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As we approach the end of the transfer window, the stakes start to rise. Who will break first? Players handing in transfer requests; agents releasing statements to the rumour-mongering ever-knowledgable gossip columnists and managers singing club anthems.

In past seasons, we’ve even had players refusing to play

The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, has revealed the moody Bulgarian refused to play in games against Sunderland and Chelsea, in which the team dropped five points during their worst-ever start to a season, culminating in Juande Ramos being sacked last weekend. Talking about Berbatov agitating for a move to United over the course of more than a year, Levy said: “We had a player that had refused to play two Premier League games for us, was having a detrimental impact on the dressing room and we’d known for a year that this player wanted out of this club.” Levy added: “I don’t think he treated the club with the respect we deserved. We put him on the map. He signed a long-term contract with this club and I think he should have stayed.”

Is it simply a case of expressing your interest in a player by making a formal bid to the club or do clubs contact the player’s agent – declare an interest – and hope this will unsettle the player? Or is it even more complicated? Damian Commoli has recently been appointed to oversee the transfers at Liverpool, and according to Kevin McCarra is a keen advocate of

Moneyball, the renowned book by Michael Lewis that was published in 2003. Its subject was the Oakland Athletics and, specifically, the general manager Billy Beane.Every manager hopes to crow over an outstanding player he secured for next to nothing. Beane was different because he was not following a hunch so much as questioning traditional attitudes about what it was that truly made the difference in a game. He also has a passion for football and, specifically, an allegiance to Tottenham Hotspur. Comolli, of course, worked at White Hart Lane as director of football for three years and during that period he came to know Beane. “We have been talking at length since 2006 about data application in both football and baseball,” said Comolli. “Everything I’ve been doing has come from what the A’s have been doing in terms of collecting and using data.”

One of the reasons for the Oakland ‘A’s’ success was that they were the first club to start questioning the traditional methods and assumptions of the Major League Baseball Draft System. They ignored the group of scouts at the club who tended to focus on physical athletes (who had the ‘look’ of a potential baseball star), select high school players instead of college players and continue with the same old tried and tested scouting philosophy. Billy Beane and his Oakland backroom team developed a computer programme that analysed specific skills, based on a large range of statistical data.

Instead, they drafted for unconventional statistical prowess: on-base percentage for hitters (rather than batting average) and strikeout/walk ratios for pitchers (rather than velocity). These undervalued stats came cheaply. With the sixth-lowest payroll in baseball in 2002, the Oakland Athletics won an American League best 103 games. They spent $41M that season, while the Yankees, who also won 103 games, spent $126M.

Beane then applied techniques in the transfer market he had learnt studying game theory, a fascinating area of applied mathematics now used in economics, political science and, I suspect, football transfers. Here is a brief explanation from Avinash Dixit, University Professor of Economics at Princeton University,

Game theory studies interactive decision-making, where the outcome for each participant or “player” depends on the actions of all. If you are a player in such a game, when choosing your course of action or “strategy” you must take into account the choices of others. But in thinking about their choices, you must recognize that they are thinking about yours, and in turn trying to take into account your thinking about their thinking, and so on.

These are exactly the kind of interactions that exist within the football transfer market. Prof. Dixit goes on to say,

…some aspects such as figuring out the true motives of rivals and recognizing complex patterns do often resist logical analysis. But many aspects of strategy can be studied and systematized into a science — game theory.

If this isn’t hurting your head yet, then you haven’t got a real head…

Similar ‘mind games’ or game theories exist in advanced poker strategy and other games or markets based on incomplete mis/information.

The football transfer market, especially in a restricted time period during the January window, is complicated by so many external forces. What other clubs perceive your budget is? What other clubs think you think they think the value of the player is? What other clubs watching the negotiation or bid think you will bid so they can ‘bluff’ bid to drive your purchase price higher. Billy Beane was an expert at playing other clubs off against each other, increasing the market by talking to newspapers about ‘the next big thing’ he had no intention of signing.

The current January transfer saga (other than Bent and Adam) has been the attempts to sign Luis Suarez. Here are a few examples of the rumours and factors relating to the potential sale of Suarez.

The level of truth in any of the reports needs to be questioned because the source is rarely, if ever, named. The other problem is the loose valuation of the player. The range is £15-£35 million. Liverpool were ‘reported’ to have offered £12.5 million and Ryan Babel (who has just moved to another club for £6 million) taking the total cash value to £18.5 million. This seems to be a fair initial offer, on the lower end of the price range, adding a player who had previously played for Ajax, would not need to acclimatize, whilst remembering that Ajax have got major financial problems and need to cash in on some of their assets. As with any negotiation, the first offer is usually rejected. Both Ajax and Liverpool will be aware that Liverpool expect the first offer to be rejected, but it does offer a slight insight into the maximum bid Liverpool are likely to make.

A mind game of imperfect information, negotiations carried out in public as well as private, under the glare of expectant fans desperate for a ‘major’ signing. The complex nature of transfer negotiations are often ignored in the football press with tiny soundbites and flashing yellow tickers reporting an estimated figure, the contract length and press conference clichés stating the player ‘wants to be at the club for a very long time’ and confirming ‘it had always been his dream to play for the club’. Liverpool might have someone attempting to apply complex theories to select a pool of players the manager can choose from, but they won’t have the success Billy Beane had, he was the first to try it, and we must remember

The main focus of a “Moneyball” approach is about maximizing use of whatever resources you have, and while the methods can be of great help to clubs with limited resources, they can be champions-winners for affluent ones. Chelsea and Arsenal, two of the top four spenders in the Premier League, already use them. It seems unlikely that Manchester United has thrived without them.

Not quite the simple game described here by the right-wing libertarian enlightened-one Old Holborn. We were discussing Andy Gray and Richard Keys,  two popular cavemen who once drove the Premiership brand forward.
Clearly he’s too intelligent to waste his time ‘pointing at pretty colours’. He’s evolved. Just (don’t) check his blog, you wouldn’t know it.
George Allwell

As Ryan Babel is preparing himself for his move to Hoffenheim in Germany, I find myself asking the question…

What went wrong?

At the tender age of 20 he signed for Liverpool for a fee in the region of £12m (varying reports suggest somewhere between £11m and £13m) which is a lot of money to put on such young shoulders. But seeing the performances that he had been putting in for Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch national side it seemed he would hit the ground running and be an excellent acquisition for LFC.

Added to that he joined the club only 10 days after a certain Fernando Torres had signed, so the pressure was very much on the Spaniard to succeed taking the focus off Babel.

Before Babel joined Liverpool he was linked heavily with Arsenal as the long term replacement for Thierry Henry and you can see why, he is a player very much in the same mould, lightning quick, powerful, can take a man on and score goals, but Liverpool beat Arsenal to the punch and signed the Dutchman up.

If we had a machine that could create an alternative reality I would love to see what would have happened to Babel had he been bought by Arsenal instead, if he had been under the wing of Arsene Wenger, who is so revered for his nurturing of young talent.

I may be ridiculed for this opinion but I think that if Babel had signed for Arsenal, or indeed Chelsea with Mourinho or Manchester Utd with Ferguson, he might very well be one of the top players in the Premiership now, dare I say even the world. To go back to my description before, he has lightning pace, ask any defender in the world what he is scared of most, I guarantee he will say pace. He is physically strong yet surprisingly agile and can trick his way past players with ease. He can shoot from just about anywhere with terrific power, I can recall a couple of Champions League goals in particular that were outstanding strikes. Put all of this together and you will find yourself with one hell of a player, yet somehow his amazing lack of consistency meant he only made 90 appearances in over 3 and a half years and most of them were from the bench.

This is not a criticism of Rafa Benitez, far from it, I was a big fan of Rafa and thought he brought some players on really well, Alonso, Torres and Reina all became world class footballers under the tutelage of Rafa. The problem is, that for every success with Benitez there was a failure to go with it, and sadly for Babel he has to put in the failure column.

So off to Germany he goes for a fresh start, at still only 24 he has plenty of time to rediscover his talent and I’m certain that this will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, I’m just disappointed that he couldn’t make it at Liverpool, because in today’s market getting a world class player for £12m would seem very good business, instead they take a £6m loss and wonder what could have been if only that amazing talent had been realised.

Good luck Ryan.

Marcus J Mitchell.

In the last few weeks I have been to three Wrexham FC league games and have loved every minute of it, first up was Bath City on January 3rd at home (The Racecourse Ground), I actually wrote an article about this match, or more precisely about Mathias Pogba, Wrexham overcame good opposition to win 2-0 and start a mini charge up the league.

Next up on the following Saturday was another home game, this time it was Grimsby Town who were the visitors, Grimsby came into this game having scored no less than 16 goals in their previous 3 matches so would provide some serious opposition. Wrexham continued with the enigmatic Pogba up front and Mark Creighton making his first start at centre back after signing permanently for the dragons, he had previously been on loan from Oxford Utd but fancied the move north.

Wrexham controlled the match but couldn’t find the breakthrough until the 70th minute when the brilliant Jay Harris struck a powerful shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner.  I am not a scout nor a manager and there are reasons both those things are true, but in the last few games Harris has stood head and shoulders above his team-mates and should be alerting managers from the league above with his displays.  I am sure nobody from Wrexham nor their fans would like to see him go, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see him move up the leagues.

Andy Morrell sealed the win with a neat finish 6 minutes later and that made it two wins from two, I spoke to Neil Woods (Grimsby Manager) after the game and he simply said..

Dean’s (Saunders) system was better than mine and no matter how we changed it, we couldn’t create a chance.

It was bitterly cold at the ground that day but still over 3,000 turned up to watch the game, the Racecourse can hold around 11 – 12,000 so there were plenty of empty seats, clubs like Wrexham need these seats filled in order to create the revenue which is vital to survive.

This was no more apparent than the last match of my trilogy, away at Southport on Tuesday 18th January. It was another freezing night and in the bar before the game I hardly saw any home fans at all, we got into the stadium at the away end and took our places, looking across the ground the home support was almost non-existent, the attendance was officially 1,500 of which I’m certain two thirds was from Wrexham, it genuinely felt like a home game.

The game itself wasn’t the classiest of affairs, Wrexham were the better side and deservedly took the lead after 24 minutes when Andy Morrell knocked the rebound from an Andy Mangan shot and held on for the remainder of the match, one thing of note is the food situation at Southport, we went for a half-time pie and they had run out of everything except Hot-Dogs, the stadium wasn’t exactly overflowing but they still hadn’t prepared for how many turned up.

My point to all of this is that if you, like me, are a football fan but aren’t able or cannot afford to go to Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates, then make your way down to The Racecourse Ground, Haig Avenue, Aggborough or Church Road, I have found the atmosphere to be just as electric as the big grounds, the standard of football might not be as good but the commitment remains the same. The worst thing is that none of these teams have billionaire Sheikhs, Yanks or Russians funding them, they have you and me, so if you can’t go and watch the Barclays Premier League then try the Blue Square Premier League instead, for a fraction of the price you will have just as much fun.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.S. You can always Sky+ Match of the Day anyway!

Kenny Dalglish, the player and manager who won every trophy available, numerous times, has returned to Liverpool Football Club after a 20 year sabbatical. The air of optimism has returned to a club beset by negativity, player power, boardroom bust-ups, crippling debt and even worse results. Two managers sacked in six months, unheard of at Liverpool. Relative quiet on the Kop. The game has changed, tactics have changed, the pace of game, the fitness of players, the press are more intrusive and, by the standards set by the previous incumbent Roy Hodgson, the time you have is limited. But can King Kenny bring back success, or in the short-term, stability to the most successful club in English footballing history?

If Robbie Fowler is God, then Kenny Dalglish is Darwin. One requires a certain degree of faith, a look past the failure and frailties. You’re required to ignore the inconsistencies and irrationality. The other is the leading light. The best of his generation. A true genius. A natural. He did things no one else could do. He brought out a beauty in things you didn’t see before. He was right.

Listening to a radio debate yesterday about Liverpool’s new caretaker manager I was intrigued to hear the ‘News’ of the World’s Andy Dunn claiming that Dalglish felt he never gets the recognition he deserved for his achievements as a manager. So what did he achieve? Four league titles (3 at Liverpool and 1 at Blackburn), two F.A. Cups (at Liverpool), one F.A. Cup final appearance with Newcastle, and perhaps often overlooked, a runners-up spot in the Premiership with the Toon. No mean feat at that club. He also failed at Celtic, finishing second which is basically the same as relegation in the SPL (although he was only manager for 18 games). The difference, in relative terms, is second place just isn’t good enough for Dalglish. He won’t want recognition for a F.A. Cup final appearance, or two runners-up spots in the Premiership. That kind of recognition doesn’t appeal to winners. He won four league titles in eleven seasons in the top division (36% of the time). His teams have finished runner-up five times (45%). So, with three different clubs, he finished in the top two 81% of the time. Not bad. In percentage terms, I’d suggest he’s up there with the very best of all-time? He is also the only manager in the last 30 years to win the league with two different clubs. Again, not too shabby.

“But he’s outdated, and has been out of the game too long”

That has been said, including a hint of it here by the author and journalist Jonathan Wilson. Although Paul Tomkins here, with slightly more detail and analysis, outlines

It’s easy to paint Dalglish as someone who has been out of the game for too long (and back in the summer I shared some of those concerns), but since then, having spoken to those closest to him, I’ve come to see things differently. I appreciate that his work at the Academy since 2009 has acted as a refresher course (as were his discussions with Rafa Benítez), and if you have a great footballing mind, you can adapt. Dalglish was always a thinker. And with his son, Paul (who has managed in Major League Soccer), a big fan of the fast-pressing game of Pep Guardiola, the family is very much in touch with the modern game.

The article goes on to analyse his record at Blackburn and during his first spell as player/manager with Liverpool. It’s well worth the time to read the whole thing.

He hasn’t got the funds he had previously. He hasn’t got the players according to the majority of the footballing press. The squad is poor, and the club is heading for disaster by appointing a man based on romance and history. But Dalglish demands more, and taking his record into account, usually gets his own way.

Liverpool FC were on the verge of administration only three months ago. The team was playing long ball. They couldn’t scrape together consecutive victories with any regularity, they couldn’t even score when they played away from home. Humiliating cup defeats, sulking players, no new stadium, strange new owners, alien new directors of football (common, popular and effective everywhere else in the world, just ask Pep Guardiola), but, and this is the fundamental point, the crowds started to drop. The fans couldn’t take anymore. They had no belief, no hope, no vision and no future. Until the return of Dalglish?

He might not bring about miracles, but he has brought unity. Something Liverpool have not had since Hicks and Gillett started arguing. Since they started undermining the manager at the time (Rafa Benitez) by approaching Jurgen Klinsmann. The list continues until Hodgson was sacked. He was brought in by the old regime, the results were the worst since 29BC or BF(owler) or 1956. He was the wrong man, with the wrong tactics, at the wrong club, at the wrong time. A bad mix.

Now the club has a fresh start; new owners with a new long-term vision (read ‘Moneyball’ by Micheal Lewis for a rundown on their methods), a ‘new’ manager who understands the club, and a new assistant in Steve Clarke. Clarke worked under Mourinho, he’s ambitious, will know the ‘modern game’ and has had success in the Premier League. Is he being groomed to takeover and work under Commoli in a couple of years? He’s worked around another up and coming manager (now Porto manager) at Chelsea in Andre Villas-Boas (Jose M’s chief scout) and like this article suggests, certainly wants a crack at management. Remember who took over from a legend, with no managerial experience, and went on to lift trophies at a rate comparable with Ferguson, Wenger and Paisley, oh yes… King Kenny. I’m not sure about Clarke as future manager, but that has to be the mould. Young, talented and with a vision. Ferguson had a vision, to restore United to former glories. Wenger had a vision, to play attractive football, live within a viable financial structure and promote young players from within. If Dalglish, Clarke and J. W. Henry can create a mix of the two visions above, then nevermind a Darwin, God or the King, he will have done something no manager has ever achieved. Remove Alex Ferguson from that ‘fucking perch’. The impossible. Just ask God (or Dalglish with Blackburn) how hard that is.

(There may have been a little bias in this article)

George Allwell

The emotional and long awaited return of Kenny Dalglish (an L before the G as well as after!) is something that I am very happy about, his first game in charge was a throwback to the late 80’s battles with a match against the old enemy – Manchester Utd.

However several incidents during the match caused Ryan Babel to do something that is completely and utterly unacceptable…have a laugh. He posted a photoshopped picture of referee Howard Webb in a Man Utd kit.

Here is the picture in question…

…Oh and because I don’t have to be held to the same standard as Ryan here is another…

Thank god I’m not a professional footballer; otherwise I would be facing a massive fine and possibly a ban. I doubt it is possible but if anybody anywhere has a contact inside the F.A please, please show them this post to highlight how ridiculous it is to curtail free speech.

“Maybe I’ve been out of the game too long but let’s see if they can find a sense of humour”

And he joked:

“I don’t think he’s clever enough technically to have drawn that up himself.”

This surely shows that even Kenny himself doesn’t think of it as that bigger deal but the F.A have gone ahead and charged Babel anyway.

So can any pro footballers who might get to read this please, please, PLEASE use your right to free speech and say or post anything you wish, surely they won’t ban all of you.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.s. Don’t blame me if you have got banned, if I told you to jump off a cliff would you do that?

This has been one of the funniest set of video diary clips I’ve ever seen from a sports team. You don’t get comedy like this from £million T.V comics with massive budgets! Down to earth, they all seem to have a sense of humour… It highlights how relaxed all the test match squad were, not many massive ego’s and if there were, Swanny and co would deal with it! The first clip that started off ‘the sprinkler’ was hilarious and if you haven’t seen them, you must! Well done Swanny and the England Cricket Team.

I’m also pleased, and slightly surprised that the ECB decided to show highlights of each session, pretty much instantly, on their home website. Essential resource for people who don’t have Sky.

I’m sure that a lot of you will have read Will Swanton of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph’s 10 point plan as to why England won’t win the Ashes. So here it is, but with my take on Mr. Swanton’s ludicrous list.

1 Overrated

They walked around The Oval after their dominant home summer like they were God’s gifts to Wisden. Here’s who they really beat. No one. Nuffies and cheats. England clean-swept the worst team on the planet, Bangladesh, and then won three out of four Tests against rotten Pakistan. Now they’re portrayed as superstars.

You can only play who is put in front of you and England easily and nonchalantly dispatched both Bangladesh and Pakistan with ease, they were rightfully ranked above Australia before the Ashes so had every right to feel confident and be rated by the public.

2 Kevin Pietersen

He might be growing a moustache for a very good cause but he’s still getting around looking like Dirk Diggler out of Boogie Nights. His most recent Test efforts have been the biggest joke. John Buchanan was right with his assessment of Pietersen. Buchanan was panned because the truth hurt. There’s more than one ‘I’ in Kevin Pietersen and it hurts morale.

He wore the moustache for a charity that was started in Australia no less, but go ahead and mock anyway. Every batsman has a run of good and bad form but without doubt the Aussies would love KP to have been playing for them. 227 at Adelaide tells its own story too.

3 No top speedster

Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are respectable quicks. But they lack the fear factor. Every truly great attack has someone pushing 150km/h, like Mitchell Johnson does for Australia. None of the touring fast bowlers are frightening. Away from swing and seam-friendly England, that doesn’t leave them with much.

As it turns out, pace is overrated; England’s bowlers barely touched 90 mph (or 93.21 mph as they put it) but looked and indeed were, far more dangerous than the random selection of “bowlers” they put up. Johnson was so bad after the 1st test he was dropped for the 2nd, despite bizarre claims he was ‘rested’. The only time Johnson was dangerous was when he was swinging the ball, pace had nothing to do with it.

4 Passive captain

Andrew Strauss has to lead by example because his introverted demeanour doesn’t get the blood pumping too much. Only his scores do. He leads with quiet assurance when things are going well. But he comes across as introverted and submissive when things start going pear-shaped.

I don’t need to defend Strauss so I won’t, but Ponting needs to be questioned as captain surely? That is now three Ashes series defeats and during this series his captaincy was at times a joke. Strange field positioning, wrong bowlers at the wrong time and whatever you read to the contrary, it was Ponting that didn’t want Hauritz in the team. He ducked the last test and left poor pup to face the wrath of the media, he is one of the greatest players of all times but sometimes you need to do what’s right for the team. Learn from Paul Collingwood Mr Ponting.

5 No superstars

Pietersen is as good as anyone when he’s in the mood, but he hasn’t been in the mood for a long time. He couldn’t make a hundred against Bangladesh – his 99 was close but no cigar – and Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Johnson can smell blood. Graeme Swann is the only Englishman to make a world XI right now. England are successful because they know their limitations. Which means there are limitations?

A current world XI would include more Englishmen than Graeme Swann, I don’t believe however, that any Australians would make it in at all. Bollinger, Hilfenhaus and Johnson smell blood? Between them they didn’t take as many wickets as Anderson took on his own. Oh, and again, KP scored 227 in Adelaide.

6 Over-analysis

They’ve faced bowling machines with footage of Australian speedsters running in at them – and still didn’t want to know about Mitchell Johnson. They’ve given themselves three weeks in Australia to acclimatise but haven’t played on pitches like the monster they’ll encounter at the Gabba. Every breath they take is a part of a suffocating plan. There’s no freedom, nothing instinctive or adventurous. Paralysis by over-analysis.

At no point during the entire series did any of England’s batmen look like they were bothered or scared by the bowling of the Aussies. Is this because they are fearless by nature? Some are, but mostly it is because they prepared themselves and analysed the opposition properly. As for the machines that replicate Johnson’s bowling, you simply couldn’t make a machine be that random, other than one decent swinging spell he was incredibly ordinary. As for the “Monster of the Gabba”….517/1 is all I have to say to that.

7 No depth

In such a cramped schedule, injuries are bound to hit both camps. England are in serious strife if they lose any of their first XI. There’s a vast gulf between their top-tier players and those on the standby list. Australia can only hope and pray that off-spinner Monty Panesar is called in for Graeme Swann. Australia have eight Test-standard speedsters in the queue.

This is by far the stupidest of all of these 10 points, England lost Broad after two tests so Tremlett came in and took 17 wickets in 3 tests at an average of 23. Bresnan replaced a jaded Finn who had already taken 14 wickets at 33 and took 11 wickets at 19.5. Lots of numbers and facts but essentially, England’s “back-up” bowlers were almost better than the first choice attack. Also, anybody thinking Eoin Morgan wouldn’t have knocked at least a century against this very poor bowling attack is crazy.

8 Chokers

This is England we’re talking about. Losing is a tradition. Think soccer World Cups. Think Tim Henman at Wimbledon. Think every cricket tour of Australia since 1986-87. They always arrive talking themselves up, vowing they won’t wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny, then wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny. They’ve hired a self-described Yips Doctor – because they need one.

If they did hire a “Yips Doctor” then it worked a treat, but if we are talking about choking then England certainly isn’t the team that should be mentioned. Traditionally England do struggle in sporting events but when everything clicks, they are more than a match for anybody, the Australian rugby team who played in the  2003 world cup final will testify to that.

9 Warm-ups

Everyone keeps rattling on about England’s perfect preparation. They must be having a laugh. A few of them made runs at Adelaide Oval. It’s like batting on the Hume Highway. Anyone seen the scorecards? Western Australia rolled England for 223. South Australia dismissed them for 288 on the Hume. And Australia A ripped through their top order in Hobart A yesterday. Perfectly prepared? Piffle.

All of those matches showed where the problems were and what mistakes are being made, then they were all corrected when it really mattered, it was the Australians who peaked far, far too early in those games.

10 Scars

Five of their top six batsmen are the same lot who stumbled and bumbled through the 5-0 loss on England’s last trip to Australia. The scarring is deep and real. Jimmy Anderson’s memories of Australia are all nightmarish. He averaged 45.16. Broad and Finn are yet to play a Test series in Australia. Hard surfaces jarring bones and muscles, oppressive heat – they won’t know what or who has hit them.

I would suggest that instead of scarring those players it spurred them on to play at the highest possible level and with a mentality that was “we will not be beaten”. Six of England’s top seven batmen all scored centuries during the series and as for Jimmy Anderson, he was simply unplayable. Hard surfaces jarring bones and muscles, oppressive heat – they won’t know what or who has hit them – this must be how the Aussies feel.

Marcus J Mitchell & Will Swanton (sort of!)

Instead of our usual rundown of the worst ever misses, we decided this deserves a post all of it’s own. Veria FC were playing Levadiakos FC in the Greek 2nd division when they produced 5 point blank misses in the space of 11 seconds.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Veria are languishing towards the bottom of the league at the moment, still look more like scoring a goal than Liverpool do at the moment.


Marcus J Mitchell.

First and foremost I am a football fan, I love lots of sports but it’s instilled upon me to be a football fan, so I am used to seeing all sorts of players using gamesmanship to gain an advantage over the opposition. It could be making the most of a challenge, wasting time near the end of a match or claiming a corner or throw in when you know it went out off you.

I am also, and disappointingly, used to players outright cheating, it isn’t uncommon to switch on a live match, or highlights and see somebody pretending they have been hurt when tackled, or worst still, making out that they have been punched or kicked to try and get their opponent sent off.

But last night I saw something even worse than that, Philip Hughes fielding at short leg claiming a catch off Cook when he knew it had bounced first. This might seem like nothing to the eyes of a non-cricket fan but cricket is a different sport to football. In fact cricket is different to almost any sport in the world because in some respects the umpires are there just for decisions the players can’t make, but for everything else the players do the work for them.

It is the done thing that a batsman walks before being given out if he knows he hit it, same if a fielder knows he caught it, the umpire would simply ask the fielder if he did indeed catch it, if he said yes you take him at his word and the batsman is out.

That is what makes Hughes’ claim even worse, if you see a replay of it, he knows straight away he hasn’t caught it but is almost convinced by his team mates that he did, Cook stands his ground forcing the umpires to deliberate and check with the video umpire who, along with everyone at the ground and everyone watching around the world, see the ball bounce before going into Hughes’ hands.

Hopefully this isn’t the end of cricket as we know it, but there surely should be repercussions for Hughes, just because he is a dreadful cricketer doesn’t give him the right to cheat. But that is exactly what he attempted yesterday.

Phil, it’s just not cricket.

Marcus J Mitchell.

For those who didn’t know, I live in Llandudno, North Wales, so every now and again I make the journey to Wrexham to watch the mighty dragons, they currently reside in the Blue Square Premier League (formally the Conference) and are managed by former Liverpool and Wales legend, Dean Saunders.

Wrexham have had a shaky couple of years and to be honest are probably a league lower than they should be, but results and performances have not gone well and Saunders is consistently signing below par players.

So yesterday I popped along to The Racecourse Ground with a couple of friends and my fiancée’s mother (long story, not important) to check out the action. Now this piece was going to be a match report on the game, but I thought, as we write about The Premier League, The Ashes, World Cup etc, so why not something a little close to home, but after witnessing the birth of a new cult hero I thought I would scan over the game itself and then talk about him.

So let me introduce Mr. Mathias Pogba…

Now firstly you are thinking, ‘Pogba…that name rings a bell?’ well you would be right, Mathis’ younger brother Paul was the subject of a long dispute over his move to Manchester Utd from Le Harve, the dispute was settled and Utd have one of France’s top talents waiting to be introduced to the Premier League.

Back to Mathias, he started yesterday’s match Vs Bath City on the bench, he has made 6 appearances from the bench so far this season so that is where he is used to being. Wrexham started the game well with former Man City youngsters Curtis Obeng and Adrian Cieslewisz causing Bath all sorts of problems down the right flank with their pace, it was another run by Obeng into the box that earned Wrexham a penalty after he was bundled over by Mohamed.

Former Nott’m Forest striker Gareth Taylor dispatched the penalty to give Wrexham the lead at the break, after half-time Wrexham were by far the better team but couldn’t find that second goal, then on 69 minutes, Pogba was introduced. My friend I was sitting with, who is a real Wrexham fan gave his opinion on Pogba ‘He is shit’, fairly conclusive and he did his best to live up to that tag.

Tenacious work from Taylor left Pogba with a chance on goal, he tried about 8 stepovers and the defender easily took the ball from him, he seemed to make runs and find space like a good striker, but then he gets the ball and…It all kind of goes wrong.

Then his moment of glory came, on 86 minutes the excellent Jay Harris played a ball straight into Pogba’s path, he holds off the defender before calmly slotting the ball home for his first Wrexham goal making it 2-0 in the process, a great finish and a great celebration as he tries a Gyan like dance, not too shabby either.

However the real reason he became a hero came about 3 minutes later, he picked the ball up about 30 yards out, sidesteps the defender and goes for a pile driver on his left foot, only problem being he missed the ball completely, a fantastic air shot before falling flat on his face, a moment of pure genius.

If ever the phrase ‘sublime to the ridiculous’ was appropriate, then Mathias Pogba’s 3 minute cameo against Bath City surely demonstrated it.

Don’t take my words for it, here is what the Wrexham fans were singing at full time as we were leaving the stadium…

“Who needs Drogba…we’ve got Pogba”.

A star is born.

Marcus J Mitchell.