“United simply do not look the force that Liverpool do, no matter how much Ferguson tries to talk himself, and anyone who’ll listen, into it” – Rob Kelly

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Some of the players here have lost their way. Some of them have fallen into the comfort zone. This is Ipswich: guys come here on a decent wage, to a nice area with nice people, and they just coast. They won’t be coasting with me, they know that. You can get sucked into comforts in any walk of life, but I think particularly at this football club. I’ve not bumped into an angry person yet, everyone’s enjoying life. I’m not knocking that. But this team have been accused of being a nice team. It is no point being nice when we go away to play teams like West Brom or Sheffield Utd, when we won’t have the ball for 70 per cent of the time… Let’s not kid ourselves. The Premier League is where I should be. This is about myself, my aims. It’s there in my contract. If we’re not promoted within two seasons I would count that as failure, without a shadow of a doubt. Any half-decent manager can get a team to mid-table in the Championship. But I want to be one of the best managers around.” – Roy Keane.

Runner-up: “It was the worst two years of my career. Even last year, when I was the club’s top scorer, I never actually felt wanted. I didn’t feel Redknapp wanted me there. It’s massive to have the support of your manager and that’s not been the case for the last two years. My career stood still at Tottenham. There’s a lot of politics going on there. I scored a lot of goals but it was the hardest two years of my life and it’s a weight off my shoulders that I’m finally here. I never felt I would stay in the team even when I was scoring goals.” – Darren Bent.

Today’s overview: Acting like a gaggle of bullies, various hacks from across the paper-divide pick on the misfortunes of Newcastle, West Ham and Portsmouth, while one particular numpty at The Sun gets his facts completely screwed up as he claims Wolves are playing in the Championship.

Only at Newcastle could something as important as the likelihood of a takeover been boiled down to an off the cuff statistic without seemingly much basis. Everything on Tyneside appears to be a gamble rather than careful planning. Accordingly, Louise Taylor toots how “the odds of Barry Moat buying out Mike Ashley and spearheading a takeover at Newcastle United are said to be around 60-40.”

The ever-worsening and desperate situation at Newcastle is then made plain by George Caulkin writing “Newcastle United are being offered around the City for a fire-sale cash price of £20 million as Barry Moat, a local businessman, races against time to complete a deal to buy the club.” In a supplementary article, Caulkin releases all his Toon frustrations on paper. “And in other news, Newcastle United play West Bromwich Albion tomorrow. Football, you might remember it. That kicky thing. It’s what we did before takeovers and redundancies, hedge funds, private-equity companies, overdrafts, consortiums, bidders, spoofers, chancers, Iranians, Irishmen, South Africans, Malaysians, billionaires, relegation and Joe bloody Kinnear.”

Paul Kelso injects a rare jolt of cautious optimism into the Toon discussion, suggesting the takeover of the Magpies may be concluded today. “Sources close to the process said on Thursday night that a compromise price between £70 million and around £90 million could be agreed, but there was no certainty that the deal would go through.” However, Sam Wallace spouts a ‘better the devil you know’ line of attack to question Moats’ ability to turn around Newcastle’s fortunes. “As Moat may well be about to find out, it is a lot easier being the local celebrity businessman who supports the club than actually owning the thing.”

Another club facing potential crisis is West Ham, Matt Scott detailing how “United’s owner was forced yesterday to admit to “significant uncertainty” over its own future, plunging the future of the club into fresh doubt.”

Completing the focus on teams on a major downer, Tony Cascarino questions why Pompey are in such dire straits. “To me the sums just don’t add up. Where has all the money gone? After a summer of selling their best players and looking to bring in cheap replacements, Portsmouth are acting like a relegated club would – slashing the budget. And yet they’re still in the Barclays Premier League – for one more season at least.”

Turning to footballing economics, Kevin Eason traces how “total shirt sponsorship for the 20 top-flight clubs has slumped from a peak of £75 million two years ago to £65 million… Portsmouth are thought to have signed the cheapest deal, a three-year contract with a local online recruitment agency worth only £250,000.” And staying with the subject of shirt sponsors, Charles Sale gossips that “London-based international banking giants Standard Chartered, who just lost out to insurance broker Aon for Manchester United’s shirt deal, are already the leading candidates for the Liverpool kit” in a proposed £15 million deal.

The Guardian review the fortunes of Fulham and Liverpool ahead of the new season.

Tackling the Cottagers, Paul Doyle observes “Fulham are bisexual. As things stand they could go either way… Lose Brede Hangeland to Arsenal, who are still mulling over a move for him, and downwards is the most likely direction.” While on the Reds, Andy Hunter writes “nineteen years have passed without league title No19 and still the prediction is that this could be Liverpool’s year. But now the expectation is justified at Anfield and so high, so unforgiving, that not even Xabi Alonso’s departure diminishes the demand on Rafael Benitez.”

Keeping with Liverpool, Rob Kelly believes this is the year for the Merseysiders. “Liverpool fans have been ridiculed in the past for their regular pre-season refrain of ‘This is our season’, but 2009-10 really could, and should be. Never will they have a better chance of ending their league title drought, never will they be better prepared… United simply do not look the force that Liverpool do, no matter how much Ferguson tries to talk himself, and anyone who’ll listen, into it.”

Heading to the continent, Raphael Honigstein previews the forthcoming Bundesliga season ahead of Friday night’s big kick-off. “Sixteen out of 18 Bundesliga managers polled see Bayern as firm championship favourites.”

Completing the pre-season reviews, The Sun’s Steven Howard over-hypes the new Championship season before forgetting that Wolves were promoted to the the Premier League. “As ever, [the Championship] looks one of the strongest leagues in the world. The level of support it commands is truly quite astonishing… In a lot of ways, they have bigger clubs than many in the Premiership. Newcastle, Middlesbrough, the two Sheffield clubs, Nottingham Forest, West Brom, Wolves, Leicester, Derby and Ipswich have a huge fan base and pedigree – more than Wigan, Portsmouth, Hull, Stoke, Fulham and, maybe, even Blackburn and Bolton.”

We conclude with Friday’s transfer lies.

The Times’ transfer specialist Gary Jacob today announces that while Sebastien Bassong has moved to Spurs, Luca Toni’s loan move to West Ham is still on the cards and “Leandro Fernandez, the Dynamo Moscow and Argentina defender, is among Liverpool’s targets for cover at centre half.” Keeping with Liverpool, a faceless Daily Mail article suggests that as Wigan are closing in on Rayo Vallecano duo Mohamed Diame Antonio Amaya, Lee Cattermole is poised to be snapped up by the Anfield giants.

Incredibly, according to Oliver Kay, Real Madrid are still on the warpath for new recruits although “Chelsea have turned down an £18 million bid from Real Madrid for Alex.” While on the Gunners, Jonathan Wilson reports that “Arsenal will not be pursuing their interest in the Internazionale midfielder Patrick Vieira, but Arsene Wenger is considering a move for the Fulham defender Brede Hangeland.”


GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE, PLEASE PLAY RESPONSIBLY