Sunday, 31 August 2008

Chelsea 1 - 1 Tottenham; Aston Villa 0 - 0 Liverpool

I missed the first half of the Chelsea match due to the old firm match, so tuned in for the second half of Chelsea vs Tottenham match. That meant I missed both goals, but if the first half was anything like the second, it was still a blessing, as the remainder was a fairly turgid match with both teams cancelling each other out.

The same can be said of Liverpool's trip to Villa Park. I was hoping for some spark in the light of the tedious Gareth Barry saga, but we got nothing of the sort. Aston Villa looked competent against a dour, unadventurous Liverpool side, who managed to muster zero shots on target. Their cause wasn't helped with Gerrard out injured, and Torres went off during the first half, but Robbie Keane certainly isn't living up to his £20 million price tag. So far, none of the big guns appear to be taking the lead in the title challenge, but at the same time none of the other sides look capable of breaking their monopoly on the top four places.

Meanwhile, in Serie A, none of the big guns have made a big impression in their opening matches either. Inter were well held by a Sampdoria side that will feel unlucky not to have won, Roma were held at home by Napoli, and the new look AC Milan side went down 2-1 to Serie A newcomers Bologna, possibly past-it Ronaldinho and probably past-it Shevchenko unsurprisingly not able to net a win for the side, who look like they may have another season of struggles ahead. Juventus and Fiorentina will have their chance to stake their credentials in the evening match tonight.

Celtic 2 - 4 Rangers, 31 August 2008

A tremendous Old Firm derby, won in convincing fashion by Rangers. Rangers scored three fine goals, with Pedro Mendes scoring the pick of the bunch with a superbly struck long range goal from a corner. Celtic initially equalised Rangers' opener, but Rangers then went on to score three to put the game beyond Celtic, and Celtic scored one through Nakamura right at the death after a poorly defended free kick.

It was a typical blood and thunder affair, drawing the usual cliches from the commentators about heavy tackles, passion and all the things you expect from an Old Firm clash, but the referee done his job well, setting his stall out and giving a few yellows for rash challenges early on, and applying consistency throughout, and correct sent of Cousin and Vennegor of Hesselink near the end, Cousin for his second yellow and Vennegor of Hesselink for reacting to a challenge.

It was an interesting study in crowd behaviour, and entirely predictable in many ways - lots of close-ups of both sets of fans either gesticulating or swearing in the direction of their opponents, then the director cutting away quickly when they realise what's happening, the volleys of "you're not singing anymore" bouncing back between fans as Rangers scored, Celtic equalised, and Rangers took the lead again, grown men nearly exploding in rage as the referee dares to correctly give a decision against their team, and then the stadium almost exiting en mass after the fourth Rangers goal as, pride hurt, they leave early to either beat the traffic, or more likely, avoid the victorious Rangers fans after the match.

Kenny Miller got his first two goals of his second Rangers spell on his return to Celtic Park. Perhaps predictably, more likely coincidence, not that it stopped the commentators banging on about it. It's one of those football cliches that only becomes true after it actually happens, and is never mentioned if it doesn't.

Much to celebrate for Rangers. Long term, it won't ease the pain of their failure to qualify for the Champions League, especially finacially, but it will give them the upper hand and momentum in this season's SPL title race.

Possession is nine tenths of the law

Something I've noticed a lot recently is how the UK media seem to be attaching ownership of clubs to specific people at those clubs. I remember it starting with Burton Albion, who were usually referred to as Nigel Clough's Burton Albion, due to most people probably being unfamiliar with the Blue Square Premier side.

Then when Roy Keane went to Sunderland, they were re-christened "Roy Keane's Sunderland", and increasingly lately, I've heard "Paul Ince's Blackburn" being banded about.

Others I can currently think of are:

David Beckham's LA Galaxy
Ronaldinho's AC Milan
Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan
Kevin Keegan's Newcastle

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment, or email me at

Greek Nova affected by 3pm blackout too

Several reports on internet forums have reported that Greek broadcaster Nova appears to be in the same situation as Digitalb, and currently blocked from showing 3pm Premier League football on Saturday afternoons.

The situation was less clear for Nova, as they had relinquished some of their capacity to state broadcaster ERT during the Olympics for increased coverage. Now things have gone back to normal, it would appear they are also suffering for perhaps allowing their cards to find their way into the hands of UK publicans a little to easily.

What is still unclear is why the Premier League appear to have targeted these specific two broadcasters over others, such as Canal Nordic, which is fairly easily receivable in the UK, or some of the other broadcasters whose packages are currently easy for pirates to hack.

According to posts on the Alsat forum, Digitalb repeated last week's trick of joining the Wigan vs Chelsea match late by not broadcasting the first 15 minutes or so of yesterday evenings Arsenal vs Newcastle whitewash.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Saturday review

Started the day with Goalissimo and Soccer AM as usual (great piece from Chris Kamara at Middlesbrough's Riverside stadium, which unfortunately hasn't turned up on their website, but is well worth a viewing if you get a chance.

Then I watched the first half of Southampton vs Blackpool, which Blackpool won with a penalty right on the stroke of half-time. The first half was an entertaining affair, with both sides going close at either end. Can't comment on the second half, as we made a mercy dash to the allotment to get some vegetables for tonight's tea, and ended coming away with a marrow, cabbage and some apples donated by other allotmenteers, brucey bonus.

Off to Christie this afternoon, where we lost 2-1 to Dagenham and Redbridge. The performace was much better than against Rotherham, but poor keeping at a free kick and failure to clear the lines in the box let Dagenham score two early in the first half, and it was uphill from there. Credit to the management, who changed the central midfield by bringing in Steward Drummond and Garry Hunter, which made a massive difference, and later we threw three up front by bringing on Diarmuid O'Carroll, who scored seconds after coming on. Despite late pressure, we couldn't get an equaliser, but the last 20 minutes or so bode well if we can utilise what we've learnt today - improvements must be made in defence to stop giving goals away so cheaply though. Credit today to Tony Roberts, the Dagenham keeping, who is always a tremendous laugh, responding to the banter from the crowd and providing a bit of a laugh when otherwise we might have been in the doldrums.

In the Premier League, it seems like normality has resumed already - Hull's fairytale start was brought crashing to the ground with a 5-0 home humbling from Wigan, who finally get something out of a game after playing well against Chelsea and West Ham. Everton's failure to add to the team in the transfer window showed as they were handed a 3-0 spanking at Goodison to Portsmouth, who showed they can't keep getting worse. Stoke showed last weeks win against Villa was probably not the norm as they went down 2-1 to Middlesbrough; Bolton drew 0-0 with West Brom, and although I haven't seen any highlights, I'm willing to bet it wasn't pretty.

As I type this, Arsenal are 2-0 up against Newcastle and showing the potential to run riot. Fabregas is back and showing just what a difference he makes to their side. Newcastle look hopeless outclasses and a win against one of the "big four" looks as far away as ever.

Serie A to Setanta setback?

Hey Ho Podsters!

Many thanks for your continued interest. Apologies too for the confusion re zamorano's number - it most certainly was 1+ 8. I should have known better, and to be fair, so should he.

Now, as for the mounting confusion over Serie A; I'm sorry to say that what looks a cracking opening weekend will not be getting an airing on uk television. I was told last week by A Broadcaster that they'd signed up il campionato piu bello del mondo, hence my excited outburst in a show last monday. This week however the deal hit a major stumbling block when said broadcaster discovered that italian games would be streamed for free on at least one uk website.

All hope is not yet lost, and if you wished to e-mail said Broadcaster expressing your desire to pay good money to watch creaking knees and questionable hair decisions on a proper telly, that just might make all the difference. Or it might not.

I'll be posting as soon as I hear some news anyway.

Yours in pod,

According to this quote from James Richardson on the guardian website, it would appear that Setanta aren't impressed that the matches they screen would also be available for free elsewhere - for instance, on the bet365 website.

Hopefully this can be resolved, as I'd much prefer to watch the matches on my telly than on the internet!

Friday, 29 August 2008

UEFA SuperCup, 29 August 2008

The curtain comes down on UEFA's jolly in Monaco with the Super Cup between Manchester United and Zenit St Petersburg.

Both teams fielded a strong line-up, Man Utd's probably as strong as it can be with their current injury worries, and Zenit had Arshavin on the bench ahead of his possible (probable?) move to Tottenham.

Zenit had much the better of the first half, creating the best chances and shutting out Manchester United well, who looked toothless up front - lots of industry from Tevez and Rooney, but little class - they look shorn of creativity up front, and much in need of a player like Berbatov, especially with Ronaldo still injured and Nani's final ball leaving a lot to be desried.

Zenit made their advantage count right at the end, when poor marking from a corner allowed Pogrebnyak to bundle the ball in. It was no less than Zenit deserved, Man Utd being vunerable at the back throughout the half, Gary Neville in particular looking hopelessly out of form. Zenit's goal brought out the flares amongst the Zenit fans, which the commentators like to tut about, but must secretly love given the dramatic effect it creates in the stand. Later in the match, the Zenit fans also demonstrated their ability to bounce in unison, much like they did in Manchester, as they turned their end into one big pogo party. It was also noticable that there were some empty spaces in the Man Utd end, which I thought was strange given the apparent desirability of the venue and the availability of cheap flights to Nice.

Zenit brought Arshavin into the game for the second half, in what could turn out to be his farewell performance for the club. However, it was the player that could turn out to be his replacement, Danny, signed for £25 million, who got Zenit's second after the hour with a fine run from the half-way line and well taken shot, which highlighted Man Utd's defensive frailties as Rio Ferdinand backed off rather than attempting to tackle. Vidic pulled a goal back from United after a corner following good work by Tevez to control a ball that landed at his feet after somewhat of a scramble and lay it off for Vidic to bundle home. Danny should have put the game beyond United late on when he shot over when it seemed easier to put his chance in the net. Paul Scholes saw red on 90 minues when he handled a cross into the net quite blatantly, which will see him suspended from his next Champions League match. Zenit saw out the remaining few minutes to become the first Russian team to win the competition, and it's hard to argue that it wasn't deserved.

Andy Townsend said at half time that Man Utd didn't seem to be trying to hard, but I think he was being kind to them. There was no cohesion to the side, but it appeared to me that was down to poor form rather than not putting 100% into the game. There appeared to be plenty of endeavour without much reward. United did step up the pace after Zenit's secon, but it's always difficult to tell if that's because they had more in the tank, or because Zenit were holding back to protect their lead.

So is the competition worth it? United may see it as a worthwhile excercise to put off a league game until later in the season when they're not firing on all cylinders. I doubt the "big" European teams are that bothered with it, unless they actually win it. For Zenit, it's a chance to prove themselves against one of the top sides in Europe. Ultimately the winning club will probably view the match as more worthwhile, but most people can see it's worth, mainly as an advert for UEFA and a chance for some corporate hob-knobbing, as if more was needed in the modern game.

Manchester United still have much work to do if they are to retain their league and European titles; Zenit showed on tonight's performance that they should be a force to be reckoned with in this season's Champion's League.

UEFA Cup Draw

Click here to see the draw

I caught the end of the UEFA Cup draw on Eurosport, and was surprised at just how quick they can draw the teams compared to yesterday's drawn out Champion's League draw. Showing, as if any proof were needed, just how UEFA regard their other major club competition.

A much more unfashionable competition which lacks the hype of the Champions League, and one which I find far more interesting, because it's a proper European competition, not one hopelessly biased against teams from the major nations like the Champions League. English sides face trips to Poland, Belgium, Bulgaria and Cyprus for instance, far removed from the glamour ties of it's big brother. All the English sides must fancy their chances of getting through to the group stage, though usually one or more sides come unstuck, and after Manchester City's troubles getting past Midtjylland, they won't be relishing their trip to Cyrus.

Irish side St Pat's are rewarded for reaching the first round with a trip to Germany and HerthaBerlin, while other big ties see Napoli take on Benfica and Borussia Dortmund playing Udinese.

Obligatory piece about the Champions League draw

Group A
CFR Cluj

Group B
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
Sporting Lisbon
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group D
PSV Eindhoven
Atletico Madrid

Group E

Group F
Bayern Munich
Steaua Bucharest

Group G
Dynamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg
Bate Borisov

I didn't actually watch the draw yesterday, as I was half-watching Man City labouring away in Denmark. I did switch over at the end of normal time, and was amazed to find they'd only managed to get to drawing the seeded teams in each group, almost half an hour after they started. I know the Champions League has a high opinion of itself, but drawing this fairly simple draw out over the space of almost an hour is taking the piss slightly.

Nothing really strikes me as an exciting draw. Sure, you've got a couple of big teams drawn together in the same group, but the sheer repetitiveness of the format of the competition has rendered these once exciting draws fairly dull. It's possible to look over the draw and with fairly great certainty pick out who definitely will qualify, who should qualify, and the teams that might cause an upset. Just look at the teams in the competition - it's the same old, same old ones again and again, with just a few new faces each season to be the whipping boys for a lucky group.

The increasing numbers of teams from the same country means the draw doesn't really get interesting until the quarter final stage, and even then most of the teams will have played each other in the last few seasons. Match nights are drawn out to two a week these days, and from next season they will be drawn out to four match nights per round, with two one week and two the following week, to ensure that UEFA get more precious TV money by not having two teams from a country playing on the same night to maximise TV audiences, and more importantly advertising revenue.

Next season, once the Champions League starts with the third round of qualifiers in August, that'll be it pretty much non-stop hyping itself until the end of the first group stage in December. I wonder how that will affect domestic competitions like the English League Cup, which looks like it will now have to be staggered over two weeks due to the Champions League teams competeting over a two week period, removing it's natural slot in the English character. If I'm bored of the Champion's League now, how am I going to feel next season when it's elongated even further?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Friday - Sunday preview

Friday 29 August
Karlsruhe play FC Cologne in a basement battle in the Bundesliga on Setanta, while the main match of the day is the European Supercup of Zenit St Petersburg vs Manchester United on ITV. Zenit won the UEFA Cup in Manchester, and Man Utd won the Champions League in Russia, and now they both play off against each other in Monaco, as the pinnacle of a couple of days which also sees the Champions League and UEFA Cup draws, and gives journalists around Europe the chance of a jolly in the sun. It's not much more than a glorified friendly, but Man Utd will expect to win, although both teams haven't been in great form, Man Utd should to to strong for their Russian counterparts.

Saturday 30 August
No stand-out matches in the Bundesliga, but expect Digitalb to screen Schalke vs Bochum. Southampton vs Blackpool and Watford vs Ipswich are Sky's live uninspiring Championship features, while Arsenal host Newcastle in Setanta's evening Premier League match. With Arsenal struggling in the league, and Newcastle showing early promise, it could be a closer encounter than in previous seasons. Serie A gets underway as Sampdoria host Jose Mourinho's Inter (as they seem to have been re-christened, much like Roy Keane's Sunderland or Nigel Clough's Burton Albion). Setanta may have this match if news of their Serie A deal is sorted in time, otherwise I'll be watching on Setanta. Also worth a look is an early season clash between Porto and Benfica in Portugal - you'll need to go to Bet365 for that.

Sunday 31 August
Big match of the day is the first Old Firm match of the season, on Setanta. Rangers have made the stronger start of the two in the SPL, although neither have really to impress, and the match may give an indication if Rangers can re-capture the title again this season. In the Premier League, Chelsea host Tottenham, with Tottenham looking to get some points on the board - Stamford Bridge may not be the ideal place to start getting any. Aston Villa take on Liverpool in the late fixture, expect no references at all to Gareth Barry's tedious transfer "saga".

Stand-out Serie A fixture is a toss up between AC Milan and Bologna, with Ronaldinho making his Serie A debut, or Roma taking on Napoli. Fiorentina play Juventus in the evening match, which has the makings of a good match bewteen two teams who will see Champions League qualification as the minimum for the season. Bayern Munich take on HerthaBerlin in the Bundesliga, and La Liga gets underway (as far as Sky are concerned) with Barcelona and Real Madrid's first matches of the season.

Serie A on Setanta update

According to posts on Digitalspy, Setanta have secured home rights to the following teams:


Due to the way rights are sold in Italy, each team sells their rights to an intermediate company, who in turn sell on the collective rights. All the "big teams" have sold their rights to one company, and the teams above have sold theirs to a different one. Although this will pretty much guarantee Setanta that the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan or Juventus will be on most weekends against one of these teams, it's a shame that if this is true things like the Milan or Rome derbies won't be live in the UK. However, as these rights can probably be picked up quite quickly, and as Serie A has not proved to be a ratings winner in the past, you can't blame Setanta for hedging their bets.

However, this information was found on the Setanta Australia website, and as Setanta have yet to update their EPG with details of live matches for this weekend, it appears to be still in negoations.

Bet365 are showing a selection of live matches for this weekend, including the "big teams" home matches, so that could be a way to make up for matches not screened on Setanta.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Serie A finds it's UK home

Serie A has found a home for the 2008-9 season, on Setanta Sports, after an absence there for a season in it's failed daliance with Five. Much more excitingly, it brings the prospect with James Richardson already doing some work for Setanta of the possibility of "Gazetta Football Italia" being resumed.

It seems logical for Setanta to try and increase it's portfolio in this way - it gives them more football to use on Saturday evenings, a time currently when they have only French League action to show, and also gives them a better selection of matches for Sunday evenings, as well as more of a selection on Sunday afternoons to go against whatever Sky are offering.

I don't expect the rights will have cost that much, given the lateness of the deal, Serie A will just have been glad to get "someone" to show the league. It helps Setanta by increasing the number of live matches they will show, which now comfortably exceeds the number of live matches on Sky. However, I don't expect more than one or two live matches per weekend, given Setanta's strange insistence that they provide their own commentators for every match, which doesn't make sense given that the French, Italian and German leagues all come with centrally produced English commentary, meaning live matches could be screened easily and cheaply.

I hope that Setanta make better use of Serie A than they did last season - it would be criminal not to use James Richardson's knowledge and passion for the sport in a positive way. Serie A do produce a central highlights program, but it is dull and dry compared to Gazetta.

I'm delighted that Serie A is still going to be on UK screens next year. For all it's criticisms about defensive football, it has improved massively in the last few years.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Wigan 0 - 1 Chelsea, 24 August 2008

I only caught the second half of this match due to watching the European Grand Prix, which was pretty dull. As was the second half of this match. No repeat of the swashbuckling Chelsea from this week, back came the staid and controlled Chelsea, helped no doubt by going in front from a Deco free kick right at the start and then not needed to extend themselves for the rest of the match.

Much of what I watched was played in the middle of the park, sloppy and instantly forgettable. I can barely remember a save of note made by either keeper. The only notable items I can really remember from the second half are Kalou's comedy haircut where he has a wide stripe down the side of his head and shaved either side; and that Daniel De Ridder of Wigan has possibly the worst delivery of a dead ball I've ever seen - everything seemed to either hit the first defender or go straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. Maybe it's the ridiculous colour of Cech's jersey, which apparently is designed to make the player striking the ball subconsiously aim towards the keeper.

Interestingly, according to posts on their forum, Digitalb continued their professional approach to broadcasting by joining the match after the goal had been scored.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Digitalb Premier League 3pm update

Make of it what you will, but Darkman on the Alsat forum has said that Digitalb have a contract to show Premier League matches at 3pm on Saturdays again from the beginning of December. As I've said before, I can't see why the Premier League would restrict access for only a part of the season, but this statement has been made regardless. The proof of the pudding will come at the beginning of December I suppose.

In the meantime, enjoy the Bundesliga!

Monday - Wednesday preview

A few interesting matches in the next few days - Portsmouth vs Man Utd in the Monday night Premier League match (Sky Sports 1), as both teams look for an improvement in form on their opening day features. Hopefully it will be more interesting than the Charity Shield match.

Tuesday sees Queen of the South look to overcome a deficit in the UEFA Cup against Danish side Nordsjaelland (BBC2 Scotland), which looks like a tall order. Also on Sky Sports that evening, Coventry host Newcastle with both teams having made a promising start to the season. There's a few other Champion's League/UEFA Cup qualifiers that night, but nothing incredibly interesting.

Wednesday sees a J-League match-up in the morning with Vissel Kobe vs Kashima Antlers on Eurosport 2, while in the evening, there are several interesting Champion's League qualifiers - Fenerbache vs Partizan Belgrade is finely balanced (RTS Sat, 13e), as is Schalke vs Athletico Madrid, with Schalke having a 1-0 first leg lead (ARD, 13e/19.2e). Arsenal should be fine against Steve McClaren's Twente (BBC3), and while Liverpool should cruise past Standard Liege, they will need to improve on the form they have shown in their last few matches (ITV1). Digitalb carry the final of the South American version of the Supercup, with Boca Juniors facing Arsenal in an all Argentinan clash.

Lyon vs Grenoble, 23 August 2008

My 4th live match today, and my first from Ligue 1 this season. With Serie A and La Liga starting next weekend and introducing more competition into weekend evening viewing, I thought I'd get a Ligue match in early. I don't usually watch many matches on a weekend evening, as I tend to watch stuff with Sally then, and much as she loves me, persuading her to let me watch various foreign leagues on her weekend evenings is never going to happen. She's very good the rest of the time, and if there's something really interesting I want to see she'll let me. As she's out with friends tonight, I'm left with the French League for company.

Lyon won the league again last season, for the seventh time in a row, but found it much more of a struggle, with it going right down to the last day. Out has gone Alain Perrin, and in has come Claude Puel, and with him a rejuvenated squad. Most importantly, they have resisted several overtures from "bigger" clubs for Karim Benzema, which will be a massive boost this season. Against Lyon tonight are Grenoble, promoted from Ligue 2 last season, and a complete unknown as far as I'm concerened.

Lyon give some sort of proof of the unbalance that Champion's League money gives to a league - fortunate enough to be in the Champion's League at the time when the money really started to take off, earning more money, enabling them to outperform the rest of their league and contine to qualify season after season and earn more money in the process. It could almost have been any club in Lyon's position, but they were the lucky ones in the right place at the right time.

Lyon took an early lead after a corner after poor marking to give Grenoble a huge mountain (no pun intended) to climb to get anything from the match. The mountain got even steeper ten minutes before the break when poor marking again allowed Benzema to get his third goal in as many matches with a simple tap-in in front of goal. Lyon were playing some nice passing football without really ever reaching top gear. Lyon produced a controlled performance in the second half to keep Grenoble at bay without extending too much effort. It's difficult to assess Lyon's chances for the season based on this performance, but the ease at which they secured victory suggests they will certainly be up there this season, especially if Benzema can continue to keep banging in the goals.

It was mentioned during second half commentary that Valenciennes midfield David Sommeil suffered a heart attack during training on Wednesday. He was revived at the side of the training pitch by his team-mates, but remains unconscious in hospital. Also, a bus containing Marseilles supporters crashed on their way to a match at Le Harve today, killing two supporters and seriously injuring several others. Obviously thoughts go to all affected by these events.

Liverpool vs Middlesbrough; Fulham vs Arsenal; Betting Update

I watched the last 25 minutes or so of Liverpool's match against Middlesbrough at Anfield. Liverpool looked poor against a well-organised Boro team, and it was Boro who took the lead with a well-take long range goal from Mido. Liverpool then put Babel on, and threw the kitchen sink at Boro, first of all equalising near the end when a Carragher strike took a massive deflection, and then deep in injury time, Gerrard struck a thunderbolt from the edge of the area - one of those ones that could equally clear the top of the stand, but today went in the top corner. So, two wins in a row after playing badly. Anfield also seems to have given in to the curse of electronic score-boards, which is a pity.

Then onto Fulham vs Arsenal, which I missed the start of as I was at the gym. A shame, as according to the radio commentary on the way home, they managed to put the Plymouth - Swansea match that was on Sky on the big screens around the ground, which sounds quite amusing. Fulham were looking to get a home win on the board to get some confidence in their new-look team to try and avoid a repeat of last season's escape, and Arsenal were looking to play better than they did in their rather fortunate win over West Brom on the opening day of the weekend. Fulham took the upper hand when Hangerland knocked in a corner to give them the lead. Adebayor struck the post shortly after, but Fulham deservedly went in ahead at the break. With the missing Fabregas and Rosicky, and the departed Hleb and Flamini, Arsenal's midfield has completely changed since last season, and it shows with the lack of fluency in their game. Late Arsenal pressure set up an exicting finish, but for all of Arsenal's possession, Schwarzer was hardly tested. Should Wenger not strengthen his side before the transfer window slams shut, many more performances like this could see Arsenal's qualification for next season's Champion's League in doubt. Of course, it's far too early in the season for such speculation, but with massive debts from the new stadium, such a reduction in revenue could have severe repercussions for the team.

In today's betting, I had a success in my Rotherham vs Chester, Birmingham vs Barnsley and Celtic vs Falkirk treble, to turn my 3p stake into 8p. After finding 56p in my Blue Square account yesterday, I've managed to gamble it up to a massive 68p so far, a 20% return so far. I've taken a massive 10p and stake it on tonight's Lyon vs Grenoble match which I plan to watch later. It matters more when there's money on it apparently!

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich, 23 August 2008

Back to the Bundesliga for the stand-out match of the weekend, Borussia Dortmund hostng the mighty Bayern Munich, on Digitalb Supersport 3.

Dortmund have struggled in recent seasons, but still manage to fill their magnificent stadium every week. It's an ambition of mine to go an see a match at that stadium and stand on the massive terrace that's behind one goal. It creates a fantastic atmosphere at the game, something that is sadly lacking in most Premier League matches.

Anyway, Dortmund have added a few players to their squad, and are being quietly tipped as outsiders for the Bundesliga title this season. After the grandstand signings of Ribery and Toni last season, Bayern have only added a new keeper and Tim Borowski to their ranks.

Following last weekend's home draw against Hamburg to get the Klinnsman era of to an less successful start than he would like, Bayern succumbed to an early goal from Dortmund, a fantastic strike with the outside of the foot from the edge of the penalty area. Bayern's troubles got bigger soon after, as Van Bommell was sent off following his second yellow card following two fairly industrial tackles. Bayern emerged in the second half determined to change things round, and put Dortmund under sustained pressure, wihch they withstood until the 75th minute when Borowski turned the equaliser in, much to Klinnsman's relief. The match ended in a sodden fashion, after the heavens opened in the last ten or so minutes.

I have to admit, I was only half-following this match, as at the same time as watching the pictures, I was listening to the Bury vs Morecambe match on the PremiumTV website, using the Bury commentary as the Morecambe one isn't ready yet. Much less polished than any commentary I've heard before, but pretty entertaining from two fans who enjoyed watching two of our more "rotund" players (their words), Adams and Bentley. I'll review the PremiumTV website in a few weeks once I've used it a bit more.

Sky: 5
Setanta: 5
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 3
Bet365: 1

Aberdeen 1-1 Rangers, 23 August 2008

Rangers return to Pittodrie, the same place where they lost the SPL title last season after arguably throwing it away to Celtic. After the disappointment against Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final, and being unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League at the first hurdle this season, Walter Smith can concentrate on the SPL this season.

After a steady if unconvincing start to the campaign, Aberdeen are probably the sternest test so far. In a lively encounter, Rangers had the upper hand in the first half with the majority of play, although they didn't fashion too many chances. They did take one of the few chances, with David Weir knocking one in. Aberdeen bucked the play to pull a goal back right on the stroke of half-time. Rangers were toothless in the second half, and the match wasn't much of a spectacle. DaMarus Beasley has a goal chalked off in stoppage time for offside, althugh replays suggested that it should have stood. The highlight was listening to the Rangers' fans singing either the National Anthem, Rule Britannia or various offensive songs about Aberdeen players. Living up to type - never!

My experience of Rangers last season was mostly the UEFA Cup, when they played very drab, defensive football. If this performance is anything to go by, it's a much more entertaining and attacking side on display this season, although somewhat lacking in end product. Some of that could be down to the number of new players in the side, the money raised from the sale of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa looks to have been well spent, with Pedro Mendes looking to be the pick of those signings, his skill marking him out in a "lower level" league. Once the players learn each other's style of player further, perhaps more chances will be forthcoming.

Matches so far this season:

Sky: 5
Setanta: 5
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 2
Bet365: 1

Friday, 22 August 2008

Bet365 live football update

Just been watching Perth Glory vs Newscatle Jets on the Bet 365 website, as it would appear that they are streaming live A-League matches on their website, as there are several other matches scheduled for this weekend. I joined the match baout 15 minutes in, but it's been pretty entertaining so far, Perth's equalising goal came from a penalty. Eugene Dadi, ex of Tranmere and I believe some sort of fashion designer played for Perth. In the second period, Newcastle re-took the lead after a goalkeeping howler, before Perth equalised though a powerful header and then took the lead with a well taken solo goal after springing the offside trap.

I'll be looking out for a Syndey FC match to watch in the future, to catch up on Terry McFlynn, ex of Morecambe and from Northern Ireland.

Perth's stadium looks like a purpose built one, as I think some matches in the A-league take part in adapted cricket stadiums. I'm pleased to see that one end is terracing! The ground is about two thirds full but there's still a decent atmosphere.

Bet365 also have Portuguese League matches on their schedule, so at least they can still be seen after it appears that it's been dropped by Setanta. I'd also expect online rights to Serie A to be aquired, if they haven't been already, if as looks likely, a TV deal doesn't materialise.

Sky: 5
Setanta: 4
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 2
Bet365: 1

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Wrexham 2-0 Oxford, Blue Square Premier, 21 August 2008

Thursday night on Setanta is often Blue Square Premier League night. Live football from the fifth tier of England's pyramid. I've got a lot of time for the Conference (which I'm going to call it from now on), as Morecambe are only in their second season in the league above, and I enjoyed our time there - visits to small grounds and friendly fans, you're usually able to go wherever you like in the ground without segregation and best of all, most of the grounds still have terracing.

Setanta covered something like 78 live matches last season, and I think are doing about 60 matches this season in an attempt to try and appease fans as 60 live matches means 60 matches moved from their usual Saturday 3pm kick-off, which limits the amount of fans that are able to go if it means a long journey after work. Reaction has mainly been positive from those who have bothered to watch it (if you ignore the comments about it being like pub football from the Premier League fanboys) as the quality of the football can be quite skillful, and the matches are often entertaining as there is not the gulf in class that exists in the top flight, so most teams are capable of taking points off each other. Added to that, the Setanta
aim to bring the experience closer with cameras in the dressing room, and a roving reporter moving around the room giving guerilla interviews to fans and the managers. It's a great idea as it trys to capture the intimacy of football at that level. I've seen viewing figures reported at 100,000 for some matches, which is pretty credible for football at this level.

Part of me would have liked Setanta to be around when Morecambe were still in the Conference - increased chance of catching away matches and a proper highlights program, but it undoubtedly causes disruption for some of the "big" teams at that level. Well supported teams such as Torquay, Oxford and Wrexham are bigger draws than Altrincham so they tend to pop up more often, and more matches moved means more matches fans mightn't be able to get to. There doesn't seem to be a real pattern to matches they broadcast - for instance, showing Torquays match away at Altrincham could draw a big TV audience amongst Torquay fans, but the match choice is much more random than that.

The large terrace behind one of the goals is empty, as it was when I visited with Morecambe last season. However, I don't think it's been condemned, as I have seen it in use occasionally when watching match highlights on TV. I think it's a shame that people are forced to sit when terracing is available, but I suppose it congregates the support into a smaller area, which should have a positive affect on the atmosphere.

Both teams have been involved in high scoring matches in their opening few Conference games, which is usually a sign that the match will end up goalless, although thankfully not on this occasion. Decent opening skirmishes, with Oxford being reduced to 10 men early on after a red card following a professional foul. Wrexham missed the resultant penalty. Wrexham kept going and after sustained pressure, they finally took the lead through Welsh international (not a phrase you hear often in the Conference) Steve Evan's header from a corner. After another good chance from Kempson near the end of the first half, the game fizzled out a little in the second half as Wrexham struggled to continue to create chances against a well-organised Oxford side. Jefferson Louis nicked a goal at the death with a well taken solo goal.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Scotland vs Northern Ireland, 20 August 2008

Scotland on Sky - Jim White is unlocked from the Sky Sports News studio and dispatched to Hampden, and Gerry Armstrong is removed from the room with the Spanish TV for his La Liga commentrary and sent up to join Jim. And as it's Scotland, of course Charlie Nicholas gets to do one of his live matches.

A match between two teams who narrowly missed out on going to Euro 2008 (and probably would have gone if they could have immproved some of their results against sides ranked much lower than them) and possibly a pre-cursor to some kind of revived Home Nations tournament, though not involving England as the rest of the British Isles are beneath them. Experimental sides from both teams - Ryan McGivern made his debut for Northern Ireland before he's even playe for Man City. To contrast the depth of resources available to each side, Northern Ireland named a massive 5 substitues.

Hampden wasn't full by any stretch, but there was a strong Northern Ireland contingent who made the short journey across the Irish Sea. There's fireworks and a loud PA playing Muse, booing for the Northern Irish anthem (not sure what the Scots have against God save the Queen), but the Northern Irish fans still manage to sing it at about twice the speed of the band.

Scrappy old game, few chances, Scotland had majority of the possession as Northern Ireland packed the midfield and chased and harried Scotland everytime they had the ball, trying to set David Healy away. Ryan McGivern managed to pick up two yellows on his debut, and picked up a red card on his debut. Surprisingly, one of his cards wasn't for his rubbish haircut. Northern Ireland earned a penalty not long after when Feeny was brought down in the area, but substitue Alan McGregor guessed correctly to save Healy's well struck penalty.

In other news, seems Silvrestre has left Man Utd for Arsenal. Looks lke Ferguson is trimming the squad down, presumably with a view to blooding more of the youngsters like Jonny Evans (although he's primarily a centre back) or the young Da Silva. Unusual for a transfer between two of the "Big Four", even if Silvestre is only likely to be as much of a squad player as he's been at Man Utd recently.

Sky: 5
Setanta: 3
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 2

3pm Premier League under attack in the UK

It would seem that those people using foreign satellites to watch 3pm kick-offs from the Premier League are having their enjoyment curtailed, as it would appear that the Premier League are restricting feeds to those matches to stop pubs screening matches and reducing attendances at matches. This was recently posted on the Alsat forum, run by people who supply Digitalb cards.

Alsat sympathise with all Digalb cardholders over the sudden schedule alteration regards the non showing of Saturday 3pm games.

This has been bought about by action of the FAPL and Sport5 - who have withdrawn feeds to the Digialb service at this time. Digialb understand that the feeds should be available again on November 30. We imagine that this may be due to pressure from other providers such as Sky. It is believed the same action has also been applied to Nova.

This situation is sudden and unforeseen, and bought about by the above outside influences. Digialb are doing everything possible to fight the above actions. We will keep you up to date with any developments in the situation.

Meanwhile, we will remove any silly posts from the forum that blame the action of the FAPL personally on Darkman, Alsat Shop or Digialb.

Further discussion and speculation on the 3pm situation will also be removed, as it serves no good purpose at this time.

As mentioned we will keep you up to date with the situation - with news only from official sources.

*Please keep in mind these actions may also affect any other foreign cards in the near future.

Now, it is worth commenting that Digitalb don't have the greatest reputation. It's under debate if they actually have rights to show the AC Milan, Juventus or Inter Milan TV Stations on their service, and they do seem to occasionally just re-transmit streams from other broadcasters with the sound turned off and their only commentary (for instance, last season they managed to screen Napoli's home matches against some of the big teams in Italy which no other station outside Italy were able to show).

The confusing thing in the message is why the Premier League would restrict access up to the end of November. I can't understand how this would cause the problem to subside if the broadcasts begin again in December. Of course, the start of the season is a crucial time to gain new subscribers and when people are renewing their subscriptions, so the cynic in me wonders if it is spin designed to get as many subscribers as possible based on false promises, and when broadcasts don't resume in December, there will be little these subscribers can do.

It's easy to see why these cards and systems are becoming popular - for pubs, these represent a vast saving on Sky's commercial rates. It's also a grey area if they're illegal to use or not - Sky are trying to bring several cases against publicans who use foreign systems, and there are posts on forums from publicans who say their brewery is recommending they take these systems. For the home subscriber, they offer all that Sky and Setanta can broadcast, plus the added advantage of a selection of 3pm kick-offs, which are blacked out in the UK to protect attendances at football beneath the Premier League. A digitalb card costs around £220, and a satellite system can be installed for a one-off fee of between £200 and £400, a combined cost of less than many season tickets to top flight football. Useful if you're a fan of one of the big teams, priced out of going to your ground. Less useful if you're a fan of one of the smaller Premier League teams, less marketable outside the UK and restricted mainly to showings against the big teams.

What's confusing about the decision is why they've only decided to focus on some broadcasters. Perhaps others will follow, but at the moment restrictions seem only to have been placed on some of the channels which are most easily receivable in the UK. It's also strange that the Premier League would take this decision, knowing that it will harm it's "product" in foreign territories, in a time when it is seeking to take it's globalisation even further. I wonder how football fans in Greece or Albania feel about their viewing being restricted?

What I do support is the black-out which continues in the UK at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, and keeps attendances high at lower league football. The English second tier, for instance, is the eight most watched league in Europe, which would surely dimish should more Premier League football be available on a Saturday afternoon. As a fan of Morecambe, when we play on Tuesday night and go up against a Champion's League matchnight, 500 can easily be knocked off our attendance. It doesn't sound like much, but on average attendances of 2500, it's a significant downturn in revenue. I'm sure most clubs at a lower level realise that not everyone that comes through the gate is a dyed-in-the-wool supporter, and may have loyalties elsewhere, but are grateful for their custom regardless.

People often make the argument that other leagues in Europe survive, despite having all their top flight matches screened live. They have a point, but often in Europe the top flight matches are played at a time when they don't affect lower league matches. For instance, in Spain, lower flight football is often played in the morning, whilst La Liga is screened in the evening. Other leagues also don't charge the extortionate entrance fees charged in the Premier League - it may be that the masses of empty seats in the like of the Reebok Stadium or Middlesbrough's Roverside are not because people are watching down the pub on a foreign station, but because the price is too high. Half the admission cost, and watch attendances rise. German football is the perfect example - almost capacity stadiums all over the Bundesliga, great atmosphere and all down to being able to turn up on a match day, hand over less than a tenner and watch top flight football.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against all the Premier League matches being on TV, and I'm sure it will happen one day. But lower flight football must be protected at all costs, and put first for a change rather than letting the Premier League extend it's grip further. Perhaps move all the Premier League matches bar the lunchtime and evening Saturday kick-offs to Sunday, and let the part-time fans help keep the lower league teams afloat.

The other interesting aspect to this situation that I find is that it shows the attitude of a lot of English football "fans" to foreign football, who find it incomprehensible that anyone would want to watch anything other than the Premier League. I don't expect anyone to get up and start supporting their local team on the back of this, but given that there are regularly four live matches each weekend in the Premier League in the UK, why not give something else a go on a Saturday afternoon? I'll be watching Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich this Saturday, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Argentina 3 - 0 Brazil, Olympics Semi-Final, 19 August 2008

Or Messi vs Ronaldinho. And on the current form of those two players, Argentina won comfortably in the end.

I missed the first 30 minutes or so, and judging by the end of the first half, perhaps that was merciful for me. Argentina went ahead early in the second half through a whipped cross from the left, which was chested into to goal by the on-rushing Aguero (fortunately in my opinion). Brazil then decided to try and play and hit the post soon after, but just before an hour, Argentina crossed in from the right this time and poor marking from Brazil allowed Aguero to score a second one. Ronaldinho hit the post again with a free kick, and Pato stuck the rebound in for Brazil, only to have his goal chalked off for off-side. A penalty dispatched by Riquelme for Argentina after a poor challenge wrapped the match up for Argentina, and a petulant Lucas was sent off for a hack late in the match, soon joined by Thiago Neves for a trip, both on Mascherano.

The Olympics tournament is a strange one - I'm not altogether sure how teams qualify for it (and too lazy to read Wikipedia to find out), but there are undoubtedly some great players playing there, but it just doesn't sit right with the other international tournaments and therefore flies under the radar somewhat. I understand that it's a very bg deal in South America: Dunga is managing the Brazilian team, as they were in pursuit of the only footballing tournament they've never won. Perhaps because it's given less TV coverage because of the other olympic events, perhaps it's because the players are largely unheard of as they aren't the finished products and most are still based in their domestic leagues, perhaps it's not a big deal in the UK because of the lack of a UK team.

Argentina vs Nigeria should be an interesting final (although unfortunately for UK audiences, the kick-off is at 5am UK time). Many of the Argentina squad that played in the 2004 final went on to big things, as did some of the Nigeria squad at the 1996 Olympics. There's calls for the tournament to become an U-20 or U-19 due to the demands on some of the "big players" in an already crowded international and domestic calendar, so maybe the football will become even less of a big deal in the future. To an extent, I agree, as the concept of highly-paid professional footballers sits somewhat outside the Olympic ideal, especially after Barcelona went to court to try and secure the retained services of Lionel Messi for Champions League qualification, but I suppose the Olympics prefer the exposure the more familiar players bring. I can't see an U-20 tournament filling stadiums in the 2012 Olympics. On the other hand, the Olympic football tournament is the only tournament left that isn't horribly diluted by massive sponsorship, which makes it fairly special in my opinion.

Podcast Review - World Football (BBC)

Subscribing to this podcast gets you two podcasts for the price of one. The first, the World Football Program, which is originally broadcast on the World Service is presented by Alan Green. Now I hate Alan Green - his pompous level challeneges Andy Gray's at the best of times - but loathe as I am to admit it, he's very good on this. His knowledge as passion for the game come through as he links interviews and reports on diverse subjects - it genuinely is a World Football Show, with it's reports coming from BBC reporters based across the globe. It's perhaps a little on the dry side, but very interesting, and refreshing to get a much more global perspective, especially with the incredibly English-centric media in this country.

The second part of the podcast is edited highlights from the World Football Phone in, which is broadcast in the middle of the night on Radio 5 Live. Now, being in the middle of the night limits the audience somewhat, so listen for more than a couple of episodes and you'll start to become familiar with the listeners. It can be an aquired taste - such regular contact between presenter and listener allows them to build up more of a relationship than perhaps a "normal" football phone in would allow, and personally I find the in-jokes and the nicknames they have for each other cringeworthy, but move beyond that and it can be a very interesting broadcast.

With it being listener driven, by questions asked to the pundits by either phone or email, the quality depends on what's being asked this week, but there is no denying the pundits know their stuff. Stand-out pundit is Tim Vickery (the Vikipedia), representing South American football, and this man's knowledge is vast. Other pundits cover Australasian football, European Football, African Football, and there are two or three pundits each week. Many of the questions are centred on reports of players who may be heading to the UK to ply their trade, but there is also a variety similar to the other part of the podcast. I've only ever listened to the 40 or so minutes highlights show, I've never considered staying up to listen to it live, but if you want to keep up with more of what's going on in the world, it's a very worthwhile listen.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Man Utd 1 - 1 Newcastle Utd, 17 August 2008

After the great football in the Chelsea - Pompey game earlier, this was a disappointing follow-up. United were missing several players, notably Tevez through a family bereavment and Ronaldo through injury, and it showed as they struggled to create chances, and struggled to take chances.

Gone was the free-flowing football from last season, and it was replaced with a staccato stop-start performance through of mistakes, which made play disjointed and fairly dull to watch.

For me, if United don't sign Berbatov or another striker, they won't win the league again this season - whilst their attacking players are very good, there are too few of them - Scholes and Giggs are showing their age, Saha is constantly crocked and Campbell shows promise but is still very much learning his trade, leaving the mantle to Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo to lead the attack. United were fortunate with injuries last season, but it would be surprising if they rode their luck in such a way again this season.

It's only the first match of the season, and with Tevez and Ronaldo to come back, it it shouldn't be panic stations yet, but they must keep up with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea until Ronaldo comes back.

Matches so far this season:
Sky: 4
Setanta: 3
Foreign Satellite: 2

Chelsea 4 - 0 Portsmouth, 17 August 2008

After being derided as a boring team for the neutral to watch ever since Mourinho took control of the club, Chelsea have just delivered a devestating show of football to perhaps blow that old chestnut out of the water. Portsmouth were dominated in the first half by a showing of fantastic passing and movement and went in three down at the break. Chelsea took their foot off the gas in the second period, but Deco scored a delightful long range goal near the end, although it was helped by questionable positioning by James in the Popey goal.

£8 million for Deco, in a market where Robbie Keane costs £20 million and Gareth Barry is quoted at £18 million is an absolute steal. Ever since he signed for Chelsea, I had a feeling he would make a massive difference to their team, and even though it's only the first match of the season, he made it. His through balls to the likes of Anelka, Drogba and Kalou with pace could be devestating.

Of course, Portsmouth have the disadvantage of being the first team to play Chelsea and that makes it difficult to decide how to play against them. After today's showing, I'd guess most teams will just opt to shut up shop at Stamford Bridge and hope to hold out for a goal from a set piece. Lesser teams that come to try and outplay Chelsea could be massacred.

It also shows the huge gap between the top four teams in the Premier League and the rest. Portsmouth are supposed to be a team on the up - Cup Champions and have been challenging for Europe for the last couple of seasons. But to barely be able to hold of Chelsea for even 10 minutes and be chasing shadows for most of the match illustrates just how unbalanced this league has become.

Matches so far this season:
Sky: 3
Setanta: 3
Foreign Satellite: 2

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The first day of the Premier League Season

EPL back today. Be still whilst I contain my joy!

Anyhoo, started the day with the return of Soccer AM. New look to go along with the new presenter (feel a bit for Andy Goldstein, I quite liked him, an improvement over Tim Lovejoy in my opinion, who had become a self-centred tool). Although it's pretty much the same old show as ever, signs are that the new presenter looks OK, and hopefully wil improve as he builds up a rapport with Helen.

Staying on Sky for the opening match of the EPL, Arsenal vs West Brom, looked like it might be a rampage for Arsenal as Nasri opened the scoring after 4 minutes. However, luckily for West Brom, Arsenal struggled to create many more chances and looked in control without creating much after that. My interest waned and I browsed the internet looking for a new phone whilst watching it.

I was shocked at how thin Arsenal's squad has become. I know they are suffering from injuries, but they seem to be down to almost the bones, and even had a 16-year old (according to the SKy interactive stats) on the bench. Lots of young players indicate just how much of a selling club Arsenal have become - get a player young, train him in the Arsenal way and flog him high after a few years. It would be interesting if Arsenal ever were taken over by an investor - Wenger could make somebody a lot of money, but as I heard somewhere else, the amount of players they need to sell to help pay off the stadium debt must be worrying, especially if Arsenal don't qualify for the Champions League. Will be an interesting season to see if the young players can rise to the challenge when they face sterner tests.

Off to Christie Park for the first home match of the season against Rotherham. We were comprehensively outplayed for the majority of the match, going 1-0 down to a superbly taken long range goal after 8 minutes, and after that Rotherham dominated us for the match. They broke strong and quick, and we couldn't get anything through their midfield, leaving us to punt the ball up long for their central denfenders to comfortably deal with. Another one just before half time, from the edge of the box (closing players down is not our strong point). Mid-way through the second half, we scored and put them under a sustained period of pressure, only for them to curl another goal in from the corner of the area right at the death. Pandemonium on the messageboard this evening, as people criticise all and sundry and blame the manager for everything. Yes, we played poorly, but it was exactly the same team who held a strong Wycombe team at Adams Park last Saturday. I don't think we'll go down (and with three teams still on minus points, we shouldn't!) but I don't think we'll challenge for the play-offs either, but then that was always unlikely. After a few seasons of success, fans expectations get raised, often unrealistically, and many seem unable to deal with us losing more regularly, after becoming accustomed to us winning often in the Conference.

Home, and watched Setanta to see Sunderland against Liverpool. Or at least, I would have, had we not discovered that our cat may have contracted worms from somewhere and we had to mount a major clean up operation in the room where the cat sleeps and has her tray and food. I watched the first part, and was interested to see how uncreative Liverpool were, and then stuck the rest of the match on a stream on the laptop whilst I was cleaning. I came back downstairs just as Torres got a goal from nothing, which shows what £24 million buys. The first match of the season is always interesting, as it leaves you to speculate if Liverpool were poor, or if it was down to improvements in the Sunderland squad that lead to Liverpool struggling.

Interestingly, it seems that both of the foreign cards I use may have been barred from broadcasting 3pm English matches for a certain period, as it seems the cards are becoming too prolific in the UK, and the Premier League are leaning heavily on the broadcasters. If this continues, it should help me in my quest to explore other leagues, as I will be forced into watching other countries leagues on Saturday afternoons when I haven't gone to Morecambe away matches.

Will most likely watch some of match of the day to catch up on the other Premier League goals, and become incensed with Gary Linker's smug face.

Matches so far this season:
Sky: 2
Setanta: 3
Foreign Satellite: 2

The rest of this week's viewing

Haven't watched anything specific in the last few days.

On Wednesday, I half-watched Twente vs Arsenal on Setanta whilst I was listening to Morecambe being comprehensively out-played in the Carling Cup at Nottingham Forest. Twente seemed completely average, and Arsenal won the match without playing particularly well. Also flicked onto Liege vs Liverpool, missed the penalty save though. Liverpool must be disappointed with there performance in that match, but should comfortably win the return leg, though if Liege were to score first it would be very interesting - can't see that happening though.

On Thursday, watched a little of Aston Villa's match in Iceland, as well as dipping into Manchester City's match. The City match was interesting, they really struggled (although they didn't struggle against the Faroese side in the previous round, they were far from dominant) and missing out on qualification for the first round proper must be a real worry. Grave concerns for Mark Hughes there. Villa on the other hand already have one foot and most of the rest of their body in the pot for the first round.

Last night, watched most of the first half of the Bundesliga opener between Bayern and Hamburg. Was a good open match, Bayern opening the scoring with a screamer from Schiensteiger, before a soft penalty put them two up. Hamburg scored after about half and hour, and went on to level the score in the second half, which I missed as I was watching something else. I missed most of the opening ceremony (Premier League, are you watching? It was great, people zipping round in little motorised pods waving flags and fireworks going off) as I was on the phone with three arguing about changes to my mobile phone contract. Ho hum.

Off to Christie this afternoon for the first home match of the season against Rotherham, will most likely take in one of the Premier League matches today as well. West Brom vs Arsenal sounds more appealing than Sunderland vs Liverpool. Beyond that, haven't really looked at the fixtures to commit to anything.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Chester 2 - 5 Leeds, League Cup, 12 August 2008

Enjoyed Chester vs Leeds last night, in the English League Cup. Leeds looked rather tasty, with a very skillful, quick young side - Jermain Beckford impressed particularly, with a well taken hat-trick including two fantastic goals. Leeds were 5-1 up by half-time, and although they pushed on in the second, they made a few substitutions and lost momentum.

Chester look like a side in lots of trouble - too many mistakes in possession, and defensively inept. Following a 6-0 drubbing on the opening day of the season, there must be a lot of concern at the Deva Stadium. Such is their poor showing, that they must be looking over their shoulders at the teams beneath them with the points deductions.

Matches so far this season:
Sky: 1
Setanta: 2
Foreign Satellite: 2

Monday, 11 August 2008

Hamilton Academical vs Dundee Utd

Scottish Premier League, 11 August 2008

Really enjoyed this one. Hamilton making their return to the top flight of Scottish football after a near 20 year absence, playing at home. Quite a modern little stadium on show, of the stands visible on TV, two nice raised stands, which I always like as it means the spectators right at the front get a decent view when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch. One side of the ground is just a wall, looks like a stand is being built. They have electronic advertising boards along the main stand, which I always find distracting when watching the match, but I suppose that's the point. I wonder if they're there all the time, or if they are just installed for live matches on TV. The dugouts even have those fancy sports-car-style seats! Apparanently last season, the ground had a synthetic pitch, which hs been relain as turf for this season. Very good atmosphere at the match, with singing from both sets of supporters.

Both teams set out to play decent attacking football, playing the ball well on the round, making for a very enjoyable viewing experience. Dundee took the lead somewhat against the run of play, unfortunately through an own goal. Hamilton then drew level shortly after from a well taken free kick, which took a slight deflection to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Approaching halftime, Hamilton took the lead when a ball that went across the goal looked like it was nudged in off a Hamilton player's hand.

The second half started a little more slowly, but after a little bit of hand-bags, Hamilton scored again as Dundee failed to clear their lines. Dundee put a bit of pressure on towards the end, but although Hamilton appeared dead on their feet, they didn't come too close to scoring, and Hamilton hung on for a well earned win in their first match back in the SPL. A good evenings football.

Community Shield 2008

Enjoyed the Community Shield on Setanta. Can't comment on the presentation other than the match, as I tend not to watch those parts, but the match itself was an enjoyable, if rather tame affair - I don't think either team where giving 100%. I think both teams wanted to win though, which is why I think Man Utd didn't bring on some of their young players that where on the bench. Had they gone in front, I would have expected some of them to come on near the end.

I enjoyed Jon Champion's commentary, I think he's possibly my favourite commentator. Craig Burley was fairly annoying though - constant criticism of the new "Respect" programme, citing how it would disrupt the flow of the game. Personally, I think it's great that players will get booked for bawling their heads off at the referee of his assistants, and would go so far as to question the intelligence of anyone who thought it was a bad thing. Yes, referees make mistakes, but so do players. The alternatives, such as a referee watching a live feed of the broadcast and making decisions I think would disrupt the flow even more.

Anyway, it's a shame there weren't more goals (or any goals for that matter!), but a decent showing from Setanta in my opinion.

What's on this season?

Just thought I'd compile a list of what we know is going to be available in the UK this season on various TV and internet channels. Please send me anything that I've missed: email with anything that is inaccurate or missing.

Premier League
Live matches on Sky and Setanta, highlights on BBC.
Delayed full matches shown on BT Vision, extended highlights on Sky Sports.

The FA Cup
Live matches on ITV and Setanta

The League Cup
Live matches on Sky, highlights on ITV

The Football League
Live matches on Sky, highlights on ITV

Johnstones Paint Trophy
Live matches on Sky

Blue Square Premier
Live matches on Setanta


Premier League
Live matches on Setanta, highlights on BBC. Delayed matches shown on BT Vision and BBC Gaelic

FA Cup
Live matches on Sky and BBC

League Cup
Live matches on BBC

Other Leagues
League of Wales
Live matches on S4C

Carnegie Irish Premier League (Northern Ireland)
Live matches on Sky

Eircom Premier League (Republic of Ireland)
Live matches on Setanta

La Liga (Spain)
Live matches on Sky

Bundesliga (Germany)
Live matches on Setanta

Ligue 1 (France)
Live matches on Setanta

Eredivise (Holland)
Live matches on Setanta

Serie A (Brazil)
Live matches on SportsXchange

J-League (Japan)
Live matches on Eurosport 2 (streaming also on bet365)

Chinese Super League
Live matches streamed on bet365

Russian Premier League
Live matches streamed on bet365

Finnish League
Live matches streamed on bet365

European Competitions
Champions League
Live matches on ITV and Sky

Home rights sold by individual clubs - expect matches on ITV4, Setanta and Five for English clubs. ITV have rights to Manchester City matches.
BBC Scotland usually broadcast Scottish matches. Matches not involving British Teams tend to be streamed on bet365.
Quarter finals onwards broadcast only on ITV.

UEFA Super Cup
Live on ITV

Worldwide competitions
World Club Cup Championship
Expected to be on BBC, as it features Manchester United

Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana
Live matches on Setanta

Home: World Cup qualifiers on ITV, Friendlies on Setanta (Highlights on ITV), some on ITV
Away: Sky/Setanta

Live home matches on Sky; highlights on BBC Scotland
Away matches on Sky/Setanta/BBC Scotland

Live home matches on Sky; highlights on BBC Wales
Away matches on Sky/Setanta/BBC Wales

N. Ireland
Live home matches on Sky; highlights on BBC N Ireland
Away matches on Sky/Setanta/BBC N Ireland

Rep. Ireland
Live home matches on Sky
Away matches on Sky/Setanta/BBC Scotland

As part of Setanta's deal to broadcast home nations away matches, they have secured rights to the home matches of various European national teams. It is belived they will screen some of these other matches which take place in home nations groups as time allows.

So, looking at that list, it would appear that the Italian Serie A will not be broadcast this season (at time of writing), and the Portuguese BWin League has also disappeared from Setanta's portfolio.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers, 9 August 2008

We went to Wycombe on 9th August for the first match of the 2008-9 season. Usually a time for short sleeves, there was a definite need for a raincoat and umbrella - cold and wet was the order of the day.

We arrived at the ground at about 1.45pm. We'd parked down a residential street before you get to the industrial estate where the ground is situated. We'd read posts on the net about it being difficult to get away after the match if you park there, and the residential street was free! Need to be careful where you park though - there are single yellow lines, with signs that look like they can be put in place to restrict parking, but I think this might only be for big matches or when Wasps are playing at Adams Park.

When we where arrived, we were ushered into the away fans entrance, had our bags searched by some friendly stewards, paid our admission (reserved seating - £18 though, ouch) and then greeted by a friendly steward inside who directed us to the toilets.

The ground is quite big and modern - think the capacity is 10,000. There is one set of terracing for home fans behind one goal, and the other sides are seated, with one double tiered stand along one side of the pitch with plenty of corporate boxes. The away end where we were sat had a good view of the pitch, which you would expect (or even demand!) for £18 admission.

The ground and facilities were very clean. We didn't buy any food from the stalls, but usual burger, pies, chips and sauage roll fare was available for standard football ground prices. If you are after sweets, there is a vending machine near the catering booth that sells chocolate bars for 50p, which is very reasonable.

The match day "experience" is very professional - they have a video screen (I guess needed for the rugby), which they make use of to play videos and conduct interviews on the pitch before the match. The PA system is very loud! A strange choice of music in my opinion - the team comes out to "Sunburn" by Muse (I don't want you to adore me, I want you to ignore me!). But, if you so choose, you can watch the match on the screen. Replays of shots and goals are also shown - useful to watch the replay of Wycombe's 25 yard screamer that caught us somewhat unaware!

All in all, a very pleasant, if unoriginal ground. Our parking place afforded us a quick exit from the area around the ground and back to the motorway. There's nothing that would make me rush back to the ground, especially at the price they charge for admission, but there is also little to criticise the club about.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Peterborough vs Man Utd, Friendly, 4 August 2008

I was just about to post about how this has been a firly dull match, with little of note for Joe Lewis to do bar picking out a couple of shots from distance, and collecting some very wayward shots when he's dropped a howler - miscommunication between him and his defender saw the defender chest a ball back, and for Joe to fumble it and drop it over his own line. Whoops.

Still, not been a bad year for the lad - last year, he made his debut for Morecambe on loan from Norwich in a friendly at Southport, now he's playing Man td via a trip to Trinidad with the England team.

It's predictably dull friendly fare - wouldn't have tuned in if it hadn't been for the Joe Lewis connection. Man Utd playing a few recognised first teamers (Ferdinand, Brown, Evra and Tevez), along with a few squad players like Fletcher and O'Shea, as well as some of the youngsters. They're holding Peterborough well, seemingly playing pretty much within themselves, but they've had a few close chances, partly down to some dodgy clearances by Kuszack, and had a lucky let off when McClean blazed a shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy following some creative defending by Man Utd.

Going to abandon this at half-time to catch up on last week's episode of The Wire. Can't see there being much more excitment now Utd have taken the lead, and expect plenty of substitutions to disrupt the game in the 2nd half.

Pretty sure this is the second season in a row Peterborough have played Utd in a friendly - perhaps it will become a regular occurence whilst Ferguson Jnr manages there.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Enyimba 1 - 0 Cotonsport

Enyimba 1 - 0 Cotonsport
African Champions League, 3 August 2008

I only caught the last 15 minutes of this match, and it looked like being a fairly dull start to my footballing adventure, two pretty average teams cancelling each other out, until a well taken goal in the last minute following a goalmouth scramble.

I find the African Champions League a very interesting competition - you can see the clash of cultures between the very rich clubs in the competitions (Egyptian and Tunisian sides playing in strips plastered with sponsor logos) and the poorer nations, like the two teams here, playing in well worn simple strips with no visible sponsorship. I hadn't seen a ground like this one in African football before, I'm more used to the large open bowls, but this one was more European or even English in design, with covered stands. Looked like a capacity crowd, with lots of musical instruments being played - and no bloody England fans band either!

This weeks plans

Just back from Holiday, so missed a vital days watching yesterday, although I did go to see Morecambe beat Carlisle 2-1 at Christie Park in a pre-season friendly. We looked pretty decent, the new players seem to be gelling well and offensively we seem a lot more creative than last season. There seem to be a number of outlets going forward rather than relying on Garry Thompson or Carl Baker all the time.

Anyway, going to watch the Hungarian Grand Prix today. Football wise, if I watch anything today it will probably be the African Champions League match between Enyimba and Cotonsport. Tomorrow, probably watch Peterborough against Man Utd to see Joe Lewis in action,Wednesday either a Woman's Olympic match or one of the Champion's League qualifiers, Thursday has either Men's Olympic Football or possibly a German Cup match. The off to Wycombe on Friday in preparation for the first match of the season on Saturday. Exciting times.

Why Hello...

After becoming tired with the drudgery of the English Premier League, I've decided to start watching other leagues more regularly. A satellite dish pointed at European satellites, a subscription to a foreign sports service, and a combination of internet streams will allow me to watch French, German, Italian, Greek, Albanian, Russian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian leagues amongst others. I'm planning on watching at least one different league each weekend, regardless of the level of the league, or even the league within the country!

I believe that watching football is as much about various footballing cultures and styles of football as it is about just sitting back and consuming the “best league in the world", which is so often predictable and devoid of entertainment, not losing being more important than winning, such is the meagre total of points that it is possible to stay in the English top flight with.

Listening: Orpheus (Ash).