Friday, 29 January 2010

You can stick yer green and gold scarves where the sun dont shine!!

The 'Greater' Manchester?

Reading some of the reports from the Craling Cup semi final, you'd get the impression that White Knight Wayne Rooney had slayed some sort of huge sky blue mythical dragon-like creature once and for all and that by reaching the Carling Cup final, he and princess Neville can ride off into the sunset once and for all to live happily ever after. While they may have come through this particular battle and feel that they have vanquished their closest rival, the penniless scroungers from Salford would be unwise to ignore their nearest and dearest after City most definitely gave a fantastic account of themselves over the two legs and have shown that the gap between the two teams which as recently as 10 years ago resembled a huge gaping chasm, has narrowed significantly. An injury time winner is far from conclusive proof that United somehow remain the dominant Manchester side and even less of an indication that they will continue to be so in the coming future.

That said, IF United are to continue their dominance, much of it will be down to the form, fitness and motivation of Wednesday's match winner Wayne 'White Pele' Rooney who this week has gone out of his way to remind everyone just who the hell he is with not one but two match-winning performances. Reminding... with a vengeance! The team 'one man team' is often bandied about far too frequently, but at times, it does carry some significant weight it has to be said...

Much of the reason United are so reliant on 'Wazza' is because of their reluctance/inability to fork out the money for one Carlos Tevez who once again proved his worth with yet another goal against his former team. His 18th in total this season.

The Surrey-based mob that follows the debt-ridden penny pinchers from Old Trafford once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons by choosing an inventive way of giving Craig Bellamy some early Valentine's Day presents (although many might suggest that pelting Craig Bellamy is something to be praised, not punished...) but that wasn't their biggest crime in my eyes. What really irks me is this ridiculous campaign and those ridiculous green and yellow scarves they wear in protest while still paying through the nose for tickets. Yes, these fans who are so angry with the Glazer regime are voicing their anger by wearing a scarf but at the same time putting more money into the pockets of their perceived oppressors by continuing to attend games. Not exactly the best way to make a statement is it?

Sticking vaguely with the derby and it looks as though the marquee signing of the new City regime Robinho has played his last game for the club as he sets sail for home. While he may have left some decent memories for City fans during his time - particularly during the first half of his debut season - it would be very difficult to suggest his time at Eastlands was anything close to a success with his recent double-substitution against Everton summing up what many have suggested about his inconsistency and supposed unwillingness to put in 100% in every game. Despite his talent. Will he be missed ultimately? Doubtful.


[Refuses to use any Toto puns]

The latter rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations have all of sudden got very exciting. The quarter finals saw Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroun both crash out in spectacular fashion against Algeria and Egypt respectively; leading to what has become football's biggest grudge match in the semi final.

For those that don't know, tension between the two nations has led to a rivalry that boiled over during qualification for the 1990 World Cup when the Pharaohs defeated Algeria in a match that saw fans rioting, players coming to blows and even the Egyptian team doctor being blinded!

The final stages of qualifying for this summer's world cup saw Egypt grab a last gasp goal against Algeria in their equally controversial final group game (The Algerian team coach was attacked on route to Cairo, fans from both sides attacked each other and on the pitch, the crucial goal came in the 96th minute of the match). The goal meant the two finished with identical records and were forced into a play off match which took place in Sudan. Algeria triumphed amidst reports of yet more attacks and fighting to book their place in the World Cup where of course they will face England.

Anyway, coming back to this tournament, Egypt would be looking for revenge and in a match any sane watcher could only describe as chaotic, the Pharoahs took thie revenge in style with a 4-0 win. In all fairness, they were helped on their way as Algeria pushed the self destruct button in emphatic style losing 3 men to red cards including Portsmouth Nadir Belhadj for one of the worst tackles you are ever likely to see and goal keeper Faouzi Chaouchi who was clearly not grateful for his good fortune in not getting sent off for head-butting the referee (yes, you read that right!) later kicked out at Mohamed Nagui and got his belated and most certainly deserved marching orders.

Egypt will look to seal their third successive ACN crown against the Black Stars of Ghana who beat huge rivals Nigeria 1-0 in a game where the Super Eagles redefined the idea wastefulness in front of goal as they squandered chance after frustrating chance.


Mighty Reds march on/Eagles plummeting

Filtering down to the Championship, I'm not going to hide my uncontrollable joy at the renaissance currently taking place at The City Ground. This week, the Mighty Reds humiliated QPR to consolidate the second automatic promotion place and go 19 games unbeaten in the league. Billy Davies has managed to turn around a team potentially staring relegation square in the mush and a swift return to League One last season into genuine promotion contenders.

As the result against Rangers would suggest, the rise has come from playing open attacking football with the likes of Majewski, Cohen, Blackstock and Earnshaw all playing their part. With Wes Morgan marshalling the backline and the vastly underrated Lee Camp in goal, the importance of defensive discipline has also not gone ignored evidenced by a recent run of 6 consecutive clean sheets and the fact the team have only conceded more than one goal in a match on just two occasions all season; the last of which coming at the tail end of September meaning Forest are tighter at the back than a constipated virgin.

Admittedly, with a number of games to go, Forest could collapse faster than a US investment bank. But for the meantime, dreams of a return to the Premier League after over a decade away could become a reality despite the protestations of the man at the helm. Davies is naturally wary of his current team suffering the same fate as his last, who, as luck would have it, Forest face this weekend in the East Midlands derby; a match that has become quite heated once again in recent years thanks in part to everyone's favourite footballer Robbie Savage.

Whether Davies and Forest have what it takes to seal promotion remains to be seen but they are certainly where they are on merit.

Incidentally, the only time I have had a chance to see the reds in person was at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace back in October who themselves have been in the news this week. Unfortunately, due to the fact they have about as much money as Woolworths (apologies for the dated reference but this bloody economic recovery has made it hard to think of decent finance related metaphors for the ever-increasing posse of football clubs in monetary meltdown) and have gone into administration.

Regardless of what you may think of the man, Neil Warnock has performed nothing short of miracles to get Palace within touching distance of the players considering the fact he barely had tuppence to spend on strengthening his team this summer and the fact he has had the task of motivating a team that hasn't seen a pay check since Dougie Freedman's first spell at the club (or so I've been led to believe).

The impending sale of the talented Victor Moses should help steady the financial ship somewhat but the club will be in a precarious position with the ten point deficit and the loss of their best player. The remainder of the season looks fairly bleak for the Eagles.

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