Monday, May 31, 2010

When Poland broke our hearts

England v Poland 1973

On Sunday night, London's Royal Festival Hall hosted an unusual football event.

England v Poland
While three big screens played the infamous 1973 England v Poland World Cup qualifier in its entirety, an ensemble of Polish folk, classical and rock musicians belted out a boisterous soundtrack to accompany it.

Huge Aston Villa banners slung along the sides of the Clore Ballroom gave a clue as to the evening's instigator - Nigel Kennedy, the enfant terrible of UK classical music who became a household name in Britain twenty years ago for his unusual image: A yobby football lad, albeit with a mockney accent, who at the same time brought Vivaldi to the masses with the elan and sophistication of the finest musicians. Instead of a violin case, Kennedy preferred a carrier bag, instead of black tie, a Villa shirt.

An indication of how big Kennedy had become was that he was flown out to Sardinia during Italia '90 to entertain the England squad with a flourish of the Four Seasons.

Football still clearly matters for him as he took the stage in a Villa shirt with 'Agbonlahor' on the back, and alongside the claret and blue were the red and white stripes of KS Cracovia, his adopted Polish club (he lives in Krakow with his Polish wife.)

Nigel Kennedy
Nigel Kennedy

For 'Nigel Kennedy's World Cup Project', the now middle-aged wild one, still sporting his trademark quiff, jammed with the at times industrial roar of his Polish entourage, while the time capsule of the famously fated qualifier played out above them. Some Polish lads had come with shirts and scarves as if for a real match, cheering and clapping every wonder save from 'the clown' (as Brian Clough famously called him), Jan Tomaszewski.

The match itself was fascinating, even if the result was known beforehand. England needed t
o win to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and deserved to progress in terms of the enthusiasm and physical endeavour they displayed at Wembley. But despite laying siege to the Polish goal and peppering Tomazsewski until he sneezed, Alf Ramsay's men could only draw 1-1. Poland went to Germany; England stayed at home and Ramsay, England's so far only World Cup-winning coach, got the sack.

England v Poland
England v Poland

The attack-attack-attack style England played that night created many a six-yard box scramble and last-ditch Polish tackle, but despite the overwhelming dominance of England, the Polish net only billowed once. I could not help feeling a good team today would take a more psychological approach and try to draw the opposition out and hit them on the counter once it was clear they were going to stick every man behind the ball and play for a point.

Tony Currie
Tony Currie
Top-level football today is about playing in phases - understanding when to funnel men into attack, when to put men behind the ball and when to frustrate and tire out your opponents by maintaining possession. This 1973 England had but a single phase - an attacking one, which soon became predictable as one ball after another was lobbed into the box or thumped down the channels.

From a spectator's point of view it may have been fun to watch one team trying to scorch the other from the off, but the joy of a high-octane opening would become a frustrating toil by the end as the Polish woodwork wallowed in its charmed life and England huffed and puffed increasingly desperately.

Kennedy's men strummed and stroked and drummed away happily, but almost oblivious to the events on-screen; not a silent film accompaniment, rather background music amplified so loud the match became a distraction high above. An odd evening therefore, but hats off to Kennedy for flying football colours in unfamiliar surroundings, and reminding us of how far, or not, England has come in 37 years.

England 1:1 Poland, 17th Oct 1973, Wembley, Att: 100,000

England - Shilton, McFarland, Hughes, Hunter, Madeley, Currie, Bell, Peters, Chivers, Channon, Clarke
Poland -
Tomaszewski, Szymanowski, Bulzacki, Gorgon, Musial, Kasperczak, Cmikiewicz, Denya, Lato, Domarski, Gadocha

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Turkish tears as France bags Euro 2016

Euro 2016

It always seemed a pipe dream, but it almost came to pass.

That Turkey, a relatively poor Muslim nation with humble infrastructure on the fringe of Europe, would pip two established football powers to the hosting of the continent's prestige event always looked a bit of a long shot.

And yet, when it came down to the vote in Geneva yesterday, UEFA's Executive Committee voted for France to host Euro 2016 by only one vote. France was a safe bet, the safest pair of hands of the three final competitors for the big prize.

Italy, the other continental giant in contention, was eliminated after the first round of voting, perhaps still reeling from its rejection for 2012 in favour of Poland & Ukraine after Calciopoli and a season of ugly fan violence had exploded in UEFA's face.

On paper, the French bid had little donkey work to do, with the memory of France '98 still vivid and the Eurostars and TGVs still zapping through la campagne at dizzying speeds. Nevertheless, UEFA still found time to nitpick about the hotel provision and the lack of space for media and hospitality around their stadia.

Euro 2016
Euro 2016
Compared to its 1998 selection, the French Football Federation's choice for 2016 has no place for Brittany and the North-West with Nantes dropped in favour of Nancy and Strasbourg in the East, a region which missed out 12 years ago. On the Mediterranean coast, Nice replaces Montpellier, while in the far north, Lille's future 50,000-seat venue is included, adding another convenient venue for travelers from the United Kingdom.

While the nationality of UEFA President Platini may have had an invisible influence on the votes, what could well have swayed wavering votes are the ongoing travails surrounding Poland and especially the Ukraine, a fear carefully exploited by the French in their canny bidding slogan 'Pride and Security'.

That Turkey had made it through to the final three was impressive enough, that it missed out by one UEFA delegate heartbreaking for the nation's FA.

"We are devastated," bid leader Orhan Gorbon said. "This was our third bid so it is not much consolation to know that we lost by a small margin."
Euro 2016
The thirteen members of the Executive Board were asked to consider a number of factors, but as with the Olympics and the World Cup, decisions of this stature are often coloured by internal and external politics, deals, personal relationships and inner prejudices.

Political pressure surrounding the sensitivity of the European Union's eastern frontier with Russia's hinterland has ensured Ukraine has been kept on board for 2012 despite its manifest shortcomings, so in the same way it had been thought Turkey might benefit from the political moves to grant Turkey full EU membership, an angle hinted at by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in his pleas for a "historic decision."

Nor can Michel Platini's nationality and the saga of delays surrounding Ukraine's Euro 2012 hosting be discounted as irrelevant, or the proximity of the vote for the 2018 World Cup, and the concomitant possibility of mutual back-scratching among the Europeans. Perhaps some delegates held uncomfortable memories of the cauldrons created by Galatasaray and other Turkish ultras, a more fiery and uncomfortable atmosphere than Western Europe can whip up.

"I am also against any comparison of Turkey with Ukraine," added Gorbon. "There is no reason for this decision. Perhaps it is simply that people feel closer to France."

Turkey's advantages were also its disadvantages - a large developing market for UEFA whose developing needs were a cause of uncertainty. After Ukraine has missed deadline after deadline for improvements for 2012, the Turkish government assurances of a billion Euros for six new stadia and support for the estimated 27 billion needed for infrastructure projects may have seemed too big a risk.

While Turkey has a good supply of hotels and tourist infrastructure along its coasts, its single high-speed rail line and network of intercity coaches compares unfavourably with France's TGV trains. As well as being larger than France, Turkey shares borders with Iraq and Syria amongst others and is muslim, which might have swayed some votes.

Turkey lost out to France
Following FIFA's lead, UEFA spread its wings with the 2012 vote but has retreated to a familiar face for 2016. Sooner or later Russia and Turkey, with their large populations and potential markets, will host the European Championships. But the expansion to 24 teams for 2016 has shut out the smaller nations, with a minimum of nine stadia and three reserve required, so former joint bids such as those of Croatia & Hungary and Ireland & Scotland would need serious construction projects to win in future.

In Switzerland yesterday, it became a straight choice between a country with the infrastructure and one which promised to build it in time, but the reasons behind the 7-6 vote are probably a lot more complex. Europe's sports journalists backed the Anatolian option, as did Guus Hiddink and others, but the French bid was still perfectly valid and crucially, reliable.

"We all did our best," said Gul, dejected. Turkey's next chance to host will come in Euro 2020.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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North Korea World Cup Song

North Korea World Cup Song

North Korea launched its official World Cup song which has already rocketed to the tops of the charts in Pyongyang. A stirring orchestral number, the song praises the hard work and socialist dedication on behalf of the team in reaching only its second World Cup after its heroics at the 1966 tournament in England.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Final US Squad announced

Final US Squad announced

Bob Bradley
US coach Bob Bradley has gone for safety first in his final 23-man squad for the World Cup Finals.

Mindful perhaps of the way a defensive approach helped the US almost win the Confederations Cup last
summer, the lack of match fitness of AC Milan's Oguchi Onyewu and recent defeats to the Netherlands and this week, the Czech Republic, Bradley has picked seven defenders and four strikers.

G - Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves)

D - Oguchi Onyewu (Milan), Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (Start), Jonathan Spector (West Ham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA)

M - Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Ricardo Clark (Eintract Frankfurt), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Stuart Holden (Bolton), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca)

F - Josmer Altidore (Hull), Herculez Gomez (Pachuca), Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

In goal the US look sound with three England-based keepers of whom Tim Howard is the confirmed first choice.

US squad
The defence has questions over it however, following some inept individual performances this season, although it all came together in South Africa last year when it mattered. FC Dallas' Heath Pearce, previously first-choice left-back, was left out after he fluffed his last chance following a poor showing against the Czechs on Tuesday.

Midfield has no surprises with DaMarcus Beasley, a mainstay of the team four years ago, completing an unlikely comeback having looked out of the picture a year ago.

Up front, Bradley surprisingly dropped Hawaiian-born target-man Brian Ching, whom Landon Donovan has said is his preferred partner up front, in favour of Real Salt Lake speedster Robbie Findley.

Fulham's Eddie Johnson, who at one point seemed the future of US forwards, also misses out. With Charlie Davies injured, American striking options look thin, with a reliance on support from the attacking midfield talents of Clint Dempsey, Donovan and Bolton's Stuart Holden, the one intriguing face to emerge in US ranks in the last year.

Only four of the 23 play in the US' domestic league, MLS.

A first choice US eleven to play England on the 12th of June could look like this:

Howard, Spector, Bocanegra, DeMerit, Onyewu, Holden, Feilhaber, Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, Donovan.

The US face England, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Fifa World Rankings May 26 2010

FIFA Rankings.
Fifa World Rankings May 2010

Fifa's World Rankings were announced yesterday. Brazil lead Spain, who are are second followed by Portugal, The Netherlands, Italy and Germany.

Spain and Brazil are among the favorites to win the World Cup next month.

England are in 8th place, while Argentina are in 7th and are looking a serious bet to win in South Africa with the goals of Diego Milito and Leo Messi.

France are in 9th up one spot. Egypt is the highest African team in 12th. The USA stays in 14th spot.

1 Brazil
2 Spain
3 Portugal
4 Netherlands
5 Italy
6 Germany
7 Argentina
9 France
10 Croatia
11 Russia
12 Egypt
13 Greece
14 USA
15 Serbia
16 Uruguay
17 Mexico
18 Chile
19 Cameroon
20 Australia

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World Cup Fever Brings Festival Of Football To South Korean Theatres

World Cup Fever

You know that the World Cup must be around the corner when a number of football-related movies hit the theatres. No less than four are in the pipeline in South Korea, giving fans who find three games a day broadcast from South Africa not quite enough a chance to satisfy their football cravings.

The two most high-profile of the quartet are already out and these are ‘Dreams Come True’ and ‘The Second Coming: The Moken Tribe’s World Cup'.

‘Dreams Come True’ is a movie in which 2000 hit Joint Security Area (JSA) meets the 2002 World Cup. It follows how soldiers from both sides of the De-Militarised Zone, that divides the peninsula, attempt to get together and watch South Korea’s famous run to the semi-finals eight years ago.

“There are many great movies about football, “director Kye Yoon-shik when I asked him why he made the film. “’Dreams come True’ is a movie that deals with the Inter-Korean relations through the prism of football and that makes us question what the problem between South and North Korea truly is.”


With North and South Korea both heading to the World Cup for the first time ever, there couldn’t be a better time to release the film - and at least that was how it looked until recently.

“It is not good timing to be releasing the movie due to the current tensions between the North and the South right now,” admitted Kye and added, “but in 2009 when I started making this movie, we were planning to release it before the 2010. I had no choice but to follow the schedule for the movie distribution.”

The film’s message is not hard to guess and it is a positive one.

“Football can't solve all diplomatic problems, but I believe that football, which is world's most loved sport, could certainly bring people together and contribute to establishing peace in the world. Korea is the last remaining vestige of the Cold War and we're a divided nation. Also I think this touching story about football told with a comic twist makes the movie appealing to viewers from all over the world.

South Korea is in the running to host the 2022 World Cup and there is talk of allowing Pyongyang to host a couple of games if the bid is successful and it is something that the director agrees with. “Football is the most popular sport in Korea and it has given this nation true confidence and peace. I sincerely hope that we will be the host of the 2022 World Cup.”

‘The Moken Tribe’s World Cup’ is a rather different affair. Just on the Thailand-Myanmar border resides the Moken tribe. Used to playing with footballs made from bound papaya leaves, this documentary tells the story of how Korean Kang Sung-min, a very talented player, trains and teaches the local boys how to play the beautiful game.

Korean movie poster.

It is an inspiring tale of how this motley group of boys who have never seen a real football before are molded into a tight-knit team, based, partly at least, on the training routines introduced by Guus Hiddink in 2002.

The film doesn’t end there, the cameras travel with the team as they are allowed to enter a regional under-14 tournament for the first time. There, the boys, who play bare-footed, take on teams physically bigger, stronger and better-equipped but not necessarily better.

“Football is life and dream and hope for these children,” director Shin Hyun-won told me. “Once they acquire nationality (the tribe are not yet officially citizens of Thailand) I'm certain that they can become professional players and even national team players because these Moken children have passion for football. And Kang created 100 football teams for children all over the region. Among the children taught by Kang are national team players, female national team players, youth national team players and many more.

“There are 3500 youth players and 100 coaches from all over southeast Asia who learned from Kang. I believe that Korea must take the leadership role to contribute to world's football as Asia's football powerhouse with eight appearances at the World Cup.”

: John Duerden &

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Football Haiku (俳句) World Cup

Football Haiku World Cup

The Football Haiku World Cup is a project based on the writing of haiku poetry specifically geared to the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010. We want to publish beautiful poetry written by you to accompany the beautiful game.

The Football Haiku (俳句) World Cup


The basic question for the project is "What has the football World Cup ever done for us?" based on the Monty Python question "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

Writers are encouraged to send in a single football-related haiku that they have written in answer to that question.

Writers from anywhere in the world are encouraged to send in work.

Writers can send in haiku in any language, though it would be helpful to us if you can provide an English translation as well (but not necessary). It is a World Cup, after all, which is as much a festival of language as a festival of football.

Please send your haiku to



* Matthew Devereux, Woking, Surrey, England
* Alan Summers. Founder of With Words
* Tim Souster. A primary school teacher in London, England; reviewed for "The Times Literary Supplement" and "The Financial Times".
* Timmy Killeen runs the English Football Post and is based in Galway, Ireland.
* Peter Ulrik Roeder is the author of "Game Over" and is based in Lyngby, Denmark.
* Adriana Piccardo, creator and administrator of a haiku group at Facebook and is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
* Roxana Elena Roseti is an editor on the Romanian newspaper Jurnalul National


The basic idea is very simple.

Firstly, there will be an ongoing ebook of the haiku we receive that can be downloaded. People downloading that ebook can choose to pay any amount that they like, based on the same funding model as the seminal Radiohead album "In Rainbows". Once we have received a decent number of initial haiku, we can then offer the first version of the ebook for download. So please send your haiku to us as soon as possible.

After that, in the long-term, those haiku can be put together along with specially commissioned illustrations for a book that will be published and available in shops at a set price. We are interested to hear from artists and designers.

Of the initial money that is received from those donating for the downloadable ebook, 25% will go to the small team orchestrating and editing the ebook. 25% will be paid equally to contributors of haiku that are selected to be part of the project. 25% will be provided as special prizes to the writers of the three haiku that are voted as the best by readers of the ebook. The remaining 25% will be given to a football-related good cause voted on by contributors and readers of the ebook. So if you contribute a poem or download the ebook, please also send over the name of the football-related good cause you would like to see money donated to to

If you are an individual or organisation that would like to become a partner or patron or supporter of the project, and would be able to contribute financially to it to help us make it happen (no matter how small a contribution), please also contact us immediately at In exchange for your contribution we will provide you with a link in the ebook.

Please send in a single football-related haiku to

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Hyundai World Cup Competition

Hyundai World Cup Competition

We are currently working with Hyundai on their upcoming FIFA World Cup campaign. To spearhead this campaign they’re running a pretty amazing competition.

For a chance to win an all inclusive trip to the World Cup (flights, hotel, tickets), football fans around the UK are being invited to upload a video of themselves via Facebook - answering the simple question ‘What Would You Trade?’

It’s best explained with this short video here:


Friendly Fire - England v Mexico

England v Mexico

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson
A quarter of the FIFA World Cup participants are in action over the next couple of days, with the qualifiers eager to test themselves against extra-continental opposition in advance of the finals.
England tackle Mexico in London in temperatures more akin to Central America (30C) than North-West Europe. The slippery Wembley pitch is still causing worries in many minds, particularly if it crocks another of Fabio Capello's squad.


Experimentation will be the order of the day with no Chelsea or Portsmouth players involved and only one more game (v Japan in Graz on May 30th) left before the final 23 players are selected.
With No.1 David James rested, Manchester City goalie Joe H
art, the most talented but least experienced England custodian, is sure to play at least 45 minutes, as is West Ham's Robert Green.

The other possible auditions tonight include the talented Adam Johnson and speedster Theo Walcott on the right flank, Everton's dependable Leighton Baines at left back and jack of all trades James Milner in central midfield. It will be an experimental evening for England, but the first choice three lions eleven, assuming Gareth Barry passes his fitness test tomorrow, still resembles something like this:

James, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Lennon, Rooney, Heskey.

Los Tricolores are looking to impress after finishing a point behind the US in CONCACAF's qualifiers following a disastrous start under Sven-Goran Eriksson. Eriksson was in charge of England the last time tonight's opponents played, the three lions running out 4-0 winners at Pride Park, Derby, in 2001.

Javier Aguirre brings a talented squad including Barcelona duo Jonathan Dos Santos and Rafael Marquez, along with local heroes Carlos Vela of Arsenal, Guillermo Franco of West Ham and Giovanni dos Santos of Spurs (on-loan at Galatasaray).

The team's arrival in London last night was delayed three hours due to a bird strike on their British Airways airliner in Nuremburg. The Mexicans have a hectic practise schedule with games against Holland on Wednesday, Gambia on the 30th of May and Italy on the 3rd of June.
England beat Mexico 2-0 at Wembley on their way to the 1966 World Cup with a memorable goal from Bobby Charlton.

Mexico have the poisoned chalice of facing the hosts in Soccer City in the opening game on June 11th, and have also got to contend with France and Uruguay in a tricky Group A.

England face the slightly easier prospect in South Africa of the USA, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C.

Mon 24th May
v Mexico

Tue 25th May

Georgia v
v North Korea
v Saudi Arabia
Eire v Paraguay
v Czech Republic

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

World Cup Posters

World Cup Calendar Poster

World Cup Calendar Poster

Designer David Watson of design studio Trebleseven has created the poster to support Soccer Aid.

The idea is simple: sales of the A1 double sided poster raises money for Soccer Aid - a British charity event which raises money for UNICEF.

The front side of the poster (below) lists all the groups, A-H so you can clearly see which countries are in which group. A calendar runs down the right hand side listing chronologically all the matches to be played in the tournament.

World Cup Calendar Poster

The reverse of the poster (below) functions as a bold World Cup calendar - showing clearly what games are being played on each day.

The A1 double sided poster, produced in collaboration with G&B printers and PhoeniXmotion paper, is currently on press but will be available to buy soon for £10 (£7 for the print, £3 for post/packaging).

Posters available from

World Cup Posters


Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 World Cup Posters Slightly Creased

2010 World Cup Posters

Some of our stock of 2010 World Cup posters were very slightly creased on one side and are now on sale for the reduced price of $19.99. Get yours now before they sell out.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

World Cup posters are much sought after items which retain their value for collectors and look great when framed.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

Soccerphile also offers original Germany World Cup 2006 posters and replica 1930 World Cup posters.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Johannesburg Fan Parks

Johannesburg Fan Parks.
World Cup 2010: Johannesburg Fan Parks

Johannesburg's Fan Parks are located at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown (official FIFA World Cup fan park), Innes-Free Park in Sandton and Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown.

In Nelspruit the fan park is planned for Bergvlam Hoerskool, in Durban on the Beach Front and the fan parks are yet to be announced for Polokwane and Rustenburg.

South African Breweries (SAB) will provide the beer at all the Fifa Fan Fests and will increase production ahead of the finals to meet the increased demand.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ballack Out Of World Cup

World Cup 2010

Michael Ballack has probably played in his last major tournament for Germany. Chelsea's German midfielder limped out of the FA Cup final with an ankle injury sustained in a tackle with Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The ankle injury rules their Captain and inspiration out for eight weeks and means Germany manager, Joachim Low, will have to rethink his team with less than a month to the start of the tournament.

Ballack Out Of World Cup

Germany are in tough looking group with Australia, Ghana & Serbia, and Ballack is still an integral component of the team, nearing 100 caps and having played in every major tournament since 2000. He will be greatly missed and will be a difficult hole to fill.

So who will step into Ballack's shoes? Low has called on the squad to pull together and for the younger players to use the opportunity to grow into major roles. Germany are traditionally a side who go for experience but Low's provisional 27-man squad has a real youthful look to it, with six players aged 20 or 21.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has had a fine season for Bayern Munich who have captured the Bundesliga title and could win the Champions League. He's a cert for the centre of the park. Alongside
Schweinsteiger will be Hamburg's Piotr Trochowski. Depending on Low's chosen shape this leaves at least one, maybe two, midfield spots.

Lazio midfielder, Thomas Hitlsperger, played in nearly all the qualifying games but is also missing from the squad after being snubbed. His January move from Stuttgart to Italy was Low's reason for leaving him out. Other absences from the squad include Simon Rolfes & Aaron Hunt to there will be a posse of youngsters vying for the final midfield berth.

Mesut Özil (8 caps), Marko Marin (7), Sami Khedira (3), Toni Kroos (2) and Christian Träsch (2) are all 23 or younger and Low will be keeping a careful eye on them all as he ponders the best replacement for his talismanic skipper.


City In For Milner

James Milner To Manchester City

Reports today are suggesting that moneybags, Manchester City, have made a "big money" offer for Aston Villa's versatile midfielder, James Milner. £20m+ is the figure being quoted. It's been a fairly meteoric rise for a player that until very recently many still considered as average at best.

City In For Milner

The season just gone has been Milner's finest to date but that's against some average competition. He showed promise at Leeds but became one dimensional, he flattered to deceive at Newcastle where he habitually wasted possession, he was then shunted out to Villa on loan and after a year back at Newcastle in their relegation season he signed for Villa permanently for £12m. This is where Milner finally began to find his feet.

He was perhaps unfortunate at Newcastle that the man who signed him, the late Sir Bobby Robson, was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by Graeme Souness who wasn't keen on Milner's attributes. It was David O'Leary who took him to Villa on loan with reasonable success but it is under Martin O'Neill that he has flourished. Only 23 he has already played under 13 different managers (including caretakers) and cites the stability at Villa as a big reason for his improvement.

What shined through Milner's Newcastle years and protracted move to Villa was a calm level headed attitude learned from senior players around him during his evolving career. This attitude has seen Milner become the mature player he is today.

Able to understand and carry out instruction, he allies this with an understanding of football that enables him to play in several positions. These are precisely the qualities that England coach Fabio Capello likes in a player and precisely the reason why Milner is a cert for the final 23 that will travel to South Africa.

His current form and performances over the past year cannot be argued with and he has eclipsed the likes of club mate Ashley Young. He fully deserves his place in the squad but is he good enough for the first team? That remains to be seen and he is perhaps more of a safety valve to cover a few positions and be available to protect a lead should the need arise.

He doesn't have the creativity of Joe Cole or Steven Gerrard. He doesn't have the midfield goal threat of Frank Lampard. He doesn't have the blistering pace of Aaron Lennon or Theo Walcott. He doesn't even cross as well as Adam Johnson.

He does most things very well but jack of all trades is often master of none and I don't see a starting position for Milner. He is probably the direct replacement for Owen Hargreaves; a confident assured penalty taker (another reason to have him in reserve given England's major tournament shootout record) who can cover the full length of both flanks and play right through midfield.

Fair play to the lad, he's proved me wrong and the next couple of steps in his career could see him become a World Cup winner and key component of the most ambitious club side in the world. Now that's progress.



South Korea Getting Into Stride

South Korea

Players taking a break - picture by John Duerden

On a surprisingly warm and humid mid-May Monday morning, the South Korean national team players were taking it easy at Paju National Football Center, around 40 kilometres north of Seoul.

Most were reading the newspapers, ones that had front pages covered with the same picture, that of Lee Sung-ryeol and Lee Chung-yong celebrating. Both players scored the previous evening in a 2-0 win over Ecuador that started the final phase of preparations for the 2010 World Cup on a high.

It wasn’t a vintage performance but as it marked the first time the European-based players had joined up with the local lads since October 2009, nobody expected an instant clicking together. Ecuador didn’t bring its European-based stars and while the South Americans defended fairly robustly, they didn’t trouble the host too much at the other end of the field.

Some were happier than others. Lee Sung-ryeol had just been introduced as a substitute in the second half when he scored a fine goal. The 21 year-old FC Seoul striker twisted past two yellow-shirted defenders on the edge of the area.
With that shot, the fresh-faced forward probably booked his place on the plane for South Africa but four of his team-mates were not been so lucky.

The mood at Paju seemed relaxed but the unlucky quartet was told on Monday afternoon that their dreams of World Cup glory were over and they would not be part of the twenty-three that will make the final trip to play against Greece in Port Elizabeth on June 12, Argentina in Soweto on June 17 and Nigeria down in Durban on June 22.

Park Ji-sung leads the way - picture by John Duerden

At the end of April, Huh named a preliminary roster of 30, That was reduced to 26 on Monday. Defenders Hwang Jae-won and Kang Min-soo didn’t make the cut while midfielders Kim Chi-woo and, a little surprisingly, Cho Won-hee fell by the wayside.

These drip-drip tactics are not the norm and can be cruel for the players. Three more will have their dreams dashed right at the end when Huh names his final 23 on May 31 but for now, all are happy as they head to Japan for a final warm-up before leaving Asia.

Next Monday’s match in Saitama is a big one for both teams. Talking to Park Ji-sung just before training, he admitted that there was no such thing as a ‘friendly’ match between the two nations. The game has been criticized by sections of the Japanese and Korea press. This thinking goes that two big rivals meeting just before the World Cup is a recipe for injuries. The Manchester United man however said that it was the best chance for the team to sample competitive football before the big event starts.

This time however, it is the Japanese who are more desperate to win than its long-time rival. 2010 has seen a number of poor results at home for the Samurai Blue not least a 3-1 defeat at the hands of South Korea in Tokyo in February. I was present in Osaka in April as a reserve Serbia team won 3-0 to cause a crescendo of jeers to be heard around the Nagai Stadium.

The earlier Korea defeat was when both teams were shorn of their European-based stars. This time will be very different. Japan really will not want to suffer another setback just before it leaves. A third consecutive defeat at home would be tough to take and with the team preparing for a tough World Cup group against the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon, confidence would be rocked.

Korea always love to win these games but a defeat wouldn’t be a disaster in terms of the bigger picture however much it may rankle in Seoul. Three comfortable wins – over Japan, Ivory Coast and Ecuador - have the players feeling good.

Copyright: John Duerden &

Hell hath no fury like a nation scorned

Sifting through the ruins of Triesmangate

Ah, the Daily Wail, England's daily register of phobias and general paranoia and the paper which once cheered Hitler, what a mess you've made.

England Bid
In search of a bog-standard sex scandal, the Mail thrust a pretty penny (£100,000) into the hands of a woman with a history of mental health treatment, who, according to the Daily Mirror's Sue Carroll, "makes a King's Cross slapper look like Mother the court of public opinion she’s somewhere below Medusa and just slightly above Lucretia Borgia."

Hear, hear. Melissa Jacobs is the worst type of female, of human being in fact -one who places short-term selfish financial profit above the trust of a friend and the hopes and dreams of millions who wanted the World Cup in England, where it has not ventured since 1966. Given the globalisation of the sport that country invented, it could be decades before the tournament comes around again. Secretly recording a friend who confides in you in order to make money and ruin their career is a despicable form of personal betrayal. But Jacobs' damage to England's World Cup hosting hopes is truly unforgivable.

Triesman was a twerp for flirting with a younger woman but so what? Does that mean England cannot host the World Cup? How conceivably can this act of entrapment be justified as being in the public interest - it merely hands our bidding rivals a huge fillip and wastes the millions of hours worked and pounds spent on handing our nation football's crown jewel.

If England is denied the hosting rights because of one selfish loser no-one has ever heard of and never will again, may every serpent in hell feast upon the harridan's evil soul for all eternity. And may all who are connected with the Daily Mail vow never to touch its filthy pages again, seek the forgiveness of Jesus forever or throw themselves off Beachy Head forthwith. This was an act of treason by both slapper and tabloid, sacrilege even - football is our national faith for goodness sake.

But leaving the morality aside (this is a British tabloid after all), FIFA has been put on the back foot by Triesman's stated belief that Spain will be influencing referees with Russian money at the World Cup. As quickly as the FA rushed to issue apologies, the associations they had offended hurried to poo-poo Triesman's 'absurd' claims...but no smoke without fire.

The suggestion sounded perfectly plausible given the history of influencing match officials from Mussolini in 1934 through Guruceta Muro, the Spanish ref bribed by Anderlecht in 1984 to Italy's Calciopoli affair of 2006 and the two German refereeing scandals in recent years. England has traditionally been the least believing nation when it comes to accusations of bought officials, but all that might have to change now. The Italian furor over Byron Moreno, the bonkers Ecuadorian official in charge when they lost to South Korea in 2002, does not seem so extreme after all.

Indeed, the Spanish press reaction was telling, with many a 'I told you so' piece, apparently happy that their conspiracy theories had found international acceptance. If this means extra security and scrutiny on FIFA match officials and the activities of the referees' committee chairman, Spaniard Angel Maria Villa Llona, so much the better.

The wider impression is one of FIFA being a clandestine cult unwilling to let the light of modern transparency enter its inner sanctum. Investigative journalists who have taken them on already, like Andrew Jennings and David Yallop, are doubtless frolicking in the fields as we speak.

Frankly, few thought Triesman's claim impossible; why would be invent such a tale unless he had picked up on a rumour? Cutting deals in a vote like this, with rounds of knock-out, is what it is all about. Once the choice is whittled down to two nations e.g. England and Russia, where are the votes which went to all the other bidders going to go? It pays to do your homework, surely.

It is still too early to judge, but the FA might well survive this storm and go on to win the vote in December. It acted sharply in booting out Triesman and getting Sebastian Coe, whom Soccerphile revealed a while ago to have football ambitions, on the phone to Sepp Blatter. Geoff Thompson, Triesman's replacement, is a trusted FIFA man, although David Dein seemed a more obvious choice with his connections and power-broking abilities.

If a week is a long time in national politics, a month or so probably is in the corridors of footballing power.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, May 17, 2010

World Cup 2010 Referees and Assistants

World Cup 2010 Referees and Assistants.
World Cup 2010 Referees and Assistants

The 30 referees and their assistants for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa have been chosen. There are 4 referees and their assistants from Africa, 4 from CONCACAF, 6 from South America, 2 from Oceania, 4 from Asia and 10 from UEFA.

Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
William Torres, Francisco Zumba

Khalil Al Ghamdi (Saudi Arabia)
Hassan Kamranifar (Iran), Saleh Mohamed Al Marzouqi (UAE)

Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)
Ruiz Roa, Nicolas Yegros

Benito Archundia (Mexico)
Hector Vegara (Canada), Marvin Torrentera

Hector Baldassi (Argentina)
Ricardo Casas, Herman Maidana

Carlos Batres (Guatemala)
Leonel Leal (Costa Rica), Carlos Pastrana (Honduras)

Mohamed Benouza (Algeria)
Nasser Abdel Nabi (Egypt), Maamer Chabane

Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
Jose Manuel Silva Cardinal, Bertino Miranda

Massimo Bussaca (Switzerland)
Matthias Arnet, Francesco Buragina

Koman Coulibaly (Mali)
Redouane Achik (Morocco), Maniel Candido (Angola)

Jerome Damon (South Africa)
Celestin Ntagungira (Rwanda), Enock Molefe

Franck De Bleeckere (Belgium)
Peter Hermans, Walter Vromans

Martin Hansson (Sweden)
Henrik Andren, Stefan Wittberg

Michael Hester (New Zealand)
Jan-Hendrik Hintz, Tevita Makasini (Tonga)

Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Rafael Ilyasov, Bahadyr Kochkarov (Kyrgyzstan)

Victor Kassai (Hungary)
Gabor Eros, Tibor Vamos

Stephane Lannoy (France)
Eric Dansault, Laurent Ugo

Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)
Pablo Fandino, Maurico Espinosa

Eddy Maillet (Seychelles)
Evarist Menkouande (Cameroon), Bechir Hassani (Tunisia)

Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh (Malaysia)
Yuxin Mu (China), Jeffrey Gek Pheng (Singapore)

Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)
Toru Sagara, Jeong Hae-sang (South Korea)

Peter O'Leary (New Zealand)
Brent Best, Matthew Taro (Solomon Islands)

Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)
Jose Luis Camaego, Alberto Morin

Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Paolo Calcagno, Stefano Ayroldi

Oscar Ruiz (Colombia)
Abraham Gonzalez, Humberto Clavijo

Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil)
Altemir Hausmann, Roberto Braatz

Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Jan Salver, Mike Pickel

Alberto Undiano (Spain)
Fermin Martinez, Juan Carlos Yuste

Howard Webb (England)
Darren Cann, Michael Mullarkey


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Official 2010 World Cup Posters

Official 2010 World Cup Posters

2010 World Cup posters are on sale for the duration of the 2010 World Cup tournament in South Africa. Get yours now before they sell out.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

World Cup posters are much sought after items which retain their value for collectors and look great when framed.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

Soccerphile also offers original Germany World Cup 2006 posters and replica 1930 World Cup posters.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Roy's Odyssey reaches its end

Roy's Odyssey reaches its end.
UEFA Europa League Final 2010
Hamburg Arena 19:45 GMT

Atletico Madrid v Fulham

When Liverpool sagged to let Diego Forlan net and send Atletico Madrid into the Europa League final, it was a mini-victory for the competition. An Anglo-Spanish final sounds more, well, continental than a re-run of a Premier League game.

English clubs might flash the cash but we don't want an all-any nation European final any more than a Chelsea v Man U Champions League final every season. Contrasting styles is what European cups should be about. A bit sad for 'Pool, whose fans could have followed in the footsteps of the Beatles on the Reeperbahn of that great German port city.

Perhaps the Europa League is just a punch diluted so much it lacks the kick of the old UEFA Cup, as lukewarm as the lineup for the old Cup Winners' Cup, a collection of Champions League rejects and former European greats like Marseille, Anderlecht, Benfica and Panathanaikos.

If we can forget the languorous saga of that 18-game odyssey the teams took to the final, the meagre winnings and overall feeling of second prize compared to the mighty Champions League, the meeting of big-ish Atletico and little Fulham has a lot to recommend it.

Roy's Odyssey reaches its end.

Not many column inches have been written about Atletico, whose European high point came in tying the 1974 European Cup Final with Bayern, before losing the replay. Their domestic hour of glory was the league and cup double of 1996, but the Spanish capital's second club have struggled to break the Barca-Real log-jam since. Coach Quique Sanchez Flores, has only been in the job since October, but has hauled the Rojiblancos to the Copa del Rey final as well as this one.

But Roy Hodgson remains the real hero of the hour. He rather resembles an English coach of the '30s or '50s, having dragged his suitcase of coaching manuals around eight countries. Should Fabio Capello call it a day now, he would appear an inspired choice to replace him.

Into his seventh decade, Hodgson has distilled a simple football philosophy which has guided one of the Premier League's poorer teams into a European final for the first time. Fulham, that cosy little club by the Thames no-one has a bad word to say about.

Like Odysseus, he has led his warriors on an odyssey through many trials, the last of which is tonight, before he can bring them home with their booty.

Possible lineups:
Fulham - Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff, Gera, Zamora
Atletico - De Gea, Valera, Dominguez, Perea, Antonio Lopez, Reyes, Assuncao, Raul Garcia, Simao, Aguero, Forlan

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, May 10, 2010

Takeshi Okada names Japan's World Cup squad

Japan World Cup 2010 Squad

Takeshi Okada names Japan's 2010 World Cup squad.
Takeshi Okada has named his 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, with few surprises thrown in by the coach of the Samurai Blue.

Jubilo Iwata goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was the biggest surprise, with the veteran shot-stopper recalled as Japan's third choice goalkeeper despite missing several months of action through injury.

Kashima Antlers defender Daiki Iwamasa has earned a deserved call up, despite being consistently overlooked by Okada during his two-and-a-half year reign so far.

It's up front where Japan look like light on options, with Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada, Albirex Niigata front man Kisho Yano and Vissel Kobe misfit Yoshito Okubo somewhat fortunate to hear their names called alongside Shimizu S-Pulse star Shinji Okazaki and up-and-coming Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto.

Morimoto was one of just four European-based players to earn a call-up, joining midfielders Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg, ageing Grenoble man Daisuke Matsui and rising star Keisuke Honda from CSKA Moscow.

23-man squad

Goalkeepers—Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata)

Defenders—Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F. Marinos), Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus), Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Daiki Iwamasa (Kashima Antlers), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo, Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Atsuto Uchida (Kashima Antlers)

Midfielders—Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F. Marinos), Junichi Inamoto (Kawasaki Frontale), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Daisuke Matsui (Grenoble), Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow)

Forwards—Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Yoshito Okubo (Vissel Kobe), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata), Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse), Takayuki Morimoto (Catania)

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman &

J. League Results May 9-10 2010

J. League Results May 9-10 2010.
J. League Results Sunday 10 May

Montedio Yamagata 0 FC Tokyo 3
Vegalta Sendai 1 Nagoya Grampus 2

Saturday 9 May

Urawa Reds 2 Yokohama F Marinos 3
Shimizu S-Pulse 0, Albirex Niigata 2
Vissel Kobe 3, Jubilo Iwata 0

J.League Table

Shimizu S-Pulse P 11 Pts 24
Nagoya Grampus P 11 Pts 22
Kawasaki Frontale P 10 Pts 20
Urawa Reds P 11 Pts 19
Kashima Antlers P 10 Pts 18

Leading Scorers

Josh Kennedy, Nagoya Grampus 7
Renatinho, Kawasaki Frontale 6
Kazuma Watanabe, Yokohama F Marinos 6
Ryoichi Maeda, Jubilo Iwata 6
Shinji Kagawa, Cerezo Osaka 6
Chong Tese, Kawasaki Frontale 5
Shinji Okazaki, Shimizu S-Pulse 5
Shoki Hirai, Gamba Osaka 5

Previous Results

J.League News

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Win A World Cup Prize

Win A World Cup Prize

Sign up to the Soccerphile newsletter and win a 2010 World Cup poster in our monthly free-to-enter competition.

Win A World Cup Prize


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eddy Bosnar's bullet vs Kyoto Sanga

Eddy Bosnar's bullet vs Kyoto Sanga.Eddy Bosnar's bullet vs Kyoto Sanga

Australian defender Eddy Bosnar continues to impress with his whole-hearted displays at the centre of the Shimizu S-Pulse defence, with the lanky Australian one of the star signings of the new J. League season.

Bosnar has also earned plenty of plaudits for his thunderous free-kicks, and many are now calling for Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek to call up the tall stopper for Australia's World Cup campaign in South Africa.

With dead-ball delivery like this, Bosnar may just be a bolter for selection in Australia's preliminary 27-man squad.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Political Footballs How Politics in Britain Uses Football

Political Footballs: How Politics in Britain Uses Football

Beckham & Brown
Beckham & Brown
The English football season reaches its climax in the same week as the British General Election campaign reaches the finish line.

Like the annual Premier League toss-up between Chelsea and Manchester United, the General Election is usually a straight fight between the reds and blues, but this year the election has seen an orange team appear from nowhere in the form of a congenial and assured televisual image named Nick Clegg.

There is no orange interloper in football however, where Hull City fell out the Premier League and Wolves struggled, although Blackpool may yet make it to the promised land via the play-offs.

Football and politics have generally taken different roads in Britain, perhaps as a testament to the social delineation of the working class in industrial regions from the ruling class in the Westminster village. But the sport's booming popularity in recent years has dragged the suits into the grounds, or at least forced them to pay lip service to the people's game from the lofty perch of the executive box.

Although overseas leaders had been doing it for years, such as when Benito Mussolini shamelessly hijacked the 1934 World Cup, it was Huddersfield FC man Harold Wilson who first twigged that football's popularity could rub off onto British politicians, when England won the World Cup during his Premiership. As comic creation Alf Garnett quipped, it must have been Wilson who made England wear Labour red for the final.

Wilson's populist move backfired when he closely identified himself with England's 1970 squad, whose painful elimination's proximity to the election cost him his job, he later claimed.

Thatcher with Keegan (left) and Hughes (right)
Thatcher with Keegan (left) and Hughes (right)
The Prime Minister had himself photographed with the team in front of No. 10, Downing Street, setting a precedent repeated every four years since. In the 1980s, a PM virulently hostile to football held sway but even the Iron Lady found her swinging handbag unable to put soccer in its place and she grudgingly went ahead with some winsome photoshoots with Emlyn Hughes, Kevin Keegan et al.

Margaret Thatcher saw no connection between her economic policies and the growth of spectator violence, and was taken aback when FA Secretary Ted Croker told her pointedly, "Not our hooligans, Prime Minister, but yours. The products of your society." Her magic wand was an ill-conceived plan to force fans to carry an I.D. card, which would be withdrawn from the miscreants.

It was an unnecessary endeavour, which would have failed to stop fights outside grounds and was obviated anyway by the arrival of CCTV inside them, but was enthusiastically trumpeted for too long by the shrill Colin Moynihan, aka The Miniature for Sport, until the Hillsborough tragedy sank the soccer ID ship for good.

The Thatcher years did foment some form of politicisation among fans and legacies of her general disconnection from the industrial regions who breathed football strongest included the Football Supporters Association, the start of supporter involvement in clubs and a burgeoning fanzine culture rejecting the official face of the game and the authorities.

The grassroots were very green in the late 1980s as Thatcher's reign tottered towards its inevitable end, but football remained very much a minority interest in Britain as a whole. The fences, the strict policing, the labeling of fans as hooligans by the largely right-wing media had created a siege mentality among die-hards constantly challenging the public consensus that football belonged in the gutter. The enlightenment of Italia '90 and the seismic year zero of Sky TV's Premier League in 1993 lay in an unimagined future.

Thatcher's successor John Major was less abrasive than his predecessor towards everything, and immediately said he was a Chelsea fan, making sure he was filmed attending games with fellow Tory David Mellor MP, although interestingly his sporting interests were listed as 'cricket and rugby' before he became PM.

Pavarotti, Gazza and all had brought a spring-cleaning no-one had expected, but the after-effects in England of that summer in Italy were too powerful and popular to ignore at the highest level again. Engaging with England's football culture was now de rigueur for its top politicians.

Tony Blair joined the club, claiming he was a Newcastle fan (his constituency was in the North-East), kicking around with Alex Ferguson and Kevin Keegan and rushing to tell the nation he was one of us when England were knocked out the World Cup.

Gordon Brown has wasted little time kicking a ball for the cameras to launch England's 2018 World Cup bid, and the Scot who lost an eye at rugby made sure the film crew was there to see him grinning at the Three Lions winning at football on telly.
David Cameron
David Cameron

Well-to-do Londoner and Old Etonian David Cameron has been at pains to paint himself as a footy man. He claims to support Aston Villa (his uncle used to be chairman), attached a St. George's cross to his bicycle in 2006 and invited himself to David Beckham's pre-World Cup party when he was not on the guest list. Never again will a British party leader shun the nation's number one sport you can be sure, but how refreshing it would be if they did, expressing a preference for a less-mainstream game or pastime instead of pandering to the PR protocols.

While leaders are desperate to appear as fans, even to the extent of humiliating themselves, the players are generally much less keen on politics, preferring to enjoy their lifestyles without concern for the bigger picture, although their stratospheric wages militate towards right-wing votes. Even in the 1960s, Hunter Davies was surprised when writing 'The Glory Game' that none of the Tottenham players he got to know were Labour supporters at a time when the majority of the nation was left-leaning.

An exception to the apolitical player was Scotland international Pat Nevin, who campaigned openly for Labour and made a point of travelling to Chelsea games by tube to dispel the image of overpaid stars voting for whoever would hand them the lowest taxes.

Frank Lampard, who has been a vocal supporter of the Conservative Party, stands out as a politically-aware footballer today, while Sir Alex Ferguson continues to fly the flag for Labour. But they are still voices in the wilderness.

Everyone ought to care about politics, whatever their status. And the nation cares about football sufficiently in terms of hours and money to make the election relevant to fans. Gary Lineker said he would not reveal his voting intention for fear of alienating some of his fans, and perhaps that is the wisest counsel, but should not stars of any description consider using their clout to campaign on an issue that matters, even if not on a Jamie Oliver scale?

So is this election relevant to football fans? Labour's proposal to let fans own 25% of clubs is at least worth debating. With on average four clubs a year in Britain going into administration over the past decade, and clubs run in such a cavalier fashion it makes investment banks look prudent, how the game is regulated by government does matter - just ask Crystal Palace or Portsmouth supporters this season. With Michel Platini's calls for English clubs to sort themselves out or face sanction growing louder all the time, the fields of politics and football are far from mutually exclusive.

But the reality is football will be low to non-existent in people's minds as they enter the polling stations on Thursday. Most players don't really care who wins any more than the politicians care who wins the Premier League this weekend, but you can bet the latter will still be screaming they are one of us once the World Cup kicks off in June. As long as football enthralls millions, politics will be looking to jump on the bandwagon.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile