January Transfer Window

Transfer Window

Who will be the busiest in this January’s Transfer Window ?

The transfer window this January could turn out to be an interesting one. Even Arsene Wenger looks like putting his hand in his pocket this time. There are deals to be done as clubs strive to stay in the league and make the most of the riches on offer from the new television deal.

But it doesn’t feel like there will be big deals. It feels like a rush for quantity rather than quality. Bournemouth have added depth with three signings so far. Liverpool have taken Steven Caulker on loan for defensive cover. Leicester have got a bargain in Demarai Gray, but he looks like on for the future rather than a first-teamwork this season.

Here’s our guide to the clubs we expect to be adding to their squad the most.

Sunderland

Sam Allardyce has stated time and again that he believes the key to survival is clean sheets. But the defence that he inherited isn’t capable of this. John O’Shea and Wes Brown are fast approaching the end of their careers but still look steadier than Sebastian Coates. It looks like they need to add several more defenders to have any chance of picking up enough points to survive. Expect some typical Big Sam wheeling and dealing. Loans may be on the cards as the owner Ellis Short always seems reluctant to spend.

Arsenal

They have walked into their usual injury crisis but without any of the usual signs of young quality players breaking through. This may be the January that Wenger adds heavily to his squad. Backup central defenders, defensive midfielders (when don’t Arsenal need a defensive midfielder?) and cover for Olivier Giroud are all needed. Will Wenger see this as the biggest opportunity in over a decade to win the league? If so, will he spend to secure that title? You never know with a man as stubborn as Arsene Wenger.

West Brom

It may seem strange for a team that are 9 points ahead of the drop zone to be frantically looking over their shoulder but that’s the situation West Brom find themselves in. If they lose Saido Berahino then goals go from being a problem to a crisis. They will have to spend to plug this gap. Creativity is a longstanding issue so some midfield purchases may also be on the cards.

Swansea City

The club are in freefall. It’s not clear whether they appointed Alan Curtis as manager because he impressed or because nobody else wanted the job. Jonjo Shelvey has just left and there’s £12m from his sale ready to reinvest.

They need goals, midfield power and a partner for Ashley Williams in central defence. It will be difficult to clear all of these up in one window so some loan deals or short-term moves may be in order.

Whatever the transfer window brings, there’s bound to be some surprise deals and some late drama.

This article was produced by Steve Thompson of In Off the Post. You can read more of his articles on his blog: http://inofftheblogpost.blogspot.co.uk/

Why has van Gaal abandoned a successful formula?

Man Utd Badge
 He tried it once, it was remarkably successful and yet he hasn’t used it again, amazing!
Instead he has resorted to boring football whereby the fans, the ones who are still awake at least, have taken to calling him nasty names and wanting him to find alternative employment. Is this what it has come to?This is how it all came about.Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal fancied a shorter, more memorable monicker. He decided that what he needed to do, quite wisely, was to drop the Maria bit, not advertise too much the Paulus bit and shorten the Aloysius bit to Louis. Thus the transformation to Louis van Gaal was complete and so began his success.

Wholesale changes hadn’t been required here. This was not a case of being christened Marion, for example. Any male christened Marion should immediately, (or as soon as they are old enough, at least), change his name to John. Why he should then feel the need to change his surname from Morrison to Wayne is beyond me, but it worked out OK for him..

So obviously, the thing to do to ensure success at Manchester United was to try the name change method with his players.

The guinea-pig, it was decided, would be Chris Smalling.

Louis had deemed the name “Chris” to be ambiguous and more suitable for a girl, not a rugged centre back who plays for Manchester United and England. So, from now on, he was to be known as Mike.

If the truth be known, this experiment had been underway for quite a while. Indeed van Gaal trialled it at a press conference on the pre-season tour, but, when he referred to Smalling as “Mike”, everybody just thought he was an ageing manager with a terrible memory for names.

The fact that they have one of the best defensive records in the division is down, in no small way, to Mike Smalling. Yes, De Gea has helped, as usual, but it has been mainly through the efforts of Mike that this proud boast can be made.

So why has he now stopped? Just when everything was going so well, he capitulated and left the rest of the players with their own names! How can he expect to be successful like that?

Since reverting to type, United have gone out of the Capital One Cup and out of the Champions League. He needs to start renaming players and quickly.

If this is to happen then any new players signed by United will have to agree, contractually, to Louis being allowed to give them a new name of his choice, (usually Mike), should he think that it will be of benefit to the team. This is because, with the exception of continually selecting Wayne Rooney, everything Louis does is for the team, which is forever more important than ANY individual, (except Rooney).

Not only will this make United a shoe-in for the title but it will also mean that van Gaal will never again get a player’s name wrong, not that he did before.

So, assuming the unmitigated success of this process, (or is it a philosophy?), next year expect Mike Smalling to be playing in front of Mike De Gea and alongside Mike Blind and Mike Rojo. In front of him will be the likes of Mike Mata and Mike Schweinsteiger with Mike Herrera and Mike Depay vying for places in a packed midfield.

There will be two problems that van Gaal will face and that he needs to overcome. One is that Carrick is already called Mike, so it won’t work for him and may even destroy the collective bond the rest of the team will have built up through all being called Mike.

Carrick will need to be known as “John”. This is the only way the equilibrium of the team can be maintained.

In fairness to Aloysius and Chris, this renaming process was producing results. Louis van Gaal’s team rose to fourth in the Premier league table, only four points off the lead and they have one of the best defensive records in the division.

The other problem is Wayne Rooney. I have watched his decline for the last three seasons or more and changing his name, even if it’s to Cristiano Ronaldo Quiz or Lionel Messi, just will not work. He’s gone too far past redemption for something as simple as a name change to make any difference.

Iain Anderson

Playoffs: Major League Soccer Style!

MLS 2015 Bracket

 Image provided by mlssoccer.com

What does Major League Soccer (MLS) do differently than most of the footballing world? One word says it all: PLAYOFFS! Most soccer leagues around the world do not have playoffs. The season is played; the team at the top of table wins the league. This is not the case in Major League Soccer. First, there is not one table; there are two tables in this league. Since the league covers a vast amount of land in two countries, the owners thought it best to split the league in to an Eastern and Western conference. In addition, the majority of games played by each team will occur within their own conference. Reducing wear and tear throughout the season, as most teams travel by air to matches was the thought behind this. This means there is not a balance schedule.

With the two expansion franchises of New York City FC and Orlando City SC that entered the league this year, this takes the total amount of teams to 20. At the beginning of the season with the expansion of these new teams, the commissioner announced an expansion of playoff teams to 12. Yes, that is right; more than 50% of the league gets a ticket in to the playoffs. This caused much consternation amongst MLS circles. Even though fans were and still are wary of this many teams obtaining access to the playoffs, almost every team was still involved in the playoff hunt in to the last month of the season. From a business perspective that was the goal to ensure fans were engaged for as long as possible since there is no promotion or regulation.

Six teams from each conference get in to the playoffs. The top seed from each conference obtains home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. The team with the best record overall no matter the conference has home field advantage for the MLS Cup if they make it to that point. This year that team is the New York Red Bulls. The first two seeded teams from each conference receives a bye while the third through six seeded teams compete in a one game knockout round match. The excitement is that once in the playoffs start anyone can win the cup. For most purest this does not seem fair as the team with the best record should be crown champion. In North American sports, this is the norm for over a century to have playoffs. The thinking is that if you really are the best then a team needs to play against the best with the highest pressure on them. The regular season is considered a ramp up to the playoffs and then finally to the MLS Cup match. There is not a right or wrong way to crown a champion; this is just another avenue to accomplish this.

Knockout round matches start October 28, 2015

For more United States based soccer content, please click on the link below to access my soccer blog.

https://wordhec.wordpress.com/

Thanks!

Hec

 

5 of the best reads for the sporting fanatic

Sports fans, you are truly blessed. Where once upon a time your reading material was limited solely to newspapers, magazines and books, today there is an absolute wealth of great content online – on websites and blogs, and also via magazines in digital format.

Yes, for those sporting fanatics who cannot get enough of their passion, who live and breathe sport, they are spoilt for choice when it comes to reading. Here are just five of the very best reads, both in print and online. If you want to find sports magazines there’s a huge range available.

Sports Illustrated

Arguably the most respected sports media brand in the world, Sports Illustrated has long been established as the voice of authority in US sport. It might be famed for its annual ‘Swimsuit Issue’ but SI goes far and beyond bikini-inspired photography. Its coverage is comprehensive: USA sport’s big four – NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL – is analysed in microscopic detail but so too is college football, soccer, tennis, motorsport…et al.

The Blizzard

A visionary concept, The Blizzard is the discerning read for football lovers.
A quarterly publication, it’s relatively new – the 18th edition came out in September 2015 – and available as a ‘coffee table’ hard copy or in various digital formats. It also has a ‘pay what you want’ model. Its pitch is this – ‘a cooperative of top class football journalists and authors from across the globe, enjoying the space and freedom to write about the football stories that matter to them.’ Not a speed read, it’s content to be savoured.

Boxing News

Fight fans have had a near constant reading companion in the form of Boxing News, the weekly boxing bible that was launched back in 1909. As a resource its information is exhaustive – schedules, rankings and news – and there’s probably not a single punch thrown anywhere in the world of boxing (in the ring or in the gym) that BN doesn’t cover. The website has an excellent section devoted to training, showing sparring sessions and other gym work, as well as nutritional advice.

Sport

With freely distributed magazines now the norm it’s easy to forget that just under a decade ago, Sport was a ground breaking idea when it was launched. Already established in Paris, the UK version hit the streets in 2006 – handed out for free around tube and mainland rail stations every Friday morning in London. What set it apart from the thin, free newspapers already in circulation was the quality of the publication – full colour, genuinely well written, A-list sporting superstars on the cover and interviewed within. It’s still going strong today, and it can be read online for those who live outside the capital.

 The Guardian

Over the years the Guardian has evolved into a near-perfect platform for sports fans. While other UK media broadsheet heavyweights – notably The Times – moved to a subscription model, the Guardian has kept its content free. Its sport coverage is excellent; all the news and match and events report you’d expect, plus a plethora of other content, including lengthier features and lighter content such as The Knowledge and The Fiver (a witty daily email). Best of all is the Sports Network, which showcases great writing from other websites.

 

The Internet and Gambling

The internet has revolutionised the way in which we do many things in life, not more so than Mecca Bingo. Ever since the launch of the world wide web there has been an ever growing array of gambling options online from the casinos, to the betting exchanges all the way through to traditional sports betting. Phone accounts and trips to the local bookmakers for the afternoon are a thing of the past and with a simple click of the mouse you can now gamble more easily, more quickly and on a wider range of sports than ever before.

There are number of ways in which this change has affected the punter. The first is simple convenience. One-time account creation on many of the websites online and then the world is your oyster. Easy simple procedures to place bets, user-friendly websites and all from the comfort of your own armchair. No need to walk to the bookmakers in the pouring rain or make last minute phone calls. Everything is there just a button away.

This has of course opened up the market to much more competition which has lead to better value for punters. Gone are the days of walking between local bookmakers or browsing lengthy Ceefax pages to compare odds. Now with the click of a button you can sample odds from a range of bookmakers to choose the best value. This of course means that the companies start to entice customers with better odds, bonuses and special bonuses. All playing into the hands of you…the punter. Never has there been such value on the markets.

In essence, the world of sport has been opened up to punters via the world wide web. No longer do you have to hold the bookmakers queue up by enquiring about a price on a random golfer in a tournament the other side of the world. The odds for any event can be seen with the click of a button regardless of whether it is a local racing meeting, an international soccer match or even events such as the Eurovision Song Contest…..anything you can think of you fancy a flutter on and somewhere on the internet there will be a bookmaker willing to take your wager. This has increased profits for punters, ensured your sporting expertise can be put to use and made watching hose obscure sports on late night TV Channels even more enjoyable.

As well as this the internet has allowed bookmakers to open up everything in each sport to bet on from the winning distances to the number of yellow cards in a match. In-play betting has transformed the industry and now millions of pounds are staked during games when punters can see the way things are developing.

Another development of the online world of gambling has been betting exchanges were rather than place odds on what you think is going to happen you can bet on what you think won’t happen! Laying bets instead of placing them has benefited punters all over the globe and it has taken off massively as the internet has grown. Don’t think the much fancied team? Make some money by laying the bet.

In essence therefore, the World Wide Web has opened up options for gambling, convenience and value for the punters and the betting industry and bookmakers in general have been forced to adapt and offer an better all round service to the punters.

 

 

Increase in betting and casino sponsorship in football

In an increasingly digital world it is perhaps unsurprising that the betting industry has grown at such a rapid rate. With so many platforms that now facilitate gambling, such as mobile and computer, players are not restricted to how and when they want to bet.

This has resulted in over £40 billion being wagered on a wide variety of sporting events and casinos in 2014. The market is booming and extremely lucrative.

One thing that has not changed however is the most popular betting opportunity. Football. Attracting all ages, the chance to back your favourite club with hard earned cash provides a thrill almost like no other. Unsurprisingly, football clubs have clicked on, developing a commercial marketing strategy that mutual benefits all.

Clubs get a substantial boost by betting and casino sponsorship, whilst the sponsor get’s their product promoted in its most targeted setting. Fans also benefit by becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities provided by multimedia betting. They are also often given exclusive offers for joining their clubs betting partner.

So just how big has betting and casino sponsorship become in football? The world’s official richest club, Real Madrid, set the trend, signing up to Spanish bookmaker BWIN. In the subsequent years, BWIN’s client base trebled. Whether it is sports betting or casino games such as online pokies, you’ll be able to find it at sites sponsoring Premier League teams. If not, visit Pokies Palace for one of the best choices around.

Within the last few years ten Premier League clubs, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Stoke, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle, Fulham and Liverpool, have all been sponsored by betting companies. This is all despite strict legislation from the Gambling Act which forbids advertisement of casinos and betting services that are not based with the EEA or are part of the Gambling Commission White List.

The success of these relationships has even resulted in football leagues being sponsored by betting and casino companies. The whole English league, for example, is promoted by SkyBet, whilst in the last few days the Scottish league announced a £4 million deal with Ladbrokes for rights of all levels of the professional Scottish leagues.

There have been major criticisms of this increasing trend. Some have questioned the morality of betting sponsorships, whilst others have blamed clubs for gambling addictions and other side effects of the activity. Strict legislations from the Gambling Act, as previously stated, have policed this well, however, and have protected players influenced too severely by the sponsorship.

As the football betting world continues to economically grow, there is no doubt that this type of sponsorship will become even more of a common trend, especially with the introduction of mobile gambling at sites such as Mobile Pokies Online.

How to make money betting on football

The football betting industry is a rapidly increasing business. Multimedia gambling opportunities, increased gaming sponsorships, and a greater range of markets available, now mean that football betting is a much enjoyed part of many people’s lives.

Financial losses are a natural cap on this enjoyment however. Critics of football gambling revel in stating that ‘the house always has the edge’ and ‘players will only gamble back their winnings.’ Whilst these two statements contain elements of truth, there is undoubtedly a way to minimise this ‘house edge’ and gamble in a disciplined, efficient manner.

The first, and most important, step for any football punter is a website called oddschecker. Oddschecker compares prices for every market of every match, giving punters an easy opportunity to always get the best odds. The useful site also includes details of all free bet offers and new account specials.

Understanding the best football betting markets is also incredibly important. The vast majority of losing gamblers are those who place numerous small staked accumulators. They predominantly feature a wide range of teams, from a random list of divisions. Bookmakers profit massively from this ‘Hollywood’ style of betting. Those more successful stick with singles and doubles, and usually these tend to be in the lower leagues rather than the Premier League.

It is also worth noting that bookmakers have the highest ‘house edge’ on goalscorer markets. They exploit gambler’s love of individual players, knowing they will back them no matter the odds. First, last, and anytime goalscorers are almost always priced up at odds that do not follow their statistical scoring records.

Any successful football punter will stress the importance of analysing statistics before gambling. Footballstats.co.uk and opta.co.uk are especially good websites crammed with detailed information of both team’s performances. Spending hours analysing statistics on all markets may not sound like fun, but it gives you the best chance to be profitable. After becoming accustomed to statistical betting you subconsciously become able to weigh up whether a bet represents good or bad value.

It is important to remember that betting on football usually has around a 10% margin built into it by online bookmakers. This is greater than the 5%-7% margin built in for slots and fruit machines at sites like Fruity Reels. Whilst many may disagree, statistically speaking you are likely to lose more money by betting on football than playing online fruit machines.

Finally, as previously mentioned it is essential to remain disciplined and efficient in your betting. By setting a limit each month of how much you are prepared to gamble, any potential net losses are instantly minimised. Efficiency can be measured through always taking the best odds, limiting selections to either a single or a double, and thoroughly researching before placing the bet. Oh and remember, bet with your head,, not your heart!

Five unmissable UK football tours and tournaments for 2015

The combination of football and holidays is an irresistible one for many young players and fans, and even though the UK seems unable to land the World Cup it is undoubtedly one of the top soccer nations in the world. From stunning new grounds such as the Emirates and Wembley to classics like Anfield and Molineux, the British football enthusiast is spoilt for choice.

The legendary players who have graced these grounds started at tournaments as seven and eight year olds, testing their skills at holiday resorts and leisure centres across the country before taking their talent to the big leagues. Thankfully trophies and festivals are also within reach for those who don’t or didn’t make it to the professional ranks from the many great tour organisers, including Duke’s Sports.

Here are five top choices for football tours and tournaments for 2015 for young and older alike.

North West Trophy, May 22-25

Pontins Holiday Park in Southport is the venue for accommodating one of the largest youth tournaments in the UK, which usually attracts more than 100 teams.

The footy action itself caters for boys and girls from the ages of U7 through to U18s, and is now in its 12th year. Part of the reason for its longevity is the combination of sport and entertainment, with an indoor pool, go-karts, a climbing wall and other activities setting up players for the evening entertainment.

SCI-football Festival, Torquay.

Coastal locations lend themselves perfectly to football tournaments, and none better than a town known as part of the English Riviera alongside the beautiful Brixham and Paignton.

Torquay is a beautiful backdrop for the May-day weekend SCI Football Tournament. Almost 50 sides took part last year at the event, which costs £65 per person for the entire weekend. Last year former England and Liverpool hardman Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock dished out the prizes – as well as the Fair Play Awards!

The 2015 Nottingham Football Festival

Nottingham Forest remains the only club to have won the European Cup more times than the English league title, while Notts County is the oldest football league club. So a football tournament in Clough and Collymore country needs to be a decent one.

Thankfully this annual football festival from May 23 to 31 for players of all categories is one to savour. As well as matches for boys and girls there’s also 11-a-side fare for men (including two veteran categories) and the Robin Hood Cup on the final two days.

Best of Britain tour

The Goliath of UK football tours: this takes small teams to Scotland, Manchester, Wales and Dublin in nine days, with a Scottish Premier League game, coaching clinics, matches against locals and a visit to the Old Trafford Museum thrown into the mixer. Truly one for the football disciple.

Leicester City Cup/Foxes Cup

Two separate festivals organised by ESF, these gigantic tournaments attract more than 400 teams and celebrities including Stuart Pearce, Casey Stoner and Ian Rush among others to Butlins Skegness.

Once the players have left the pitch during the May Bank Holiday/May 15-18 they will be gagging to try out the £15m Splash Waterworld and the awesome fairground rides.

England Warned against Complacency after 4-0 Win over Lithuania

England moved one step closer towards Euro 2016 qualification after a 4-0 thrashing of Lithuania at Wembley. The victory helped Roy Hodgson’s team established a six-point advantage over Slovenia in the table. England cannot still remain complacent about an automatic qualification spot given that there are still five matches left in the campaign, but it realistically puts them on the verge of a place in the finals. The win over Lithuania was also the national team’s seventh consecutive victory across qualification and friendly matches. Despite this form, England are placed at a distant 12/1 for the title in the latest Euro 2016 odds from Betfair.

Germany, France, and Spain are seen as the favourites for the tournament in France.

Wayne Rooney and the rest of the team celebrated each of the four goals with passion. Later, the Manchester United striker said that other teams will be frightened about the form shown by England is their early exit from the World Cup 2014. However, there is a danger of the nation once again becoming complacent just before a major tournament. England have come up against only one team in the top 30 of the world FIFA rankings – Switzerland – in this period. A more accurate assessment of the team will be available as they take on the likes of Italy and France in 2015.

Despite the lack of top quality opposition, it is fair to say that the team has been playing with a lot of speed than before. The team now enjoys bundles of energy through the likes of Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson. After having been a team that relies excessively on the finishing skills of Rooney, England may have a great alternative in the form of Harry Kane. The Tottenham striker has scored an impressive 29 goals in all competitions for Tottenham this season. He announced his international debut in style after scoring within 76 seconds of being introduced as a substitute in the game against Lithuania.

Welbeck may not necessarily have the finishing skills to be a top player at international level, but it appears as if Kane can certainly be moulded into one. Aside from Kane, manager Roy Hodgson will also be looking forward to welcoming Daniel Sturridge back to the team. The quartet are certainly a huge upgrade in terms of quality over the previous crop of England strikers like Peter Crouch or Andy Carroll.

Hodgson was expected to be sacked from his role after a very disappointing World Cup, but he has certainly given himself a lot of positive reviews in the last few months. England’s biggest test in the short-term will come in the form of a friendly against Italy at the Juventus stadium in Turin on April 1. Just like England, Antonio Conte has also been able to infuse some life into the Italian team after a disappointing World Cup. They have won all but one match since their early departure from Brazil 2014.

A disappointing result against the Italian team will not be the end of the world for England, as Hodgson will be without a number of his important players. James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, and Leighton Baines are some of the players could not be involved against Italy. Instead, backup players like Ryan Bertrand have been drafted into the squad for this trip to Italy. Hodgson confirmed before the international break that he did not intend to overwork the players, who have already played a lot of games for their clubs, in friendly matches.

Before the match against England, Italy will be concentrating on their Euro 2016 qualifying match against Bulgaria. The Group H is far tighter than England’s group with both Croatia and Italy still fighting for a top spot. The trio of Norway, Italy, and Croatia are almost certain to qualify following the latest round of results, but it is still unclear if Italy will be able to secure an automatic qualification spot. The three teams are separated by just one point. Betfair still backs Italy at 2/1 to top the group and they are closely followed by Croatia in the second spot with odds of 2/1.

Hodgson confirmed after the win over Lithuania that Sterling’s absence from the squad to face Juventus has nothing to do with the reported controversial request from Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. Sterling has suffered a toe injury, but he is almost certain to feature against Arsenal next weekend when the Premier League returns.

How to organise a kids’ football tournament

The romantic view of a row of fathers standing along the touchline in their coats on a crisp Sunday morning, happily watching their youngsters playing junior football, is a pleasant thought. Some stand stoically watching their son or daughter dispatch goal after goal, others get rather animated as the action heats up, and in certain circumstances there may even be other spectators of interest. In a tournament set-up there’s the potential for real excitement and drama which introduces youngsters to teamwork with a little dash of pressure thrown in for good measure.

As organiser there are several responsibilities that you have to take into account, but it need not be your sole responsibility. Mums and dads can help with administration, organising a venue, and fundraising, among other tasks. The venue needs to be somewhere with, as a bare minimum: toilets, good parking, a changing area, inflatable rides/attractions for youngsters not taking part, somewhere to dish out hot and cold drinks, and hot-dog/ice-cream vans.

Decide on a weekend date and if you are charging for children to take part, with money going to school/club funds, a charitable cause, or towards future sports tours through a company such as InvicTour Sports. You’ll also need a contribution towards an on-site medical team such as St John Ambulance, who will need clear entry and exit points. Make sure you include your details, and if relevant ask for teams’ league affiliation number.

Decide who will take part and get the invitations sent out early – a summer event (but not during the summer holiday) could be ok, but be wary of hot temperatures. The summer also might allow you to use a local football stadium for the day, and there’s certainly no harm in asking. Try to organise it for a weekend when little else is going on in the area.

If you’ve never organised a tournament before, it’s best to stick to one or two age groups at the most, because too many teams will make it a logistical nightmare. Five or seven a side games on a small pitch (or pitches) is the easiest option. Someone will need to be on-hand for each individual game, to referee and observe from a safety point of view.

A mini league system might be fair, as it gives teams several short (5-10 minutes at the most) games. Four groups of three or four, or two groups of five, will allow the winning teams to play each other in the semi-final/final. All entry information should be sent to the teams in good time.

Once the event starts to formulate, let the local media know – even if they don’t make it on the day they might publish a picture afterwards. Set up a Twitter account where interested parents can ask quick questions. You might even get requests for stalls from small local businesses, selling hot food and drink, football boots and so on.

It’s nice to have a memento for all participating players, whether they win or not.
A trophy will be needed for the winning team, which should be engraved at a later date. Make sure there’s a space big enough down the years for more names to be added – with a few great goals, combined with a fine spirit and hopefully a little sunshine, this could become a regular attraction for the area.

Where should your football team be looking for a summer bargain?

Another January transfer window is over, with the mantra that players come at a premium in the winter perhaps putting off many clubs from making a season-defining move.

Financial fair play has ensured that plenty of book-balancing needs to take place before an outlay is made on buying a player. Before the deadline day, the only real major money move was Manchester City’s purchase of Swansea’s Wilfred Bony. And those anticipating a final blowout will have been disappointed, with Chelsea’s move for Cuadrado the only stand out signing.

Teams are under increased scrutiny in terms of their accounts, so finding a player that doesn’t cost a premium is a necessity. Did Manchester City and its Premiership rivals miss the chance of a bargain by looking for the right player abroad using currency conversion rates?

2014 saw a lot of movement in terms of currency values, as global economic recoveries moved at vastly different paces and played out in global FX trading. That means that clubs in some countries can take advantage of dominant currencies: whereas others can find purse strings tightened.

Sunderland spent much of January seeking out a striker, for instance, before identifying Jermain Defoe as the new man to lead their line. That deal went through on January 16 but if the deal had gone through eight days earlier, the pound would have been worth three cents less against the Canadian dollar. That might not sound like much, but if the deal to buy Defoe was worth £10 million (the actual fee is undisclosed) it would have amounted to a $300,000 increase in cost.

Sunderland shouldn’t be celebrating too much, however, as waiting a week to sign Jermain Defoe on January 23 could have saved them a further $400,000.

All in all, though, Canada’s economic recovery and ties to the USA have ensured that its currency has not moved too much against the pound over the past few months. Perhaps Arsenal and Leicester had a better idea by hunting for new talent in eastern Europe: buying Krystian Bielik and Andrej Kramaric from Poland and Croatia respectively.

 

Currencies have suffered in both countries recently – thanks to weakness from the eurozone, amongst other issues – to the point where buying a player in late January 2015 could represent a saving of over 10% when compared to January 2014. For the signing of Andrej Kramaric, that would amount to around 1.11 kuna more for every pound spent, or almost $10 million kuna saved in the transfer (or £970,000).

But the best deal a club could have found in January would have come from Russia. Well known problems with oil prices, sanctions and economic mismanagement caused a tumble in the value of the rouble before Christmas, and while the rouble has recovered somewhat it would still amount to a 70% saving year-on-year for much of January.

Clearly, then, there is a lot of value to be found in being choosy about where you buy your players from. In terms of scouting for a summer bargain, though, where should clubs begin looking now?

Currently the currency looking ahead with dread is the euro. A new bout of quantitative easing, bumpy roads to recovery and the possibility of a collapse have all rocked the single currency in 2015. At the moment, most commentators do not see the euro returning to strength any time soon, instead questioning when it might hit parity with the dollar. For British clubs that could mean bargains in Germany, France, Italy or Spain.

 

The Men With The Golden Boots

Premier League Star Strikers

Sometimes it’s hard work being stood on the terraces, especially at this time of year. Stood cheering on your side, freezing cold. Knees numb, fingers as icy as Pierluigi Collina’s eyes, feet feeling like they’d want to escape and rest themselves in the warm stands of Malaga.

Except, whilst February might be approaching the minuses in the crowd, the pitch has its own micro-climate, because the Premier League is hotting up, none more so than in the race for the Golden Boot.

There have been some ruthless finishers in the top flight this season, with Diego Costa scoring seven goals in his first four games. It looked like that was the race over with 34 games still to play, but with 19 of those taken up, the tortoise is certainly approaching the hair, well if you can call Sergio Aguero and Alexi Sanchez tortoises.

We take a look at who might be crossing the line to win Gold come May…

Diego Costa

Costa

With 17 in 19 so far this season – his first in the Premier League – it’s fair to say Diego Costa has taken the league by storm. The former Atletico Madrid man is odds- on favourite with Bet Fred and doesn’t show any sign of letting up on the goals.

His partnership with Cesc Fabregas has already become one of the most lethal in Premier League history, and hats can certainly be tipped towards Jose Mourinho for his work in the market this summer.

Pressure will be on the man from Aguero, particularly with Costa’s recent three match ban which will see him miss further games against Aston Villa, and Everton, but if he continues in this vein of form, it’ll be incredibly tight.

Harry Kane

Kane

And speaking of a rich vein of form, Harry Kane is propelling himself up the Golden Boot table quicker than he’s putting them in the back of the net. The 21-year-old has put in some stellar performances this season bagging 10 goals in only 13 starts including an impressive brace and man of the match performance in Tottenham’s 5-3 win over Chelsea.

It’ll take some catching up for Kane but if Aguero’s knee problems continue and Costa’s ill-discipline and injury issues continue then he’s in with a chance and could become the first Englishman to top score in 15 years when Kevin Phillips banged in 30.

Charlie Austin

Charlie Austin

One man looking to join the likes of Phillips, Cole, Owen, and Shearer will be QPR’s Charlie Austin. He’s contributed over half of the R’s goals this season, netting 13 times, including a hat-trick in their 3-2 win over West Brom.

He will of course be more focussed on getting his side out of the bottom three and remaining in the Premier League, but the more goals he scores the more likely that will happen. No pressure Charlie…

Alexis Sanchez

Sanchez

Perhaps one of the signings of the season, Alexis Sanchez has been a revelation scoring 12 and laying on 7 in just 20 Premier League starts.

When started in attacking midfield positions he’s been phenomenal hitting home 10 in nine games and has been a major part in the Gunners winning seven of their last eight. The Chilean will have a major part to play in Arsene Wenger’s men finishing inside the top four, and with Giroud, Walcott, and Ozil back in the frame, they’ll be plenty of talent to play him through.

Sergio Aguero

aguero

With 14 goals in 15 games and four assists, Aguero may have the edge on Diego Costa, despite his flying start. Just three goals behind the Spaniard, the Argentinian is right on the Chelsea man’s heels and will be instrumental in City’s attempts to retain the title.

His lethal finishing has played a huge part on City remaining only five points behind Jose Mourinho’s men and following 2012’s dramatic finale, he fights to the very end.

Surprisingly, Aguero has yet to win the Golden Boot with third being his highest placed finish. Surely it’s only a matter of time?

Footballers Caught in £30 Million Scandal

Jimmy Bullard

by  joncandy  Caption: Former footballer Jimmy Bullard

A string of high-profile footballers have been named in a betting scandal that’s thought to be worth more than £30 million. Jimmy Bullard and Roy Keane are just two of the figures that are thought to have been caught up in an alleged fraud instigated by former Coventry player Michael McIndoe.

Although nothing has yet been confirmed, many of Europe’s largest bookmakers and lottery providers are handing over McIndoe’s account details after police suspected he was swindling some of the UK’s top players.

A Potential Ponzi Scheme

According to reports, McIndoe promised returns of 20 per cent each month to those that invested in his scheme that promised exclusive access to private jets and nightclubs. However, after filing for bankruptcy back in October 2014, it emerged that McIndoe used most of the money to gamble on hundreds of sports matches.

After William Hill turned over McIndoe’s account details to the police, it was revealed that McIndoe had wagered almost £400,000 within a two-year period. This, according to the authorities, is only the tip of the iceberg and the reason why it’s believed McIndoe was running a Ponzi scheme (basically a scam where each new investor’s money is used to pay other investors).

The Italian Job

Instances of football and betting scandals aren’t simply confined to the UK. Over the last few years Italian football has been hit by a number of problems, most notably in 2006 and 2012 when a slew of teams were implicated in a mass match-fixing scandal. These incidents cost the Italian leagues hundreds of millions in revenue and almost crippled the game inside the country.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of European football. The world’s richest team, Real Madrid, a club that’s annual revenue exceeds £440 million, has avoided any major issues in the last few years. As well as being home to some of the top footballers in the world, Real Madrid has been a stable business enterprise with a clean image for more than a decade. This ability to dodge any proverbial bullets has allowed Real to dominate both on the pitch and in the stock markets.

Football is certainly one of the most entertaining sports in the world when things are going smoothly. However, when characters such as McIndoe bring the game into disrepute, it can certainly smudge the make-up of the beautiful game.

 

Is Van Gaal the answer to Man United fans’ prayers?

He has won prizes with every team he’s managed, including league titles, national cups, a Champions League title, a UEFA cup and a World Cup for Clubs, and additionally led the Dutch national team to take the third place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Impressive indeed, and it explains why Louis Van Gaal is considered one of football’s most successful managers ever. But, is Van Gaal the right manager to lead Manchester United, who have been struggling ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as their manager, to new glory?

A guarantee for success?
Ferguson had an extremely successful run with Man United, but the generation of players he had the privilege to manage already ended their careers – at least most of them have. And the players that make up the team today do not live up to the expectations, so far. David Moyes, last year’s United manager, had a hopeless season with the team and was replaced by Van Gaal, of whom the fans had high expectations after his great performance with Holland’s national team in Brazil. However, with Van Gaal behind the wheel, Manchester United had their worst start of the season since 1986-1987, when Ron Atkinson was United’s manager. By now, the situation has improved a lot and United is in 3rd place now, but will United be a serious contender for this year’s premier league title?

Van Gaal

Cristiano Ronaldo…the ultimate man?

He’s one of the most famous footballers on the planet and quite possibly the best. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo has had a career consisting almost entirely of success, it’s no wonder many consider him the ultimate footballer.

During the 2013/14 season he won a total of 16 awards for his performances on the pitch:

– BBC Overseas Sports Personality award

– Alfredo Di Stéfano award

– Best Player, Best Forward and Best Individual Goal awards for La Liga

– UEFA Best Player in Europe

– European Golden Boot (Shared with Luis Suárez)

– Fifa FIFpro World XI Award 2013

– Globe Soccer Award for Best Player of the Year

And that’s not even all of them! Yes, he probably is the ultimate football player. But is he what we’d consider the ultimate man?

Supercasino have been looking into the characteristics people think make up the perfect man, and as we enter 2015, what better time to reflect on these results!

  • 59% of men believe you should be well groomed in the workplace.
  • 78% of men take pride in their DIY Skills
  • 80% of men feel pressure to keep up appearances and stay in shape
  • 75% of fathers say being a dad is their most important job
  • 73% of dads said, “a real man knows how to express emotional support to his
  • 72% of men in the UK believe that the ultimate ‘man drink’ is whiskey

They then asked them about what moments they believe transformed them from boy-to-man and it seems the transformation from boy to the ultimate man can be signalled by All the answers have been compiled into an infographic that you can take a look at here:

Info G

 

Sacking Rodgers now is not the answer

Liverpool’s season has been a huge disappointment so far and the knives are out for boss Brendan Rodgers. But getting rid of the Anfield manager now would be premature.

There is no doubt Liverpool are in a poor place. Going out of the Champions League at the group stage and then losing to arch-rivals Manchester United 3-0 means there will be plenty of criticism.

Throw in the fact they are now down in 11th in the Premier League table, seven points adrift of the coveted top four, and the picture is bleak.

Rodgers has made some mistakes this season. Team selection has been baffling at times as he has clearly struggled to find his best XI amid the dual demands of domestic and European football. 

Signing Mario Balotelli appears set to be marked down as a huge gamble that has not paid off, while the rest of his summer signings – who do at least retain plenty of potential – have been sub-standard so far.

However, getting rid of last season’s Manager of the Year in December will not sort out Liverpool’s obvious problems. Sacking the popular, former Swansea boss would likely throw the Reds into more turmoil.

by  runtodaylight  Caption: Brendan Rodgers is a man under pressure

Rodgers oversaw a superb, unexpected title challenge last season and surely has credit in the bank, even if the latest views and opinions around football and at the likes of bluesq suggest moving back into the top four will be a very tough ask.

When Daniel Sturridge returns from injury in January, Rodgers’ options are bolstered significantly and if he can ride this current crisis then he can come out the other end smiling.

Rodgers has his problems and there are plenty of issues to resolve but, like he insisted himself recently, he remains the best man for the job at Anfield and deserves more respect than being shown the door before the Christmas lights are out.

It’s Sterling vs Gerrard in the clash of the midfielders! So has Raheem done enough to replace Stevie G as Liverpool’s most important player?

This season promises to be an extremely long one if you are a Liverpool fan. Our campaign has got off to an underwhelming start to say the least as the form that our team found themselves in just six months ago seems to be a distant memory from some glorious, much fabled past.

The departure of Luis Suarez is certainly a big reason behind that while the injuries that Daniel Sturridge has succumbed to only adds to our misery. In the absence of these two highly talented individuals, the responsibility of changing the outcome of matches has shifted to the shoulders of other players. Steven Gerrard is obviously one of them. The other name is Raheem Sterling.

SG

http://images.dailystar-uk.co.uk/dynamic/58/photos/138000/620x/raheem_sterling_liverpool_steven_gerrard-377318.jpg

The two of them are undoubtedly Liverpool’s best players at the moment. But the burning question that can be posed right now is this. Which one of the two are more important to Liverpool Football Club? Has our Captain Fantastic been finally replaced as Liverpool’s most influential player? 19 year old Sterling is currently tied with Steven Gerrard as the Reds’ top scorer with three goals apiece. The midfield pair are also on the summit of the assists chart separated by just one assist as Sterling has been credited with two while Gerrard has been credited with just the one.

As you may see, both these supremely talented individuals cannot be separated by something as limiting as numbers. In the minutes category, the story remains pretty much the same. The two Englishmen have played each and every minute of Liverpool’s two Champions League matches and they also have the same number of Premier League appearances this season after playing in all eight of the Reds’ matches this season.

Steven Gerrard however has been ever present as he lasted the whole 90 minutes in each and every single one of our League games. Sterling on the other hand played the whole game on five occasions after being taken off around the 80 minute mark twice. This is the first instance where we see clear daylight between the two. If Brendan Rodgers thought that Raheem Sterling was still needed on the pitch to keep matters in his team’s favour, he would definitely have kept the number 31 on.

That however, was not the case. It was in fact, Sterling who was taken off while our skipper was still left on because his presence was needed. This point that I just made, is the first reason that proves that it is still Steven Gerrard who is our most important player. The second reason is the timing and importance of the goals that these two scored.

SG 2

http://apac-webapp-assets.ballball.com/prod/uploads/articles/articleimageversion/720p-Steven%20Gerrard%20Raheem%20Sterling%20England%20Liverpool.jpg

Raheem Sterling opened the deadlock while the scores were still 0-0 with goals against Southampton and Tottenham. Liverpool went on to win 2-1 and 3-0 respectively. His third goal was merely a consolation in our thrashing at Upton Park.

Gerrard’s goals were slightly more dramatic as he scored our only goal against Everton from a superb free-kick while his injury time spot kick gave us three points against a valiant Ludogorets side. His third goal was another successfully converted spot kick against Spurs which gave us a 2-0 lead in the game that ultimately finished 3-0 in our club’s favour.

The point that I am trying to make here is that most of Steven Gerrard’s goals swung the result in our favour by either getting us a win or a draw. Sterling’s goals of course were important as well, there are no such things as unimportant goals. But what I mean to say is that Raheem’s goals did not have that big an outcome on the result.

Keeping these facts in mind, I would say that Steven Gerrard is still the biggest fish in the Liverpool pond at this point of time and his influence on the outcome of matches are still invaluable although Raheem Sterling is starting to have an immense impact on games and it should be a matter of time before he replaces Stevie G as our most important player.

 

Football betting and accumulators – insider tips

Online sports betting is a massive global industry. According to research collated by Statista, the size of the online gaming market has grown significantly in the last decade – from $7.4 billion in 2003 to $37.6 billion 2013, and with forecasts to pass the $40 billion mark in 2015.

Sports betting is increasingly forming part of the fan experience. Sure, there are professional gamblers, those who have spent years and years honing their craft and can genuinely make a living from the industry. But there are millions of others who just love watching sport, and see online betting as a fitting accompaniment to that experience – for example, a football fan with a good knowledge of the game identifies the chance to transfer that knowledge to a betting platform and perhaps earn a bit of money in the process.

What follows is by no means an exhaustive resource of insider tips and knowledge, but a bit of advice for the newcomer to online football betting.

You may actually get as much success from randomly guessing the outcome of football matches but that misses the point of online sports betting. It’s about applying insight and analysis. So, make sure you do some research before placing any bets and if you’re looking to lay money against weekend games in the Premier League, check on form. Not just current form either, but historic form.

Consulting football website Soccerbase prior to the match between Leicester City and Manchester United in September tells us that United have won their last four fixtures at this venue. The riskier and more lucrative bet would be the hosts to win, then, but a safer wager would be United to win again. If you’re serious about building up a decent ‘pot’, it’s about small gains. Historical performance is always worth checking. Aston Villa’s 1-0 win at Liverpool earlier in September might have surprised the masses but a quick look on recent scores would have shown that Villa drew 2-2 at Anfield the season before after leading 2-0, and won 3-1 there the year before. A surprise result that was actually no surprise.

Accumulators are popular and can yield strong results. This is where bets are placed against the outcome of several games, and the more matches included the better the odds and the higher the payout. Yes, you need more results to go your way than just a single encounter but don’t be daunted by thinking accumulators must be ten games. You could bet on Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win their matches every weekend throughout the season. It’s highly likely that this will happen on more than a few occasions, and these three are among the strongest teams in their respective leagues in England, Spain and Germany. Stay on that track and you could generate decent profit come season end.

In September, Vernons offered an enhanced multiple on Juventus, Liverpool, Olympiakos and Real Madrid all to win their Champions League fixtures. With Juve, Liverpool and Real at home, against Malmo, Ludogrets and FC Basel, this would have been an enticing bet; only Olympiakos, against Atletico Madrid, looked an unlikely result from the outset. Then again, the Greeks were at home – and betting on the home side is always a good rule to remember.

If you want to rise above the occasional, casual football betting stakes and get into regular weekend forecasting, it pays to spend time reading and researching so that you feel confident of all the options available. The Betting Expert is a blog and resource which is highly recommended and provides worthy reading.

 

 

 

How smoking can affect your sporting performance

High sports performance depends on a whole range of factors: fitness, training, determination, skill, and physical capability such as lung capacity and muscle strength.

It’s well known that smoking impairs lung function, so why do some sports men and women still smoke and how does it affect their performance?

During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, newspapers delighted in catching golden boy Bradley Wiggins sneaking a cheeky cigarette while on holiday. Elite athletes, such as Wiggins, who have super-efficient lung functions, shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Although their lungs may clear smoke more quickly, traditional cigarettes still reduce potential performance as Professor Stephen Spiro, deputy chairman of the British Lung Foundation explains:

“It’s wrong to assume that if you’re an athlete and have super lung function, smoking doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’re making such demands on your lungs that any impairment will affect performance. These guys work at 120 per cent of normal, so a few percentage points off their lung function could be the difference between a gold and a bronze.”

That’s all very well, but most of us aren’t professional competitive sportspeople, so surely smoking doesn’t matter that much in terms of our everyday fitness? Numerous studies have shown that during exercise smokers get fatigued before non-smokers, and that smokers may experience a number of limits on their physical capability. They may get less benefit from a training session, have less muscle strength and flexibility, and get short of breath quickly. Here’s the ‘science bit’ – the blood pumping around your body needs to be chock-full of oxygen in order for you to function properly. Sporting performance is lessened if oxygen levels are reduced because carbon monoxide from tobacco is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. You simply can’t do as much, or as well.

On top of this, smokers are more likely to get injured while playing sport and then take longer to recover. This is because smoking does not just affect your lungs, it also has a negative impact on bones and joints. Furthermore, sleep patterns are also affected by smoking. A study published in the Daily Mail found that smoking disrupts the body clock in the lungs and brain, preventing restful sleep – a cycle which in turn, could lead to mood disorders, depression and anxiety.

E-cigarettes and eliquid are an alternative, and an increasingly popular one with stockists such as Phoenix eliquid offering a range of different flavours and models. These types of devices are healthier than traditional tobacco, as detailed in the information on the EL Science website.

In conclusion, smoking may not stop you taking part in sport, but it’ll feel harder, you’ll achieve less and if you get injured you’ll take longer to recover. For professional sportsmen and women, smoking is an absolute no-no and for committed amateurs, at least consider quitting or trying alternatives.

Three Premier League deadline day deals that caught the eye

Despite the Financial Fair Play rules coming into play this summer, it did not prevent Premier League clubs from splashing the cash as spending broke through the £800 million barrier. It set a new record for the amount of money spent within a single transfer window, with every club making no fewer than five new signings to bolster their squads. Many teams made the calculated decision to conduct their business early, while others used the last day of the window to make late bids. As it often does, it led to complete carnage as clubs rushed to get the adequate paperwork submitted to the Premier League in time, with players quick-footing their way across the country to arrive for their medicals. Punters were able to follow live transfer deadline updates to see which players were on the move, with three signings standing out as ones which could have a major impact for their new employers.

Radamel Falcao to Manchester United

Although the Colombian hitman has only just returned from an eight month layoff following a serious knee injury, Radamel Falcao remained a wanted man throughout the summer. The Monaco striker is one of the best in the business through his sheer power and ability to score goals with unerring regularity, with Porto and Atletico Madrid benefitting from his undoubted quality before moving to France. Falcao deserves to play for one of the best clubs in the world, with Manchester City, Juventus and Real Madrid heavily linked with a move for a player who had made no secret of his desire to join an illustrious club. Although Real Madrid were widely expected to secure Falcao’s services, Manchester United emerged from nowhere on deadline day to agree a deal to take the striker on a season-long loan. Falcao’s knee injury remains a concern, but Louis Van Gaal may have pulled off a masterstroke if the Colombian finds his feet and produces the goals to fire Manchester United back to the top.

Mohammed Diame to Hull Quiz

It remains a surprise that no other teams had a look at signing Mohammed Diame from West Ham, particularly as he had a buyout clause of £3.5 million in his contract. The Senegalese midfielder made an instant impression with the Hammer through his considerable drive and strength, with Diame more than effective as a box-to-box midfielder who can control a game. Hull were more than willing to match Diame’s buyout clause on deadline day as Steve Bruce secured a superb coup for an ever-improving team who made no less than nine signings during the summer. Diame has already made an instant impact, scoring twice in as many games against West Ham and Newcastle, and may prove to be the best value signing as he compliments Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore in midfield.

Danny Welbeck to Arsenal

Despite bright performances for England, Danny Welbeck has been criticised for a lack of consistency at domestic level which transformed into the striker becoming a scapegoat at Manchester United. No-one could ever doubt Welbeck’s effort and determination, but the considerable pressure for him to perform and rescue a club who have struggled ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired was obvious on the pitch. Welbeck has always had the potential to become a clinical finisher that could set the Premier League Arsenal Quiz alight, with his considerable pace also being an additional asset. A lack of first-team opportunities under Van Gaal, along with heavy criticism from his fiercest critics, meant a move from Old Trafford would be the best solution for Welbeck who could flourish in new surroundings where the pressure to perform was removed and enjoy a new lease of life. A deadline day move to Arsenal for £16 million transpired as Arsene Wenger swooped to secure a much-needed striker following Olivier Giroud’s injury and a distinct lack of options upfront. Welbeck already looks a different player, with a goal against Aston Villa hopefully the start of an excellent campaign for the England international who could prove Manchester United made a mistake in letting him go.

Premier League Opening Day Fixtures

Following the release of the 2014/15 Premier League fixture list, Betfair fans are already gearing up for a fascinating opening weekend of the season. With exciting games across the first weekend of the new campaign, there’s plenty of interesting matches for betting fans to take advantage of. Whether you’re looking at how potential title challengers begin their season or if the newly-promoted clubs can get the new year off to a winning start, the opening weekend could give us all a clue as to what this season has in store.

Kicking off the year will be Manchester United taking on Swansea, with Luis van Gaal taking charge of hisfirst game at Old Trafford after his summer arrival. With the United team expected to look a lot different from last year coming up against a Swansea team tipped by some for relegation, the weekend’s early kick-off is an intriguing game for all Premier League betting fans.

Sunday’s double-header sees Liverpool and Manchester City open their accounts. While new Liverpool signings Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert will come up against their former Southampton team-mates,defending champions City will welcome Newcastle to the Etihad Stadium.

Following their promotion from the Championship, Leicester will open their season against Champions League-chasing Everton, while QPR will look to follow up their play-off success with a win against Hull at Loftus Road. Fellow promoted club Burnley will face a stern test in their first game back in the big-time, coming up against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in Monday’s clash at Turf Moor.

Fifa coins and other premium currency in games

During the rise of the internet new ways to make money have appeared. The developers of games also sought out new ways to improve their revenue. One such idea was the introduction of micro-transactions in their games.

A micro-transaction in games refers to a person purchasing in-game items (a new character, a new armor, character slots etc.) or premium currency with real life revenue. This was made popular on the consoles through the market of xbox 360, but it existed long before on the pc platforms, especially in mmorpgs (massive multi-player online role-playing game). Even in the pay-to-play form of billing the micro-transactions have appeared and it led to most mmorpgs becoming free-to-play. A good example of this is Aion or Tera Online, especially in the Europe servers where the need for such transactions is much more prominent.

These online stores, done right, can enhance the players’ experience and bring even more revenue to the developers and publishers. But when it is done wrong it becomes a system that players refer to pay-to win, inflation is also a result of a bad organization of the trading market.

FIFA 14
An example where the system seems to have been balanced is in FIFA ’14, where you futcoins in order to purchase packs in which you find new/old players which in turn you can trade in order to receive some compensation. Another example of the same style trading was made by Ubisoft, for their Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, a spin off card playing game from the original Might & Magic series which has drawn fans from all over the world. For this one Ubisoft preferred the free-to-play model while EA Games, the publisher for FIFA and all its series have gone fore the buy-to-play model.

Even so, it is not to say that one model is preferable over the other. This is a comparison over their micro-transactions not their billing system. One thing that these two games have in common is that instead of waiting and having to play for a long amount of time it allows you to purchase their packs (that contain football players for Fifa and Champions and monsters cards for Might & Magic: Dual of Champions). This helps the gamer that does not have the necessary time to play through 100 matches keep up with the one that does. The first is called a casual player and the latter is called a hard-core player. Duel of Champions

Some have argued that the implementation of these micro-transaction driven markets have diluted the feeling of satisfaction that the player gets from his hard work and time spent. But there is a counter-argument for this, as to the frustration that a casual player receives when a hard-core player beats his team in a tournament or crushes his army, only because he has opened more packs and had the luck to receive better champions/monster cards or football players. This, I would say, is a thing to think on!

 

 

Does Brazil’s sporting success extend to the Poker Table?

Brazil Poker

In recent weeks we’ve seen how Brazil remain one of the top soccer nations around the globe but have the South Americans been able to translate this success onto the poker felt? We looked at some of their opponents in both disciplines to see how results have compared.

Against Croatia and Mexico, Brazil enjoyed mixed fortunes over 90 minutes of football but could they succeed in the Full Tilt World Poker Championships against the same nations?

Croatia v Mexico

Before Brazil get involved in this tight group, let us see how Croatia and Mexico fare when they tackle each other in a range of poker competitions. On the soccer pitch, the Mexicans triumphed with a 3-1 victory but as the card games began with Sit & Go, the Croatians were about to exact their revenge.

Things didn’t start too positively for the European side however, as they slumped to an early defeat. An 18th place finish was respectable enough but it was comfortably eclipsed by their opponents who came in second overall to take an early lead.

This version of the World Championships takes in a number of poker playing countries from across the World. Mexico’s second place was therefore an impressive one but they couldn’t maintain that run of form as the tournament progressed.

The battle for the right to qualify from Group A seemed to be over when Croatia returned a 32nd place finish in the MTT tournaments. However, an alarming slump in form saw the Mexicans plummet down to 37th and as the teams headed into the deciding cash games, they were locked at one point apiece.

Sensing an advantage, Croatia’s fortunes improved as they took second place, compared to another woeful 37th position from the Mexicans. Overall, the Croatians had taken the contest by two points to one, leaving Mexico needing a positive result against Brazil in order to progress from this section.

Brazil v Mexico

Honours were shared on the football field between these two near neighbours but in poker, Brazil have a definite edge. The World Championship took stats from a number of tournaments and the outcomes make for interesting reading.

Things started badly for the Brazilians and in the Sit & Go version of the game, Mexico took the early points with a second placed finish. Meanwhile, Brazil could only manage an overall position of 22nd so after the first round, it was an emphatic, 1-0 to the Mexicans.

From here, Mexico’s form started to drift, just as it had done against Croatia in the opening clash. The next round of poker games took in the MTT tournaments where the Mexican’s dismal 37th place was easily overcome by Brazil who finished in 12th to level the scores at one point apiece.

Once again, the contest needed a decider and Mexico’s lack of prowess in cash games let them down for a second time. A 37th placed finish meant that Brazil, who finished in 21st, would progress from Group A, along with a strong Croatian unit.

Brazil are the world’s most successful side when it comes to football but it looks as if Croatia would have the edge when it comes to Poker. Taking into account Sit & Go, MTT and Cash Games, Croatia’s overall finish of 2nd would eclipse that of 19th placed Brazil thereby proving that global success doesn’t always translate from sport to sport.

Driving to the World Cup: The Ultimate Road Trip

With football’s world governing body reportedly set to make a tidy profit from Brazil 2014, according to this article in the Daily Mail, the World Cup is perhaps as well known now for its cynical commercialisation as it is for the football. However, for many, the global tournament is still just one big celebration of the beautiful game, the perfect excuse for a football themed road trip and one huge, unforgettable adventure!

Getting there

A road trip may sound like a romantic idea, just a group of friends with nothing for company but each other and the open road. If you’re based in the UK, you’re not going to drive there directly, obviously – between Lizard Point in Cornwall, the most south-westerly point in the British Isles, and Fortaleza, on the east coast of Brazil, lies 4,200 miles of unforgiving Atlantic Ocean waves. Fortunately, flights direct to Brazil from the UK are available. The busiest airports in the country are on the south east coast in Rio and Sao Paulo. From these two huge cities you’ll be able to start your World Cup Road Trip.

What you’ll need

In Brazil you can use a full UK driving licence for a maximum of 180 days, if your road trip lasts any longer than this you’ll need to apply for a Brazilian licence. Although the weather is unlikely to get bitterly cold in Brazil, it would still be a good idea to take warm clothing for the chilly nights down south at this time of year. Up north and in the jungle meanwhile, you’ll need plenty of sun cream and mosquito repellent. It is also worth noting that in Brazil, the water is not potable, so you’ll either need to buy bottled water or have some means of purifying tap water in you intend to drink it.

The Road Trip

There are a couple of ways that you can plan a World Cup road trip: one is to follow a team, the other is to make a route for the final. One problem with following a team is that Brazil is so large that it could be difficult to keep up. England, for instance, played their first match in Manaus in the Amazon before setting off for a game over 1,600 miles away in Sao Paulo just five days later. The teams will be flying, so you’ll need to do some serious logistical planning if you want to tag along.

If the schedule for your favoured team is too brutal you could always try to follow a team with a less punishing draw; Argentina for instance, have to travel relatively little in the group stage. On the other hand, driving around Brazil, visiting towns you may not have heard of before, is all part of the experience.

Simpler may be a route to the final, taking in the many iconic football destinations in Brazil. Some of the most famous sights associated with the beautiful game include Estádio Urbano Caldeira in Santos, the Museu do Futebol in Sao Paulo and Pele’s home town of Três Corações in Minas Gerais. Finally, you can get back in time for the end of the tournament, taking place in the most iconic footballing monument of them all, the 200,000 capacity Estadio Maracana in Rio.

If you can’t actually make it to Brazil while the tournament is underway, you can always plan a trip later in the year and travel around, soaking up the post World Cup atmosphere.

 

Game on! Morphsuits mobs Trafalgar Square and stages England vs Italy

To kick the 2014 World Cup off, Morphsuits took football to the streets of London and flashmobbed Trafalgar Square, to predict the final score of the first of England’s matches, against Italy on Saturday 14th June.

The Morphsuit cladded entourage of English and Italian players took over the square , weaving in and out of tantalised spectators, disputing offside calls, red cards and extra time for full fanatic glory, the group of footy fans showed England’s capital how to take the party to the streets and celebrate The World Cup just days before the main event.

The Italian and English teams ran on with goal posts and took onlookers by surprise as they quickly assembled in between the fountains to kick off the match. Patriotic supporters congregated at the sidelines and kicked the ball back in to play when it went off side (outside the fountains!).

The match ended in a tantalising 0-0 draw, so all eyes are now on Saturday when England meet Italy in Rio for their all-important first match to see if the prediction will come true.

The Flag Morphsuits, available here are Morphsuit’s pledge to be sponsors of football fans across the globe for the World Cup. You can literally dress from head to toe in your country’s colours and be king of the World Cup party!

Watch the highlights of the match up below!

You can watch highlights of the match up by clicking here

 

Hearing loss in sport

In sport, communication is king. Taking instructions from a teammate, coach or orders from a referee or umpire; listening for buzzers, starting guns or whistles; and hearing the cheer of a crowd or a national anthem, are all part and parcel of the sporting experience. Take away these sounds and an athlete’s ability to compete could be severely diminished.

With help from technology experts and hearing specialists such as Hidden Hearing , hearing loss need not hold back an aspiring sportsman, whether they are amateur hobbyists or world-class performers.

Chris Colwill has 60 per cent hearing loss, and Tamika Catchings was born with a hearing disability, but both competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in diving and basketball respectively,

Bath rugby union star Mat Gilbert wears hearing aids underneath his skull cap. Diagnosed as deaf from the age of five, Gilbert has learned to survive and thrive in one of the most unforgiving sports in the world, and demands he is treated identically to other players by colleagues and opponents alike. Gilbert is also a keen supporter of getting young people with hearing issues to take up sports, as this article in SL First shows.

Similarly, NFL footballer and Superbowl winner Derrick Coleman overcame the challenges of hearing loss by wearing two hearing aids tucked within two skull caps.

Perhaps even more incredibly, mixed martial artist and wrestler Matt ‘The Hammer’ Hamill defeated several top names in both of the brutal sports. Despite being born deaf Hamill made such an impact on the sporting world that in 2010 a film was made about his achievements and life.

One would think that if deaf or partially-deaf sportsmen can compete in sports as physically demanding as American football, rugby and wrestling then there will be little that cannot be achieved. Some sportsmen even see hearing loss as an advantage – snooker player Joe Swail has severe hearing loss but says it makes him less likely to be distracted by the crowd. As this article in the Huffington Post shows, snooker is a sport which generally supports competitors with health issues.

For those with hearing loss who are unlikely to play at the highest level but still want to compete, there are several measures that can be taken to negate the impact.

Hearing experts can tailor an aid to fit in or around the ear, depending on the sport. Hearing aids inside the ear are more protected from external impact and the weather, but those behind the ear can actually be secured to clothing, to prevent damage from falls.

Hearing aids can be damaged by excessive sweat, rain, mud and other liquids, so seek advice from experts on which hearing aid will be best for your sport. Even a cheap and simple accessory such as a sweatband, hat or item of cleaning equipment might save you considerable money and hassle, while protecting your aid.

Consider telling a referee or linesman about your hearing loss in advance of the event, so that they know you may not hear their signal or command. They may then be able to use a different system to compensate.

The main thing to remember is not to give up – none of the sportspeople above did.

Five Reasons To Watch The 2014 World Cup

Hear that? Yep, it’s the sound of the clock gears slowly winding inexorably toward another World Cup showdown. The best teams on the planet are set to meet this June in the gladiatorial stadiums of Brazil to compete for football’s greatest prize. Expect the hype to reach stratospheric levels as time approaches kick off on Thursday June 12, when home team and favourites Brazil take on Croatia.

Anyone with the slightest interest in football knows that when World Cup fever hits it hits hard. Branded beer coolers, straw boaters, vuvuzelas, sticker books, mugs, shirts and underpants are bought on a whim and paraded with pride. Normal folk plunder their funds to buy footie merchandise from the high street, ebay.co.uk, street vendors and that guy who flogs socks and t-shirts in the car park at lunchtime. We back our team in every conceivable way.

As far as the national squads go the mind games have begun already. Roy Hodgson has pre-empted critics ahead of England’s match with Italy in the humidity of Manaus by telling his players to pump up the optimism, says The Guardian’s Owen Gibson. Under the austere management of former manager Fabio Capello the team flopped in South Africa, so Hodgson wants to dodge criticism for a dour display by the England team.

Brazil are keen to iron out the wrinkles too and manager Felipe ‘Big Phil’ Scolari has been swift to name most of his 23-strong squad. Surprises are few, but the fact that the talented Kaka is unlikely to make it may mean he has played his last in serious competition. Zenit’s Hulk is also under question, says ESPN’s Fernando Duarte, after Gerson, veteran of the Brazil ’70 team, backed Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho on the left.

With all that to ponder, lets ramp up the atmosphere another notch with five cast iron reasons to stay glued to the World Cup action this summer.

 1 Real home of football

Brazil and the South American teams are renowned for playing a brand of skillful football that relies as much on the rhythm of the samba as it does physical strength and grace. Teams from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil suck opponents in and dance around them to score. The beautiful game may have originated in England but Brazil has more often than not set the competition on fire with its skill, athleticisim and sheer trickery, winning the competition five times. This may be a case of football coming to its spiritual home.

2 Group of death

Watch favourites tumble in the so-called ‘group of death’. No-one actually dies, though the stress of watching your team struggle against the odds to qualify feels like it could squeeze the life out of you sometimes. Neutrals and fanatics alike love to watch the big names pitted against each other and any group with two or three big footballing nations competing head to head gets the label. You could argue that England’s Group D has that feel about it – Italy, former winners Uruguay and unknown quantities Costa Rica.

3 Dark horses charging the field

Another one for the neutrals or those who like to adopt a second team – just in case theirs is knocked out – is the dark horse. This mythical creature finds its true nature in the often unspectacular team that is just tough to beat, a team with surprising flair and one or two extraordinary players who cut through the favourites like a filleting knife through mackerel. Your team could get done up like a kipper by these boys.

4 Wonder goals

Like Dennis Bergkamp trapping a ball punted over his right shoulder from 50 yards and firing past a prostrate Argentinian, the wonder goal is what we all live for. Outrageous skill that ends in the net bulging outwards and a player wheeling away into World Cup history is always welcome. Think a young Michael Owen against Argentina or Ronaldinho out-foxing David Seaman. This time around watch two of the world’s best, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, for goals of pure quality.

5 Spectacle unleashed

It might be a cliché but it is part of what makes this competition so special. The spectacle of the cup, colour and excitement, dancing hysterical crowds and Mexican waves. In the tropical heat of Brazil’s summer expect to sweat with the humidity soaked up from a carnival atmosphere half a world away and experience some serious footballing exotica. Bask in reflected glory and drink a few caipirinha cocktails to get in the swing.

 

 

The joys of the accumulator

There is no better feeling than winning a bet, except maybe winning a bigger bet, and never under-estimate your chances for a win using an accumulator. Readershere are invited to share their winning stories, whether they use an accumulator or other clever tactics for placing bets.

Most weeks I stick a few quid on an accumulator. At first I was carefully going through the form guides picking out the games that would pay off. Just how were Aldershot playing at home and was Torquay’s main striker fit for the weekend? Yet despite hours of painstaking research I never won a penny. So I started just trying out a random accumulator instead. Lo and behold it wasn’t long before it came off and I was a few hundred quid richer. The final game in my bet was a Championship match between Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, back when the Magpies were in the Championship a few years ago.

The Toon needed to win to get promoted so the odds were in my favour for a home win but knowing my luck Forest would derail their promotion campaign and walk away with the points. Amazingly, Newcastle dominated from start to finish and the final piece in my accumulator jigsaw fitted perfectly. I’ve never had one that big since but I’ll always remember how good my best bet ever felt. It was me and fifty thousand Geordies who were the happiest people in the world that night. It’s not often I can say that.

If you’ve experienced that feel-good feeling, you can share your best bet win

@bgo_official on Twitter, using hashtag #bgoBestBets.

Guest Blog: Top tips for running a sports club

Behind every successful sports club there is a great team working behind the scenes. The UK sports and recreation sector relies on a volunteer workforce of around 5.8 million people; those who help out as referees and coaches, clean the kit after matches, drive the minibuses to events, and deal with all the administration needed in a thriving sports club.

Running a club is a great way to indulge a passion, learn new skills, and often to spend time with your children. But it also involves a huge amount of hard work, so anyone considering getting involved must do so with their eyes wide open. Enthusiasm is vital, but it can easily drain away if things are badly run. In many ways, it’s similar to operating a business. You’ll need people who have at least a basic idea of bookkeeping; insurance; marketing (to promote matches, and attract new players); staff management, and HR issues such as conflict resolution and communication skills.

Here are some useful tips to help you run your club well.

Administration

Staying on top of administration is a huge task in itself and can be so time-consuming it turns into almost a full-time job for a volunteer. Communication with players and parents on a regular basis, informing them of upcoming events, times of games, training, fees which require paying – it all stacks up. To make life easier, use software such as that offered by Parent Mail, which should streamline all of this and ensure you operate efficiently. Don’t just leave the admin work to coaches. It becomes a distraction for them when they should be focused on training.

Teamwork

By forming a small, trusted team around you who can help with the key tasks, such as brainstorming fundraising ideas and organising transport or accommodation arrangements, you will relieve many of the most common headaches in running a club. Make sure that everyone is aware of, and takes ownership of, their roles and responsibilities, and motivate them well. Some clubs also designate people to sit on fundraising committees, which can be a good strategy if they have the requisite skills.

Coaches

The best coaches will spot and nurture talent. Many of the world’s top sportspeople recognise that they might not be where they are today if they hadn’t had the right coach. So when you find good people, hold on to them! Try to make sure they have the right support network around them so the coach can concentrate on what he or she does best.

Child Safety

Any organisation that works with children needs to ensure that their safety is paramount at all times. There are various laws and guidelines in place, which you will need to abide by. The Football Association, for example, has a Charter Standard programme for clubs, which includes requirements for CRB checks for volunteers and a trained Welfare Officer.

Training

Training isn’t just for the players. Keep an eye out for any opportunities to put your staff on courses where they can learn new skills such as in Health & Safety, or financial management.

Remember to have fun!

Running a sports club shouldn’t be all admin. If you start getting bogged down in paperwork or day-to-day problems, think about why you got into it in the first place, such as being able to shout encouragement from the touchline, and make time to do that every weekend. Don’t lose your enjoyment.

Hull’s hopes dented by Chester injury

Hull City’s hopes of staying clear of the relegation zone have been dealt a blow with central defender James Chester ruled out until March with a hamstring. Hull’s defence is the best in the bottom half of the table so far in the campaign, and Chester has been a key reason behind Steve Bruce’s side’s impressive defensive record this season. His injury is likely to affect the club’s odds for relegation with Unibet.

Chester and his defensive counterparts have been essential to Hull entering February with a great chance of avoiding relegation this season, Bruce will now be desperately hoping the loss of Chester won’t see a collapse in the defensive unit that has so far been the Tigers’ backbone this season.

The hamstring injury is the same problem that sidelined Chester for three months earlier in the season, and Bruce admitted the injury was a massive blow to a player who had been in impressive form since returning to the side following his previous injury.

“James has damaged the tendon again, the one that he damaged at the start of the season. It’s not as bad as it was the first time he did it, but it’s still a concern because it is the same tendon high up in his hamstring,” said Bruce.

“He’s going to be at least six weeks away I would have thought. It’s a shame because he was just finding his feet again after his last spell out, but that is football,” added Bruce.

With his defence looking as solid as any in and around the relegation zone, Bruce added strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic to his squad in the hope of finding the goals Hull will need to make sure they aren’t dragged into the bottom three. With the battle at the bottom looking set to go down to the wire this season, Hull will be hoping they have secured their top-flight status long before the final game of the campaign.

David Beckham and his cars: A potted history

In a career which has taken in World Cups, Champions League triumphs, spells in Madrid and Los Angeles plus a few unsavoury headlines, David Beckham has accomplished quite a lot during his playing days. Now, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar has a life outside the game to look forward to.

It might involve going a few nice drives and, if his car history is anything to go by, he’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding which vehicle to use from his garage. Here are five of the best cars that Becks has had the pleasure of driving over the years:

Porsche Turbo

When he’s not buying cars for his parents-in-law, Becks is looking for sports cars that allow him to drive with the wind running through his hair. The Porsche Turbo is the sort of thing that would make any of his teammates jealous when rocking up at the training ground; one that most footballers would love to own.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

This is the sort of car that Becks might like to drive for the school run or perhaps through the countryside. You can imagine Brooklyn, Romeo and Harper Seven having plenty of room in the back to argue until they get dropped off!

Rolls Royce Phantom and Ghost

Beckham loves a Rolls Royce, both being British institutions, but they don’t come cheap. The Phantom is ideal for movie premieres or perfume launches with Victoria; while the Ghost is one he might want to drive while cruising along the Californian highways.

Bentley Continental Supersports

This is the typical footballer’s car. You could easily reel off a list of players who have the exact same model, but it’s easy to see why they like them so much. Speed, power and looks, not to mention the prestige of owning a Bentley makes them pretty alluring to have in your garage!

Chevrolet Camaro

Possibly influenced by his move to LA Galaxy, Becks has made a wise choice in forking out for this iconic Chevy. As mentioned by autoweb.co.uk, the Camaro has plenty going for it, especially when compared to similar models such as the Corvette C6. It’s one that will sit proudly alongside his Rolls Royces, Bentleys et al.

If you love David Beckham then why not try out our Beckham Quiz?

FootieQuiz partner with Cult Zeros

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About Cult Zeros

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What is a Cult Zero?, A Cult Zero is whoever you want it to be… Our football shirts celebrate players from the non-league through to World Cup legends. The t-shirts are custom-made,   you add the wording yourself,  therefore making them a unique gift for friends,  family or even yourself!, If you can’t find the player you want why not request one. We can print t-shirts of non footballers too,  even your friends! If you can’t find the player you want in our gallery then let us know and we’ll do our best to sort it out.

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Things You Didn’t Know About The Premier League

Premier League Trophy

There are many things about the Premier League we know. We know that Manchester United are likely to win the title every other year. We know Jose Mourinho will get sent to the stands every other week. And we certainly know all Arsene Wenger will say about it is that he “did not see it”.

But behind the obvious. Behind the fact that we know Crystal Palace are rubbish and Alan Shearer scored a lot, are some of the most interesting facts in football. We guide you through some of the things you never knew about the world’s greatest league.

Rio Ferdinand

This man has the cleanest record in football. Since August 2006, the Manchester United centre-back has only conceded 68 fouls in 182 games. That’s one wrong tackle every 2.7 games. Roy Keane conceded 68 fouls every 2.7 games!

To match this amazing record, the former England captain has only received 20 yellow cards in 485 appearances during his career. The record is even hard to believe for his United team mate Nemanja Vidic, “Seriously, that is a great run. He is so good at reading the game.”

Jamie Carragher’s Goal Scoring Record

Now, the Anfield hero has never been potent in front of goal. In fact Carragher scored as many goals for Spurs as he did his own club. During his career against the North London club, the Liverpool defender put it past his own keeper three times. The same amount he managed for the Reds.

He loved scoring own goals so much that he even scored a penalty (own goal) for Everton during his testimonial.

Stoke Don’t Keep The Ball Well

There has been a slight change in the way Stoke play since Hughes took over the Potters in the off-season. And despite Pulis being a favourite in the Premier League, it’s hardly surprising. Since joining the top-flight in 2008, the Staffordshire side have only had more than 50% possession in 13 games. Lucky for some. Unlucky for Stoke. They have yet to finish in the top 10 since their return.

Top 5 Super-Subs

Only five players have scored a hat-trick from the bench. Most recently was Romelu Lukaku against Manchester United. A feat in itself, he became only the sixth player to score three against Fergie’s United.

Fowler’s also holds history as the quickest of all time. Entering the field of play, Liverpool were 0-0 against Arsenal. Four minutes and 33 seconds later, it’s 3-0 and the Liverpudlian is rolling away in celebration having defied the football odds. Solskjaer, Hasselbaink and Adebayor have also strolled on from the bench and netted three for their side.

£1.56m Per Year- It’s The Going Rate

Doubling in the last six years, the average Premier League player earns £30,000 per week. Except Fernando Torres. As an average Premier League player, he earns £210,000 per week.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the average annual earnings of UK workers is £26,500, meaning you could probably afford to keep Ryan Shawcross for a week. Get him to tidy up round the back for you. He’s good at that.

 

 

The Evolution of Football Kits

Football has changed dramatically over the years from a politely contested fixture between two sides to matches that can start riots across a city because of the intense rivalry. Players have adapted from jogging towards the goal with the ball at their feet to turning opposition defenders inside out with pace and trickery before firing the ball into the top corner. Like all sports, it has changed and it has done so for the better without a doubt, and along with the game changing itself, certain aspects have also developed.

We’ve seen the introduction of goal line technology in the 2013/14 season which will hopefully help to prevent officials from making the wrong decisions, but one change that has been going almost unnoticed over the years is the evolution of the kits worn by the players out on the pitch. To many people, they’re just clothes worn to distinguish between the two sides, but to the teams they are a sense of identity and that’s why the fans spend so much money purchasing replica kits from stores like Newitts.com or the club’s official store, to show their support even away from the stadium on match day.

In the early days of the game, when the likes of Sheffield FC (recognized as the world’s oldest football club) would play Hallam or Notts County, there were no kits as such. Players would turn up for matches wearing whatever they could find, even cricket whites, and then wearing distinctive hats or scarves over the top so that they could stand out from the opposition team. In fact, it was Sheffield FC who first coined the idea of players wearing kits by stating in their own club rule book that “each player must provide himself with a red and dark blue flannel cap, one colour to be worn by each side”, meaning that they could give one coloured hat to the opposition to ensure it was blues versus reds at all times.

It was only when the FA Cup began in the 1871-72 season that kits really began to be created with the rules of the competition stating that each team must wear a distinctive kit. The colours chosen were often associated with the public schools and sports clubs that they grew from, or historical relevance.

From simple coloured kits soon came designed strips featuring hoops or stripes, around the time that the tops became known as ‘shirts’. Newton Heath – now known as Manchester United – were one of the first to adopt the ‘quartered’ style of kit in the 1890s, with the likes of Bristol Rovers still wearing the style today, and Blackburn Rovers wearing ‘halves’. In 1890, we saw the introduction of another rule regarding kits, whereby clubs had to register their own colours to avoid any clashes occurring. This would eventually become the basis of what we know today as the ‘away’ kit where a club will wear a completely different strip when they play against another club that wears similar colours (this was brought into effect in 1921).

As we began to move through the 1900s, kits began to become more stylish with the likes of Manchester United adopting the ‘V’ style around the neck. It was 1909 before goalkeepers were required to wear a different kit, with the Football League wanting clear indications as to just who was in goal to avoid confusion for watching supporters, opposition players and the match officials.

During the next few decades there was very little innovation in terms of kit design, but more manufacturers did appear on the scene with the Humphrey Brothers Clothing company – now known as Umbro – becoming one of the most popular.

Arsenal were one of the first to break the mould in terms of shirt design, by adding contrasting white sleeves to their red shirts in the 1932-33 season. This, and the exposure of British clubs to European competition, prompted designers to look into new styles of kits altogether, with clubs realizing that their European counterparts were wearing much more stylish, lightweight, comfortable kits and this may benefit them going forward. Kits soon featured v-neck collars rather than the traditional shirt collar, short sleeves and lightweight cotton shorts.

By the 1980s and 90s, clubs were reaching their centenaries and celebrated by releasing commemorative shirts to mark the occasion. This is now seen as routine by many English clubs, who will ditch their traditional styles – even for one season – in favour of a modern version of the shirt they wore 100 years ago.

By the late 90s and early 2000s, clubs had taken to selling replica versions of their shirts to supporters, complete with names and numbers printed on the back. This soon became the most valuable marketing strategy for clubs to enhance their status in the local area – and beyond – and the all important bank balance that would let them spend more money on the top players in the game.

Today clubs will change their strips every couple of years – or even every year – because of the size of the market looking to purchase replica versions. Even the slightest changes to the shirt, such as a black collar, makes a difference and fans will still buy them to show their insatiable support for their club.

Guest Blog: The battle for the first place

The eyes of most English soccer fans will be on Emirates Stadium this Saturday, when Arsenal host Liverpool.

Despite their loss at home at the beginning of the week against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, most of soccer driven Sportsbooks have Arsenal as favorite for this game. The Gunners are in first place of the Premier League with 22 points.

After a surprising defeat in week one at Emirates against Aston Villa , Arsenal has seven wins and one draw. They are the second best offense of the tournament with 20 goals scored, only behind Manchester City who has 21.

Frenchman Olivier Giroud and Wales’s Aaron Ramsey are the top scorers for the Gunners, with five goals each, but this Saturday will face a tough match against one of the best defences in the league. Liverpool have shipped only eight goals this season, but five have come away home.

The Reds are in third place with 20 points will try to steal the lead this weekend. English striker Daniel Sturridge is having a great year and is the top scorer of the Premier with eight goals.

Liverpool attack has within it one of the best forwards in the League, Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who has six goals in only four games. The problem for the Reds is that they rely too much on their stricker. Sturridge and Suarez have combined for 14 their 17 goals on the season.

This will be the first Liverpool game on the road against one of the top five teams. When they visited Manchester United on the third round of the Capital One Cup they lost 1-0 with one goal of Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.

Arsenal have only lost one of the last 16 home games against Liverpool, including FA Cup, Community Shield, Carling Cup and Champions. In 178 games between these two squads in the league, the Reds lead the stats  with 69 wins and 47 draws.

 

 

Nash’s Premier League Preview Week 10

With a quarter of Premier League season is behind us, this week should bring us a clear picture, of which teams have the potential to true contend for the Premier League title. There are some cracking encounters to look forward to this weekend. Liverpool travelling to the Emirates, Spurs visiting Everton and the first top flight South Wales derby and many other teams trying to knick an upset. So let’s break down all the exciting encounters, which are going to take place this weekend.

 

NEWCASTLE UNITED V CHELSEA @ St. James’ Park

This encounter has always been exciting to watch. Newcastle are coming of a bad week, with back to back losses in the Tyne-Wear derby and against City in the Capital One Cup. They have conceded 16 goals this season, which screams of a struggling defence. On the other hand, Chelsea have scored 16 goals. Chelsea have a strong offence against a very weak defence. Chelsea would win this, if their offense clicks, will win it by some margin.

PREDICTION  1-3

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Fernando Torres: He is in amazing form, and has scored 3 goals in his last two outings and is looking like the return of El Nino is evident.

Juan Mata: Cannot emphasize enough on how he has changed the dynamic of the Chelsea team, and Mourinho has realized that, he was late but he did.

 

FULHAM V MANCHESTER UNITED @ Craven Cottage

Fulham are coming back of a disappointing loss to Leicester City in the Capital One Cup midweek. Their season has been very erratic and they rely too much upon individual players rather than playing as a team. As a team, they just haven’t jelled. Manchester United would be looking to carry on their winning streak, especially with a start they had this season. United will win this one unless any of Fulham’s brilliant individual players show their individual class.

PREDICTION  0-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

RVP; have stated before and will do again, if he struggles, United struggle. Rooney is the only saving grace on RVP’s off day. He needs to stay consistent, for United to have a hope of competing for the title this season.

 

HULL CITY V SUNDERLAND @ The KC Stadium

Hull have been the surprise package of this season, they are a team who play organized football and stick to the basics, Hull have lost their last two games, both against Spurs. They had been evenly fought games. Sunderland have finally kick started their season, winning the Tyne-Wear side derby and would be looking to capitalize on the momentum. Hull are a tough team to beat at home, Hull have not lost at home and look a tough side to beat, Sunderland with high confidence should procure a draw here.

PREDICTION 1-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Steven Fletcher: he provides experience in front of goal, he is consistent and for Sunderland to have any chance to not get relegated this season. They need Fletcher scoring on consistent basis.

 

MANCHESTER CITY V NORWICH @ Etihad Stadium

If not for Joe hart, City have made quite a progress in their style of play under Pellegrini. They have scored the maximum number of goals (21) in the premier league. Norwich gives them another tempting chance to surge ahead on their goal count. The Canaries have been just shoddy this season and show no signs of improvement. I don’t see Norwich will get any points out of the game. City will win comfortably.

PREDICTION  4-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Aguero: Has been in cracking form this season. He has scored 7 goals in eight matches and Norwich prove to light a team to deny him. He would continue his goal scoring form against Norwich.

 

STOKE SITY V SOUTHAMPTON @ The Britannia

Stoke showed signs of what they are capable of doing against United last weekend but then got back into their shell. Southampton have had an exceptional start to their season, they have only conceded 3 times this season, which would be a tough ask for Stoke especially when they are finding it so hard to score, they have scored only 6 times, two of the goals coming last week against United. Southampton should continue their dream run against Stoke.

PREDICTION: 0-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Ricky Lambert: He has catalysed the way; Southampton’s season has churned up so far. The England call up has certainly done wonders to his domestic form.

 

WEST BROM V CRYSTAL PALACE @ The Hawthorns

Crystal Palace are destined to be relegated this season, they just look like a team that don’t belong in the Premier League. This is a good game for West Brom to bounce back from the mauling they suffered on the hands of Liverpool (4-1) last week.

PREDICTION  2-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Morgan Amalfitano: He is the only creative player West Brom can boast about. He has created 10 chances for his team this season (more than any other premier player). He will be a key player for West Brom against Norwich.

 

WEST HAM UNITED V ASTON VILLA 2 @ Boleyn Ground

Both inconsistent teams face each other this weekend. West ham badly need a striker and without a striker they have just looked ordinary. Aston Villa on the other hand have been very fragile defensively. West ham though might be 15th in the league but boast of 4 clean sheets and Villa might find it tough. I would predict both teams to share the honours.

PREDICTION  0-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Cristian Benteke: the season has been inconsistent for him, but a couple of goals and he would be tough to stop. Having already scored 5 goals so far. He just needs one good outing.

 

ARSENAL V LIVERPOOL @ The Emirates

The GAME OF THE WEEK, both teams would showcase who plays better passing football. Arsenal would be without defensive midfielder Flamini, leaving Arsenal with no defensive midfielder. This would be a great advantage for Liverpool, especially when Coutinho is playing, he would be looking to penetrate that hole all day. Arsenal would be relying on Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey’s fantastic recent form. A defeat to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup might weaker Arsenal’s confidence. Expect a thrilling encounter, in which Liverpool edges past Arsenal.

PREDICTION  2-3

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Suarez/Sturridge: They have begun to ascend to greatness. With the return of Suarez, Liverpool have seemed to have found another gear. Suarez has already scored six goals in 4 matches and Sturridge eight in nine. If they hold on this form all season, I don’t see a reason Liverpool not winning the title.

Ozil: Games like this makes players stars and for him this would be a great opportunity to showcase that he is a star.

 

 

EVERTON V TOTTENHAM @ Goodison Park

Another exciting match-up. Everton have won nine of their ten home matches and would be looking to have an upper hand in this one. Only one point separates both teams. Tottenham have allowed only 5 goals this season and keeping 6 clean sheets. That is an impressive stat but the unsatisfactory fact is, Tottenham have a disappointing conversion rate of less than 5%, which is only one goal a game. Expect this to be a see-saw like match, but a draw would make either side happy.

PREDICTION: 1-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Lukaku: He has been on the rise since last season, has already scored 5 times this season and has a tendency to bring his best out in big games.

Jan Vertonghen: There is a reason for Tottenham’s six clean sheets this season and i.e. the centre force of Spurs defence, Jan has been a guiding force at the back and has made the defensive line rock solid.

 

CARDIFF V SWANSEA @ Cardiff City Stadium

The first ever South Wales derby is going to be played and it promises to be an exciting encounter. Cardiff are a hard working team and for them to stay put in the top flight, they would need to tough it out day in and day out. Swansea have had a great last season, this season they have struggled only because of their Europa League obligations. I am going for Cardiff going all stops out and wining this one.

PREDICTION  2-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Gary Medel: He has completed 90% of his passes this season, which is quiet incredible and the Bluebirds would require his services, to stop passes going to Bony or Michu.

 

 

 

 

 

Nash’s Premier League Review: Week 8

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The Premier League is back this weekend, get your favourite Premier League club shirt on. It promises to be another weekend full of exhilarating match-ups and surprises. Arsenal are sitting top on the table, equal on points with Liverpool, thanks to their superior goal difference But who’s going to win the Premier League? Sunderland and Crystal Palace already are drifting from the others at the foot of the Premier League. So are we ready for some mouth-watering action?

Here is the low down on this week’s action.

NEWCASTLE UTD V LIVERPOOL @ St. James Park

Brendan Rodgers will have a full strength squad at his disposal on Saturday, one of the rare luxuries he hasn’t enjoyed since the start of the campaign. Suarez and Sturidge would be a constant threat to the Newcastle defence. Newcastle on the other hand, have been inconsistent. Loic Remy seems the only saving grace for Newcastle. I would go for Liverpool winning it.

PREDICTION: 0-3

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Luis Suarez: 3 goals in 2 matches, seems like he never left. The ban could have only made him a better player. He looks totally in control with himself.

Daniel Sturridge: He is not fully fit, and still manages to score somehow. He can only get better. At the end of the week, should see him as the leading goal-scorer.

Loic Remy: He has been in stupendous form, if only Newcastle’s defence could abide by the same, he is currently tied with Daniel Sturridge as the leading goal scorer in the Premier League.

ARSENAL V NORWICH CITY @ the Emirates

The table toppers have been in scintillating form, since the arrival of Mesut Ozil. For Norwich the story remains the same, they just don’t know what kind of football style to adapt, and that portrays in their league position. But against Arsenal, a defensive approach would be on the cards. Arsenal should win this quiet easily.

PREDICTION: 4-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Mesut Ozil: If Norwich are going to come out with a defensive outset, Ozil would be the go to guy. He will be the lock-picker. Could see him scoring as well.

CHELSEA V CARDIFF CITY @ Cardiff City Stadium

Another rotational squad is on the cards for Chelsea, Cardiff have shown a lot of resistance and character this season, but there is way too much going on in Cardiff, and thinking about winning at Stamford Bridge seems preposterous. Chelsea would see this one out quiet easily, ahead of their crucial champions league encounter against Schalke.

PREDICTION: 2-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

JUAN MATA: Have always said playing Mata is the logical thing to do. You just have to get used to it Jose. He will outperform against Cardiff as well.

EVERTON V HULL CITY @ Goodison Park

Both teams have had an impressive start to their season, especially with many pundits predicting Hull to be relegated this season, which they still could, but they look a promising. Everton have slowly and steadily caught hold of Roberto Martinez’s playing style and look reasonably stable. This one could be an exciting game, could go either side, an entertaining draw is what I predict.

PREDICTION: 2-2

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Romelu Lukaku: He has been on a scoring streak for country and club, and certainly looks like the player to watch out for, all season. If you want to bet your money on, Lukaku would be the go to player.

Robbie Brady: He is the top scorer for Hull, having already scored four times. He is all set to return to action.

MANCHESTER UTD V SOUTHAMPTON @ Old Trafford

Let’s ignore history and accept the fact that Man Utd are going to struggle this season, and I think a quarter of Manchester has already accepted that. Southampton are in splendid form, lying fourth in the table. They bring a kind of charisma and sparkle to their play, which is soothing. Last week Adnan Januzaj took all the limelight, this week it’s all going to fade away, predicting an upset here.

PREDICTION: 1-2

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

SOUTHAMPTON DEFENSE: They have been just fantabulous, conceding only 2 goals so far this season. Persie and Co. going to find it difficult to penetrate them. Old Trafford or not.

RVP: Seems like if he shines, the team shines. Last season is a good example of, how much united rely on RVP. They are going to need his services. BIG TIME.

STOKE CITY V WEST BROM @ Britannia Stadium

West Brom have not lost a game since the start of September, they are in fantastic form, while Stoke City have forgone a completely opposite path. Having lost all their last three games, Mark Hughes side are finding it very difficult to score, having scored only four times this season. I would predict West Brom to carry on their scintillating run and win.

PREDICTION: 0-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Berahinho: one of the U21’s to watch out for this season, he is shining and shining bright.

Begovic: He has been making fabulous saves, though the results are not reflecting. He has been rock solid. Expecting some crucial saves, might save the game.

SWANSEA V SUNDERLAND @ Liberty Stadium

It would be Gus Poyets first game at the helm of Sunderland FC, will fortunes turn? Swansea are without a home win for the last 8 matches, they have been performing well in the Europa league and that is affecting their domestic form. There might be a glimmer of a chance for Gus Poyet to salvage any points, from Swansea’s lacklustre domestic form.

PREDICTION: 1-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Steven Fletcher: He has recovered from his shoulder injury, and if he plays he would be a serious threat for the, weak Swansea defence (without Ashley Williams).

Michu:  The Spain call-up might have enthused some confidence. He would want to perform well consistently.

WEST HAM V MANCHESTER CITY @ Upton Park

West ham would be sky high, after upsetting Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in week 7, they usually don’t score too many goals, but Sam Allardyce found a way to do so. Manchester City on the other hand are high scorers in the Premier League themselves, scoring 17 times already, but they are allowing more goals as well. It could go either way. A draw would be a satisfying result for West ham.

PREDICTION: 1-1

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Ravel Morrison: He took Tottenham by storm, he would have a few more defenders keeping an eye on him, but he should flourish.

Sergio Aguero: He will get chances, it will be difficult for the West Ham defence to keep him off. Expect him to score.

ASTON VILLA V TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR @ Villa Park

The defeat against West ham would have been a wakeup call for AVB, Aston villa are proving to be a tough team to face at Villa park, it would certainly be an entertaining encounter. Tottenham haven’t won in their last 2 games and them being a top 4 team is certainly under the scanner. Villa’s new signings are bearing fruit now, everyone is performing exceptionally.

PREDICTION: 1-1

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Benteke: one of the members of the Belgian brigade, on his day he can be world class. Most likely to score a goal from the villa team.

Christian Eriksen: He seemed a bit off against West Ham, but he certainly is a playmaker and would do wonders in the coming matches.

CYRSTAL PALACE V FULHAM @ Selhurst Park

Both teams are in desperate need of victory, Fulham will be looking to have back to back wins for the first time this season. It should be a dull match, don’t expect anything entertaining.

PREDICTION: 0-1

KEY PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Berbatov: for Fulham to shine, Berbatov needs to be scoring, this might be the match where he’ll outperform.

 

 

The Miracle of Istanbul, United’s Late Show and Gunners hit Reading for 7

Matthew Glazier of www.bettingpro.com looks at some of the best football comebacks of the past few years

Two English teams have produced a stirring comeback to win the Champions League in recent memory; while there have also been some fantastic performances in the Premier League which have seen losing teams rally to get a draw or better.

1) The Miracle of Istanbul

Liverpool were staring down the barrel in the 2005 Champions League final as Milan ran rings around Rafael Benitez’s team and stormed into a 3-0 lead, with Paolo Maldini scoring in the first minute before a late first-half brace from Hernan Crespo looked as though the cup had been won for the Rossoneri.

However, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had other ideas and his 54th minute goal set the Reds on the path to recovery. Amazingly, they were level on the hour mark thanks to goals from Smicer and Alonso, with Jerzy Dudek producing an amazing save to deny Andriy Shevchenko and the final went to penalties. Converted spot kicks from Hamann, Cisse and Smicer were enough to claim victory.

2) Sheringham and Solskjaer party like its 1999

Liverpool’s success came six years after another famous Champions League win for an English club, with Manchester United spending 84 minutes trailing to a Mario Basler effort until the most dramatic of finishes which saw the Red Devils score two injury-time goals.

In fairness, it was a poor performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s team at the Camp Nou and Bayern could have been out of sight before Teddy Sheringham looked as though he had sent the game into extra-time, although Solskjaer’s goal in the third minute of injury-time meant that UEFA quickly changed the ribbons on the trophy before it was held aloft by Peter Schmeichel.

3) Arsenal come from 4-0 down to win 7-5 at Reading

During the 2012/13 season, the Gunners and the Royals exchanged 24 goals in three matches although it was the League Cup clash at the Madejski Stadium which was the most dramatic by far, with Arsene Wenger’s team going 4-0 down after 37 minutes as Reading ran riot.

Just as Wenger was about to read the riot act at half-time, Theo Walcott’s 45th minute strike threw the visitors a lifeline and Olivier Giroud’s goal just after an hour created lots of tension among the home side. However, Laurent Koscielny’s 89th goal looked like being a mere consolation before Walcott poached a fourth a minute later to take the game to extra-time.

The momentum was with Arsenal and Chamakh put the visitors ahead for the first time although Pogrebnyak looked to be taking the tie to penalties when scoring for 5-5 before Walcott and Chamakh scored at the death.

Matthew Glazier is the Managing Editor of an award-winning sports, news and betting website.

How to Train Hard and Become the Next Gareth Bale

In 2007 Gareth Bale was a highly regarded young prospect. He was soon bought by Tottenham Hotspurs for a tasty fee of around £7m, but failed to live up to his hype for the next few years. Through the right training, nutrition plan and equipment he has improved beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Your training equipment holds the key to your improvement and at http://www.thesoccerstore.co.uk/football-training-equipment you can find the gear to make you a star. 

So, training doesn’t make a difference you say? In August 2013 Gareth Bale made the world record signing of £85.3m, with Real Madrid being the lucky team to secure his services. Bale, 24, had a few mediocre seasons followed by two sensational, record-breaking seasons in England. Now he is considered one of the best talents the game has to offer, and he can proudly say he is the “most expensive” talent in the game. So with the right plan, effort and dedication you too can become the best footballer you possibly can. 

Nutrition is an important part of your pursuit to be the best. There are certain super-football-foods that are labeled as the perfect choice to improve your fitness and ability. Firstly, drinking water is important. Secondly, it’s important to eat a good amount of protein such as chicken or fish. It’s recommended that you eat a balanced meal, meaning putting foods like jacket potatoes and vegetables alongside the others- this will only help to increase your abilities. 

When speaking to Four-Four-Two magazine Gareth Bale was asked about the importance of his nutrition and he repliedMassively important. If you get your diet and hydration right you’re going to be a step ahead of everybody else on the pitch. If you’re hydrated properly you reduce your risk of injury and if you’re committed to your fitness programme you’ll be able to last longer, running just as hard in the last minute as you were in the first.

Who are we to argue with the world’s most expensive player?

As many champions have said before- champions aren’t made on the football pitch- they are made through hard work and dedication in every aspect that influences your abilities. One fundamental aspect of being the best is the ability to train hard and improve yourself at every chance possible. There’s many key attributes such as pace, strength and football skills in general that all require work, but Gareth Bale when asked about the importance of training hard to improve his acceleration replied It’s massively important to my game, especially the way I play, running at defenders. If you’ve got that explosive acceleration you’re able to get away from defenders and either shoot and score or pass or cross. It gives you an extra advantage over your opponent.

So what kind of training will help you to improve? 

Ball control

There are many traffic cones, superdomes and poles that you can use to run around and use as a marker for sprints. More importantly these pieces of equipment will be perfect for enhancing your ball control. Warm yourself up by having a light jog around these and then increase the pace, but use a football from there on. By performing different drills with this equipment you will notice your ball control will improve, so much that it will seem you have built a connection between your feet and the ball.

Speed and agility

Having the best speed and agility possible is an important aspect in becoming the best. Speed and agility ladders and hurdles will enhance these attributes, if used correctly. By using these training tools you will be able to see what you’re achieving and set realistic goals to help you on to your way to improvement.

Passing and shooting drills

It’s great to have a structured plan to help you become the best player you possibly can. Doing football only drills will see you lack natural fitness, and if you do the opposite you will be a fit athlete with no football ability. So taking care of the basic skills like passing and shooting will help you become the best player possible. Football goals and various targets will help your shooting, and passing arcs will help you develop a better passing range.

All of these types of training equipment will help you further your game, but it’s important to find what plan suits your own personal targets, rather than following the normal routine of others. For example there is no need to concentrate on your tackling ability day in and day out if you’re an attacking player.

All of these tips are vital fundamentals to follow if you are to become the best player you possibly can. It will require dedication, time and effort, but if you want to be worth £85.3m then that’s what it takes. Gareth finished by saying “Rest, sleep and getting food and drink on board are all key elements. Recovery is essential if you want to get ready for the next training session and match.” So what are you waiting for?

 

English Football: The Ugly Duckling

The eighties. Ex-Aberdeen and Scotland manager Sir Alex Ferguson made a shaky start to a 27 year-long rein at Manchester United, which, despite taking him to just 11th in the league in his first and third seasons, would go on to net the club 49 trophies, both domestically and in Europe; the back-pass and Bosman rules hadn’t been invented yet; the Premier League was still known as the Football League First Division and Liverpool were a dominating force at home and abroad, winning the European Cup in ‘81 and ‘84. The league table would look somewhat alien to the under-twenties, with the likes of Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest, now both in the Championship, both featuring highly in the rankings. Spain weren’t quite as unstoppable as they have been in recent years. On the other hand – or foot – the other national teams were much the same with Italy and Argentina winning the ’82 and ’86 Fifa World Cups, with Germany being runners up in both tournaments and England yet to win since ’66.

However, this wasn’t the only aspect of ‘80s football that would seem unusual to the younger football fan. Crunching tackles were no longer a yellow or red card offence, the best offense was a good defence and the concept of ‘total football’ began to spread across Europe.

The Best Offense was a Good Defence

Rather than the attractive, attacking way of football, which many teams have adopted over recent years, the object of English ‘80s football wasn’t to score more goals against the opposing team, but to stop them scoring against you. An infamous example of this is George Graham’s ‘boring, boring’ Arsenal and their back four in the mid-to-late ‘80s, before the Wenger era of slick passing and attacking at speed. The impenetrable wall of defenders consisting of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould, who’s now assistant manager at the club, became famous for the ‘offside trap’ where the defenders would stand in alignment with the opposing team’s attacker, only for the last defender, often Adams, to step forward just before the attacking pass was made, rendering the move offside and frustrating the opposition.

Going to Ground

The eighties was renowned for its no-nonsense approach to tackling; defenders wouldn’t think twice about going to ground and sliding in for a tackle that would leave most referees these days reaching for their back pocket. Left-back Stuart Pearce, ex-manager of England’s under-21 team, made over 400 appearances for Nottingham Forest in the First Division in the mid-to-late ‘80s and was affectionately nicknamed ‘Psycho’ due to his somewhat overly ‘enthusiastic ‘challenges.

Similarly, Ipswich Town centre-back, Terry Butcher, featured in one of the most iconic, English footballing images of all time. The courageous defender leapt into an aerial duel in England’s ‘89 World Cup Qualifier against Sweden, only to completely split his head open in a clash of heads. Butcher had his head bandaged but carried on playing, agitating the wound and leaving him and his white England kit covered in claret.

Total Football

The tactical style of passing and moving, interchanging positions and attacking, wing play was first developed in Holland, at Rinus Michel’s Dutch side Ajax in the late ‘60s and was honed during the 1970s, where they experienced one of their most successful periods, winning 5 titles in 1972. Johan Cruyff refined the technique during his time as manager from ’85 to ’88, after playing at the side for the early portion of his career, and later in the early ‘80s. Cruyff’s appointment as Barcelona manager in 1988 saw his adopted theory of ‘total football’ transported to Spain, which has given birth to what modern fans know as ‘ticka tacka’ football, still played by the likes of Barcelona, and a different type of pass-and-move football, orchestrated worldwide from the British ‘David’, Swansea, to Germany and European ‘Goliath’, the Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich.

Heroes of the 1980s

An aspect of modern football that hasn’t changed is the hero factor. Just as we have Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale today, the ‘80s laid way for men such as Ajax striker Marco Van Basten; England legends Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne; and Argentinian superstar Diego Maradona.

Van Basten played for Ajax during the ‘total football’ era, known for his stunning goals and ability, who converted 128 goals in just 133 appearances for the Dutch team between 1981 and ’87, was named World Player of the Year three times. He later returned to coach the club after an injury ended his career early, as well as the Netherlands national team.

Lineker, who started his career at Leicester in 1978, went on to net 243 goals for clubs such as Everton and Barcelona during his career as a striker. He also scored a whopping 48 goals in 80 appearances for the England national side, almost becoming England’s top goalscorer, second only to Sir Bobby Charlton. Tottenham Hotspur teammate, midfielder Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, also had an impressive goal tally and was renowned for his finesse and passion, both on and off the ball. Unfortunately, through the passion, problems started to emerge in the tabloids, and Gazza’s apparent mental illness and alcoholism hampered his true potential and although he’s sought help in the form of rehab many times, he still battles with addiction to this day. Napoli international Maradona, who scored 81 goals for the club and later became manager to his national team, Argentina, also fought with addiction; famously using cocaine during his time at Barcelona in the early ‘80s before checking into rehab and getting clean.

How did it all change?

Football in 1980s Europe may not seem that different to what it currently is now; free flowing, fluid, silky passing and attractive goals were being slotted home at the likes of Ajax for a long time before the style hit English soil. The English football style during ‘80s was slow, stagnant and defensive and more about clean sheets than impressive score lines. The back-pass rule was brought into play in 1992 to discourage time-wasting, which had become commonplace in our game, and to force our defensive technique to speed up and become more exciting after the ‘exceedingly dull’ performances in the 1990 World Cup. The abolition of allowing the goalkeeper to handle the ball passed back to them by one of their teammates made the game slicker and more exciting. The introduction of the Bosman rule in 1990, let European players run down their contracts and allowed them to move anywhere within the E.U. for free. This broadened English football’s horizons significantly, bringing a higher quality of football to the Premier League and turning it into what it is today: the best league in the world.

Gareth Bale: Footballer, Superstar or Both?

Unless you were holidaying on the moon during this summer’s football transfer window, you’re sure to have heard about the world record transfer of Tottenham Hotspur’s midfielder Gareth Bale to Spanish giants Real Madrid. The transfer saga of the year finally ended on the second-to-last day of the transfer window with a move reportedly worth over £85m. The twenty-four year-old Welshman’s career over the last year has been impressive, netting 21 goals in the Premier League alone for the North London club in the 2012/13 season, double what he produced the season before. However, does one terrific season justify Madrid’s interest and considerable price tag? Will Gareth Bale be a success at Real Madrid?

Pre-Madrid

Originally a left-back, Bale began his career in the Championship at Southampton and scored his first goal at the age of 17 with a net-rattling free-kick against Derby to bring the club level against their rivals. However, he went on to score just four more goals in 40 appearances for his club before the Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur swooped in and signed the teenager, who was later moved to a more attacking role on the wing in 2009, for £7m on a four-year contact.

Expected to flourish at his new club after a promising start where he scored goals against Fulham and North London rivals Arsenal, Bale unfortunately picked up an injury on his right foot against Birmingham City, which restricted him to just 12 appearances in the 2007/08 season. Then, after an unremarkable campaign in 2008/09, he had to have knee surgery after an MRI scan detected a meniscal tear in his left knee. This common injury among athletes happens when the meniscus, the cartilage between the shin and thigh bones, is moved or twisted in a certain way and doesn’t always require surgery, except in cases where the surgeon is positive the patient will benefit. With Bale under the guidance of expert physicians and reaping the benefits of the latest in medical advances, his recovery has been impressive. Repairing the tear also reduces the chances of the injury happening again, a crucial aspect for any athlete, especially in a contact sport such as football. Bale was out for two months, finally returning on 26th September in Tottenham’s 5-0 win against Burnley.

Despite these set-backs, the rest of Bale’s 2009/10 campaign was promising and in 2010/11 he hit the ground running, catching the eye of pundits and players worldwide, scoring 7 goals and assisting once in the Premier League and picking up the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award. However, most notably was his performance against European Champions Inter Milan where he scored a hat-trick at the San Siro. His goal tally proceeded to climb higher and higher in the following seasons, collecting both the PFA Young Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year for a second time, before completing his ‘dream move’ to nine time European Cup winners Real Madrid.

The Story so Far

Bale has appeared twice for his new club, scoring a tap-in, masterfully assisted by right-back Daniel Carvajal against Villareal, and assisting the second most expensive signing of all time, £80m Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in Madrid’s 6-1 victory over Galatasaray in the UEFA Champion’s League group stage. The reception of the pacey wide-man from Real Madrid fans has been mixed; although the majority seem delighted with the club’s new signing, many are confused and frustrated at the colossal price tag, resulting in the sale of their midfield and assist machine, Mesut Ozil, to Tottenham’s main rivals, Arsenal, to fund the transfer.

The Question of Bale’s Predicted Success

It’s entirely possible that Gareth Bale could become one of the greats. For his national team, he has a moderate 39 caps and 11 goals, but in his club career he has scored 49 in 187 games. He can create goal-scoring chances out of nothing, was Spur’s best player in the 2012/13 Campaign, and can make scoring from a free-kick look easy.

However, if you compare Bale’s statistics with other players of his age, he doesn’t seem quite so impressive. For example, Theo Walcott of Arsenal started at Southampton at the same time and age as Bale; transferring to the Gunners in 2006 for a fee of reportedly around £5m. Since he joined the North London team, he’s scored 40 goals in 185 appearances (compared to Bale’s 44 in 147 for Spurs). Last season, the Englishman’s assist rate was almost twice that of the ex-Tottenham player, despite scoring 7 less goals, making Walcott statistically around the same mark as his competitor – a fact largely overlooked by the press – and is in fact valued at around £25m, a staggering £60m less than Bale.

Robin Van Persie, involved in the transfer saga of last summer’s transfer window after scoring 30 goals for Arsenal in the 2011/12 season, was famously bought from Arsene Wenger’s club by Manchester United for £24m. Even taking age into account, as Van Persie was 29 with one year left on his contract at Arsenal, is Gareth Bale worth £61m more than one of the best strikers in the world?

The answer is: probably not. Will Bale live up to this monumental hype that surrounds him and become a Real Madrid superstar? Perhaps. Or perhaps he’ll just be what he has been for his career so far: really good.

Dodgers Stadium Set to Host First-Ever Soccer Game, Proves Sport Growing in U.S.

Even 10 years ago, this type of game would never have been played. First off, teams like Real Madrid and Juventus weren’t making stops in the United States. And second, one of baseball’s classic venues would have turned its nose up at the idea of hosting a silly little soccer game.

But it’s 2013 and soccer (yes, football) is growing in America. The popularity of the MLS — and strong ratings for international games (especially the women’s team) — shows the United States is slowly, sometimes painfully, seeing that soccer is truly a compelling game.

American soccer fans are in for a treat this summer when the International Champions Cup invades six different cities across the nation between July 27 and August 7. The tournament features eight of the world’s biggest clubs, who will face off in elimination games. While many exhibitions have a ho-hum atmosphere to them, this series packs some must-see clubs – and an historic angle.

The event will also be hosted in one European city (Valencia, Spain) – with the championship game scheduled at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida on Aug 7.

Besides Miami, the other American host cities are New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Indianapolis and a particularly interesting location in Los Angeles. No Rose Bowl this time – we’re talking venerable Dodgers Stadium and its first-ever soccer match. (More on that in a minute.)

The high-profile teams playing in the tournament are AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus of Italy’s Serie A; Chelsea and Everton of the English Premier League; and Real Madrid and Valencia of Spain’s La Liga. The Los Angeles Galaxy are the lone representative from Major League Soccer (MLS).

The first round of the event includes AC Milan vs Valencia in Spain, while Juventus takes on Everton in San Francisco. The Los Angeles Galaxy meet Real Madrid in Phoenix for a particularly juicy match, and Inter Milan squares off against Chelsea in Indianapolis. The winners will play each other in a semifinal round, while the losers continue to play each other in a consolation series.

The L.A. games are perhaps the most interesting, simply due to the unique location. Those who buy International Champions Cup tickets in Los Angeles will be a part of history when they see the first-ever soccer match at Dodgers Stadium since it opened in 1962.

The 56,000-seat venue will be converted into a soccer pitch on August 3. The game will showcase the winner of the Juventus vs Everton showdown against the winner of Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. – with an earlier game at 5 p.m. between the losers of those two contests.

So how will Dodgers Stadium – which is now the third-oldest ballpark in all of Major League Baseball – make way for soccer?

As this map shows, the soccer field will be constructed at an odd angle to make sure a decent-sized pitch fits into the playing surface. One net will be placed down the third base line in front of the visitors’ dugout, while the other net will face it from its location in right field.

There isn’t a specific regulation size for soccer pitches, but there is a minimum and maximum size for FIFA-regulated games. The minimum length is 100 yards with the maximum being 120 yards, while the minimum width is 50 yards and the maximum set at 100 yards. However, there is some leeway for exhibition games.

Typically, when a baseball stadium is converted into a soccer pitch the infield dirt needs to be dug out as well as the pitcher’s mound.

Sod is then laid and the field markings are painted on when everything’s ready. The hard part of the job is removing the dirt and making sure everything will be level with the existing turf.

The dirt and clay is usually removed with a backhoe, small bulldozer and some type of conveyor belt system. But since soccer is a relatively low impact sport (except for the goalie boxes), the outfield grass isn’t expected to suffer any significant damage.

The complete list of venues include the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Met Life Stadium in New York, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles and Miami’s Sun Life Stadium.

Horseracing Provides New Challenge For Sir Alex Ferguson.

He’s one of the most admired and respected managers in football history and with the announcement of his retirement after 26 years as manager of Manchester United the question has to be – just how will Sir Alex fill his time now?

Former Scotland international and football legend, Alexander Chapman Ferguson began his football management career with East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren, going on to successfully manage Aberdeen and for a brief period Scotland’s national squad. He was appointed manager of Manchester United in 1986 and is both United’s and football’s longest serving manager. He holds a number of records including becoming Manager of the Year more times that anyone else and is only the third British manager to win the European Cup more than once. He’s been awarded the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen, has a couple of honorary degrees from a Manchester university and in 1999 was knighted by the queen for his services to football.

On 8May 2013 Sir Alex announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United. In his 26 years at the club he led the team to win 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League and two UEFA Champions League titles. With so much already achieved and a long career in football behind him, will Sir Alex now – at the age of 71 – pull on his slippers and slip permanently into his armchair? Well, anyone who knows even a little about Alex Ferguson will answer a resounding ‘NO’ to that. He has a variety of interests outside of football which should keep him as fully occupied as ever.

His love of vintage wine – he keeps a very fine cellar- will take up some of his free time as will his piano playing. His staunch socialist beliefs, a reminder of a time when he worked in a Glasgow shipbuilding yard, could even lead him into politics. Or maybe Sir Alex will rekindle his culinary ambitions; Paisley council once turned down his application to open a restaurant in the town, so instead, Sir Alex, who had trained as a chef, settled for becoming a football manager. Yes, Sir Alex is a man of many talents and interests, both personal and business, but none he enjoys as much as his other favourite sport – horseracing.

Racing has been a passion for many years; a love passed down by and shared with his shipbuilding father, Alexander. Ironically, on the day of the announcement of Sir Alex’s retirement, he was forced to cancel a day at Chester races to avoid a press invasion of the track and missed seeing his horse, Butterfly Queen, coming home second. Sir Alex has an interest in around 20 racehorses, on both the flat and jumps, including his 2013 Epsom Derby hope Telescope. You’ll often find Sir Alex at the racecourse. He recently commented that one of the reasons he enjoys going to the races so much is that: “Largely, people leave me alone and when they do talk to me, it is likely to be about what is going to win the 3.30 rather than football.”

It was pure luck that led Sir Alex to an alliance with Ged Mason when they met at a Manchester function. The pair spent the night exchanging track stories and a racing partnership was born. At that time Mason favoured jumpers and Sir Alex – who’d already won seven Group Ones in a row, including the 2000 Guineas – had flat horses. After a while, they decided to share their horses, keeping the jumpers with trainer Paul Nicholls and the flat horses with Richard Hannon and Andrew Balding. Ged says that Sir Alex’s knowledge of racing is as good as his knowledge of football. “His knowledge of racing is better than mine but we discuss all aspects of each horse, when they are running, who’ll ride and it’s a three-way conversation usually with Paul (trainer Paul Nicholls)”. He went on to say that if they we have a winner: “We’ll have a good glass of wine to celebrate and we’ve made a pact that when we have big winners we donate part of the winnings to charity as we are both in it for the fun.”

Racing hasn’t always been fun for Sir Alex, although he’s managed to keep his enthusiasm for it despite the way his friendship ended with Irish racing legends John Magnier and JP McManus. Back in 2003 Sir Alex became locked in a bitter dispute with the co-owner of Rock of Gibralter, Irish racing tycoon, John Magnier who was at that time a Manchester United shareholder. Sir Alex and he became friends after they were introduced in 1999. Magnier offered to register Sir Alex as part-owner of Rock of Gibralter; which was worth around £5million having set a world record of seven consecutive Grade/Group 1 wins. Sir Alex believed that with his half share of the horse came automatic ownership of half the horse’s lucrative breeding rights. Magnier did not agree and this was what caused the upset.

The bitter row was finally settled when Magnier offered Sir Alex four stud nominations a year for the rest of the horse’s life. If Sir Alex had agreed to this offer he would have made a fortune – one filly sired by ‘Rocky’ was sold in Ireland for more than £600,000. With those enormous fees Sir Alex would probably have made about £2m a year for ten years at least. Unfortunately Sir Alex declined the stud offer and opted instead for a one-off payout of £2.5m.

Despite all of this, Sir Alex continues to be a major player in the racing game, entering the Grand National with Harry the Viking in 2013. He owns Harry with three others, including Ged Mason, with whom he also shares What a Friend. There’s no doubt that with his football career coming to an end Sir Alex will go continue to enjoy his racing and will spend much of his time at the races. Ownership of racehorses is not only a sign of wealth and status, the thrill of seeing a horse you own win a big race is something that’s hard to beat. As Sir Alex says, he’s in it for ‘the fun’, and long may that fun continue.

Simone Wright-Eddison is the content editor and leading authority on the Grand National Runners. Fans of National Hunt racing can connect with her on Google Plus.

Five things Jose needs to do

Jose Mourinho returns to the Premier League once again at the Stamford Bridge helm. The Chelsea manager won the title twice during his first stint but left under a cloud of disappointment, the Champions League a long way from his grasp.

Now he’s back and with this squad is more than ready to challenge Manchester United and Manchester City for the title. Here are five things he must get right to justify Chelsea’s status as one of the favourites in the Premier League title betting:

 1. Re-arrange the defence

Mourinho was the master of shutting down games when his Blues side went a goal or two up and although he’s developed a more attacking flair at Real Madrid his main priority remains not to concede.

The Portuguese boss recently confirmed John Terry as captain but don’t be surprised if he drafts in a decent centre-half to challenge Gary Cahill, with David Luiz possibly pushing into defensive midfield.

2. Please the press

Over 250 journalists crammed into the press conference for Mourinho’s official unveiling on Monday and they enjoyed a love-hate relationship with him during his first tenure. The press currently love Jose – he’s at least a story to write about over preseason – but he’ll put his foot in it from time to time next term. Keeping the right side of the press is vital for his and Chelsea’s credibility.

3. Buy a striker

Chelsea boast Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku but have few other options, with Fernando Torres poised to depart the club. Mourinho needs a target man the other two can feed off and Edin Dzeko or Stevan Jovetic would be great additions to the squad. As for Torres, his Stamford Bridge soiree is surely at an end.

4. Win a trophy

Chelsea are a good price with Titan Bet to win the league this season but could also challenge for European honours if Mourinho gets his house in order. This team has a great defence and one of the most exciting attacking midfields in Europe, an asset that should earn them at least a domestic cup if not more.

5. Sort out Juan Mata

There are rumblings in the press that Juan Mata is on his way out of Chelsea, which would be a real shame. It’s not just his talent that makes him such a valuable player but his attitude is right up there with the best professionals in sport. Like Oscar he rarely moans or mouths off at the referee, instead letting his feet do the talking.

If Mata leaves, Mourinho must find a better replacement and few of those are available this summer.

6 Things We’ll Miss Most About Beckham


Goal for England

Unless you’ve been living in a closet for the last week or two, you’ve probably heard the news that David Beckham – after 20 incredible years – is calling it quits in professional football. Becks is stepping away from the game on his own terms, and though his best play has been behind him for a few years now, it’s really been quite a graceful exit for a player whose legions of fans hoped for just that.

So, as life as a football fan without Beckham begins to set in, let’s honour him with a brief look back. Here are the 6 things we’ll miss most about the great David Beckham

1. The Winning He may never have brought England a World Cup, but Beckham can hardly be faulted for that, and it’s certainly worth noting at the end of his career that he won just about everywhere else he went. A 1999 Champions League title and 6 Premier League wins with Man U, a La Liga victory with Real Madrid, and an MLS championship with the LA Galaxy are just a few of his teams’ myriad accomplishments on the biggest stages.

2. The Determination Former team mate Jonathan Woodgate notes, in a recent tribute to Beckham, that Beckham’s career was about proving people wrong. Let go by Manchester United, Beckham won with Real Madrid. Cut from the England national team in 2006, Beckham was back in 2008. Criticised for moving to the U.S., Beckham brought more attention to the MLS than anyone ever had, and won a championship with the Galaxy. His career was full of a furious determination

3. The Field Play Watching Beckham play at the height of his power was like watching a player who could see the future. Beckham’s on-field precision and play were so strong that a fan might want to consult Acuvue’s guide to astigmatism to make sure he or she was seeing clearly. His control of the ball, particularly in setting up team mates and taking his famous free kicks, was simply otherworldly at times.

4. The Smile Despite all the winning, all the determination, and the furious ability Beckham continually displayed on the field, his smile will be missed. On television, in interviews, and even on Hollywood’s red carpets, Beckham always seemed incredibly at ease, and truth be told the image for a pro athlete of his calibre was refreshing.

5. The Advertisements Plenty will site shirtless photos of Beckham on billboards first when discussing what they’ll miss most. Football fans prefer to focus more on his on-field stardom, but the ads were certainly prevalent and unique.

6. The Celebrity Finally, we’ll miss his simple, raw celebrity. Beckham may at one point have been the best player in the world – but he has undeniably been the most recognise
able for some time now, and the game of football will miss that celebrity. Beckham brought attention to the beautiful game every time he appeared publicly, and his reputation will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

Rio’s Feature with Manchester United

Watching Manchester United Live is an experience that you will leave to remember for the rest of your life if you’re a United fan. Thus, it is essential that you purchase the tickets which will see you watch Manchester United matches live. This write up will focus on Rio Ferdinand and his future as a United player. Read on.

As the season is almost coming to an end, Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson is working tirelessly to ensure that he does not only go trophy less this season but he as well maintain his key players at Old Trafford. One of the players that the boss is already targeting to break discussion with is the Rio Ferdinand. Rio Ferdinand who is among the best defenders in the world still believes he has more time to impress Manchester United fans.

Although Rio is yet to start discussions over another contract at Old Trafford, the defenders’ decision of refusing to be included in the England squad so that he can focus on duties of his club for the remaining period of the season has brought hopes of his likelihood to strike a new deal that might see him spend another season at Old Trafford.

On Sunday evening the defender refused meeting the England coach Roy Hodgson. Ferdinand has not been selected in the England squad since World Cup qualifiers in Montenegro and San Marino in June 2011. The defenders’ recent form has seen him become a regular starter for Manchester United and he is determined not to compromise a detailed conditioning program of his club.

On Friday United boss said that the central defender may be pulled out of the United start up line up since there is high likelihood of Rio’s fitness getting disrupted if chooses to join the England squad. If the defender refuses to be included in the squad and thus remain with Manchester United, the decision will definitely please the boss. This is a very critical time for Manchester United since the team is determined to win the FA Cup

as well as the English Premier league. Thus, any player leaving the team in order to participate in the international games is likely to be a major setback for United.

Currently Rio Ferdinand who is 34 years old earns approximately 130,000 pounds a week on a deal which will expire in the summer. Despite the decision of Ryan Giggs of agreeing a new one year contract that will see him remain a united player the next season, Ferguson is focused to target discussions with Rio Ferdinand very soon.

However, Ferdinand together with his advisors are very relaxed about the prospect and are not hurrying to start any discussions since they are as well considering other options, although his first choice in principle is to see himself remain at Manchester United.

The defender has not only attracted interest in China but in America as well. These places are as well ideal since they will also attract him a salary that will match his current one. This season has been great for Rio since out of 29 league matches he has featured in 22 of them. The defender has been in the starting lineup in most of United’s games a form that has seen him been targeted by the England coach.

Recently, Fergusson was asked about the possibility of Ferdinand extending his contract and he said he had no doubt about it. The coach believes that the defender will renew his contract before the season ends.

Last but not the least; if you’re a Manchester United fan it is essential that you purchase their 2013 tickets in order to view their matches live.

What Allegri should change for second leg

By Joe Short

AC Milan shocked the footballing and betting world on Wednesday night with a convincing and controlled 2-0 victory over Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Kevin-Prince Boateng opened the scoring before a magnificent strike from Sulley Muntari sealed the tie for the Rossoneri, who must now go to the Nou Camp and defend for their lives against arguably the best attacking unit in football.

But who really ran the show for Milan on Wednesday? Footy Quiz fans who like to bet on football may be aware Barca had more possession, but which team had the most shots?

Milan did, 8-6, proving that for all Barca’s ball work they struggled to penetrate the Italian back line.

Barca certainly tried to attack but were caught offside just twice as the Milan defence stood firm around their own box. One would expect the twinkle-toed Lionel Messi or eagle-eyed Andreas Iniesta would feel much of the brunt of Milan’s strong defenders, but who was involved in the most fouls over the match?

Not Messi, not Iniesta, not even the wily Xavi. No, Kevin-Prince Boateng played his part up front for Milan, holding the ball up well and leading Barcelona’s defenders into silly tackles.

Boateng was involved in seven fouls – committing four himself – which shows just how much the ball went through him as Milan built up attacks.

Meanwhile Giampaolo Pazzini – Milan’s exiled centre-forward since Mario Balotelli’s arrival this winter – was largely left alone by the Barca defenders and was recognised as a meagre threat in comparison with Boateng.

He didn’t contribute to any of Milan’s four major attacks, while Muntari and Stephan El Shaarawy proved central figures in the team going forward.

What coach Massimiliano Allegri may do at the Nou Camp therefore is stifle his midfield and play Boateng up front on his own. Clearly his Milan side can handle Barca and sting them on the break, and with Pazzini offering no value whatsoever his place in the team is questionable.

 

La Liga

Undoubtedly when we talk about the two biggest clubs in the world, we talk about Real Madrid and F.C Barcelona both who trade their football in “La Liga” in Spain. These two teams are by far the two biggest names in world football.

La Liga was founded in 1929 and has currently 20 teams in its top division with the three lowest placed teams relegated to the Segunda División and replaced by the top two teams in that division plus the winner of a play-off.  Each club plays every other club twice, once at home and once away, for a total of 38 games. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. Although La Liga differs from other leagues in Europe where as when two clubs finish the season on the same amount of points, it then does not go down to goal difference to see who wins the championship but it goes down to head to head. Since its existence in 1929 la liga started off with 10 clubs and has now risen to 20 clubs.

La Liga is the strongest league in Europe over the past five years. It is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world.

Since the 50’s and 60’s Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated Spanish football winning a total of 54 titles between them, Real Madrid (32) Barcelona (22) with only a handful of other teams contesting the title with the most recent team being Valencia in the 2003-4 season. The last couple of seasons we have seen the emergence of Atletico Madrid who have been quite a handful for the big two and are currently having one of their best seasons to date. This can only be good for La Liga as in the past and present it has become a 2 horse race for the title so any team that starts to challenge has to be good for Spanish football and la liga.

The season in la liga runs from September to June with a winter break for 2 weeks last week of December through first week of January with games being played on Saturday and Sunday and also a few mid week. Unlike most of the teams in Europe a lot of the games in la liga are played in the evening time, usually between 8pm-10pm Spanish time and it is well know that sometimes games don’t finish to close to midnight on some occasions

During the latter half of the 20th century Barcelona re-emerged as something of a forced to be reckoned with, with the realm of Spanish Football. It was during this time that the rules changed regarding the number of foreign players which were able to play for each team, as certain clubs naturalized top players in order to include them. Real Madrid dominated the Primera División between 1961 and 1980, with Atlético Madrid proving to be their only serious competitor. The 1990s saw Barcelona dominate once again, as manager Johan Cruyff returned to put together what became known as the ‘Dream Team’. This newly formed team won the Primera División six times during this period, as well as the 1992 European Cup. To this day Real Madrid still hold the record for most European cups (9 in total). In addition to their success in Primera División, Valencia, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are four of the most successful teams in European competition history. All four clubs are the only Spanish clubs to have won five or more international trophies. Whilst, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are also in the top ten most successful clubs in European football in terms of total European trophies.

Since its existence la liga has seen some of the best players in the world grace its division, the likes of Puskas, Di Stefano, Maradona ,Zidane ,Ronaldo  have all played in la liga. Currently the two best footballers on the planet play their trade in la liga – Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Real Madrid and Lionel Messi who plays for Barcelona.

You only have to visit the likes of the “Nou camp” and the “Santiago Bernabeu” to truly realise what amazing grounds they are, both hold capacity of over 80,000 people and the atmosphere can be electric especially when the big two are playing. I had the opportunity of visiting these two grounds, both empty, and when a game was on and all I can say is ‘WOW’.