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Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Many clubs have a question mark in the shape of an axe-head hanging over them."

Well, Spurs did the Toon a big favor by sending Sam the
Sham back to the frozen north with no points. But with
West Ham in the FA Cup final, it's still a tough road to
Europe for the Magpies.

England is supposed to receive four spots for the 2006-07
UEFA Cup. The fifth-placed team in England will get a
place for sure, and, with the League Cup in the hands of
a Champions League qualifier, so will the sixth-placed
team. The third spot in the UEFA Cup will go to West
Ham, regardless of the result at the Millennium Stadium.

The fourth spot should, in principle, go to the
seventh-placed team. Even if Boro win the thing this
year, they are still supposed to be an additional entry,
as per Annex II, Section 2, Paragraph (e) of "Regulations
of the UEFA Cup." The lads from Tyneside aren't
guaranteed seventh, though, especially given that they're
now behind both Blackburn and Bolton on goal differential
and must play the Billionaire Boys last.

At the moment, according to the coefficient rankings,
England have an 18 percent chance of netting another UEFA
Cup place through the UEFA Fair Play league. That would
presumably go to the eighth-place team. And of course,
there's always Intertoto. Ah, the groans are already
audible, loyal readers, say no more....


TDH will be mighty disappointed if David Villa manages to
pip Samuelito for the Pichichi, especially with Villa
padding his total with penalties. Primera Liga fans need
to live with the fact that the guy they love to abuse has
set the standard.

Speaking of Valencia, though, Pablo "The Clown" Aimar
looked magisterial in his return to action on Sunday.
The opposition offered by Alaves was pretty pathetic, but
Aimar, so neglected by fans here, should be booking his
place in Germany with ease.


TDH will only shed a few tears as Treviso goes down to
Serie B. Sure, it’s nice to see small teams in the top
flight, but only 3,463 supporters showed up to see them
draw against Ascoli in the Omobono Tenni, which seats
9,400. With that kind of support, they should be playing
the legendary Castel di Sangro instead of Juventus....

"They need to win more than us, but obviously we need to win just as much."

No one in the press seems to be knocking the Toon for
only drawing at St. Mary's. But let's face it, this was
not the result we needed. Now we have to hope that Next
Week's Blues play about as well as This Week's Blues, or
that they still have a hangover from their title
celebrations. Bolton have three games left, and it's
hard to imagine that they'll only come away with three

Not surprisingly, the Especially Self-Centered One
managed to claim all the attention for himself after the
Billionaire Blues clinched the title at the Bridge. Hey
Jose, it's fine to do that during the season, when you're
taking the pressure off your players. Now, though, don't
you think it's time to let them have the spotlight to
themselves? Okay, it might be the only thing Jose could
learn from Stevie Mac, but it's something.

As for all this hoodoo about having the worst job in the
world (thanks to all of Governor Abramovich's money) TDH
will personally cry The Especially Pitied One a river.
It's true, "Tuesdays With" Mourinho would be revered more
in England if he accomplished the same things he did at
Porto without an infusion of several hundred million
pounds. Yes, his life must be tough, especially now that
he has to buy yet another coat. Shucks.


No Rooney? No Owen? Well, whom would you pick? Tito,
Latoya, Jermaine is probably having wet dreams right
about now. TDH is betting Owen, at least, will be fit
for Germany. But let's say, for a moment, that there are
indeed three striking spots up for grabs.

To get some good variety in the setup, you'd keep Crouch,
take Defore and then add Bent and Harewood. Any
dissenters? Actually, if TDH was in a sufficiently wacky
mood, it would be tempting to play Stevie G as a second
striker behind Crouch. No one (except perhaps
Va-Va-Voom) is deadlier from the corners of box, as he
showed once again against O'Weary and hapless Ashcan


What is this, Curbs, a sort of pissing contest? TDH can
just see him seething behind that calm, bespectacled
facade. "So, you don't think I'd ever quit Charlton, eh,
Brian Barwick? Well, I'll show you, oh yes I will!"
Well, Alan, enjoy your retirement. If you're lucky,
someone will send you a ticket to the Euro 2008 final.


If you're Juliano Belletti, and you've just been gifted a
dummied ball by Giuly deep in the offensive half, and
you've proceeded to bounce a terrifyingly ugly cross
towards the center of the box, who is the person you most
want to see there waiting? Why, L'il Ron, of course!

Not only L'il Ron, but a wide-open L'il Ron who can
instantly volley the ball towards the roof of the Cadiz
goal, then wheel away in joy during the millisecond
between the time the ball leaves his foot and when it
crosses the six-yard line, and then - after the ball has
finally punched the nylon - point to you several times as
though you actually deserve all the credit. Lucky
Belletti. Lucky, lucky Belletti.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"If someone talks about my private life I'll give them a good punching. I'm not interested in suing. I like to sort things out my way."

Never second-guess Big Phil, or follow him to an
airport check-in, for that matter!

TDH didn't go as far as to say that he was already the
England coach, and neither did Soccernet. But the BBC
did, and now they've got to take it all back - without
saying they are, of course. In fact, their original
story could still be proven right if this is just an
elaborate shadow play to protect Felipao's dealings
with Portugal.

Yet who knows. The situation has gotten sufficiently
screwed up that Brucey is saying Stevie Mac really
should have been the man all along.

TDH would certainly prefer Steve-o's relative
innocuousness to the dour gloom of Big Sam and maybe
even to the supposed nous of Martin O'Neill. Given
the quality of England's players, they don't need a
genius - just a motivator who knows basic tactics.
Stevearino qualifies. Plus, he's the only one with a
proven ability to stand up to Wine Hrooney (who, in
the Daddy Mac Era, would be known as Wheyne Runny).
If Psycho's not on the cards, then maybe Mac Daddy is
the best one left. Your thoughts, loyal readers?


Finally, how about Philly Pow bragging that he'd
turned down jobs at Barca and Real while coaching
Portugal! Scholastic took the Portugal job back in
November 2002. Van Gaal was fired in January 2003,
and Antic took over until the end of the season.
Rijkaard was hired in June 2003 after Barca, clearly
suffering from an addiction to Dutch courage, failed
to nab Hiddink.

So when did the prolix Brazilian get the Barca offer?
TDH has to assume it was in spring 2003, otherwise the
only conclusion would be that Rijkaard has been
skating on thin ice - which sounds ludicrous. But
saying you were offered "Barca in the spring of 2003"
doesn't sound quite as grandiose as when you just say
"Barca" today, does it? Ha!

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Four-threes don't grow on trees..."

Stevie Mac certainly didn't take credit for the second
stunning comeback of Boro's UEFA Cup campaign. Asked by
BBC Tees Radio about his formation in the late stages, he
said, "I don't know what we were at the end." He
conceded his own despondency after Boro found themselves
in a 3-0 hole with two away goals. "We thought, ah, it's
not going to be our night tonight," said The
Ruddy-Cheeked One. "But we made it our night."

Speaking of ruddy cheeks, Steve-o even admitted that he'd
be drinking more than Lucozade this evening. "This
doesn't happen many times in your career," he sighed with
a reticent Yorkshire honk not unlike the call of a Canada
goose. "You've got to make the most of it."


As we now know, Stevearoonie will not be heading to
London again this year, except to lose to West Ham. No,
he'll be staying on Teesside for a while, where he seems
to believe that he has an incredible crop of young
players on tap. (Where are they - pushing The Romford
Pele and Ehiogu's wheelchairs? TDH will give him Downing
and maybe Parnaby, but come on; most of the kids wouldn't
look out of place up the road at Hartlepool.)

Yes, Felipao seems to be the pick in Soho Square. As TDH
has said before, you could do a lot worse. The problem
is that The Big Phill supposedly speaks no English. TDH
has heard a rumor, however, that an expert
English-Portguese translator with previous experience
working under an England football boss may soon be
looking for a new job....

Seriously, though, Scoleosis would be crazy to turn down
the England job. The pay-per-work ratio has to be one of
the highest in the business. Moreover, the next four
years will probably be the best England have had in ages,
given the youth of the top players in the squad. Indeed,
were it not for Brazil, TDH would say England must win
one of the next three major tournaments. If Sven fails,
Phil may yet succeed.


NOTE: It may take a while to update the stats on the
right-hand side of the screen. That part of Blogger
ain't working for TDH these days, either.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"And he's uncorked an absolute peach of a goal!"

That priceless bit of recent commentary, care of ESPN's
village idiot, unfortunately did not apply to today's
biggest match. We had two Champions League semi-final
ties and a total of two goals in them. The Barca v Milan
game did have plenty of attacking football in it, but one
had to ask the same question again: where were the Milan

Andrei "Maverick" Shevchenko and Sergio "Iceman" dos
Santos were probably out hunting MiG's for most of the 90
minutes, because they definitely weren't on the pitch at
the Camp Nou. And, to mix metaphors, when Shaqchenko
finally did get a swish, he was called for a charge in
the paint.

In the meantime, back in the skies above Catalonia,
Pippo's targeting system seemed to be off by about 45
degrees to the left. Costcurta filled in pretty well for
Nesta, but most of the time he looked like he'd rather be
smoking a cigarette back home at Just Cavalli.

For Barca, L'il Ron usually had to run against three
defenders at a time. Still, he managed to duplicate that
"Oh look, the ball's popped straight up into the air from
nowhere and, whoops, you're behind me!" move that he did
as a kid in the Joga Bonito commercial. 'Twas worth the
price of admission.

Anyway, it should be an enjoyable final, with two of the
most stylish teams in the world facing off.
(Incidentally, loyal readers, have you seen TH's
goal-from-behind-the-goal on the latest Joga Bonito spot?
He's a bloody physicist!) TDH's only fear is that The
Goon Show will continue playing what Adidas would
undoubtedly dub "Lehmann +10" football....


Yes, the uncorked peach of the day was on this continent.
The three-time South American footballer of the year
came back to the stadium of his old nemesis, Paper Plate,
and sidestepped two defenders before lashing in a
near-post opener so incredible that the soundtrack went
silent for a good five seconds. TDH's jaw was on the
carpet. Finally, Fox Sports' Fernando Niembro, color man
and undercover Peronist politician, managed to rasp out,
"Que jugador, mama mia, por Dios!" Carlitos definitely
belongs in TDH's World XI, oh yes, Mara....

Unfortunately, the Millonarios came back with a vengeance
(like TDH!). Carlitos, who had a good header wrongly
ruled out, and Mascherano, who was sent off for two
yellows in the 67th, couldn't do it by themselves; the
out-of-shape Corinthians defenders could actually be seen
huffing and puffing. Did TDH ever mention that River
Freight has an enormous, lit-up club badge on the
sideline at midfield? TDH definitely wants one for St.
James's Park - with the seahorses, of course.

A couple of hours away in Brazil, TDH's buddies on
Palmeiras managed a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their
Round of 16 match against Sao Paulo in the Copa
Libertadores. The goal by Sao Paulo's Aloisi was a
classic, though, threading the needle of defender and
keeper to beat poor Sergio, TDH's air terminal bus

Honestly, UEFA could take a page out of Conmebol's book
when it comes to big club tournaments. The Libertadores
often runs four nights a week, with domestic league
matches scheduled around it. If more European leagues
played on Friday nights, Champions League viewing time
could be extended into Monday at least!



"Maybe not goodbye, but farewell..."

Publishing on Blogspot hasn't been working for several
days, so TDH has some catching up to do. To get around
the problems, TDH is experimenting with posting by email.
Thank you, loyal readers, for your patience!


Let's start with a tribute to the skipper.

There will surely be a chorus of critics cynically using
his retirement as an excuse to say, once again, that he
was an obstacle rather than a bolster to the Magpies'
success. TDH doesn't buy it. Even in his last years, he
provided leadership and goals. We saw in the past couple
of months that, with a decent manager, Uncle Alan could
still fit into the setup - in fact, more than fit in,

But let us not forget the many earlier years he gave to
the club, and the countless goals (well, 206 to be
exact): the hammer-like headers, the seemingly impossible
volleys, the almost automatic penalties and the
thunderbolts from distance. Few strikers posed as much
of a threat on the half-chance. What looked unlikely
suddenly became reasonable, thanks to his involvement.

We'll miss him for a few years. But as Sir Bob said
before, we'll undoubtedly see him again.


Whatever possessed The Especially Peculiar One to play
with no wingers in the FA Cup Semifinal? Shockingly,
Duff, Cole and Robben were on the bench, with SWP nowhere
in sight. Did Geremi look so unstoppable in training?
Did he think he would clog up the midfield with big

And one has to wonder whether Cech would have done a
better job than Cudicini. A goalkeeper who stands still
during a free kick isn't doing his job. If you don't
make a move one way or another, you stand no chance at
all - unless you think the ball's coming right for you,
and that didn't seem too likely. Well, Roman will have
to be happy with his emerging dynasty at the top of the
Premiership. Sigh for him.


How much football was in the Arsenal v Villareal match?
About five minutes' worth? And who knew the Gooners
could play that kind of slam-the-door game? One of the
local commentators, Luis Omar Tapia, called it
"Catenaccio Ingles" - he was right on the money!

Sol looked a bit unsteady at first but gradually got his
rhythm back. TDH was glad to see it. He may be a
headcase, but he's always given good service to his teams
when he's been healthy and unpreoccupied.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blogger, please help TDH!

Blogger's problems have prevented TDH from publishing for the past several days. Please stay tuned as we sort things out together. Thanks, loyal readers, for checking in!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Aim for the ceiling and you'll stay on the floor.”

Would somebody like to explain to TDH how a land-based mammal like a squirrel can make it onto the pitch at Highbury? Well, if this animal could, then TDH supposes any species would have a shot....

In any case, it was a pretty enjoyable match against El Submarino, wasn't it? Certainly it was if you were into fashion. The Austrian referee, Konrad "Bruno" Plautz, was kind enough to give half the members of Villareal's team a cute little card to coordinate with their yellow outfits. Their outfits might have been green, though, by the end of the math, what with all the time they spent sprawled on the pitch. Isn't there an old joke that starts, "How many stretchers does it take to carry a submarine?"

The ref also turned a blind eye as Gilberto Silva attempted to use his legs to slice Jose Mari in half on the edge of the box. In fact, given the fairly obvious difference in class, the Gooners should feel a bit embarrassed that the match could easily have ended 1-1.

Next time around, TDH is guessing, the Blind Frenchman will bring on the Flying Dutchmen a bit earlier. As soon as they came on to relieve Hleb and the underwear model, the chances poured in fast and furious. The main threat, of course, was always TH. You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him....


The Brum Bums beat Fight Club! More good news for the Toon. Now, as long as we can beat the very same Bums and their neighboring muppets, all will probably be well.

"I’d like to play for an Italian club... like Barcelona."

Well, TDH was watching Milan v Barca and simultaneously wishing that Villa could strip a few points off Wigan. It didn't happen, but at least the big match of the night had some entertaining moments.

You wouldn't have predicted it, though, after the first 20 minutes or so. A few crummy tackles and the game was starting to turn into another grinder in the Barca v Chelsea mold. Fortunately, things opened up a bit afterwards and into the second half.

Despite the uniqueness of the Italian style of play, there were parallels aplenty. Both teams were clearly capable of attractive football. Both teams had large Brazilian contingents, in a bizarre mirroring of the Argentine tie between Villareal and Inter Milan. Both missed makeable free kicks, too, via L'il Ron and Pirlo. After Giuly finally converted, the game was wide-open. Ol' Blue Eyes finally came on, supposedly to allow Fattuso to get forward. And later, both teams put on a blond striker with a headband.

By that time, however, Barca had turned into a vast, Brazilian triangle factory. Ronaldinho to Belletti to Motta to Edmilson to Samueletinho to Vanbommelinho.... They tiddled the ball around Goon-Show-like, and in the dying minutes Maxinho (of the blond hair and headband) even chose to dribble into the corner rather than take a wide-open shot on Dida. Inho.

Milan didn't play badly for a team coached by a railroad hobo. But TDH's big question for Mara is, what happened to the vaunted Milan wingmen? The service for Sheva and Gilardino just wasn't coming in from the sides of the pitch. They can't count on Pirlo's through balls all the time. It'll be interesting to see how the hobo mixes things up for the Camp Nou.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Up the Premier League we go / When we get to Europe / This is what we'll sing / We are Geordies, super Geordies / Roeder is our King"

For TDH, today was a time of rubbing hands together with fiendish glee. Roeder slaps the lads into shape at halftime and conjures up a famous victory in the Stadium of Shite! Luque and Chops score their first goals against the Mackems! The Whammers fall to The Team That Doesn't Care About the League! Bolton only manage a draw against puny West Bomb! And lo, NEWCASTLE ARE TWO POINTS CLEAR IN A UEFA CUP SPOT!

Sure, Bolton and Wigan still have a game in hand, but the Magpies' schedule should yield a few more precious points. The only damper, of course, was the injury to Uncle Alan, who may see his career ended three matches prematurely. That would indeed be tragic - particularly if the team were to miss out on Europe as a result - but finishing up on the scoresheet against Scumderland would be a decent runner-up. The skipper said as much in a post-match interview where he pointedly denied any desire to coach alongside Roeder, if he's hired, next season.

Still, let's go back to the main news here: HOW DID THIS MIRACLE HAPPEN? Even if the team don't make it into Europe, Roeder's achievement will be substantial and undeniable. He didn't win the big ones, but he won the winnable ones - ALL of them, so far. Let's hope Freddie has the sense to keep him at the club in some capacity.


In other news, TDH was a little miffed to have found out too late about the Gulf Air football tournament in Manama, Bahrain. Yes, that's right, this fine airline organizes a tournament for expatriate amateurs, and TDH figured that there was just a chance of parlaying a Gulf Air frequent flyer card into a spot on the Gulf Air Club team. Or, more likely, TDH might have founded a US team to play against the expats from Jordan, Oman, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Iran. (Yeah, we would have been a popular bunch.)

Seriously, though, why don't more companies get into this business? Strangely enough, most of the Americans TDH has met in Buenos Aires say they play football. (Well, maybe they'd get deported if they didn't.) There are almost certainly enough for a quality squad, were Aerolineas Argentinas ever to get their act together....

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Football's not just about scoring goals - it's about winning."

Well said, skipper! It was a weekend in which many screws turned. First of all, more congratulations to Roeder and the lads for pulling out a great victory over Wigan. TDH doesn't know how Roeder is managing to extract decent performances from Amoeba and even Chops, but somehow it's happening. Maybe it just shows what a crummy coach Souey was. A UEFA spot is definitely a possibility, given the remaining schedule.

Let's not get our hopes up too high. But TDH was rooting for Liverpool against Blackburn, despite Friedel's presence, only because Fight Club was more of a threat to the Toon's hopes. In the end, the Spaniard dubbed Harry Potter's dad by The Singing Commentator, Juan Manuel Pons, beat the Welshman dubbed George W. Bush by same.

In other news, Mr. Angry's title hopes are most probably over after that little embarrassment against the Mackems. TDH is sorry indeed that the Magpies just missed a chance to deal the final blow to the Wearside Weaklings, but it was almost worth it to see Sir's comeuppance. Yes, it will take time until TDH hates the Billionaire Boys Club as much as Manure. But hey, give 'em a few more titles and we'll see.

Finally: crush some of the better teams in Europe, then go down to defeat against Pompey. Does anyone think Boro are even trying in the League? And would you tell them to, if you were Stevie Mac? Saving every ounce of energy for the cups doesn't seem like such a bad idea, as long as the fans don't mind. And it certainly doesn't stretch the imagination to consider Steve and Harry cutting a little training room deal over a few bottles of Royal Salute....


Meanwhile, rumors have been flying about El Nino Torres, the Toon's possible summer target. Apparently Reyes is trying to convince the Arsenal brass to sign him, as a replacement for Henry. Well, no one can replace Henry. But Torres would be a better fit into Va-Va-Voom's spot than into Uncle Alan's. As TDH has said before, if Owen is to be part of the setup, the Toon need a big man to win those balls in the air.

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Systems are made by players rather than players making systems."

With only a few relative snoozers in the Copa Libertadores on tap tonight, TDH has decided to bring out one of the old chestnuts of football chatter. The inspiration comes from La Redo (link at right), our Argentine friends, who received over 100 responses. But that's La Redo for you. And the question: you're the manager, you have to win one game, and you can pick anyone - who's your World XI?

TDH thought long and hard about this one. Simply picking the best player at each position won't guarantee winning games, though it might come close. At first, perhaps, it's best to pick your formation. But then again, not every formation might be able to fit the players you fancy.

Anyway, TDH will get you started with a good old 4-4-2:


He always comes up trumps in big games, plus his size gives him a natural advantage. His 2002 World Cup performance was nothing short of stunning. TDH knocked him recently, but has since thought better of it in light of Blackburn's almost non-existent defense.

Gallas, Nesta, Terry, Miguel

Nesta and Terry are surely two of the finest centerbacks ever to play the game, and Terry's still young. TDH has had a soft spot for Miguel, who is incredibly mobile and very tidy, since Euro 2004. Gallas, though he prefers to play at center, is about as good as it gets these days on the left - speed and power. With Ashley Cole out of action, he's the man.

Schweinsteiger, Vieira, Pirlo, Tevez

What, no Arjen Robben? No Fat Frank? That's right, loyal readers, TDH is going for the stone-cold killers here; experience and guile rather than pure talent alone. Strength and savvy in the middle, work-rate and incisiveness on the wings. And if you're wondering who would take the TDH XI's free kicks, then you haven't been watching Schweinsteiger lately.

Henry, Van Nistelrooy

Ronaldinho? Eto'o? Well, come on now. Va-Va-Voom is the most prolific striker in the world. So, if you had to pick a partner for him, who would it be? Surely one of the most reliable close-range (and oblique angle) finishers in the game, to match up with Voom's magical abilities from distance. Remember, we're not picking players to last for another five years, just to win a single game.

Okay, so while TDH was writing this, Mariano Pavone scored in injury time to put Estudiantes into the next round of the Copa Libertadores and then climbed up the cyclone fencing and screamed at the fans on the terraces in Quilmes. Still, bit of a slow night....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"You're just a fat Eddie Murphy...."

Well, not exactly. He may be old, he may be hard to get along with, but the fact remains: Jimmy Floyd has a cannon attached to his pelvis. His screamer against Charlton pretty much put the game away. It's clear that Boro are a much better side with Rochemback and Downing in the lineup, and somewhat better than their position in the table would indicate. Viduka is looking positively fit these days, too, or is it just the haircut? (See before and after here.)

In any event, Curbs' boys didn't take most of their early chances and were always limited to the counter afterwards. That wasn't enough for a team of somewhat inferior quality and experience. Bent seemed dangerous at times and was a bit unlucky not to score, but it would be great to see him playing with a little guile and a smile on his face. Most of the time, he just looked worried.

Now we must contemplate the remote yet inherently disturbing possiblity that Boro could take home two important trophies this year. Very entertaining match, though, if messy at times. "Un partidazo!" the locals said.


TDH has been musing on the Magpies' chances of stealing a UEFA Cup place this year. Bolton are three points up with a game in hand, but the Toon have something close to a dream schedule in the remaining five fixtures: Sunderland, West Brom, Birmingham, Wigan and Chelsea. The last two, though obviously tougher, are at St. James's. A rational Geordie, if such a person were to exist, would pronounce anything less than 10 points a disappointment. Clearly, the Wigan match will be a six-pointer. But 10 from 15 might be enough to jump up a couple of slots, perhaps even a few.

"We have one David Beckham playing abroad, and that would be two."

TDH read with some trepidation the news that a certain male-model-cum-England-captain may be planning to end his career in Major League Soccer. If there's one thing MLS doesn't need, it's to become another retirement home for washed up footballing deities a la the old NASL. Sure, there are plenty of folks back home who had the chance to see Pele in person because of the NASL's star-f**cking, but let's remember that the league collapsed under its own weight.

MLS is succeeding because of grass roots fan support, committed owners and ever-improving crops of young Yanks and Latin Americans playing the best football of their lives. Hopefully, by the time Becks deigns to take his skills Stateside, it'll be hard for him to get a game. In the meantime, TDH will be looking forward to that MLS All-Stars v Chelsea match tentatively scheduled for this summer....

By the way, TDH won't be drawn on the name change for the New York Red Bulls. Come on, "New York-New Jersey MetroStars" was about the worst name in history for a sports franchise. Anything would have been an improvement, commercial or not - even the "East Rutherford Snapples," for example.


Is football a victim of its own success?

Or, in other words, why did a mob consisting of scores of Inter fans attack their own players - after a win, no less? Obviously, the fans' reaction to losing out on the Champions League was beyond any reasonable standards of human behavior. But why is it that they care so much? Is football's marketing too powerful, or would these folks' violent furies be channeled into some other obsession, like watercolors, if they didn't have football?

TDH supposes that these questions will never be answered, since we can't test these folks in a football-less world (though it might be fun to turn the San Siro into an adult art school). Still, food for thought.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"As one door closes, another one shuts."

TDH is in a foul, foul mood. Yes, TDH has been reminded once again just what kind of muppets occupy the swish offices in Soho Square, whiling away the days as they dream of box seats at the World Cup final and Faria Alam's breasts. They are apparently so devoid of any diplomatic or negotiating skill that Guus Hiddink, who had to be in the top 2 or 3 picks to be the next England manager, would rather coach RUSSIA than deal with such idiots.

Yes, Russia. In the past several years, the team has had little to go on besides Mostovoi, Karpin and Smertin, two of whom are now over the hill and one of whom is darn close. Does Hiddink have some inside information that the team is set to become Vladimir Putin's pet project? Will the Dutchman, who's already salted away this season's Eredivisie championship, soon be taking home suitcases of crisp $100 bills and a few thousand shares of Gazprom? What could possibly have lured him?

It just seems far more likely that he threw up his hands at the absolute incompetence and incessant meddling of the FA, which, let's face it, can't even get a stadium built on time. TDH wishes Hiddink well in his new and presumably cushy post. Have some more caviar, Guus, yes, there's a good boy. (Pronunciation key: "Hev sam mur kevyar, Guus, yis, zayr's eh gud buoy.")


The long-awaited news seems finally to have come: Heinze is back. Mr. Angry wants to shore up his defense as he tries to skin seven points off the Billionaire Boys, and the Argentine is being rushed into service. If he's healthy, great news for La Seleccion. If not, he'll promptly be injured again, and Sir will have a good laugh as Heinze gets to rest for the whole summer. Pekerman must be boiling.

And speaking of La Seleccion, the variance of opinion here on who should play is simply staggering. In the England setup, there are maybe three spots up for grabs in the 23. Here, it could be a dozen. Obviously, whomever the coach picks, a lot of people will be unhappy. But the locals don't like to get their hopes up, so the anxiety fits the mood.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"If you don't want to know the results, close your ears."

There is a ton of news.

Top of the charts has to be the Toon's vault into the top half of the table thanks to a critical away win at Boro. Who, exactly, are these pretenders to the 2006 UEFA Cup? Can they possibly be as good as the inheritors of that fine predecessor to said chamionship, the 1969 Inter-City Fairs Cup? Evidently not! But no, this does not mean TDH will finally say something nice about Amoeba. TDH will only say that Roeder's doing well to win all the easier ones, even if he can't pull out any truly big results.


Today the Red Mist showed that at least one team can still disrupt The Goon Show's pretty triangles. TDH was almost fooled, but clearly Mr. Angry wasn't. Even with his hottest striker on the bench, Sir managed to stick a big monkey wrench in Le Voyeur's plans.

One must ask why those plans included leaving Terry Henry on the bench, with only a midweek tie at Pompey on the schedule. Perhaps The Goon Show are hoping to make it back into the Champions League via the Liverpool Rule (Rool?). And indeed, their Premier League performances haven't affected their European challenge so far.

El Roon demonstrated once again that he rises to the occasion in big matches, something that will surely warm the cockles of Sven's heart. Toure's lunge at Wine's early shot was clearly a handball; with fair play and a little luck, the Menace from Merseyside could have had a hat trick. Now if he could only sort out those 700,000 pounds of gambling debts....

It's been a good weekend all around for Manure, what with the AIG shirt deal coming through. Those who crowed over the loss of Vodafone will now have to consider whether the Glazers are crazy like the proverbial foxes. TDH notes that the hair of both species is the same color, at least among the Glazers who have some, which isn't many. (Whew, that was a lot of links for a bad joke.)

The Special One doesn't have to worry too much about the challenge from the Theater of Screams, though, if his defenders keep scoring three per match. The Billionaire Boys have certainly relied on goals from their back four from time to time, something one wouldn't expect given the money they've spent on the front six. Remember in mid-season, when JT won two matches all by himself? Well, let's just say it's probably not something they should count on for the future.


How, how, how did the FA manage to screw up Guus Hiddink's candidacy for England manager before it started? Fans will doubtlessly spend many hours and pints ruminating over this very question as Sam Allardyce leads The Most Boring England Squad Ever to defeat against Estonia and Andorra in the qualifiers for Euro 2008....


Finally, a bit of chatter from the Continent.

* Is there a single Spanish stadium outside the Camp Nou that's not populated by openly racist fans? Pichichi Eto'o again suffered abuse, this time at the Sardine Can. He answered in characteristic fashion with a well-taken strike, but really, that's no consolation. Those FIFA sanctions can't come fast enough for La Liga. It's a disgrace.

* Are the rotors coming off the Yellow Submarine's domestic campaign, in Goon Show fashion? Riquelme was left standing in amazement as his teammates bungled yet another free kick against Depor. Then he watched as Gonzalo Rodriguez muffed the simplest of passes for an easy goal. The man loves his football, and his sense of decency was clearly offended.

* Yes, Mara, Kaka is looking scary for Milan. TDH would bet he scores more goals in the World Cup than Ronaldo or Robinho. Any takers?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Craig Bellamy has literally been on fire."

Apologies, loyal readers, for TDH's silence this week. Football was temporarily displaced by riding horses to the edge of a glacier, then, a day later, getting stuck in the mud on the way back to civilization. Glaciers are worth the trip.

Back to the matters at hand. Today's schedule offered a battle of the ex-Toon strikers. TDH grimaced as that Welsh pest - how has he managed to stay healthy for so long? - showed real flair for Blackburn. And TDH grimaced, too, as Fight Club left poor Brad Freidel to dive around the penalty area in a hopeless personal battle against poor defending.

That said, Friedel should have stopped Lua Lua's goal. He had a clear view of the ball and there was nowhere else the Congolese acrobat could have gone with it. Friedel's taken himself out of the US squad, and maybe he has indeed lost half a step.


In other news somehow linking Tyneside and the US, only snow could stop Brian McBride from sending the Mackems back to the Championship. If West Brom win tomorrow, it's all over. If not, there's still a chance that the Magpies could administer the final blow over at the Stadium of Shite. Well, we can hope.


Finally, is City's Samaras quality, or what? In his first eight matches in the Premiership, he's got 3 goals and 1 assist - all at the ripe old age of 21. He's supposed to be at Maine Road until the summer of 2009, but he'll be signing for a bigger club sometime soon. Mark TDH's words!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Special: A Celebrity in Buenos Aires

The specials are coming fast and furious!

On a rainy day in Buenos Aires, TDH was just finishing a little shopping and heading home when what should come pulling up the road but a brand new Mercedes van, painted black with "Joga Bonito" in gold on the side. TDH tried to get a glimpse of who was inside as the van looked for a parking space. Finally, it double-parked and let a few people off next to a fancy local boutique.

TDH crossed to the other side of the street. No one was still in the van, but there, inside the boutique, a tall man with scraggly brown hair was standing with his back to the glass door. TDH entered. The sales assistants were speaking to the man in French. And yes, it was he: Cantona.

At first, TDH didn't know what to do; does one approach the Messiah of Old Trashford in English, French or Spanish? English seemed a safe bet, given the man's long stint in Madchester. But TDH had just used the last scrap of paper in TDH's wallet for something else. It was time to sacrifice a two peso note (worth about $0.65 at today's exchange rate). Being a good reporter, TDH had a pen, as always.

Mr. Angry's finest No. 7 seemed quite surprised to be accosted in front of an display case of custom Nike's, and it was with a look of joy and astonishment that he greeted TDH's request. (TDH is not exaggerating - it was as though TDH had just presented him with a birthday cake.) He signed the banknote without hesitation.

TDH left after letting drop a polite compliment about the former beach soccer star's current television commercials. After all, anything that castigates divers and feigners is worthwhile in TDH's book, even if it's paid for by Nike. But TDH did not try to shake the hand seen here in the Theatre des Reves. Let's not forget for whom the Frenchman played, eh?

A few hours later, TDH was contemplating the image on the banknote, that of Bartolome Mitre, patriarch of the family that still owns La Nacion. Just look at Mitre and Cantona. Coincidence, or fate?

Special: A Trip to La Bombonera

(The weekend's European wrap appears in the next post below.)

TDH has a friend in town, and it seemed like the time had finally come to visit one of the local shrines to football, Boca's Bombonera. TDH would never be caught dead in River's Monumental, except to see La Seleccion. Still, it was a bit odd to be an Independiente fan watching Boca v Banfield. But TDH cheered for good football, and Boca ultimately produced some.

Step back a moment, though, and consider the atmosphere. Hours before the match, blue-and-yellow shirted fans were flooding into La Boca, the modest harborside neighborhood where the eponymous team is based, to watch the reserves' match and start the festivities. By the time TDH and friend made it to their seats, about half an hour before game time, the steep-sided stadium was packed to bursting. Banners stretched down from terrace to terrace, and the drums and songs were already deafening.

Boca's cheerleaders were wearing just about the least clothing they could get away with in a mostly Catholic country, and they warmed up the crowd - sort of - until the team entered to a tremendous roar. Boca looked pretty poor for the first 40 minutes or so, scrabbling a goal that no one celebrated. Then, in the second half, the pivotal Daniel Diaz was sent off for a penalty that TDH couldn't quite see from the other end of the stadium. But with the score equalized, the crowd, which dubs itself the 12th Player, goaded their men constantly.

It was not to be an easy road home. Boca soon suffered another sending off for diving - an offense Banfield had been guilty of much more often. Yet the remaining nine men fought on, harrying Banfield's every attack, lunging in with no thought of injury to regain possession on their hands and knees. The entire stadium was singing, gesticulating, jumping up and down, banging on the fiberglass barriers. For the first time - even, regrettably, including at Tyneside - TDH felt that the support really could propel the home side to victory against apparently insuperable odds.

And finally, as injury time began to tick down, Ibarra pushed forward from defense, eluded his man near the corner of the 18-yard box and lashed an unstoppable thunderbolt into the far side netting. The result: pandemonium, and pure pleasure.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Tottenham ice their sublime cake with the ridiculous."

Can it be? Roeder's rascals have finally beaten a decent team. Sure, it helps when the other side have their most promising young defender sent off. But a win's a win, and there's some dignity in this one. There's even some humor, given JJ's incredible ability to miss an open goal. Not many people can round St. Seamus, and it seems he has some divine protection even when someone does.


Meanwhile, holy moly, is this a title race again? Seven points between the top two, and six matches to go. That means, for example that Chelsea going 2-2-2 and Manure going 5-0-1 would put the title down to goal difference, where Chelsea have a lead of seven at the moment.

Manure often looked deadly against Bolton, with a slashing strike from Saha and then a set piece for Horseface that, hatred of the Red Mist aside, was a work of art. Still, can the Billionaire Boys Club really be expected to come away with fewer than three wins?

Maybe they can, given their failure to score at Birmingham. And there's just the faintest possibility that it will all turn on a Sunday afternoon in May at St. James's Park, where certain men in black and white will be looking for some FA Cup revenge and a final flare of glory for their skipper....


There couldn't have been more hype around this season's superclasico at the Camp Nou. In the end, the game was soured by a questionable penalty and an early but somewhat deserved sending off for mouthy Rob Charlie. Ronaldo's equalizer was a gorgeous chip. The guy can still perform in a big game, and Carlos Alberto will doubtlessly take note. As one of the folks here said glumly when asked about our local superclasico (you know, the one on Sunday with the three red cards?): "It ended like all clasicos end, in a tie."