“Those splayed out across couches up and down the country on Saturday evening would rather watch Tuffers lurching around in front of a studio audience than our national football team playing in a foreign land” – Matthew Syed

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “The rules should be laid out clearly before any ball is kicked and then there’s no dark cloud or whatever. It’s ridiculous how they can make a decision now when some of the big-name nations are maybe struggling to qualify. It’s totally unfair on the smaller nations. It’s pretty disgusting, to be honest. To change it at this stage is beyond belief. It’s crazy and I don’t know how they have got away with it or how the smaller nations like ourselves haven’t put up a bigger fight. All the nations should try to kick up a fuss, not just us, because I don’t believe it’s right.” – Shay Given.

Runner-up: “Even with the prospect of the World Cup, it hasn’t crossed my mind once about going back. I never felt part of the squad and I never will. I met Trapattoni for a chat at a hotel near Manchester Airport last year but that did nothing for me. It made no sense whatseover. In fact, I felt like there was a lot of arrogance going on, so I just felt like I wasn’t really interested. Me and my financial adviser, who’s looked after me all my life and is someone I really trust, sat down with Trapattoni, his right-hand man and Liam Brady. In the middle of chatting, like we are now, he’d have four different phones going off and he kept leaving the room to talk to people. He’d come back, say ‘sorry where was I?’ but then another one would go off and after the third of fourth time this happened, I head another phone ringing. Trapattoni went over to where the phone was ringing and got it out of one of his bags. We were just sat there like, ‘what is going on?’. After that we had a chat and, I guess he shouldn’t have to sell it to me. But I think he should have made some sort of effort to sell it to me, and he just never really did that.” – Stephen Ireland talking with The Mirror.


Today’s overview: The backlash against those angered by England’s decision to broadcast the match with the Ukraine online is a common theme in today’s backpages.

Owen Gibson chimes “the idea that all qualifying matches should be guaranteed for the nation is a fairly recent invention. Go back 10 to 15 years and, prior to the pay TV explosion, coverage of England’s misadventures in eastern European outposts tended to be confined to radio and 15 minutes on Sportsnight. It is also true to say that it is technological innovation that has driven the explosion in the range and quality of football coverage in recent years.” Gabriele Marcotti also rationalises the decision to broadcast the game online. “Those who can afford to buy a game on pay-per-view will do so. Those who can’t will go watch it elsewhere. Which, as I said, is pretty much what happened when subscription television started showing football.”

The most angry opinion is served by When the BBC underbid for the rights to England’s World Cup game with Ukraine and ITV refused to bid at all, they were not dissing football but holding up a mirror to modern cultural sensibilities. They were making a judgment — with forensic and undeniable accuracy — that those splayed out across couches up and down the country on Saturday evening would rather watch Tuffers lurching around in front of a studio audience than our national football team playing in a foreign land.”

That said, England supporters will be more upset with Ashling O’Connor’s announcement that “fans keen to follow the progress of Theo Walcott, one of England’s brightest World Cup prospects, will have to pay for the privilege after Chelsea TV secured the rights to Friday’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”

Using the international break as a time of review, George Caulkin assesses the early season situation at St. James’ Park. “This is a regime that has no credibility, which makes things up as it goes along, that is incapable of stringing two good decisions together, which treats its employees with contempt and its paying customers as if they were idiots.” And keeping with the Magpies, South African consortium has made a last-ditch bid to buy Newcastle United, further frustrating Barry Moat in his protracted attempts to push through a takeover.”

With the ownership of Notts County, Leeds and QPR up for discussion, David Conn reports on a big day for the FA in which the application of fit and proper comes under the microscope. “The time for congratulating itself just for having such a test has passed. Now the league must prove to the sporting world that it is serious, about upholding its rules to the letter, and being seen to do so.”

Now that Pompey has been taken over by Ali Al-Faraj, what does the future hold for the South Coasters?

According to Neil Gardner, a period of stability is set to unfold. “Paul Hart, the Portsmouth manager, has been assured he will have money to spend in the January transfer window following Ali Al-Faraj’s takeover of the club.” Glenn Moore is also confident of a Pompey upturn in fortunes. “As long as Faraj remains calm, and is prepared to stand by Hart, Portsmouth should survive. Then the club can start looking to the future, and finally build the much-mooted, and desperately needed, new ground and training base. Because one aspect is clear from the recent turmoil. Without investment on infrastructure Portsmouth will not defy economic gravity for ever.”

Throwing a spanner in works, though, is Darren Lewis. “Paul Hart is facing the axe at Portsmouth with new owner Ali Al-Faraj keen on a bigger name in charge.”

The Sun’s Steven Howard tears into the suggestions made by Liverpool owner George Gillett, that all is rosy on Merseyside. “Liverpool are nowhere near even starting on a new ground, three years after Tom and Jerry arrived – despite Hicks writing off £10m by scrapping existing plans so architects from his native Texas ‘could design a more spectacular stadium’. Under the stewardship of the embattled and embittered Americans – like their cartoon equivalents, they cannot stand each other – the debt has also spiralled to £250m. Add the same amount for a new ground and the club are staring at a minimum black hole of half a billion.”

On the upside, John Edwards claims that “Rafa Benitez will be handed a £12million New Year transfer budget… several emerging Spanish players are under review, as well as Lazio striker Goran Pandev, as he looks to strengthen on the flanks and up front.”

Bolton have been accused of tapping-up this Wednesday, Wolves have lodged a formal complaint with the Premier League and the FA over the manner of the 17-year-old’s [Mark Connolly] departure to Bolton on transfer deadline day last month.”

Shenanigans are aplenty today at Upton Park. On the one hand Jason Burt claims that West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, technical director Gianluca Nani and chief executive Scott Duxbury have all been targetted by Napoli to take over the reigns at the Serie A club. But stability is just around the corner at West Ham according to James Nursey, as “David Sullivan will step up his efforts to buy West Ham next week when he gets £25million from Carson Yeung.”

In the gossip, the Daily Mail fart “Arsenal and Manchester City are ready to do battle for the signature of Barcelona veteran Carles Puyol, according to reports in Spain.”