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A Game Apart


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Monday, 15 February 2010

Why Chelsea continue to dominate the headlines... for all the wrong reasons

MUST be a hell of a dressing room at Chelsea. If you believe everything the tabloids are currently throwing at us every morning, it's packed with international footballers taking pictures of themselves naked to blonde models.

First we had the John Terry story - his affair and subsequent abortion with Wayne Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel resulted in him losing the England captaincy.

Then, when French underwear model Ms Perrroncel had been paid an alleged £750,000 to stop, The Sun switched targets to Ashley Cole, married to the nation's darling, Cheryl Tweedie.

Today were are told he sent naked pictures of himself to a SECOND blonde, and apparently Cheryl didn't spend much time together on Valentine's Day.

Page five of The Sun has a magnificent picture of ultraslim Cole, pictured from the chest down with just a pair of underpants on. Mouthwatering stuff it ain't.

Elsewhere, on page nine, Terry and wife Toni are pictured in a pool in Dubai, where they are patching up their marriage. Allegedly. In front of the cameras.

Other papers add further spin to the Chelsea goings-on. The Mail claims Ashley and Cheryl are now living apart and has accused Terry of play-acting throughout the trip to Dubai.

Of course the former England captain had to miss Chelsea's FA Cup fifth round tie over Cardiff to sort things out with Toni, his childhood sweetheart.

While he was away, having blundered in their last Premier League game against Everton (Terry was at fault for both Louis Saha's goals in a shock 2-1 defeat), the Blues crushed Cardiff to reach the quarter-finals on the road to Wembley.

And that of course, resulted in a last eight clash with Manchester City, who drew with Stoke over the weekend and will need a replay to reach Stamford Bridge next month.

Why is this relevant? Because Bridge moved to City last January, leaving Vanessa in London with his son. Somewhere around this point in our tawdry tale, his former pal Terry began stopping off at their Oxshott neighours for post-training hanky-panky.

Over the weekend, the News of the World assured us Bridge refuses to respond to Terry's calls or texts about his betrayal. But now we have the prospect of Bridge v Terry in the Premier League on February 27, the pair of them in the England dressing room together for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3, followed by the FA Cup quarter final the weekend after.

Yes, having been at loggerheads for a few months, they'll now be forced to see eachother three times in a week.

The tabloids are lapping it up. I assume the fans are too. A Man City source tells The Sun today: "Wayne acted with dignity and he doesn't need anyone to tell him what this FA Cup game would mean.

"If City needed any extra motivation to beat Stoke and get back to Stamford Bridge, this will be it."

Meanwhile Ashley Cole, whose broken ankle sustained against Everton last week has left a place for Bridge at left-back in the England team - possibly for the World Cup too - has to hope Cheryl will invite him for a let's-make-up holiday in an expensive overseas resort sometime soon. Though he will be in a plaster cast after undergoing surgery on Friday, so it may be uncomfortable for both of them.

The real football stories - like Crystal Palace being robbed of victory over Aston Villa by a dodgy decision , England struggling to overcome Italy in the Six Nations and David Beckham preparing to take on Manchester United for Milan in the Champions League tomorrow, must remain on the back burner.

That's what happens when you have the Premier League leaders’ high profile stars making silly mistakes away from home.

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Battle of the Gunslingers: Wilshere the kid has the edge over Vieira the veteran... but City win, Pompey lose their Grant

MANCHESTER CITY'S predictable 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, courtesy of a Carlos Tevez penalty and an Emmanuel Adebayor clincher, equally predictably left Owen Coyle fuming.
But those of us of an north London bent were more intrigued by the midfield battle of Gunslingers: the veteran Patrick Vieira, recently arrived at Eastlands from Inter Milan, against Luke Wilshere, on loan from Vieira's old club Arsenal.
French World Cup-winner Vieira, born in Senegal 33 years ago, still has the height but lacks the legs of his Arsenal heydays next to Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto Silva. He looked, in his second appearance back in the Premier League, like the fire which once blazed so brightly had gone out.
Yet there he was, shuffling around the pitch ahead of the superb Steve Ireland. Curious.
Wilshere, making his first start for Bolton, was dynamic, busy and feisty as he eagerly sought to help Wanderers recover from the early penalty.
It came when the excellent Adam Johnson, the former Middlesbrough winger with one eye on a shock place in England's World Cup squad, was brought down by Paul Robinson.
But in the end it was Vieira's inch-perfect long-ball for another former Arsenal man, Emmanuel Adebayor, that clinched it as the Togo striker, caught up in the Cabinda shootings, made it 2-0 with a brilliant finish.
And that was it. Game, set and match to Vieira, despite his advancing years. Shortly afterwards Wilshere was taken off in the 77th minute - with Andy Gray admitting on Sky: "He brings quality to this side. He's a neat, tidy footballer."
Makes you wonder why the young Englishman isn't still at the Emirates Stadium playing ahead of expensive foreign non-entities like Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri. But who am I to tell Arsene Wenger how to pick his side?
Vieira said: "It was hard but do I look that old? Obviously we're strong enough to finish in the top four."
Coyle, who abandoned Burnley for Bolton in January, felt his side were denied two penalties and claimed: "All the decisions went against us."
At Portsmouth, boss Avram Grant was sent off in their 1-1 draw against Sunderland. Grant, caught up in a Thai Massage row in recent days, rubbed referee Kevin Friend up the wrong way after seeing Ricardo Rocha sent off.
Friend originally showed Algerian Hassan Yebda the red card for the challenge which led to Darren Bent's goal (above) from the penalty spot - but, as a true Friend should do, he did the right thing and sent off the right man. But Grant was fuming and his half-time rant was enough to consign him to the grandstand, where he struggled to find a seat.
Sunderland had Cattermole sent off in the second half but even with ten versus ten, rock-bottom Pompey, facing a winding-up order today, couldn't find the net.
It was only when David Mayler's dismissal left Sunderland with nine they found the space for Jamie O'Hara to set up Aruna Dindane for the late, late equaliser.
Grant gathered his players in a huddle at the whistle and said: "I cannot fight against all the world."
Fulham had few problems, scoring three without reply against Burnley, much to my old coach Roy Hodgson's relief. Danny Murphy, David Elm and Bobby "Bobatov" Zamora got the goals at Craven Cottage.
Hardly a shock result though. Burnley last triumphed at Fulham when they were both Third Division clubs in October, 1980. Burnley's first scorer in a 2-0 win that night was an 18-year-old Brian Laws - now a very worried manager on the way home to Turf Moor.
At the JJB, Wigan went ahead through Paul Scharner but Tuncay levelled for Stoke in a 1-1 draw.
Oh, and what about the much-neglected Johnsons Paints Northern final? Leeds, slowly subsiding after their FA Cup shock over Manchester United, contrived to lose it and Carlisle will go to Wembley despite losing the match 3-2 on the night.
That result left the tie at 4-4 after extra-time and Carlisle won the penalty shoot-out 6-5 in sudden-death with defender Shane Lowry, on loan from Aston Villa, having the crucial spot-kick blocked by Adam Collin.
Greg Abbott, clearly in shock, said afterwards: "We have competed against a massive club and won. The penalty shoot-out was pretty scary but that's Carlisle all over."
Southampton join them in the final after being MK Dons 3-1 in the Southern Final at St Mary's to take the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
Best story of the night? West Brom - 2-0 winners against Scunthorpe - went top of the Championship on goal difference from Newcastle, beaten 3-0, yes 3-0 at Derby. What? The Rams were 18th in the table! Surely the Toon can't mess up their promotion charge now?

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Friday, 29 January 2010

The story they've finally allowed us to print: John Terry: The full and awful truth

ENGLAND captain John Terry will have his life turned upside down this weekend after an injunction preventing allegations of an affair were lifted today.

Tomorrow I am tasked with appearing on Sky News to debate the morals on press freedom versus privacy at 9.10am. Even when we're talking footballers, it’s not an easy topic.

Terry, who has already seen his father Ted publicly accused of drug peddling and his mother Sue revealed as a shop-lifter, now faces accusations of an affair with a former team-mate’s partner.

According to most sources – including tomorrow’s Mirror, Sun, Daily Mail and Telegraph - the story involves his England team-mate Wayne Bridge’s long-term partner, French actress and model, Vanessa Perronce. Bridge was at Chelsea with Terry before he moved to Manchester City last year in a £14m deal.

Terry successfully prevented last Sunday’s News of the World from publishing details and photographs but today Mr Justice Tugendhat overturned that interim ruling, insisting the information was in "wide circulation amongst those involved in the sport in question, including agents and others, and not just amongst those directly engaged in the sport".

The judge added: "Freedom to live as one chooses is one of the most valuable freedoms, but so is the freedom to criticise".

News of the World legal manager Tom Crone welcomed the decision as "a long overdue breath of fresh air and common sense" and insisted: "Over recent years, there has been more prior restraint on freedom of speech in Britain than in any other democratic country in the world.

"Gagging orders like the one sought by John Terry have been granted to numerous other Premier League footballers and assorted celebrities."

But Chelsea responded: "This is a personal matter for John Terry. The club will give John and his family all the support they need in dealing with it."

Terry, 29, married childhood sweetheart Toni Poole in 2007 (see picture) and is the father of twins. He is expected to captain England at this summer's World Cup finals in South Africa. But according to websites, Terry’s actions have seen team-mate Bridge, also expected to be in the World Cup squad, to question his international future. He has won 36 caps for England. Bridge and Perronce had a son, Jaydon, in November 2006 but split last month.

Tonight the Mirror columnist Oliver Holt has already called for Terry to remain as England captain, suggesting only his performances on the field really matter. I beg to differ, as I will point out on Sky News tomorrow. To read the fully gory details, simply googe “John Terry Wayne Bridge abortion”. It’s not pleasant.

Labels: , chelsea captain, chelsea neal collins world cup, , , , wife

Sunday, 6 December 2009

United and Fergie: defying all the laws of logic

MANCHESTER UNITED should be a club struggling to survive. Their elderly manager (right) has been in charge for 23 years and is always in trouble with referees. They are owned by penny-pinching American clock makers called Glazer. The News of the World claims today they paid 287 different companies a total of £94million over two years, quite apart from sorting the players' exorbitant salaries. And, right now, their defence is missing Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Jonny Evans and Edwin van der Sar.

But this weekend they moved to within two points of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League with an emphatic 4-0 win at West Ham inspired by Paul "I want to retire" Scholes. And that pensioner Sir Alex Ferguson, in charge for his 1,300th game, was all smiles after playing Patrice Evra as an emergency centre-back and grinning: "He's the smallest centre-half in the world but I would have no problems using him there in Europe this week."

United have already qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League of course. And while Chelsea and Arsenal crashed out of the Carling Cup this week, Fergie's fledglings surged into the semi-finals.

It just doesn't make any sense. Fergie should be writhing in discomfort, beset by injuries, foreign ownership, a dodgy hip and rich rivals. Instead, he's on top of the world and heading, after Chelsea's dramatic 2-1 defeat at Manchester City yesterday, for a successful Premier League title defence.

Year after year the Red Devils over-achieve, while Chelsea (new manager, sugar-daddy owner, hardly any injuries) slip in strange places - their goalkeeper Petr Cech did them no favours in at Eastlands and neither did Frank Lampard, who missed his first penalty in 22 attempts going back two seasons. City should have been pegged back to an eighth successive draw, instead they helped rivals United close that gap emphatically.

Arsenal (younger manager, well-run club, a few injuries) recovered from their devastating trio of defeats against Sunderland, Chelsea and Manchester City with a 2-0 win over Stoke but are a distant eight points behind the leaders. And anyone who saw Emmanuel Eboue's incredible goal-line deny his captain Cesc Fabregas knows Arsene Wenger's men remain in disarray. Only Andrei Arshavin, beavering away on his own up front, shows any real spark. With Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner injured and Eduardo and Carlos Vela not up to the job, Wenger should have bought a replacement for Emmanuel Adebayor up front.

While Fergie was replacing Cristiano Ronaldo with the quality of Antonio Valencia, Wenger did nowt. While United blend Ryan Giggs and Scholes with the up-and-coming Darron Gibson, Arsenal and Chelsea sell off their young academy players and keep faith in moderate foreign youngsters. Perhaps now we are starting to see why United do it year after year.

And then there's Liverpool. Held 0-0 at Blackburn yesterday, they thought Rafa Benitez would be their Ferguson, the man to restore Anfield to the Euro-dominating Shankly/Fagan/Dalglish heights they reached 30 years ago. But that incredible early Champions League success in Istanbul proved a fluke. They are now 12 points off the top in seventh, leaving Manchester City, Aston Villa and Spurs to threaten their annual place in the top four.

Villa, who can perhaps claim Martin O'Neill has all the attributes of a young Fergie, crushed Hull 3-0 to maintain their top six form. But the main image at Villa Park was the tearful reaction of Jimmy Bullard, their record £5m signing from Fulham, to his latest knee injury. Meanwhile his old club continue to thrive under my old boss "Woy" Hodgson and Spurs failed to move past rivals Arsenal in third when they were held 2-2 by Everton. Ironically, American Tim Howard, Manchester United's old No1 sold off by Fergie, saved the late Jermain Defoe penalty which would have won it for Spurs.

Elswhere, Portsmouth and Wolves both produced their third wins of the season against Burnley and Bolton while Birmingham are looking secure in their top-flight status after a 3-2 win at inconsistent Wigan.

Labels: darron gibson, fergie, glazer, , premier league round-up, premier league title, scholes, sir alex ferguson pensioner

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hey big spenders! How do Spurs do it?

BACK page of my beloved but soon-to-die London Lite today ( had to be all about Spurs and their record profits. Last year, according to the accountants, they made over £33m, up from a meagre £3m last year.
But further analysis reveals chairman Daniel Levy has done more than just balance the books with Harry Redknapp over the past 12 months. Miraculously, given this set of results, my sums show they have actually spent almost £150m in 16 months, with Juande Ramos (Roman Pavlyuchenko, Luka Modric, Heurelho Gomes) doing the early buying before Harry came in and re-signed departed Spurs favourites Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe plus, more recently, Sebastien Bassong, Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch.
Yes, while North London rivals Arsenal scrabble for scraps (okay, Andrey Arshavin (£16m) and Thomas Vermaelen (£10m) were good buys, but we've hardly seen a mega-spree from Arsene Wenger) Spurs have splashed out £150m since the summer before last - only mega-bucks Manchester City in the Premier League and, further afield, Real Madrid can beat that.
Spurs spent £119.3m in the year ending June 2009, but their books don't show the further £29.4m spent on Crouch, Bassong and Kranjcar, which puts quite a big dent in that record profit of £33.4m.
Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool? Not even close on the spending front. How the hell do Spurs do it, on smaller crowds with recession-hit backers... and they're redeveloping White Hart Lane, building a new training ground and... I dunno.
Look, here's the Lite quotes from Levy, make of them what you will in the light of their spending: "We have made significant progress in delivering on our long-term vision for the club. We have always had three key priorities and you will have heard them oft repeated - investment in the first team, a new training centre and an increased capacity, state-of-the-art new stadium.
"We have assembled what we believe to be one of the most talented squads we have had during our time in the Premier League, the ground is being turned and pitches laid for the new training centre at Bulls Cross in Enfield and we have submitted a planning application for a stunning new stadium on a site next to our existing stadium."
Levy is in talks over a new shirt sponsorship contract from next season, with the deal with Mansion set to expire at the end of the current campaign. God on the shirts next year perhaps? They'll need Him to maintain those spending levels!
Oh, and son Harry has just called from the car. England's cricketers, after that bright start to their tour in South Africa, went into game three in Bloemfontein today - their first Twenty20 of the safari against South Africa A - expecting another stonking win. I hear they were all out for 89. Gulp. South Africa's also-rans got there with 15 balls and four wickets to spare. And what did I say in the Lite today? I quoted Graeme Swann saying they'd be fine without captain Andrew Strauss, who doesn't get on with the shortest version of the game. He got 72 and 117 not out in those first two 50-over wins. Only Alistair Cook (22), Eoin Morgan (11) and Paul Collingwood (18) got double-figures today. Ouch. Check out Swanny and James Anderson on later. There may be belated fireworks!

Labels: , bloemfontein, , Daniel Levy, , james anderson, Jermain Defoe, , Spurs, White Hart Lane