Saturday, September 30, 2006

Panorama Bungs Scandal

Another Pyrrhic Victory? - Panorama "Bungs Scandal"

The BBC thought they had scored a hit with their recent documentary supposedly exposing the kickbacks involved in English football but was it the opening salvo of hope in the fight to reclaim the Beautiful Game or just another blank being fired?

The Panorama documentary "Football's Dirty Secrets" was much billed in the national press as the exposé that would lift the lid on a can of worms that is Premiership football and precipitate a major clean sweep of the top division with some top-level casualties along the way.

While it was alarming to realize just how ingrained the tradition of managers seeking to cream off a percentage of a transfer fee is now, thanks to the connivance of unscrupulous agents, what was revealed really ought not to surprise us one jot.

After all, Arsenal's George Graham was forced to resign back in 1995 after it was revealed he had profited to the tune of £425,000 from transfer dealings involving a bent Norwegian player representative called Rune Hauge.

Fast forward eleven years and we are still dealing with exactly the same issue; in this case Bolton Wanderers' boss Sam Allardyce accused of pocketing pounds on transfer fees with his son as the broker [Allardyce has claimed he is "utterly innocent" of any wrong-doing and is planning to sue the BBC].

Harry Redknapp, the alleged prince of bungs, had expected to be shot to pieces by the Panorama programme and had issued a pre-emptive statement in the press, but he need not have worried as his involvement in the documentary was limited to expressing interest in signing a player under contract elsewhere.

Alas, the latest exposé of wrongdoing will fail to clean up the game unless powers from beyond football intervene to enforce the law. Football has shown itself to be spectacularly incapable of policing itself so many times before and has operated more like a private betting syndicate in the back of a pub than an open and above board industry that involves millions of participants and 360-degree media coverage.

Let anyone complacent about the morality of the sport merely take a look beyond Italy's fourth World Cup triumph in 2006 at the astonishing scandal that engulfed their domestic game in the run-up to the tournament.

Now soccer is a multi-billion pound global business, it behoves governments to treat it as such and apply the laws that are enforced on similar concerns.

This entails not only scanning the industry for under the table payments but also enforcing competition laws which would place restrictions on the amount of money any club can spend on wages and possibly the number of foreign players they can employ. If it means the European Union, via UEFA, must impose a salary cap across the continent, then what are we waiting for - ten consecutive Premiership titles for Chelsea?

Regulation of this out-of-control wildfire is ever more pressing now clubs in the English top division are being snapped up by random international venture capitalists, who often unashamedly admit to having no roots or interest in the game, in a 21st century version of the Scramble for Africa in the 1800s.

Talking of Africa, the protracted battle over Nigerian Jon Obi Mikkel's signature, an unseemly squabble eventually won by Chelsea over Malcolm Glazer's Manchester United plc, saw Rune Hauge's name surface again after all these years, still working as an agent and still apparently tricking his way in a fight for a slice of the cake (Hauge was one of several agents who claimed to represent Mikkel)!

Another young African, Freddy Adu, in the news ever since he debuted in Major League Soccer aged 14, has reportedly been the target of Reading FC this week. That a player aged 17, with no national team caps or European Union passport could even be considered for a work permit in the UK speaks volumes of football's sell-out to the morality of the free market.

There is a school of thought that says this is all a storm in a teacup, that fans simply do not care what happens to their gate money as long as there is a team to cheer about on the field and who appear to be playing for the shirt.

How anyone can entertain thoughts of player loyalty in 2006 is ridiculous enough, but there is some mileage in the apathy of fans in the face of exploitation, which allowed characters like Newcastle directors Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall, in 1998, to laugh at fans forking out a fortune for polyester replica shirts.

In Newcastle's case, the fans must shoulder some blame for turning out in such huge numbers and buying so much merchandise no matter how unscrupulous or inept the owners have been.

Boycotting a product is one way to punish its makers, but in the case of the "Geordie Nation' amongst others, this course of action is unrealistic.

I attended Arsenal's first home game after George Graham's stunning resignation in February 1995, and watched as the home fans really took exception to the traveling Nottingham Forest supporters taunting them about their corrupt former employee.

The Gunners' fans had enjoyed such a golden age under Graham they were prepared to turn a blind eye to his creative accounting with their money.

So where do we go from here? The FA have announced yet another enquiry in the wake of the Panorama programme, but no one with more than a toe in reality thinks that will solve anything.

Until governments realize there are no votes to be lost in interfering with a popular public pursuit, the solutions lie elsewhere. More football chairmen like the outspoken Simon Jordan would help. No one has tried harder than the Crystal Palace boss to fight back against agents' hijacking of player loyalties, to the extent that Jordan has refused point blank to deal with them:

"I see so many of them happy to sow division if it means they get a better deal, often working against the interests of clubs, players and supporters - and yet the game still opens its arms and embraces them," he told The Observer in 2005.

The other source of hope could be an unlikely one: FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Whereas his predecessor, ‘the great dictator' Joao Havelange, happily encouraged all manner of commercialism and profiteering in the Beautiful Game, Blatter is increasingly critical of the mishandling of the sport by unregulated markets.

While he is still in many ways the man with "50 ideas a day, 51 of which are bad," such as enlarged goals or women players wearing skimpy outfits, the Swiss soccer chief may yet surprise us with a decision from the heart that will help stop the commercial rotting of the game.

Make no mistake, with the top Premiership teams fielding eleven foreigners with a foreign coach and foreign owners swanning in to buy up the ‘franchise' for marketing or vanity purposes, we are living in strange days in football's history.

As Simon Jordan aptly put it, "This isn't the real world - it's a banana republic. And if people in the game can't see that - and think things can't get any better, fairer or more decent - God help us."

Premiership News

English Football Betting by Dave Walker

There are some great betting opportunities this weekend and Walker’s Word now brings you verdicts on three betting markets per game! Saturday should see Arsenal continue their winning ways at The Valley and a first win of the campaign for Sheffield United. Reading are an excellent price on Sunday while Manchester United should also return to winning ways at Old Trafford writes David Walker.

Saturday 30 September

Bolton Wanderers vs Liverpool
Another lunch time kick off for Liverpool, their sixth of the campaign. This time there are up against Bolton Wanderers who forced Portsmouth to concede their first goal of the season and in turn suffer their first defeat. Following a stern test against Galatasaray in midweek, the Reds will not relish a trip to the Reebok Stadium as they have not won there since their 3-2 victory in September 2002. Liverpool could also face a former player in Nicolas Anelka in a match which has ended 2-2 in two of the last three played.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (VCBet)
AH: Bolton + ½ @ 33/40 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 6/4 (VCBet)

Charlton Athletic vs Arsenal
Charlton, with five defeats in six Premiership games, are bottom but one in the Premiership and will not want to face an Arsenal side who are stepping up a gear. The Gunners have won their last four in all competitions, including a defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford and breaking their Emirates Stadium duck against Sheffield United. Arsenal have won five out of seven Premiership encounters at the Valley, including four of the last five so confidence will be sky high. Despite this match ending low scoring more often than high, with four out of seven Premiership matches finishing with two goals or under, there is a fear Charlton could collapse as things go from bad to worse under Iain Dowie.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Arsenal @ 4/7 (Ladbrokes)
AH: Arsenal – ¾ @ 4/5 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 11/10 (Bookies)

Chelsea vs Aston Villa
Aston Villa have been something of a surprise package under Martin O’Neill but their unbeaten record will face a stiff test at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have won eight out of 14 Premiership encounters against the Villains at home, but more recent seasons have seen them win their last four and seven out of eight. This has often been a tight encounter and that is likely to continue with both sides possessing a mean defence. One goal could settle this.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Chelsea @ 1/3 (Ladbrokes)
AH: Aston Villa + 1.5 @ 4/5 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 19/20 (Bookies)

Everton vs Manchester City
Following a 1-1 draw against Newcastle last week, Everton will see this match as an ideal opportunity to return to winning ways. Manchester City may have beaten West Ham last weekend, but prior to that have been awful, losing 13 in 16 before victory over the Hammers. Everton have won three out of five since City returned to the Premiership in 2001 and five out of nine overall since the Premiership’s inception at Goodison Park.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Everton @ 4/5 (UK Betting)
AH: Everton – ½ @ 37/40 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (Bookies)

Sheffield United vs Middlesbrough
Two struggling teams meet and home advantage could be the key to success. Middlesbrough have won just once in the Premiership this season, ironically against Chelsea but have failed to win eight away trips stretching back to last season. The Blades are not without their troubles either, just two draws and as many goals in six Premiership matches, despite Neil Warnock having eight strikers on the books. It’s a tough one to predict, but I’m going to side with the home team. Just.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Sheffield United @ 8/5 (Ladbrokes)
AH: Sheffield United level ball @ 19/20 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 6/10 (Bookies)

Sunday 1 October

West Ham United vs Reading
Sunday’s earliest kick-off sees faltering West Ham take on improving Reading. The introduction of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano appears to have done more harm than good, culminating in a defeat against habitual losers Manchester City last weekend. Reading performed well against Manchester United last weekend to earn a creditable draw and could go one better at Upton Park.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Reading @ 4/1 (UK Betting)
AH: Reading + ½ @ 4/5 (Ladbrokes)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 23/20 (Bookies)

Blackburn Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Improving Blackburn earned a morale boosting win at Middlesbrough last weekend, but with just one win in three Premiership matches at Ewood Park, are not full of confidence on home soil. Wigan find themselves in the lower reaches of the league table but are battlers on the road, earning draws against both Watford and Everton in their last two away matches. This is a local derby which will give proceedings and extra edge and a repeat of last season’s 1-1 draw is the sensible call.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 12/5 (VCBet)
AH: Wigan + ½ @ 9/10 (Ladbrokes)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/6 (UK Betting)

Manchester United vs Newcastle United
Despite a sound start to the season, Manchester United have wobbled, losing to Arsenal and only managing a draw with Reading. They have a great chance to make amends against Newcastle who are traditionally iffy on the road and a bit suspect in defence. Recently, United have been dominant in this fixture, winning six out of the last seven meetings at Old Trafford and eight out of 13 home encounters since Newcastle arrived in the Premiership in 1993.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Manchester United @ 1/3 (Betfred)
AH: Manchester United – 1 ¼ @ 31/40 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6 (UK Betting)

Tottenham Hotspur vs Portsmouth
Tottenham have played well in recent games but have had no reward while former table toppers Portsmouth suffered their first defeat of the season against Bolton on Monday. Former Spurs defender Sol Campbell will have his work cut out when he return to North London because in three Premiership meetings at White Hart Lane, Tottenham have won twice by a 3-1 margin and once in a 4-3 goalfest. It could prove profitable to back goals being scored in this match and the odds represent real value given past meetings.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Tottenham Hotspur @ 10/11 (Betfred)
AH: Tottenham – ½ @ 7/8 (Ladbrokes)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/4 (VCBet)

Monday 2 October

Watford vs Fulham
As predicted, Watford are at the wrong end of the table early on but they have an opportunity to climb out of the bottom three with a win against London rivals Fulham. Chris Coleman’s side were dire on the road last season and Hornet’s manager Aidy Boothroyd will hope that form will show itself at Vicarage Road.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Watford @ 6/4 (Coral)
AH: Watford level ball @ 4/5 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 6/5 (UK Betting)

English Premiership Betting

David Walker is the resident tipster at a popular free bets website. Feature Walker's Word on your own website, blog or forum for free each week.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Bedding Zinger

I’m not the sentimental type. The only time I’ve ever cried as an adult was when the wife threatened to leave me; I was absolutely devastated when she changed her mind at the last minute. Somewhat embarrassingly, I have to admit to being moved by the story of ‘Beenie’, the little furry horse that saved Stuart Pearce from the chop. I can only imagine how embarrassing it must have been to have a little animal beside you on the touchline, but Beenie coped with the situation remarkably well.

The only way that Man City will get a result at Goodison Park is if Beenie can persuade possible relation Ruud Van Nistelrooy to offer a helping hand; get involved with the Toffeemen at a beatific 5/6.

Paul Jewell’s decision to spend the majority of his summer transfer budget on Emile Heskey is proving to be the most outrageous rick since ‘The Young Ones’ first aired. Blackburn have never lost to Wigan in a competitive match, the Rovers are a confident call at even money.

Robbie Savage stripped down to his pants in Blackburn’s win over Boro last week; that type of behaviour should really be confined to the caravan. Savage’s name has gone into the referee’s book in exactly half of the Premiership matches he’s played this season; the 6/4 on offer for another yellow is quite tempting.

Liverpool always struggle when they travel to Bolton, they’ve only taken three points on one of their last six visits. There’s more chance of Sam Allardyce paying his license fee early than there is of the Scousers taking liberties at the Reebok. Bolton are worth a nibble at a perm-flattening 3/1.

It’s an unwritten law in football that players always score against their former employers. I think El Hadji Diouf netted in this fixture last season, (I’m not 100% sure as my notes are in shorthand; I don’t even know why i got Jeremy Beadle involved.) the Senegalese hitman is a 4/1 shot to repeat the feat.

With only one win under his belt in his managerial career, Gareth Southgate has taken to his new role like a duck to slaughter. Boro face a tricky looking trip to Sheffield to face the Blades; I like the draw at 9/4.

The last time these teams met in the league, Dean Saunders netted the winner for United. It’s fair to say that in his prime, Deano would be a greater goal threat than Ade Akinbiyi. In fact, feel free to remove ‘in his prime’ from that sentence. This one has nil-nil written all over it; back no goalscorer in the match at a truly delightful 17/2.

One complaint often levelled against Arsenal is that they hate to win ugly, poor old Iain Dowie has literally no choice. Ashley Cole claimed that there was a lack of team spirit in the Arsenal dressing room, it appears to have improved dramatically now he’s gone. The Gunners are the weekend nap at 4/7 to leave the Valley victorious.

It’s widely believed that Isaac Newton was inspired to formulate the theory of universal gravitation as a result of an apple falling on his head. However, I prefer to believe that he saw a mediocre Watford team win last season’s play-offs and declared, “Wat goes up, must come down.’ Fulham struggle to win away as a rule, but that’s only against Premiership teams. Back the Cottagers at 2/1.

With a three point deduction hanging over their heads after the Ashley Cole shenanigans, the Chelsea board must have been literally cowering throughout Panorama. (Even Seth Armstrong didn’t poach this much, allegedly.) The Champions have only won two of their last six meetings against a David O’Leary led Villa; an unbeaten Martin O’Neill team should definitely be backed at 11/1 to pull off a shock.

It’s all going wrong at the Lane. Spurs have only scored in one league match this season, their supporters are booing the players off the pitch and Jermaine Jenas missed the easiest opening since Helen Chamberlain. Portsmouth can leave North London with a point at 12/5.

Call me a mad conspiracy theorist, but is it simply coincidence that Wayne Rooney’s dip in form has coincided with KFC introducing a new spicy chicken range? I fear not. Looking on the bright side, the big lad enjoys playing against Newcastle more than he enjoys socialising with antiquated ladies. (United have completed a double over Newcastle for the last two seasons, with Rooney netting in all four matches.) I fancy the round one to return to form as United romp in at 4/11.

The acc of the week:

This week’s accer is so attractive; Pete Doherty is considering binning Kate Moss as a direct result. Pete may have quipped, “Sure, Kate’s a looker; but this acc is absolutely gorgeous.” Arsenal, Everton, Blackburn, Man Utd and Fulham are the pretty young things; the payout is a colossal 20/1.

The weekend specials:

“A little Scotch” - Paul Dickov to score with a header 7/1
“A Johnny Walker” - John Terry to be sent off 50/1
“Jim Beam please” - Beattie to score the last goal 11/2
“A large Bells” - Craig Bellamy to score with a header 6/1
“A double JD” - Jermain Defoe to score two or more goals 13/2
“A wild turkey” - Robbie Savage to be sent off 20/1

The quote of the week

“I'm enjoying being at Arsenal, it's great to be in a side which plays such an attractive game.”
Big Willy Gallas embraces subtlety.

The lay man:

There are exchange customers lining up to back Watford at 13/8. In the immortal words of Sammy Jackson, ‘It’s our duty, to snatch that booty’.

Weekend Betting:

Bolton v Liverpool Saturday 30th September 12:45 Live on Sky

Bolton 3/1
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 11/10

Get on: Bolton

Match Special:
Kevin Nolan to score at any time 9/2

Charlton v Arsenal Saturday 30th September 15:00

Charlton 11/2
Draw 13/5
Arsenal 4/7

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Thierry Henry to score a hat-trick 18/1

Chelsea v Aston Villa Saturday 30th September 15:00

Chelsea 3/10
Draw 4/1
Aston Villa 11/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Angel to score the only goal of the game 135/1

Everton v Man City Saturday 30th September 15:00

Everton 5/6
Draw 12/5
Man City 7/2

Get on: Everton

Match Special:
Everton to score a penalty 5/1

Sheff Utd v Middlesbrough Saturday 30th September 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Sheff Utd 13/8
Draw 9/4
Middlesbrough 13/8

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Boateng to be booked 11/8

West Ham v Reading Sunday 1st October 14:00

West Ham Evs
Draw 9/4
Reading 3/1

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 11/2

Blackburn v Wigan Sunday 1st October 15:00

Blackburn Evs
Draw 9/4
Wigan 3/1

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
Blackburn to win and keep a clean sheet 2/1

Man Utd v Newcastle Sunday 1st October 15:00

Man Utd 4/11
Draw 7/2
Newcastle 10/1

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Louis Saha to score the first goal 7/2

Tottenham v Portsmouth Sunday 1st October 16:00 Live on Sky

Tottenham 10/11
Draw 12/5
Portsmouth 3/1

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Tottenham to score a goal 1/4

Watford v Fulham Monday 2nd October 20:00 Live on Sky

Watford 6/4
Draw 11/5
Fulham 2/1

Get on: Fulham

Match Special:
Fulham to score three or more goals 11/2

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Japanese Soccer News Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup

Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup

Semi-final, second legs: September 20

JEF United 3 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale (after extra time)

JEF United will have the chance to defend their League Cup title, after seeing off Kawasaki Frontale in a dramatic semi-final second leg clash. With the scores locked at 2-2 deep into extra-time, captain Yuki Abe stepped up to convert a hotly disputed penalty which sealed JEF United's place in the final.

Yokohama F. Marinos 2 - 1 Kashima Antlers

In the final JEF United will meet three time League Cup champions Kashima Antlers, who saw off Yokohama F. Marinos. Holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg, Kashima advanced on the away goals rule after losing 2-1 in Yokohama on the night. Atsushi Yanagisawa scored the crucial goal for the Antlers.

Japan National Teams

Gamba Osaka striker Ryuji Bando may be in line for a call up to Ivica Osim's squad for the Kirin World Challenge match against Ghana in Yokohama on October 4. Bando scored again at the weekend, taking his tally to 14 goals from 23 J-League games this season. He is the highest scoring Japanese player in the J-League. Japan's strikers have scored just twice in four games under Osim - both times as substitutes.

Japan's under-17 national team were crowned Asian champions on September 17. They came back from a two goal deficit to defeat DPR Korea 4-2 after extra-time at the AFC Under-17 Championship Final in Singapore. Substitute Hiroki Kawano was the hero, scoring a brace in extra-time. Cerezo Osaka's Yoichiro Kakitani, who also scored in the final, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Japan have now qualified for the FIFA under-17 World Cup, along with fellow Asian nations DPR Korea, Syria and Tajikistan.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Euro 2008 Mascots

Warning: Football Tournament Mascots Can Damage Your Financial Health

UEFA unveiled the new mascots for Euro 2008 yesterday. The as yet unnamed twins - fans in Austria and Switzerland can choose from the names "Flitz and Bitz", "Zagi and Zigi", or "Trix and Flix" in a vote next month, sport spiky haircuts that represent the mountains of the two host countries.

Euro 2008 mascots - copyright www.GEPA-pictures.comThere are some problems with the proposed names for the (presumeably male) twins: "Zigi" is a slang word in Swiss German for "cigarette" and "Trix" could be a girl's name in Switzerland (short for Beatrice or Beatrix), however unlike Goleo, the 2006 World Cup mascot, the one-eyebrowed twins are at least clothed from the waist down, and would seem to be less controversial.

Commercial merchandising for Euro 2008 is due to begin next year, with the mascots expected to feature on around half of the 2,000 planned Euro 2008 official products. However, prospective mascot manufacturers beware. Companies in both Japan and Germany that promoted products featuring the 2002 mascots, Ato, Kaz and Nik (aka The Spheriks) and the 2006 mascots Goleo (the trouserless lion) and his sidekick Pille both went bankrupt, due in part to the high licence fees.

Mascot image ©

Euro 2008 News

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Marc Fox talks exclusively to Scot Gemmill for Soccerphile

Former Nottingham Forest and Everton schemer Scot Gemmill is the latest former Premier League player to succumb to the growing temptation of prolonging his career with a stint down under. For Gemmill, the location is Auckland on New Zealand's north island, home of the Knights, last season's wooden-spooners.

But whereas in times past, playing 'soccer' in an Australian league would have signalled your intentions to wind down in the sunshine, the newly refreshed Hyundai A-League is prompting quite the opposite.

Gemmill's move to New Zealand on a one-year-deal was based on pure footballing reasons and ended up being a straight swap between that and life in England, or Scotland's lower leagues.

Following over 250 Premier League appearances with Forest and Everton, the 35-year-old's most recent employers were Oxford United in League Two where he had been enticed by the opportunity of working under managerial legend Jim Smith in a player-coach capacity.

But within a fortnight of arriving at the relegation-threatened club, he soon realised that, by his own admission, his heart wasn't in it. By then discussions with Knights boss Paul Nevin, who was well aware of Gemmill after eight years in the employment of Fulham including reserve team coach, were already underway.

"I just wanted to come down here and experience living abroad but still doing what I love to do," explains Gemmill. "To come to the other side of the world and live a different life but at the same time play football, I really couldn't have asked for more.

"There are thousands of footballers that would love to come and play in the A-League but they don't all get the opportunity. I keep saying it but I do realise how lucky I am, I really do.

Dwight Yorke was the first well-known player to take a risk by accepting terms with eventual champions Sydney FC last year. Yorke eventually fought his way back into first-team reckoning with Trinidad and Tobago, captained his country at the World Cup and last month was offered the chance of another two year's in England at Roy Keane's Sunderland.

But he is not the only one. Before the second season started at the end of August, current Socceroos Stan Lazaridis, Tony Vidmar and Joel Griffiths all returned home while former Australian national team captain Paul Okon also made the switch. Dutch winger Bobby Petta has linked up with the premiers Adelaide United, former China international striker Yuning Zhang with Queensland and Grant Brebner joined Melbourne.

In the latest Socceroos squad, eight of the 26 players selected by interim coach Graham Arnold call the A-League home.

"Without doubt there are some great players," Gemmill responds without hesitation to the question of the league's standing. "There are some standout individuals in each team and the level is high. That's something people around the world don't realise yet. But they will do when the league gets the chance to grow."

The Scotsman has just landed in Brisbane ahead of New Zealand's round four clash with the Roar at Suncorp Stadium when we chat. He admits he's still coming to terms with the players being greeted by stony silences when they disembark and retells a story of how one man, noticing the tracksuited players leaving the arrivals lounge, innocently asking what the A-League to prove his point.

"It's weird when somebody doesn't know what the A-League is," he says. "If I'm being honest, nobody knows me really and I'm fine with that. I mean in England I lived the normal life. I'm not a recognised famous face - I don't pretend to be.

"I'm very grateful to be given a chance to part of it. I could easily be at home unemployed right now if I'm honest. I'm at that age where I'm just grateful to be still playing and I intend to repay the manger's faith by playing my part in the team. He's given me a chance to come down and play and I don't want to let him down.

"I haven’t got any pressure on me from supporters to do well. But I feel I put myself under pressure. I've had a good career, I'm extremely proud of what I've achieved and I don't want to spoil it now. I'm not under any financial pressures. If I really thought I couldn't play my part in the team, I wouldn't be here."

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Sunday, September 24, 2006

J League Results 24 September 2006

J League Results 24 September 2006.
J.League Results 24 September 2006

Gamba Osaka defeated one of their closest rivals Frontale Kawasaki in emphatic fashion to stay top of the J-League table, three points ahead of nearest challengers Urawa Reds, who edged S-Pulse at Saitama Stadium in front of a full house.

Frontale are now in 3rd place - a distant 8 points adrift of Gamba - and surely out of contention.

Shimizu S-Pulse remain in 4th but their 1-0 loss to Reds virtually puts paid to their title hopes.

At the bottom Kyoto Purple Sanga and Cerezo both lost as Sanfrecce put some breathing space between them and the bottom three after a 1-0 home win against Omiya.

Saturday 23 Sept

Jubilo 2 Oita Trinita 3
Gamba Osaka 4 Kawasaki Frontale 0
Avispa Fukuoka 1 Cerezo Osaka 0
JEF United 2 Kyoto Purple Sanga 0
Yokohama F Marinos 2 Nagoya Gampus Eight 1
Urawa Reds 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 0
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Omiya Ardija 0

Leading Positions

Gamba P24 Pts 55
Reds P24 Pts 52
Frontale P24 Pts 47
S-Pulse P24 Pts 44
Antlers P23 Pts 42

J League Results 24 September 2006.


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Bung, Bung, Bungalow in Baghdad

A Bung, Bung, Bungalow in Baghdad

I’m not the type of man who makes disparaging comments about a person’s individual beliefs, but anyone who visits a psychic should be institutionalised. The wife is a prime example, when I questioned why she regularly throws her money away on such an obvious scam, she screamed, “It’s not a con, Zelda doesn’t even charge, she just asks for a voluntary £10 contribution.” If she was any slower she’d stop.

A Bung, Bung, Bungalow in Baghdad

I’m a huge cynic of all things ‘supernatural’, although I have to admit to being slightly nervous when I received a videotape that was accompanied with a warning: ‘Watch this, and within 7 days you will die’. It turned out it was an entire episode of Soccer AM, and boredom related deaths were a genuine possibility.

There are a few people like the wife who believe that Arsenal’s new home is cursed. Even if the Emirates stadium was built on an Indian burial ground, with a tribe of Indians actually visiting at the time, there’s only one possible result when Sheff U roll into town. Back the Gunners at a spooky 1/5.

If anyone should be charging for psychic visions, it’s Roy ‘I see dead people’ Keane. The former United hard-man announced before the Arsenal match that Rooney had done nothing in the game; Wayne’s performance placed an exclamation mark at the end of his sentence. The tubster will be looking to regain his form when United travel to the Madejski stadium to face Reading; Man U will win at a knee-shattering 8/15.

Steve Coppell famously completed an economics degree while playing for United; a hugely impressive feat, most modern day footballers can’t count to 21 without thinking of Maria Sharapova. (I get to 20 ½.) Even the numerically gifted Reading manager could have a problem keeping score, United are a worth a nibble at 5/1 to score four or more goals.

Jose Mourinho’s decision to play Ballack, Lampard, Essien and Makelele in the Chelsea midfield has even upset the wife, I overheard her on the phone to her mother complaining about a serious lack of width. Ballack’s suspension for marching over Sissoko may be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea, I fancy the Champions at 4/9 to leave Fulham with three points.

After claiming the press were wrong to criticise Lampard, Mourinho then stripped him of his penalty taking duties. The last time a Lamp was rubbed up the wrong way in a similar fashion was when I had a small part in Aladdin. We’d both had a few. With Ballack out of the frame, Lampard is a 6/1 shot to score from the penalty spot.

You can’t fancy Tottenham to leave Liverpool with anything but a beating. Spurs have only scored in one league match this season, yet Popeye look-alike Martin Jol refuses to start goal-getter extraordinaire Jermain Defoe. Tottenham haven’t won a Premiership match at Anfield since ’93, a bet on Spurs to reverse that trend would be the costliest mistake since Chris Tarrant offered a school teacher a 4th lifeline. If Tottenham win this, i’ll give up betting and move to Iraq; the Pool are the weekend nap at 4/6.

It’s a bit of a lottery for first goal scorer bettors, but the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind: Kuyt is a tasty 5/1 shot.

Blackburn played Boro three times last season, and won them all. (Two of those were at the Riverside.) Be warned though, much like with women, previous results should not be used as a reliable indicator for future prospects. I’m happy to make an exception with Blackburn at a huge 5/2.

McCarthy looks the call in the first goalscorer market. At the age of 29, you could say that Benny’s at a crossroads in his career; you’ll get a decent run for your money at 8/1.

Glenn Roeder had to apologise to West Ham fans this week, and surprisingly, it wasn’t for relegating their team of superstars. Everton have conceded 18 goals on their last 6 visits to St James’ Park; another Newcastle win appeals at 5/4.

I feel a little bit sorry for Harry Redknapp, he’s been the subject of more enquiries than the 118-118 guys, but it hasn’t affected Pompey’s start to the season. Bolton have left Fratton Park with a point on their last two visits, another draw should be backed at 9/4.

It’s confession time; I’ve backed the USA to regain the Ryder Cup. I’m not a great fan of the Yanks as a rule; their national sport is rounders, they call British Bulldogs ‘football’, and most annoyingly of all, their sportsmen have a tendency to thank Jesus 37 times whenever they put a ball in a hole or run 100 yards without falling over.

For all their faults, it’s an undisputable fact that American golfers are superior to European golfers. Europe are favourites for the Ryder Cup thanks to recent history; but if school has taught us anything, it’s that history is unimportant. The USA are still available at 11/8; that’s the actual definition of value.

The acc of the week:

The accer this week is so indisputable; Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, George Galloway and George Bush are considering uniting to voice their support. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Blackburn and Man Utd are the chosen five, the payout is an eye-catching 20/1.

The quote of the week

“To be 13 points behind United after 4 games would have been a disaster.”
Lee Dixon shows off on MOTD2.

The lay man:

If you can’t score, you can’t win. The exchanges were invented so we could lay Tottenham at 5/1.

Weekend Betting:

Liverpool v Tottenham Saturday 23rd September 12.45 Live on Sky

Liverpool 4/6
Draw 13/5
Tottenham 9/2

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Liverpool to keep a clean sheet 6/5

Arsenal v Sheff Utd Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Arsenal 1/5
Draw 5/1
Sheff Utd 16/1

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Fabregas to score at any time 10/3

Aston Villa v Charlton Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Aston Villa 4/5
Draw 5/2
Charlton 4/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Aston Villa to win 2-0 7/1

Fulham v Chelsea Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Fulham 15/2
Draw 10/3
Chelsea 4/9

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
John Terry to score with a header 8/1

Man City v West Ham Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Man City 5/4
Draw 9/4
West Ham 21/10

Get on: West Ham

Match Special:
West Ham to score three or more goals 13/2

Middlesbrough v Blackburn Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Middlesbrough 11/10
Draw 9/4
Blackburn 5/2

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
McCarthy to score the only goal of the game 50/1

Wigan v Watford Saturday 23rd September 15.00

Wigan 10/11
Draw 23/10
Watford 7/2

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
No goalscorer in the game 8/1

Reading v Man Utd Saturday 23rd September 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Reading 6/1
Draw 11/4
Man Utd 8/15

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Rooney to score two or more goals 9/2

Newcastle v Everton Sunday 24th September 16.00 Live on Sky

Newcastle 5/4
Draw 9/4
Everton 9/4

Get on: Newcastle

Match Special:
Martins to score the first goal 13/2

Portsmouth v Bolton Monday 25th September 20.00 Live on Sky

Portsmouth Evs
Draw 9/4
Bolton 3/1

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 11/2

The Ryder Cup Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th September Live on Sky

Europe 8/11
Tie 11/1
USA 11/8

Get on: USA

Phil Mickelson to be the USA’s top scorer 13/2

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Japanese soccer news Gamba still on top

J.League News.
J-League news: Gamba still on top

A typhoon bearing down on Kyushu failed to help the locals as Oita Trinita and Avispa Fukuoka went down to Gamba Osaka and Yokohama F. Marinos respectively. The tricky conditions in Oita failed to halt Gamba striker Ryuji Bando's recent good form, as he struck twice before half-time to lead Gamba to a 2-0 win.

Urawa Reds kept hot on the heels of the leaders with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Substitute midfielder Nobuhisa Yamada scored an 86th winner that pulled Urawa two points clear of Kawasaki Frontale, who lost 4-3 at home to Jubilo Iwata.

One of the matches of the round took place at the National Stadium in Tokyo, where fourth-placed Shimizu S-Pulse took on fifth-placed rivals Kashima Antlers. It was the Antlers who came out on top in this one, as wonder strikes from Fernando and Takuya Nozawa gave Kashima a two goal advantage. Takuma Edamura pulled one back for S-Pulse but they must be rueing their decision to play the match away from Nihondaira Stadium, which has been a fortress for the Wingheads in recent weeks.

At the foot of the table, Kyoto Purple Sanga occupy the promotion/relegation place despite scoring a 1-0 victory over big-spending FC Tokyo. Kyoto remain in 16th on the ladder, five points behind Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Cerezo's 3-2 win at home to JEF United failed to improve their league position and they look unlikely to retain their J1 status.

Vissel Kobe and Kashiwa Reysol remain deadlocked at the top of J-League Division Two, as both clubs posted victories at the weekend. Yokohama FC remain one point behind the two former J1 teams, after defeating Mito Hollyhock away from home.

Controversy at Kanagawa derby

There was controversy following the clash between Yokohama F. Marinos and neighbours Kawasaki Frontale on September 9, after it was alleged that Liberal Democratic Party used the match to promote itself . The distribution of political literature and the bearing of political slogans is forbidden at J-League grounds, however it is alleged that LDP members filled one section of the Nissan Stadium and raised a banner depicting an LDP politician. Yokohama F. Marinos are continuing to investigate the incident.

Players overseas

A week of mixed fortunes for Japanese players around Europe. While Nakamura and Takahara excelled, neither Mitsuo Ogasawara or Masahi Oguro saw action in the Serie A at the weekend. As expected, Takayuki Suzuki failed to make the squad for Red Star's mid-week UEFA Cup trip to Slovan Liberec however Junichi Inamoto fared better, starting in his first ever Istanbul derby on Saturday.

Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic

Nakamura became the first Japanese player to score at the top level of European football since Yasuhiko Okudera did so for 1.FC Köln in the 1979 European Cup. Nakamura scored Celtic's second goal with a trademark curling free-kick in a 3-2 UEFA Champions League loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Naohiro Takahara: Eintracht Frankfurt

After scoring in his first game for Frankfurt in the German Cup last week, Takahara made a dream Bundesliga debut. Having lobbed narrowly wide in the 27th minute, Takahara executed a textbook header in the 55th minute to cancel out an earlier Leverkusen strike and send Frankfurt on the road to victory.

Daisuke Matsui: Le Mans

Any hopes Daisuke Matsui had of making an impression on new Japan coach Ivica Osim may be on the wane, as he was left on the bench for Le Mans away win at Sedan at the weekend. He replaced injured striker Ismael Bangoura in the 72nd minute.

Koji Nakata: FC Basel

Koji Nakata did little to assist his struggling team, scoring an own goal in a shock 2-0 defeat to last-placed FC Luzern at the weekend.

Junichi Inamoto: Galatasaray

On the same weekend that Inamoto's nemesis Brian Robson left his old club West Bromwich Albion, Inamoto was starting in his first ever Istanbul derby for Galatasaray against arch-rivals Besiktas. Inamoto's team won the match 1-0.

FIFA Club World Cup 2006

FIFA recently announced a prizepool of USD 15 million for the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup, with USD 4.5 million going to the winners of the annual event. Each participant in the tournament is guaranteed a payout of at least USD 1 million. The six teams competing for this year's prize are: FC Barcelona (Europe), Internacional (South America), Club América (North America) and Auckland City FC (Oceania), as well as the champions of the Asian Champions League and the African Champions League.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pim Verbeek interview

When were you offered the job?
We started talking seriously around the World Cup, before the game against Togo. At the time, we had the first meetings because officially Advocaat told the KFA on 15th June that he was leaving. I think that was three or four days after the Togo game. Before that he had a meeting with the KFA and told them that he would definitely leave the Korean national team.
That is when they came to me and said “he is leaving and we would like to go on with you.”

What was your reaction?
To be honest, my plan was to go to Europe. I had been away from my family for so long and I had more or less decided to go back to Europe and spend at least five or six months there and see what is happening.
Then this came and my family knows very well how much I like it in Korea and what I think about Korean football so they could understand that this was an offer I could not refuse. This is perhaps the only foreign job I would take because I know the country so well. I really think we can have great success.
It’s an obvious question but what are the main differences between being the assistant and head coach of South Korea?
Working with Hiddink and Advocaat is not so difficult because they give you all the freedom to organize the training sessions, to prepare team meetings and analysis and things like that. In the end, they take the final decision. You can have so many ideas yourself but in the end you always have to go to somebody who makes the final decision.
The good part is that with Hiddink and Advocaat, I never had a problem with the line-up, selection or whatever. You do a lot of the work but you never had the responsibility, that’s the biggest difference. If we win, I am responsible. If we lose, I am also responsible but that’s just a feeling.

How about the day-to-day things, the social side?
You know I always refuse interviews because of the limited time we have and also because I wanted to first have some results, know the players better and people know me better before I start talking about what the plans are.
The second part is that it is not so easy to go outside any more. Is that a big problem? For me it’s quite a big problem to be honest. I’d like to be outside and see something of the Korean culture and be among the people -drink a cup of coffee and visit a nice place. It is not so nice any more to go out and if I go out I wear a hat and sunglasses and that works but… it’s good that I have already seen a lot of Korea as now I spend my spare time inside.

The price you pay…
Yes, I knew that. I saw it with Hiddink and Advocaat. I always thought that that is the least interesting part of the job. I understand that everyone wants pictures and autographs and I try to co-operate as much as possible but it keeps you more inside and away from the social side than I like.

Has that aspect changed a lot since you became head coach?
It’s very strange. I was already here nine months and people recognize you and they say hello and take pictures but the moment they knew I was the new head coach, it was like I had scored ten goals in the World Cup!
It’s very strange but it keeps my feet on the ground because it has nothing to do with me but it’s all about my position. As the national team coach I am on television more than I was before. It’s not because I am a nice guy or because of my blue eyes but because I am the national team coach.

You are popular in Korea but after a few bad results, that could change. Are you prepared for that?
That’s the responsibility you take. I have the idea that the coaching staff and me do everything to make the team better and the players better and to win games. So as long as I have the feeling myself that I have done everything I can then I will accept everything. I have no problems at all with that. I started my coaching career in 1987 so after 19 years, nothing surprises me.
I didn’t come here to be the most popular and nice guy in Korea, I am here to get results from the national team and build up the national team.

The situation is different than the last two times you were here. Then, everything was focused on the World Cup but now there is a real chance to start from scratch.
Yes, it’s very different. We have a short-term plan and a long-term plan. I have tried to mix both but it depends a little bit on the results. It would have made my plans a lot easier if we had already qualified for the Asian Cup because then we could look toward the Asian Games, the Asian Cup and the Olympics but still now we need to get a point from the last two qualifying games.
It’s not easy to go to Iran and you know in football that everything is possible. People say “it’s only Syria at home” but in football everything is possible. We have to concentrate and bring in the best team we can find. This is no time for taking risks because that is what I’ve heard from left and right that some people still think that I don’t take enough risks.
I am not here to take risks. I am here to bring in the best players or bring in those who have a future and bring them in at the right moment like I did last week with Choi Sung-kuk. He had a very good training camp and is doing very well at Ulsan.

Who are these people who say you don’t take enough risks?
There are always people around in every job who think they know better than you – what you should and shouldn’t do. I don’t care about that as I think that is a strong point of football also. Everybody has an opinion; everybody speaks about it and is blaming players, coaches or referees. I am not stressed about it.
In answer to your question though I am trying to qualify for the Asian Cup and give young players a chance to show what they can do and also give the young players a chance to train with the best players we have in Korea. For every young player to train and play with people like Seol Ki-hyeon, Lee Young-pyo and Park Ji-sung is great and not only in training as they hear so many stories about how it is in Europe and how you can get there.

What is the main difference between you and Advocaat?
Advocaat was here for the World Cup and everything was geared towards that. He didn't have time to think about the long-term development of the game and the players but wanted good results – that was his job – though he did help young players like Lee Ho, Kim Dong-jin and Cho Won-hee.
He always wanted good results, even in friendlies because it not only helped confidence but because he knew that in Korea, results mean everything. I think that sometimes it is more important to give young players a chance in a friendly but Advocaat’s job was the World Cup. I have more time.
In the friendly games I will use some players and let them get some experience because that is the only way that they will become better players. It is also possible to make mistakes. I think that people in Korea have some problems to accept that, they think that if you are a national team player then you cannot make mistakes.
Last Saturday (in the 1-1 draw with Iran in which Iran scored in the last-minute to earn a 1-1 draw) we brought in one of the youngest and most talented young goalkeepers that we have in Korea (Kim Young-kwang). He played two very good games for us and we had no complaints at all. He did very well in training and he’s involved in one goal. I think there are three other players involved in that situation who made the first three mistakes. But people ask ‘why didn’t he play Woon-jae?”

In that situation where a mistake leads to a goal, what do you say to the players after a game?
After the game I didn’t say anything because I know from my experience that there is too much emotion. If you win there is a lot of emotion but it’s different but last week the level of disappointment was so high for everybody.
Nobody expected that we would concede a goal – nobody, because they had no chances at all. I told the players that I would say what I wanted to say on the next day. First you have to let the emotion slide away and then the next day they are more open to what I have to say.

So what did you say?
Of course, it was all to do with concentration, like it was in the World Cup. Without blaming Choi Jin-cheul but we knew exactly how Switzerland take the free-kicks and the corner kicks. When they take a free-kick and their most important player scores a goal then it has to do without concentration.
At that moment we were chasing the game and the consequences of losing concentration and playing for themselves are serious. Nam-il said that to the media, I never knew it but he said it anyway and I think everybody agreed with it and even the players agree. We showed them video analysis and we showed them what we didn’t do well. It’s nothing to do with the result but if you want to be a better team we need to avoid things like that.

So you agree with what Kim Nam-il said? (the new captain criticized overseas players such as Seol Ki-hyeon and Park Ji-sung for not playing for the team)
I fully agree. The players agree also with me. I can understand because I have been in Korea a long time already. The moment some players get the ball, the fans go crazy so the players always want to show how good they are and they want to entertain. I told them “do that when it is 6-0” and even then I think you should still play for the team.
We gave examples when everybody was there, I know it’s not really Korean style to confront players with what they did wrong but they know me well enough to know that we have to learn from our mistakes.
I’m not hiding. I think that everybody can make mistakes but you have to be alert and aware enough to know that you have made a mistake and the next time you should not make a mistake. If you make the same mistake three times and then you’re out.
The European-based players are used to getting criticised by the coach. I think I was fair; I showed them and didn’t say anything stupid after the game by yelling or shouting. That’s useless.

What about the World Cup? What were your thoughts on the team’s performance in 2006?
We still think and everybody thinks that the players could have done better. That’s easy to say but afterwards you need to find out what the problems are. For me it was easy because we had too short preparation time – that’s one.
Secondly, the players who are the most important players in your team at that moment, all of them came unfit – through an injury or not playing games for their clubs for the last four, five or six months.
For example Ahn Jung-hwan, Seol Ki-hyeon, Park Ji-sung –he came with an injury, he missed the first three weeks and he is a key player for us. So, the pressure and responsibility fell on the shoulders of players who are not the kind of players who can take it.
We knew that because of the lack of preparation that the players would get better as they played more games and we were 100% sure that it we reached the second round then the players would get much, much better – Park Ji-sung was much better in the final game than he was in the first or second game. He hadn’t played for four weeks. That was bad for him, the pressure on his shoulders was so big, he’s playing in Europe and everybody expects so much. You know how many commercials they made over here.
That was one of the most important reasons why we didn’t go to the second round. The first game we were under a lot of pressure, everybody expects us to win against Togo but it’s the first game for a lot of players in the World Cup. In the second game against France, we did much better and against Switzerland it’s all or nothing.
We gave an unnecessary goal away then you know you have to score a minimum of two.

What about the second Switzerland goal?
I still think it’s offside but I’ve seen so many times in football than a goal is 100% offside for one referee and the next referee doesn’t even look at it. I think that nobody knows what the exact rules are.

Many in Korea felt that the tactics and formations were too defensive, especially against Togo when Korea were leading 2-1 and against ten men and Switzerland, what would you say to that?
I don’t agree – at all. The only thing that matters in the first game is winning -three points. It was the same situation last week against Iran. We are winning 1-0 and the three points are very important. You can do two things and say ‘OK, we are going for 2-0 and then the game is finished but if that is not possible you say ‘OK, take the three points’.
I still think that Togo was dangerous in the counter-attack so why make it stupid for yourself and allow them a chance to make it 2-2? Three points is most important. Even with the next game against France, we always knew from the start that the Swiss game would be the most decisive game.
It’s easy to say three games afterwards that we should have scored more goals –if, if, if. Afterwards, I also know exactly what went well and what went wrong. I have no problems if people think that way but only one person makes the decision.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for some of Korea’s players. For example, you omitted Ahn Jung-hwan from the Iran squad as he is currently without a club. What advice would you give to him to get back in the national team?
He knows also that he was gambling. He must have been gambling, I am not involved and I am not his agent but I am 100% sure that there were some teams interested in him and probably they were not at the level he had in mind to play at for the rest of his career.
That’s gambling – he took a risk to wait for a better possibility. Everybody is responsible for his own decisions and I think this is the wrong decision. I am sure that he thinks the same. Even if he doesn’t play in the biggest league in the world he is still playing football and he is still at an age where he can play for another two or three years. Put yourself in one of those leagues and if you score 20 goals in one of those so-called ‘minor leagues’ then you are still an interesting player.

What are the chances of him playing for the national team again?
At this moment –absolutely zero. There is no chance. I really like him as a player because he is a player that can decide any game. I was really thinking about using him in the Iran game because even in the last 15-20 minutes, he can do a job and score a goal.
It is impossible. I can’t defend my decision to the outside world to take a player without a club who hasn’t played a game for two months. Secondly, I knew that Jung Jo-gook was playing well in Seoul and if you leave out a talented player like Park Chu-young saying that he’s not playing so well then how can you select a player without a club?
I can still think about his qualities but you can’t take a player who is not playing and has no future.

If he joins a team, it doesn’t matter so much what kind of team and what kind of league, as long as he’s playing football?
Yes, for me it doesn’t make a difference. There are no players in Korea at the moment with his qualities. Jo-gook is a good player for the future but we don’t have players like Ahn who can decide the game out of nothing. He is an experienced player and really wants to play in the Asian Cup.

Why do you think he has such problems with his club career?
If I am the coach of a club then I would look at his resume and to be honest, he didn’t have so many appearances in France and then he went to Germany and played twice in five months. He is 30 years old and coaches start thinking that maybe he isn’t one of the cheapest players and then they think he’s too risky.
I still think that for a lot of teams that he can be an interesting player. If any coach calls me I will tell him Ahn’s qualities.
I would also say that he was not lucky in Germany. He arrived at a bad time. The moment he arrived in Duisberg, the team started winning without him. For a new player, that’s a disaster, it’s good for the club but not for the player. I understand the coach, he’s winning without Ahn so why change?
He was unlucky because I spoke with the director and the coach before they bought him. I explained to them exactly what kind of player he is and they said that desperately needed a type like that – they were so positive and so enthusiastic so they took him but then they started winning without him, then it’s difficult.
For us he was a starting member but he didn’t show in the three weeks before the World Cup that he was fit enough, mentally fit enough and that he was sharp enough to start in the World Cup.
It was the same with Seol Ki-hyeon. I think nobody in England could foresee that Seol is playing as well as he is doing now. If you look at his time with Wolves, especially the last six months, he was never in the team. Could you have told anybody that a player who couldn’t play in a second division team in England is now one of the most attractive players in the Premiership?

How about Lee Chun-soo? He had a chance of a trial in England but he turned it down.
I didn’t know that until last week. I haven’t spoken to him about it but I can understand as he wants to go abroad.

Would he do well in England?
I think Chun-soo can play in any game, anywhere in Europe because he has many special qualities though he still has a lot to learn. A lot of coaches and teams would be very happy to have a player like that who is left and right footed, he can score goals and he can score free-kicks. He’s willing to work for 90 minutes. A fit Lee Chun-soo is for any team, except perhaps the top three in the big leagues, a good player.
Many Dutch teams would be very happy to have a player like him. The only problem is that we don’t have the money to have a player like Lee Chun-soo. That’s a pity because I still think that the Dutch league is for any player, especially from Asia, to show themselves and get used to the European level, is a good league.

Also there was Lee Young-pyo and his near move to Roma, what was your take on that?
I saw him play for Spurs recently in the right-full back position. I saw that the left full-back they bought from Lens in France was doing a very good job. I think that Young-pyo also knows that the left-sided position will not be easy for him.
I don’t know. I spoke to him and said “if you your future is at Spurs then you have to focus on the right full-back position because I think the left back is doing a good job.”
I have no idea why he didn’t go to Roma. He told me that it had nothing to do with his religion. But what the real reason was, he said ‘I will keep it to myself.”
Spurs bought a new right-back, a very promising, talented, right full-back ..

And expensive…
And expensive and I know the coach is really happy with his new signings but I also know that he was really willing to keep Young-pyo. I don’t see many players who can play left-back and right-back and have such a fantastic mentality.

How about Park Chu-young, do you think too much pressure was placed on his shoulders too quickly?
Yes – we knew that last year. Even last year we had our doubts but every ball he touched was a goal – he had the golden touch. Everybody knows also that after such a year it will be difficult – not only now but it already started in March.
From March to the World Cup he didn’t do well but we took him because he still had something special – he’s fast, he’s hard-working and he can score goals. We had our doubts before the World Cup?

What kind of doubts?
He wasn’t playing well; he didn’t score goals any more. He started not to play for the team but to go for his own chances which if you are feeling well is good but if you are not feeling well then you have to look a little bit more for your team-mates.
It was difficult for a 20 year-old player to continue at the same level. It’s not bad at this time for him to be out of the squad line-up and return to do what he’s always done, scoring goals for his club and getting his confidence back.
I’ve always said that we can use him for the next few years because he is one of our promising players. The question is how long he will stay in the deep hole that he is in at the moment. He knows – he’s intelligent. That’s the good part, he’s not acting as a star – at all. He just hangs around with the other players, working hard in training. The difference is that last year that everything he touched was a goal but this year it is going over and wide and to the goalkeeper.
One problem is that he is not a player for a three-striker system. He’s a two-striker system player where he has a free role and can run everywhere and be dangerous in front of the penalty area. So we have to change our system and use his qualities or he has to change.

Also Lee Eul-young has retired from the national team…
He said to me in the training camp that “there are so many good players – it is time for them now, they are good enough and getting better all the time, I want to focus on my own club.”
I told him that I respected what he said. I still think that technical-wise that he is one of our better players; he never makes a mistake when he has the ball. I said to him: “stay with us this week and let the young players learn from you.” He said no problem.
I respect his decision and I think he is right. The younger generation is growing very fast. He had a great career, he played in two World Cups and he played in Europe. He was a technical and very intelligent player.

Will the team miss him?
He is not a starting member any more because the younger players are coming. Everyone knows about the qualities of Baek Ji-hoon, Jung-woo, Lee Ho so they all have to fight and Doo-heon is showing himself. We have some 16 or 17 year-old players in FC Seoul, we have Oh Beom-seok who can play in several positions so it would have been difficult for Eul-yong to be a starting member but I always like that kind of player to help the younger ones. Especially in training, players like Ji-hoon can learn a lot from him.

What are your plans for the rest of the year apart from qualifying from the Asian Cup?
We're focusing on the Asian games. We have to make a quick decision about the Asian Games selection.

Are the Asian Games a big deal?
I think so. If you look at the possible selection then there are a lot of national team players, the more international experience they get, the better it is. A lot of these players will be in line to play in the Asian Cup and if you look at their age then they in 2010 they will be around 27 and the main part of the national team. Even if it isn’t the highest quality tournament, you still have to play international games and I like to have the team together.
But first we must qualify for the Asian Cup.

Monday, September 18, 2006

J. League Results 16 September 2006

Gamba Osaka stay top of the J-League table ahead of Urawa Reds and Frontale Kawasaki after the team's 2-0 win over Oita Trinita in Kyushu. Shimizu S-Pulse remain in 4th despite a 2-1 defeat to Kashima Antlers.

Kyoto Purple Sanga won 1-0 at home to Tokyo FC but remain in the bottom 3. Cerezo won at home 3-2 to JEF.

J. League Results 16 September 2006.

Saturday 16 Sept

Oita Trinita 0 Gamba Osaka 2
Cerezo Osaka 3 JEF United 2
Nagoya Gampus Eight 3 Albirex Niigata 1
Yokohama F Marinos 3 Avispa Fukuoka 1
Urawa Reds 2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1
Kyoto Purple Sanga 1 FC Tokyo 0
Kashima Antlers 2 Shimizu S-Pulse 1

Leading Positions

Gamba P23 Pts 52
Reds P23 Pts 49
Frontale P22 Pts 47
S-Pulse P23 Pts 44
Antlers P23 Pts 42

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Maksimir Stadium

Maksimir Stadium

England will face off against Croatia in their fourth Group E Euro 2008 qualifier in the 40,000 capacity Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on October 11.

Maksimir Stadium

The stadium (known locally as Stadion u Maksimiru), is home to one of Croatia's top clubs, Dinamo Zagreb, and is located in the north eastern part of Croatia's capital Zagreb about 3.5 km
from the city center and across the street from Zagreb's Zoo. The stadium is part of the Svetice recreational and sports complex, to the south of Maksimir Park. The first stadium in the area was built as far back as 1912 and underwent re-construction from the 1940's - 60's.

Maksimir Stadium was again updated for the Universiade Games (World Student Sport Games) between 1986 and 1987 and plans are in the making to expand the stadium yet again to a 60,000 capacity and add a retractable roof.

Maksimir Stadium
Maksimirska 128, 10000 Zagreb
Tel: +385 1 232 32 34

Getting to Maksimir Stadium

Zagreb is well served for public transport by a tram network which links the main railway station and the city's main square, Trg Bana Jelačića.

The nearest station to the stadium is Bukovacka.

From Zagreb station (Glavni Kolodvor) take tram line #4 towards Dubec. From Trg Bana Jelačića Square, take either tram #11 or #12 running to Maksimir in the direction of Dubec or Draskovićeva. Tram #7 also goes to the stadium.

Journey time is around 20 minutes and costs 8 Croatian kuna (1.60 USD) if you buy your ticket on the street car or 6.50 kuna (1.30 USD) from one of the city's numerous newspaper kiosks. A one-day pass for the Zagreb tram is currently 18 kuna (3.10 USD).

Croatian league football matches in Croatia usually take place on Sundays, as in nearby Italy.

Hotels in Zagreb -

Football in Croatia

Copyright © Soccerphile

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It ain’t over ‘til the fat laddie swings

To be successful in life, you have to be a positive thinker. Every night I say to myself, “You are Gerry McDonnell, and you can achieve anything.” It’s equally important to remain level-headed though, so I always add: “Yes, but you’re still a tool.”

Wayne Rooney also has confidence in abundance, but he’s struggling to keep his feet on the ground. Luckily, he can’t see the problem. The dark side of the Roon has led to simultaneous banning orders from domestic and international football; his return to Premiership action coincides with the visit of old foes Arsenal, talk about a recipe for disaster. A Rooney yellow at 7/4 is a tasty investment, a Rooney red should be eaten up at 12/1.

It had been reported that Rooney had kept himself in shape during his enforced sabbatical, unfortunately, that shape was a circle. Wayne’s lack of sharpness on Wednesday night was evident; it looks like the only real exercise he’d undertaken during his layoff was when he floored Blackburn’s Michael Gray for suggesting a threesome with Coleen, an offer which presumably enraged him as no money was set to change hands. The Gunners are a great bet at 9/4 to leave Old Trafford with a point.

I’m a huge fan of Cesc Fabregas. The young lad is still a teenager, yet he’s shone in a World Cup, dazzled in a Champions League final, and perhaps most impressively of all, he’s thrown pizza over Sir Alex Ferguson. It would be absolutely Fabregas if Cesc opens the scoring at 20/1.

Chelsea and Liverpool have gone to war more often than George Bush in recent years. The stats are quite deceiving though, the wife is backing Liverpool because Chelsea have only won two of their last eight meets, but on the other hand, Jose has a 100% record in the Premiership against his arch nemesis. For me, the other hand is always preferable to the wife; i’m tipping the Champions at 5/6.

There’s probably more chance of Stevie Gerrard and Robbie Fowler singing ‘We are family’ with the Neville brothers than there is of Jose shaking hands with Rafa once the match is over. The hostility between the managers could well be matched on the field of play, a red card appeals at 11/4.

Jose has criticised the press for giving Lampard a raw deal after a series of poor performances. One theory raised is that he may have something on his mind; my guess would be ‘dinner’. The Lamp is as short as 11/2 to net the opener, the way he’s playing, I’d rather be a layer than a player.

You have to fancy Portsmouth to take three points at Charlton. Pompey are yet to concede a goal this season while Charlton’s defences have been penetrated every 45 minutes, an average that would make the wife’s eyes water. (She’s a big Charlton fan.) Pompey can keep up their impressive start to the season; get stuck in at 2/1.

The Boro have made an excellent loan signing in Jonathan Woodgate, if anyone knows about the qualities needed to be a top notch centre-back it’s Gareth Southgate, he played with Ugo Ehiogu for several years. Bolton v Middlesbrough bears all the hallmarks of a tight match; three of the last four meetings have been drawn, another deadlocked match appeals at 9/4.

Bobby Zamora could teach Michael Gray a thing or two when it comes to scoring; the underrated hitman has found the net in every game. It could go either way when the Hammers host Newcastle, it could either be a tight home win or West Ham could absolutely murder them. Take 11/10 about a stroll in the park for the Hammers.

Everton are the weekend nap at home to Wigan. Australian Tim Cahill is in criminally good form, AJ is falling over himself to get on the scoresheet and Phil Neville excels in doing the ugly stuff. The 8/11 is tastier than a banana wielding Maria Sharapova.

Aston Villa are the next best bet on the coupon at 13/8 to see off a mediocre Watford team at the Vicarage. It’s often said that nobody goes down in September, and after two weeks of solid research, I can confirm that this is the case. Watford may prove to be the exception.

A new lightweight Mido can be the Spur for Tottenham when they host Fulham at the Lane. The Egyptian announced that he managed to lose 22 pounds of ugly fat; Coleen McLoughlin could do with his phone number. The team playing at home has won this fixture on the last five occasions; back Tottenham at 4/6 to make that six out of six.

When Blackburn host Man City, a black-eyed Michael Gray and a purple-forearmed Ben Thatcher will be watching on as Barton and Mills scrap it out with Savage and Neill. I fancy Blackburn to win the match at 11/10, but I won’t be watching as I disagree with gratuitous violence. Call me an out of touch Guardian-reading pacifist, but I’d do anything for a little piece.

The acc of the week:

The accer this week is so undeniable, that even an Ashley Cole autobiography would struggle to cast doubt upon its authenticity. Everton, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Blackburn and West Ham are the picks, the payout is a weekend changing 33/1.

The weekend specials celebrate Wayne Rooney’s return, via the medium of song.

“Born tubby wild” - Wayne Rooney to be sent off 16/1
“Jumper round” - Wayne Rooney to score with a header 5/1
“Pork like an Egyptian” - Wayne Rooney and Mido both to score 5/1
“I gut two babe” - Wayne Rooney to score two or more goals 5/1
“Have I told you lately, 'fat' I love you” - Wayne Rooney to score a hat-trick 25/1
“I predict a diet” - Wayne Rooney not to score 8/15

The quote of the week

“I’ll educate him.”

Stuart Pearce, when asked how he’ll handle ‘the Micah Richards situation’; and I thought school was tough…

The lay man:

Watford must be layed at 2/1 on the exchanges. They’re just not very good.

Weekend Betting:

Charlton v Portsmouth Saturday 16th September 12.45 Live on Premiership Plus

Charlton 6/4
Draw 9/4
Portsmouth 2/1

Get on: Portsmouth

Match Special:
Benjani to score the only goal of the game 45/1

Bolton v Middlesbrough Saturday 16th September 15.00

Bolton 21/20
Draw 9/4
Middlesbrough 11/4

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
No goalscorer in the match 17/2

Everton v Wigan Saturday 16th September 15.00

Everton 8/11
Draw 5/2
Wigan 4/1

Get on: Everton

Match Special:
Everton to score a penalty 6/1

Sheff Utd v Reading Saturday 16th September 15.00

Sheff Utd 11/8
Draw 9/4
Reading 21/10

Get on: Reading

Match Special:
Sidwell to score at any time 9/2

Watford v Aston Villa Saturday 16th September 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Watford 7/4
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 13/8

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Angel to score with a header 9/2

Chelsea v Liverpool Sunday 17th September 13.30 Live on Sky

Chelsea 5/6
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 4/1

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
Chelsea to win and keep a clean sheet 9/5

Blackburn v Man City Sunday 17th September 15.00

Blackburn 11/10
Draw 9/4
Man City 11/4

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
One or more players to be sent off 2/1

Tottenham v Fulham Sunday 17th September 15.00

Tottenham 4/6
Draw 5/2
Fulham 5/1

Get on: Tottenham

Match Special:
Tottenham to score three or more goals 5/2

West Ham v Newcastle Sunday 17th September 15.00

West Ham 11/10
Draw 9/4
Newcastle 5/2

Get on: West Ham

Match Special:
Tevez to score the last goal 13/2

Man Utd v Arsenal Sunday 17th September 16.00 Live on Sky

Man Utd 10/11
Draw 9/4
Arsenal 10/3

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 11/2

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

FIFA World Rankings September 2006

FIFA World Rankings September 2006.
FIFA World Rankings September 2006

Brazil remain top, followed by France and Argentina. England are up to the heady heights of fourth after 3 wins out of three for new England boss Steve McClaren. The might of Greece, Andorra and Macedonia have been dispatched without a goal conceded.

Japan are up to 47th position. South Korea occupy 49th position. The USA drop to 29th. Scotland and Northern Ireland both rise.

1 Brazil
2 France
3 Argentina
4 England
5 Italy
6 The Netherlands
7 Czech Republic
8 Germany
9 Portugal
10 Spain

11 Nigeria
11 Cameroon
13 Ukraine
14 Switzerland
15 Uruguay
16 Denmark
17 Mexico
18 Sweden
19 Côte d'Ivoire
20 Colombia

FIFA World Rankings


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

J-League News August & September 2006

Japanese Soccer News – August & September 2006

J-League news: Gamba Osaka lead the way

Gamba Osaka look set to defend their J-League crown. A 3-1 derby win over Cerezo at the weekend saw them move two points clear of Kawasaki Frontale on the J1 league ladder.

Kawasaki secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory at neighbours Yokohama F Marinos. Brazilians Marcao and Juninho scored for Frontale, with Ryuji Kawai responding for the home team.

Urawa Reds look the team most likely to challenge Gamba and Frontale for title honours. Their 2-0 derby win over Omiya Ardija kept them within striking distance of the top two, three points behind leaders Gamba.

Fourth placed Shimizu S-Pulse are another team in form, defeating JEF United 3-1 in Chiba. S-Pulse are unbeaten since a July 23 loss to Kyoto Purple Sanga.

Cerezo Osaka in relegation dogfight

Venforet fans

At the foot of the table, things are starting to look desperate for three teams. Promoted sides Kyoto Purple Sanga and Avispa Fukuoka are involved in a desperate dogfight to retain their J1 status, along with Cerezo Osaka.

The presence of Cerezo in last place has surprised many pundits. They saw the title snatched from them thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser by FC Tokyo on the final day of last season. Cerezo have been woeful this season though, winning just three games and conceding a total of 50 goals in the process.

J2: Three-way promotion tussle

Fallen giants Tokyo Verdy look set for another season in J-League Division Two. The Yomiuri-backed club are languishing in mid-table, some 18 points behind leaders Kashiwa Reysol.

At the top Reysol are locked in a three-way battle with Vissel Kobe and Yokohama FC for one of two promotion places. Yokohama FC have risen from the ranks of the JFL to the brink of the top flight in only eight years, after its creation by fans of the defunct Yokohama Flügels.

Japan National Team

Interesting times for Japan under its new coach, Ivica Osim. The Bosnian was heralded as a proponent of attacking football, however the Blue Samurai have struggled since Osim took over in early July.

Summer 2006 Results

Three wins and a loss might seem a decent return but Osim has come under fire for some disjointed displays. His decision to not select overseas-based players also seems to have alienated him from certain sections of Japan’s demanding national media.

September 6, Sana’a

vs. Yemen

Japan followed up its loss to Saudi Arabia with a dire performance in the Yemeni capital.

After complaining of the oppressive heat in Jeddah, coach Osim this time pointed the finger at the state of the Sana’a pitch. He may soon run out of excuses, for while the pitch was certainly in terrible condition, it was no worse than Japan’s performance.

Kawasaki Frontale striker Kazuke Ganaha – a 73rd minute substitute for the invisible Naotake Hanyu, spared Osim’s blushes with a last minute goal. This will fail to gloss over a dismal display.

The knives will soon be out for Osim unless there is dramatic improvement in Japan’s final two qualifying games. The likes of Endo, Santos and Seiichiro Maki must surely be fearing for their international careers following their recent run of inept performances.

September 3, Jeddah

vs. Saudi Arabia

The first loss of the Osim-era as Japan succumbed 0-1 in the Gulf. Japan came undone when Gamba Osaka’s Yasuhito Endo carelessly lost possession in midfield, allowing Saleh Bashir to score the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute.

August 16, Niigata

vs. Yemen

Japan laboured to victory in its opening Asian Cup qualifier at a sold-out Niigata Stadium. Late goals from Yuki Abe and substitute striker Hisato Sato earned Japan the three points over a defensive Yemen side.

A lack of clinical finishing against a team which put ten men behind the ball at all times looked set to cost Japan. Their inability to break down Yemen’s packed defence was plain to see in a performance labelled as “disappointing” by new coach Osim.

August 9, Tokyo

vs. Trinidad and Tobago

A bright start for Osim’s Japan in front of almost 48,000 expectant fans. Alex Santos – so disappointing at the World Cup, struck twice to give Japan a deserved victory.

Players Overseas

Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic

After Hidetoshi Nakata’s sudden retirement, Nakamura has taken on the mantle of Japan’s most recognisable player. He scored with a curling free-kick in an opening day victory over Kilmarnock and has started in all of Celtic’s Premier League matches so far.

Daisuke Matsui: Le Mans

Matsui has put the disappointment of missing out on Zico’s World Cup squad behind him as he continues to go from strength to strength at Le Mans. He will be hoping that new Japan coach Osim doesn’t continue his trend of not selecting overseas players.

Naohiro Takahara: Eintracht Frankfurt

After a summer move from rivals Hamburger SV, journeyman Takahara made a scoring debut in a first-round German Cup match against Siegen at the weekend.

Koji Nakata: FC Basel

Nakata has been ever-present for FC Basel, however the Swiss giants lie seventh in the Swiss Super League having won just three of seven league games so far.

Takayuki Suzuki: Red Star Belgrade

The lanky target-man might find his opportunities limited following the recent acquisition of Brazilian striker Ailton.


Shimizu S-Pulse fans

It’s been a busy time for transfers involving Japanese players of late. The biggest move undoubtedly involved former pin-up boy Junichi Inamoto, while on the domestic front, Sota Hirayama has joined FC Tokyo after leaving Dutch club Heracles.

Junichi Inamoto: West Bromwich Albion to Galatasaray

Inamoto has swapped time on the bench at West Bromwich Albion for European football with Turkish giants Galatasaray. He started in their 0-0 Champions League draw with Bordeaux overnight.

Mitsuo Ogasawara: Kashima Antlers to Messina

Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara has joined Atsushi Yanagisawa’s old club Messina on-loan. He did not feature in their opening day win over Udinese.

Masahi Oguro: Grenoble Foot 38 to Torino

After being frozen out at Grenoble, Oguro came off the bench during Torino’s recent 1-1 draw at home to Parma.

Sota Hirayama: Heracles Almelo to FC Tokyo

Following some serious problems involving a rogue player agent, a homesick and depressed Sota Hirayama has had his contract with Heracles terminated. He recently signed a deal with FC Tokyo.

Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup

Semi-final, first legs: September 2 & 3

JEF United 2 – 2 Kawasaki Frontale

As new coach Ivica Osim was presiding over a 1-0 loss to Saudi Arabia, his son Amar was watching his JEF United team concede a late equaliser in their first-leg Nabisco League Cup semi-final clash with Kawasaki Frontale.

The match came to life late in the second half. First Kawasaki defender Hideki Sahara clashed with JEF United’s Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov, sparking a mass brawl that saw Sahara earn his marching orders. Then Brazilian striker Juninho lashed home his second of the night in stoppage time, to give Kawasaki a fighting chance in the return leg against the defending Nabisco Cup champions.

The game was the second between the two teams within the space of a few days, with Kawasaki having edged past JEF United 2-1 in the J-League on August 30.

Kashima Antlers 1 – 0 Yokohama F Marinos

Kashima Antlers hold the advantage in the other semi-final, having defeated Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 at home on Saturday night. The Antlers are seeking their first piece of silverware since lifting the inaugural A3 Mazda Champions Cup in 2003, and the League Cup may be their best chance as indifferent form since the resumption of the J-League has seen them slip back to fifth in the title race.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

K League Update September 2006

K League.
K League Update

We are almost a third of the way through the second stage of the 2006 K-League season - and whisper it quietly - but it is shaping up to be an least interesting, and perhaps even exciting campaign.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma walked the first half, finishing a full ten points clear. When the six-times champions started the second stage with two comfortable wins – the first being a comprehensive 4-0 victory over the usually solid Daejeon Citizen - the groans could be heard all the way from Mokpo to Sokcho.

There is a happier mood about the southern half of the peninsula now that Seongnam have lost their last two games, the latter one coming as a bit of a shock – a 1-0 setback at bottom club Gwangju Samgmu. Fans of the Gyeonggi province club won’t be too concerned as the club have already qualified for the end of season championship play-offs.

Seongnam are still in touch at the top however and are part of the “Big Four” that are mostly leading the way at the moment.

FC Seoul are first.The LG-owned outfit won the Hauzen Cup in July and have carried on their good form though they have yet to be totally convincing. A 2-1 win at Chonbuk Motors was achieved because of some dismal refereeing decisions and a 1-0 home win over Jeju United came despite an unimaginative attacking performance –with Park Chu-young the main culprit.

The “Rookie Genius” was the story of the 2005 season in Korea. Everywhere the young striker, now 21, went he attracted massive crowds. He was the 2004 Young Asian Player of the Year, the top scorer in the regular 2005 K-League season and scored a last-minute goal on his national team debut that rescued a point in a vital World Cup qualifier –it was the proverbial meteoric rise to the top.

It all seems so long ago for the youngster whose face still adorns EA’s FIFA 06 football game in South Korea. Dropped from the national team and often on the bench for FC Seoul, he won’t be on the cover for next year’s version as his shots go everywhere but the goal.

At least his team are doing well and are two points clear of second-placed Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Suwon yet again failed to defeat bogey team Daejeon Citizen last weekend though Juan Olivera scored his third goal in five games despite the fact that the Uruguayan striker makes Teddy Sheringham look positively speedy - though his goal last weekend was an excellent one.

Champions Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I are level on eight points with Suwon but there are doubts as to the Tigers’ consistency as drawing at Gwangju one week then winning Seongnam the next testify. Lee Chun-soo, scorer of the winning goal that game, has injury problems but still found the energy to turn down the offer of a trial with Premier League outfit Portsmouth – his time will come.

Seongnam are fifth, one place below Pohang Steelers and one ahead of Jeju United who have already won more games than they managed when finishing bottom of the first stage.

At the ‘business end’ of the table, anyone would think that FA Cup holders Chonbuk had won the first stage as they have managed to pick up just a single point from the first four games. Their latest poor result was a home defeat at the hands of an Incheon United side that had failed to win in their previous 14 attempts.

Incheon collected the most points overall in 2005 but have had real problems finding the target – just fifteen goals so far this season. They needed a deflected shot to do so at the Jeonju home of the Motors but Coach Jang Woe-ryeong will not mind at all.

The Asian Champions League

Japanese readers are probably unaware that the continental competition has a knockout stage but it has and it starts on September 13 with Ulsan and Chonbuk representing South Korea.

Chonbuk probably have the easier task of facing Shanghai Shenhua – though the Chinese outfit currently lies second in the Chinese Super League as opposed to Chonbuk’s last.

Shenhua ‘boast’ Carsten Jancker in their line-up but the ex-German international has yet to score since heading east from the Bundesliga in April. But Shanghai have Chinese internationals like Li Weifang, Sun Xiang and Zie Hui to call upon.

The Motors defeated Chinese champions Dalian Shide in the group stage and will be confident of leaving their domestic form behind and reaching the semi-final of the competition for the second time in three years.

Then they were defeated by eventual champions Al Ittihad (who went on to beat Seongnam in the final and Busan the year after) and Ulsan face Saudi opposition.

Fortunately it is not the bane of Korean teams that the Tigers will meet but Saudi Arabian champions Al Shabab. The Riyadh outfit, who have Ghanian international Godwin Attram in attack, have gone through five coaches so far this year but the latest pair of hands at the helm belong to none other than South Korean national team coach (2003-2004) Humberto Coelho.

It should be an interesting week.

K-League Standings - September 12

1: Seoul P 4 Pts 10
2: Suwon P 4 Pts 8
3: Ulsan P 4 Pts 8
4: Pohang P 4 Pts 7
5: Seongnam P 4 Pts 6
6: Jeju P 4 Pts 6
7: Busan P 4 Pts 5
8: Incheon P 4 Pts 5
9: Chunnam P 4 Pts 4
10: Daegu P 4 Pts 4
11: GyeongnamP 4 Pts 4
12: Gwangju P 4 Pts 4
13: Daejeon P 4 Pts 4
14: Chonbuk P 4 Pts 1