FIFA World Player Of The Year shortlist announced

Three players have been placed on the FIFA World Player Of The Year awards shortlist. One of the players play's at Chelsea while the other two play at Spanish giants Barcelona. Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o are the three players and I persopnaly think that the result of the winner is a four gon conclusion, Ronaldinho. On Monday the 25-year-old Brazilian, who this year also won the inaugural FIFpro award, was named the 2005 European Footballer of the Year.

Ronaldinho with the award last year

Lampard, the footballer of the year in England last season, came second to Ronaldinho for the European award. It is the first time the Chelsea midfielder has been shortlisted for the Fifa award, which will be announced on 19 December. On Saturday Lampard broke the record for consecutive appearances in the Premiership. He marked his 160th appearances in a row with a goal in the 2-0 away against Portsmouth.

Previous Fifa World Player of the Year winners:
2004 - Ronaldinho
2003 - Zinedine Zidane
2002 - Ronaldo
2001 - Luis Figo
2000 - Zinedine Zidane
1999 - Rivaldo
1998 - Zinedine Zidane
1997 - Ronaldo
1996 - Ronaldo
1995 - George Weah
1994 - Romario
1993 - Roberto Baggio
1992 - Marco van Basten
1991 - Lothar Matthaus


Abel to appeal against drugs ban

Middlesbrough defender Abel Xavier has decided to appeal against FIFA's decision to ban him from playing football for another 18 months. The 32-year-old tested positive for a banned steroid after Boro's Uefa Cup game in Xanthi on 29 September. Uefa has confirmed Xavier has lodged an appeal and a hearing is likely to take place early in 2006. Xavier has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and is understood to have told Uefa he unknowingly took the drug in a contaminated supplement. The former Liverpool and Everton player was banned at a hearing in Nyon after being found guilty of testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid dianabol.

Uefa said in a statement: "The player was found guilty of being in breach of the Uefa anti-doping regulations. As a result, the Uefa control and disciplinary body decided to impose an 18-month ban on Abel Xavier." Middlesbrough have yet to make an official response to Xavier's ban but it is believed they will immediately terminate his contract if his appeal is turned down. The club signed the Portuguese international for a year on a free transfer in August following his release by Italian side Roma. He has been capped 20 times by Portugal and has played for both Liverpool and Everton as well as Benfica, Galatasaray and PSV Eindhoven.

I personaly think that there isn't a chance of FIFA changing their decision to ban Xavier for 18 months. In the first place I think Xavier was stupid for taking the drugs. I am very much behind FIFA in these kind of cases because it's about time that the matter should be taking much much more seriously and I think Xavier's ban should of been about 24 months instead of the 18 month ban that was handed out.


Match Of The Day: Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn

Club record goalscorer Thierry Henry became the first player to net 100 goals at Highbury as Arsenal were made to work for victory over Blackburn. Cesc Fabregas shot Arsenal into an early lead but Rovers reacted strongly with Craig Bellamy a constant threat. Henry made it 2-0 just before half-time as Arsenal looked comfortably on top. Bellamy and David Thompson went close with headers as Rovers refused to give up, before Robin van Persie's stunning late effort gave Arsenal all three points. Great result for the Gunners and it lifts them to 2nd in the Barclays Premiership table. Full match report: BBC Football, Sky Sports.

Other Premiership results from Saturday:

Aston Villa 1-0 Charlton, Attendance: 30,032
Davies 68

Man City 0-1 Liverpool, Attendance 47,015
Riise 60

Sunderland 0-1 Birmingham, Attendance 32,442
Gray 67

Wigan 1-2 Tottenham, Attendance 22,661
Wigan: McCulloch 89 and Tottenham: Keane 7, Davids 76

Portsmouth 0-2 Chelsea, Attendance 20,182
Crespo 26, Lampard 66 (p)


Boro fan stabbed to death in Amsterdam

A middlesbrough fan has been fatally stabbed whilst in Amsterdam after Boro's UEFA Cup game against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday. Police have also confirmed that another man suffered serious injuries following the match which took place around about 40 miles from the Dutch capital.A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "We are in regular contact with police in Holland following information received by Cleveland Police this morning of an attack that took place in Amsterdam."This incident resulted in the death of one man and severe injuries to another man."

This is shocking news for every football fan around the country because all the man was probably trying to do was watch his side play in a UEFA Cup game but instead his family and friends are going to feel the pain and grief. Now I don't know the full details of this story but it has really shocked me on the day a very very famous footballer, George Best, died. A very bad day for football.


Death Of A Legend

Today football has heard the very very sad news of the death of one of footballing's greatest ever players.

R.I.P George Best, 25 November 2005.

Please pay your tributes to George Best by leaving a comment.


Cole K.O

Ashley Cole has been ruled out of action until the new year due to his nasty foot injury. The news is a blow to boss Arsene Wenger, who had hoped to have the 24-year-old back in action in December. Arsenal are now without any left-back as Cole's replacement, Gael Clichy, will be out for at least three months with an identical injury. Centre-half Pascal Cygan may switch to left-back to cover the position, while Lauren is also an option.

Cole and Clichy are both out of Arsenal's home match against Chelsea on 18 December, although Cole will hope to return when the Gunners host Manchester United on 3 January."Gael Clichy had surgery on Wednesday night," Wenger told Arsenal's official website. "The only thing I can say at this stage is that the earliest it will be is three months, reasonably four. "As for Ashley Cole, the earliest he will be back is the beginning of January."

This is certainly terrible news for all Gunners fans because they have been ravished with injuries to their left-backs lately. Cole has been out for sometime with this injury which he picked up on international duty with England so I think that Wenger wouldn't be to pleased about this, and also Clichy picked up his injury on international duty with the French under-21 side.


Pompey sack Perrin

Portsmouth have today sacked French man Alain Perrin after just eight months in the job. Coach Joe Jordan will take temporary charge of the club, who meet champions Chelsea on Saturday. Chairman Milan Mandaric said: "This has not been an easy decision. Alain is a talented coach and a good man who has worked extremely hard since arriving. "However, the view taken is that recent performances and the general morale amongst the squad needed improvement. We are all extremely grateful to him." Perrin took charge in April and kept the club in the Premiership but they have posted only two wins this season and lie one place above the relegation zone. Following a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, Mandaric was thought to be on the verge of dispensing with Perrin's services but then appeared to have a change of heart.

Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock and ex-Hearts manager George Burley are in the frame to succeed the Frenchman. In a statement, Mandaric, who has overseen the coming and going of eight managers since he took over in 1999, hinted that he would not look abroad again. "I really believe a knowledge of British football is an underestimated asset in a manager and the demand of Premier League football are intense," he said. "We have some wonderfully talented players and the most passionate supporters in the country. "I will now turn my attention to attracting a successful manager to Fratton Park. "I am confident we will find the right man for the job to help Pompey get the season back on track." Perrin's departure comes exactly a year to the day since Harry Redknapp resigned as manager, on 24 November 2004.

To be perfectly honest I am not very surprised at this decision by Manderic because Perrin has failed miserably at his job at Portsmouth. I thought that this would have happened along long time ago. I quite fancy Sir Bobby Robson to become next full time manager at the club because I think Portsmouth is the kind of job he needs to get back into football.


Barca striker could be on way to Betis

Real Betis have contacted Barcelona over the possibilty of taking Argentinian striker Maxi Lopez on loan until the end of the La Liga season. The Argentine only signed for Barca last season but has failed to earn a first team place ahead of the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi. Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain told El Mundo Deportivo: "We are talking, but a deal has not been signed."They have shown interest in the player, but I prefer to wait until everything is confirmed."When there is something concrete we will announce it whether it be with Betis or another side."

I believe that this would be a good deal for all three parties because 1) Maxi Lopez would gain from this by getting regular first team football, which he is certainly not getting at Barca at the present time. 2) Barcelona will gain tremendously because when Lopez does return he will of gained some much neede first team football and he can then maybe push for a place in the Barca first eleven. 3) Betis will gain a very skillful and talented striker.


McClaren extends Boro stay

Steve McClaren has committed his future to Middlesborough by signing a new four year deal at the Riverside. McClaren's future has been the subject of speculation as contract talks took place and he had been linked to taking over at England and Manchester United. He is an assistant to England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson and was understudy to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. But he said: "The club going is places so it was never even a question of whether or not I wanted to stay." The new deal will ease concerns over any exit while ensuring Boro are compensated should he leave.

The 44-year-old guided them to their highest Premiership placing by guiding them to seventh last season. McClaren added: "In my mind, there was never any doubt about the new deal. "It has been as good as done for a long time now but people kept asking me whether I had signed and I've done that now. "What the contract extension means is I can now concentrate fully on continuing to build on what we've done and take Boro forward over the next few years."

Great news for everyone at the club and I believe McClaren has made the right choice by deciding to stay at Boro. A four year deal sounds like a good one for the club because I think when he is a little bit older alot of the big clubs will be after him, with all due respect to Boro. McClaren is only 44 years old and the deal will take him through until he is 48 but I believe alot of Boro fans will be hoping he stays even longer.


Footballing Interview # 4

The fourth of my Footballing Interview's comes from Swiss Toni over at a very very good blog called CheerUpAlanShearer (I would recommend you look at it). You may of read my other interview's but if you haven't the interview's are about all the recent topics in football. I hope you enjoy the latest installment.

The Interview:

FC: First of all, do you think that goal-line technology should be brought into the game?

ST: Hm. Interesting question. On the one hand, it seemsridiculous in this day and age that mistakes asfundamental as this can be made. Did the ball crossthe line or not? It's a simple enough thing toresolve with technology isn't it? On the whole, Ithink that it would be a bad thing. May I make acricket analolgy? Run outs are now routinely referredto the third umpire to make a decision, even when itis patently obvious if they are in or out.

This addsdelay to the game. In a 5 day game, this isn't toobad, and it does add to the spectacle. They recentlytrialled extending the use of technology in cricket tohelp adjudicate on things like lbw decisions, and itwas generally thought to be a bad thing, as itsignificantly slowed the game down, and because theumpires get things right 99/100 anyway.

I think thesame thing applies to football. I think referees getit right most of the time, and if you give playersanother avenue of appeal, they will use it all of thetime. First it will be goaline decisions, thenpenalty decisions, then off-sides.... no. I think itwould be a bad move. The game works fine without it. Ask me again when it costs England the world cupfinal rather than winning it for them!

FC: Do you think Chelsea's money in the game is good or bad?

ST: As the supporter of a smaller club (WolverhamtonWanderers), I find it really quite funny that sideslike Arsenal and Manchester Utd are moaning aboutbeing priced out of the market by Abramowich'sbillions. They are only experiencing what the rest ofus have known for years, and I don't feel in the leastbit sorry for them. Anyway - Chelsea may be able toafford anyone they want, but it remains to be seen ifthey can keep them all happy.

Do they want a squad full of Winston Bogardes, happy to sit in the reservesand take the cash, or do they want a team ofthrusting, ambitious professionals? If they want thelatter, then they will struggle to keep them all happy- I think the departure of a player like Scott Parkeris significant: he is an England international and hefelt he had to leave to further his career. We have also heard rumblings from players like William Gallasand even Arjen Robben.... how soon before SeanWright-Phillips moves on? Footballers and football clubs are greedy and grasping and will always take themost money available, and at the moment that lookslike it will always come from Chelsea. It will balanceitself out over time though. They can still only play11 men at a time. Mourinho is the real key forChelsea - Ranieri had the money but not the talent!

FC: Who in your eyes is the best player in the world + best young player?

ST: Best Player in the World - Zinedine Zidane, still. Not only does he have the best haircut in worldfootball, but I have never seen a player so talented with the ball *and* so effective. He's got all the tricks, but he's not a show pony. Magnificent player. I was luckyenough to see him play in Madrid, and what struck me was how he managed to beat players withoutactually moving the ball, just with the movement ofhis body. Amazing. Make the most of him whilst he'sstill playing. (actually, I was mistaken for Zidane whilst I was in Madrid... possibly this was due to myhairline and my height rather than my amazing ballcontrol)

Best Young Player in the World - has to be Rooney doesn't it?

FC: Who do you think will win the Champions League?

ST: Champions League - Juventus were my tip at thestart of the season and I'm sticking with it.

FC: Who do you think will win the UEFA Cup?

ST: UEFA cup - I have no idea. This seems to be completely passing me by. I hate the way that you can drop out of the European Cup and into this as your safety net.... totally devalues it for me. Not bothered at all who wins, although the Liverpool v Alaves final was one of the best games I have ever seen.

FC: Who do you think will win the Premiership?

ST: Wigan. Oh alright. Chelsea.

FC: Who do you think will win La Liga?

ST: La Liga is a great league - and I love the fact that Osasuna are currently top. I'd love to see them win it, but I suspect that Barca will win it again. I'm a Real Madrid man, but the lack of a proper defence will keep on costing them.

FC: Who do you think will win Seire A?

ST: I support Roma here, but I think Juve will win it again. Just too strong.

FC: And finally, out of those three leagues which one do you think is better?

ST: I find Italian football a bit boring, and I have memories of switching off the Milan derby in the early-90s to watch Peterborough playing someone on ITVsimply because it was a more entertaining game. TheSpanish league can be fantastic to watch, but it can also be variable. I love watching Madrid simply because they have some of the most wonderful players in the world, but are always prone to self-destruct because they won't play a proper defence (Salgado and Roberto Carlos are wingers really and so we often see Leeds-reject Raul Bravo anchoring the defence. I hope Woodgate gets fit so we can watch him try to make adifference. Most games Iker Casillas is the only thing that keeps them in games. He's the luckiest goalkeeper I have ever seen - the ball just seems to hit him). The premiership is helter-skelter, but the quality is generally poor. I watch it the most and I am the most familiar with it, but it is generally fairly predictable, and is now dominated by middle of the road teams like Bolton, Charlton andMiddlesborough. Fair play to them, but they are no texciting to watch. That's a bit of a "none of theabove" answer, isn't it?

My thanks to Swiis Toni.

Oh and by the way if you would like to read the other interview's please check around in my archives!


Raul set for lengthy lay-off

Real Madrid striker Raul is likely to be sidelined for up to four months with a cruciate ligament injury he picked up during Saturday's 3-0 defeat to rivals Barcelona. The 28-year-old striker was stretchered off during Saturday's derby and will undergo tests to assess the extent of the complex injury. It is believed that Raul will definitely be out of action for at least two months.Recovery time will double should the Spain international need surgery. Raul sustained the injury when taking a shot and had to leave the pitch early in the second half. It is a major blow for Real, who saw rivals Barcelona go top of the Spanish league after their victory. And it is also a cause for concern for Spain ahead of next summer's World Cup in Germany.

This is a major blow for Real Madrid because losing their captain to this nasty injury can't be easy and certainly the circumstances of the defeat in which Raul picked up the injury. I have to say I watched some of the match last Saturday and on what I saw, I am pretty sure that Barca will win La Liga. I wish Raul a very very speedy recovery because Real sure od need him.


Cork claim Irish league title

Cork City have won the Irish league by beating second place Derry City at Turner's Cross tonight. The match was winner takes all and in the end Cork took it all. It is the first time since 1993 that the club has won the Eircom League.

Here is the match report:

Cork had struggled for goals in recent weeks in the absence of O’Flynn, but the former Irish under-21 star was passed fit to start. But the Leesiders were dealt a blow after just eight minutes when O’Flynn’s partner Neale Fenn was forced off with a hamstring strain. However, his replacement, Denis Behan, was a revelation in his 80-plus minutes on the field, causing a host of problems for the Derry defence, setting up the second goal for Kearney and later coming within a whisker of adding a goal of his own. O’Flynn headed over after just two minutes but he made no mistake when presented with a second opportunity on 18 minutes.

The precision cross came from Roy O’Donovan on the right and the unmarked O’Flynn glanced a header past David Forde. Cork never let up for the rest of the half, with O’Flynn’s pace and Behan’s bustle offering menace and Joe Gamble a real influence in central midfield. But it was O’Donovan who was the real powerhouse, tormenting left back Sean Hargan throughout; indeed, he had two opportunities of his own to add to the lead, but sliced wide on both occasions after cutting inside. Behan almost embarrassed Forde by charging down a clearance early in the second half, and that set the tone for much of the final 40 minutes.

Derry boss Stephen Kenny gambled by throwing on winger Pat McCourt for defender Hargan on the hour – but within 60 seconds of that move, Cork were 2-0 up. The move was perfection itself: O’Donovan – who was perhaps fortunate to stay on the field after skirting a second booking for a foul on Hargan – played Behan through down the right channel and the big Abbeyfeale man picked out Kearney for the finish. Three minutes later, O’Donovan ran clear onto Kearney’s through-ball but Forde got down well to save; the loose ball ran into the path of Behan but Eddie McCallion was on hand to clear the danger.

Derry’s last remaining hope of a revival disappeared when Michael Devine, the Cork goalkeeper, produced a cracking close-range save from Pat McCourt’s header. Cork continued to threaten on the break, with O’Donovan sprinting 60 yards in possession before forcing Forde into a smart save at the near post. The Candystripes had been unable to find their stride on their biggest night of the season, and the confidence visibly sagged thereafter. Killian Brennan saw a free kick hit the bar and McCourt’s low drive flew wide; it just wasn’t going to fall for Derry on the night but there was no denying that Cork were deserving winners.

I am very happy for Cork City because I lived their when I was younger. I think over the course of the season Cork have deserved to claim the title and Derry only started to come into the title race two or three months ago. I am a very avid fan of the Eircom League but I support Bohemians, who finished fifth in the league after their 3-0 defeat to local rivals Shelbourne tonight. Congragulations to Cork and all of their fans.


Ronaldo signs for United

Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed a new two year contract extension to his current contract at Man United. The new deal will keep him at Old Trafford until2010 and that will be very good news for all United fans this is the day that they lost one of the best midfield players in the world (Roy Keane). United have been locked in talks with Ronaldo all summer in a bid to tie him down to a new long-term deal. Ronaldo has proved to be a major hit with The Red Devils since joining the club as a teenager from Sporting Lisbon two years ago and news of his new deal will come as a major boost for Sir Alex Ferguson. The 20-year-old was delighted to pledge his future to United.

"I am very happy and proud to finally put a deal on paper," Ronaldo told the club's official website. "It is important for the development of my career and I want to be an integral part of the team that achieves trophies for the club." Ferguson was pleased to resolve Ronaldo's future and he follows the likes of Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes and John O'Shea in signing new deals. "It represents our faith in young players at the club and Ronaldo will develop into a fantastic player," said Ferguson. "We have worked hard over the last six months on securing a contract, there were no problems but with his agent being in Portugal it was all to do with timings.
"This is great news for the club and for the fans."

This is great news ofr everyone at Man United because Ronaldo has been one of the few bright sparks at Old Trafford in recent years. Ronaldo is only 20 years of age and I believe that this is a good deal for his carrer and I think he may event stay longer than that contract suggests. Obviously this is a great day at Old Trafford because the captain has left by mutual concent but at least this will brighten the spirits at the club a little.


Keane quits United

Roy Keane leaves United.

Your thoughts.


Clichy set for long long spell on side-lines

Geal Clichy has been ruled out of action for up to 4 months following confirmation that he has suffered a stress fracture in his foot. Clichy picked up the injury during France's under 21 qualifier against England last Friday. "The story is that Gael will need surgery," manager Arsene Wenger told Arsenal's website. "Ashley is five weeks away and Gael is three to four months away." Wenger now faces a problem of trying to fill his left-back berth. "The quite remarkable thing, in a negative way, is that he has the same problem as Ashley Cole," added the Frenchman.

"It is terrible for the boy, we feel really bad for him. For us it is hard to take as well because we have no left backs who are really comfortable in that position." Arsenal have allowed a possible replacement, Justin Hoyte, to go on a season-long loan to Sunderland. Hoyte is normally a right-back but has been playing on the opposite flank for the Black Cats. With Hoyte on loan, other options appear to be moving central defenders Pascal Cygan or Kolo Toure over to left-back or asking Emmanuel Eboue, who is predominantly a right-sided player, to shift flanks.

Bad bad news for all you Gunners fans because it looks as though you ain't gonna have a left back for Saturday's game against Wigan. Clichy has done very well since replacing Cole at left-back and this is a real shame for him that he couldn't go on and make a big name for himself. I would probably say that Arsene Wenger is one of the most unhappiest men at the moment because it was on international duty that Clichy picked up the injury.


FIFA to investigate tunnel trouble

Fifa president Sepp Blatter says it will hold an investigation into the violence at the end of the World Cup tie between Turkey and Switzerland. The Swiss qualified on the away goals rule but the end of the game was marred as players clashed in the tunnel. Blatter says the inquiry will be finished by the 9th of December, when the draw for the finals takes place in Leipzig. He warned: "I can tell you this, not as a Swiss but as president of Fifa, that we will act and we will act tough." Blatter added: "This was anti-fair play. The Turks had the chance to act as a good host and show that a revenge foul is not done in football. "The catalogue of sanctions extends from a simple warning to suspension of the federation, which could mean exclusion from the next international event. "The inquiry will show whether we will investigate against Switzerland, too."

The Swiss players left the pitch in Istanbul under a hail of objects thrown by the Turkish crowd and defender Stephane Grichting was taken to hospital with a groin injury following trouble in the tunnel. "Grichting received some blows. He was covered in blood. He went to hospital, shocked," said Swiss midfielder Johann Lonfat. "We were attacked. It was unbelievable. And I'm not talking about the pressure we sustained during the stay. "We expected an electric atmosphere, an overheated atmosphere, but not that. This went beyond the limits of intimidation. I was told: 'We're going to slit your throat.'" Swiss team spokesman Pierre Benoit confirmed Grichting had been to hospital but that he was now back with the squad.

"He has had to have a catheter put in and he will need seven to 10 days to recover," added Benoit. Swiss coach Kobi Kuhn was stunned by the events in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium."This is absolutely scandalous," he said. "The Turkish police didn't think for a second about beating up people from Turkish television to stop them filming and that says it all about the atmosphere surrounding the end of the match." The Swiss bus was pelted with eggs when they flew in on Monday and the Swiss national anthem was whistled during Wednesday's pre-match ceremony - as the Turkish anthem had been in Bern. The Swiss team left Turkey from Ataturk Airport on Thursday under heavy police protection. But the trouble in Istanbul will have taken the shine off their qualification for next year's World Cup finals in Germany. Kuhn's team lost 4-2 to Turkey after a 2-0 victory in the first leg but won the tie on the away goals rule.

Tuncay Sanli scored a hat-trick for the Turks, who finished third in the 2002 World Cup, but Marco Streller's 84th-minute goal put the Swiss through. The match ended with tempers fraying and television footage showed Benjamin Huggel kicking a member of the Turkish coaching staff as he ran off the pitch. The Turkish media blamed Huggel's kick for sparking the trouble. And Turkey striker Halil Altintop, with German team Kaiserslautern, played down the clashes. "A few of our players overreacted after the match but I am happy there were no serious incidents," he said. "I was in the Swiss locker room and talked to the players I knew from the Bundesliga. They said everything was fine." Former Aston Villa defender Alpay then aimed a kick at Streller as the goalscorer went down the tunnel towards the dressing rooms. That is when the major trouble erupted.

This is not a very nice thing to see happening after a team has just qualified for the World Cup. Well done to Switzerland and all that shite, but I have heard from several places that it was the Swiss player's fault. He kicked one of the Turkish team's staff and that started the whole thing off. I also think that alot of blame has to be handed out to the Turkey team. Ah well they have always been associated with trouble let's hope they can clear their act up in future.


Swiss, Czech's and Spain all progress

Switzerland, Czech Republic and Spain have all qualified for next years World Cup in Germany. Switzerland survived a nail-biting second-leg World Cup play-off against Turkey to qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals on the away goals rule. The Swiss appeared to be cruising when Alex Frei converted a second-minute penalty after Alpay Ozalan's handball. But two first-half headers from Tuncay Sanli and Necati Ates' 52nd-minute penalty revived Turkey's hopes. Marco Streller's 84th-minute goal eased Swiss nerves before Tuncay completed his hat-trick with another headed goal.

Meanwhile, A Tomas Rosicky goal ensured the Czech Republic reached the World Cup finals for the first time in their history as they beat Norway 2-0 on aggregate. Rosicky drove home a low shot into the corner of the net after Milan Baros's effort just inside the penalty area deflected off John Arne Riise. Petr Cech made several fine saves to keep Norway at bay and record his second successive clean sheet. Tempers flared late on as Riise fouled Zdenek Grygera in going for a header. Riise appeared to come off worse, lying prone on the ground for several minutes and receiving a yellow card.

And finally, Spain coasted through to the World Cup finals in 2006 after drawing with Slovakia in their second-leg play-off. Luis Aragones' side had established a commanding 5-1 first-leg lead and Slovakia never really looked like clawing back that daunting deficit. Five minutes into the second half Filip Holosko side-footed home to briefly give Slovakia hope of causing an upset. But on 71 minutes substitute David Villa restored Spain's four-goal aggregate lead with a crisp shot.

Just as I predicted on Saturday that all of the side's that won the first leg's would progress to the World Cup finals. The Turkey fight back was very very good and the Turkish team can take alot of credit from that. Spain's progressing was already pretty much sorted after their impressive 5-1 first leg win so that match was a pretty much anti-climax. I thought that the Czechs would of beaten Norway by a couple of goals being at home and all.


Aussie's and Trinindad qualify for World Cup

Austrailia and Trinindad & Tabago have both booked their places in the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. It is the first ever time that Trinindad have qualified for the World Cup and it's the first time since 1974 that Austrailia have qualified for the World Cup finals.

First of all, we start with the Austrailia game against Uraguay which went all the way to penalties. Marco Bresciano's 35th-minute goal levelled the tie following Uruguay's first-leg victory, but neither team was able to find the telling breakthrough. Following 120 minutes of end-to-end action former Coventry striker John Aloisi scored the decisive spot-kick. Uruguay saw two penalties saved by Mark Schwarzer, and despite Mark Viduka's miss Aloisi saw Australia through. Middlesbrough goalkeeper Schwarzer will share the hero status after saving Uruguay's first and fourth penalties in the shoot-out from Dario Rodriguez and Marcelo Zalayeta.

Now to the game between Trinindad & Tabago and Bahrain. Bahrain had secured a 1-1 draw in the Caribbean on Saturday, but were outplayed in the play-off's second leg. Wrexham's giant defender Dennis Lawrence scored the goal, outjumping the Bahrain defence to powerfully head in a Dwight Yorke corner on 49 minutes. In the closing stages Russell Latapy rattled the bar for Trinidad, while Hussain Ali Baba was red-carded.

Great news obviously for both nations that have qualified and I think that the better side won in each case. I was very happy to see that Austrailia had qualified because I think that they can pose a big threat next summer in Germany. I was also very happy for Trinindad because this is the first ever time that they have qualified for the World Cup and that's always nice to see. I wish the both of the teams that qualified great luck next summer.


Guess who has been charged again?

Guess who has been charged again? Yep you probably guessed it, El Hadji Diouf. Bolton striker El Hadji Diouf admitted using disorderly behaviour after an incident at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium last November. The 24-year-old was fined £500 and ordered to pay £500 costs.

The player admitted reckless behaviour because he had discharged "liquid", but evidence showed he had not intended to hit anyone. The Senegalese international was charged after an 11-year-old Middlesbrough fan alleged he was hit by liquid the player had spat from his mouth.

Not again for Diouf what an ejit. He has probably been fined more times than he has scored. Dirty scumbag deserves the fine in my eyes for spitting at a little eleven year old. I mean don't get me wrong he is a decent player but he should just stop getting envolved in this kind of crap.


Club Profile: Fulham

Name: Fulham
Nickname: The Cottagers

Manager: Chris Coleman
Captain: Luis Boa Morte

Stadium: Craven Cottage
Capacity: 22,000

Star Player: Steed Malbranque
One To Watch: Liam Rosenier
Young Gun: Zat Knight

Top Goalscorer Of All-Time: Gordon Davies ( 178 goals)
Most Appearances: Johnny Haynes ( 657 games)


Fulham have enjoyed a remarkable rise to the top tier of English football. As the FA Premier League kicked off in 1992, Fulham were simply hoping to avoid relegation to the Third Division. Three years later, the Craven Cottage club was in danger of falling off the footballing map altogether - but those days seem like a far cry from now. Eygiptian chairman Mohamed Al Fayed dreamt of Fulham winning the FA Premier League and invested heavily in pursuit of his ambition. After easing to the First Division title in 2001, Al Fayed's expensively-assembled team was able to stand toe to toe with England's finest club sides. Fulham kicked-off the new season at Manchester United and showed they belonged in the top division with some sparkling football, despite a 3-2 defeat. Following three seasons of consolidation and improvement in the Premiership, ambitious Fulham remain one of the teams to watch, with Steed Malbranque establishing himself as a top-class midfielder. The club parted company with French coach Jean Tigana in April 2003, with Al Fayed's dream of challenging for the title now in the hands of Chris Coleman, who guided the club to ninth in the table in 2003-04. The club are now coming 14th in the current campaign and Welsh man Chris Coleman will be looking to finish in a much higher position in the table.


Venables keen on Ireland job

Former England manager Terry Venables has said today that he would be interested in the vacant Ireland post. The 62-year-old Venables has emerged as the favourite to succeed Brian Kerr but has yet to hold talks with the F.A.I. He said: "I've been offered quite a lot of positions. But if something came up that was special, like Ireland which is international, it may be interesting."

A number of big name managers have been linked with the job but so far no one has been appointed. The FAI has been on the lookout for a new manager since deciding not to renew Kerr's contract four weeks ago. Venables said last week that he was not in the running for the job and the F.A.I had also said that they had not talked with the former Leeds manager.

I would not really be in favour of Venables becoming the new Ireland boss being an Irish man meself. He is old and I don't think he has done enough to win me over. I would love someone like Martin O'Neill but it appears as though that that is not going to happen because about a month ago he ruled himself out of the running.


Nigel Reo-Blow

Nigel Reo-Coker has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks and is likely to miss the whole Christmas period of matches. The injury is an ankle one which he picked up in his side ( West Ham's) 1-0 over West Brom last week. A CT scan confirmed the England under-21 captain had a small crack in his ankle bone that could result in him missing West Ham's Christmas fixtures programme. However, goalkeeper Roy Carroll has returned to training and is expected to be available to play Tottenham in the Premiership on Sunday.

Bad news obviously because Reo-Coker has been instrumental in West Ham's good start to the season. The former MK Dons man was also instrumental in West Ham getting promotion to the Premiership last season. Reo-Coker,21, also missed England's under-21's crucial World Cup qualifier against France and he will also of course miss the match tonight.


West Brom injury news

Some news on the injury front at West Brom today considering Chris Kirkland and Zoltan Gera. Gera will undergo an operation immediately after it was revealed he is suffering from Gilmore's groin. Gera has been suffering with the injury for almost a month now and that resulted him in playing in the West Brom first team but it was hoped that he would be fit for the Baggies next game on Saturday against in form Everton. But after breaking down in training on Monday with a recurrence of the injury, he was sent to see a specialist in London. Gera was diagnosed with Gilmore groin, a condition caused by a double-sided groin hernia, and the decision to operate on Tuesday was taken, his management group revealed on the player's personal website.

But good news for Baggies fans is that on loan goal keeper Chris Kirkland is nearing a return to the Hawtorns first team. Kirkland has not played for The Baggies since bruising a kidney in the club's 2-0 loss to Bolton last month. Assistant manager Nigel Pearson is not looking to rush Kirkland back into action as he does not want the former Coventry man to suffer a relapse. "It's going to be another couple of weeks before Chris is back," explained Pearson to the club's official website. "This type of injury can be very dangerous if you ignore it. With a goalkeeper throwing himself around, the risk is even greater. "It is frustrating for Chris and we're disappointed for him because we know how keen he is to make a career for himself as a regular goalkeeper."But it is vitally important he gets this injury sorted out because it is potentially a very serious problem that we have taken a lot of advice on. "He's going to have to be a little bit patient and the only way to stop people talking about his injuries is by having a long run in the team."

Bit of good news and bad news for West Brom. The Gera injury will be a very big blow because Gera is a great player in that side and without him in the midfield they aren't as strong. The Kirkland news is very key to West Brom surviving this season because whenever he has played for The Baggies he has shown that he still has the talent to break into the England team which he is not doing at the moment.


Geal blow for Gunners

Arsenal's Gael Clichy has been ruled out of action due to a foot injury picked up in his country's World under 21 Cup qualifier against England. Arsenal are already running short on left backs this season after earlier this year Ashley Cole picked up an injury whilst on international duty with England. And Arsenal have allowed a possible replacement, Justin Hoyte, to go on a season-long loan to Sunderland. Hoyte is normally a right-back but has been playing on the opposite flank for the Black Cats. The French Football Federation has confirmed Clichy had fractured his foot and returned to Arsenal for treatment.

The Highbury club, meanwhile, were still carrying out tests on the extent of the injury before making any public comment on Clichy's condition. It is not yet known for how long Clichy will be out of action, but any absence would be a significant blow for manager Arsene Wenger. With Hoyte on loan, other options appear to be moving central defenders Pascal Cygan or Kolo Toure over to left-back or asking Emmanuel Eboue, who is predominantly a right-sided player, to shift flanks.

This is a big blow for Arsenal because Clichy was just starting to adapt to the pace of the Premiership after his run in the team due to Cole's absence. Clichy is a young left back with lots of talent and I think he will become Ashley Cole's permanent replacement when he eventually leaves Highbury.


Footballing Interview # 3

The third of my footballing interviewing series were I interview different football bloggers about recent topics in the game comes from a very well known blog called Football Commentator. I really like this blog because it was the first football blog to link me when I started. The blog just covers pretty much everything about football and rising stars in the game. I hope you enjoy the interview.

FC: First of all, do you think that goal line technology should be brought into football?

FC: Absolutely. Its high time for many reasons.

First, I cant stand this argument that the human elememt is part of the game. It's not. The game is built on rules and the governing bodies should do everything possible to ensure that the game is refereed as accurately as possible. I dont want to see bad penalties awarded and goals disallowed because of bad decisions. Nothing leaves a worse taste in the mouth than winning or losing because of that. Bad refereeing decisions are also a trigger for violence.

Next, technology is already being used to recind cards, upgrade punishments and demonstrate proof of violent acts. It's a simple step to incorporate this into the game without long stoppages of play.

Lastly, looking at the recent cheating scandals in Germany and Brazil, technology could go a long way to discouraging that behavior -as long as it's done in a way that doesnt challenge the referee's competence or authority.

I find it odd that so many want to preserve the human element in the game but could care less if the game is overrun by divers and faking injuries. We could see better, more flowing football using technology to police play and ensure accuracy.

FC: Do you think Chelsea's money in the game is good or bad?

FC: Money, money is just access. Its how you use the money that determines what's good and bad. Money alone does not do the damage. When you spend way over everyone else you have built a very expensive team with great players and put everyone else in a position that they will never catch up, that is bad, so in that respect, Chelsea is bad.

But that said, Real Madrid are in fact worse than Chelsea. Chelsea have not bought mega $ players the way Real Madrid have in years past. Madrid want to cultivate this aura of fame and untouchables. In Chelsea's defense they have bought a set of solid performers, not superstars. That may change, I thought the Essien transfer was a mistake, but for now, Mourinho knows that assembling too many big names on one team does more damage than good. Just look at Beckham. Mourinho would have never bought him.

FC: Who in your eyes is the best player in the world + best young player in the world?

FC: For me, the best player in the world is Arsenal's Thierry Henry. He's the most complete striker out there and has a track record. It's too easy to label a guy that has no history 'the best' but Henry performs consistently and raises the level of the team significantly. In addition, nobody can contain him. If I had to pick a close second or third it would be Ronaldinho and Frank Lampard. Again, complete players that show up for every game.

The best young player in the world, for me, is Kaka from AC Milan. He's incredibly fluid, scores goals, and handles pressure very well. What is so interesting about him is how calm he is on the ball. Kaka is a joy to watch.

FC: Who do you think will win the Champions League?

FC:Tough one. I will take a risk here and say Lyon from France. I've been very impressed with their performances. They have a great midfield, the best free kick taker in the world (Juninho) and 2 class strikers, Carew and Fred.

Now, close seconds would be Chelsea and Juventus. The defensive pressure those 2 can create can disrupt any team.

FC: Who do you think will win the UEFA Cup?

FC:The draw for UEFA is very weak this season. Middlesbrough looks to be the best side but I am almost certain that the winner will come from the Champions League dropouts.

FC: Who do you think will win the Premiership?

FC: It seems nobody has their pieces together like Chelsea. Blues by a mile.

FC: Who do you think will win La Liga?

FC: Minus their slow start to the season, Barcelona have a better squad than Real Madrid and will win LA Liga.

FC: Who do you think will win Seire A?

FC: Juventus are too strong and complete to be challenged. AC Milan may make a strong challenge buy Juve are my choice.

FC: And finally, which of those three leagues do you think is the best and why?

1. The Premiership
2. La Liga
3. Le Championnat
4. Serie A

I chose the Premiership by a nose because of the parody between teams. La Liga might be slightly more entertaining week in and week out but the Premiership offers more surprises, just look at Wigan.

I included the French league 3rd. The French league has some really excellent football at the moment, really entertaining stuff and exciting young players.

If you would like to read the other two interviews then just click on which ever one you like: Football To You, Football List.


Dudek ponders over Anfield exit

Liverpool's Champions League hero could be on his way out of Anfield. Polish goal keeper Jerzy Dudek says he will look for a new club in January due to the lack of firts team oppurtunities this season. He has lost his place to Spanish keeper Jose Reina after the former Villareal man made a big money move to Anfield this summer. The Polish international, 32, said: "I need to play ahead of the World Cup as to miss out would be disastrous. "I need to speak to Rafa Benitez about my future and maybe look for something in the January window. "It all depends on him. If he gives me a chance I will take it. I have a lot of desire to fight for my place."

Dudek has recovered from the arm injury he sustained in the summer and said: "Now I am fit I will do everything to get my place back. "It is very frustrating when you can't play in front of the Kop having won the Champions League but I have been concentrating so far on getting fit and then fighting for my place. "It is difficult ahead of the World Cup if you are not playing and especially in my position. "The national coach has told me that if I do not play for Liverpool then it will be tough for me to play for the national team."

I would think this is sad news for all Liverpool fans because Dudek has served the club well ever since he joined them. The heroics he pulled off in Istanbul last season was phenominal and I would say alot of the Scousers will never forget about that performance. I think that Dudek is right to maybe leave Anfield because he needs first team football in a World Cup season. Best of luck to him wherever he ends up!


World Cup qualifiers round-up

The World Cup qualifier play-offs were on last night and here is a round up of all three of the games. Spain have all but guarenteed their place in the tournament next year when they won their first leg match 5-1 at home to Slovakia. Xavi set up Garcia for his first two goals, but Szilard Nemeth pulled one back following Garcia's mistake. Spain resumed control when Fernando Torres scored from the spot and Marian Had was sent off for his protests. Garcia then completed his hat-trick and substitute Fernando Morientes wrapped up an emphatic win with a late header.

Switzerland claimed a 2-0 after their first leg clash with Turkey. Goals in from Arsenal central defender Philippe Senderos and Lazio midfielder Valon Behrami sealed the victory. Senderos got the Swiss on their way with a perfectly timed header from a free-kick just before the break. Substitute Behrami gave the Turks a mountain to climb when he struck a second with only four minutes left.

Czech Republic have a slender lead going into their second leg match with Norway next week. The match also marked Czech star Pavel Nedved's international comeback. Smicer rounded off a sweeping move by heading home a Karel Poborsky cross for the only goal of the game. Norway managed only a few long-range shots and rarely threatened, leaving the Czechs in a strong position ahead of Wednesday's second leg in Prague.

I would say at this stage that all the three teams that won last night will go through. Slovakia are definetly out, Norway have to travel to the Czechs and at least score one goal and Turkey are the only ones I think have a slight hope.


England win Geneva thriller

England have tonight beaten one of the favourites for the World Cup next year Argentina in Geneva. The match, although it was a friendly was an absoulote thriller and it was also played on very good spirits (and that is very surprising for a England V Argentina game). Argentina took the lead during the first half when Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo tapped home from a Maxi Rodriguex cross. But Wayne Rooney cancelled that goal out with a decetn finish to put the sides level. But a smart free-kick put Argentina back in front. Juan Roman Riquelme chipping the ball over the England wall and only for Walter Samuel to nod it home past Paul Robinson.

But a Micheal Owen brace gave England the win. His first was a cool header past the Aregntina keeper after former Liverpool team mate Steven Gerrard whipped a beautitful ball into the box and Joe Cole just missed the header but Owen was their to finish off. Hi second was yet again a lovely cool header after Joe Cole chipped the ball into the box and their was Owen again to send the England fans home happy. Final score: England 3-2 Argentina.

What an great game, and just to remind you I don't usally get to excited about friendlies. The only thing I was sad about England winning was that they are now going to be saying that they are definetly going to win the World Cup next year, although I think they have an outside chance of winning the cup next year. England and Argentina both played very very well.


Atletico issue hands off warning to Gunners

Atletico Madrid have today issued a hands off warning to Arsenal about the purchase of Spanish international Fernando Torres. Recent specualtion has linked the twenty one year old with a multi-million pound move to Highbury. Torres has been one of Atletico's best players in the past few seasons being the top scorer for the last three seasons at Vicente Calderon. Torres has come through the ranks at Atletico but he has proved himself as one of the best players in the world and this is what has caused all of this specualtion. He has attracted interest from England before with both Manchester United and Chelsea having seen massive bids rejected by Los Rojiblancos.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is a known admirer and is understood to have dispatched scouts to have watched Torres in Atletico's game with Sevilla last weekend - which ended in a goalless draw. The Frenchman has been tipped to make his move for the dynamic hit-man in 2006, but Atletico president Enrique Cerezo is adamant there is no chance of Torres leaving the club. "Torres is, and will continue to be our 'crack' (star player)," Cerezo stated. "Fernando will give everything for Atletico. "I don't have any news on Arsenal's supposed interest, but the reply would be the same as to all the rest."

I would really love to see Torres move to the Premiership but I think he should wait until next summer and then see what his options are. Atletico without Torres are nothing with all due respect because he is just a born goalscorer. He has given everything to the club and I believe that it might just be time that he calls it a day at Atletcio.


Jewell and Lampard scoop for awards

Paul Jewell and Frank Lampard have both been rewarded for their great October months. This is the second time in a row Paul Jewell has won the award as his side now lay second in the league. The Latics have the best defence in the top flight, having conceded only five goals in 11 games. David O'Leary is the only other manager to have won the award in consecutive months, when he was with Leeds in 2001. Jewell's side were expected to struggle in the Premiership following promotion last season but have confounded expectations. They are above the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in the table and currently trail leaders Chelsea by six points.

Frank Lampard scoop the award thanks to his October month were he scored six goals. The England man scored twice against Bolton and Blackburn and was also on target against Liverpool and Everton. According to the Actim Index, which statistically measures players' performance, Lampard is currently the best player in the country. He has also tranferred his form into the international arena, scoring for England in their impressive 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Poland.

I firmly believe that both of these awards have been handed out fairly because both Lampard and Jewell had great months at their respective clubs. Frank Lampard scored six goals in the month of October and he is currently top goal scorer in the league and he is a midfielder. Paul Jewell's Wigan have simply been amazing, from people tipping Wigan to go down but now they are only six points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.


Chim pens new Latics deal

Wigan defender Pascal Chimbonda has signed a new four year deal at the club. The French man has really impressed since signing in the summer from Bastia for a feee of onl £500,000. his fine form has certainly not gone unoticed with Wigan boss Paul Jewell offering him a new four year deal already and which he duely accepted. "I'm surprised how well it's gone so far, but when you are offered new terms so soon it means people have confidence in you," he told the club website. "Despite what anyone may have said, I never had any thought of leaving."

Pascal has handed Wigan six points in the last few weeks by scoring two match winning goals.Chimbonda said although he was thrilled by this, he was not surprised. "I saw what good players we had here, how hard everyone works, and how much everyone respects the manager," he said. "I'm happy I've found a club where the general mentality of the players and the manager suits my own."

I believe that this is a good deal for both club and player because Chimbonda has helped the club be were they are right no which is second in the Barclays Premiership table. Although Wigan have got of to a flying start their manager Paul Jewell has still stated that staying up is their main goal but I believe that they might just stay in the top half of the table.


Arsenal sign promising youngster

Arsenal have today completed the signing of 16-year-old striker Carlos Vela from Mexican club Guadalajara. Vela's father had said on Wednesday that his son was set for a move to England and now the deal has been confirmed. "It's official. Carlos Vela now belongs to Arsenal," said a club statement. Vela, who scored five goals to help Mexico win the Under-17 World Cup, is expected to cost Arsenal around about £2million and he will sign a five-year deal. Under the terms of the deal, Vela would play for Spanish side Valencia until he is 18, when he becomes eligible for a work permit in the United Kingdom.

Guadalajara vice-president Nestor De La Torre said: "Arsenal told me that they were planning to loan him out to another team in order to develop before playing in the Premiership. "The sporting rights of Vela will go to Arsenal for five years. If Arsenal decided to sell Carlos the first option would go to Chivas (Guadalajara)."

To be honest I haven't seen Vela play at all but I have heard rave reviews about him. The deal will only cost Arsenal £2million and I believe that that is pretty cheap for a very promising 16 year old. The part of the deal I don't understand is the Valencia part but having said that I think it will benifit him emensly because if he is playing with top class players their then he should fit right into the Arsenal side.


Venables to be next Ireland manager?

The FAI have refused to comment on claims that they have spoken to Terry Venables about the vacant manager role. Venables has also said that he has not applied for the job and that their has been no contact between the two parties. Speculation linking Venables with the post has heightened after one bookmaker suspended betting on the post following heavy backing for the ex-England coach. Venables had many sucsess as England manager including guiding them to Euro 96 semi-finals.

This vacant Ireland post has been thet talk of pretty much all of Ireland in the past few weeks and many top managers have been linked with the job including former Celtic boss Martin O'Neill and current Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but it now seems as though Venables is favourite for the job. Venables' agent Leon Angel has declined to comment on the speculation linking his client with the position. "To comment would not be fair to any of the parties," said Angel.

I would be very keen to see how Venables did as Ireland boss cause there are some very talented players in the current Ireland side and there is a new crop starting to come through. Being an Irish man myself I personaly didn't think that someone like Venables would get the job and I was hoping for someone like O'Neill but I wouldn't be to unhappy if Venables were to be appointed.


Rix named new Hearts boss

Former Chelsea player Graham Rix has been appointed new Hearts boss. He has been given a contract until the end of the season and he has said he would be happy someone else buying and selling his players. "I am picking the team," said the former Portsmouth manager. "My forte is working with the players, motivating them and hopefully winning matches. Dealing with agents and the press does not really interest me." "I have tried hard to rebuild my life and career and want to work hard on building a relationship with Hearts fans. "But I saw on Saturday against Dundee United that Hearts have a fantastic support and, if I am winning games, I think they will get behind me." Many many managers had been linked with the job but now Hitz has been appointed.

Former Chelsea coach Rix was, meanwhile, about to be offered the vacant manager's job at English Conference side Crawley Town having been axed from his previous posts with Portsmouth and Oxford United. "The fact that I went for an interview at Crawley shows that I was determined to get back into football at any level," said the 48-year-old. "When I got the call from Roman, I thought it was one of my friends, Jim Duffy, winding me up. "It's a massive job but one I am looking forward to. "I am not going to say that we are going to win the league as saying such things can come back to haunt you, but it is not often that you get the chance to take over at a club who are already top of the league." Previous Hearts manager George Burley had left last month having led them to the top of the Scottish Premier League but complaining of interference in team affairs from the Romanovs.

Asked if he expected a similar scenario, Rix said: "Interference, no. But I will take advice from anyone before making my own team selections. "I don't know who the new director of football is. I have said to Roman who I think will be a good choice, but Mr Romanov is the man with the money." Roman Romanov said: "We are looking for someone with experience, who understands football and who can spot a good player. "We are still looking, but in a week or two will make a decision." He insisted that Rix did not have to win the league to extend his stay at Tynecastle beyond the end of the season but that the team simply had to show signs of improvement. "We have a coach who is experienced and who has the respect of those he played with and those he has coached," he added. "I can understand the feelings of some Hearts fans. "But, in Russia, we have a saying that a man that's beaten by life is worth two that are unbeaten: which means that someone who has made a mistake is capable of becoming a better man."

I believe that this is a decent move for Hearts because Rix is a decent manager and I believe that he can keep their good form going. The situation at Hearts has been very very confusing and finally it looks as though it is starting to be sorted out. I would say alot of Hearts fans are still very unhappy with the sacking of George Burley because he was a very good manager at Tynecastle.


Jestrovic banned due to racial abuse

Anderlecht midfielder come striker Nenad Jestrovic has been banned for three European games by Uefa after he was found guilty of racism during last week's game with Liverpool. Uefa found Jestrovic, 29, guilty of a "racially-motivated insult" directed to Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko in Liverpool's 3-0 victory at Anfield. He said: "I accept the decision but I was on a losing ticket as the referee's report said one thing, I said another." Jestrovic will now miss the last two group games and another European tie. He added: "I am not a racist but unfortunately I don't matter and the referee does." He said last week: "I don't understand why the referee sent me off. Sissoko didn't hear it and he looked surprised when I was sent off.

"I participate in all the anti-racism events we have at Anderlecht and it's difficult for me to think that everyone thinks I'm a racist, especially because I want to play in England one day. "I like everyone and it's not important to me what colour people are." Referee Kim Milton Nielsen cited racial abuse for his decision to send off Jestrovic after the heated 75th-minute argument.

Jestrovic has rightly been banned and I hope this is an end to racisicm in the game because it's just sick. I saw the incident last week and you could clearly see he said something very nasty. I feel sorry for Sissoko but thankfully it has all been sorted out.


Nolan sends Bolton third

Bolton have moved up to third in the Barclays Premiership with a 1-0 at home to Tottenham. It was Bolton captain Kevin Nolan who handed his side all three points with a quality strikre in the first half. Following a huge punt upfield from Jaaskelainen, El-Hadji Diouf and Kevin Davies combined well on the edge of box before the ball was laid into Nolan's path. Nolan hit the ball first time, his shot fizzing past Robinson, giving the Spurs goalkeeper no chance. Five minutes before the interval Nolan almost got a second, striking the woodwork with a side-footed shot after more good link play involving Davies and Diouf. Early in the second half the injured Davies was replaced by Jared Borgetti. The Mexican striker proved not quite so adept as Davies in holding the ball up, though he did manage to draw an athletic save from Robinson.

Prior to Nolan's goal Spurs had been restricted to the occasional breakaway. The best of those rare counter-attacks almost saw Michael Carrick release Defoe with a wonderful pass, but the ball was held up by the wind and Jaidi cleared. After going behind Spurs were more threatening in attack and Defoe had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside. Young-Pyo Lee then managed to get a clear sight of the Bolton goal only to scuff his shot wide. Lee had an ineffective game and he was eventually replaced by Keane. Teemu Tainio was the next Spurs player to threaten when he popped up in the Bolton area only to misdirect his shot. In stoppage time Stalteri's cross fooled Jaaskelainen, with the Finnish goalkeeper mighty relieved to see the ball bounce back off the bar. Final score: Bolton 1-0 Tottenham.

Great result for Bolton as they move to within two points of second placed side Wigan and eight points behind leaders Chelsea. I watched the match and I have to say on the whole of the performance I think Bolton just deserved it. There was a nasty little incident during the second half when Ledly King appeared to stamp on Stelios' face and he was later taken off.


Footballing Interview # 2

The second of my footballing interview's comes from a good blogger friend of mine from Football List. Terry Venables from Football List has kindly accepted to answer a few of my intregine questions about recent topics in football. My thanks,

FC: First of all, do you think goal-line technology should be brought in the game?

FL: A perennial question. One of the things that I like about football is the fact that whether I'm watching Arsenal v Sunderland, Barnet v Rushden and Diamonds, or Leek Town v AFC Telford, the rules and officiating of the game 'should' be consistent throughout. Goal-line technology would come at a cost, and wouldn't be used throughout the game - this is a cause for concern. On the other side of the coin, I think that it's more important that we should try to make the referees' and assistants' jobs as easy as possible, and remove the excuse of 'we lost due to a bad refereeing decision'. Therefore, reluctantly, I think we should adopt whatever measures are available to make referees' jobs easier.

FC: Do you think Chelsea's money in the game is good or bad?

FL: It's certainly not good for competition in the transfer market. The thing that needs to be acknowledged is that they have spent their money incredibly well, and that Mourinho's no-nonsense approach to who's in charge is crucial to their success. In short, the money is only good or bad depending on how it gets spent, and where it comes from - Abramovich or the faithful. And as they seem to be spending it well, it's bad for competition at the very top of the Premiership.

FC: Who in your eyes do you think is the best player in the world + best young player?

FL: The billion dollar question! Best world player - Ronaldinho. And the rest of the world know it. Young player - Wayne Rooney. There's a fine line between temperament and discipline. Rooney's temperament is a big asset, it's his discipline that must improve with age and experience. I also think that Rooney's physical game is particularly suited to the Premiership.

FC: Who do you think will win the Champions League?

FL: An incredibly tough question. Despite being fallible in Europe, I'll go for Chelsea.

FC: Who do you think will win the UEFA Cup?

FL: I think that both Bolton and Middlesbrough could do really well here. But I also think that we've got to look at which Champions League teams will be joining the battle for the UEFA Cup. Werder Bremen could be a nuisance, as could Schalke 04, howver. Satying with the Germans, I think Hamburg will pose a big unfashionable German challenge here. I'll go for Hamburg.

FC: Who do you think will win The Premiership?

FL: A total no-brainer - Chelsea! At the moment, domestically, there isn't a team or squad that comes close to them.

FC: Who do you think will win La Liga?

FL: This will be down to who has the least damaging weaknesses. Osasuna struggle to score (and win) away from home. Real Madrid are exciting, but they lose too many games. Although Barcelona conceded 12 goals in their opening 10 league games, I think their goalscoring and their ability to draw games, rather than lose them, will see them take this title.

FC: Who do you think will win Serie A?

FL: The question for me will be "Will Juve's better defence be more valuable than AC Milan's better attack?" Despite their 3-1 win over Juve in October, AC Milan's European form shows there are some niggling defensive issues that could ultimately prove costly. It'll be tight, but I'd go for Juve.

FC: And finally, which of those three leagues do you think is the best? Why?

FL: If you'd asked a year or two ago, I'd have said La Liga was the strongest. I'm less convinced of that now. I think in the Premiership, both Man Utd and Arsenal are going through transitional periods that has resulted in lesser teams being able to compete for Champions League places. This is good for domestic competition - there's a sense of "Who's the greatest (not including Chelsea)?" As for Serie A, it feels like a case of the usual suspects at the top, and I think this division shows the greatest range of teams' abilities out of the three. But in answer to your question, as I'm all for football played at a fast pace, I'd say the Premiership is 'the best'.

If you would like to read the other interview I have posted from Ben from Football To You,
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Woodgate suffers yet another injury

Johnatan Woodgate has once again been put out of action due to a injury to his hamstring. His injury nightmare's just keep going on with this latest one. Woodgate has only just returned from a very very lengthy injury that prevented him from making his Real Madrid debut for almost 18 months. Woodgate limped out of his side's win over Real Zaragoza on Sunday and now faces another spell on the sidelines. The new setback has also cost him an expected call-up to the England squad to play Argentina on Saturday. Woodgate was thought to be in England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson's plans after making his long awaited return to action.

He had been out since tearing a thigh muscle in a Premiership game against Chelsea on 25 April 2004 before starting his first competitive match for the Spanish club against Athletic Bilbao on 22 September this year. Real's £13.4m acquisition from Newcastle in August 2004 scored an own goal and was sent-off against Bilbao. But he has impressed since and also scored in a Champions League win over Rosenborg. Woodgate is now set to miss Real's match against arch-rivals Barcelona on 19 November while his England prospects will also be concerning him. The defender has played down his international prospects since returning to first-team action but will want to prove his fitness to Eriksson before next summer's World Cup finals.

Very very unlucky for Woodagte because he was just starting to settle in to the Real team. Last night I was fully expecting him to be picked in the England team but I was shocked when his name wasn't their but now I know that he was injured. Woodgate has really had a bad run of injuries in the past few years and I am starting to wonder will he ever be back to the player he used to be.


Blackburn demolish Charlton

Blackburn today claimed their third straight win by dfeating Charlton 4-1. The defeat for Charlton ended their 100% away start to the season. Charlton looked off the pace throughout, and had barely had a kick when Emerton put his side in front. Hermann Hreidarsson miscontrolled an innocuous ball across the edge of the box, but there looked to be no immediate danger as Jonathan Spector shepherded Emerton away from goal. The Australian surprised everyone though as he swept a powerful shot from a narrow angle into the top corner.Blackburn belied their popular image as a mainly physical threat as they played some delightful football. Charlton were all at sea with passes going astray, and they were fortunate to escape when Craig Bellamy was wrongly adjudged offside with a clear run on goal. It got worse. Charlton again failed to clear their lines and they were made to pay as Lucas Neill's cross deflected off Spector to fall perfectly to an unmarked Dickov who headed in from six yards.

The Addicks were possibly unlucky not to get an offside decision this time, but it made little difference to the overall result. Charlton eventually got a foothold in the game as they started to hold on to possession in midfield. Spector's well-timed run beat the offside trap, but the full-back could not quite apply the acurate volley needed to beat Brad Friedel. Soon after, Michael Gray's hamstring injury forced a reshuffle in the Blackburn team, and the changes seemed to stop Rovers' momentum. Charlton's lacklustre performance scarcely merited it, but Hughes' brave slide at the far post got them back in the game. With Darren Bent starved of service, the striker turned creator and sent in a dangerous low cross that was helped on by Darren Ambrose before Hughes bundled the ball over the line. The goal finally got Charlton going, and they finished the half well on top.

Blackburn started the second half in the same dominant fashion as the first and had a clear penalty decision go against them when Hreidarsson handled Bellamy's cross. Fortunately for referee Phil Dowd, the mistake did not turn out to be critical as Pedersen notched their third on 59 minutes. Tugay and Emerton combined to set Steven Reid free down the right and his touch was expertly turned in by the Dane. Rovers continued to make chances with Bellamy's pace causing no end of problems for Charlton. A flowing move down the left ended with Emerton heading over from Bellamy's cross. Charlton never gave up and Hreidarsson's bullet header and Jay Bothroyd's stab drew two sharp saves from Friedel. The match looked to be fizzling, but there was still time for Bellamy to get on the end of Shefki Kuqi's knockdown and dab it past Anderson. Final score: Blackburn 4-1 Charlton.

A very very impressive victory by Blackburn and a very dissapointing defeat for Charlton. Charlton have got of to a good start this season but today they certainly didn't show any of the form they have been showing. That is three straight wins for Mark Hughes' Blackburn and it moves them up to 11th in the table whilst the defeat for Charlton drops them down to 7th.


Boro and Bolton grab UEFA Cup wins

Middlesborough and Bolton have both moved to the top of their respective UEFA Cup groups with 3-0 and 1-0 wins respectivley. Striker Mark Viduka scored twice as Middlesbrough moved three points clear at the top of Uefa Cup Group D after sweeping aside Ukraine side Dnipro. Yakubu gave Boro a first-half lead, exchanging passes with Gaizka Mendieta, before side-footing the ball home.

Early in the second half Viduka extended Boro's lead, arrowing the ball into the net with a powerful shot. Six minutes later Viduka claimed his second after Artem Kusliy was unable to hold James Morrison's fierce shot. The only disappointment for Boro was that so few fans showed up at The Riverside following Saturday's 4-1 win over Manchester United, the huge swathes of unfilled seats giving the game something of a funereal atmosphere. Only 12,953 were at The Riverside to witness a very vintage performance from Boro. Final score: Middlesborough 3-0 Dnipro.

Kevin Nolan scored the only goal as Bolton saw off Zenit St Petersburg to boost their chances of reaching the knockout stage of the Uefa Cup. Nolan reacted first after Stelios Giannakopoulous' close-range shot had been smothered by Kamil Contofalsky. Chances for both sides were limited on a rain-sodden pitch which did little to encourage free-flowing football. Jussi Jaaskelainen had to save from Igor Denisov and Andrei Arshavin late on as Zenit pushed for an equaliser. Zenit deserve credit for a positive approach in awful conditions although both sides struggled to make the game into an entertaining spectacle. Final score: Bolton 1-0 Zenit St Petersburg.

Great results for both Bolton and Boro. Boro performed very very well tonight and it seemed as though they were carrying on from Saturday. It was good to see Viduka pitch in with a couple of goals after a barring spell of late. Kevin Nolan was captaining Bolton tonight and he did very very well and I think his performances this season have merited a international call up.


Miller set for Leeds

Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller is reportabley on his way out of United and set for a loan deal to Championship side Leeds. Miller, who has struggled to make an impression on the United first team since moving from Celtic in 2004, is said to be on the verge of completing a loan switch to Leeds United. The Bosman signing was one of a number of players criticised during United skipper Roy Keane's censored outburst on MUTV, and is now understood to be on the verge of being farmed out to Elland Road.Miller, 24, has made just 11 starts for United and recently pulled the rug from under a proposed loan move to Sunderland.It is also reported that a number of United stars are seeking a showdown with Keane prior to Sunday's Premiership clash with Chelsea.Several squad members are thought to be furious with the Irishman for going public with his criticism of the team.

I believe that this is a good deal for Miller and United because Miller should gain some first team football and that should only boost his confidence. I alos believe that this is a great deal for Leeds because Miller would be very well suited to te Championship because he certainly isn't good enough for the Premiership, but hopefully when he comes back from the loan deal he may have gained emmensley.


Good and Bad news for City

Manchester City defender David Sommeil has been ruled out for up to six weeks due to injury- but City have been boosted by the news that another defender has come through a reserve game unscaved and is likely to fill in for Sommeil. French defender Sommeil, 31, suffered a fractured cheekbone in the victory over Aston Villa on Monday after recently re-establishing himself in the side. "It is a shame because he has worked very hard to get back in the team," said City manager Stuart Pearce.

The defender I mentioned at the start of the post is Richard Dunne, 25, proved his fitness for the reserves after a knee injury. The Republic of Ireland international played 45 minutes of the draw against Liverpool on Wednesday. If Dunne comes through training without a problem he is likely to team up with Sylvain Distin at the heart of the defence against Fulham on Saturday. Trevor Sinclair also came through the first-half of the reserve outing unscathed, while Robbie Fowler, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ben Thatcher all continued their comebacks. However, young Danish defender Mikkel Bischoff is set for another lengthy stint on the sidelines after suffering a recurrence of an ankle problem, which will require a visit to a specialist.

All good news for City apart from the news about Sommeil. Alot of key players coming back into the side like Dunne, Sinclair, Fowler and Ben Thatcher adn hopefully for City's sake they will be fit enough to play on Saturday when they take on Fulham. City have been in fine form of late and they will be looking to keep that up on Saturday.


Fergie accepts fans reaction

Manchester United manager Sir Akex Ferguson has today accepted the fans reaction to the 1-0 defeat to Lille in their Champions League match. The United team were booed of the field by their 5,000 travelling fans but Ferguson has said he understands the reaction. He said: "Without question, those fans want to see us win. They have followed us through thick and thin. "They were like that when we had not won the title for 20 years and I am sure they will be like that again." United are now third in Group D and Ferguson admits his side are fighting for their Champions League survival. He added: "We are going to have to regroup and win our next two matches against Villarreal and Benfica because they are vital now.

"Our home form has been terrific and it is going to have to be again. We are third in the group now and these games will be so important." Ferguson was in subdued mood after his side followed up their humiliating 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough with another demoralising setback. He said: "We were not in our best form, that has to be said. We are going to have to fight our way through this. "No-one's going to help us with that. We are going to have to do it ourselves and we don't want to feel sorry for ourselves - although I don't think we deserved to lose." "We do make chances, we have seen that in some league games, but we have players who can score goals and hopefully we can get that magic back.

"The players did their best. We lost a goal just when we were starting to get to grips with the game. "I think when you lose games confidence does get affected, but we have to pull ourselves through this." United now face a daunting game with Premiership leaders Chelsea on Sunday at Old Trafford. And Ferguson said: "It is not an easy game, simply because Chelsea are in outstanding form. "They are top of the league and are there on merit, but we have the ability to change that. "The most important thing is for us to bring back the confidence, bring back the winning habit."

I can also understand the United fans reaction because United simply didn't have any fight in them. I watch the last two games and I have to say they were the two worst performances I have seeen from a United side.I saw Ferguson talking after the game and I have to say he looked very subjeud after the poor week of results.


Champions League Tuesday Round-Up

British sides had a very mixed set of resulsts whilst Lyon French side Lyon became the first side to qualify from the Group Stages. Also, Real Madrid all but qualified with a convincing win in Norway.

First of all, Liverpool romped to a 3-0 win over Belgian side Anderlecht. The goals came from Spanish duo Morientes and Garcia, also Cisse got on the scoresheet after coming on for Crouch during the second half. Anderlecht were reduced to ten men late on when Nenad Jestrovic was sent off for a racists comment to Sissoko. Chelsea suffered their first defeat in the Champions League this year at the hands of Spanish outfit Real Betis. The La Liga side took the lead substitute Dani grabbed the only goal with a cool finish past Petr Cech just before the half-hour mark. The win for Betis now lifts them to within a point of Chelsea.

Rangers twice took the lead against Artmedia Bratislava but only to be pegged back twice and the match end in a draw. Dado Prso and Steven Thompson twice put Rangers ahead but Balazs Borbely and Jan Kozak levelled on both occasions. The second goal for Bratislava was down to a goal keeping error from Wateruss. Inter Milan came from behind at home to FC Porto to stay in control of Group H with a 2-1 victory. Miguel Hugo Almeida put the 2004 winners in front with a brilliant free-kick but Julio Cruz bagged a brace to seal three points for the Italians. That group now looks like going down to the wire with all sides very close to one another.

Lyon booked their place in the knock out stages after a hard fought win over Greek side Olimpiakos. The Greeks went in front through Haruna Babangida, but Juninho levelled before a John Carew brace and Mahamadou Diarra strike put the result beyond doubt. Real Madrid all-but-guaranteed their progress with a comfortable 2-0 victory away at Norwegian side Rosenborg. Mikael Dorsin put though his own net before Guti wrapped up the points. The game marked David Beckham's 100th Champions League appearances.

PSV Eindhoven took top spot in Group E from AC Milan with a 1-0 victory over their Italian rivals in Holland. PSV went ahead early on through striker Jefferson Farfan and held on as Milan were reduced to 10 men, Jaap Stam seeing red with six minutes to go. Schalke also went above Milan with a 2-0 win over nine-man Fenerbahce. Kevin Kuranyi opened the scoring and the Turks had Fabio Luciano and Marco Aurelio both sent off before Ebbe Sand finished them off towards the end.


Wenger and Mourinho in War Of Words

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit back at Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after he had branded him a "voyeur" and claimed he was obssesed with Chelsea. The French man has not ruled out the possibility of takign action against the Portugese man. "I find it out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful," Wenger said in response on Tuesday. "I will see if I take any action. I don't know yet but I will leave that door open. I don't know what I said that was malicious." Wenger added: "I was asked a question about Chelsea and gave my honest answer, just like I expect any other manager to do when he is asked about Arsenal. "It's as simple as that and I can't see what is wrong with that and if there is we would all have to close our news conferences.

"I've said what I had to say about that. I'm not obsessed at all with Chelsea. "I'm at a club where I'm very happy. Things have changed over the years in English football." Wenger warned of the dangers of getting embroiled into a battle of personal attacks which he believes would end up restricting people having an opinion. "When I came to England, I was happy to come and be confronted with the English culture, where the owners of the clubs were English and they opened the door to foreign people.

"Now, in some clubs, it looks like it is becoming different and that's where it's important not to lose your values. "It is important that the respect you have always shown stays but the ways are becoming different in English football. "It looks more like foreign people are buying the clubs and employing English people. "For me, that's not a problem but it's a change and it's very important that the values of the game remain as they were before - respected and admired everywhere. "Part of it is that everyone can have an opinion about the game."

Intresting little War Of Words here and I am on Wenger's side, although I don't particularly like him, I just thought the comments made by Mourinho were a litlle rash. I am not a very big fan of Mourinho although I do admire him as a manager, I just don't like his overall attitude.


Bradley signs new City deal

Manchester City striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has signed a new four year contract extension at the club. The 20-year-old striker only agreed a new deal last season but City have decided to tie him down until 2009. "It's good news all round," said Wright-Phillips - who is the half-brother to Chelsea and England star Shaun Wright-Phillips. "I never thought about leaving, I am under the club's wing and the aim is to get a few starts and a few goals." Wright-Phillips made his return to first-team action in Monday night's 3-1 win over Aston Villa. A knee injury has limited him to only three substitute appearances this season but he is highly rated by City boss Stuart Pearce.

Good news for both City and Wroght-Phillips because I really believe Bradley has got some talent and it is only a matter of time he starts showing it. You have to remember that when he and his brother were both in the academy the magnificent staff at the academy thought that Bradley was the better one and now look how well Shaun is doing so why can't Bradley do that.