“England invented football in the sense that an Irishman invented the lavatory seat; an Englishman invented the hole in the middle” – Patrick Barclay

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Yes, I have done that [exaggerate contact in order to win a penalty]. Sometimes when you are in the middle of an ‘action’ and you get a little push, and you know there’s nothing more to take. Basically, the guy pushed you and finished the whole action. Then you’re in the right to show, in a way, to the referee that you’ve been pushed. Know what I mean? That’s not really diving. It’s just saying: ‘Come on, he just pushed me, so I can’t score now’. You sometimes make a little movement with your arms or with your body, yeah. But I don’t think that’s really cheating. I never have the intention to dive. Just to play honest football. I am against divers. It is just not honest, but it is difficult. But sometimes you are knocked off balance a bit and it looks a bit funny.” – Robin van Persie.

Runner-up: “There’s no place [for racism] in the game… We can’t have that sort of behaviour; anyone who does that should be put in prison, not banned from football. Put them where they belong, in the nuthouse. I came in as a player at West Ham and we had it every week because we had Clyde Best who was the only black player. It was disgusting. A fantastic fellow, a great player. But those days are over, surely to God. There is other stuff that goes on that is sick, you hear things and chants that just turn me over, things I can’t believe. You’ve got to be some sort of nutter to do that. It’s not banter, it’s sick, they’re sickos. They’ve got to be locked up, put them away, don’t come back to football.” – Harry Redknapp.


Today’s overview: Once again the papers are a mixed bag this Saturday as topics of match-fixing, woes at Portsmouth and Notts County and a couple of strangely timed critiques of English football make their way across the backpages.

Dark-clouds are once again hovering over football as Owen Gibson reports that “forty Champions League and Uefa Cup games are under investigation for suspected match-fixing… all of the cases, 15 of which took place in the last two years and the rest within the last four to five years, concerned early qualifying rounds and most involved clubs from eastern Europe.”

Reacting to the latest match-fixing scandal, When the Iron Curtain lifted, the old habits died hard. Bribery is still a fact of life in many Eastern European countries and, in Russia, it was claimed that both teams in a match would offer to bribe a referee so as to ensure even-handed treatment. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have all had problems with match-fixing since the end of Communist rule. The difference now is that action is sometimes taken, with Uefa attempting to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Pointless Pompey finally have something to smile about, Jamie Jackson announcing how new owner Sulaiman al-Fahim has promised that a £50m cash injection is imminent at Portsmouth. The problem is though, as revealed by Owen Slot, that Pompey fans have already lost faith in their new owner. “The initial image of al-Fahim as the somewhat flashy “fake sheikh” with a can-do self-confidence and an appetite for self-publicity appears to be beginning to fray under pressure. What we see increasingly is a man who is not confident with his English and is intimidated by the scrutiny and the accountability.”

The news gets worse for Portsmouth according to Jeremy Wilson, as Peter Storrie is on the brink of resigning as Portsmouth chief executive. “The former West Ham chief executive has become disillusioned and has significant concerns about the ability of the Dubai-based property developer to meet various loan repayment deadlines over the coming weeks.”

Is the glass half full of half empty for Notts County?

Spouting rumours of an impending crisis, The Sun’s Ian McGarry and Simon Hughes joining forces to gossip that “the controversial takeover of Sven Goran Eriksson’s Notts County could be vetoed by the Football League… If the Football League does veto the takeover, Sven’s future and that of the entire club would be in severe doubt. Sven is on a £40,000-a-week, five-year deal as County’s director of football.”

Countering the doom and gloom over County is John Percy, who excitedly coughs “Roberto Mancini been lined up for a sensational move to join Sven Goran Eriksson at Notts County… Current County manager Ian McParland is expected to be replaced shortly, with his position up for review by the board next week.”

Having seemingly just woken up to the fact that the African Cup of Nations is to be played in January, slow-coach Terry Venables states the bleeding obvious over fears for Chelsea’s title challenge. “The loss of Drogba, Essien, Mikel and Kalou would be a huge blow to Chelsea in any season but this season even more so as the transfer ban imposed by FIFA means Ancelotti cannot even bring in replacements in January. That means Chelsea will have to make do with what they have got.”

The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel scoops the big interview this Saturday as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard reveals the details over his court case for alleged assault. Gerrard: “The trial changed me… I had to learn from it, learn from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What hour I am out, where I go out, I will be more careful in future. From now on, if we win 5-1, if I score two goals and we go top of the league, I won’t try to enjoy it in a bar with my mates anymore. I’ll go for a meal and be in my house by half past ten. We get paid very well and there have to be sacrifices.”

Staying with the Reds, is Jamie Carragher at the beginning of the end?

As reported by Ian Herbert, “it was once a profanity around the streets of Anfield but a considerable proportion of Liverpool fans have been uttering it in muffled tones in the past few days. Is Jamie Carragher’s position in a Liverpool starting XI really still immutable?… A poll of 180 fans on the ThisisAnfield website this week registered only an eight per cent vote for the theory that Carragher’s totemic presence at the heart of Liverpool’s defence remains unquestionable, while 22 per cent said a replacement was required and 56 per cent felt “improvements are needed” where Carragher is concerned after a start to the season which has seen the club concede nine league goals. Never in the first six games of a Premier League season have the club leaked so many.”

Whether their wives made them sleep on the sofa, or they simply have the hump as grumpy old men, several scribes show themselves to be sourpusses and doom-mongers by turning on English football for no apparent good reason.

For reasons only Only if your idea of football is a 22-man brawl could England be said to have mothered, or fathered, it. England invented football in the sense that an Irishman invented the lavatory seat; an Englishman invented the hole in the middle.”

Similarly pissy, albeit on a different subject, James Lawton bemoans the “mediocrity” of English football. “For most of English football the highest possible achievement is a place in a swathe of mediocrity, which today is expressed in games that, realistically, either cannot be won or don’t matter beyond some desperate scrabbling for points which might just ensure another year of attrition… The Premier League is set on its course, and the divide between the winners and the losing majority is set for as long as inordinate wealth can still be bestowed upon the few.”

With English football being bashed from its own, Pete Jenson storms in with some bad financial news of the commercially-obsessed Premier League. “La Liga’s attempt to go head to head with the Premier League in the Asian market by switching games to 3pm on a Saturday afternoon will happen this season, Spanish League officials have admitted.”

Benjamin Button of the Barclays Premier League.” “He is a better player than he was four or five years ago, when, during one of the rare barren spells of his career when United went three seasons without a league title, he became a scapegoat for those fans uncomfortable with their team not being top dogs.”

The papers have a new game to play this morning as the sack race begins to gain attention.

The Daily Mail are happy to shoot their mouth off with “Phil Brown has two games – at Liverpool today, then at home to Wigan – to save his job as Hull’s board grow increasingly concerned about the club’s plight.” Staying with the perma-tanned Tigers boss, Mark Lawrenson barks “if results don’t improve then Brown may be remembered as the karaoke singing manager and for his half time team talk on the pitch at Manchester City.”

Also facing the chop are Pompey’s Part Hart, of whom Mark Lawrenson passed comment saying “I find it incredible that Hart’s future is under threat when, in reality, it’s impossible for Portsmouth to stay up.”

But predicting those heading for the guillotine hasn’t stopped the tabloids printing their daily fill of transfer lies.

The Daily Mail fart that “Jose Mourinho is said to be eyeing up Sunderland star Lee Cattermole in a bid to toughen up his Inter Milan midfield,” before a second faceless article in the rag claims “Arsene Wenger is tracking Standard Liege defender Eliaquim Mangala following an impressive recent display against Arsenal by the 17-year-old defender.” While the Daily Mirror seemingly invent the story that West Ham would consider move for Sol Campbell.