says he will remain cautious about the usage of fit-again Chelsea forward Eden Hazard. The Belgium international came on as a second-half substitute in the goalless draw at Watford on Wednesday evening, having lasted 64 minutes of the 5-1 weekend FA Cup victory at MK Dons. And Hiddink has vowed not to rush Hazard into playing too big a part for his side, with the talented winger having endured a number of injury problems this season. Speaking after the Premier League stalemate with the Hornets at Vicarage Road, Hiddink told his club's official website: "He is coming back from a difficult time with two injuries and we are being careful with him, as we have a lot of games coming up now. "I am happy with the way he played when he came on. The judgement is when to bring him on. "For himself it is good to go step-by-step and we have a lot of games coming up when we need all the players." The Blues are back in action on Sunday when they bet365 welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge, with the Blues 21/20 with bet365 to secure a victory.

Soccer - Martinez suffers injury losses

‎Everton are almost certain to be without both Romelu Lukaku and John Stones for the Premier League trip to Stoke City on Saturday. Leading scorer Lukaku had to be replaced at half-time of the 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening, having taken a knock to his back. Meanwhile, central defender Stones was forced to miss the game due to a hamstring problem and both he and Lukaku are highly unlikely to be ready to face the Potters at the Britannia Stadium. Toffees boss Roberto Martinez said after a much-needed victory: "Lukaku couldn't walk. He had a knee in his back. We are playing on Saturday and it will be difficult to see him make it, but it is not a major problem. "Stones had a bit of a niggle in his hamstring. I think it was a fatigue reaction. I expect him to be back in the next week or ten days." A draw in the meeting of Stoke and Everton on Saturday is priced at 11/5 by bet365.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fifa World Rankings February 2016

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for February 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

There is no change in the top 18 teams. Belgium are still top, followed by losing Copa America and 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, Spain and 2014 world champions Germany.

The full top ten is Belgium, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, England and Austria.

Côte d'Ivoire are the top African team in 28th place down from 19th place last month.

Asian Cup winners Australia are in 68th place; beaten quarter-finalists Japan are in 58th. Near neighbors South Korea are in 53rd place after making the final of the Asian Cup, where they lost narrowly to the hosts, Australia. The USA are in 32nd. Wales are 17th. Scotland are in 46th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 30th place, Northern Ireland are in 29th position.

1 Belgium
2 Argentina
3 Spain
4 Germany Portugal
5 Chile
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
8 Colombia
9 England
10 Austria
11 Uruguay
12 Switzerland
13 Ecuador
14 The Netherlands
15 Italy
16 Romania
17 Wales
18 Croatia
19 Hungary
20 Turkey

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Olhanense

Olhanense are a Portuguese professional club from the small, resort town of Olhão on the Algarve in the south of the country.

Olhanense, Estadio Jose Arcanjo.

Olhanense have been in the top flight of Portuguese football as recently as 2014 but are presently in the second division (Segunda Liga). The team plays its football as the rather run down 11,600-capacity Estadio Jose Arcanjo. The team was formed back in 1912 and were the first team from outside the two big cities of Lisbon or Porto to win a major trophy, the Campeonato de Portugal in 1924.

Olhanense, Portugal.

Abel Xavier, the former Liverpool full back, began his managerial career with the club in 2013.

www.scolhanense.com
Estádio José Arcanjo
Apartado 104, Rua da Feira 8700-000 Olhão
Portugal
Tel: 0289 702 632