Monday, August 30, 2010

A frugal summer for European clubs

Over the past year many clubs have come under greater scrutiny in regards to their player spending at overall financial stability. With several top flight clubs around Europe's biggest leagues either at the brink of, or falling into administration, UEFA has begun to take action against reckless spending by club management. Starting in the 2011-2012 season, teams who spend more than they make in revenue, or clubs in excessive amounts of debt could be barred from lucrative European club competitions like Champions League or Europa League. The new "Financial fair play" rules also target the amount owners invest into their clubs for player spending.

The legislation will allow owners to inject €15 million (£12.3m) a year into their clubs up until 2015, and then €10m (£8.2m) until 2018. This cash cannot be a loan, which is an approach already taken by the Manchester City and Chelsea hierarchy.

As the transfer window is set to shut on Wednesday, many top European clubs will be looking at their benches and seeing if they need any additions to improve the squad. However unlike years past it seems less likely that major moves will be done at the deadline. Aside from the spending sprees at at Real Madrid and Manchester City, there has been little to speak of from many of the top clubs in Europe. Instead there is a emphasis on either loaning out troubled or unproductive players, and buying lower priced unknown or "diamond in the rough" type players. Manchester United, Arsenal and Barcelona (with the exception of David Villa) have, at least for now cooled on spending tremendous amounts of money on new talent.

As UFEA President Michel Platini stated yesterday at a press conference "For years and years we were in total anarchy but the clubs asked for the rules because they knew they could not continue. He added "Transfers have not been as crazy as in the last few years, they are pulling up their socks and the clubs are making special efforts to comply with the rules."

The new UFEA legislation is a massive reason as to why many clubs have not been as active on the transfer market as in previous years. The fear of having UFEA either ban of scansion the club for financial mis-management is enough to slow down the mad spending of some clubs. Manchester United with it's near £700 million debt have done very little business in the window outside of picking up Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling and Bebe. Based on their estimated transfer values the total for the 3 barely hits £20 million. Compare this with two summers ago when the signing of one player, Dimitar Berbatov, cost the club just over £30 million.

Other clubs have followed suit in this quiet transfer window. The defending European and Italian champions biggest off season move was losing manager Jose Mourinho, and then signing former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez. The also normally busy AC Milan has been quite this summer, even the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not generated as much buzz as it normally would. This would be due to the fact it's only a season long loan deal. German champions and Champions league finalist Bayern Munich have practically signed no one.

This is not to say that the transfer rumors have been stopped, in fact with the lack of movement they have become more prevalent as media outlets need something to write about in the off season. Many of these rumours have been little more than that, and as clubs continue to keep the wallets closed until a gem of a deal comes forward, expect to see a lack of fireworks tomorrow and Wednesday.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Barcelona Outclass AC Milan amid transfer rumors for Ibra

Barcelona's captain Carles Puyol (L) gives the Joan Gamper trophy to AC Milan's player Ronaldinho after Barcelona won the trophy in their friendly match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona August 25, 2010. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)
In front of a completely sold out Camp Nou, FC Barcelona defeated 3-1 on penalties after the game ended in a 1-1 draw to capture the Gamper Trophy. The crowd of 98,787 were entertained by an overpowering display by the home team as they out passed their Italian counterparts for the majority of the match.

The night was also a chance for the supporters to celebrate and properly send off Ronaldinho, who was with the club from 2003-2008. The crowd were treated to a video montage of some of his classic moments in the Barca shirt, and was given the biggest cheer of the night when he entered the pitch solo. He even took the squad photo with the Barca players at the behest of club captian Puyol.

It took all of 5 minutes for Barca to create their first opportunity. After some sublime passing between Iniesta and Jeffren, Iniesta picked out new boy David Villa who beat his marker but blazed the shot 5 feet over the crossbar. It was an early signal of intent by Barca and proved the set the tone for the rest of the first half.

It was clear that both clubs were still in pre season form as there were some periods of less than fluid play in the first 20 minutes, especially for AC Milan who looked like a squad still trying to figure out how to play with each other. They lacked link up play between the midfield and the front pairing of Klass Jan Huntelaar and Marco Borriello. This would normally be provided in the form of Clerance Seedorf, but he was not in the starting 11.

The best chance of the first half was created the electric play of Pedro who after cleverly beating Bonera played in a cross to the streaking Zlatan Ibrahimović who scored on a stretching flick in. However the goal was disallowed after the linesmen incorrectly flagged the Swedish International offside. Ibra has been the focus of many transfer rumors over the past week. One of the rumored destinations is AC Milan, if this is the case AC Milan brass would have been impressed with what they saw. He easily linked up with strike partner David Villa time and time again. It looks like a potential fruitful partnership, if Ibra stays of course.

The rest of the first half dominated by Barcelona position, and half chances. Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri set the squad up to hit Barca on the counter and almost scored on a half chance for Borriello, but he could not get his shot on target just on half time.

Just a minute into the start of the second half, Barca opened the scoring after Adriano crossed the ball into the box and Villa, having moved into the middle after Ibrahimović was replaced at the half for Bojan, beat the keeper with a finely placed volley. This brought the crowd to it's feet as it was Villa's first goal with the club since joining from Valencia. After the goal it seemed that the flood gates would open and Barca would go on to route the Milan club, however Fillipo Inzaghi had other ideas.

After he was brought on in the 50th minute it did not take the mercurial Milan striker long to find the back of goal. With their only real chance in the game, another half time sub Seedorf sent in a magnificent long ball cross into the direction of Inzaghi, who incredibly let the ball run across his body and lashed the first time left footed volley past Pino in goal to equalize in the 66th minute. In a move that might not be understood in North American sports the pro Barca crowd applauded the goal before rallying their team.
AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi scores a goal against Barcelona during a friendly match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, August 25, 2010. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER IMAGES OF THE DAY)

From there the game lacked a bit of cutting edge even with the entrance of Leo Messi in the 67th minute. At the end of 90 minutes the game ended 1-1.

In penalties Messi, Bojan and Thiago scored for Barca while only defender Mario Yepes scored for the visitors.

With both squads starting their domestic season this coming weekend there are still some issues both sides need to iron out, for Milan the counter attacked needs to be a bit faster. The when the full 11 start playing the link up play will need to improve if they wish to stop bitter rivals Inter from winning their 6th title in a row. For Barcelona, the key will be getting the David Villa gelled quickly into the squad. Regardless of whether or not Ibrahimovic stays, a new partnership will need to be formed up front. If they can do this quickly then Real Madrid will have an extremely hard time taking the title from the hands of the blaugrana.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Out of office post

Hello all!

 As some of you might know I'm currently on vacation in Europe and this the reason the post have been few and far between over the past few weeks. I'll have a new one soon on my experience watching FC Barcelona at the Nou Camp soon.


Friday, August 20, 2010

New Season, New Ambitions at Birmingham City FC

Even though I'm currently on "Vacation" I couldn't leave the football alone! I visited my Uncle and Aunt's local EPL club team Birmingham City at their home pitch St.Andrews to get a feel for what the club is after at the start of the new EPL season. Plus it was an awesome way to get a mini tour of the grounds. I would like to thank BCFC for their hospitality, especially to Chris Kershaw the press officer for the club who gave me the time of day when I showed up unannounced on team photo day!


With the start of the new Barclay's Premier League season, Birmingham City FC supporters are cautiously optimistic about the chances in the league this year. After a higher than expected 9th place finish last season, the best in 51 years. The club is looking to new opportunities both on and off the pitch to grow the success of the West Midlands club. The club turned heads last season with an 12 match unbeaten run after Christmas which went a long way in sealing their place in the top flight for another season.

Player Recruitment/Development

Heads we also turned just before the run started as the long protracted take over of the club from David Sullivan and David Gold to Chinese billionaire Carlson Yeung was completed. At an estimated cost of 81 million GBP, Yeung assumed control of a club that had just been promoted back to the Premier League after winning the Championship League title that spring. At the onset of his take over Yeung promised over 40 million GBP in new signings to the club, and although the full amount of that spending had not happened as of yet the club is confident it can attract top talent to the squad. As with other Premier League clubs this season City have to be concentrated on the new home grown player rule that regulates squad sizes and composition. The rule states that 8 out of a possible 25 man roster must be "home grown". These home grown players must have been in the English academy system from over 3 years by the time they are/were 21. This does not mean the player has be to English born, think Cesc Fabregas.

So where does this leave The Blues in regards to player recruitment? Are they are buying club? Or is there going to be a push of youth from the academy?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Toronto FC Shock Cruz Azul in CCL Group stage opener

In front of an announced 16,892 at BMO Field Toronto FC put forth it's most dominating performance of the 2010 season, defeating 5 time CONCACAF Champions League winners Cruz Azul of Mexico 2-1. First half goals from Martin Saric and newest DP signing Mista sealed the three points for the MLS side.

Mista celebrates after scoring his first TFC goal Tuesday night
Although the scoreline impressive, what was more impressive was how TFC dominated play through out the 90 minutes. The reds played with an urgency that has been rarely seen from the club this year, and key players such as Dewayne De Rosario and Julian De Guzman played their best football of the season.

De Rosario's excellent movement in the first half opened up holes for Misa to cause havoc for the Mexican defenders, as his free header that was saved by the keeper set up the Saric goal within the first three minutes of the match. Mista found himself with another chance in the dying minutes of the first half in which he slotted the ball home just beyond the full reach of Yosgart Gutiérrez. After the match TFC head coach Preki commented regarding Mista that "We always knew he was a quality player,“It was just a matter of getting him fit and healthy and ready for all the games coming up now pretty fast. He gave us 60-plus minutes, good minutes.” Mista has been a bit of an odd fellow for the club even since they signed him. Preki has used him in several different area of the pitch including an attacking midfield role, up front or as a potential winger. It became clear what kind of talent he can provide up front for the club especially with O'Brian White seeming to have lost a bit of confidence in front of goal.

It must be stated that the Crul Azul players underestimated their opponents Tuesday night. At the half time the Cruz Azul players looked shocked to be 2 down by halftime. Varying reports claim the team's scouting report was not up to date, cautioning the players against exerting to much energy on BMO's plastic pitch in case of injury. Evidently the club had not been told that the field had been replaced with the real stuff at the beginning of the year.

Whatever the case may be, Crul Azul did not take to the games as quickly as their hosts, even though they had a clear class advantage. The second half was played at a higher tempo for the visitors but they could not penetrate the Toronto backline lead by Canadian International center backs Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann. Who played arguably their best game as a defensive pairing. Cristian Gimenez’s curling free kick in the 90th minute to beat TFC number two Jon Conway was the lone bright spot for Cruz Azul.

Credit must also be given to Toronto Head coach Preki who got his tactics all right as he started off playing a flexible 4-4-2 which at times floated into a (4-3-1-2) with De Rosario tucked behind Mista and White. This seemed to give the Mexican club problems as they could not handle De Rosario's movement or Mista's clever flicks and runs. In the second half as some players started to run out of gas, he reverted to a more defensive 4-5-1 set up to deal with the increased pace the visitors put on the pitch for the second half.

For Toronto, who when to great lengths to down play their chances of winning put together their most complete performance of the season. However there will be little time for back slapping as their most important league match of the season comes up on Saturday, as New York comes to BMO on the back end of a home and home series. With New York 5 points clear of TFC for that all important second place spot in the East, Preki will have to prepare his squad for the vastly improved Red Bulls, Who will be coming into the game with some confidence having beaten TFC 1-0 last week at home. Saturday will be Toronto's true measuring stick to see where they stand with the top clubs in MLS.

For now though Toronto FC can enjoy a short if not sweet club milestone.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Barca adventure

(Written on Aug16th)

As I currently crusing at an altitude of 35,000 feet, on a course to England all I can really think about is Barcelona. Don't get me wrong I'm excited to be back in the U.K, beyond the football possibilities to explore there, I'll be in the good hands of family as we prepare for the wedding of my cousin. I'm hoping to catch a match while I'm here although I'll be pretty busy with family business of course. I'll keep you informed if I can get to any EPL or npower championship matches over the next week.

However what I'm gearing up for from a football and blogging perspective is happening next Wednesday night. After the wedding, your junior birdman will be back in the air heading towards Barcelona and more specifically the Camp Nou. Now I hope I don't have to go into the serious importance of the home of FC Barcelona, however just in case there are any newbies to the game let me take a few moments to explain.

Barca can possibly be described as art of a soccer pitch, if you have never seen a Barcelona game I highly encourage you to do so (Note: The Spanish season starts on the 28th I believe) When you are watching the game also note the stadium referred to as the Camp Nou or Nou Camp (Pronounced "New" for us who cannot speak Catalan). The crowd at the matches are a lot different than any TFC crowd, most have compared it to something close to a religious experience. Of course this is probably an overstatement but with the opening song that the supporters sing upon the entrance of the players being called the hymn of the people, you can see why people may feel this way.

The moto of the club is in Catalan "Més que un club" or in English "More than a club" is one of the truest statements in world football. Club members are consulted on major decisions made by club management, they also have a presidential election for the club. The supporters have a large influence on how the club runs, both on and off the pitch. During the recent revelations that the club had failed to pay the players May wages due to debt issues, the club released a financial statement to all club members that requested it.

That along with Barca's long standing commitment to building its squad from it academy ranks, has made them not only one of the most popular football clubs in the world but in the eyes of the people of Barcelona the national team of the Catalan people. Through out the years of General Franco's rule Barcelona more than any other club represented the anti-Franco movement. As Franco banned the Catalan language, the Camp Nou was in many cases the only place it could be spoken freely.

This is what is at the heart of the stadium, not only is the place a venue of excellent football, but in a way it is one of the expressions of the Catalan culture.

This is where I come in, I'll be watching the Friendly match between Barca and AC Milan on the 25th. I'll be posting just before and after the match so look out for those.



P.S: (It's now Aug 18th) I'm hoping to get to either Villa Park or St.Andrews (Home of Aston Villa and Birmingham City respectively) before I leave the U.K on the 23rd. Will let you know as soon as I know.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A response to Paul James article "Foreign coaches bring fresh ideas to Canada"

Frank Yallop (On the right) head coach at San Jose Earthquakes.
One of the few Canadian managers at the pro level.

Earlier this week former Canadian International Paul James floated the idea that foreign managers bring a much needed tactical and physical expectation with them to Canada. He pointed out two managers in particular, The Vancouver Whitecaps Teitur Thordarson and Toronto FC's Preki.

James mentioned that the foreign managers bring a higher level of play and teaching styles. They stress on technique and defensive responsibility, and are not afraid to drop Canadian internationals that do not fit the bill so the speak. To quote James "In 2008, Thordarson cut loose Jeff Clarke, Steve Kindell, and Alfredo Valente. Within a few months of signing a contract at TFC, Preki jettisoned Canadian internationals Ali Gerba (now with the Montreal Impact) and Adrian Serioux (now with the Houston Dynamo). His main assertion was that these managers will make the tough decisions on players that cannot match the the level of play required. This in turn will filter down to Canadian youth players who will work to improve their skills to make their first teams.

I agree with James that both coaches have brought a higher level of play to their squads and that they have brought fresh ideas to the Canadian game. However my concern is with the development of Canadian managers and where they fit in. Granted Mr.James's comments are correct in the sense that managers from abroad bring a different level of knowledge and expertise to the Canadian game, but the question that remains is how can this be translated to home grown coaches?

An argument I've read states that when foreign coaches come to Canada they hire Canadian assistants. Through their experiences with the head coach those Canadian assistants learn the craft, and one day will be good enough to be managers. The idea is that things like tactical discipline, technique and skill coaching will be picked up by the assistants and eventually they will be able to lead teams at the professional level. Of course all managers, save a few, started out this way. However in the world of professional football the result is everything. If you as a club owner can win more games with a foreign manager, then you'll spend the extra money in most cases and hire him.

This is where the home grown manager gets squeezed out in most cases. You see it a lot in England's top league, where it is more "attractive" to bring in a foreign manager than take a chance on a "fresh" home grown talent.

It is true that in the early stages of the modern game coaches from England mainly would travel all around the world and spread football knowledge to the masses. In turn, those who were thought became professors of the game themselves. The reason such a scenario would be hard to replicate these days is down to world connectivity. It no longer takes foreign talent weeks to arrive by boat anymore, top talent can travel within hours, and due to the Internet and other media services it is much easier to live abroad. All of which makes home grown management talent an after thought in most professional cases.

Now I'm not asking or advocating for a home manager quota or anything like that, at the end of the day you're either good enough or you're not regardless of nationality. What I'm hoping to see is clubs in Canada taking a proactive stance on developing Canadian coaches. I know the MLS really tries to emphasise this with the U.S based clubs, mainly for the purposes of the U.S national team of course, but the CSA could do the same for TFC, Vancouver and Montreal as they enter MLS play.

It will take awhile before Canada produces the Manitobian Jose Mourinho, but with the growth in the professional game right now we can defiantly get started on that path.

You can find Paul James Original post here:


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weekend Headlines

Some of the stuff happening or might happen this weekend. Short one for this weekend, just enjoy the start of the EPL!

North America:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Morning headlines

North America:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toronto FC learning the price of success

As this season began Toronto FC's expectations were high. The club set three major goals with new head coach Preki, 1) Retain the Nutrilite Canadian championship 2) Qualify for the group stages of CONCACAF Champions League and 3) Make the playoffs for the first time in club history. After a sluggish pre-season filled with poor play and roster issue it seemed the team would have been hard pressed to attain those goals. It looked even bleaker after the first two games of the regular season in which they lost at a combined score of 6-1. After the first four games TFC were 1-3 with only 3 goals scored and 9 against.
Through out the that time Preki and GM Mo Johnston preached clam, noting that the players were getting the know each other and the new managers style of play. There were only 7 players that returned from the 09 squad, with many of the new faces joining the club just before or right after the start of the regular season. Shortly after being outclassed at the Rio Tinto by Real Salt Lake in early May, the players held a closed door meeting the air out the issues and get on track with club expectations. The next game, a home win against Chicago would start the club on a club record 11 match unbeaten streak.

Within that streak the club captured it's second Canadian championship and a preliminary round date with Motauga of Honduras. With the added success the club faced a new problem, a congested fixture list with a lot of travel and little rest or training time.

TFC's success in defeating Motagua in the preliminary round and advancing to the group stage of the champions league (Check two in the list of club goals if you're keeping track) is so far the club's biggest achievement in it's 4 year history. However many TFC supporters are wondering what cost will the CCL group stages take on the team's main goal, making the playoffs.

By no means are the Reds the lone MLS team that will have to deal with 6 extra games, as Seattle, Columbus and Real Salt Lake will also play group stage games. However what those teams have that Toronto lacks is true squad depth. Aside from new acquisitions like Mista, and Maicon Santos, the squad it fairly thin especially in the midfield. If the priority in the playoffs, Preki will have to make tough choices around who plays and who rests for crucial league games. One wouldn't be surprised if Preki chose to field some of the academy players against Cruz Azul on Tuesday. He showed his willingness to do so in the second leg against Motagua in Tegucigalpa playing academy stand out Doneil Henry at right back.

Preki may have to start making these decisions quickly, as the team looked flat out exhausted in the second half of their loss to the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night. He also now has to deal with preferred starting striker Chad Barret sidelined with a hamstring problem after he hobbled off only 30 minutes in. Barret's injury is one in a growing list of concerns facing TFC as we head towards the business end of the season.

Toronto currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot with San Jose just 3 points behind, but with a crucial 2 games in hand on TFC. The club is also heading into the toughest part of their schedule in which they still have to play Real twice, Columbus, Chicago and Houston all on the road where they have a 1-9 record this season. In between those games TFC have mid week group league games which will take them as far as Panama within a three day turn around.The long used mental gut check cliche will be an ever present for the Reds.

However this is what club management wanted, this is the price for relative success.

Preki will have to become a master of man management in order to pull this off. He will need to get captain Dewayne De Rosario and DP Julian De Guzman rest, get the back four in order and get Mista match fit. He also has to avoid injury to key members as he does not have much to choose from in replacements. He also must not crumble under the immense pressure club supporters are putting on him to win, and although Club owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will not come out a directly say it, they want TFC in the MLS Cup final on home soil as it would be a cash bonanza for MLSE.

TFC have craved success since its inception and now that it has some of it, tough choices need to be made before the relative champions league dream season turns into potential playoff disappointment.

It all begins Tuesday night against Cruz Azul at BMO Field.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Morning Headlines

It seems that people like this idea of selected footy headlines from around the world, so I'll continue doing this for a while. Suggestions always are welcome!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A star in the making?

It has been interesting to watch the first few friendlies that United have played in the run up to the start of the Premier League season, especially watching the play of Javier Hernandez since his debut against the MLS all stars two weeks ago. Hernandez joined the club officially in July 1st, although he was actually signed back in May. At the time of his signing the news flew under the radar, as most United supporters had never seen him play at Chivas Guadalajara his old club. From what I saw of him in his highlight reels he looked like a player. However I have to admit I've been very surprised at his ability to grasp the pace of the English league, and especially that of Manchester United.

Current club legend Paul Scholes recently mentioned that Hernandez looks like "an out-and-out goalscorer,'' the Mexican striker has been compared to former United great Ole Gunner Solskjaer. Scholes went on to add in the interview, "People say he's like Ole, and I thought that the first time I saw him in training. We did a finishing session and everything was in the bottom corner. He scores whenever he gets a chance. He comes on and looks lively. He's adapted to the pace of the game already". This among many other attributes maybe the one that defines how big of a star he can become at United.

For example when Cristiano Ronaldo joined United in 2003 it took him almost 3 years to blossom into the talent everyone knew he was. One of the things he always said slowed his development in England was truly learning and dealing with the sheer pace of an EPL game. At least during his first few run outs for the Red Devils "Chicharito", his nick name which means "little pea", looks like he already begun to feel right at home with the speed of the game. Of course whether or not he can keep this up during the regular season remains to be seen, but rest assured he has already convinced the most important person, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Hernandez really peaked the football world's attention at this summer's World Cup, where he score two goals and impressed with his creative play, pace and ability to run the channels and get behind defenders. When it came to his finishing in front of goal was superb. He will be a massive part of Mexico's youth push at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and in all likely hood will be Mexico's number 1 striker.

Again as I said above only time will tell if Chicharito will become a world star, but based on his World Cup and start at United, he's well on his way.


Tuesday Morning Headlines

Enjoy some footy news and highlights/lowlights with your cup of coffee.

  • Finally able to get LEGAL highlights of the 2010 Community Shield game between Manchester United and Chelsea from Sunday, courtesy of F.A TV. Pay particular attention to Javier Hernández's goal and how it goes in (laughed my ass off!) View below.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Why play the Community Shield?

As I was watching the last 10 minutes of a thrilling Community Shield game between Man United and Chelsea, I began to wonder why I was so fixated on a match that was in the words of Mark Lawrenson was a "glorified friendly". Even in recent times Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has down played the significance of the game by saying "It's always a game we never quite use of a do or die thing, we use it as a barometer for fitness".

Watching the first half of the game you might have agreed with him, it seemed that up until the first United goal, both sides were playing to see where they were at in regards to their development for the upcoming season. Through out his entire time on the pitch it looked like Ashley Cole took it as a training match against local amateurs, Now of course this could have been his "Get me outta here, I want to go to Madrid" plea, but I highly doubt it. However it seemed that once Antonio Valencia fired the Red Devils into the lead, everyone competitive nature came out.

Javier Hernández scores in comical fashion to put United up 2-0
This in my opinion is why the F.A  must continue with the Community Shield game, it is the first chance for the top clubs to really get into competitive mode for the upcoming season. I would have imagined at half time the team talk consisted of not losing face to the other side. As you would expect that United and Chelsea will be in the thick of the title race all season long. Although United brought on 3 subs at half time, you don't bring on Javier Hernández, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs on just because they need the run out. You could also tell that this game meant a little something when Ji Sung Park was in the starting 11 for United as he plays in all important games for the club, so make no mistake Sir Alex's intention was to win. The same could be said of Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti who made no changes to his side at half time and eventually brought in Dider Drogba to help salvage the game late on.

It must be said that in the grand scheme of things the Community Shield as silverware in a clubs trophy case is probably the one they will miss the least, however it is still silverware, and the one weakness of all clubs big or small is it's addiction at silver. Having the winning feeling early in a season helps to build on further success during the regular season, Chelsea can attest to this as winning the shield last year was the start of a record breaking year for them.

Some many find looking into the game like this as foolhardy, however the game can be used as a signal of intent for the rest of the league. In this case United showed that it is ready to make a run at regaining it's English crown and chalking up the very significant milestone of 19 league titles. For Chelsea it shows them that repeating as champions will be a very difficult task as the target is firmly on their backs now. The Blues have done it before this decade, but with a fit United, a re-freshed Arsenal, newly motivated Liverpool and the emerging giant in Manchester City; This will be one of the most intriguing Premier League season in quite some time.

So let the games begin.

Mike N 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A time of endless hope in Europe

As we turn the calender from July to August, we in the football world begin the dream.

August signals the start of the European football season, this weekend we saw the start of the English season as league football began its regular season and the Community Shield was played on Sunday. Also France began it's league play as it's top division got started. The beauty of the start of a new season is the amount of endless hope that is in the minds and hearts of supporters.

The beginning of any football season whether it be Europe or South America, North America or Africa, it's a time in which all teams are even. Now of course there are clear favorites before the first ball is kicked, but the pure essence of hope makes the first round of games some of the most exciting. Supporters can now see the new signing in real competitive action, or see old faces take another run at a title. This time of the year is also the best time to see massive upsets in the league. For example tonight Montpellier fans who must have thought they were dreaming after last season's dream 5th place finish in Ligue 1, and qualifying for Europa League in its first season back up, shocked Bordeaux by beating them in the French league opener 1-0. The other surprises were in England's championship where highly rated Bristol City was pumped 3-0 by new boys Millwall, and promotion favorites Middlesbrough were defeated 3-1 by Roy Keane's Ipswich Town.

Now of course the first game of the season never makes or breaks an entire season as the European game is a slow burn towards the spring, but on opening day all are allowed to dream the impossible dream for many of the supporters. For those who have true title aspirations the start of the season is a time to assess what the club has done or not done in the off season. Most of the time supporters are trying the size up what their immediate rivals have done and how much of a threat they really are.

Manchester United 2010 Community Shield winners
You got this sense while watching the Community Shield today between Manchester United and Chelsea. As both teams have been relatively quiet during the transfer window this summer, you felt that at least in the first half both sides were feeling each other out, and seeing what changes and improvements have been made. Although the game ended 3-1 for United, I don't think United supporters are breaking out the Premier League bubbly yet but it makes them hopeful.

And sometimes that's all you really need.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

TFC should take Champions League seriously

Consider this an add-on to Monday's Toronto FC post.

After Tuesday's 2-2 draw against Motagua in Honduras, TFC's place in the CONCACAF Champions League group stages was confirmed winning the two leg match by a 3-2 aggregate score. Some Reds supporters can be forgiven if they think this is the greatest result in the club's short history, as the greatest triumph still lies ahead.
As I mentioned on Monday many supporters would prefer that Preki make the CCL the lower priority in favour of making the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history. Although I do not exactly share this point of view, I would agree that making the playoffs is ONE of Preki's priorities, but it should not place the champions league completely on the back burner. Making the playoffs would be TFC greatest achievement to date, but you cannot say that if TFC beat Cruz Azul (Mexico) on August 17th at home it would not be a watershed moment for the club.

As underwhelming as many find the CCL, it does place Toronto FC on the international stage, even if it is a bit smaller that the rest. It gives the fans the opportunity to continue building a history around the club, which all great clubs in the world have. It becomes hard to build a history when the teams is not winning or competing in the top tournaments in the region. I can't argue that making the playoffs won't do that either, but champions league nights can become magical events for clubs just like in Europe.

The Tournament also gives Preki the opportunity to play some of the youth squad members that normally would not see a lot of pitch time. On Tuesday Doneil Henry the 18 year old central defender who normally plays for the academy team started at right back in a massive match for the club. As the team tries to balance the squad between league games and CCL matches during mid week young players like Nicholas Lindsay, Oscar Cordon and Henry could find themselves playing major minutes in very important matches.

This can only be seen as a positive for the club who will be able to try and progress through the group stages of the CCL and qualify for the playoff while getting the future of the club some much need match action with the first team.

Onwards and upwards for TFC as they say.


When football gives back "The Umbro Great Pass Project"

In the this age of modern football where multi millionaire players, owners and administrators get the lion's share of headlines, especially during this time of the year. It is always good to make a moment and recognize when the game and the people surrounding it are finding ways to give back.

Kickball for kids is a non for profit organization which has one simple but very important goal, get soccer balls into the hands of children in Africa. As many of you saw during the World Cup this summer children love playing the game, however most do not have a proper ball to play with. As I had mention in my "why soccer" post, the beauty of the game is that anyone has access to the game. I've seen kids tie a bunch of plastic shopping bags into a ball and play with that. 

Although there is access, this does not mean there isn't need. Bringing soccer balls to some of the most impoverished not only helps with the development of the youths skills, but this also gives the chance for kids to be kids. Which goes a long way in stabilizing a child's state of mind. It can be an escape for a few hours for what at times can be a very tough life.

So I believe it's high time of Football Saves All and its readers to step up to the plate and help. Through Umbro Canada through Kickballs for Kids will be hand out a soccer ball for every 5 people that sign up for Umbro Canada's newsletter. The program is called The Umbro Great Pass Project.

 Help get this awesome organization over the top!


Monday, August 2, 2010

More drama on Merseyside

Another chapter in the ownership battle for Liverpool FC was written today, as they announced up to 6 bids to buy the club from the American duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillette have been recieved. The only confirmed bidder for the club is Kenny Huang a multi billionaire businessman based out of Shanghai, the rest are thought to be multi national consortiums. It is little secret that the current ownership regime at Anfield have had a very rocky relationship with the supporters and former manager Rafa Benitez. Things started well in the first year with a Champions league title, but as more debt was taken out on the club things began to sour.

The recession hit Hicks and Gillette hard both at the club and with their other businesses in North America. Supporters at the club turned against the ownership and held mass rallies against the owners, these flames were especially fanned by Benitez who pitted himself as the supporters manager fighting against inept owners. It is clear now that the supporters will be getting their way with the Americans leaving and a English manager Roy Hodgson in charge.

However the supporters should be careful before they begin the rejoice at the Kop, new owners always come to a club with their own agenda and Kenny Huang would be no different. Over the past few summers Liverpool have been aggressively pushing the Merseyside brand in Asia and Huang has made it clear he would try to knock Manchester United off as the biggest football brand in the far east. So the question for Liverpool supporters would be, are you willing to lose some of the English authenticity of the club in order to be debt free? The reason this would be a major question for the club is that this has been the long time argument for Liverpool, they have stayed to a certain extent "English". This of course was in the context of the big four as during Benitez's turn the players took on more of a Spanish feel.

Liverpool will not be alone in this ever growing popularity in foreign interests buying English clubs, Arsenal quietly have had a tug of war in regards to ownership shares in the club; and although the latest attempts to buy Manchester United have been from the so called "Red Knights" who are led by Englishmen, you would have to think that that only foreign money could buy out the over 700 million pounds debt.

So we'll wait and see what the decision is from RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) as they are the main debtors and will facilitate the sale, as it is understood this will be a quick decision and may be done by next week...Assuming the new owners pass the fit and proper persons test.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

When a Spurs supporter meets a Gooner

Hilarious video from the boys at xtra, clearly written by a Spurs supporter but funny none the less. Enjoy and let me know what you think.


Toronto FC must cure road jinx

Saturday was another tough night for TFC as they traveled to Kansas City to take on the Wizards. Since the inception of the club the on major issue that has followed the club though all 4 seasons has been the inability to consistently win away fixtures. Saturday was no exception as the Reds fell 1-0. Many have pointed to Adrian Cann's sloppy back pass that lead to Teal Bunbury's goal as being the back breaker, but that was a small part in the larger problem of being mentally tough on the road.

Last year when TFC missed out on the playoffs by one point, you had to look to the amount of blown games on the road as being the difference, had TFC even won 40% of those road games they would have made the playoffs, and it seems that the same holds true this year as well. The club has only 1 victory on the road this season out of a possible 8, and only 4 points to show for it (They drew the L.A earlier this season).

What also is concerning to manager Preki is the lack of offencive punch going forward. On Saturday the teams didn't look close to scoring a goal aside from Mista's early chance. This has been the case form the majority of the road games this year, take away the 3-1 victory at San Jose the scoring line for TFC on the road does not look good. None of the forwards or midfielders had any creative spark Saturday night, and it looked like the game was heading to a poorly played 0-0 draw.

If there is one thing that is positive about the road record is the better defensive display from the team. Preki clearly has instilled a tighter defensive set up and preached responsibility to his midfielders. However you can argue this has been at the cost of goals scored. After the Wizards scored it seemed the team was happy to continue playing the same formation and style as if it were still 0-0.  This type of mentality in tactics cannot win you road games or get you far in the playoffs.

Few can argue that this club has improved in many aspects of the game under the new management of Preki, however he still faces an uphill climb in terms of getting the squad mentally tougher for away matches. If TFC really want to make the playoffs they have to do it on the road and pick up valuable points, or else we could have a last day of the season New York fiasco like last year....and we know how badly that ended.