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Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Senior news reporter at the Grimsby Telegraph, UEA History graduate, former BBC Kick Off sports reporter & Lincoln City fan.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Top 5 Premier League Signings of the Season

The likes of Bebe, Stephen Ireland and Ramires have flopped so far since their moves to England, but which players have had the opposite effect?






Saturday, 4th December 2010
By Matt Scrafton.


This summer saw a significantly reduced amount of money spent on transfers by Premier League clubs compared to recent seasons, yet there were still some top purchases. Here is a list of my top five transfers who have had the biggest impact upon the Premier League campaign so far in the 2010/2011 season.


5. Javier Hernandez - Manchester United - £7m




Relatively unknown prior to his transfer to Manchester United from Mexican side Guadalajara, which technically went though in January, the Mexican arrived at Old Trafford in the summer on the back of some fantastic displays at the World Cup. Hernandez was plunged into the spotlight following the disappearance and alleged "injury" to Wayne Rooney, and didn't disappoint - netting on his debut against Chelsea in the Community Shield, and going on to net four goals in his opening 10 games for United. And some of his goals have proved to be extremely important as well; perhaps most notably his brace away at Stoke City which secured a 2-1 win, as well his first European goal as he led United to a 1-0 win at Valencia. 


4. Alexander Hleb - Birmingham City - Loan




This was certainly a major coup and a sign of raised ambitions for Birmingham City as they managed to secure the services of Barcelona midfielder Alexander Hleb on a season long loan. Although Hleb has failed to open his league account for the Blues yet (scored in the League Cup against MK Dons), his game has never really been about his goals tally - proven by his record at Arsenal, where he only netted 7 times in 89 starts. The Belorussian prefers to play with style, flair and trickery, whilst assisting the forward men and assisting the fluid offensive moves with his incisive passes and impressive footwork. Although Birmingham have yet to see the best of the 29 year old, mainly due to a lack of fitness, Hleb produced a sterling display during City's home draw against Fulham. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and the clearly talented ex-Arsenal man continues his good form into 2011. 


3. Maroune Chamakh - Arsenal - Free




Arsenal Boss Arsene Wenger had been monitoring the development of Marouane Chamakh for some time at Bordeaux before he finally decided to seal the free transfer of the Moroccan striker this summer. Chamakh is the sort of forward Arsenal have lacked in the past two or three seasons, as not only does he provide a more physical presence in attack, he also chips in with a more than respectable amount of goals. After 15 games, Chamakh has netted on 7 occasions, whilst also scoring a remarkable 8 goals in 9 Champions League fixtures. Chamakh would have been in this list even had Wenger paid £10million for his services, yet the fact he managed to lure him to the Emirates on a free just goes to show what a good deal this was for the Gunners. 


2. Cheik Tiote - Newcastle United - £3.5m




Defensive midfielder Cheik Tiote was purchased by Newcastle United Manager Chris Hughton in the summer following an extremely successful two seasons at FC Twente, where he won a Dutch League medal, and a string of impressive performances for Ivory Coast at this summers World Cup. Many have suggested Newcastle's impressive start to the Premier League is mainly due to the goals of talismanic striker Andy Carroll. And whilst there certainly holds some truth to that assertion, I'd argue the destroying performances of Tiote has played a more important role. According to the latest Opta Sports statistics, Tiote has completed 91% of his attempted passes so far this season, a stat that Barcelona's Xavi would be proud of. His debut for the Toon away at Everton was a complete success, as he completed all of his 44 passes, made two interceptions and completed all three of his attempted tackles. And his impressive performances have continued throughout the season, which has led to his reported value to have dramatically increased from the reported £3.5million that Newcastle initially paid for him. I would have chosen Tiote as my number one signing of the summer, if it wasn't for the performances and sheer quality of a certain other individual...


1. Rafael van der Vaart - Tottenham Hotspur - £8m



This transfer was exactly the type of player Tottenham were looking for during the summer, as Harry Redknapp looked to secure the services of a genuinely world class player in anticipation of their Champions League campaign. Not only does Van der Vaart have years of European experience, he clearly has bags of creativity and the skill to get into scoring positions, and most importantly, score crucial goals for his side. And all this for £8million meant that Redknapp had secured the deal of the century, never mind this season. And Van der Vaart certainly hasn't disappointed, scoring on 6 occasions in his first 11 Premier League appearances of his career. The Dutchman started life at his new club in the best possible manner, scoring three goals in his first four league games, whilst crucially chipping in with a goal and an assist in Spurs' first two Champions League encounters. Whilst Welsh winger Gareth Bale has taken all the plaudits at Tottenham in recent weeks, the ex-Real Madrid playmaker has ignored the spotlight and gone from strength to strength. 

Other notable absentees who just missed out on my final list of 5:

Ben Foster - Birmingham - £6m
Luke Varney - Blackpool - Season long loan
Marlon Harewoord - Blackpool - Free
Martin Petrov - Bolton - Free
Carlos Salcido - Fulham - £1.6m
Raul Meireles - Liverpool - £11.5m
Marc Wilson - Stoke - £4m + swap
Asamoah Gyan - Sunderland - £13m
Nedum Onouha - Sunderland - Season long loan
William Gallas - Tottenham - Free
Peter Odemwingie - West Brom - £2.5m
Victor Obinna - West Ham - Season long loan
Tom Cleverley - Wigan - Season long loan

Thursday, 2 December 2010

England bid secures just two votes as Russia are awarded the 2018 World Cup

English anger threatens to boil over regarding allegations of corruption and bribery within FIFA


FIFA Chief Sepp Blatter reveals the winner of the vote

Thursday, 2nd December 2010
By Matt Scrafton

England's suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday in their attempt to claim the 2018 World Cup, as they were eliminated in the first round with a measly two votes. Instead, Russia will host the tournament for the first time, after the 22 man committee voted in Zurich earlier this afternoon.

FIFA's decision stunned the England bid team, who had allowed themselves to become hopeful that the quality of the tournament they had promised, along with the work of Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham had put them in a promising position. However, fears that had been expressed by several leading England delegates in recent months regarding the backlash against corruption investigations into FIFA members by BBC Panorama and the Sunday Times, appear to have been proven true.

So why were Russia given the tournament, and not England? And more bizarrely, why were relative minnows Qatar given the 2022 World Cup? I'll try my best to explain my view, here...

Firstly, let's compare the two bids, starting with the winners, Russia:

Strengths


  • Russia have never hosted the World Cup before, something that sits well with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who prefers to take the tournament to new, up and coming countries.
  • The Russian economy is fairly reliable and strong, meaning stadiums and transport links will be built and/or developed in time. 
  • Football is also becoming increasingly popular in Russia, aided by the relative success of their national side, who sit 10th in the FIFA rankings as I type. 

Weaknesses


  • Huge building programme, either the current stadiums will be upgraded and developed, or new stadiums will be built completely from scratch.
  • Enormous size of the country makes travelling difficult for fans, although the majority of the tournament will be featured in the western European zone.
  • Racism is still a big problem in Russian football (see picture below)
Message to Peter Odemwingie on his departure to West Brom from the fans of Russian first division side Lokomotiv Moscow

So clearly, the Russian bid held some weight behind it and you can see why Sepp Blatter was so impressed. But realistically, is there anything in that bid that England should have been wary of? The only real unique selling point the Russians had was that they had never previously hosted the World Cup before. Which is all well and good, but football powerhouse England have not been given the honours since 1966, a full 44 years ago. 

Or is this just me being arrogant? Well, let's evaluate what the English had to offer:

Strengths

  • Strong technical bid, judged as low risk by FIFA inspectors
  • Excellent stadiums already in place, only 2 of the required 12 stadia would have to be developed/built (any two from Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and MK Dons)
  • Premier League's global reach, England and it's football is known throughout the world
  • No major transport issues
  • Commercially and financially viable
Weaknesses

  • FIFA's reputation was damaged by the allegations of corruption by sections of the British media. Whilst England's complaint against Russia was in poor taste.
  • Embarrassment of the high profile resignation of Lord Triesman from the committee, as well as the relatively meaningless "handbag scandal"
  • The probability that a World Cup in England in 2018 would not change English attitudes to football, the love and passion for the game is already as high as it could possibly be. Sepp Blatter is keen to promote the game in new areas of the world where the sport might not be as popular, ie. Korea & Japan, South Africa, and now Russia. 


Despite the interference of the media and several embarrassing allegations and 'scandals', I'd still suggest that England had the strongest bid available to the FIFA delegation. Or is that just me and my bias? Probably. But it's hard to deny England's deep romantic love and passion for the sport. The Premier League is among the most celebrated, entertaining and quality leagues in the world, while many argue that it's the best, but I'll leave that for them to decide. My ignorance of certain European leagues means I can't come to such a conclusion, but certainly, it's extremely viable to argue the case for that point. Furthermore, our attendances and crowd participation of the sport of football is unrivaled. Okay, the Premier League are second to the German Bundesliga in terms of the number of fans that go to matches, but they can't compete with us in terms of the popularity of our lower leagues. The Championship (English Second Division), is the fourth most watched league in Europe, a stat that never ceases to amaze me. Another stat that proves the passion of the game over here is the attendance of the League Two (Fourth Division) play-off finals of the last three seasons, all three of which totaled more than 25,000 on each occasion. I could reel out stat after stat to prove my case, but you get the general image. There aren't many nations (probably only Germany) that could rival us when it comes to sheer passion for the 'beautiful game'.

So that leads me to ask, just why England haven't hosted the tournament for over 44 years? It's an interesting question, especially when you take into account the likes of Mexico and Germany have hosted it twice in far smaller periods of time. Does Blatter value the importance of taking the World Cup to relatively new, up and coming nations, more than he does bringing the tournament to the nations that really appreciate the importance of the game? I have no qualms with FIFAs quest to honour their pledge to give smaller nations a chance to host the prized possession that is the World Cup. But surely they also have a responsibility to give nations like France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and of course England the chance to showcase the tournament to their passionate fans, whilst proving just how much they really do love the sport? Blatter has already given the tournament to Korea & Japan, as well as South Africa in his tenure, and yesterday awarded the tournament to two other relatively smaller footballing nations in Russia and Qatar.

Sorry, I didn't just type Qatar did I? Oh yes, that's right. FIFA preferred Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, as opposed to Australia or USA. This is a nation whose football side sit 110th in the FIFA World Rankings. A country with the minute population of 1.9 million, that's the equivalent of merging the cities of Birmingham and Sheffield. A nation who has publicly spoken out against Israel, due to their religious ties - what would happen if they managed to qualify? A country who won't allow drinking, and women to reveal any skin on their bodies apart from that of around their eyes. Now I don't want to sound too much like a Daily Mail writer, I'm sure there are solutions in place for these problems. But it's undeniable to notice the sheer bizarreness of this decision.

Qatar, just like Russia, also happens to have several rich oil reserves. I'm not suggesting certain FIFA members took bribes, am I? Watch this video, and it'll give you an idea of the type of men the bidding teams were dealing with:



According to the vile man featured in this video, Jack Warner, FIFA is 'transparent'. Despite several investigations proving exactly the opposite to this claim, Sepp Blatter and FIFA refuse to take action. I'd really love to hide my bitterness at losing the bid yesterday, and admit that we lost to a better bid. I really would. But, unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but I'm fairly certain the delegates decisions were influenced in one way or another. For a footballing nation of England's prowess to recieve only 2 votes, yes two (one of which was from the English delegate), from the 22 delegates, is nothing short of a joke. I just hope the British media now increase it's interfering investigations and explore FIFAs corruption, not just because England lost the bid, but for the good of our beloved sport.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Barcelona thrash Real in 'El Clasico'

Spain striker David Villa netted two of Barcelona's five goals.
Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0

By Matt Scrafton
Tuesday 30 November 2010

Barcelona humiliated their age old rivals 5-0 last night in a scintillating display, perfecting their unrivaled 'tika-taka' style of football in the process.

As the rain drove down on the hallowed turf, halfway through the second half at Camp Nou; Jose Mourinho, witnessing his side being outclassed in all areas of the field and already 4-0 down by this point - cut a dejected figure, slumped back in his seat in the away dugout. The self proclaimed 'Special One', was hiding. This is a sight rarely ever seen. And the Catalan faithful were in no mood to let him forget, as the jubilant 98,000 strong crowd taunted the trench coat-wearing, greying Portuguese fellow who had proved to be such a menace to Barcelona's ambitions in seasons gone by.

Many anticipated a close game, two sides too fearful to lose that first pawn from the chessboard, too hesitant to make that first mistake that could prove to be so costly. But that didn't happen, this is Barcelona, they do things differently here. This isn't the Premier League, and Mourinho should have known that better than anyone else. The former Barcelona translator made a host of fatal mistakes before the match had even kicked off; why was the more defensive minded left back Alvaro Arbeloa not preferred to the rapid and attacking Marcelo? What was the need for four attacking individuals in the starting eleven (Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo & Benzema) who had no intention whatsoever to track back and help defensive duties? Why were the back four instructed to keep such a high line, when it's evident that Barcelona - the passing masters of Xavi and Iniesta in particular - thrive against such tactics? It's all well and good doubling up on Messi and closing him down as soon as he drops short to receive the ball, but that's just a waste of effort when the midfield trio of Busquets, Iniesta & Xavi were given free licence to do as they so wished - a criminal offence if I ever saw one.

The 'Special One' had no answers as Barca tore his side apart


But alas, sometimes there's just nothing you can do. Madrid could have fielded eleven Roman gladiators out there last night and they still would have been pummeled straight back to the capital. Pepe Guardiola's men were lightning fast out of the starting blocks. An electrifying start to the game from Barcelona was rewarded as Xavi dinked over the oncoming Casillas in the tenth minute, and Pedro tapping in from close range following good work down the left by the ruthless David Villa to put the hosts 2-0 up before Madrid had ever really got to grips with the game. The game was as good as over before the petulant Cristiano Ronaldo began his childlike antics - diving left, right and centre, shooting as soon as he turned towards goal, and then culminating with a shove to the Barcelona manager on the touchline as he hunted for the matchball in a futile attempt to get back into the match. I should say it wasn't just Ronaldo who was at it last night, it's an unfortunate trait of Spanish football that plagues their otherwise near-perfect style of football, resulting in the pointless dismissal of Sergio Ramos in the final echelons of the game as he pushed Spanish teammate Carles Puyol to the floor. Hardly the most sensible of things to do, but I would be lying if I denied the bushy-haired defender had it coming to him, as he rushed down the field to crowd the referee at every possible opportunity to claim a free kick and a booking for a man in white. Even the majestic Messi wasn't faultless, falling to the floor without contact and trying to con the referee on several occasions.

Real were restricted to fruitless counter-attacks as the previously suspect Sergio Busquets anchored the midfield triangle with exact precision, allowing Messi, Pedro and Villa to get in behind the fragile-looking Madrid defence on a startling number of occasions. This would never have been allowed by Mourinho in his Chelsea days, or even at Inter for that matter. Barca would be confined to long range efforts or patient periods of possession, as the likes of Essien, Makelele, Mikel, Cambiasso and Zanetti were instructed to flood the midfield area and cut out any potential supply from the illustrious Xavi and Iniesta. Yet this did not prove to be the case last night, as Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira afforded the Spanish midfield duo the freedom of Catalunya as they pulled the strings of Guardiola's fluent template of stylistic football. Barcelona completed 89% of their attempted passes and held 63% of the games possession in total; proving how beneficial it can be protecting the ball from the opposition - not only is it attractive on the eye, yet can also be highly destructive when mobilised in the right manner. But for all of Barce's dominance in the first 45 minutes, Real were only two down and would surely return to the pitch more motivated and revitalised.

But Messi and co. merely redoubled their delicate manoeuvres; contriving a sublime through ball to set up their next elegant finish, as Villa struck home for the third. What followed purely embarrassed Real, as Villa collected his second and his side's fourth, profiting from another assist from the little Argentinian to slide the ball home between the legs of despairing Casillas. And this is where Barcelona are at their best, keeping hold of the ball, frustrating their opponents, consistently moving the ball from player-to-player, triangles being constructed all over the pitch as Real were simply passed to submission. Xavi really came in to his own now, not as if he had gone missing before, completing 110 passes in total (a new record for a La Liga fixture). Substitute and youngster Jeffren came off the bench and completed the rout late on to add to Madrid's woes, pouncing on a measured lay-off from fellow substitute Bojan, ensuring Barcelona's rise to the top of La Liga in the process. Guardiola's Catalans now sit two points ahead of the tormented Madrid as the Spanish league nears the winter break.


Barcelona v Real Madrid line-ups:
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Carvalho, Pepe, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Referee: Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez.
Goals: Xavi, Pedro, Villa x2, Jeffren.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fickle nature of football threatens to plunge the sport into new levels of absurdity

Top bosses are under pressure to deliver as money continues to engulf the sport


By Matt Scrafton
Tuesday 23 November 2010


Roberto Mancini is under pressure to bring success to Man City 
You've all heard the cliche - "football is a results based business". Has this much-banded-about-phrase ever been so significant, especially in today's ruthless climate of football?

Despite a sterling 4-1 away win for Manchester City at Fulham on Sunday afternoon, the Italian Roberto Mancini's job is certainly still on the line. This remains, regardless of City's more than respectable place in the Premier League table after just 14 games - 4th, sitting just three points from leaders Chelsea. Now, I'm not suggesting City's start to the season has exactly been perfect. They've lost at places like Sunderland and Wolves, whilst being thrashed 3-0 by Arsenal only a few weeks back. Yet this, is surely no major crime? Especially seeing as title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United have also suffered similar punishments. And this is all without ignoring their impressive home wins against both Liverpool and Chelsea, respectably.

And sure, Mancini has made some extremely questionable purchases in recent transfer windows. Undoubtedly he's acquitted a wealth of talent, especially in the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jerome Boateng, Alexsandar Kolarov and Mario Balotelli. Whilst I do not deny the extreme talent of some of these individuals, I'd suggest he's probably gone out and bought the 'big name players', as opposed to just buying two or three players that would fit in to the side and make an impact straight away. The tactic adopted by Jose Mourinho in his stint at Chelsea, I would argue would have been far more appropriate, rather than flashing the cheque book at the first 'galactico' that comes your way. And totally ignoring the remainder of City's squad for a minute, the club from the north-west would be nowhere without their talismanic striker, Carlos Tevez.

I'll repeat, I'm not claiming Mancini is certain to bring silverware to Eastlands. But the Italian deserves time, patience from the owners and directors, and full support from the success-hungry supporters. It's also quite alarming to note that the main bulk of pressure that appeared on Mancini's head, was following two 0-0 draws at home, prior to the Fulham game, versus Birmingham and their Manchester rivals.

Ancelotti admitted his position at Chelsea is "in trouble" following a run of three defeats in four games

This leads me to the man pictured above, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti - funnily enough another Italian. His side sit top of the table, along with main title rivals Manchester United - on 28 points. Hardly the worst crisis I've ever witnessed, I must say.

His side have a ratio of at least two goals for every game they have played, only conceding 9 goals in their opening 14 games and also sit top of their Champions League group, having almost certainly qualified for the next stage after four wins from four games. Admittedly, Chelsea are in the midst of a poor run of form, losing to the likes of Liverpool, Birmingham, and possibly the most alarming of all - a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have had to contest with a number of key injuries in recent weeks, which have certainly affected their recent results and have threatened to halt their title ambitions. Key individuals like Alex, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are all either injured, or just returning from long term absences. I know what you're thinking, a club of Chelsea's ambition and stature should be able to deal with such a problem. And whilst I admit there's an element of truth in that, I'd suggest even the top sides suffer from damaging injuries, especially to the likes of Drogba and Lampard, who have often proved to be the difference between a draw and a victory in recent years for Chelsea.

So, taking all this into account, I'll be distraught if Ancelotti loses his job in the next few weeks. Not because I'm a Chelsea fan, far from it in fact. But because I like to see sensible decisions made in football, and as a neutral in terms of the Premier League, I enjoy the thrills and spills of one of the leading divisions in Europe. I'll consider giving up football for life if the manager of the current champions is sacked following three or four defeats. In all likelihood, it won't happen. Even Abravomich isn't that impatient. But then again, nothing should surprise you any more in football - there's been plenty of ludicrous decisions made by chairmen and owners in the past, and there'll be plenty more in the future.

And it's not just the Premier League that is plagued by rich owners thirsty for instant success, such decisions have filtered their way down to the Football League and the lower leagues of England. Taking my club, Lincoln City, as the prime example - we have had four managers in the space of four seasons (John Schofield, Peter Jackson, Chris Sutton, and current manager Steve Tilson). Hardly the perfect remedy for success is it? Whilst at the time I was impartial to the departures of two of those managers, it's a worrying statistic that clearly outlines why the Red Imps are currently languishing down at the wrong end of League Two. And again, this isn't an isolated example. Sides up and down the country are ridding their clubs of their managers, at the first sign of trouble, bowing down to the demands of a fickle minority of supporters. And they have the audacity to be surprised when their new appointment fails to improve results, which results in a spiraling circle of sackings, resignations and unorganised chaos throughout the league system.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Imps go global


Meet 'Matias', the anonymous Argentinian who I came across completely randomly on an internet football forum. Bizarrely commenting on a thread titled, 'Comprehensive Spending Review', Matias reveals his persona whilst outlining his thoughts on the Coalitions latest plans for cuts. If you were to guess which football club Matias supported, the clubs that would immediately spring to mind would be Boca Juniors and River Plate, would they not? You would have thought so, but this intriguing individual has broken the mould, he supports no other than League Two Lincoln City.



Javier Saviola - (featured for River from 1998-2001) surely more of an attractive proposition than Imps striker Delroy Facey?
So I hear you ask - why exactly is 'Matias' attracted to such a random, lowly side such as Lincoln? When he could be visiting more glamorous venues such as El Monumental, a stadia that holds 65,000 rowdy spectators, compared to the Red Imps more modest 10,000. Here's an explanation from the Argentine himself:


"I Know Red Imps because I played with them in an old PC Game called "PC Futbol". Then, when Championship Manager and Football Manager came, I used to play with Lincoln too. A few years ago I began to follow Lincoln in "Real Life".

In Argentina I'm fan of a small club too, the club is "Instituto" and has the same shirt.
In Argentina I'm fan of a small club too, the club is "Instituto" and has the same shirt."


The red and white stripes of Argentinian second division side, Instituto


What an extraordinary, yet wonderfully bizarre tale. This just goes to show the extent of football on a worldwide scale. Whilst, for me, this minute, yet peculiar anecdote suggests that the romantic side to football, is thankfully not yet dead, despite the popular stories of greed, corruption, diving and infidelity, that the British tabloids only love to tell us all about. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Don't believe the hype

Getty Images: Bale impressed in both games against Inter.

27 year old Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart has played with some of the best players on the planet; varying from Raul, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Wesley Sneijder, Robinho, Robin Van Persie, to Arjen Robben. Yet following Tuesday night's superb 3-1 victory for Tottenham against Group A rivals Internazionale; Sky Sports thought it necessary to ask Van der Vaart whether he has ever played with someone as world class as Gareth Bale.

I'm not sure why the extreme media overreaction has enraged me so much - I should probably be used to it by now. Following Wayne Rooney's sterling return of goals in last seasons campaign; 34 in 42 to be precise, the British media proclaimed the Manchester United forward as the best player on the planet, and the greatest English player since Bobby Moore. Okay, I might be going a tad over the top there, but you get my drift. It just so happened that certain sections of the media ignored a certain two other players, amongst a whole host of other footballers who can easily claim to be as good as Rooney, if not better. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are far more accomplished footballers than Wayne Rooney, consistently performing to an unbelievable standard for three or four seasons running, compared to the Englishman's one. But they don't play in the Premier League, so don't count, remember?

So this brings me neatly back to 21 year old Welshman, Gareth Bale. Here's a few quotes to give you a good idea of certain reactions to his recent performances:


"If anything you're understating the case. He is, without doubt, the best left sided player in the world. his pace, directness and killer ball are unparalleled."


"He is now - and this is not over-stating the case - one of the finest attacking left-sided players in the world."


"Tottenham will now be looking at sums of £50m+ for the lad"


There's plenty more as well, these comments are just the select few. Now, don't get me wrong - Bale is clearly an extremely talented footballer, who has the potential for bigger and better things. But the lad has only been on form for the last five or six months, and the media's reaction has come about as a result of two games - yes, two. Bale was superb last night, he gave the world's alleged best right-back, Maicon, an absolute torrid time down the left wing. And last week, he did superbly to pick up a hat-trick in the San Siro, although it needs to be made clear that Inter were already four up by that point, that 'keeper Julio Cesar had a mare for two of the three goals, and that manager Rafael Benitez brought on a 34 year old, immobile right back in Ivan Cordoba to deal with the pacy Welshamn. It's also pretty handy that the media just forget the way Premier League full-backs, Rafael and Phil Neville kept him quiet in recent games. 


I can see it now, the media will continue to hype up Bale to an unbearable extent (in the process of doing now), and then when he's at the peak of his performance; they'll enjoy knocking him right off his pedestal. Just in the same way that Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney have suffered. Is it not possible for journalists to enjoy the performances of certain footballers, yet allow them to keep their feet on the ground? It's quite a depressing obsession the British media have, and I don't like to give excuses for poor performances of certain England players - but it certainly has a detrimental effect on our national side.


I can complain all I like, nothing will change though. The media will always continue with their reactionary nonsense, however much I moan; and the gullible masses will lap it all up. I'm rather glad I don't own a TV, or read tabloid newspapers - I don't think I'd be able to deal with The Sun's reaction to last night's game, or Sky Sports News fornicating over Gareth Bale's pass completion. Pass me the sick bucket please.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Scrafton's feature game

Each week I will feature a game in the Football League that really stands out to me; either for a local rivalry; a top of the table clash; a relegation six pointer or a fixture that is just of general interest to me!


This week I have chosen Cardiff v Norwich.



    Npower Championship
    Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Saturday, 30 October Kick-off: 1500 BST
    Second meet fourth here at the Cardiff City stadium tomorrow afternoon in a key fixture at the top of the Championship table. Cardiff go  into the match chasing a fifth successive league win, including the notable thrashing of Leeds on Tuesday night. City captain and stand out man Craig Bellamy turned in a highly impressive man of the match display in that game, and will hope to put a dent in the promotion hopes of the Canaries, the club where he began his career.
    Newly promoted Norwich have certainly surprised most with their impressive start to the campaign, and are in search of an eighth win in their previous 12 meetings with Cardiff. Paul Lambert's men have suffered just one defeat on their travels, and boast three consecutive clean sheets on the road. Norwich have the luxury of no new injury concerns ahead of this game, with only long term absentees Adam Drury, Andrew Surman and Zak Whitbread the men to sit out this clash. Whilst Dave Jones is also fortunate to have no fresh injury concerns either, and is likely to name an unchanged side ahead of the visit of Norwich, just as he has done for City's previous two games. 


    Key men - Jay Bothroyd v Grant Holt


    Jay Bothroyd currently leads the scoring charts, with 11 league goals. He has impressed all season and has transformed into City's talismanic striker, ahead of last season's club top scorer Michael Chopra. His scoring form will be key to Cardiff's promotion push, just the same as Grant Holt will for Norwich.  The Canary captain has five goals in all competitions, and will need to continue contributing if Norwich wish to maintain their good start to the season. Not only do both players contribute in terms of goals, they're both highly efficient strikers, more than capable of holding the ball up and holding off the defenders. Tomorrow's game could easily be decided by these two men and which one of them has their shooting boots on.




    My prediction: Cardiff 2 Norwich 1.

    Friday, 22 October 2010

    New era to begin at Sincil Bank

    Npower League Two
    Venue: Sincil Bank Date: Saturday, 23 October Kick-off: 1500 BST



    Tilson has had almost a week to work with his new squad

    New Lincoln City Manager Steve Tilson takes charge of his first game this Saturday as the Imps play Stockport at Sincil Bank. Ex-Southend man, Tilson, along with his assistant, Paul Brush, will be hoping to gain a vital three points to edge away from the bottom echelons of League Two.

    City will be without the services of powerhouse Delroy Facey, who is away on international duty with Grenada. The Imps have no fresh injury or suspension concerns, for a match that will promote City level on points with Stockport if they are victorious. The visitors began life back in League Two disappointingly, as they went the opening month of the season without a win. However since then their form has picked up as they remained unbeaten during the month of September, something Manager Paul Simpson will be looking to pick up from to help them climb away from the relegation places.

    City last played Stockport in a league encounter back in the 2007-08 season, when under the leadership of local hero Jim Gannon, the Hatters defied the odds and were promoted to League One through the play-offs, defeating rivals Rochdale in the final, 3-2. On that day, Stockport were victorious that day 1-0, as their boisterous travelling fans celebrated yet another win on their way to a famous promotion. However their success came at a cost, as the club were plunged into administration back in 2009, with the club struggling to pay its crippling debts. City fans know all too well about the dark days of administration, so it is good to hear such a friendly club as Stockport are back to concentrating on footballing matters following a successful takeover in June of this year.

    My prediction: Lincoln 1 Stockport 1 - Tilson's men to be frustrated by a stubborn County side, and are forced to settle for a point despite an encouraging display in the first game of hopefully a successful tenure at the Bank.



    Tuesday, 19 October 2010

    Ferguson baffled and betrayed by Rooney


    Ferguson confirms Rooney wants to leave United

    Anyone else seen the interview with Alex Ferguson, where he confirms Wayne Rooney wants to leave Man Utd and won’t sign a new contract? He had tears in his eyes, you could tell he knew how much this will hurt his club. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Manchester United, but you know something’s wrong when a man is pushed to the verge of tears over something so trivial as a football player wanting to leave a club.
    What is wrong with me? I actually feel sorry for Fergie. I hope he gets rid of the vile man as soon as possible. I never liked Rooney much in the first place, but this has just proven to me what a greedy, disloyal and brainless cretin he is. From now on I refuse to support him once he pulls on that England shirt; not that he ever performs when wearing it anyway.
    On a side note - where will he go, if he does indeed leave? I can’t imagine Ferguson will allow a repeat of the Tevez sale, and permit the sale of Rooney to a fellow English side. Man City will be interested of course, I’m sure Chelsea will, then Real Madrid? They’ve got the money, and I’m not sure if they’re satisfied with Benzema at the moment. I doubt Barcelona will have much interest, following their purchase of Villa in the summer, added to their apparent mountain of debt. Can’t see either of the Milan sides having much interest. I think Madrid will be the most realistic destination.