Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I was disappointed by the referee [Alan Wiley]. He didnâ€™t add any time on for the goal we scored. He walked after the second goal, needing a rest. He just wasnâ€™t fit enough for a game of that standard. I think it is an indictment of our game â€” you see referees from abroad who are as fit as butchers’ dogs. He [Wiley] was taking 30 seconds to book a player and I think he was taking a rest. It was ridiculous.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “There are things we can accept but also things you CAN’T accept. I’d never let anyone insult my mother. You can say whatever you want to me, I can take anything except when you insult my mother. When I heard the supporters singing – insulting my parents – well, I cannot accept it. And when I scored, I wanted to show them, ‘You kicked me out of your club and I have scored against you.'” – Emmanuel Adebayor.
Today’s overview: Portsmouth have been reduced to being a hot potato, and their fans will be tearing their hair out with the uncertainty surrounding their future.
As reported by Jamie Jackson, “Portsmouth’s turbulent season has taken another extraordinary twist after owner Sulaiman Al-Fahim revealed he is to sell the majority of his holding to a member of one of Saudi Arabia’s richest families… The takeover by Faraj, who is understood to be 50 years old and have a personal holding in billion-dollar petroleum giant Sabic, potentially signals the end of a traumatic period on the south coast which had left the club’s future in serious doubt.”
Obviously nothing is simple on the South Coast, and Dan King seemingly revels in reporting the difficulties lying ahead for Pompey. “Gaydamak has to approve any onward sale of Portsmouth by Al Fahim and Falcondrone will not proceed with a deal unless Gaydamak also sells them the land he owns around Fratton Park through a separate company. On Friday, lawyers for Falcondrone had Â£5m in an account ready to pay the players and other short-term creditors, but the funds were not released because no agreement had been reached with Al Fahim and Gaydamak over the takeover.”
Sticking up for the oldies, Paul Hayward lumps Ryan Giggs and Raul into the same mix as his dishes out praise for the senior citizens. “The most bewitching aspect of the Ryan and Raul show is their willingness to go on expending physical and emotional effort way beyond the stage at which they might have retired weighed down by garlands.”
Drogbaâ€™s goal record and popularity may be less than Torresâ€™s but his impact is of a similar size. He wins his team as many matches and has become sufficiently iconic for football people to talk of him as a template… between them, the pair have lit up recent Chelsea-Liverpool encounters, Torres scoring five goals in six appearances in the fixture, Drogba four in four.”
Staying with Liverpool, Rory Smith assesses the problems engulfing the Reds’ defence at present. “Carragher has looked nervy and exposed as his fullbacks, Glen Johnson and Emiliano Insua, raid forward, dragging Liverpool’s defensive line further upfield and away from their vice-captain’s comfort zone.” While more problems for Liverpool as forecast by Gary Lineker, arguing “I’d fear Liverpool getting a good hiding if they went into today’s game without Mascherano. But even with the dynamic Argentine in their side, they have their work cut out without last season’s hero Xabi Alonso.”
North of the border it is a massive day as the Old Firm derby rolls into town. Spicing up the pre-match hype, Richard Wilson speaks to Mark Hateley about the fixture. “I kick every ball and hold my breath for half the game. It’s exhausting, because you’re in it.”
Poor. Poor. Newcastle.
Rod Liddle has a field-day mocking the hapless Toon. “I donâ€™t think Jesus Christ tried to claim Â£10m compensation when it all went tits up in the Garden of Gethsemane. But then, unlike Kevin Keegan, Jesus only had the malefactions of Judas Iscariot and the Roman occupying force with which to contend; he was not bedevilled by Dennis Wise. I like the notion of Wise being one of the disciples, though; St Dennis, the Fisher of Men (via YouTube) who betrayed his boss to curry favour with two South American agents. It seems scarcely possible that Newcastle United could be the source of even more humour this season, after they gave of themselves so selflessly last year.”
But there could there be some light at the end of the tunnel for Newcastle, as Bruce Maxwell and Rob Stewart report “the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST), which is about to be officially launched, is looking to hasten Ashley’s departure using fan power, and it claims to have close to Â£20m in pledges, money it hopes to use to buy a stake in the club, though preferably from a new owner.”
Piers Morgan uses his weekly column to this week character assassinate Roy Keane. “Keane wants to be Ferguson. Desperately. But he doesn’t have an ounce of his former boss’s talent, nor any of the charm, loyalty and humour that lurks behind Sir Alex’s bullying exterior and which has inspired so many great United teams to rise up under his tenure. All Roy Keane has is the nastiness – and that’s not enough.”
As international week approaches, Paul Wilson desperately tries to get the question of England’s World Cup chances off the agenda. “It is a stupid pastime that this country seems to indulge in more than most… and only ever seems to result in players coming home chastened with accusations of complacency and over-confidence added to the usual charges of lack of concentration and being rubbish at penalties.”
Sticking with the national team, and strikers in particular, Steve Tongue claims that “a run of five goals in as many games, together with Agbonlahor’s versatility, has edged him ahead of the other contender, Sunderland’s in-form Darren Bent.”
Linking the world of international football and rumours, Bob Cass coughs the news that “David Beckham is poised to clinch a return to Italian giants AC Milan as he attempts to cement his place in England’s squad at what would be his fourth World Cup tournament.” In a supplementary article, Bob Cass sits down with Godlenballs himself to learn such insights as “Every time you go through something and have a tough time it motivates you,” and “I never expected to reach 100 appearances for England.”
The sack race returns this Sunday, with The Sunday Times getting busy spreading the gossip that newly CSKA manager Juande Ramos is being primed to take over at AC Milan should Leonardo get the boot. Over in the Sunday Mirror, Paul Smith farts the never-gonna-happen lie that “Steve McClaren has emerged as the shock front-runner to replace Roy Keane at Ipswich Town.”
Last week the odds of Harry Redknapp walking out on Spurs were dramatically slashed, and today Rob Beasley may have provided some clues as to why that was the case. “Harry Redknapp is set to be quizzed AGAIN this week by Revenue and Customs over his offshore accounts… Former Portsmouth boss Redknapp, who strenuously denies any wrong-doing, is being investigated over “tax issues” alongside Pompey chief executive Peter Storrie and former chairman Milan Mandaric.”