Top teams stutter, minnows pounced.
Keep calm. It’s Game On!
Top teams stutter, minnows pounced.
Keep calm. It’s Game On!
It’s that time of the year
That I hold so very dear
It’s the Return of the English Premier League.
I’m too lazy to write an essay
So I am choosing to relay
My predictions in the form of a poem.
This I say without a trace of glee
But the champs will still be MUFC
How it’ll hurt to see them win number 20.
Their runners-up will be Chelsea
Lately have been quiet but still deadly
Especially with AVB as the new gaffer.
My Liverpool will take the 3rd spot
And be led by King Kenny, the great Scot
To a triumphant return to Europe.
4th is a bit tough to figure out
Man City may give Arsenal a big clout
Knock them off the Big 4 perch they’ve been hogging.
As for the much-coveted fifth
Tottenham Hotspurs will be swift
And continue their progress under ‘Arry.
The Golden Boot’s also tricky
So many strikers who are quality
But I’ve a feeling young Chicharito will nick it.
Now on to the Relegation Fight,
The test of each club’s collective might
And the desire to slug it out with the Big Fish.
The unlucky clubs which I predict
To have a sad end-of-season verdict
Are QPR, Norwich and Swansea (Sorry, lads!).
Now, these are my thoughts only
Struggling to be expressed ably
Then again, in football, does sense really matter?
So let’s see by the mid-of-May
If I shall wince or laugh away
At how the ball bounced on this crazy old game.
Let’s face it, the Off-Season is hard. And long. Still, it does not mean that we football fans can allow ourselves to stagnate whilst our favorite players are off lounging and tanning themselves somewhere sunny and expensive.
So whether you’re merely passing time, simply bored or you’re genuinely open to the possibility of learning something new football-wise, have a look at the list below and consider yourself schooled (or maybe not).
* Stamford Bridge, home ground of Chelsea, was originally offered to Fulham, who turned it down.
* In 2004, FC Porto was the only club in the whole world to have 2 operating grounds: Antas and Dragon Stadion (Dragão). Due to problems with the grass on the new ground, the team regularly changed grounds between games.
* Villa Park’s dressing rooms were used as bomb shelters in WW2.
* Before the demise of the Wembley Stadium in 2000, the last time England played a tournament match home fixture away from Wembley was in 1966 for the World Cup Quarter Final against Poland at Goodison Park.
* In 1956, Portsmouth’s homeground Fratton Park staged the first ever floodlit Football League match (against Newcastle United).
* The stand redevelopment of Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park has created the largest cantilever structure in Europe.
* The last time the Queen attended the FA Cup Final was in 1976.
* Karren Brady is known as the “First Lady of Football”. Oh, and she has also sold her footballer husband, Paul Peschisolido, twice. Ruthless.
* Milene Domingues, the ex-wife of Ronaldo, is the female world record holder for keepie-uppie: She kept the ball up in 9 hours and 6 minutes in 55,188 touches.
* Patsy Kensit brought up son Lennon as a Manchester United fan to spite his Manchester City-supporting father and her ex-partner, (ex?) Oasis frontman, Liam Gallagher.
* Current Agent 007 (James Bond to you and I) Daniel Craig is a Liverpool FC supporter.
* Future England Monarch and England FA Head Prince William is an Aston Villa supporter.
* The spare heir Prince Harry, however, is an Arsenal supporter.
* Mick Hucknall named his band “Simply Red” in honor of his beloved club, Manchester United.
* King of Tweens Justin Bieber recently aligned himself with FC Barcelona.
* Scottish tennis player Andy Murray did not endear himself to the English crowd in Wimbledon when he was seen wearing a Portugal NT shirt during a match warmup, prior to the England v Portugal WC 2006 Quarterfinal match.
* Only 7 teams have competed in all Premiership seasons: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs.
* 7 Managers who have played football on the same side as David Beckham: Mark Hughes, Gareth Southgate, Steve Bruce, Stuart Pearce, Paul Ince, Roy Keane and David Moyes, who played for Preston North End when Beckham was on loan to them!
* Portsmouth and Huddersfield were the first two teams to wear shirts numbered 1-11 in a club match, in their FA Cup semi-final encounter at Highbury in 1939.
* Shirt numbers were first worn as an experiment in the 1933 FA Cup Final when Everton beat Manchester City 3-0.
* Scientists have measured data that records a 20 percent drop in testosterone levels in supporters following a match defeat, and a converse increase for the winners.
* Oldham suffered the heaviest defeat in League history losing 13-4 on Boxing Day 1935 to Tranmere Rovers.
* Crystal Palace is the English club that sent the most men to service during World War II (98).
* In 1998, Jose Camacho was sacked from his managerial position at Real Madrid after just 23 days, and without taking charge of a single match. He returned to the position in 2004, lasting 115 days before being fired for the second time.
* It took a triple bypass heart surgery to get Dutch legend Johan Cruyff to finally stop smoking.
* In 1999, a research by New Scientist found that footballers are especially susceptible to a condition called SARA: Sexually Acquired Reactive Arthritis, which causes inflammation in different parts of the body at different times.
* Leicester City have appeared in the most FA Cup Finals without winning the trophy (4).
* The Azteca Stadium in Mexico City stands at 7000 feet above sea level.
The Cup Of Life.
* The unenvied record of most games without a win belongs to Bulgaria, who went on a streak of 17 winless matches in tournaments from 1962-1974, 1986 and 1994.
* Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is the only captain to lose 2 World Cup Finals: 1982 and 1986.
* No Team Captain has held the World Cup trophy aloft more than once.
* The first player to be sent off in a World Cup match was Peruvian Mario de Las Casas against Romania in 1930.
* Alfredo di Stefano was capped 6 times for Argentina but then went on and moved to the National Team of Spain, where he was capped 31 times.
* The World Cup mascot was introduced during the 1966 World Cup in England. It was a happy, football-playing lion named World Cup Willie.
* The mascot for France ’98, a smiling cockerel, was named Footix.
* The yellow Brazil shirt worn by Pele in the 1970 World Cup Final was sold at a Christie’s auction for 157,750 pounds, a record for a football shirt at an auction.
* The first “Red Devils” were Salford Rugby League Club.
* The Bournemouth FC from England are nicknamed “The Cherries”.
* Dundee United from Scotland are known as “The Arabs”.
* A little-known nickname of Chelsea FC is “The Pensioners”.
* “The Robins” is used by 5 British clubs: Bristol City, Cheltenham, Charlton, Swindon, and Wrexham.
* Ten Players with only 4-Letter Names: Pele, Deco, Xavi, Dani, Cafu, Didi, Kaka, Alex, Zico, Mido.
Quote Them On That.
* When Wimbledon stunned Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup final, commentator John Motson described it as “A victory for the Crazy Gang over the Culture Club”.
* Football demigod Pele was once quoted as saying that “A penalty is a cowardly way to score.”
* Jose Mourinho calling Arsene Wenger a “voyeur” in an interview sparked a big row between the two back in October 2005.
* Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola on ex-teammate Dennis Wise: “Ninety-five percent of my language problems are the fault of that stupid little midget.”
* In 1997, Sepp Blatter proposed outlawing sliding tackles, saying they are “too dangerous and were not allowing skillful footballers to show their true style.”
* While in April 2004, his new idea was to eradicate dull draws from football, telling a German journalist: “Every game should have a winner. When you play cards or any other game, there’s always a winner and a loser. We should have the courage to introduce a final decision in every game of football.”
* “There are three things in life where you do not need a common language– football, music and sex.” Turkish footballer Rustu Recber turns into a philosopher.
* In 1997, Barcelona Vice-President Joan Gaspart further inflamed tensions between his club and Real Madrid by saying, “The most educated person at Real Madrid is the woman who cleans the toilets.”
* “If brains were chocolate, he wouldn’t have enough to fill a Smartie.” Ex-player Alan Birchenall sums up the infamous Robbie Savage.
* “Maybe because he is blond and pretty, referees are capable of sending him off for that” Uruguayan Pablo Garcia offers an explanation on why Real Madrid teammate David Beckham was sent off (it was actually for ironic applause directed at an official).
* Arthur Friedenreich, half-German and half-Brasilian player, is the King of Brasilian football. He scored 1329 goals throughout his 26-year career.
* Which Englishman has played the most games under Sven Goran-Eriksson? Des Walker.
* The one player to have played in the Manchester, Merseyside and Glasgow Derbies? Andrei Kanchelskis.
* Scott Parker starred in a McDonald’s advert, playing keepy-uppy, when he was just 13 years old.
* Nicky Byrne of Westlife once tried out as a goalkeeper for Leeds United.
* Rosenborg was the Norwegian League Champions from 1992 to 2004 (Yes, that’s 12 seasons in a row). In 2005, Valerenga finally broke their streak and became new champs.
* Jose Luis Chilavert became the first goalkeeper to score a hat-trick in the history of football, for Velez Sarsfield against Ferro Carril Oeste in 1999.
* The “Great Dane”, goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel scored 13 goals, including an International goal for Denmark, in his long and distinguished career history.
* Birmingham City were the first English club to tour China, back in 1979.
* Milan is the only city to have won the Champions’ League with two different teams– Inter and AC.
* Five clubs have been awarded the Champions’ League trophy permanently: Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Liverpool.
* The first winner of the European Football Player of the Year award, or Ballon D’Or, is then-Blackpool player Stanley Matthews (1956).
* Liverpool is the only city – through Everton or Liverpool – to have staged top-flight football in every League season since 1888.
* Fabio Cannavaro was one of the ballboys during the 1990 World Cup held in Italy.
* In 1992, Denmark, a late replacement for the banned Yugoslovia, went on to win the European Championships by beating Germany 2-0.
* Daniel Agger is a certified Tattoo Artist.
* Clarence Seedorf is the only player to have won the Champions’ League with 3 different clubs: Ajax (1995), Real Madrid (1998) and AC Milan (2003).
* Arsene Wenger has a degree in Economics.
* Steven Harper was all set to study at Liverpool’s John Moore University, until Newcastle United offered him a contract as a goalkeeper.
* Famous existentialist Albert Camus was a goalkeeper for the University of Algiers.
* Iain Dowie has a degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
That Round Thing They Play With.
* The English FA did not stipulate the exact size of the football until 1872.
* In the first World Cup Final of 1930, a different ball was used in each half after a
dispute between Uruguay and Argentina.
* The first World Cup Final played with a synthetic ball was in 1986.
* Footballs were once brown and tanned, or orange in the memorable case of the 1966 World Cup Final.
* Law Two of the FA rules states that the referee must check the ball for weight (410-450 grams), size (68-70 cms circumference), shape (spherical), pressure (0.6-1.1 atmospheres) and material (leather or other approved material).
* In leagues for the partially sighted, 150 ball bearings are placed inside a standard football to create a ball that you can hear coming.
We Are Family.
* Harry Redknapp and Frank Lampard Sr. are brothers-in-law (which of course makes Jamie Redknapp and Frank Lampard Jr. cousins).
* Former Liverpool player Richie Partridge married the younger sister of his ex-teammate, Michael Owen.
* The younger brother and only sibling of Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Unai, is a lifelong Barcelona supporter.
What’s In A Name?
* Italy’s oldest football club, Genoa, founded by Englishmen in 1893, have opted to keep their “English” name and have rejected a change of name to the city’s Italian name, Genova.
* Iker Casillas would have been called Ainhoa if he was born a girl.
* Arsenal is one of two teams to not be named after a place, the other being Port Vale.
* Arsenal were once known as Dial Square FC.
* West Ham United were once known as Thames Iron Works FC.
* Manchester City were once known as Ardwick FC.
* Dennis Bergkamp was named after Scottish football legend Denis Law, but his parents changed the spelling because Denis is a girl’s name in Holland.
* The famous Buenos Aires club River Plate adopted the anglicised name rather than the Spanish Rio de la Plata, after some of the founders spotted the name on a ship’s container down by the docks.
* West Ham United once had a player named “Marco Boogers” in their books, during the 1995 season.
* The 6 Confederations of FIFA are: 1. Asian Football Confederation (AFC); 2. Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF); 2. Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); 4. Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol (CSF); 5. Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and 6. Union des Associations Europeennes de Football (UEFA).
* Michael Owen once jokingly signed a photo commemorating one of the international records Wayne Rooney broke with, “Stop stealing my records, you ugly arse!”
* Francesco Totti once celebrated a goal by assuming the position of a woman giving birth.
* Norwegian Svein Grondalen had to withdraw from an international match during the 1970s after colliding with a moose while out jogging.
* Kasey Keller knocked out his front teeth in 1998 while pulling his golf clubs out of the boot of his car.
* Brazilians Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, and Robinho once rolled on their backs and wiggled their arms and legs to celebrate a goal against Alaves, interpreted by many as doing “The Cockroach”. The complains from the Alaves Chairman fell on deaf ears.
* Paul Gascoigne (Gazza to the adoring masses) once walked into the Middlebrough canteen and ordered lunch wearing nothing but his training socks.
* Argentinian Carlos Roa refused to discuss a new contract with his then-club Real Mallorca, for he was a member of a religious sect that believed the world will end in the year 2000.
* In 2005, Robert Pires was fined 35,000 pounds by the French FA for giving an interview while wearing a Puma shirt. His national team was sponsored by Adidas.
* Middlebrough supporter Adrian Carr was arrested by the stadium police for falling asleep during a match in 2003.
There you have it. Hopefully you are now armed with some delightfully-meaningless information which you can either use to impress your friends or to win a couple of quid in a pub quiz somewhere. Sorry, I cannot give you back the minutes you’ve lost while reading this. I never promised you satisfaction, (you fickle-minded football fan) did I?
I was able to watch two Premier League matches this weekend, with 3 of the 4 clubs involved hailing from the North of England.
Manchester United 3-3 Everton
I shamelessly watched this for 3 reasons: 1. To see if Wayne Rooney would play and take the stick from his fellow Evertonians, following yet another cheating scandal involving a…woman of the night; 2. To see if Michael Owen would play, and 3. To see whether the Mancs would demolish the Toffees so I can laugh at them afterward.
Unfortunately, none of those were granted to me by the football gods, for some reason or another. Wayne Rooney was spared the blushes by Sir Alex Ferguson and did not travel with the team, Michael Owen was left a spectator in the bench, and most important, Everton managed a decent comeback to steal 2 points away from Manchester United in the dying minutes of the match.
Man United were 3-1 up, with less than 10 minutes in the clock, and frankly, they were cruising. Back-to-back goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta promptly spoiled their party and left them 4 points adrift from table-toppers Chelsea.
Will the Mancs rue those 2 unnecessary dropped points come May?
Liverpool 0-0 Birmingham City
Having had prior knowledge of the Man United slip-up, surely Liverpool would use this to their advantage and get back to winning ways against Birmingham City?
No chance. While I know that Brum has been one of Liverpool’s bogey teams of recent, on paper, the Merseysiders still have a huge advantage on talent and depth. Unfortunately, neither managed to shine through as the match ended in a dour goalless draw. On the positive side, Pepe Reina did manage to redeem himself from his Arsenal match blunder by producing a fine save to keep the match level.
These curious turns of events will come to a head as Liverpool and Manchester United face-off in Old Trafford next week. Tensions will be at an all-time high and both teams will want nothing less than 3 points and bragging rights. Buckle up, people, this might get ugly.