Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Full Transfer Lists

Owen Hargreaves
Hargreaves to Man city...Will he be able to show his fitness as the 7th best midfielder?

I'll have some reactions to transfer deadline day, as I like a few moves but not others.

I've added a full transfer list courtesy of You can filter by league. Enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2011

The plight of the TFC supporter

In the 75th minute you could feel the anxiety in the air, the sense of ininevitability that 1-0 just wasn't enough. 

At the 85th minute Saturday night you could have come up with about 100 different cliches to describe TFC's capitulation of its slender one goal lead. Granted TFC were robbed of a goal as Joao Plata was clearly onside when he seemingly put the Reds two up.

By the 90th minute you could see the frustration on both supporter and player faces alike.

Another defensive collapse, another performance that went begging, another lead squandered. This has been the 5 year story of a Toronto FC supporter. For those who are not up to speed on the events of the last four years, watching one match can give you glimpse into the disarray of the club. From the consistent movement players in and out of the club, to the ineffective management on and off the pitch, all the way to the shockingly bad scouting of player talent. It is been clear for sometime that something fundamentally is, and has been from day one wrong with the club. There is no one thing that you can point your finger at, no single smoking gun that explains the poor results on the pitch. There are several things mainly behind the scenes that have caused this. However this blog post is not dedicated to those reasons, this is dedicated the the loyal almost to a fault TFC supporter.

This blogger does not sit in the south end (Still on the waiting list...and will probably will be there for awhile) however he's watched just about very TFC game there has been either live when it was still nearly impossible to get tickets, and now when you can walk up to the box office. On T.V when it was carried, online through at times terrible feeds with massive lag times. I've skipped work for games, brushed off dates with ex-girlfriends to be home to catch a game (Hence the ex). I've even hung outside BMO on days I could get match tickets just so I could hear the game and the crowd and feel a part of things. I've watched the team get completely thrashed 5-0, I've watched heartbreaking 1-0 defeats in which the losing goal was scored in the 92nd minute....and I came back for more. But after 5 years for losing football and no chance of the playoff come August, as the reality is TFC will not make the playoffs again this year, you have to much more of this can one take?

The club now seems to be on the right path towards building a winner. A strong emphasis on youth and the academy has always been the key to strong long lasting sides. The senior squad under manager Aron Winter are playing, at least offensively a more attractive style of football. However this style of rebuilding takes time, a long time and do TFC supporters have the patience to wait? This town is craving for a winner, and the first team that does it will win the hearts of the people, TFC had the chance right away. Duane Rollins made a good point in his post today on, those who were 27 when the club started are now 32 with kids. Renewing TFC season tickets will not be on the top list of priorities, nor should it, and frankly my age group (I'm 28) may not have money to afford to spend on a losing football club. I personally will be there, along with many of the die hard supporters, but that may only fill one end of BMO field, what about the rest of the stadium? Will people care enough if the rest of this season is a dud?

The crowds this year have been falling short of previous years, it was evident at the home opener something was different. Even for the notoriously late arriving Toronto crowd you could see the games was not a clear sellout. The trend has continued through out the year, with some Canadian Championship games only drawing 10-12,000 people. After the end of last season it was clear that some casual fans had enough, for them the side show was over. Depending on how this season ends a lot more casual fans may just say forget it when they get the season's tickets call from their sales rep. Contrary to what is shown on the televised games or the ticket packages, the casual fan is the key to TFC's success. The die hard soccer fans in Toronto were always going to come out in numbers, but those numbers are small compared to the amount of so called "part-time supporters" who fill out the rest of the stadium. It seems that MLSE and TFC believe that the good times would always role at BMO as long as they could keep the ticket prices reasonable and the Carsburg flowing. However this part-time supporter is smarter than that, pints are fun but winning along with those pints make the experience worth coming back for.

So what now...what will make BMO continue to rock like it has these past 5 year come 2012? Winning for one will help but the question is how and will the club take the steps to do that? It seems that Director of Player Development Paul Mariner along with Winter and the rest of the player staff are up for the task. But TFC supporters have heard all this before. All the promises, all the changes all the fancy ads and new kits. However there is only one thing that will matter, the signing of quality players who want to be here and the successful implementation of Aron Winter's vision on the pitch.

This is the plight of the TFC supporter, this is when you find out who'll stand up and who'll fade away.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is Jose losing the plot?

When football supporters think about the El Classico many envision football being played at its highest level. Wonderful passing, excellent tactics, and intense play. Last season the age long Barcelona v Real Madrid derby had a new dimension added to it with the appointment of the "special one" José Mourinho as Madrid manager. His tactical ability having beaten Barca in the previous year's Champions League semi final on the way to the trophy, was the key selling point on Madrid's decision to hire him. His goals were clear, Win the Champions League, and just as important if not more, beat Barcelona. 7 games later and the plans is now going so well.

What was Jose thinking?...And who is that freaky dude in the backgroud?

His actions over these past 7 games has been puzzling at times and down right crazy at others. From not speaking to the media, to berating refs, to calling Barca's victories over his team a part of a conspiracy involving, UEFA, the Spanish football federation and even UNICEF....yes that UNICEF. It's become clear Mr. Mourinho does not handling losing very well. However the scene at the Camp Nou last Tuesday of Jose eye gouging Barcelona assistant coach Tito Villanova was a step too far even for a manager of his stature.  I'm not going to pretend to know what exactly happened to make Mourinho want to pop his thumb in another man's eye, but regardless of the "series of provocations and insults from the Barca bench" as Madrid's higher ups are calling it, he must do better.

I don't truly believe he's cracking up under the pressure of managing the Real Madrid, but I do believe he has a serious problem handling defeat. And not just a 1-0 shock loss kind of defeat, but the kind in which his tactics are well beaten by another manager.

Today he released an open letter on the Madrid site apologizing to Los Blancos fans, but funny enough not to the guy who's eye he thumbed. In fact he went on to mention the  "hypocrisy in football" and those who "hide their faces and speak in whispers deep inside tunnels". Your guess is as good as mine in regards to what whispers and tunnels he speaks of or which hypocrisy is out there to get him and the club this time. Yes, he faces a 12 match ban... but he poke a man in the eye...Jose that's not hypocrisy, that's punishment that fits your crime. 

He may not be losing it, but he's on the verge of damaging a reputation as a solid manager and a master tactician. Keeping these two components in tact will be key if he wishes to return to England as he has mentioned in the past.


Monday, August 15, 2011

What August ode to football

The start of a new European club season always brings about a sense of renewal and excitement that is rarely rivialed in world sport. Fans forget the bickering over match fixing allegations, the wild and ridiculous transfer rumors, the long some time painful to watch overseas tours and just get down to watching their club for the next 9 months. The glitter than comes with watching the big new signing at your club shine on their debut, or finally seeing your club make the top flight is something that has always intrigued me. It's one of the few times that everyone has the small, if even slightly out to lunch hope that this is truly "Our year".

For the football junkies like myself this time of year means synchronizing watches and re-learning the different world time zones. It means no more sleeping in on the weekends, no quiet Saturday and Sundays, and no more "hey what you doing" calls during normal game time (Sorry ladies).  The weekends in August bring us the delights of French football, the pace and power from England, the beauty of the Spanish game and the tactical brilliant of Italy and Germany.At times it means that a football supporter has to make difficult decisions like which game to leave behind, which games to put your faith in and how much Arabic you know so you can watch your favorite match online if you can't get it on T.V where you are.

From a North American perspective, August is football dream land. Not only are the European Leagues getting started, but MLS is going into the playoff stretch drive. All the games in April and May no one though important, now become huge as team scrap for every last point to get themselves a shot at a league championship. At any given time one can watch football on a Saturday from 7:30 am -10 pm at night. And that does not include if you want to watch a west coast game which could be done at 1am the next morning!

To Man U, Arsenal and hell even Man City too. Lazio, Parma, Roma and Inter. From Wolfsburg to Bayern, PSG to Barca, from the 85,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu to the 2,500 in Frisco, Texas who watch FC Dallas. Enjoy, revel the best football months are back! and not a moment too soon.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The look of love: A case for F.C Barcelona

They say love is fleeting and this may well be true but do you remember that feeling? That certain sense of excitement and fear? Like the beautiful painting you can't help but stare at for hours on end. The beauty I'm about describe is not of paint on canvass, but of sweat and skill on pitches lush and green. Of course I'm sugaring my word for dramatic effect, however football does provide its own form of art in motion. In the past we could point to the flowing creative Brazilian or Dutch sides of the 1970's as proof. Even for those old enough they could describe the Real Madrid sides of the 50's and 60's who dominated with pace and power.  In the new century F.C Barcelona presents itself as the first side to truly reach the level of legendary sides.
To start off, I'm not a Barcelona supporter per say. I certainly was not at the Brazen Head in downtown Toronto at the end of May, jumping for joy after their 3-1 masterpiece against Manchester United in the Champions League final. However what I was doing, in between sobs, was marveling on how this team worked and moved as a unit. Of course this team is comprised of many individual talents (Messi, Iniseta, Villa, Xavi, Pique, Pedro, Puyol etc..etc..) however what sets this team apart from their European rivals is how they play as a team of 11 on the pitch. At times during that game, and many though out the past 3 years in particular. The footballing world has been witness to an art form come of age.

By no means is the system they play or the tactics they use new, this "total football" system first brought to the forefront by the Dutch in the 1970's was the most technically gifted and far too advanced method of play for its time. The one thing the Dutch could not do, that Barcelona have been able to figure out. Is how to defeat the physical brand of football that is still widely used. This can be demonstrated by not just the Champions League final this year, but also by 4 out of their 5 encounters with Real Madrid last season. Madrid especially in the last 3 games displayed what can only be described as bully ball tactics against Barca. Yet no matter how hard they fouled, they like so many other just could not hold out against the dominate passing, movement and possession game of Pep Guradiola's side. Like the Dutch system preaches, everyone on the pitch can play anyone else's position and fit in seamlessly. If a left wing back moves forward on the attack, a holding midfielder can step into the void he left and execute the defensive responsibilities as if he'd played the position his whole life.

With all this said, and the throphy haul to show (4 straight Spanish titles, 3 Cpoa Del Rey's, 3 Champions Leagues, 3 World Championships...all in the past 5 years). The single largest reason as to why this generation of Barcelona maybe the best of the past 50 years if not all time, is the imprint it has left on the Spanish national side. Since Spain's thimuph in the 2008 European championships, each successive team from the senior team down to U-15's have had at least 5 Barcelona players on the squad. The 2010 World Championship side had 8. They way Spanish football organises its training facilities, runs its youth programs and advances its coaches are all based on the Barca way. What other club, aside from the club Barca modeled itself after (Ajax in Holland) has this kind of hold on it national side? What other club is producing this many players as first choice selections for national sides?

The art of football is for the most part suttle. A dash of individual colour here or there and you can have something this is passable, something that can be sold at the local Wal-Mart. Then you have true art, at times alluring a vivid, and at time obtuse and strange, but you are drawn to the power of it none the less. This is what F.C Barcelona are right now, a Tate musuem masterpiece.