Friday, August 31, 2007

Weekend Matches: August 31-September 3

Interesting matches this week. AC Milan plays twice this weekend, first in the Super Cup today (which would be a great match) and Monday against my favorite team, Fiorentina. Hopefully Milan is a little tired by Monday. Regardless, all of the eyes of the football world will be in Manchester on Saturday, to see the combustible Roy Keane face off against his former team. May not be much of a game, but we shall se.


2:30pm AC Milan vs Sevilla FSC (UEFA Super Cup)


10:00am Fulham vs. Tottenham FSC

10:00am Liverpool vs Derby County Setanta Sports

12:00pm Manchester United vs Sunderland FSC

2:30pm Empoli vs Inter Milan FSC


8:30am Arsenal vs Portsmouth Setanta Sports

9:00am AS Roma vs Siena FSC

11:00am Aston Villa vs Chelsea FSC

11:00am Hamburg vs Bayern Munich GolTv


12:00pm AC Milan vs Fiorentina FSC

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beckham: Progress Report

It has now been almost two months since David Beckham officially joined the Los Angeles Galaxy and became a part of the MLS. Since this was easily the most newsworthy thing to happen to American league football since Pele left, I thought this would be a good time to see how things are going. Beckham’s arrival was supposed to change American soccer, and turn all of us into Football Fanatics. How’s it going so far?

The Good:

1). First and foremost, David Beckham, when he has played, has been very good. The Galaxy look like a different team when he is on the field (in other words, not awful) and Beckham himself looks like he is close to being the best player in the MLS already. Beckham’s ability to make lesser players around him look better is good for him personally and good for the MLS and American soccer as a whole.

2). David Beckham has made a lot of people (including himself) lots and lots of money in the few weeks he has been over here. Reportedly, the LA Galaxy has already earned back his salary on shirt sales alone. One would hope this would encourage other MLS owners to bring big stars over to play in the U.S.

3). David Beckham has brought a lot of attention to the game, just as everyone thought he would. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and has been responsible for tons and tons of ticket sales. When he has played, people seem to really enjoy watching him. His beautiful free kick against D.C. United is an iconic moment that played on sports reports across the country, something that doesn’t happen to often in America.

4). By all accounts, Beckham is a nice person who treats everybody with kindness and decency. He is as good an ambassador for the game as one could find.

The Bad:

1). He has been injured. A lot. He missed his first few games because of injury, came back in fits and starts, injured himself again, flew to England and played 90 minutes for the national team, injured himself again, and then finally seriously injured himself again last night playing in a silly tournament concocted to pit MLS teams against Mexican clubs. Any publicity momentum from his signing is long gone; America has turned its attention elsewhere, and the MLS may have a hard time getting it back.

2). Beckham’s selectivity in deciding where to play has been disappointing. He played in Washington, D.C. (which has natural turf) then claimed he was “injured” again for the New England Revolution game, which has artificial turf. He was remarkably healed again in time to play the New York Red Bulls the next week. He later disappointed fans the same way in Colorado. Doing this has earned him more detractors than he probably needs.

3). Beckham’s intense dedication to the English national team is admirable, but in doing so he has made the MLS (and by extension their fans) seem as if they are far less important to him. For example, Beckham flew 4,000 miles to play in an absolutely meaningless friendly in London. He then flies 4,000 miles back to L.A. to play a club game the next day, seemingly to prove how dedicated he is to his club. Doing this, of course, caused him to miss his next game, and probably led to his extended absence due to injury now. He should not have gone to England, as much as he wanted to. This may be the moronic Steve McClaren’s fault more than Beckham’s, but he is still left alienating American fans.

The Ugly:

I’ve written about this before, but the ugliest situation of all is how the MLS and the American clubs have tried to greedily cash in on the Beckham phenomenon with little regard for their own fans. Obviously, the MLS and teams in the league have been advertising Beckham’s arrival as bigger than anything that has happened to the MLS, and forcing their customers to pay for this “event.” As an example, consider what the Revolution did. I am most familiar with what the New England Revolution, as I am a season ticket holder. If one wanted to buy a ticket to the Beckham game (which was massively hyped by the Revs, who advertised Come See David Beckham, one had to purchase tickets to four games. Then, when Beckham announced he would not play (in retrospect, he was not as injured, probably, as he claimed) the Revs sanctimoniously announced that one buys a ticket to “see a team, not one person” which was entirely contrary to their advertising campaign throughout the season. To top it off, Beckham took the field in a tracksuit and most people in attendance (including myself) hoped he would play as a sub. The home announcer never let on that Beckham wouldn’t play, forcing the sell-out crown to stay, presumably to buy more beer and hot dogs.

I’m not picking on the Revs alone here. They have been undeniably sleazy by cashing in at the expense of gullible fans, but virtually every other club (and especially the Galaxy) has done the same. Beckham is largely uninvolved in this, but if he fully understood what was being done in his name, perhaps he would be less enthusiastic about the MLS.

The Grade (so far)

Beckham is a great player who has looked good when he has played. But it hasn’t been enough, and all the momentum from earlier this summer is lost. By cashing in with little regard for their fans, the MLS has looked exactly like the image it is trying to change: a small-time league pretending to be the big-time. Perhaps next year, which is probably the next time we will see David Beckham in a Galaxy shirt, they will get it right.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

GolTV Update

GolTV's website put up the following notice in regard to this last weekend of crummy TV broadcasts:

To Our Viewers:
First and foremost we want you, our viewers, to know that we value your following. At GolTV we care and aim to offer the best soccer as well as to uphold your expectations with regards to scheduled matches. Regrettably, and due to circumstances beyond GolTV's control, this weekend’s match of Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid were blacked out not only to GolTV's viewers, but to viewers worldwide. This black out stemmed from a conflict between the right holders and the locals transition company in Spanish. We are doing all that is in our power to resolve this situation and will do our very best to keep you informed should there be any further issues.

The long and the short of this is that GolTV apparently won't be showing any big games from Spain until this gets resolved. There is a rumor that is going around the internet (always the bastion of truth, of course) that someone owes someone else $80 Million, and until that gets resolved this rights issue won't get resolved. Whatever. In the meantime, if there is anyone who wanted to see how Henry was doing in Barcelona, or how Madrid was making out without any Galacticos, well, you might have to sit tight for quite some time.


In other news, the transfer rumors are going fast and furious. One plausible rumor has rotund Inter striker going somewhere, anywhere, by Friday. I can see that. Another more amusing rumor has Ronaldinho going to Chelsea. I doubt it, but I will also keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I have used this space, in the past, to complain about the coverage of football on GolTV, one of the “full time” soccer stations here in the United States. After a fun football weekend here, I don’t want to start on GolTV yet again, but I do feel like something needs to be said.

There are a number of outlets for watching soccer on television here in the states. ABC and ESPN have occasional coverage of the MLS and the Champions League, and various regional channels (especially non-English channels) focus on leagues in Mexico, Portugal, or Italy, depending on their language and expected audience. We also have a number of channels devoted fully to football programming, including Sentanta, which airs (mostly) games from England. The best soccer channel in the U.S. is surely Fox Soccer Channel, (FSC) which airs games from England and Italy, the MLS, internationals, and friendlies, as well as other leagues and various regularly-scheduled shows dedicated to football. All-in-all, I feel FSC does a pretty good job.

Then there is GolTV. In the past I have described the poor quality of game coverage on GolTV and the difficulty of listening to some of their announcers. One thing I have found particularly galling is the fact that GolTV always announces all of the games they broadcast from a studio in the United States. FSC, in contrast, presents the same feed that viewers see in England, featuring English announcers who are at the game. (Which makes a world of difference.)

Still, I watched GolTV often because they had the rights to some very good football. In particular, they broadcast games from Italy and Spain, two of my favorite leagues. Thus I was a little concerned when I realized this summer that FSC had gained the full rights to broadcast Italian games in the United States; GolTV would not longer show them. I was concerned not because FSC now had the rights; (as I said, they do a better job than GolTV) but because I still want to have multiple all-soccer stations here in the US following the basic idea that competition will increase the quality of everyone involved.

But I am now starting to have second thoughts. After watching this first weekend, I noted that FSC’s coverage is as strong as ever. GolTV’s, meanwhile, was just as abysmal as I remember it from last season. While they broadcast games from South America and elsewhere, there is no doubt that the premier games they still own the rights to are Spain’s la Lega. When I turned in this weekend, however, to watch first the Real Madrid game and later the Barcelona game, I saw with regret both times that the international feed of the broadcast had been cancelled.

Once again, I was left unsatisfied with GolTV. At then end of the day I don’t know if the fault of this particular boner was with GolTV or their overseas partners. I did note that again today the advertised Liverpool game that was supposed to be broadcast at 2pm EST was pushed back to 3pm, regardless of what GolTV’s viewers had previously been told.

GolTV needs to be careful. They no longer have Series A from Italy. The most famous player from the one big league they have left, David Beckham, is long gone. With a greatly weakened schedule and indifferent efforts to broadcast games for their viewers, fewer and fewer football people will be watching GolTV, and soon FSC, as good as it is, will have no competition at all, and viewer in the United States will end up as the real losers.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekend Matches: August 25-26

Yikes. I don’t even know where to start in describing this weekend. Just a great, great weekend to stay in and watch football. The Premiership goes on, as does the Bundesliga, while Italy and Spain kick into high gear. There are literally five or six games I want to watch, including Real Madrid’s, Juventus’, Manchester United’s, Sheffield United’s, and Inter’s. Its gonna be a busy weekend. And hopefully a great one.


7:45am Sunderland vs Liverpool Setanta Sports

9:00am Bayern Munich vs Hannover 96 GolTv

10:00am Arsenal vs Manchester City FSC

10:00am Chelsea vs Portsmouth Setanta Sports

12:15pm Sheffield United vs West Brom Setanta Sports

2:00pm Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid GolTv

2:30pm Juventus vs Livorno FSC

4:00pm Sevilla vs Getafe GolTv

4:30pm Lazio vs Torino FSC


9:00am Inter Milan vs Udinese FSC

11:00am Manchester United vs Tottenham FSC

1:00pm Racing vs Barcelona GolTv

2:30pm Palermo vs AS Roma FSC

One last thing: apparently Roy Keane has come out and publicly defended referees. Essentially, he said that Refs are only human and that we all make mistakes and that we shouldn’t take the game so seriously and just ease off.

I know, the end of the world is now coming. I hope it holds off until the end of the season. Roy’s crazy comments can be found here:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bayern Munich

Although I am becoming almost unhealthily excited at the prospect of both the Italian and Spanish football leagues beginning this weekend, I would like to turn my attention briefly to the Bundesliga and, more specifically, to Bayern Munich.

To be honest, I am just not into German football. Between England, Italy, Spain, the MLS and the occasional international, I have about as much football watchin’ on my plate as I can handle. If I pick up one more league my lovely bride might decide she’s seen enough of both the beautiful game and me.

But I’ve seen every Bayern Munich game so far in the young season. I am fairly indifferent to the club as a whole, since as I’ve said I have no real attachment to German football. I decided to watch the games because the club employs one of my favorite players, Luca Toni, who formerly played for one of my favorite clubs, Fiorentina. I also enjoy the work of Franck Ribery, who is always fun to watch.

Aside from this, I really didn’t expect to really get a kick out of watching Bayern. But so far they have been a revelation; the best team in this very young season in all of Europe. They play Toni up from with the equally-dangerous Lukas Podolsk and Miroslav Klose. In the midfield they have Ribery on the right (who frequently drifts to center and orchestrates the action) along with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ze Roberto. They play Philipp Lahm and Christian Lell in back in front of the redoubtable Oliver Kahn. So far they have played very smooth attacking football with emphasis on crisp passing. They are deadly on the counter attack and tough on defense. In some ways their approach reminds me of Real Madrid’s Galactico project from five years ago, but Bayern has a much better balance between offence and defense. They should win the Bundesliga easily.

Hey, it’s easy to make fun of Bayern and some of their players. The team is a very big fish in a (somewhat) small pond that can’t match their popularity at home abroad, as the other big clubs seem to be able to do. And mercenary players like Ribery and (as much as it pains me to say it) Toni look foolish for claiming they want to play Champion’s League football and then signing for Bayern because of the money. So be it. But beautiful football is beautiful football, and that is what Bayern Munich is playing right now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Busy Day of Friendlies

Today I spent a less-than active day parked in front of my television set watching internationals. Always hyped to the hilt, internationals can be a mixed bag: they can bring out the passion and excitement, but some matches (especially friendlies) tend to be bores. Here’s what transpired:

1:00pm: I started the day with the second half of the Portugal-Armenia game on Sentanta. The game was 1-1 in the first half and that’s how it finished. Not that I knew that while I was watching it: they never showed the game clock or the score during the second half, so I had only a vague idea the teams were tied. On top of that, because the game was played in Armenia, the footage was all grainy, like the Zapruder film. I kept waiting for the motorcade with JFK to go by. Perhaps Christiano Ronaldo was the second gunman?

2:00pm: After Portugal I switch over to watch the end of the Brazil-Algeria game. Saw Ronaldinho score. Spent most of the game fantasizing about the upcoming Brazil-USA friendly which will be played in Foxboro Stadium, my home soccer stadium. Will Kaka and the other big names come to Massachusetts? Ah, the drama.

2:30pm: Live on Fox Soccer Channel, its USA v. Sweden! My Dad, who watches part of the match with me, is positively startled by the size of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s nose. The game finishes 1-0 Sweden, but the US really doesn’t play all that badly. As with everyone else, they need to finish their chances. Benny Feilhaber continues to impress me.

5:00pm: The main event, England v. Germany. Kind of like World War Two, except without the bombings and the genocide and the whatnot. Germany wins 2-1, but England actually plays pretty well. Beckham, Micah Richards and fat Frank Lampard all look good for the Three Lions. Paul Robinson, er, does not. By the time the game has ended English columnists are already filing stories killing mildly-retarded England skipper Steve McClaren for flying Beckham 8,000 miles to play a full 90 minutes on a bum ankle for a friendly. If he then loses Beckham for the next three months (and thus blows his shot at qualifying for Europe) he really only has himself to blame.

Regardless, a rare fun of day of international friendlies. But back to business this weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Premiership: Two Weeks In

(Author’s note: I refuse to call it the Premier League. Premiership just rolls of the tongue.)

As the world takes a breather for internationals, we here at the fan-atic want to take a moment to see how things are going in the English top division. Here are my thoughts after a few weeks of action:

  • Anyone who read my Premiership predictions column knew I liked Manchester City this year, and I’m glad that at least appears that I know what I am doing. I don’t really expect them to win the league, but I still feel they will do well. Anyone who read a book like Forza Italia (by Paddy Agnew) or was just interested in Italian football knows Eriksson is a good coach; obviously he didn’t get the English National Team job by accident. One could argue as well that he did about as well as he could with the English team, as he usually finished each tournament in eighth or ninth place, and it is certainly reasonable to argue that England is the eighth or ninth best team in the world, regardless of what the English press say. Anyway, Eriksson is a good coach, and I am glad to see him doing well.
  • Manchester United, in contrast, does not look good. I never thought their problem would be scoring goals. One of my close friends thinks Ryan Giggs is done; I’m not so sure, but I would like to have seen him finish a few more chances in the season’s first three games. I think they will be allright once they get Ronaldo back in two games and Rooney in a few months. But will the season be done by then? And will Fergie make a panic buy in the meantime?
  • Chelsea: good, but still boring.
  • Liverpool has been more fun to watch than in season’s past, and Fernando Torres has settled in nicely. When Shevchenko was struggling with Chelsea last season everyone said that players need a season to become accustomed to the grind and physicality of the Premiership. Apparently Torres never got that letter.
  • Obafemi Martins is fun to watch.
  • Apparently the bookies in London have stopped taking bets on fat Martin Jol winning the sack race. (The first manager in the league to get shitcanned.) My money is still on lil’ Sammy Lee of Bolton.
  • I’m glad to see David Healy is doing well with Fulham. I think I may be the only person in America who regularly wears a David Healy shirt. (Northern Ireland.)
  • Lastly, (and this is Championship news, and not Premiership) my club Sheffield United is in 19th place in the Championship. I asked a club employee this week how new coach Bryan Robson was doing. The employee answered, quite politically, that everyone was impressed by Robson’s ‘professionalism.’ Great. Robbo is a professional. He shows up on time wearing a clean shirt. Now if only we could win some games…

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weekend Matches: August 18-19

Yay! The return of my weekly Friday column, ‘Weekend matches.’ That can only mean that there is some fun and meaningful football on this weekend. Highlights include Bayern Munich (with their own collection of galacticos to rival the gang at Barca) and that old-tyme galactico David Beckham doing his thing for the Galaxy. The best matches again are on Sunday (as it has been for the past few weeks) highlighted by a Manchester derby that has lost a little luster and the Liverpool-Chelsea clash. Should be fun.


9:30am Werder Bremen vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Reading vs Everton FSC

12:00pm Newcastle vs Aston Villa FSC

2:30pm Birmingham vs West Ham Setanta Sports

2:30pm Wigan vs Sunderland FSC

7:30pm New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy FSC


8:30am Manchester City vs Manchester United Setanta Sports

11:00am Liverpool vs Chelsea FSC

4:00pm Real Madrid vs Sevilla Telemundo

5:00pm San Lorenzo vs River Plate FSC

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beckham Scores and Premiership Thoughts

In spite of my frustrations with the David Beckham saga over the past week, he scored off a sweet free kick last night in his first start for the LA Galaxy. All hype aside, he played great (scored one and set up another) and generally treated the game like it was a scene from a sports film. That why he gets the big bucks, I guess. His goal can be seen here:

In other news, Chelsea has still not yet closed the deal on the great Daniel Alves, although it looks like that is still coming. Chelsea actually desperately needs the defensive help after Ricardo Carvalho joined John Terry in the treatment room with an injury. Alves is a fantastic player, will help on defense, and will certainly make the dreadfully boring Chelsea a little more fun to watch.

One disappointment of the early days of the Premier League season is that Manchester United will be playing in their Sunday derby with Manchester City without their two best players, Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo, the latter of whom is out three games with a red card. Too bad, as at full strength Manchester United is one of the most fun teams in the world to watch. Still, I am so far happy with my controversial "Manchester City will finish 5th" prediction.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Roy Keane at it Again

I used to think Roy Keane was an insufferable prick. The most negative bastard alive. I then read his autobiography, (which I have reviewed on this website) and found it to be incredibly refreshing and honest, one of the few genuinely great football books I have ever read. It was so honest, in fact, that I kind of started liking Roy Keane as a result. Mind you, I still know he is pretty much an angry jerk.

Roy Keane is now the Manager of Sunderland, and by any account he is doing a great job. He was promoted from the Championship in his first year and is now 1-0 in the Premiership. However, he has become more and more frustrated at his lack of ability to get good players to move up to the sticks and play for his not-so-famous club. Yesterday he inevitably lashed out, blaming the wives and girlfriends of the players who wouldn't sign for him, claiming these men are too cowed by the ladie's desire to be close to the shopping scene in London. Here are a few of the better outbursts:

Sunderland manager Roy Keane has launched a withering attack on 'weak and soft' players who are dictated to by their wives and girlfriends.

Keane, famous for his tirade against corporate Manchester United fans who he dubbed 'the prawn sandwich brigade' when he was captain at Old Trafford, said some players were not interested in playing for clubs outside the English capital.

...'I think it's weak. You see it with a couple of big players now. Clearly their wives and girlfriends are running their lives and that's a bad sign. I realise it is part of the package and more so when there are children and schools involved, but ultimately you're a footballer.

'Retire at 35 or 36, you can live wherever you bloody well like -- London, Monaco, wherever -- and any half-decent footballer will be a multi-millionaire anyway.
'Why is there such a big attraction with London? It would be different if it was Chelsea, Arsenal or maybe Tottenham, but when they go to a smaller club just because it's in London, then it's clearly because of the shops.'

...'Their priorities are not the same as mine. We will do the best for our players' families, but we've had a player this summer who didn't even ring us back because his wife wanted to move to London. And shopping was mentioned. It might astonish many people, but it's true,' he said.

Yes, Roy. It's just because of the shopping. I'm sure it has nothing to do at all with the club, the money, or even with you.

Meh. I still like him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mailbag and more on Beckham

Grant Wahl, the fine Sports Illustrated writer, has an occasional mailbag about U.S. Soccer which always has some fun tidbits. It can be found here:

I found his writing on Beckham to be particularly interesting this week, especially his take on the sleazy way the New England Revolution handled the whole thing. To quote Mr. Wahl:

Well, if you're talking about Beckham's on-field efforts, let's be honest: The guy has only played for 20 minutes in a competitive MLS game, and there's no denying that Beckham's lingering ankle injury has been a huge buzz-kill for ticket-buyers (like the ones in New England, who had to buy tickets for four games if they wanted to see Beckham, only to have Becks not dress for the game in Foxborough on Sunday).

Still, I try to bring the voice of reason to this column, and Beckham's standard line these days ("I'm here for five years") is worth remembering. It's not like he's faking the injury, after all, and he's in a tight spot.

Would Becks and the Galaxy have been better served if he'd stayed in L.A. to rehab his ankle instead of playing only 20 minutes on the Galaxy's three-game road trip?

Sure, but it would have been a p.r. disaster if Beckham hadn't at least been in the stadiums. (I do have a problem, however, with the fact that it was never announced to the fans in New England that Beckham was unavailable to play. It reeked of an attempt to keep people in the stands -- and buying concessions -- for as long as possible.)

I'm not trying to beat dead horse with this, but just point out that I'm not quite crazy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Assorted Injury Bullshit, parts I & II

Last night the David Beckham Traveling Roadshow came to Foxboro, Massachusetts as the LA Galaxy took on the New England Revolution. I was there as always (I have season tickets) and can report that it was a strange, frustrating experience.

We left home early to get to the game. Normally, anywhere from 8-12,000 people attend regular season Revolution games. This means that I can normally arrive at the stadium ten minutes before kick-off, watch the game, and leave immediately afterwards. For David, however, we left two HOURS before the game, and it took us nearly an hour to get there. We were comfortably in our seats 45 minutes before the game. The Revs reported that 32,000 seats had been sold for the game.

David Beckham did not play. We did not know it in the stands, but he did not even dress for the game. (He was wearing a tracksuit that looked like his uniform.) He did not warm up, and only came out a few moments before kickoff. He signed autographs for children before the game and apparently signed more for a half-hour after the game ended. The crowd had a weird vibe, partially because so many of them seemed unfamiliar with soccer and partially because almost everyone expected Beckham to play at some point. When they showed Becks on the big screen in the 88th minute, he was roundly booed.

The Revs won 1-0 on a nice Taylor Twellman goal, and thus there was a happy ending. But the crowd (and myself) were disappointed that Beckham didn’t play, especially as he played 20+ minutes in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night. I left a little disappointed that I didn’t see the big star and wondering if the Revs would ever get that kind of crowd again.

A few other thoughts from the evening:

  • If there was any one element of the experience that was more frustrating that any other, it was the sanctimonious bullshit being slung by the Revs, the Galaxy, and the MLS. All we have heard from all three organizations since January was about David Beckham. As a Rev’s season ticket holder I can assure you I have received countless emails and ads proclaiming ‘Come see David Beckham!’ But when Beckham got hurt, the mantra changed, and weasels like Alexi Lalas started mouthing the line ‘You buy a ticket to see a team, not one man.’ Fair enough, but that makes the sleazy ad campaign deceiving and a bit frustrating. And extra sleaze props have to go to the New England Revolution, who made fans buy tickets to four games just to get a ticket to the Beckham match. Nice money-making scam, and I am quite sure no refunds will be offered.

  • Some of the fans at the match were ridiculous. The crowd seemed largely split between those who openly wanted to see Beckham and those pretending to be fanatical Revs fans who spent most of the game screaming obscenities at the Englishmen. The problem was that I had never seen many of the “fanatical” Revs fans before, even though I have season tickets. I have a feeling these fanatics won’t be attending any more Revs game sin the future.

  • Lastly, there’s Beckham himself. I like Beckham and am a fan. I also understand that there is nothing you can do about injuries, and that Beckham is not soft; if he isn’t playing, he’s genuinely hurt. He was also a good guy for signing all that stuff for the kids. But he made a rare faux-paux earlier in the week when he claimed he may not play in New England because of the artificial turf; a premonition that sadly came true. Beckham backtracked when he realized his mistake, but the truth is he knew this league had artificial turf when he signed up, and he is going to have to learn to play on it.

In other depressing injury news, Wayne Rooney broke his foot yesterday and is likely out for two months. I’m not a big Rooney fan, but I wanted to see him in that side, especially playing alongside handsome Carlos Tevez. Football is always more fun when the best players are on the field, so this is sad news for fans of the Premiership and Manchester United. Will Rooney turn into one of those players who has enormous promise but never quite fulfills it? He has had THREE broken foot bones in his young career, and could use some unbroken playing time. Come back soon, Roonster! We need some cheering up here at that Fan-atic!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Predictions: Spain!

As we inch ever closer to the big kick-off of the Premiership tomorrow, I will turn briefly to Spain, as I take some wild stabs at how the league will finish next year. Obviously all eyes (at least here in the states) will continue to big on Barcelona and Real Madrid, where the big names and big feuds continue to dominate. Here are my picks:

1) Barca
2). Real Madrid
3). Sevilla
4). Zaragosa
5). Valencia
6). Villareal
18). Real Betis
19). Almeria
20). Vallodolid

Not much explaining to do here, as the table is very close to how the league finished last year. Essentially, I just decided that I couldn’t deny how great the front line of Henry, Messi, Eto, and Ronaldinho looks, at least on paper. We’ll see how they do in real life in a few weeks. My heart is with Real Madrid, and I like many of the signings they’ve made this year, including their manager Bernd Shuster. But for Real this is their sixth manager in five years, and until they get some stability and consistency in that strange, madhouse of a stadium I think they are going to find the success they found last year to be elusive. Look out, however, if they let Schuster do his thing for more than a year; right now they are building a team, not a collection of galacticos.

I still like Sevilla in the top three (and close to the top) but we’ll se what happens with the rumors of Alves going to Chelsea, as if they need another attacking fullback. I have Zaragosa improving a little on last season and Valencia and Villareal rounding out the top six. I predict that two out of the three promoted teams, Almeria and Vallodlid, will be going back down.


As I said, there is a great slate of games this weekend as the Premiership kicks off once again. All eyes are on the cheerful Roy Keane as he makes his Prem debut as a manager, and fans wonder if, once again, the season will see a two (or four) horse race or whether other teams will be allowed to compete.

I will be back early next week with thoughts on opening weekend and also my final predictions column, on the Champions League! Finally, I will also be attending David Beckham's traveling roadshow on Sunday night as the LA Galaxy play the New England Revolution. If the big fella plays, I will give you the scoop.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Predictions: Series A

Although Italian football does not begin yet for a few weeks, I thought I would continue in the risky game of predictions with one of my favorite leagues, Series A.

A few notes of caution should be included whenever anyone is making predictions about Italian football. First, I will be making predictions based on who I think are the best teams, and NOT based on who is best at, say, bribing referees and gaming the system. I am also basing these picks (and desperately hoping) that the season is played in one continuous run without any extended breaks for murdered policemen or anything like that. Finally, since I’m doing this early, I believe I should be allowed a mulligan if there are any other major transfers between now and September. Okay, without further delay…

Series A Picks 2007-2008

1). Fiorentina

2). Inter

3). Milan

4). Roma

5). Lazio

6). Juventus


18). Cagliari

19). Catania

20). Genoa

Obviously, I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. I picked Fiorentina partly out of sentiment; they are my favorite Italian team. But they were also very strong last year, finishing 5th despite being deducted fifteen points for the, er, match-fixing. They’ve lost my favorite player, Luca Toni, but they seem to be very strong up front with Mutu and Piazzini. I would love to be in Florence the night they clinched Series A.

I do think Inter will follow their strong season with another, and I have them finishing 2nd. I have Milan 3rd, based on the ability of last year’s club strengthened by a full year of the Phenomenon and (hopefully) more games by my favorite player, Yoann Gourcuff. Roma, Lazio and Juve round out the top six.

I have Cagliari, Catania, and Genoa going down. As with my English picks, I have two promoted teams staying up: those crazy fellas from Naples and Juventus, who will cheat to stay up if they need to. Of course, all of these picks are just blind guesses. I think most followers of Italian Football will be happy if we can simply get through a season without any criminal investigations or, more importantly, without anyone being killed.

NEXT: la Liga!

One last quick note: Yesterday’s Charity Shield match in Wembly was fun and full of attacking football. It served as a real “might-have-been” for last year’s FA Cup final. If we see more of that during the season, we should have a fun premiership.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Predictions: Premiership

One of the things I want to do over the next week or two is to get my season predictions for the big European Leagues out there. I am going to do the Premiership, Series A, la Liga, and the Champions League, for reasons little better than because those are the leagues I like and follow, and thus the ones I actually know a little about.

In each league I am not going to go so far as to try and predict the entire table, but I am going to take a stab at what the top of the table will look like, and I will also let you know who I am thinking about going down. Without further ado, let’s get stated; just to head off any potential e-mailers out there (whether you are going to write tomorrow or in May) please be aware these are little more than blind guesses. I wouldn’t particularly bet the farm on any of this.

Predicted Premiership Final Table, 2007-2008

1). Chelsea

2). Manchester United

3). Liverpool

4). Arsenal

5). Manchester City

6). Aston Villa

7). Newcastle


18). West Ham

19). Wigan

20). Derby

At the top of the table, the temptation was to pick Manchester United to repeat, especially with Carlos Tevez being added. (That was just confirmed today.) I do like Manchester and obviously think they will do well. But Chelsea (who I hate watching) played impressive football last year, in spite of numerous injuries and bringing a number of new players into the squad. This year they are fresher, and have had a season to gel as a club. I also admit I have to admire the fact that Chelsea played in the maximum number of games possible last year and competed in every one: they won the league cup, got to the final of the FA cup, competed in the league until the last possible moment, and got to the semis of the Champions League. I think they are a great team masked by the fact that they are INCREDIBLY boring to watch. That’s why I picked them to win, although I assure you I would much prefer United.

I have Liverpool third, and hope that with the addition of Torres that can compete a little more in the league. I have Arsenal fourth, and obviously believe they will not be destroyed by the loss of Henry. I also think it will b too much for them to overcome the loss to win the Premiership, however.

I picked the five, six and seventh team based on my respect for coaching. Manchester City is probably the only real surprise pick I am making, and it is out of respect for Erickson, who is remembered by the world as a half-decent England Manager (at best) but was a phenomenal leader of club teams, particularly Lazio in Series A in the 1990s. I do believe good times are ahead for the blue half of Manchester, and also think Aston Villa and Newcastle will have solid years under good coaches.

At the bottom, the most noticeable thing is that I believe two of the clubs that come up will stay up; I think Sunderland and Birmingham will bee all right. I think Derby, however, has a weaker team and will go down along with Wigan, who always plays hard. Finally, I obviously think this is the year West Ham goes down as well. I don’t think they’ve done enough to improve their team, but I also think the bad karma from their cheatin’ ways will come back to haunt them.

Next: Series A.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

New Season!

Just wanted to write a quick note to everyone today to let you all know that I am officially back from my mini-break from the Football Fan-atic site. It was a good time to take a break; I sort of despise a lot of the off-season football press, including the constant speculation about who-goes-where and the made-up stories that get play for a few days from a bored media. I also could have done without writing about the David Beckham hype for the last month. So instead I just relaxed and watched football without writing about it, catching the Gold Cup, the Copa America, the MLS, and some matches from South America. I am ready and very excited for the new European season, however, as well as the second half of an admittedly fun MLS campaign. Over the next couple of days I will be offering predictions (i.e. blind guesses) about some of the races in Europe, and I will also be making some slightly more educated predictions about where the MLS teams will finish up. Of course, we'll soon be back in the thick of it, as England's Community Shield is this weekend (Manchester United v. Chelsea) and things go from there. I hope everyone is looking forward to the new season as much as I am. Also, thanks to the readers who wrote in asking about me during the break. (All three of you.)

Finally, a note of congratulations to my good friends Matthew and Fritha, who brought fourth a new fan of Newcastle United this weekend, the beautiful Kate Elizabeth. May the Magpies win SOMETHING in the poor girl's lifetime.