Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back to the Führer

Back to the Führer

My old man has forgotten more about betting than I’ll ever know; he has Alzheimer’s. It’s bad news for the old fellow, but it’s a result for me at Christmas.

He always used to say, “Never overestimate the importance of recent form.” He hasn’t said this since his condition deteriorated though; the poor sod thinks he’s still fighting in the war. The last coherent statement he made was, “We must invade Poland.”

Back to the Führer

Liverpool’s recent form on the road may be abysmal, but the cream will rise to the top like a Scouse salmon. Even the old man is backing the Reds at 11/10 to see off Wigan; if he remembers the location of the betting shop.

Jamie Carragher had said that he wouldn’t swap Stevie Gerrard for Ronaldinho, which coincidentally, is a view shared by Barcelona. The in form Gerrard can inspire the Pool to a 2-0 win at 6/1.

Gareth Southgate is a rich man’s Steve McClaren, which places him one rung off the bottom of the English managerial ladder. A Manchester United romp at 8/13 will be about as surprising as the Sunday newspaper headline: ‘Rooney KO’s reporter, sleeps with an old dear’.

If Wayne Rooney were so inclined, he could visit ‘the canny granny’ twice a week (at £65 a pop) for the next 44 years, and it would cost him less than 1% of the £30m deal he’s just agreed. Unlike the old lady in question, that’s not too shabby. The 4/1 on offer for Rooney to open the scoring is a genuine looker.

West Ham’s new owner made his fortune in biscuits, so it could be argued that Frank Lampard part-financed the deal. A draw between Everton and West Ham looks a great investment at 9/4.

Alan Pardew is worried about a gambling culture at the club. Apparently, the players enjoy the card game ‘roaster’; it’s a variation of poker, played with more hands. Get your hands on the 8/1 about ‘no goalscorer’ in the match.

As a result of recent defeats to Fulham and Bolton, Arsenal are available at a huge 8/13 to see off Tottenham. Henry missed the Reebok shoeing due to a pain in the neck; Robbie Savage let his tyres down. Spurs will not be so fortunate.

Robbie Savage is like a box of tissues; girly, but useful. Blackburn have only lost one of the last twelve games in which the blonde bombshell has been involved; Fulham will succumb to girl-power at 10/11.

In a climate where footballers and managers ‘see no evil’, ‘hear no evil’ and ‘roast no evil’, it was refreshing to hear El Hadji Diouf admit to taking the occasional dive. He’s also an expert in domestic conflict resolution; the lad’s really growing on me. Diouf’s honesty will be rewarded with a win at the Madejski at 15/8.

Les Reed has also embraced the concept of truth. His quote of “Andy Reid’s body shape makes him look worse than he is,” is a polite way of saying “the fat lad done well.” Charlton can leave Bramall Lane with a point at a pleasantly plump 9/4.

I keep hearing how Watford have been unlucky this season; but what about me? The house caught fire last year and the wife wasn’t even in. I’ll say what I said to her mother when we moved in for a few weeks shortly after; I’ve got a huge tip for you. Get on Man City at 8/11.

Andy Cole and Kanu should both be involved when Pompey face the Villa, and surprisingly, they’re not being wheeled out for a pre-match presentation. The Villa are in play at 9/4.

I’m feeling genuine remorse for criticising David James. Judging by his new haircut, it’s quite clear that the poor sod is living with his mother, and she’s still living in the 1940’s. I’ll have to introduce her to my old man.

This week’s accer is so inevitable, Doctor Who, Austin Powers, ‘Bill and Ted’ and Shakin’ Michael J Fox have all declared themselves powerless in the fight to prevent it from obliging. Arsenal, Blackburn, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City are the selections, the payout is a Billie Piper pleasing 15/1.

Weekend Betting:

Arsenal v Tottenham Saturday 2nd December 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Arsenal 8/13
Draw 13/5
Tottenham 11/2

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Henry to score direct from a free kick 6/1

Blackburn v Fulham Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Blackburn 10/11
Draw 9/4
Fulham 3/1

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
Blackburn to score three or more goals 7/2

Portsmouth v Aston Villa Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Portsmouth 5/4
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 9/4

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Gareth Barry to score with his left foot 5/1

Reading v Bolton Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Reading 6/4
Draw 9/4
Bolton 15/8

Get on: Bolton

Match Special:
Anelka to score the only goal of the game 40/1

Sheff Utd v Charlton Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Sheff Utd 13/10
Draw 9/4
Charlton 23/10

Get on: Draw

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

Wigan v Liverpool Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Wigan 11/4
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 11/10

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Kuyt to score two or more goals 6/1

Middlesbrough v Man Utd Saturday 2nd December 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Middlesbrough 5/1
Draw 13/5
Man Utd 8/13

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Rooney to score from outside the penalty area 9/2

Everton v West Ham Sunday 3rd December 16:00 Live on Sky

Everton 10/11
Draw 9/4
West Ham 10/3

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Under 2.5 goals in the game 8/13

Man City v Watford Monday 4th December 20:00 Live on Sky

Man City 8/11
Draw 12/5
Watford 9/2

Get on: Man City

Match Special:
Barton to score at any time 4/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seongnam Stroll To Seventh Success

Seongnam Stroll To Seventh Success

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have been crowned K-League champions for the seventh time after a 3-1 aggregate win over Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the two-legged championship play-off decider.

It was a deserved win for the team that inhabits the affluent southern Seoul suburb of Bundang as they took the first leg at home 1-0 and shocked Suwon with a fairly comfortable 2-1 win in the second match.

The first leg was a tight affair –even more so for the fans squeezed into Seongnam’s Stadium as the attendance given was 21,000 – 5,000 more than the official capacity of the airy arena.

K-League spokespeople mumbled something about a temporary increase in capacity. It may not be too important but anyone familiar with Korean football knows that if Korean teams were as creative on the pitch as officials are when announcing attendance figures then the K-League would be a much better place.

One thing is for sure; at least half of those in attendance were sporting blue shirts after making the short trek east from Suwon.

They had little to shout about. Seongnam controlled the game for long periods without looking especially dangerous against a well-drilled Suwon back-four. With the visitors failing to create anything of note, the game was heading for a goalless draw.

That was until the 88th minute. Park Jin-seob launched a long cross from the right and K-League top scorer Woo Sung-yong was allowed to sneak in at the far post between two defenders and head the ball past the flat-footed Park Hyo-jin in the Suwon goal.

It was a deserved win on the day and left things nicely poised for the second leg with Suwon going for a fourth title and their second in three years in front of their own fans.

Those supporters turned out in force though the official 38,500 attendance was surprisingly swelled by the presence of over 5,000 yellow-shirted away fans at the ‘Big Bird'. The Seongnam fans took advantage of free travel to give the K-League’s most successful but worst supported team some vocal backing in the second leg.

Suwon boss Cha Bum-keun gave those critics who believe that he may have been a great player but he ain’t a great coach extra fuel by sticking playmaker Lee Kwan-woo on the right wing and drafting in Park Ju-song in defence. The 22 year-old had just returned from his two year military spell with Gwangju Sangmu and looked lost.

He was put out of his misery at half-time but by then the damage was done as Seongnam have something that Suwon lack – strikers that don’t need asking twice to put the ball into the net.

2004 K-League top scorer Mota has not had the best season at Seongnam – a broken ankle is responsible for that – but he showed all his predatory instincts after 26 minutes as he flicked the ball into the Suwon net from close range, despite the attentions of a blue-shirted defender.

From that moment, the hosts’ hopes of a quartet of titles looked doomed. Suwon were short of ideas, movement and perhaps most worryingly, motivation.

It didn’t improve much in the second half. The introduction of a disappointing Da Silva and young striker Seo Dong-hyun looked lightweight compared to Seongnam’s substitutions which brought the K-League’s top scorer Woo Sung-yong and international star Kim Sang-sik onto the pitch.

It wasn’t until Mota, left unmarked at the near post, scored his second and Seongnam’s third of the fixture midway through the second half that Suwon roused themselves to finally trouble Kim Yong-dae in the Seongnam goal.

Da Silva lifted his barrel-chest into the air with 14 minutes left to head home and hand the hosts a lifeline though with two goals still required, it was a tenuous one. So it proved and it was all over with three minutes remaining when striker Seo dragged a shot wide of the post with only ‘keeper Kim to beat.

It was very much a case of too little, too late from the Bluewings who can console themselves with the FA Cup final against Chunnam Dragons on December 3.

Seongnam rejoiced with a seventh title and a crack at the 2007 Asian Champions League when their line-up may contain a certain Mr. Ahn Jung-hwan.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Asian Soccer News and Interviews

Monday, November 27, 2006

Japanese Soccer News Urawa v Gamba

Japanese Soccer News Urawa v Gamba.
J-League News: Urawa and Gamba Osaka to fight it out at the death!

After a penalty shoot-out finish in the Championship playoff of 2004 and Gamba Osaka's dramatic injury time decider last season, the J-League will go down to the wire for a third season in succession.

Urawa Reds will take on Gamba Osaka at a sold-out Saitama Stadium next Saturday in a head-to-head showdown to decide the 2006 J-League champions. Urawa are in the driving seat as they can afford to lose by a margin of two goals and still claim the title.

Urawa supporters swamped Ajinomoto Stadium this weekend but their legion of fans in the crowd of 41,528 had to postpone the title celebrations, as FC Tokyo held the Reds to a 0-0 draw.

In Osaka, Magno Alves' last minute winner saw Gamba triumph 3-2 over bottom club Kyoto Purple Sanga, and keep the title race alive until the last day of the season. That result means Kyoto are relegated to J2 for the third time in their history.

It was a shoot-out of sorts at Gamba's Expo '70 Stadium, as Magno Alves traded goals with his Brazilian counterpart Paulinho. Paulinho opened the scoring for Kyoto, before Alves struck twice for Gamba. Paulinho equalised with just ten minutes remaining, before Alves completed his hat-trick with a last minute header. That goal took Alves to the top of the goalscoring charts. He has scored 25 goals in the J-League this season, one more than Urawa's Brazilian striker Washington.

Elsewhere Ryoichi Maeda's penalty settled a dull Shizuoka derby at Ecopa Stadium. Maeda's goal was all that the crowd of 37,711 had to cheer, as Jubilo Iwata ran out 1-0 winners over local rivals, Shimizu S-Pulse. Jungo Fujimoto came closest for S-Pulse; his delicate chip beat Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in the Jubilo goal but rebounded off the crossbar.

In J2, Yokohama FC became the first team to win promotion when they beat Sagan Tosu 1-0. That victory also wrapped up the title for Yokohama FC and came courtesy of former Kyoto striker Alemao, who scored the winner in the 77th minute. Yokohama will start their first ever J1 campaign without their former Japan international Shoji Jo. The 31 year old has announced his retirement.

Vissel Kobe lie in second on the table, after their 2-2 home draw with Shonan Bellmare. Kashiwa Reysol lost 3-2 to Consadole Sapporo at home, meaning that they drop down to third. The league's third placed team will playoff against the sixteenth placed finishers from J1, for the right to play in the First Division next season.

Japan National Teams

Japan National Team

November 15, Sapporo

Japan vs Saudi Arabia

Japan produced their best performance to date under Ivica Osim, beating Saudi Arabia 3-1 to finish top of their Asian Cup qualifying group. In front of just under 41,000 fans at the Sapporo Dome, Japan opened the scoring when Urawa defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka stabbed home after Seiichiro Maki's header had been cleared off the line.

Kawasaki Frontale frontman Kazuki Ganaha replaced the injured Ryuji Bando up front, and Ganaha scored the first of his two goals when he headed home Yasuyuki Konno's cross after 29 minutes. Saudi Arabia pulled one back when Yasser Al Qahtani fired home from the penalty spot, after Konno was adjudged to have pulled down the Saudi striker.

Japan dominated the second half and Ganaha scored his second when he swept home Yuichi Komano's cross in the 49th minute. Japan could have added a fourth in injury time when substitute Daiki Takamatsu was brought down in the box. Marcus Tulio Tanaka fired the resultant spot-kick over the crossbar, however.

The result will give Japan renewed optimism ahead of next year's Asian Cup finals, after they outplayed Saudi Arabia for long periods of this match. Japan's next match is a friendly against arch rivals South Korea in March 2007.

Japan under 21 National Team

November 21, Tokyo

Japan vs South Korea

Japan and South Korea played out a 1-1 draw, in front of 22,115 fans at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The teams were preparing for the upcoming Asian Games in Doha, where Japan will take on Pakistan, Turkmenistan and DPR Korea in their group.

South Korea opened the scoring through Yang Dong Hyen in injury time at the end of the first half. Kashima Antlers midfielder Chikashi Masuda equalised with fifteen minutes remaining. A week earlier the two teams had played out another 1-1 draw in the South Korean city of Changwon.

Japan Women's National Team

November 19, Chiba and November 23, Karlsruhe

Japan beat Australia 1-0 in a match played in driving rain at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba. Shinobu Ohno scored the only goal after 51 minutes.

Ohno also found the back of the net against Germany four days later, however Japan lost that match 6-3 in Karlsruhe. Aya Miyama and Karina Maruyama were Japan's other goalscorers. A Petra Wimbersky double added to goals from Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, Kerstin Garefrekes, Birgit Prinz and Conny Pohlers for Germany.

Japan take on the Maldives, Jordan and China in their Asian Games group.

Japanese Players Overseas

Japanese players have been having a stellar time in Europe of late, with Shunsuke Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto both scoring in the last round of UEFA Champions League matches. Teruo Iwamoto, however, was sent off on his debut for Auckland City in the New Zealand Football Championship.

Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic

Nakamura fired Celtic into the second round of the UEFA Champions League, scoring a sensational free-kick against Manchester United. Nakamura's goal proved the winner at Celtic Park, after goalkeeper Artur Boruc saved Louis Saha's last minute penalty.

Junichi Inamoto: Galatasaray

It seems that rumours of Inamoto's demise at Galatasaray have been greatly exaggerated, as he drove home his first ever Champions League goal against Bordeaux. The goal was merely a consolation, however, as Galatasaray lost 3-1.

Koji Nakata: FC Basel

Nakata played the full ninety minutes of Basel's 2-2 draw with Nancy in the UEFA Cup but lasted just half an hour of the match against FC Zürich at the weekend. Nakata, who was recovering from a broken nose, was hit in the face by a Blerim Dzemaili shot and was forced from the field with blood pouring from his nose.

Kenji Fukuda: Numancia

Fukuda has been in goalscoring form of late, and he scored again in a recent 1-1 draw against Deportivo Alaves.

Teruo Iwamoto: Auckland City

Iwamoto's preparations for the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup were thrown into disarray, when he was sent off in the last minute of his debut for Auckland City. Iwamoto missed Auckland's 5-1 weekend win at Otago through suspension.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Friday, November 24, 2006

J-League Results & Standings November 2006

J-League Results & Standings November 2006.

Urawa Reds stand on the verge of lifting their first J-League title after yesterday's matches on the Labor Day national holiday. After their disappointing loss away to Grampus at the weekend, the Saitama giants beat 10-man Ventforet Kofu in front of 57,781 fans at Saitama Stadium - this year's largest J-League attendance.

Gamba Osaka stumbled to a 1-1 draw away to Avispa Fukuoka, which means Urawa can lift the title with a win away to FC Tokyo on Sunday.

In the match in Saitama, Brazilian striker Washington missed two first half penalties but netted a second half brace to settle Reds' nerves. Kofu had defender Michitaka Akimoto sent off after 30 minutes, a decision that swung the match massively in Reds' favor.

Kawasaki Frontale dropped out of contention with a 4-3 loss away to Shimizu. At the bottom Avispa and Cerezo both drew and will battle it out for the play-off spot with the third-placed J2 team. Kyoto Purple Sanga return straight back down to the second tier after a 3-1 loss in front of their own supporters in the ancient capital.

The J-League title race is not all over yet and FC Tokyo will not want to lose again in front of their fans after yesterday's loss to Marinos. The last game of the season sees Saitama host Gamba and that match might still decide which side takes the prize.

It's equally tight at the top of J2 with Yokohama FC, Vissel Kobe and Kawasaki Reysol all in contention for the top two automatic promotion slots.

Saturday 23 November

Cerezo Osaka 1 Nagoya Gampus Eight 1
Urawa Reds 3 Venforet Kofu 0
Kyoto Purple Sanga 1 Jubilo Iwate 3
Avispa Frontale 1 Gamba Osaka 1
Kashima Antlers 5 Albirex Niigata 1
Shimizu S-Pulse 4 Kawasaki Frontale 3
Oita Trinita 1 Omiya Ardija 2
JEF United 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1
FC Tokyo 1 Yokohama F Marinos 2

Leading Positions

Reds P32 Pts 68
Gamba P32 Pts 63
Frontale P32 Pts 61
S-Pulse P32 Pts 57
Jubilo P32 Pts 55
Antlers P32 Pts 55


Yokohama FC P46 Pts 87
Vissel Kobe P46 Pts 85
Reysol P46 Pts 85
Sagan P46 Pts 76
Vegalta Sendai P46 Pts 7


Brazilian Eduardo Shines in Croatia

Eduardo da Silva marca 32 goles en cuatro meses

El delantero más en forma en la actualidad europea podría ser el brasileno naturalizado croata del Dinamo Zagreb, Eduardo da Silva. En algo más de cuatro meses de la presente temporada, el ariete de 23 anos cumplidos en febrero ha marcado nada menos de 32 goles en 29 partidos disputados, todos ellos competitivos menos el amistoso de la selección ante Italia en Livorno.

Eduardo da Silva marca 32 goles en cuatro meses

El último de ellos vino en la ida de los cuartos de final de Copa ante el Inter en Zapresic (2-1 para el Dinamo).

El balance no se refiere sólo a las competiciones croatas, sino también a los encuentros en las copas europeas y de selección nacional.

El jefe del Dinamo de Zagreb, Zdravko Mamic, ha prometido que no iba a vender a Eduardo como mínimo antesdel otono del 2007, para dar una oportunidad al equipo deprogresar en Europa.

He aquí el resumen de los goles marcados por la perla del Dinamo desde el pasado 19 de julio.

En la Liga de Croacia: 15 goles en 15 presencias

Copa de Croacia: 5 goles en 3 presencias

Supercopa de Croacia: 2 goles en 1 presencia

Copas europeas: 5 goles en 5 presencias

Selección croata: 5 goles en 5 presencias

Total: 32 goles en 29 encuentros disputados

Copyright EFE

I’m a celebrity, get me oat

I’m a celebrity, get me oat

I’m certainly not an intellectual; the last book I read in its entirety was ‘Little Women’, I found it short and dull. I do try to keep abreast of developments in the world of science though, and an article on ‘chaos theory’ recently caught my attention.

Apparently, if a butterfly flaps its wings, the ripple effect can trigger a hurricane on the other side of the world. What will happen if Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney challenge for a header on Sunday? If they land simultaneously, the England cricket team could be in grave danger.

While that may be a bone of contention amongst the nerds; all mathematicians agree that Man U are worthy favourites to extend their lead over Chelsea at Old Trafford. I suggest a punt on United at a novel 13/8.

I’m a celebrity, get me oat

Here’s a phrase you don’t see every day; you’ve got to fancy Wayne Rooney. At odds of 13/2 to net the opener, he’s the big player for the big occasion.

I was quite taken aback when a reporter asked for my opinion on Les Reed, I said it’s enjoyable, but I prefer to watch it on DVD. I fancy Everton to leave the Valley with three points at an excitable 13/8.

Andy Johnson is not a winger; his favoured position is undoubtedly sprawled in the penalty area after minimal contact. I’m falling over myself to back AJ to open the scoring at 11/2.

David James was up to his old tricks last week; he flapped at a cross like a cornered vampire. Pompey have already lost 3-0 at St James’ Park in the Carling Cup this season; another calamity awaits at 13/10.

Liverpool and Manchester City share a trait with female drivers, they’re all useless on the road. The Pool are the weekend banker at 4/9.

A couple of Reading players have received death threats in the post, I should learn to spend my time more productively. Fulham can dethrone the Royals at a red-blooded 6/5.

Incredibly, there hasn’t been a goal scored in the first 40 minutes of any match played at the Cottage this season. Trend followers will be on HT draw, FT Fulham at 9/2; ‘law of averages’ supporters will be on HT Fulham, FT Fulham at 11/4 and Americans will be at Burger King questioning why they voted for Bush.

It’s not been a good week for Paddy Kenny. A night out took a turn for the worse when Kenny’s pal quipped that he’d been stirring Paddy’s porridge. An ensuing ruck led to the Sheffield United goalkeeper losing an eyebrow. Unlike Paddy, I can raise both eyebrows at the generous 5/6 on offer for a West Ham win.

I’m embarrassed to say that I was once injured while eating a doner kebab. I blame the parents; if you can’t spell ‘Donna’ correctly, you shouldn’t be bringing up kids. Spurs should be backed at a spicy 10/11 to see off Wigan.

Paddy and I are not alone in receiving ‘unfortunate’ injuries. Dave Beasant was once ko’d by a bottle of salad cream, Kevin Kyle scolded his testicles with boiling water and Freddie Ljungberg was recently sidelined by a piece of cheese. Freddie’s now back to full fitness, he can ensure that Arsenal leave the Reebok with a point at 23/10.

The last time Villa faced Middlesbrough, Lee Cattermole was in tears as the Villa cruised to a 4-0 win. If you miss out on the Villa at a colossal 5/6, you’ll be crying like Robbie Savage when he lost a caravan in the great tornado of 2005; possibly caused by Shane Warne celebrating a wicket in Perth.

This week’s accer bites the eyebrow of uncertainty and pats the bald head of chaos. Aston Villa, Liverpool, West Ham, Newcastle and Tottenham are the irrefutable selections, the payout is an unyielding 18/1.

Weekend Betting:

Charlton v Everton Saturday 25th November 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Charlton 9/5
Draw 9/4
Everton 13/8

Get on: Everton

Match Special:
Everton to score a penalty 6/1

Aston Villa v Middlesbrough Saturday 25th November 15:00

Aston Villa 5/6
Draw 23/10
Middlesbrough 4/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Boateng to be booked 7/4

Fulham v Reading Saturday 25th November 15:00

Fulham 6/5
Draw 9/4
Reading 23/10

Get on: Fulham

Match Special:
Bouba Diop to score at any time 6/1

Liverpool v Man City Saturday 25th November 15:00

Liverpool 4/9
Draw 3/1
Man City 15/2

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Kuyt to score two or more goals 5/1

West Ham v Sheff Utd Saturday 25th November 15:00

West Ham 5/6
Draw 12/5
Sheff Utd 4/1

Get on: West Ham

Match Special:
West Ham to win and keep a clean sheet 19/10

Bolton v Arsenal Saturday 25th November 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Bolton 11/4
Draw 23/10
Arsenal 11/10

Get on: Draw

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

Newcastle v Portsmouth Sunday 26th November 13:30 Live on Sky

Newcastle 13/10
Draw 9/4
Portsmouth 23/10

Get on: Newcastle

Match Special:
Dyer to score the first goal 8/1

Tottenham v Wigan Sunday 26th November 15:00

Tottenham 10/11
Draw 12/5
Wigan 4/1

Get on: Tottenham

Match Special:
Malbranque to score at any time 4/1

Man Utd v Chelsea Sunday 26th November 16:00 Live on Sky

Man Utd 13/8
Draw 11/5
Chelsea 2/1

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Rooney to score the only goal of the game 33/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ashes Cricket Prediction

Ashes Cricket Prediction

Anita Nigam, Soccerphile's resident astrologer, has predicted the result of the eagerly awaited Ashes First Test Match in Brisbane, Australia between the holders, England and challengers Australia.

If you would like to receive this unique prediction for only 35 USD please click the link below:

Subscribe now to get Anita's INDIVIDUAL ASHES TEST MATCH prediction service - only 35 USD for an single test.

Anita's Prediction Service

Sunday, November 19, 2006

J. League Results 18 November 2006

J. League Results
Urawa Reds title charge took a step back with a 1-0 loss away to Nagoya Grampus Eight at Toyota Stadium in front of 32,109 fans. More bad news for the Saitama giants is that the German media is reporting that manager Guido Buchwald may be on his way back to a coaching job in Germany at the end of the season in order to spend more time with his family.

Nearest challengers Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale both won to narrow the gap at the top.

At the bottom Kyoto Purple Sanga lost away to 4th from bottom Sanfrecce and a quick return to J2 looks increasingly likely for the yo-yo club from the ancient capital. Fellow strugglers Avispa lost 2-1 at Kawasaki.

Saturday 18 November

Nagoya Gampus Eight 1 Urawa Reds 0
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Kyoto Purple Sanga 0
Kawasaki Frontale 2 Avispa Frontale 1
Kashima Antlers 3 Omiya Ardija 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 3 Yokohama F Marinos 2
Venforet Kofu 2 Oita Trinita 0
Jubilo Iwate 4 FC Tokyo 1

Leading Positions

Reds P31 Pts 65
Gamba P31 Pts 62
Frontale P31 Pts 61
S-Pulse P31 Pts 54
Jubilo P31 Pts 52
Antlers P31 Pts 52


Vissel Kobe P44 Pts 84
Yokohama FC P44 Pts 83
Reysol P44 Pts 82
Vegalta Sendai P44 Pts 70
Sagan P43 Pts 70

J. League Results Urawa Lose To Grampus

J. League Results Urawa Lose To Grampus.
Urawa Reds title charge took a step back with a 1-0 loss away to Nagoya Grampus Eight at Toyota Stadium in front of 32,109 fans. More bad news for the Saitama giants is that the German media is reporting that manager Guido Buchwald may be on his way back to a coaching job in Germany at the end of the season in order to spend more time with his family.

Nearest challengers Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale both won to narrow the gap at the top.

At the bottom Kyoto Purple Sanga lost away to 4th from bottom Sanfrecce and a quick return to J2 looks increasingly likely for the yo-yo club from the ancient capital. Fellow strugglers Avispa lost 2-1 at Kawasaki.

Saturday 18 November

Nagoya Gampus Eight 1 Urawa Reds 0
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Kyoto Purple Sanga 0
Kawasaki Frontale 2 Avispa Frontale 1
Kashima Antlers 3 Omiya Ardija 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 3 Yokohama F Marinos 2
Venforet Kofu 2 Oita Trinita 0
Jubilo Iwate 4 FC Tokyo 1

Leading Positions

Reds P31 Pts 65
Gamba P31 Pts 62
Frontale P31 Pts 61
S-Pulse P31 Pts 54
Jubilo P31 Pts 52
Antlers P31 Pts 52


Vissel Kobe P44 Pts 84
Yokohama FC P44 Pts 83
Reysol P44 Pts 82
Vegalta Sendai P44 Pts 70
Sagan P43 Pts 70

J.League News

Japanese soccer betting tips

Saturday, November 18, 2006

AFC Mess It Up Again

Few people, maybe even the eventual winner Hamad Al Montashari, have happy memories of the fiasco that was 2005 Asian Player of the Year award. The Asian Football Confederation certainly doesn't as it nominated ten players for the shortlist only to remove most of them when it became apparent that they would not be able to attend the awards ceremony – leaving the sheepish Saudi defender to hold the trophy.

After that debacle, it was reassuring to read the sentence below on the confederations official homepage regarding the 2006 version.

"The eligibility criteria for selecting the best player of Asia has undergone a major and scientific revision, and the winner will be chosen on the basis of a weighted ranking system which takes into account performances at AFC tournaments, and key UEFA and FIFA tournaments.

In a busy international year with Asian players involved in such FIFA and UEFA tournaments as the World Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cups as well as domestic leagues and the Asian Champions League, there were dozens of names to choose from. It must have been an unenviable task.

But the AFC did it.

The people that run Asian football have managed to make an even bigger mess than the one they created last year. At least in 2005 there was some logic to their decision, misguided and bizarre though it was, but the list released yesterday defies belief.

1) Badr Al Mutawa (Kuwait and Al Qadsiya)

2) Essa Al Mahiyani (Saudi Arabia and Al Wehda – Saudi)

3) Fahed Attal (Palestine)

4) Hawar Mulla Mohamed (Iraq and Apollon, Cyprus)

5) Ibraguim Rabimov (Tajikistan and Regar-Tadaz)

6) Ismael Matar (UAE and Al Wahda – UAE)

7) Khalfan Ibrahim (Qatar and Al Sadd)

8) Lionel Lewis (Singapore and Home United)

9) Mohamed Al Shlhoub (Saudi Arabia and Al Hilal)

10) Younis Mahmood (Iraq and Al Gharafa)

It should be pointed out that the nominees are all fine players but even the two Iraqis, two Saudi Arabians, one Tajikistani, one Qatari, one Kuwait, one Palestinian and the representatives from Singapore and UAE, must be wondering what is going on.

According to the AFC’s criteria, the nominees are decided partly on “key UEFA and FIFA tournaments”.

None of the players nominated have any experience at such tournaments (one Saudi nominee made the plane but not the pitch in Germany) but there are plenty of others who do. Plenty of Japanese, Koreans, Iranians and Australians who pitted themselves against the likes of Brazil, Italy, France and Portugal just five months ago but they have been mystifyingly ignored.

Perhaps the ten players nominated all achieved more than Tim Cahill who scored twice in Germany, cemented his place as one of the most accomplished midfielders in the Premier League and was nominated for the prize of European Footballer of the Year. If that is the case, the AFC needs to explain how.

Shunsuke Nakamura helped Celtic to a league title, scored at the World Cup and the Champions League but is apparently not worthy of a mention. Koreans in England such as Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo and Seol Ki-hyeon have performed in the Premier League and in Germany. Iran’s Javad Nekounam became the first Iranian to play in Spain and Andranik Teymourian followed his impressive World Cup with a move to the Premier League.

It seems that despite what the AFC says, performances at FIFA or UEFA tournaments had no bearing at all on the selection, as all the players just mentioned have more experience in such competitions that any of the ten nominated.

Perhaps the answer lies in the criteria that states “performances at AFC tournaments” – the biggest of which in 2006 was the Asian Champions League – to be a factor.

It is strange then that in a confederation where the semi-finalists of the competition make up the four-strong list for ‘team of the year’ that not one player from winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, even the star of the tournament Yeom Ki-hoon makes the list. The young winger recovered from a serious automobile accident to break into the national team and help drive Jeonbuk to the continental title but is absent as are any players from runners-up Al Karama.

Of all the Asian players who made it past the first round of the continental competition, only one, Kuwait’s Badr Al Mutawa, finds himself in the running.

If it isn’t performances at the World Cup, in Europe or the AFC Champions League which determine selection then perhaps it is performances at the domestic level.

It is surprising then that not one player from three of Asia’s strongest domestic leagues – the C, J and K - makes the list.

China’s Li Jinyu and Zheng Zhi excelled in Shandong Luneng’s romp to the title. In the J-League, Marcus Tulio Tanaka has been a rock for Urawa Reds and Ryuji Bando has been prolific for Gamba Osaka. In Korea, Lee Chun-soo scored once at the World Cup and six times in three games in the East Asian Champions Cup.

It is impossible to select all of these fine players mentioned but not to nominate a single one is another worrying misjudgement by the people in charge of Asian football, one to go with 2005 and the decision to select four co-hosts for the 2007 Asian Cup.

Using the AFC’s own criteria, many players not nominated have greater claim to the prize than many of those who are.

The Asian Football Confederation needs to explain the reasoning behind the decision if it is to salvage any of its fast disappearing credibility.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Asian Soccer News and Interviews

Friday, November 17, 2006

English Premier League Odds

English Premier League Odds
The trio of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United will make up a short priced treble this week but more daring punters could land large odds bets by backing Bolton, Aston Villa and Les Reed’s Charlton this weekend.

Saturday 18 November

Manchester City vs Fulham
Manchester City sit precariously in the lower reaches of the table following a goalless draw against fellow strugglers Newcastle United last weekend. It could be another frustrating match against a Fulham side which has lost just once in their last six matches. Fulham are unbeaten on their last three visits to City and could grind out another point on Saturday.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (Betfred)
AH: Fulham + ¼ @ 41/40
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 5/4 (Paddy Power)

Arsenal vs Newcastle United
Arsenal will be looking forward to playing a Newcastle, without a win in eight Premiership matches, as they continue to climb the table. Sitting eight points adrift of second placed Chelsea, Arsenal will need to repeat the form they showed in last weekend’s 3-0 drubbing of Liverpool after some mixed results. The Gunners have won their last four at home against Newcastle, following the Magpies shock 3-1 win at Highbury back in December 2001.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Arsenal @ 3/10 (VCBet)
AH: Arsenal – 1 ½
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6 (Paddy Power)

Chelsea vs West Ham United
Chelsea have been amongst the goals in recent matches, hitting both Aston Villa in the Carling Cup and Watford in the Premiership for four without reply. Despite their improvement, it’s unlikely West Ham are going to get anything out of the game and this too could be a high scoring match. Chelsea have scored four goals or more against the Hammers on three of their last four meetings at Stamford Bridge.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Chelsea @ 2/9 (Ladbrokes)
AH: Chelsea – 1 ½ @ 3/4
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 4/5 (Paddy Power)

Everton vs Bolton Wanderers
Just four points and two places separate both sides enjoying their position in the top seven of the league, but it could be Bolton at tasty odds that finish this match better off. Bolton need to turn their form around after losing three of their last four in all competitions while Everton are winless in their last three. Everton have beaten Bolton just once in the last four matches between the pair at Goodison Park, with the Trotters hammering their opponents 4-0 last season. It could also be a high scoring match, with the last three meetings finishing 0-4, 3-2 and 1-2.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Bolton @ 11/5 (Paddy Power)
AH: Bolton + ¼ @ 7/8
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 11/8 (Paddy Power)

Portsmouth vs Watford
Early pace setters Portsmouth have fallen away slightly to sixth place, but they could claw their way back up the table with a win against second from bottom Watford. Pompey have not lost in three of their last five Premiership matches and beat promoted Reading, who are fairing better than play off winners Watford, 3-1 a few weeks ago. Watford have proven themselves to be tough to beat this season but collapsed against Chelsea last weekend and could suffer a second defeat in as many games at Fratton Park.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Portsmouth @ 4/6 (UK Betting)
AH: Portsmouth – ¾ @ 33/40
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 3/4

Reading vs Charlton Athletic
Reading, sitting comfortably in eleventh, will have fancied their chances against rock bottom Charlton a week ago, but this weekend the Addicks have a new manager in charge. Former assistant manager Les Reed took over from Iain Dowie in the week and will hope the ‘new manager factor’ has the desired effect at the Madejski Stadium. With this being Reed’s first game in charge, past form counts for nothing and Charlton can be backed at massive odds.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Charlton @ 10/3 (VCBet)
AH: Charlton + ½ @ 37/40
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 11/10

Sheffield United vs Manchester United
Three points clear at the top of the Premiership, United have a fantastic opportunity to maintain their lead with room to spare at Bramall Lane. However, the Blades are unbeaten in their last two matches and the odds on about United, who have won their last six in a row, will appeal to big hitters only.
Walker’s Word
1x2: United @ 4/11 (Betfred)
AH: United – 1 ¼ @ 33/40
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6 (Paddy Power)

Middlesbrough vs Liverpool
After being on the wrong end of a 3-0 pasting at the Emirates Stadium, Liverpool need to bounce back to rescue their flagging season. Languishing in ninth place, already 11 points behind Chelsea and 14 behind Manchester United, they visit the Riverside Stadium knowing their haven’t won there in their last four attempts. Since the Reds won 2-1 in 2002, they have not scored since with Boro grinding ground out two goalless draws and a 1-0 and 2-0 win. Gareth Southgate’s side have won three of their last five matches and should get something out of the game.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (Betfred)
AH: Middlesbrough + ½ @ 4/5
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/7

Sunday 19 November

Wigan Athletic vs Aston Villa
Wigan did the double over Villa last season but they face a much stiffer test this time around. Villa have lost just once in the league this season, a 3-1 capitulation against Liverpool a few weeks ago and Wigan have won four league matches on the spin. It’s likely to be a gritty, low scoring affair, but the odds on Martin O’Neill’s side are too good to ignore.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Villa @ 2/1 (UK Betting)
AH: Villa level ball @ 23/20
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/15

Blackburn Rovers vs Tottenham Hotspur
Blackburn’s involvement in the UEFA Cup has taken it’s toll on domestic matters this season with Rovers losing their last four Premiership matches in a row. Mark Hughes’ side are just three points off the relegation zone and need to stop the rot. Spurs are having an inconsistent season, last week they slumped 3-1 at Reading, the weekend before they beat Chelsea 2-1. Past meetings have produced close, low scoring results and the last three at Ewood Park have finished 0-0, 0-1, 1-0.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (UK Betting)
AH: Spurs level ball @ 11/10
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/7

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I pity the Newell

I pity the Newell

It’s easy to say the wrong thing. When the wife told me she’d received a fine for not wearing a seatbelt, I probably shouldn’t have responded with; “Why’s that then? Wouldn’t it fit?”

I pity the Newell

Mike Newell is in a similar boat. His controversial views on female officials have landed him in a spot of bother; but in my opinion, there could well be a nail with a pounding headache. It’s unfair to ask a woman to make crucial decisions less than 24 hours after an episode of Emmerdale.

All joking aside, Amy Rayner is more than capable. If I had to mark her performance using the binary scale, I’d give her ‘1’.

Is it a coincidence that Spurs are wearing a chocolate coloured kit now that women are running the line? (A lady will be less inclined to flag for offside if they’re contemplating a large dairy milk.) If you’re not cynical about the situation, you probably haven’t thought it through. There’s no need to ponder for too long on the outcome of the Blackburn v Tottenham match. Be a smarty; eat up the 8/5 about a home win.

Alan Pardew and Jose Mourinho are the undisputed kings of the goal celebration. Let’s hope there’s not a lady lino on duty when Chelsea face West Ham, or it could turn into a scene from ‘Saturday Night Fever’. The champions have too much for the Hammers; their title hopes will be stayin’ alive at 1/4.

Jose Mourinho has had a pop at the Chelsea fans, he’s accused them of being quieter than El Hadji Diouf’s wife. Chelsea supporters will have plenty to sing about if they cover the 2-0/3-0 correct scores at 5/2.

The word on the street is that Frank Lampard is to be offered a new deal worth £130,000 a week; that buys a whole lot of chicken wings. The Lamp has found the net in three of his last five games; he’s worth a nibble at 13/8 to score against his former employers.

It’s fair to say that Iain Dowie made an absolute ‘Desert Orchid’ of the Charlton job; sorry, I meant ‘dog’s dinner’. Charlton are bottom of the table and haven’t won in Reading for 25 years, the Royals should be backed at a majestic even money.

Finding Michael Jackson babysitting work is tough, finding Mike Newell a job at the equal opportunities commission is even tougher, but finding a winner in the Everton v Bolton match is proving nigh impossible. I can’t see past the draw at 9/4.

Sir Alex was far from happy when news broke that Keith Hackett had arranged a meeting with Jose Mourinho. Fergie’s voice reached such a high pitch, Mike Newell wanted him removed from the touchline. United have won on their last three visits to Bramall Lane without conceding a goal, I fancy a repeat at 11/10.

Gareth Southgate has led Boro up to 13th place in the Premiership, which makes him over-qualified for the position of England manager. Liverpool have won only two of their last eight league match-ups with Middlesbrough, and both of those were at Anfield. The Boro look a corking investment at 12/5 to triumph at the Riverside.

With the managerial merry-go-round now under way, Stuart Pearce must be sweating like Mike Newell at a feminist convention. Fulham must be backed at 12/5 to see off Man City.

The wife hates it when i make patronizing comments; the poor little lamb gets ever so upset. You’ll be screaming if you miss Aston Villa at 2/1 away to Wigan.

Let me just clarify, I am not a sexist; I enjoy conversations about cushions. Everybody’s talking about the 4/6 on offer for Pompey at home to Watford; it’s as tasty as a chicken tikka masala.

I had a lovely Indian on Wednesday night to celebrate England’s draw in Holland; her name was Sanjita. There was an immediate chemistry between us; Rohypnol. I’m loving Arsenal at 1/3 at home to Newcastle.

The argument for this week’s accer is so convincing, Mike Newell is reconsidering his hard-line stance on women’s rights. Arsenal, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Reading and an Everton draw are the five selections; you have the right to collect at a bra-burning 15/1.

Weekend Betting:

Man City v Fulham Saturday 18th November 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Man City 6/5
Draw 9/4
Fulham 12/5

Get on: Fulham

Match Special:
Papa Bouba Diop to score with a header 9/1

Arsenal v Newcastle Saturday 18th November 15:00

Arsenal 1/3
Draw 4/1
Newcastle 10/1

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Henry to score two or more goals 11/4

Chelsea v West Ham Saturday 18th November 15:00

Chelsea 1/4
Draw 9/2
West Ham 14/1

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
Frank Lampard to score from outside the penalty area 10/3

Everton v Bolton Saturday 18th November 15:00

Everton 13/10
Draw 9/4
Bolton 2/1

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
No goalscorer in the game 8/1

Portsmouth v Watford Saturday 18th November 15:00

Portsmouth 4/6
Draw 5/2
Watford 9/2

Get on: Portsmouth

Match Special:
Pedro Mendes to score at any time 5/1

Reading v Charlton Saturday 18th November 15:00

Reading Evs
Draw 9/4
Charlton 3/1

Get on: Reading

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

Sheff Utd v Man Utd Saturday 18th November 15:00

Sheff Utd 8/1
Draw 7/2
Man Utd 4/11

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Saha to score two or more goals 3/1

Middlesbrough v Liverpool Saturday 18th November 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Middlesbrough 12/5
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 6/5

Get on: Middlesbrough

Match Special:
Middlesbrough to win 1-0 8/1

Wigan v Aston Villa Sunday 19th November 13:30 Live on Sky

Wigan 6/4
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 2/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Chris Sutton to score the first goal 8/1

Blackburn v Tottenham Sunday 19th November 16:00 Live on Sky

Blackburn 8/5
Draw 9/4
Tottenham 2/1

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
McCarthy to score the only goal of the game 33/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Afshin Ghotbi

Afshin Ghotbi.
Afshin Ghotbi, South Korea's Iran born technical coach, was refused a visa to visit Iran for South Korea's final game in their Asian Cup qualifying Group B.

Ghotbi left Iran as a teenager and now holds US citizenship.

No reason was given by the Iranian authorites for the refusal of the coach's visa.

Ghotbi was disappointed by the decision and was hopeful that FIFA would take action against the Iranian FA.

Both teams have already qualified for the Asian Cup.

Second half goals from Reza Enyati and Hossein Badamaki gave Iran a 2-0 victory which saw them top the group ahead of the Koreans.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Seoul Seething At Goal That Never Was

Does the ball cross the line?

It hasn’t been a great season of football in the 2006 K-League and the same could be said of the championship play-off semi-finals that took place last weekend. However, there was enough to fill the sports pages for a few days in the South Korean media.

There was little hint of the approaching storm on a bright but chilly Saturday afternoon just to the south of the capital when Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and FC Seoul were approaching the end of the first half.

Given the nature of the K-League and the importance of the game, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the score with five minutes to go before the break was goalless.

In a bid to break the deadlock, Seoul's long-haired Portuguese playmaker Ricardo took a corner for the visitors and the ball fell to team-mate and defender Han Tae-yoon. His low shot, stabbed through a crowded penalty area, looked destined for the back of the net until Seongnam defender Park Jin-seob intervened.

The only problem was that when he did so, television replays have shown that the ball looked to be behind the line. The referee waved away the red-shirted protests and seconds later, as the laws of football decree, Seongnam’s Brazilian hot-shot striker Mota found acres of space in the Seoul penalty area to stroke the ball home for the only goal of the game.

Obviously Seoul and the travelling fans were not happy. Coach Lee Jang-soo said after the game.

“I am a football man and not one to complain,” complained Lee after the game “but it was clearly a goal and the wrong decision.”

“We have worked so hard this season to get here and we now feel that it is so unfair. I can’t understand that this linesman went to the World Cup.”

Lee can’t be that much of a football man if he believes that appearances at World Cups are signs off competence in either playing or officiating fields. Still, it was a classic manager’s reaction to a bad decision.

The official site’s reaction was less understandable, screaming that, “thieves have stolen our championship tickets.” It didn’t stop there the fact that the linesman was due to retire was lamented as it meant that he couldn’t be punished while the referee was accused of pretending not to see the ball cross the line.

FC Seoul's homepage

‘Twas a classless reaction especially as Seongnam had a second-half goal ruled out for an offside which clearly wasn’t. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a nice slice of controversy to accompany a big game.

And what of the game? It was a fairly even affair though the hosts shaded it. Seoul had more of the possession but Seongnam, going for a seventh title, looked more dangerous around the box and had better chances.

There was no such uproar the following day when Suwon Samsung Bluewings took on Pohang Steelers, just a good old-fashioned strong defensive performance by Suwon who took the game 1-0.

Pohang fans

Suwon may lack the forward line of Seongnam but the Bluewings’ midfield is an excellent one. National team captain Kim Nam-il sits behind the inspirational playmaker Lee Kwan-woo and international midfielder Baek Ji-hoon, who since joining Suwon, has started to turn into an all-action midfielder.

He scored the only goal of the game and a fantastic strike it was too. A scorching shot from 25 yards that cannoned off the underside of the crossbar to hit the back of the net with the Pohang ‘keeper helpless.

Suwon players celebrate Baek's goal

The Steelers’ attempts to get back into the game were frustrated by a well-organised and well-drilled Suwon defence that even repulsed the returning Lion King in his bid for glory. Lee Dong-guk had missed the World Cup and seven months of the season through injury but the Pohang star was back at the right time to shoot the Steelers to a first title in 14 years.

Suwon fans

Suwon celebrate at final whistle

It wasn’t meant to be and on Sunday, Seongnam and Suwon do battle in the first of two legs.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

K-League News and Interviews

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iain Dowie wins the sack race

Iain Dowie wins the sack race.
Charlton Athletic manager Iain Dowie has won the dubious award of being the first coach of the Premiership season to lose his job.

The former Northern Ireland international striker was shown the door at the Valley after only 12 league and 3 League Cup games, a poignant contrast to the previous incumbent Alan Curbishley's 15 years in charge of the Addicks.

Dowie's departure seems premature, particularly after he had led Crystal Palace to the semi-final of last season's Championship play-offs, but Charlton find themselves bottom of the Premiership with only two wins and more importantly a £10 million summer spree that seems to have backfired.

Charlton chairman had spoken at Alan Curbishley's departure of his desire for a British coach, "because we are a British club" and Dowie was approached, along with Peter Taylor, Billy Davies and Phil Parkinson.

But the former Southampton and West Ham forward failed to inspire his team to victories, despite a track record as a motivator at Crystal Palace. Dowie introduced new methods to his players, including playing cricket, swimming and self-help manuals but unlike another young British manager beloved of innovative ideas, Watford's Aidy Boothroyd, Dowie's new order was not matched by results on the pitch.

The whispers have been that not all the Charlton players were enamoured of Dowie's methods, yet US international Cory Gibbs, who has yet to debut for the Addicks following a knee injury, told me otherwise only a week ago.

"Iain has been great," he said. "He looks into the players and sees how they are and how they are feeling and treats everybody equally. His attitude towards me and the team has been great so I am looking forward to playing for him.

We have just had a very unlucky start; there have been games we played with ten men. We had a streak of 3 or 4 games at the beginning of the season where we had 8 to 9 men injured at one time. It was just really unlucky."

Despite the arrival of the wily Andy Reid from Tottenham, whose midfield creativity has compensated somewhat for the loss of central cogs Danny Murphy and Alexi Smertin, Charlton's squad looked threadbare when a string of key men got injured early this campaign and the team find themselves bottom of the pile with eight points from twelve matches and the equal worst away record and goal difference in the top flight.

Relegation appeared a real possibility for a club that had become content with a stable mid-table mediocrity. When a board that had salivated at the prospect of a slice of next season's £1.7billion Premier League TV deal and had spent like never before to make sure they had a seat at the table, saw the trap door opening beneath them, they pressed the panic button.

Dowie is a man well-liked in football circles, with even his former nemesis and Palace chairman Simon Jordan backing him in his hour of misfortune.

"I think parting company with someone after 12 games is very early and is not what support is about," Jordan said. "Support is about supporting people in adversity, unless they are really going the wrong way."

Dowie is still one of the best home-grown coaches around and is sure to re-surface before long, perhaps in the Championship, where Charlton may find themselves anyway next season.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Books on Football

Articles by Sean O'Conor

Football News

Monday, November 13, 2006

Japanese Soccer News Urawa Reds 6 Point Lead

Japanese Soccer News.
J-League News: Urawa sitting pretty as rivals slip up

Urawa Reds opened a six point gap at the top of the J-League, courtesy of a 1-0 home victory over Yokohama F. Marinos. A crowd of 52,582 braved wet conditions at Saitama Stadium to witness Urawa record their twentieth win of the season. Midfielder Nobuhisa Yamada scored the vital goal for the Reds.

Any hopes Gamba Osaka had of maintaining pressure on Urawa were dashed by a 3-1 loss on the road to Kashima. Despite opening the scoring through Brazilian ace Magno Alves, a Satori Yamaguchi own goal and strikes from Yuzo Tashiro and Takyua Nozawa saw Gamba plunge to another defeat.

The Tama derby between FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale is always a hotly contested affair, however few could have predicted the drama that unfolded at Ajinomoto Stadium. FC Tokyo fell behind 4-1 early in the second half but came back to win the match 5-4, to better their come-from-behind victory over Gamba Osaka two weeks ago. Brazilians Juninho and Marcao were both sent off for Kawasaki, before Yasuyuki Konno scored an incredible last minute winner for FC Tokyo, sparking wild celebrations amongst the capital city club's vociferous fans.

At the foot of the table, Avispa Fukuoka and Cerezo Osaka continue to fight a two-way battle for the crucial relegation/promotion playoff place. Both clubs lost at the weekend but remain three points in front of bottom club Kyoto Purple Sanga - who drew 1-1 at home to lowly Ventforet Kofu.

In J2 results, Kashiwa Reysol maintained their automatic promotion hopes with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Vissel Kobe at Kobe Wing Stadium.

Kashiwa opened the scoring less than sixty seconds into the match through Tatsuya Suzuki. Kobe equalised through Kunie Kitamoto just before half-time, before Suzuki scored his second in the fiftieth minute.

Former Kobe midfielder Diego then heaped misery on the club that released him - scoring a third for Kashiwa in the fifty-sixth minute.

Kobe equalised again in the fifty-eighth, however Diego was determined to have the final say, scoring a dramatic winner just five minutes from time.

Elsewhere Yokohama FC lost 2-1 at home to Tokyo Verdy, while just over 18,000 fans turned up to watch Sagan Tosu beat Shonan Bellmare by the same score at home.

Yokohama lead the standings on 84 points, Vissel Kobe have 83 and Kashiwa Reysol are on 82 points. Tokushima Vortis prop up the J2 standings with 31 points from 45 games played.

Japan National Teams

Japan National Team

Coach Ivica Osim waited until the last minute to name his squad for the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Sapporo. Despite having already qualified for the finals, Japan are keen to avenge their loss to Saudi Arabia in Jeddah in September.

There are four newcomers - Kashima's Takuya Nozawa, Keisuke Honda from Nagoya, Daiki Takamatsu of Oita Trinita and Ryoichi Maeda of Jubilo Iwata.

Japan will be missing tenacious Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo. Endo has a serious liver problem - which some media outlets have reported as hepatitis, and will miss the rest of the J-League season.

Japan under-20 National Team

For the sixth time in their history, the Japan under-20 National Team has lost the final of the Asian Youth Championships.

Japan were beaten 5-3 on penalties by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - who only qualified for the finals after Myanmar had pulled out of their qualifying playoff with the North Koreans.

Japan were rocked by an early DPR Korea goal through Ri Chul-myong in just the third minute. They responded with a goal to Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi, as the match finished 1-1 after extra-time.

DPR Korea goalkeeper Ju Kwang-min saved Oita Trinita's Tsukasa Umesaki's opening penalty, propelling the North Koreans to a 5-3 shoot-out victory.

Emperor's Cup

JEF United seemed to be suffering a League Cup hangover, becoming the only J1 team to lose to a lower division opponent when they crashed 2-1 at home to J2 club Consadole Sapporo in midweek. Sapporo will play fellow northerners Albirex Niigata in Round 5.

Defeated League Cup finalists Kashima Antlers had no such trouble, thumping Honda FC 4-0 to advance to a fifth round clash with Nagoya Grampus Eight.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Much Adu about Freddy

Much Adu about Freddy

So the American soccer whizzkid Freddy Adu is finally coming to England, for a two-week trial with the mighty Manchester United beginning on the 18th of November.

The phony war surrounding press speculation on Adu & English clubs was ended on the 9th of this month when United confirmed Adu was coming for a trial, a day after denying news that was plainly around the town in American soccer circles. Unlike Madonna, United failed to adopt an African youngster when Chelsea snatched Jon Obi Mikkel from their clutches so second time around they are in no mood to be gazumped again.

So, 'Is Adu any good?' is the next question. The jury is out is my answer. Freddy debuted in MLS aged 14 in 2004, the youngest professional American sportsman of all time. But in much of West Africa, from where he hails, births are often not officially recorded for some time (remember Roger Milla?) and there was much talk that Adu is actually two to three years older than his mother claims.

Adu is 17 now and has 87 appearances and 11 goals for DC United under his belt. He has played one friendly for the US national team, which means he can still switch allegiances to Ghana, the land of his birth, should he so desire. Given that he is a US citizen and has been brought through the various US youth teams, I would say it is only a matter of time before he gains his first full cap and ends the Ghana/USA debate.

Freddy also attended the US Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Florida, whose alumni include Bobby Convey, DaMarcus Beasley and Jonathan Spector, now plying their trade in the Premiership, the league Adu dreams of playing in.

Freddy is doing exceptionally well for his age, has very good technique and balance, is fast though not supersonic, and strong but not powerful. He likes to dribble, attack defenders and is not afraid to shoot. He is in conclusion one of America's most talented 17 year olds, but is he good enough to get into Manchester United's 1st XI? Not yet, I would say.

He was not deemed good enough for the US team that exited the first round of the 2006 World Cup either. At a press conference in Kaiserslautern during the build-up to the tournament, a German journalist asked coach Bruce Arena, "What about Freddy Adu? Is he going to the World Cup?" to which Arena sarcastically, and typically, replied, "I don't know, I'll have to ask him."

MLS is not the Premier League and Freddy is not yet the finished product in many ways. On the other hand, only by coming to Europe might we really find out what he is truly capable of. As someone who mixes in the US Soccer community, I can honestly say there is no consensus about whether Adu is America's soccer messiah. Off the record, someone who works with him told me he thought he wasn't 'a 90-minute player' yet.

True, Freddy is young and cannot short-cut the experience that will endow him with intimate knowledge of the nuances and phases of the game at the highest level. For that reason alone we should be patient and give him time in my opinion and stop trying to jump the gun on football in America, which is a long work in progress, an oak tree, not a cypress leylandii. Adu is still only 17 for goodness' sake. We also never seem to learn that players peak at different ages.

All those drunk on the dream of Adu becoming a superstar would do well to remember Nii Lamptey, a 16 year-old starter for Anderlecht who was touted as the new Pele and played for PSV before moving to Aston Villa, where he started a gradual decline which saw him hawking his boots around clubs in 11 different countries, wondering what might have been while the rest of the football world quickly forgot about him.

I last watched Adu in the flesh last month playing for DC United against New England Revolution at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. He certainly stood out as one of the liveliest and most inventive players on the field, but seemed lacking in experience as he often over-dribbled or ran into avoidable danger.

There was a more impressive American on the field that night, a 23 year-old who is desperate to come to Europe and unlike Adu, can boast a CV with 23 international caps and 6 goals, including one in a World Cup Finals. European clubs, I give you Clint Dempsey, a fiery right-sided attacking midfielder. Buy him and stop worrying about whether Freddy Adu can become the 'American Pele.'

(C) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

J. League Football Results November 2006

J. League Football Results November 2006.
Urawa Reds took a giant stride towards winning the 2006 J-League title race yesterday. Urawa beat Marinos 1-0 at home, while nearest challengers Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale both lost. Gamba, without star Yasuhito Endo, went down 3-1 away to Kashima Antlers while Frontale lost an extraordinary match 5-4 to FC Tokyo, who came back from 3 goals down, scoring twice in time added on as Frontale were reduced to nine men.

At the bottom Kyoto Purple Sanga gained a draw at home with Ventforet Kofu but really needs 3 pointers, especially at home, at this stage of the season. The Kansai club has won only four times this season - the lowest number of wins in the J-League. Fellow strugglers Avispa and Cerezo, both lost at home, against Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Jubilo respectively.

Saturday 11 November

Cerezo Osaka 2 Jubilo Iwate 3
Urawa Reds 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 1 Omiya Ardija 1
FC Tokyo 5 Kawasaki Frontale 4
Kyoto Purple Sanga 1 Venforet Kofu 1
Nagoya Gampus Eight 2 JEF United 1
Kashima Antlers 3 Gamba Osaka 1
Avispa Fukuoka 0 Sanfrecce 2
JEF United 1 Albirex Niigata 3
Oita Trinita 0 Grampus Eight 1

Leading Positions

Reds P30 Pts 65
Gamba P30 Pts 59
Frontale P30 Pts 58
S-Pulse P30 Pts 51
Jubilo P30 Pts 49
Antlers P30 Pts 49


Vissel Kobe P44 Pts 84
Yokohama FC P44 Pts 83
Reysol P44 Pts 82
Vegalta Sendai P44 Pts 70
Sagan P43 Pts 70

J.League News

Japanese soccer betting tips

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Beautiful Frame

Football Photographs by Ross Clegg

Boavista by Ross Clegg

© Ross Clegg

Football photographs from tournaments around the world: Copa America Peru 2004, Club World Championship Japan 2005
African Cup of Nations Egypt 2006, World Cup Germany 2006

Football DVDs

Ross Clegg at World Cup 2006

Ross Clegg at African Cup of Nations

Friday, November 10, 2006

Premiership Betting Odds

More misery will be heaped on Charlton Athletic and Newcastle United this weekend, while Manchester United should win at Ewood Park for this first time since 1998 writes David Walker.

Saturday 11 November

Manchester City vs Newcastle United
Two teams battling against relegation will slug it out in this lunch time horror show. Things have got so bad at City, they have even started losing against Charlton, enduring a 1-0 reverse last weekend. Things are not much better in Newcastle either, bottom but one in the table and a home defeat against goal shy Sheffield United on Saturday. City have won three of their last four home encounters against the Magpies following their return to the Premiership in 2002 so a welcome home win is the call.
Walker’s Word
1x2: City @ 11/10 (Paddy Power)
AH: City – ¼ @ 37/40 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/4 (VCBet)

Chelsea vs Watford
Chelsea to ‘get back to winning ways’ in what is likely to be a dour, low scoring, affair at Stamford Bridge. Yawn.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Chelsea @ 1/6 (Betfred)
AH: Chelsea – 1 ¾ @ 4/5 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 6/5 (VCBet)

Everton vs Aston Villa
Everton are without a win in their last three, including a midweek home defeat against a youthful Arsenal side in the Carling Cup while Villa have lost their last two on the road, including Wednesday’s 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea in the much maligned knockout competition. The Toffees have a good record against Villa, winning four out of the last five Premiership encounters at Goodison Park and could push themselves up the table at Martin O’Neill’s expense.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Everton @ 6/5 (Ladbrokes)
AH: Everton – ¼ (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (VCBet)

Middlesbrough vs West Ham United
Middlesbrough are hovering just above the relegation zone after losing their last two matches and four of their last six. However, they have won their last two matches at the Riverside Stadium and have an exceptional record against the Hammers, winning seven out of their last eight league meetings in the North East. Alan Pardew’s side, now in fifteenth and level on points with the Boro, have won their last two league games including a memorable defeat of Arsenal last weekend, but could return to London with nothing on Saturday.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Boro @ 6/5 (Betfred)
AH: Boro – ¼ @ 19/20 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (VCBet)

Portsmouth vs Fulham
Portsmouth early season form has dipped slightly following a barn storming srart to the campaign, but two league defeats in their last four matches were against Chelsea and Manchester United. Fulham are opponents Harry Redknapp will fancy his chances against and Portmsouth have won two of their last three Premiership meetings against the Cottagers at Fratton Park.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Portsmouth @ 9/10 (VCBet)
AH: Portsmouth – ½ @ 19/20 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/6 (VCBet)

Sheffield United vs Bolton Wanderers
Sheffield United scored their first goal in four Premiership matches against Newcastle last weekend and it proved to be the winner. They face an equally shot shy side in Bolton who haven’t scored a goal in their last two league matches and have hit the back of the net just once during the last four in all competitions. Watching paint dry may be a more exciting option than visiting Bramall Lane in a match which could peter out to a goalless draw.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 11/5 (Paddy Power)
AH: Sheffield United + ¼ @ 17/20 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (Bookies)

Wigan Athletic vs Charlton Athletic
Wigan are an improving side and now their new players are starting to gel they have won three league games on the bounce, including two away from home. Rock bottom Charlton are also improving slightly and are unbeaten in their last three Premiership matches, culminating in a home win against Manchester City last weekend. Last season was the first time the pair ever played each other and Wigan crushed the Addicks 3-0. The way Paul Jewell’s side have been playing recently, a similar result is not out of the question.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Wigan @ 5/6 (Betfred)
AH: Wigan – ½ @ 19/20 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ 6/5 (Bookies)

Blackburn Rovers vs Manchester United
United will not have a better opportunity to end their Ewood Park hoodoo than on Saturday night. The Reds have not won at Blackburn in the league since 1998 and since then Rovers have won three out of five, the other two being draws. However, top of the table United will be licking their wounds following a midweek Carling Cup exit at the hands of Southend United and Mark Hughes’ side are ravaged by injuries.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Man Utd @ 4/7 (Paddy Power)
AH: Man Utd – ¾ @ 33/40 (Bookies)
OU: Over 2.5 goals @ evens (VCBet)

Sunday 12 November

Reading vs Tottenham Hotspur
Two teams in mid table, both with contrasting opinions of being there. Reading, with survival as their priority, have lost their last four, while Tottenham have come off the back of a momentous 2-1 defeat of Chelsea last weekend. Prior to that result, Spurs won just three out of 10 Premiership matches and this fixture is a good opportunity for the Royals to stop the rot. Honours to finish even.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (UK Betting)
AH: Reading + ¼ @ 17/20 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (VCBet)

Arsenal vs Liverpool
Arsenal are climbing back up the table slowly but faced a setback against West Ham last weekend. Liverpool, while going great guns in the cup competitions they are involved in, have not performed in the Premiership this term, but they have won their last two matches. Arsenal have won the last three league encounters between the pair at Highbury, but have not hit the same heights at the new Emirates Stadium, winning two of their last five Premiership matches in their new home.
Walker’s Word
1x2: Draw @ 9/4 (Betfred)
AH: Liverpoool + ½ @ 4/5 (Bookies)
OU: Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13 (VCBet)

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.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

World Cup Ball

World Cup Ball

The match ball used in this summer's World Cup final between Italy and France in Berlin has been auctioned for US$2.4 m.

1998 World Cup Signed Match Ball
World Cup Ball
The ball, signed by the match-winning Italian players, was purchased by Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, the next-in-line to the Qatar Emirate.

The ball will go on display at Qatar's Academy for Sporting Excellence (ASPIRE) in Doha during next month's Asian Games.

Purchase a signed ball by the 1998 World Cup winners - France


Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Arsene! Coffee!

Luck is an alien concept. At a recent fancy dress party to celebrate my father in law’s exit from the closet, the wife turned all ‘Paul Gascoigne’ on me. One minute, I was politely chatting to Britney Spears, the next thing I knew, the wife was repeatedly pommeling me with an oversized clown’s shoe. There’s nothing amusing about domestic violence.

Physical altercations have no place in the home and equally no place on the touchline. Only an Arsenal victory over Liverpool can save Rafa Benitez from an Arsene attack; the Gunners are a superb bet at 11/10 to knock out the Reds.

Peter Crouch is an optimist, he believes that Liverpool can still win the title. He probably also believes in the tooth fairy, or to use her Latin name, ‘Jermainus Defoe’. It’s over five years since the Scousers last won away at Arsenal, sink your teeth into a 2-0 win for the Gunners at 9/1.

Thierry Henry has asked the Arsenal fans not to leave before the final whistle. I’m not sure how it works in France, but most Englishmen struggle to last 90 minutes. Henry has scored five goals in his last two home appearances against the Pool, he can keep the fans satisfied by banging in the opener at 9/2.

If West Ham beat Middlesbrough, Alan Pardew has promised a more subdued celebration; possibly two jigs and a conga. The Hammers looks a fair investment at 5/2 to waltz away from the Riverside with three points.

Newcastle are in crisis and the Toon army are revolting. Nobody wants to kick a man when he’s down (although I can’t speak for Arsene Wenger) but the appointment of Roeder was flawed from the very beginning. Man City can stick the boot in at 11/10.

It was always going to be an uphill task for Watford to avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge, but without Marlon King, it’s like climbing Mount Everest with Frank Lampard in your rucksack. Chelsea will win, but there’s no value to be found at a top priced 1/6.

Ashley ‘I ain’t working for no £55,000 a week’ Cole believes that referees are ‘robbing’ Chelsea. His autobiography retails at £18.99; he definitely knows his subject matter. You can nick a few quid off the bookies by covering a 2-0/3-0/4-0 win for the champions at a much friendlier 6/4.

Aston Villa have only taken one point out of a possible fifteen at Goodison Park in recent seasons, but that was under David O’Leary, when they rolled over more than Andy Johnson. It’s a different ball game under Martin O’Neill; the draw looks a great shout at 9/4.

I’m certainly not an economist, but I believe that the divide between the north and the south has dramatically diminished. A West Ham fan could only spare 2p to throw at Robin Van Persie last week, yet an Everton supporter was more than happy to clobber Claus Jensen with an inflation busting 50p piece. Backing ‘no goalscorer’ at Goodison Park can increase the wealth at 8/1.

Kanu believes that praying to a higher power has been a contributory factor towards Portsmouth’s superb start to the season. Unfortunately, my own attempt at prayer proved much less successful; she came home. Fulham have never won at Fratton Park in the Premiership; back Pompey at a tambourine shaking 5/6.

Sheffield United v Bolton looks a tough match to call. The Blades destroyed Newcastle at St James’ last week, but Bolton are a far tougher cookie. I’m edging towards Bolton at 6/4, but only because Diouf is in excellent striking form.

Henri Camara must have a bad back, he’s been carrying Emile Heskey for three months. Camara netted a hat-trick as Wigan destroyed Charlton 3-0 at the JJB last season, he’ll lead a vastly improved Wigan to another three points at 10/11.

Tottenham completed a double over Reading the last time they were in the same league, although the more cynical amongst you may question the relevance of form from the 1930’s. Spurs can land a royal knockout at 13/10.

A defeat at the hands of Southend was not the anniversary present Sir Alex was hoping for; he had his fingers crossed for nose make-up. United will get back on track at Blackburn; they’re a confident call at 8/13.

Rio Ferdinand was sent off in this fixture last season, or as he would put it, he got ‘murked’. Like Rio, I know all the cool slang. Saha’s ‘the blaze’, Scholes is ‘sick’ and Rooney is ‘well phat’. I’m backing Ronaldo at 15/2 to net the opener, it’s totally emu.

This week’s accer is so solid; Paul Gascoigne, Arsene Wenger and El Hadji Diouf have all embraced pacifism as a direct result. Arsenal, Wigan, Portsmouth and an Everton draw are the four beefcakes; the payout is a burly 21/1.

Weekend Betting:

Man City v Newcastle Saturday 11th November 12:45 Live on Sky

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

Get on: Man City

Match Special:
Samaras to score the first goal 7/1

Chelsea v Watford Saturday 11th November 15:00

Chelsea 1/6
Draw 6/1
Watford 22/1

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
Chelsea to win 3-0 13/2

Everton v Aston Villa Saturday 11th November 15:00

Everton 11/10
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 11/4

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Phil Neville to be booked 5/2

Middlesbrough v West Ham Saturday 11th November 15:00

Middlesbrough 6/5
Draw 9/4
West Ham 5/2

Get on: West Ham

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

Portsmouth v Fulham Saturday 11th November 15:00

Portsmouth 5/6
Draw 23/10
Fulham 7/2

Get on: Portsmouth

Match Special:
Portsmouth to win and keep a clean sheet 19/10

Sheff Utd v Bolton Saturday 11th November 15:00

Sheff Utd 19/10
Draw 9/4
Bolton 6/4

Get on: Bolton

Match Special:
Bolton to win 1-0 7/1

Wigan v Charlton Saturday 11th November 15:00

Wigan 10/11
Draw 9/4
Charlton 3/1

Get on: Wigan

Match Special:
Camara to score two or more goals 13/2

Blackburn v Man Utd Saturday 11th November 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Blackburn 11/2
Draw 11/4
Man Utd 8/13

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Ronaldo to score direct from a free kick 7/1

Reading v Tottenham Sunday 12th November 13:30 Live on Sky

Reading 11/5
Draw 9/4
Tottenham 13/10

Get on: Tottenham

Match Special:
Tottenham to score three or more goals 9/2

Arsenal v Liverpool Sunday 12th November 16:00 Live on Sky

Arsenal 11/10
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 11/4

Get on: Arsenal

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

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

English Premiership Betting

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Melbourne on the verge of Victory

Melbourne on the verge of Victory.
With 10 rounds left to play in version two of the Australian A-League, the side already a full nine points clear at the top of the table are going to take some stopping. Marc Fox reports.

The transformation of Melbourne Victory from last season's worst-performing Aussies to premiers-elect has been both a product of a number of factors at club level and a feather in the cap of league administrators Football Federation Australia.

First of all, the statistics make wonderful reading for the runaway Victorians. For starters, they have already amassed eight points greater than defending premiers Adelaide United managed at the corresponding point last season. Moreover, a 10th victory of the season in their 12th outing this week against Perth would almost certainly wrap up a playoff position with the league only just past its halfway mark.

But there's more, much more. They have lost just once - to Adelaide - last month, are averaging almost two-and-a-half goals a game, have the tightest defence, the biggest crowds, the league's three leading goalscorers and, to top it off, somehow managed to fight back from 3-2 down last weekend against the Mariners to draw 3-3 - having played the entire second-half with nine men.

Not known for letting excitement go to his head, Melbourne's Scottish coach Ernie Merrick afterwards beamed, "This team seems to get stronger. After tonight, I think anything's possible."

Privately, he'll likely enjoy a satisfying smile after being written off last season as his side limped to seventh place after briefing leading the league in October. He was reportedly fractions from the axe but instead showed some savvy recruitment nous and rewarded his under-performing stars with a 200-session pre-season marathon starting way back in early April for a late August kick-off.

The understated Merrick obviously meant business.

He points to the longevity of the pre-season as testament to the side's rapid strides but crucially sees Melbourne's superior fitness as a by-product. They are certainly playing a brand of defending-from-the-front football so often discussed in England this year to great effect. But for Merrick, the increased bond between the players, most of who were responsible for last term's lacklustre display, has been the vital ingredient.

Just six players were added in the close season as the Victory management offered its existing squad the opportunity to make amends. Fellow Scotsman Grant Brebner, who spent his formative years with David Beckham and co. at Manchester United in the mid-90s, has added granite to the midfield. Central defender Rodrigo Vargas was plucked from the state league but is already on the cusp of international recognition. Meanwhile, Brazilian Fred, a traditional No.10 with abundant energy, is another impressive acquisition.

Tactically, however, Merrick should be applauded. First year flop Danny Allsopp leads the goalscoring charts with eight goals, as many as any player scored during the entire regular season a year ago. Allsopp puts hours of shooting practice plus an improved playing tempo down to his success. Remarkably, Socceroos Archie Thompson and Kevin Muscat, now a converted, and combustible, midfielder, are tied in joint-second with six apiece.

Consistency has also been a component of Melbourne's betterment. Against a backdrop of Liverpool's much-publicised rotation policy in England, Merrick is the anti-Benitez. After 11 rounds, nine first-choice regulars have played 10 or more times. Some achievement, with greater fitness surely a clue to the Victory's good fortune with injuries.

Finally, then, are the vast crowds. With FFA support, the club gambled on moving their round two blockbuster against arch-rivals Sydney FC to the magnificent surrounds of the Telstra Dome. But could such a switch by justified in the Aussie Rules-crazed city? 39,730 people thought so. A blossoming confidence on and off the field has led all Melbourne's remaining home games to be switched too with the club now averaging over 26,000 for home gates.

Football's fledgling governing body of course deserve praise for retaining a level playing field with regard to squad sizes and investment, a factor which contributes to an unpredictable title race. For the organisation which has certainly gotten more things right than wrong, the turnaround in sports-mad Melbourne has been vindication indeed.

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Australian Soccer News

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