Monday, 29 September 2008

Sunday review; Wigan vs Manchester City

On Sunday, I watched Robinho’s Manchester City visit the JJB, and come away with no points after an impressive display by Wigan.

Wigan look like a team that will cause a lot of teams problems – having watched them against Chelsea, when they shut Chelsea down after going behind to a free kick, this time they worked hard but were more attacking. Zaki looks like a fantastic player, honest and hard working, and is fast becoming one of my favourite players in the Premier League for his attitude. Unfortunately, his form is likely to become Wigan’s loss as he is only on loan, and if he keeps up performing like this, he is likely to be plying his trade at a “bigger” club next season.

Wigan were strong and athletic, always harrying Man City and giving the likes of Wright-Phillips and Robinho little time on the ball to carve out chances. Wigan took the lead with a pile-driver from Valencia, one of those goals that demands a reaction from those watching. They didn’t hold on to it for long, conceding a soft goal from a corner as the ball rebounded off Kompany and into the net.

Wigan restored their deserved lead in an undeserved fashion, getting a soft penalty for an apparent dive by Palacios, which was despatched by the impressive Zaki. Wigan sat back in the second half and were content to close down Man City, who were unable to break a stubborn Wigan side down. Wigan look like a solid mid-table team, who are stuck between a rock and a hard place – they look to strong this year to be sucked into the relegation mire, and not quite good enough to challenge for a European spot. Outside chance for the League Cup perhaps? One thing is for sure, no team is going to look forward to playing them, they aren’t the push-over for the bigger sides they have been in the previous two seasons.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Saturday review; Liverpool win on Merseyside, Man Utd beat Bolton, Hull humble Gunners

Busy Premier League day yesterday. Liverpool won at Everton thanks to two second-half Fernando Torres goals, which was what their dominance of play deserved. I think I recall a comment from the commentators on the end that Everton hadn't made a shot on target all match, and I can easily believe that, as they had little possession and mainly squandered what they had. Looks like it could be a long season for the Toffees, it's difficult to see where their goals will come from. Mike Riley took the spotlight again, making many stoppages for free kicks (although in the criticism he took from the commentators, what can he do if both teams persistently foul? The more he lets play "flow", the more chance he misses a foul, earning thr wrath of the players and commentators for not blowing - who'd be a referee?), though he most puzzling decision of the day was sending Cahill off for a poor challenge when a yellow may have sufficed, although Cahill's reluctance to come over and speak to the ref may have led to his own downfall.

I then watched Man Utd vs Bolton on an internet stream, as digitalb unsurprisingly didn't broadcast this match live. At the same time I was listening to Morecambe earn a draw at Lincoln on Morecambe World, the commentary for which sounded like it was coming down a piece of string connected to a tin at Sincill Bank. Any time the crowd made any kind of noise, they and the commentators merged into one big blob of sound. When Morecambe equalised, it took almost 30 seconds for me to figure out what had happened! Anyway, in the other match, watched on various streams on as various streams buffered and went down, Man Utd dominated the Trotters, without going ahead until deep in the second half when Ronaldo was brought down in the box - although it was never a penalty. The reaction on the internet chat rooms at the time was telling - blaming Ronaldo and calling him all the names under the sun, when none of it was actually his fault - it was a fair tackle, which brought him down after the ball had been won; Ronaldo didn't dive, didn't appeal for the penalty, but yet in the eyes of most of those in the chatroom at the time, it was his fault. Anyway, Rooney came off the bench to get a second to take the focus off the dodgy decision slightly.

In the tea-time match, featuring Arsenal yet again (I think the last three Setanta tea-time matches have featured the Gunners), Hull held up well against Arsenal in the first half, living on the edge slightly in defense on occasion, but making several chances of their own. As Arsenal scored at the start of the second half, and Sally had just put my tea out, I turned the telly off, and turned on again a few minutes before the end to see what cricket score Arsenal had run up, only to see Hull had taken the lead! I was glad not be be betting, as I certainly would have used Arsenal in a few accumulators yesterday. So I watched the highlights on match of the day, and saw Hull were worthy of their win - Arsenal again trying to elaborate too much in front of goal, passing when they should shoot, and Geovanni equalised with a fantastic rocket from outside the area, before Cousin got the winner from a corner.

All of which leaves Chelsea and Liverpool tied at the top of the Premier League.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

League Cup; Newcastle vs Tottenham

Not dwelling on this one - awful match. First half instantly forgettable save for minor clash between Coloccini and Pavlyuchenko.

In the second half, Tottenham were marginally better, and scored through Pavlyuchenko and a drive from O'Hara. Owen got one back for Newcastle at the end, but I'd given up by then.

Both teams were woeful, and on this form it is little surprise they are stuck at the bottom of the table - no creativity, no fluidity, nothing to offer the fans of the clubs any glimmer of hope. The 30,000 fans who stayed away had the best idea. The highlight of the match for me was when the screen turned green when Sky had a problem with their uplink, but unfortunately for the viewer, it soon came back on.

Annoyingly for me, there was a full round of Serie A matches, so I could have switched over to Digitalb and at least watched one of those. Never mind.

Newcastle are deep in the mire, and unless they get the management and ownership sorted out quickly, they are a realistic prospect for relegation, as West Brom, Hull and Stoke all seem much more capable of collecting points that Newcastle do.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

League Cup; Manchester United vs Middlesbrough

Old Trafford looked to be about two thirds full, no doubt down to United’s record of going out of the competition to Championship sides in the last two seasons and also United charging full admission for the match. The match had the air of a pre-season friendly about it as there was virtually no tempo to the game. Ronaldo started the match trying various flicks and turns, almost as if himself believed the match was beneath him (he probably did – must be the first time he’s played in the third round of the League Cup for a long time). United had much the better of the first half, with the youngsters of Da Silva at right back and Possebon in midfield being particularly impressive. Amos in goal had little to do, and Wellbeck showed some good touches, but made some errors of judgement in his passing. Ronaldo got United’s first from a corner, showing his aerial ability matches his ability on the ground.

Middlesbrough changed things round in midfield in the second half, and came more into the game as a result, and got an equaliser with the aid of a deflection after about an hour. It was after that goal that the incident the match will probably be most remembered for – Emmanuel Pogatetz with a terrible challenge on Possebon, which looks to have broken the young chap’s leg. What was most infuriating about the incident was that it was malicious – the replays proved that – but Pogatetz had the audacity to argue his sending off as he left the pitch.

Fittingly, the defensive player brought on to cover for Pogatetz goofed up and passed a ball straight to Giggs for a clean run on goal to restore United’s lead, and Nani got a third from another mistake deep into injury time (nine minutes due to the treatment of Possebon).

It was a pleasing performance from United, who got a result without really appearing to try that hard, and showed that some of the youngsters on the books would be worth a look in the Premier League, especially now that 7 substitutes can be used. However, what the match is most likely to throw up is more media analysis of how reckless tackles should be punished, and how blatant disrespect like Pogatetz should be dealt with. As the match was not broadcast live in the UK, and the competition has a much lower profile than the Premier League, the bare outrage will probably not reach that of the tackle involving Arsenal’s Eduardo last season, but it is another entry in the long list of why so many people are being turned off top flight football.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Saturday review

The weekend’s viewing began with my first Morecambe match in three weeks, after missing the last home match after going to an Ash concert in London. On that day, by all accounts we were very impressive against a title-challenging Shrewsbury, who beat Gillingham 7-0 the week after as we stole a 1-0 win. Against Grimsby at the weekend, we failed categorically to reproduce that kind of form, going down to an early penalty and then labouring for the next 50 minutes, practically devoid of any kind of creativity as the ball was passed along midfield, back to the centrebacks and hoofed up field. After the introduction of Craig Stanley to the midfield and Wayne Curtis, who has been our best player in the last few weeks, to the wing, we finally got going and Curtis headed an equaliser shortly after coming on. Curtis then wellied over the goal when put clean through, before Grimsby had two late chances well saved by Roche which allowed us to get a point out of the match.

The stop start nature of the season is frustrating, in that any good performance is usually followed up by a poor one so no momentum can be built. That said, we are unbeaten in four matches now, but worryingly have only kept one clean sheet this season. It’s a funny situation in League 2, with so many teams on minus points, and the teams down amongst us must fight to not become complacement and let these teams overtake them.

After that, I at least watched some entertaining football, as I took in the first hour of Arsenal’s match at Bolton. In a startling contrast of football styles, at one stage early in the first half, the on screen graphic showed Arsenal had completed 129 passes, to Bolton’s 19. That said, it was Bolton who took the lead, but soon after Arsenal took it back with two quick goals, both from fabulous moves, even if Eboue was just offside for the first goal. Arsenal played pretty football, although were guilty of overplaying on occasion, as is their way, looking for the final killer pass rather than trying the more direct approach, but it was one of those Arsenal performances that was really pleasing, even for the non-gunner. I missed the final goal as we popped out for some shopping, but Arsenal are impressing in the same way they did at the start of last season. If they can get players back to fitness and maintain this form, they have to be regarded as contenders; although with so many injury prone players, and a relatively thin squad compared to their fellow contenders, they will probably have to be content with a Champions’ League spot. Which is a shame, but shows how strong the top 4 in the Premier League have become – almost tediously so.

Friday, 19 September 2008

3pm Saturday matches back on digitalb?

Manchester United vs Bolton, next Saturday at 3pm is listed as being on Digitalb here.

Worth nothing, that as it's digitalb, details are incredibly sketchy and no one has any official information. It's worth watching Supersport 4 channel from next week when it's broadcasting the news channel to see if they also list it.

Apparently they didn't show Manchester City's UEFA Cup match last night after advertising it.

If the 3pm listing is true, then it would make a mockery of the nonsensical "no 3pms until November" rumour. We will wait and see...

League 2 Admission Prices

My previous post about the cost of watching Championship football made me think about potentially how much I would pay if I went to all of Morecambe's League matches.

My season ticket cost £234 (by purchasing by 30 June - £247 after), and then I went to all the various clubs websites and looked at the cheapest away tickets they offered (eg terracing when available, and any discounts achieved by buying tickets early), and found it would cost £387 to go to all the away matches, meaning £621 would be the cost to watch all of our League matches this season, and that's before the associated travel costs and anything spent at the ground. Not exactly a cheap past-time.

The individual admission prices, and a graph showing admission prices can be found here

Derby reject QPR price hikes

It would seem that Derby have taken the decision to reject QPR's tickets after alledgy being sent tickets with a face value £10 above what had been agreed.

According to this story on the BBC website, Derby and QPR had agreed a price of either £30 for adults or £20 for concessions, but ended up receiving tickets with a higher value.

Firstly, expecting anyone to pay £30 for Championship football is taking the piss. Then reading further into the article, which says that QPR's tickets are between £20 and £50 for their own fans! Now, I'm sure the £50 seats have a great view and are maybe even padded for the delicate derriere, but let me get this straight - £50? To watch a Championship football side?

It would seem that QPR will adjust to life in Premier League very nicely should their owner's millions see them get there.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

ITV secure deal for remaining England away qualifiers


Setanta have signed a £1 million-plus deal with ITV to secure highlights for the remaining England away qualifiers, bringing to an end the controversy that surrounded their inability to come to a deal for the Andorra and Croatia matches earlier this month.

UEFA Cup; Omonia Nicosia vs Robinho's Manchester City

Bizarrely, this match was on Sky 1 (or Sky1, I'm not sure if there's supposed to be a space or not). The only other football I can remember on Sky1 (aside from various celebrity matches) is a Bolton Champions' League match a couple of seasons ago. Maybe the aquisition of Robinho sparked some kind of bidding war, or more likely, the rights were begging to go cheaply, the match kicking off at the unattractive time of 6pm, and the UEFA Cup's regular home of Five showing a Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Everton marathon, having aquired home rights to all of those sides.

In a partizan atmosphere that often seems to exist in European stadium, but is never anywhere to be found in English grounds, and on a parched pitch, Manchester City laboured in the first half against a willing and organised Cypriot team. Jo managed to mis-hit a ball on the six yard line rather than tap into an empty net and City managed to hit the woodwork twice in the first half. Robinho was the focus of the match of course, both for the team, and he showed flashes of the skill that £32 million has been splashed for, and also for the commentators, who made as many references to him and his Brazilan compatriots as they could. It's already becoming very tired - I think I'm looking forward to the January transfer window, just so City might buy some more big money players to take the focus off Robinho! Just as last night's United match was almost spoilt by the endless reference's to Ronaldo's comeback, so this one too was tarnished by lazy journalism.

Nicosia punished City for their proflicacy right at the start of second half with a peach of a free kick - one of those ones from about 25 yards out that curls just out of the reach of the goalkeeper. Nice. Jo made it a hat-trick of missed chances soon after, contriving to strike the bar when clean through on the keeper. He made up for it soon after, finally netting for City with a tap in, before giving City the lead after 70 minutes with a well taken goal - evading his marker and slotting home from about 15 yards out. Despite a couple of nervy moments right at the end, City held on to secure the win.

A good result from City, which should see the through to the group stage of the competition without too much trouble at Eastlands. They can be pleased with a good performance against a team with the potential to be tricky. They may be worth a cheeky punt as winners of the competition, as it would be realistic to consider them contenders for the competition, and it's a useful way to gain European experience given how they would love to be competing in the Champion's League next season.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Champions League; Manchester United vs Villareal

The first Champions League match of the season at Old Trafford saw Spanish side Villareal pay a return visit, after a 0-0 draw there several seasons ago. It was an enjoyable if uninspiring first half; United having most of the possession and chances and Villareal content to sit back and soak up the pressue.

In the second half, Villareal decided to push forward some more; creating more space for United to push onto, making play more stretched and becoming much more interesting as a result. Manchester United brought Ronaldo on after around 65 minutes, to a very warm Old Trafford welcome - if some people are angry with him after his protracted daliance with Real Madrid, they were out-shouted by those who were pleased he had stayed. Even Andy Gray joined the Ronaldo fan club, going all giddy as he stripped off from his training top into his match shirt.

Either Ronaldo's introduction gave United more confidence, or Villareal decided to give up attacking as a bad job, but United dominated the period Ronaldo was on the pitch. Both sides came close, hitting the post when it would have been easier to score, but despite one of those "kitchen sink" finishes, the match finished goalless, and Villareal probably went away with the point they had came for.

United and their fans can be encouraged by the performance during the last period of the game, when they finally, for the first time this season, looked like the side they are capable of being. Again though, they looked weak up front, and although this may change with Ronaldo's re-appearance in the team, it is dangerous to rely on one player, when a season ending injury is only one mistimed tackle away.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Champions League; Barcelona vs Sporting Lisbon; Marseille vs Liverpool

The Champions League returns and the Sky hype machine gets cranked up a notch. As I'll be watching Manchester United's match tomorrow, I thought I'd take in one of the matches not involving English teams tonight, and tuned into the first half of Barcelona's match against Sporting Lisbon. A good match on paper, between two skillful sides, turned out to be fairly dull, in the half that I watched anyway.

In a Nou Camp that was far from full, Barcelona dominated possession, notching up 70% of the possession at one stage. Barcelona were completely in control, although creating very little in the final third of the pitch. Sporting's apparent unwillingness to chase the ball down meant Barcelona could pass the ball round easily without needing to extend themselves too much, killing the game as a spectacle. They became even less adventurous after Marquez gave them the lead from a poorly defended corner. I decided to switch over at half-time to watch Marseille's match against Liverpool, which at 2-1 to Liverpool, looked a mych more balanced and enticing prospect.

One advantage of watching the Champions League on Sky is their interactive facility - offering six matches tonight and eight tomorrow, all of which can be watched at once if you have ADHD, or you can focus on one and be kept abreast of developments elsewhere by a message on the bottom of the screen as the goals go in, pressing the red button to view them. Sky have improved this facility this season, by showing the replayed goal twice - last season you needed to react within milliseconds of the message going up in order to view anything more than players celebrating a goal. This season you can be slightly more relaxed about things. Unfortunately, Sky have decided against showing the match in whatever format the host broadcaster provide, choosing to chop the top and bottom off a 4:3 feed to fake a 16:9 picture, meaning that players at the top of the screen regularly have their head chopped off, or disappear behind the score graphic.

The Marseille vs Liverpool match was a much more entertaining affair, between two closely matched teams. Marseille had the majority of the play and consistently dispossessed Liverpool in midfield, although it was Liverpool who had the better of the chances as Babel blasted a ball from six yards against the keeper, who managed to get an arm in the way. Both teams had interesting kits - Liverpool's absent of the sponsor logo due to the alcohol advertising ban in France, Marseille for some reason in a change kit of gold and black. The impressive Stade Velodrome had swathes of empty seats - perhaps Champions League apathy is reaching the south coast of France.

In other matches, the Champions League new boys had impressive debuts - Anorthosis Famagusta sharing the points with Werder Bremen in a goaless draw, but by far the most impressive result being Cluj's win in Rome. Both matches frustratingly spoiling my accumulators and denying me my 2p fortune.

Serie A in the UK update

According to posts on the DigitalSpy website, the Eurosport round-up show EUROGOALS showed the goals from this week's round of Serie A matches.

In another post on their forum, it appears the Setanta deal may not be totally dead:

James Richardson gave another update on the Setanta situation in the Guardian Football Weekly podcast yesterday. Apparently the deal is not necessarily dead. It's still possible, though far from certain, that Setanta will show Serie A this season.

I haven't got round to listening to this week's Football Weekly podcast yet, but will post back if there is any further information.

Digitalb Premier League Schedule - 20th/21st September

Saturday 20th
17.30pm BOLTON W. v ARSENAL (SS1)

Sunday 21st
12.00pm WBA v ASTON VILLA (SS1)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Liverpool vs Manchester United, via a dodgy web stream

As I was at a wedding back home in Northern Ireland, my only football this weekend was watching the first half of Liverpool vs Manchester United on streaming site is a streaming site where users connect their telly up to their computer, and broadcast whatever they are watching. Originally set up to allow people to broadcast video gaming, it seems to have grown into a legally dubious way of re-broadcasting various satellite channels. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and you’ll find most matches being broadcast. I ended up watching someone broadcasting Sky Sports over the service, along with around 23,000 other viewers. Given that several other users were broadcasting the match, it soon adds up to quite a few people not being included in Sky’s overall viewing figures.

Quality varies from user to user – some are blocky and jerky, some are very reasonable quality. It’s all done using embedded flash, like youtube and other video sharing sites, meaning you don’t need to download any clients like TVUplayer or SOPcast.

The channel is broadcast in a window about a quarter the size of your computer screen, with a chat window on the other side. The chat window is annoying, there’s no two ways about it, and unfortunately there’s no way of hiding it. Whilst it’s a nice idea, to let people discuss the match in progress, in reality most people use it for fairly basic insults of the team they don’t support, to make various sexist, racist or homophobic insults, or to ask who scored the goal. Every minute.

The match itself (as much as I watched of it) was a pretty exciting, fairly open contest. United look like they could run a cricket score to begin with, before gifting Liverpool an equaliser and falling apart from there. Not having seen the second half, I can’t comment on Liverpool’s winner, but it would be interesting to see how Liverpool would have performed had they not giftwrapped the equaliser.

I did catch the last 10 minutes of Real Madrid vs Numancia last night, seemingly the only part of the game not to contain any goals, but thankfully they won, and was the final result in a small accumulator I had, returning the princely sum of 2p for my stake of 1p. I’d been on a bad run until then, loosing 6 on the bounce. I’ve done a small accumulator for the Champion’s League, based on some of the home “bankers” there look to be. Fingers crossed my luck is changing!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Digitalb Schedule, 12-15 September

12:45 SS1 Liverpool - Manchester Utd
17:20 SS2 Derby County - Sheffield Utd
17:30 SS1 Manchester City - Chelsea

13:30 SS5 Stoke City - Everton

20:00 SS5 Tottenham - Aston Villa

Serie A
17:00 SS3 Palermo - Roma
19:30 SS1 Inter - Catania

14:00 SS1 Genoa - Milan
14:00 SS2 Lazio - Sampdoria
14:00 SS3 Bologna - Atalanta
14:00 SS4 Napoli - Fiorentina
19:30 SS1 Juventus - Udinese


19:00 SS3 Racing - Barcelona
21:00 SS2 Sevilla - Sporting

16:00 SS2 Villarreal - La Coruna
18:00 SS4 Real Madrid - Numancia
20:00 SS2 Almeria - Valencia

19:30 SS1 Frankfurt - Karlsruher SC

14:30 SS2 Koln - Bayern
14:30 SS3 Dormtund - Schalke

16:00 SS3 Hannover - Monchengladbach

18:00 SS4 Lyon - Nice
20:00 SS4 Bordeaux - Marseille

20:00 SS3 PSG - Nantes

22:20 SS1 Gremio - Goias

20:00 SS4 Cruzeiro - Palmeiras

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Northern Ireland 0 - 0 Czech Republic (and a little mention of England)

Sky's first match of their new deal to screen Northern Ireland's home internationals saw them screening probably Northern Ireland's toughest home fixture against group favourites Czech Republic. Gerry Armstrong took a break from his La Liga duties to play summariser, and the little Northern Irish man from Sky Sports News whose name escapes me presented the show.

Didn't quite catch the name of the commentator, it wasn't Jackie Fullerton but it sounded bloody like him, although with less of the trademark Fullerton chuckles.

It was a decent match though, both sides coming close. Chris Brunt has probably the best chance of the match, drawing a save out of Cech when baring down on goal, but a draw was probably fair. Northern Ireland were arguably the better team, but lacked cutting edge up front, as is often the problem. There was hope though, that it would be possible to get some results against the weaker teams in the group at Windsor Park if they played like that again - now if they can only produce that away from home.

Meanwhile, Setanta will be delighted with their match, England at Croatia, Walcott's hat-trick helping to earn a 4-1 win. I haven't seen any of the goals yet, but internet reports suggest a comprehensive win in the manner England should be capable of more often. Perhaps the knives where out for Cappello to soon - no doubt tomorrow's papers will go to the other extreme and start to build England up as World Cup hopefuls again, until the next bad result comes along.

Setanta show FTA England and Scotland Highlights tonight

Setanta Sports 1 will be showing highlights of Iceland vs Scotland and Croatia vs England Free to Air on all platforms from 10.45 pm tonight. This is in light of any of the terrestrial broadcasters meeting Setanta's valuation of the highlight rights.

TV Review - Goalissimo, Channel 4

Goalissimo has been part of my weekend routine for about 14 months now, after starting to watch last summer during the close-season. Broadcast sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, then again on Saturday morning on Channel 4, it’s a weekly round-up show of goals and highlights from around the world.

It’s a strange and somewhat charming little show in that it is very restricted in what it can actually show by it’s obviously miniscule budget (when it’s broadcast in the middle of the night on Channel 4, there are advert breaks with no adverts, just previews of other shows, so clearly not a ratings winner). It tries hard however – making up for not being able to show the Premier League highlights by showing photos of the previous weeks matches.

The format tends to be pretty regular – goals from a few matches in a couple of leagues, and then extended highlights from a couple of matches – currently these tend to be Swedish, Brazilian and American. They either have a globetrotting commentator travelling the world to provide commentary, or some poor lackey in a studio somewhere talking over the already edited highlights.

Each week, there’s a few interview pieces, often featuring global projects to improve an area using football, or an interview with a big star at some promotional event. For some reason, they tend to sit on these interviews for a while before broadcasting them, meaning the content can quickly become out-of-date.

Highlights wise, currently we have Portuguese, German, Swedish, Brazilian, American goals. Occasionally we take a trip to Africa for highlights of some international matches (often several weeks after they happen) or African Champions League coverage. It’s usually quite scattergun, almost as if they get a list of fixtures and put it on the wall, chucking darts in the general direction to pick which matches they show.

It’s early in the season, so new TV contracts mean some leagues will disappear, or might take a while to come back – currently Serie A and Ligue 1 haven’t reappeared on the show after being show last year. Unfortunately it seems for the show, their portfolio is decreasing in direct proportion to increasing amount of money in football, pricing them out of rights to show highlights.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Midweek internationals

Still struggling somewhat to get online regularly with the computer problems I’ve been having. I was down in London last weekend, which meant I missed most of the international “action” (quotation marks added in respect of England’s performance), and am off to a friend’s wedding this weekend means I’m missing the annual Merseyside grudgefest between Liverpool and Man Utd.

Still, will at least be able to take in the internationals tomorrow night. I’m hoping for another Windsor Park performance from Northern Ireland as we take on the Czech Republic. Russia will probably expect to comfortably beat a weak Wales team affected by injuries, Scotland must hope that George Burley picks up his first win as Scotland manager or qualification will look dead in the water before it’s properly begun. Croatia will be aiming to be the first nation to beat England in three successive competitive matches, and must fancy their chances against an England side who look, quite frankly, rotten.

Well worth a look (for those who don’t work during the day) is the Korean Clash on Eurosport at 1pm (UK time). Talk about a local derby with a bit of needle!

It still remains to be seen if highlights on the England match will turn up on any of the terrestrial channels, as, at the time of writing, nobody has matched Setanta’s asking price, leading to a lot of ill-feeling across various messageboards on the internet.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Transfer deadline day review - one day on

I fully intended to write about this yesterday, but whiled away my evening re-installing windows on my pc (twice as it happens). I've got a very flakey PC that doesn't really like being shut down, and ever since I've got windows going again, it seems it doesn't even want to go into standby. Joker. New PC ordered.

Anyway, it turns out my Monday scepticism may have been unfounded, as Berbatov did end up at Manchester United. Viewers of Sky Sports News probably enjoyed some of the most exciting reporting in the station's history, as Man City tried to hijack the deal, Berbatov was spotted being picked up by Sir Alex Ferguson, Tottenham took the hump and various people said United didn't have permission to talk to Berbatov, and so on and so on.

Meanwhile, admidst reports of them trying to grab Berbatov and having a bid accepted by Tottenham, Man City showed their new found financial clout by grabbing Robinho from Real Madrid, much to the amazement of pretty much every one in the football world, and much to the annoyance of Chelsea. At various times in the afternoon, it was reported that Man City were also pursuing Mario Gomes and David Villa.

At the same time, "sources" were saying that Kevin Keegan had been sacked by Newcastle, causing the North East reporter to be dispatched to St James' Park to stand in front of Geordies pulling faces. Lucky man. Anyway, as of now, Newcastle are still denying he's been sacked, but strong rumours remain about his tenure at the club.

Probably the most exicting deadline day since it's introduction, and most likely very impressive viewing figures for the channel. It will be interesting to see what City manage to do now with Robinho on board - several players will need to be raising their game to maintain their places at the club, and you must wonder how Corluka feels after jumping ship earlier in the day for Tottenham. The January transfer window could prove to be interesting, and Arsenal and Liverpool will be watching their backs, as a potential threat to the "Big Four" could finally be emerging.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Upcoming World Cup Qualifiers on Digitalb

Saturday 6th September

18.45 Albania - Sweden
19.45 Hungary - Denmark
20.00 Andorra - England
20.00 Malta - Portugal
20.30 Austria - France

Wednesday 10th September

20.30 Macedonia - Netherlands
20.45 Albania - Malta
20.45 Portugal - Denmark
21.00 Croatia - England
21.00 France - Serbia

Interesting that there's no Italy match, as they usually just borrow the RAI feed!

Transfer deadline day

The BBC's transfer deadline day tracker here should be interesting, if as usual, they publish whatever guff some half-wits text in. Expect sighting of Robinho and Berbatov all over the country, and marvel at the end of the day about what a waste of time it probably all has been.

With Berbatov to Man Utd looking quite likely, but by no means certain, it's amusing that all the column inches over the likes of Ronaldo to Real, Lampard to Inter, Barry to Liverpool, Robinho to Chelsea and Berbabtov to Man United could have been in vain.