Thursday, 24 December 2009

Are you 6 months away from the sack??

Poor Mark Hughes. Just as he was plodding along at a turtles pace, slowly but surely racking up a healthy amount of draws, which he claims would keep his side on the righteous path to 70 points, he falls victim to the first major managerial decapitation, from an axed that had been sharpened since the summer.

Regardless of the money spent, $125m in all, and whether Hughes' claim that he was on target to reach the goals already agreed upon with his wealthy employers, the dismissal, and the resulting shit storm of PR that followed makes me wince with embarrassment at the thought that this is our beloved football we are talking about, and not the personal diaries of an ungrateful millionaire brat who didn't get his Premier League Crown underneath the Christmas tree.

I can not decide what is more obscene, the amount of money spent on building the Manchester City squad, or the fact that while the spending was taking place, Garry Cook was already exploring "contingencies" in the event he would need another sap, fluent in spending money by the truck load come boxing day sales? Could it be, that at this very moment while I ignorantly tap away on my lap top, that potential suitors to my job are being courted? Should I have devoted the last 6 months to overtime in favour of literary exploits? Are you in danger of being replaced even as you read this? Providing your not employed by impatient billionaires, or woefully incompetent, then your probably safe. You can continue to read on, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Garry Cook's dire treatment of Hughes, and his naive handling of the resulting public relations, has made me harbour an unhealthy, and somewhat unwarranted personal resentment towards Hughes' replacement, Roberto Mancini. I actually want him to fail. Its rare for me to wish such bad fortune on someone I have no prior report with, for all I know Roberto might be a bloody good bloke, and I have become some what use to the Italian Renaissance English Football is going through of late, but the way the way in which Manchester City are going about their inheritance in such an undignified manner, has inadvertently put Mancini on a wobbly perch that I am willing him to fall off.

Who knows, by the time the transfer window reopens in January for Roberto Mancini to skip in to the wilderness, and blissfully go about spending his Christmas money, like a boy that could afford the whole sweet shop, maybe Garry Cook will be doing his due diligence by looking at potential replacements for Roberto at the end of the year, if he has failed to perform miracles. By which point I will probably have grown fond of Roberto and forgotten all of my resentment and instead will be moaning about another manager dismissal.

Who'd be a Football Manager, at least of all, during Christmas time? Could we be in for more of my bleeding heart and violins sob story on boxing day if Rafa doesn't get a "must win" against Wolves? All I want for Christmas is three points Rafa.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Blatter has only got one ball......

.......The other is bashfully knocking around the empty terraces of Croke Park.

Treading on dangerous ground, crudely adapting a rhyme about Hitler to that of beleaguered FIFA president, Sepp Blatter. Blatter can barely spin the politics of kicking a ball around a grass pitch let alone mass genocide.

Instead, what I am referring to in using the rhyme, is Blatter's lack of minerals. Following, the Republics controversial defeat to France last month, after Thierry Henry's handball assist, secured his nations place in next years World Cup, FIFA and the footballing world in general was once again under the spot light over how to manage blatant injustices, the implications of which can decide the fate of whether your nation competes in the World Cup or not.

For me, the solution to the problem is simple. Video replays. I'm sure there are plenty of arguments against this, such as it will slow down the flow of the game, and I would counter that simply with the fact that when there is so much at stake, and an extreme amount of pressure on officials, accuracy and integrity trumps time delays. I will save the other arguments for another day.

But, for as long as the governing bodies preside over what to do, they will continue to find themselves cleaning up their self imposed problems. I never really believed or expected anything to come of the injustice that quashed Irish hearts, and I also refuse to blame Henry's hand of Judas as a scapegoat. Long gone are the days of gracious sportsmanship, and, honestly, had I been in the same situation as Henry, I wouldn't have exactly been vigorously chasing the ref to give honest testimony over my fortuitous actions. As I said, despite sitting pretty on my moral high ground, I to fall short of sporting conduct from yesteryear. I would, however admit the offense and be in favour of a replay. All of which Henry eventually did.

Even the French felt the injustice, and felt little honour in qualifying in such controversial circumstances. So, back to Blatter and his minerals, or lack their of. While the Republic, and France to a lesser extent, exercised the idea of a replay, or an extra ball in the World Cup draw, FIFA sat on its hands and offered "moral compensation" as their pitiful solution. I can just imagine it now, Robbie Keane down on one knee gratefully accepting some shiny plaque as scant consolation, while Blatter and Platini look on in admiration of another job neatly swept under the red carpet of South Africa.

Following the painfully dull World Cup draw, throwing in an extra ball for Ireland, just to make the numbers odd would have offered some excitement, purely to see logistically how it would have been handled. Given that my nation, England, are not only in the World Cup, but have also landed a favourable group, I should be buoyed with excitement. But, being English, I have pessimism ingrained to my soul, which enables to me turn any group we happen to land in, as the now customary tournament "group of death". Portugal and Brazil? Nah, Algeria and Slovenia look far more worrisome.

So, being resigned to imminent disappointment no matter who was drawn, having Ireland thrown in to the mix, while the likes of Charlize Theron laboriously plucked out balls at random would have been a welcome distraction to a World Cup draw that otherwise invoked little enthusiasm. It too would have shown that FIFA are capable of solving problematic issues, instead of ignoring them until the next controversy rears its ugly head.

The World Cup is now "only" some 180 odd days away, which seems like a life time to me, but maybe in the mean time, Blatter and the powers that be in FIFA can proactively find a solution before the next big injustice is served. And, given my stated pessimism, I believe there is about as much chance of that happening as there ever was of Ireland reaching the World Cup, once Henry handed another rubix cube to the desk of Sepp Blatter.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Fionn MacCool's Celtic: A feast fit for a champion

Just as writers for the Simpson's get lazy when a milestone is reached by hashing episodes together, I thought I would follow suit and compile the most influential parts of Celtic's season, that leads a path from preseason young pretenders to matured TSSL Media League Champions.

AS Rosso Roasted
25th May 2009

AS Rosso were making their debut in the TSSL Media League, but Celtic were not to be in charitable mood, placing a solid maker in the soil on the opening day, after a 5-2 victory, with a hatrick by Teague to boast. The game also marked the first broadcasting of Celtic, after a lucrative deal was struck with local studio, McGroarty Pictures. And, if you haven't become tired of seeing the highlights, the video in all its HD glory can be seen here.

Celtic continued their explosive start to the campaign the following week after the demolition of another new arrival in the TSSL media league, Trinity Park 10-1. The debutantes went on to be the whipping boys of the league, conceding a colossal 135 goals in 18 games.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 0-3 KU Golden Oldies
20th June 2009

After going 5 games unbeaten in the league, the defeat to KU Golden Oldies brought Celtics sky high ambitions, crashing back down to earth. Such was the sobering effect of the disappointing defeat, I personally took a leave of absence from writing, taking physiological refuge for a week until I had something worthy of writing about. Which, basically explains the lack of match report for this one.

This may have been Celtics first defeat of the season, but it was also possibly the catalyst for motivation later in the season, when Celtic faced KU Golden Oldies in what was a must win game.

Sierra Stars 0-1 Fionn MacCool's Celtic
11th July 2009

After the humbling defeat to KU Golden Oldies, Celtic feeling sorry for themselves went through their roughest patch of the season, following up the 3-0 loss, with a draw against Morton 1-all, and then another defeat to Multinational. Given Celtic's self imposed high standards, training schedules were doubled and diet's strictly monitored, in the lead up to the game against old foe, Sierra Stars. After only losing two games in the league all last season, the pressure was on, and despite what the score line might suggest, this was a cracker.

Suspicion regarding Celtics finishing qualities were immediately raised, from the moment Curley had the nerve to pull out the his new orange/salmon coloured boots from his kit bag. However, after reluctantly switching back to the old familiar, more conservative white boots in the second half, Curley and Celtic soon had something to shout about.

After Celtic were awarded a rare freekick dangerously positioned on the corner of the Sierra box, the set piece was whipped in to the danger area, and Curley, with his shooting boots back on, effortlessly plucked the ball out of the air with his back to goal, pirouetted and ruthlessly smashed home a priceless goal in front of the ecstatic crowd.

The joy was short lived however, only moments after the goal, Celtic were down to 10 men. Mercier, who's must have been effected by the Salmon coloured boots, leaped like one, and tipped over the bar after Fourie was caught off his line.

The drama was not to end their though. The resulting penalty was saved by wobbly legs Fourie, whom would go on to thwart in the region of five more penalties over the course of the season. (citation needed!) The result also saw the start of a phenomenal run for Celtic, which would see them go the rest of the season unbeaten in their 12 remaining games, conceding only 6 goals.

Sierra's Fallen Stars
Fionn MacCool's Celtic 1-1 Zoomer
18 July 2009

With the effects of the Garbage strike in full swing, Celtic unfortunately had to cater for two games in one weekend. The first, was against Zoomer, which was drawn 1-1. And, while from the outside this fixture might look mundane and not worthy of mention, it gained a position amongst the elite for 3 reasons. 1, it gave birth to what would go on to be an infamous quote of the season, "Don't do a Zoomer". 2, after being the better team for virtually the entire game, Celtic were 1-0 down and staring at defeat with only minutes on the clock, until Peter McCann on his debut scored a crucial goal and rescued a invaluable point. 3, Such was the shambolic performance, the resulting, thorough, dressing down speech from manager Tibby, which at times looked like it might bring grown men to a whimpering mess, galvanised Celtic for what would prove to be unrecognizable performance against Sierra Stars the following day.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 3-1 Sierra Stars
19th July 2009

I could go on and on at length about the 3-1 victory over Sierra's Stars, throwing superlatives at it left right and centre, but what has to go down as one of Celtic's most impressive and important wins in living memories, was overshadowed by the way the game the game ended -a left hook to the Ref's rosey red cheek. Some might argue it was a more appropriate alternative to the traditional whistle.

KU Golden Oldies 1-5 Fionn MacCool's Celtic
22nd August 2009

In terms of performance, I personally (though this has nothing to do with the brace I scored, honest!) thought this was Celtic's most complete of the season. Every individual who showed up that day, were up for the challenge, and knew this was the moment of reckoning, when a season can be won or lost. The desire was simply far stronger, and Celtic ruthlessly demolished a side that went on to be Media Cup Champions and runners up to Celtic in the league.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 1-0 Morton

29th August 2009

If the KU game was all about attacking flair, style and taking your chances,this once was all about Celtics defensive qualities, both in terms of thwarting Morton's predictable agricultural tactics, and doing a job at the opposite end of the field, when the forwards couldn't hit a barn door.

In season pasts, 1-nil against old rivals Morton might not have been enough to secure victory, but with Celtics water tight defense, only a lucky goal against the run of play would be Morton's escape.

Celtic failed to break the deadlock, until half way though the second half, when the defense, fittingly, took matters in to their own hands. Prior whipped in a lush cross from the right, and with a devastating drilled header, Stuckmann buried the ball in to the back of the net with the keeper rooted.

In the three fixtures Celtic contested with Morton, only on one occasion did they leak a goal. The last game may not have been the prettiest, but it was another crucial three points gained at the business end of the season. If you can win without playing well, you will always been in with a chance come trophy time. That, I believe is what Sir Alex Ferguson's philosophy is built on -least that's what United have been doing for a couple of decades! I tried to go the how article without a random United jab, I tried.

Multinational 0-1 Fionn MacCool's Celtic
12th September 2009

Again, if you were looking to give some budding youngster the opportunity to experience some top clash finishing, you would have been angrily asking for a refund with this one. A messy spill over from the previous weeks lesson on how not to finish. However, that said, the goal did come from a forward, in a matter of minutes from the kick off. A few mono eye brows were raised when Fitzpatrick's name was selected in the front line, but the silver fox repaid the faith shown in him by Manager Tibby, converting Celtics first chance of the game.

Having been picked out by a cross ball pass from Bredin, which evaded Teague's stride, Fitzpatrick found him self firmly in the whites of the on rushing keeper's eyes, with glory just around the corner. When many others would have had a rush of blood to the head, Fitzpatrick kept his cool, and exquisitely rounded the keeper and finished from such an acute angle he was practically on the byline. Given the importance of the goal, and the quality of the finish, this probably goes down as my vote for goal of the season, but keep that quite from Fitz!

Celtic would go on to win their reaming two games of the season, with comfortable victories over Globe and Mail, and Zoomer, leaving them on a impressive 40 points haul from 18 games. Despite being top of the league by one point, Celtic would have to wait two more agonizing weeks before KU GOlden Oldies played their remaining game in hand, knowing that a draw would be enough to hand them the title.

And, with Morton unwittingly assigned the task of deciding the TSSL Media Champions, turned the season on its head in the dying moments of the game, coming from 2-nil down to rescue a point and hand Celtic the Championship. An unlikely hero for Celtic, but one that will now making future encounters a fraction more bearable.

So, with Celtic lifting the Championship only four years after entering the competition, it was time to once again get the tux out and rub elbows with other fellow equals, at the annual TSSL Champions Banquet.

Expensive Champagne would only be served, and drank from the Champions cup, the food would be served on a silver platter by the white gloved hand of a waiter, that has also been through vigorous "Champion" testing to ensure that only winners served the elite, and glamorous entertainment especially flown in from Vegas would bring the night to a close. In reality, I was the only pillock in a tux, excluding the wait staff, and the food and wine was equal to its $35 a head fee. We didn't stick around to see the local Downsview pop star, as celebrating the Championship over a couple of pints of shandy seemed far more inviting.

Celtic are now already full swing into the indoor winter league, but I am sure we will all look forward to what the summer has to offer. Watch this space.

Players player of the season: Colin Prior
Managers Player of the season: Travis Fourie
Top Goal Scorer: Ray Curley
Goal of the season???......Cast your votes now.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Liver Bird Heads Buried in sand

There is only one remedy that can dull the pain of seeing your beleaguered team spluttering into disappointment before the Christmas turkey has even been plucked -denial.

When ever Liverpool have a dip in form, I find my self consciously burying my head in the sand, avoiding match reports, switching off highlights, and shunning any talk of the teams misfortune even with fellow supporters, where you would think strength would be found in numbers. No, I prefer to disconnect and basically turn into a footballing social recluse. A flawed theory of "What you don't know can't hurt you." Hence the lack of posting's here in that last few weeks. Such is my desire to be insulated by grains of sands populating every orifice in my head, before the Lyon game, I even considered doctoring the Liver birds feathered head on my Liverpool shirt, so that it to was buried in the sand. If only I could sew.

Thankfully, I didn't vandalise the shirt despite Liverpool failing to stage yet another "Cup Final" turn around after being denied by Lyon's Lisandro equaliser at the death. Being pipped at the post is difficult pill to swallow at the best of times, but these things have a tendency to coincide with a string of poor results.

While I might have my head buried in the sand in vain attempt to shelter from the down pour of bad results, I refuse to believe that Liverpool's decent into the abyss, where Champions League football is just a mythical pipe dream the other teams outside the big four can only dream about, is anything more than poor form and horrendous luck. Besides the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid in the summer, the squad is fundamentally the same set of players, the manager is still Benitez and we are still owned by Americans who put the club in to debt in order to buy it.

Alonso, while he was obviously an integral cog to Liverpool's system, can not be the sole reason the teams form has since declined. Benitez had little choice on the departure once Alonso got the call from Perez who was building another generation of Galatico's. Instead he cashed in, and got a reasonable return and replacement in Aqualani, which is the nature of football. Players come and go, teams get rebuilt. I assumed Manchester United would be lost without the fantasy league points hording Ronaldo, but they seemed to have coped. Sure, winning the league and reaching the Champions League latter stages might not be such a full gone conclusion for Sir Alex's men, but their is no sign of imminent collapse.

I thought that victory over United would be the kick start to the season Liverpool so desperately crave, only for the debacle at Fulham to unfold seven days later. The sweat over Benitez brow seemed more like beads of liquid fear being squeezed out of the Spaniards pores as the pressure intensified at Craven cottage, but I still believe Benitez can and will turn Liverpool's ailing season around. Blind faith or classic denial? You decide. Until then, I will keep my head firmly buried in sand. Pluck me out of the dunes when we beat United again.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Fat Beck's is off to South Africa

Even if David Beckham some how became obese, due to the 6 months spent on loan using the woefully inadequate training practices that 7 times European Cup winners AC Milan insist on using, I would personally mobilize the man mountain with one of those double width wheel chairs, to ensure he retains a place in England's World Cup Squad that is South Africa bound once United have predictably wrapped up the Premier League come summer time.

You can just picture it now. Beckham, Draped in the pristine white of the tailor made fat man's dress, majestically wallowing on the right wing, demonstrating less movement than a hog's corpse in the Kalahari desert, but with one wheezy lung full, capable of mustering up the energy to rain in a cross with military like precision.

Despite England having already qualified for South Africa with a game to spare, winning all but one game, and still able to pluck up enough motivation to comfortably beat Belarus 3-0 when I am sure most of the England squad would have rather been running back to their respective clubs injury free, some sections of the media such as tabloid chip paper the Daily Mail, still managed to put a negative spin on the feat, using David Beckham's, albeit surprising man of the match award, as the catalyst.

Jeff Powell's article entitled "David Beckham man of the match award another bad joke" started off by announcing that Wembley had descended into lunacy, compared Beckham work rate with that of the ball boys, and tied up the mental health analogy by describing Wembley as an Architects folly, that had at least for one night become the asylum of Beckham Madness. All very patriotic, celebratory and sterling stuff indeed.

Unfortunately, the lunacy that seemed to fill Wembley must have warped Powell's mind also, as he failed to see through Bruce's overly zealous man of the match award and recognise that the only senseless thing was entrusting Bruce's judgment, who has obliviously had a crush on Beckham ever since the spotty teenager was paraded in to the Old Trafford changing room by Ferguson many moons ago. That, and the faint hope that Beckham would trade in LA for the beach balls on Wearside rather than Milan!

Instead of relying on the judgment of supposed experts, who have suspicious ulterior motives, why not deploy a ballot with maybe four or five of the most obvious candidates, then let texts decide the winner. Not that I would ever vote, but I am sure between the many millions watching a suitable consensus would be reach on who deserved the man of the match.

I'm sure if Broadcaster had embraced this social interaction, we would have been saved Beckham's blush's when he received the generous award. And, that Bruce's selection and the ensuing negativity that followed, would not have over shadowed the game changing ability Beckham still possesses. I don't think Beckham should be starting for England come next summer, but he could prove to be a secret weapon, especially when England are lackluster and in need of a creative spark. Beckham has never been a winger full of blistering pace or bags of tricks, but his passing and crossing has been, and still remains to be world class, and for those reasons alone he gets my vote.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Future: England 2.0

What could be more convenient than hunching antisocially over your laptop, face illuminated by the glow of watching live streaming football, while flicking between tabs on your browser any time the action becomes less appealing than checking email? And, should you feel really technically savvy, nostalgic viewing through your TV can be restored by hooking up the pipes of the interweb directly, just in case the letterbox sized laptop viewing was making your eye's wince a little too much.

Following Setanta's woeful demise a few months back, the rights for the Ukraine v England game landed back in the original holders lap, Kentaro, which commissioned Internet broadcaster, Perform, an impromptu opportunity to show the first live streaming of an England match via the web. Kentaro had listened to a last ditch "competitive" £1m effort from the BBC, but ultimately decided this offer fell way short of their £3m valuation.

Whether Kentaro's value was way too optimistic for a game that held about as much weight to it as the ailing England World Cup 2018 bid, or whether the BBC's offer was far too scrooge like, matters little as ultimately, and predictably, the cost was levied at the door of the supporter. How reassuringly corporate. Had the fixture been critical to England's qualification hopes, as penultimate fixtures in Eastern Europe so often have been in the past, I am sure the BBC, or someone with more clout would have stepped up and tabled a bid that would have satisfied Kentaro coffers.

While this may have been the first legal streaming of Football of any kind, using the Internet as a platform to broadcast live sports, the technical glimpse of the future has been going on for some time, albeit illegally through self broadcasting sites such as I discovered the site little over a year a go when a friend asked if I was watching Rangers v Liverpool in a preseason friendly, which I abruptly answered with a scoff. About 30 seconds later, dumbfounded and scoff retracted, I was watching the game, which, to top it off Liverpool won handsomely 4-0, if I recall -at Ibrox!

I had very little motivation to shell out the £11.99 to watch the game, and had I not been preoccupied with higher priority tasks such as laundry, I would probably have turned to anyway. I can not remember the last time I had the arrogance and luxury to be more interested in domestic chores than World Cup Qualifiers.

Kentaro's price point was out of sink with the true value of the match. They clearly saw an opportunity and took advantage, but in terms of future games, the prices will have to come down, offer more than one game, or be an actual game with bigger enough importance to warrant the lofty price tag. Supporters already have to pay through the noses, so heading down a pay for view model will test even the most hardened football addict. Besides, given the apparent success of the experiment, I would be amazed if more traditional media conglomerates such as BskyB, are not already working on the ability to broadcast matches via the web, if not they should be. I'm sure within 10 years time, and I hope sooner, at least having the option to view matches via the web will be common place.

What ever the long term future of Kentaro, I hope it will help spark some competition in a market that is dominated by Murdoch's empire, and therefore promote some creativity and innovation. This is possibly verging on the ridiculously optimistic, even for me, but this could ultimately be good for supporters if healthy competition can force prices down to a more tolerant level. Although, how we would then insure every Football gets a free DB7 with every signing on fee.

For now I will make do with BBC highlights accompanied by Mark Bright sounding more like an early morning TV presenter than commentator, with his stand out quote being, "oh the ref's played on their, when Heskey's got one in the face." If I don't hear Mark Bright "tut tut" until the next time an England match is on the Internet, it will be too soon.

In terms of the actual Football, I'm not sure what all the fuss about Rio is? OK, he was napping half the time, and was the cause of the early sending off such was his narcolepsy, but in general, the entire back line looked edgy, especially Ashley Cole.

England may have lost their 100% record, but I think the defeat could actually do some good, keeping English feet firmly on the South African soil. Our arrogance and self entitlement was already becoming unbearable, so being knocked down a bed or two will be a good lesson. Who needs another Adam Crozier "Golden Generation" label with a World Cup Finals on the horizon?

For anyone who missed the highlights, here they are brought to you without the aid of Cable TV, digital or satellite........100% Internet.

Ukraine v England

Trey | MySpace Videos

Saturday, 3 October 2009

United's "next goal wins" tactic pays off once again.

Their aren't many things that I would adopt from North American Sports, I can live without the intermingled fans and the nauseating piano plucking that fails to make up for the absence of atmosphere, but punctual time keeping is defiantly one that I would favour. All North American sports, I believe, stop the clock for injuries and disciplinary. Even time sapping final minute substitutions would be a pointless tactical endeavor when you have the miraculous ability to freeze time with the push of a button.

When will the FA, finally update their time piece's with one's that have stop/start technology, i.e. a stop watch? Rugby has somehow kept up with technologies relentless charge towards progress with a complex audio device that hoots after 80 minutes, and they employ video replays for those decision that are just too tight or too physically difficult to call. Michel Platini's insistence to litter the bylines with humans brains, incapable of mental replays is an idiotic idea I will leave for another day.

Manchester United once again profited from stoppage time, rescuing a point against Sunderland after being uncharacteristically subdued for most of the game. Put it this way, its not often that Paul Scholes struggles with his passing, but he would have struggled to tie his own laces let alone thread a decent ball through a well organised Steve Bruce inspired defense.

Sir Alex Ferguson, vented his frustration at the Referee Alan Wiley's fitness being far inferior to that of a butchers dog from Europe, but I thought the rotund whistle blowers performance was just about at the level you would expect for 90 minutes. Nobody told him to train for 90+ minutes, poor little mongrel was probably wondering when it would finally end. I'm sure for his next match he wont be so ill prepared, having rebuilt his fragile self esteem by pounding the tread mill in mid week.

But its not just United I am targeting here. They have benefited from the most added on time in the Premiership over recent years, proved by a Guardian article published shortly after the outrageous 6 minutes added on in the Manchester derby last week -Craig Bellamy really does need to work on those over elaborate 6 minute goal celebrations- but teams win and lose out to vague stoppage time week in week out. In what profession are rough time estimates universally acceptable, apart from builders? Try explaining to someone unfamiliar with football, the complex equations needed to calculate what is a sufficient amount of additional time, and you end up making football look woefully primitive, as their disappointed faces will illustrate.

In a game, and especially the premier league, that has progressed so much in the last two decades in terms of both global appeal and the shear volumes of money at stake, football's reluctance to progress rectifiable problems is baffling. Its the equivalent of insisting on using a sun dial, only to start guessing the time when the ominous black clouds rudely cover the skies.

Besides feeling sorry for a referee that will now be insecurely checking his figure in the mirror, I to feel an unusual sense of empathy towards all referee's in general. Don't get me wrong, I am among the first to hurl verbal abuse at them through the TV, before the rationale of them obviously not being able to hear me enters my mind (when will they make TV's with two way audio so that I don't look psychotic??), but I can't help but feel they have way too much expectation heaped upon them. When you have the worlds eyes judging your every decision in HD, replays and slow motion, who then also needs the added worries of tacking on the right amount of additional -additional- time.

I say take away at least the time keeping responsibilities from referee's. Install a timer that has the uncanny ability to stop when needed, and signals the end of the half/game with a very clear horn blast. Mind you, it doesn't have to be a horn blast, I'm sure their are plenty of creative noises that could be used, such as Sir Alex Ferguson shouting one word profanities. That would do it. This way, ref's could concentrate on trying to make the right decisions instead of fretting over when to blow up for full time. The accuracy of their decisions can be assisted later, via video replay, but for now baby steps, one thing at a time.

This unprecedented, abrupt way to bringing games to a grinding halt will also prevent managers cowardly pointing at their Rolex's when sweating under the heat of the post match press box lights and camera's, as excuses slip their minds. Instead, they can moan about their own teams defensive lapses. For example, Where was Micah Richards when Owen slipped in that winner, and why on earth didn't Tevez boot the ball into the opposite stand when he had the chance? I await your answer Mr. Hughes.

Anyway, as progress in the governing bodies of Football seems to move at an excruciating slow pace, I'm sure my legislative reforms will take a while to churn through the cogs of bureaucracy, so for now I'm off to put Alan Wiley through his paces by chasing him with a butchers dog. One preferably from a Europe, like a German Sheppard. They must be from Germany right??

Champions Hangover

Fionn MacCools 1-5 Sierra Stars

Celtic awoke from their League Champions exploits, with a banging hangover and were greeted by a sobering defeat at the hands of old favourite Sierra Stars. I suggest sipping, or rather, gulping Champagne, while reading this, but I will keep it short and sweet.

Minds may have been preoccupied with tuxedo fittings and hunting down a WAG or two for the Champions Ball, but in fairness to Celtic the score line was a tad on the flattering side, as they had started brightly matching their opponents, trailing at half time to a single, exceptional goal by the Sierra number 5, who seemed to dance and skip his way from the half way line, and had the legs to finish. Hats off.

In the second half the game remained equally as competitive and after enjoying a healthy proportion of possession, Celtic were unlucky to concede for the second time. Still, trailing by two goals, and with nothing to lose now, Celtic kept fighting away, and were rewarded after Carney, caused problems for the Sierra defense from a set piece and was fouled just as he leaped for a ball he had no right contesting for.

Carney's determination paid dividends, and Barrero neatly tucked away from the spot, giving Celtic a foot hold back in the game, and enough to unsettle the nerves of Sierra.

Unfortunately the fight back didn't last long, as Sierra soon restored their 2 goal lead, all but extinguishing Celtic's hopes of an unprecedented double at the same time. At this point, with Celtic pushing way up the field in a desperate attempt to put the pressure back on Sierra, the flood gates opened and Sierra scored their fourth, fifth and possibly six (I stop counting after four goals as denial kicks in, saving me from the pain. Who has the will to correct me anyway?) in as many minutes.

And thats how it ended. Rather a low key way to end what has still obviously been a fantastic season for Celtic, but really, who needed that Micky Mouse cup anyway? Once you have won it, the second time would just have been embarrassing, an unsightly stain on your pristine white shirt, when collecting your League Champions medal. Bitter? Nah!

One last word, Celtic will be bidding farewell to Sacha Stuckmann, who will literally leave enormous boots to fill, as he returns to his native Germany. Apparently, Celtic couldn't match the lucrative contract on offer, even with all the League Champions money now billowing out of their coffers. Auf Wiedersehen.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Celtic Crowned CHAMPIONS!!

In a day when the Celtic traveling contingency outnumbered both Morton and KU Golden Oldies supporters 5-1 even though the famous hoops were not on display, history was made as Celtic claimed their first TSSL League title amidst a raucous atmosphere at Eglinton flats, sparking celebrations not seen since Lisbon 67'.

Before we get in to the nitty gritty of this remarkable feat, which hinged on the final game of the season, I would like to go back a couple of weeks when Celtic had two remaining games left of which both had to be won. The first of the two games was against the much fancied fellow title contenders Multinational, whom had beaten Celtic in the first encounter 1-0 and were debutantes in the Media League this term. Celtic were well aware of the importance of the Multinational game, and the objective was crystal clear: Must win. No more room for errors, a drew would not be enough, victory was the only option, clearly, this was the last chance saloon.

Multinational 0-1 Fionn MacCool's Celtic

To add to Celtic's already mammoth task, due to injuries and players going AWOL, the back line was down to the bare bones, and was patched together with what ever reinforcements that manager Tibby could get his hands on. In these types of situations, you need to be able to call on the senior payers and more specifically your captain, to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag the team over the line -kicking and screaming if necessary. Luckily for Celtic, their Captain, Jason Mercier heard the call, and yet again put in a barnstorming performance, leading from the back and keeping the Celtic defense water tight for a solid 90+ minutes.

At the opposite end of the field, where again injuries were limiting Tibby's options, Fitzpatrick had been handed a starting birth partnering Teague up front. Whether Tibby's hand had been forced to play Fitzpatrick up front or whether it was sheer divine intuition, Fitzpatrick wasn't hanging around for an answer and seized the opportunity with barely 5 minutes on the clock, with Celtics first attack of the game.

Multinational had been controlling the tempo of the game and were confidently stroking the ball around with short intricate passes. However, against the run of play, Celtic managed to muster an attack down the left wing through Bredin. The rangy left wingers gallop had left him deep in Multinational territory with both Teague and Fitzpatrick screaming for the square ball. Bredin obliged, with a pass that look like it was intended for Teague but strayed behind the Englishman's run. However, the pass deceived not only Teague, but the rest of the Multinational back line, splitting it in two leaving Fitzpatrick clean through on the overlap. With the goal keeper rushing off his line, Fitzpatrick skillfully (not a word I use lightly!) rounded the keeper, and then from the most acute of angles rolled the ball over the line, leaving the trailing goalkeeper and defender in his wake. This was a huge life line, and it proved that Fitzpatrick had a healthy appetite when it came to the big occasion. The importance of the goal was up there with his match winner in the cup final the previous year, but this time, and much to the relief of the bench, Fitzpatrick kept his shirt on, opting against the explicit triple X celebrations.

After the Goal Multinational continued to dominate possession, but for all the slick passing on display failed to create any real end product. There was, however a sense that should they continue to boss proceedings in the second half, it would only be a matter of time before the possession would yield goals. A threat Tibby recognised all to well, as he look to reinvigorate Celtic during the half time team talk.

Sitting on the one goal advantage and soaking up the pressure was a risky game, and in the second half Celtic finally crept from out of their defensive shell and began knocking on Multinationals door. First up, Curley came close after been put through by an instinctive through ball from Barrero. Curley latched on to the pass, and with the keeper again looking to close the angle, deftly lobbed the ball over his advances only to see the ball pass inch's wide of the up right.

With the game becoming more open as both teams looked for the decisive second goal, Multinational managed to register their first shot on target, but Fourie was equal to it, tipping over the bar from close range.

As the minutes ticked away, the game was drawing to angonising close with both teams having great chances. With the Multinational back line pushing up close to the half way line they were prone to passes in behind. And first to exploit this was Lucero, after being put clean through only to be denied one on one with the goalkeeper. Next up Teague, with almost an identical chance as Lucero was foiled by the keeper, who at this point was keeping his side in the game. Teague then had an another opportunity to seal Multinationals fate only for a last ditch tackle to keep them in with a shout.

Much to the relief of Teague, and owing a huge debt to the magnificent Celtic back line a clean was kept, and Celtic had achieved the must win they set out for.

Zoomer FC 0-5 Fionn MacCool's Celtic

The objective in this one: "Don't do a Zoomer."

Although the score line would suggest an even more entertaining game then the Multinational match, do not be fooled by the books cover. Zoomer, with little to play for than bragging rights to middle table mediocrity, had about as much motivation for this encounter as I do for mental arithmetic. Which, in terms of numbers, equated to 9 or possibly ten men -what difference does it make- sheepishly displaying a 4-3-1 formation that was never going to trouble Celtic.

At least that's what we thought. Perhaps, knowing Celtics Achilles heel, which is play badly and Celtic will drop to your standard was Zoomer's cunning plan. What ever the reason, Celtic managed to make hard work out of the depleted Zoomer, and it wasnt until the second half, with the Zoomer tiring, that Celtic really drove home their numerical advantage.

Highlights of the game included, a brace by Curley, who would have pinched a hatrick had it not been for Teague sabotaging a goal bound effort, clearing the bar from a yard out with a dismal header, such was his level of desperation to get on the score sheet. Although, who really needs to hear about a Curley hatrick anyway?! Your welcome.

The other key moments came from, Bredin who managed to get on the score sheet as well, bringing his drought to an end, after being put thorugh with a punched like pass from Teague which has suspciions of being off offside. Prior drove in a clean finish after finding his range, and, Bredin retruned the favour to Teague with a square ball inside the box, which Teague tucked away, much to his relief.

So, in terms of quality, the two games were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But, the points had been secured and now Celtic had to sit and wait for two agonising weeks, while KU finished up their schedule, whilst knowing that KU at least had to draw one of their two remaining gmaes for Celtic to then win on goal difference. After winning 3-1 in their penultimate game, the worst was feared as the opposition for their last game was our old foe Morton, who similar to Zoomer had little to play for as their final league position was all but set.

And, that theory at least at half time, with Morton 2-0 down would seem like a sound bet. However, from the Morse code updates I was receiving, depsite being two goals down, Morton had played the better football in the first half. And, they continued the second in much the same vain. It would, however, take until 10 minutes from time to give the Celtic traveling suporters some hope to cling to.

After being two goals to the good the KU manager, in his naivety, made a quadruple substitution including the goalkeeper. And it would be the change in keeper, that ultimately would lead to their down fall. After what looked like a routine save found its way in to the net through the keepers butter like fingers, Morton sensed a comeback. And, on 90 minutes, with Celtic's hopes of league title glory in the balance, Morton delivered the shattering blow to KU, via a freekick awarded just outside the box, that smacked the post but fell kindly to Morton who duly tapped home.

Who needs the Premier league? Pfff! You could not ask for a more dramatic ending to a fantastic season, which finally sees Celtic get their hands on the elusive League title, which slipped through their grips this time last season, ironically due to a no-show from KU. Bitter sweet.
I could ramble on, and continue to throw superlatives on what has been a season full of highs and lows, but their is little more satisfying than kicking back and gazing at the league table, Celtic atop.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic18124251123940
KU Golden Oldies18124255292640
Sierra Stars18122452193338
Multinational Crew1895448212732
Zoomer FC186483239-722
Hooligan Filmworks185493228419
Globe and Mail FC1852113640-417
AS Rosso1851123555-2016
Trinity Park FC1800188135-1270

Monday, 7 September 2009

Oh my god, the FA banned Kenny!

What started out as a cold, and a couple of days recouping in bed with a box of cold medicine, has turned into a 9 month ban for Sheffield United Goalkeeper, Paddy Kenny, after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine.

I still can not fathom exactly what the FA's message is with this harsh 9 month ban. "Don't reach for the nearest cold remedy when you get the sniffles? Otherwise you will end up with a worse ban than not even showing up for a drugs test." How did Rio get away with that one? The crime, rather the indiscretion, simply does not match the punishment.

The FA's Regulatory Commission chairman, Christopher Quinlan stated, "Whilst we found that the player satisfied us on the balance of probabilities that the substance was not taken with the intention of enhancing sporting performance, his admitted conduct displayed significant fault." Lets be honest, the stereotype of Footballers not being the sharpest tool in the shed, holds plenty of weight to it, and acts like this do little to dissipate those theories, but he could be forgiven for failing to check the entire ingredients label of a cold remedy bought over the counter at the local superdrug before popping a few. Reading the usage instructions is challenging enough when you have a head that feels like its in a vice.

Paddy's "admitted conduct," displayed the actions of what most people would do in the same situation, including all the staff in the FA's regulatory commission. Yes, maybe he was a little bit liberal with his dosage, but the intention was not to enhance his performance. So a 9 month ban during which he is not even allowed to train with any professional team, is excessive to say the very least. Maybe, the FA can have a word with UEFA and swap Eduardo's two game ban with Kenny's 9 month maternity. Put it this way I would rather see the law come down seriously and consistanly with cheating that is caught in broad daylight through the HD lenses every weekend around Premier League venues, rather than an oversight with cold medicine.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 1-0 Morton

The punctuality of this match report and the quality of finishing in this bruising encounter, might have been severely lacking, but Celtic were spared their blushes courtesy of the foundation that team is built on, the formidable defense.

Games with Morton usually consist of brutal tackling and rising to the bait of bitching that protests innocence at every whistle blow. Its difficult to distinguish what hurts more, the studs on the back of your calf from a tackle that was about 2 days late or the constant barrage of nonsense that rings loud in your ear drum.

Either way, it was within the first minute that Celtic would spurn their first opportunity of the game, and would provide Morton with their first ammunition to discharge on the lines men. Bredin got in behind the Morton defense, scampering down the Celtic left wing and curled in a low cross to Teague. With the Morton defense breathing down his neck, Teague had no time to control the ball, choosing to hit it first time but could only direct his shot wide of the opposite post, with the goal keeper rooted. Offside was Morton's excuse for being caught cold, but the cry fell rightly on deaf ears.

With Celtic signalling their intent with the opening chance, they continued to dictate the pace of the game, but would have to wait until mid way through the first half before they registered their first shot on target. Curley, again thriving in his central midfield partnership with Prior, was looking to make a carbon copy of his strike against KU Golden Oldies the week previous. After another surging run from midfield, Curley let fly from the edge of the box, with the ball looking goal ward bound. However, the Morton Keeper was equal to it, and at full stretch acrobatically tipped the ball round the post. Definitely one for the bank of Camera's populating this bone crunching tie.

Before the half drew to a close, Celtic missed another golden opportunity to take in a lead at the break. After breaching the Morton back line with a quick counter attack down the right wing, Roberts squared the ball to Teague, who instead of pulling the trigger with his left, tried to return the 1-2 to Roberts with the outside of the right, but the pass went wayward and the chance went begging, much to the dismay of his team mates.

With the score levels at the break, it was time for another sterling speech from manager Tibby. After observing the amount of back chat, Celtic were drawing themselves into with Morton, Tibby demanded Celtic concentrate on letting the football do the talking. Despite some of the outrageous bait being floated by Morton, Celtic managed to stick to the orders, and kicked off the second half in search of the must needed three points, a draw simply would not suffice.

Unfortunately for Teague, who would have struggled to finish a Sunday Roast, the half time break did little to appease the strikers quality of finishing, who was having a day to forget in front of goal. About 15 minutes into the second half, Curley had gone on a mazy run deep into the Morton box, then unselfishly squared the ball to Teague who's first time effort from just outside the 6 yard box was smothered by the flailing keeper. Although, the frustration of being unable to break the deadlock after so much possession was palpable amongst the Celtic team, eventually their endeavor was answered.

About half way through the second half, Celtic were awarded a corner which Prior stepped up to take. Celtic's big central pairing of Mercier and Stuckmann, which must have a combined height in the region of Goliath like proportions, meandered their way into the box, which is enough to send any TSSL defense in to a frenzied panic. And, the panic was rightfully warranted. Prior expertly curled in the corner straight in to the danger area, which was met by a towering header from Stuckmann, which almost pulled the net from its pegged footings. Celtic breathed a collective sigh of relief, and finally they had something to show for all the hard work.

The goal only served to invigorate Celtic, and they were now looking to put the tie beyond Morton as they pressed for a second, which could have been granted from another set piece. A free kick near the right hand corner of the 18 yard box had been awarded after yet more miss timed tackling from Morton. Prior sensed that this was well within range, but his free kick which had the keeper beat, rebounded off the foot off the post. Lucero, who must have been observing Teague too much, was on hand to collect the rebound with the goal at his mercy, but in a rush of blood blazed his effort clean over the bar.

You could forgive Celtic for fearing that a 1-nil lead would not be enough, and given the numerous amount of chances to wrap the tie up, they would only have themselves to blame. However, given Morton's lack of attacking threat, the fears were more likely born out of previous slender advantages whipped out by fluke goals. This was not going to be the case though in this fixture, as the vast majority of Morton's attack came from long ball's via the keepers rangey right boot. This tactical naivety played right in to the hands of the Celtic defense, and the predictable regularity of the long balls were easy pickings for the 6ft 5 plus centre back frame of Stuckmann, and Mercier sweeping up. Fourie's pristine clean Goalkeeper Jersey was testament to the solid defense he had in front of him.

1-nil was how it finished, but before the close there was at least one more miss for Teague, however I think this is more than enough of a self deprecating critique for one day! Besides, I hear unsubstantiated rumour that instead of being accountable, Teague blames the last one squarely at the heckling side lines screaming for him to pull the trigger, instead of taking the wiser option which was to square to Curley who was in acres. Curley, you know where to send your complaints!

So, with Celtic yet again claiming a clean sheet and another victory, which now seems them unbeaten since early July, the race for the TSSL Media League title is still very much up for grabs. Celtic will have to rely on KU dropping points, but will be chomping at the bite in anticipation of any slight sniff of a KU slip up.

KU Golden Oldies16113249252436
Fionn MacCool's Celtic16104245123334
Multinational Crew1695248163232
Sierra Stars16102442192332
Zoomer FC165472734-719
Globe and Mail FC165293532317
Hooligan Filmworks164482624216
AS Rosso1641112847-1913
Trinity Park FC1600165123-1180

Monday, 24 August 2009

KU Golden Oldies 1-5 Fionn MacCool's Celtic

I am fast running out of superlatives to throw at Celtic's recent form, and words such as perfection have a tendency to be a catalyst for complacency to set in. But, if perfection is an unattainable benchmark defined by the likes of Aristotle, then Celtic's demolition of a team, that going in to the clash were title favourites, was an admirable candidate.

Sometimes, before a ball is even kicked, you can tell when a team is going to be lackluster, and you need only look back at the 3 nil loss the last time these two clashed, or the 1-1 draw with Zoomer back in July for prime examples, but this time, when the pressure was on, every Celtic player turned up with a point to prove, readied for the task in hand.

Straight from the off, Celtic were showing their intent, pushing KU into their own half with youthful exuberance, and they wouldn't have to wait long for the first chance to come their way. With Barrero partnering Teague up front, and Curley dropping into midfield in a new look Celtic, the tactical adjustment soon paid dividends in the shape of a corner. Barrero whipped the corner into the near post but the on rushing Teague, and Monaghan at the back post could not stab the ball home as it flew across the face of goal.

Celtic continued to boss proceedings, and were soon rewarded for all their dogged determination and lengthy possession, when a loose ball was picked up Rodrigo, who, with minimal touches spotted the diagonal run of Teague, and slipped in a defense splitting through ball. Teague's first touch took him away from the trailing defender, and with his second, tucked the ball past the on rushing keeper, in to the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.

The goal only seemed to boost the already sky high confidence of Celtic, and dent KU moral. Facing an up hill struggle, KU were struggling to get to grips with the irrepressible central midfield duo of Prior and Curley. The latter of whom soon made his mark on the game. After picking up the ball in midfield, Curley made a typical penetrating run towards the heart of the KU defense. KU failed to close down the run, and practically beckoned Curley as he neared the edge of the box. Curley needed no invitation to shoot, and from 20 yards, unleashed a pile driver which only had one destination, 2 nil Celtic.

Unfortunately, Celtic, and therefore this match report had to take a momentary break from scoring goals, as it was now time for wanna be star........the referee. Having already been dishing out yellow cards like a scalper off loading Benfica tickets, the ref's cry for attention was remedied by issuing Gonzales his second yellow even though he was not on the pitch, having just been replaced by Imnaishvili. I am still trying to work out exactly what infraction occurred to warrant a second yellow and a first for Imnaishvili, following what looked like a routine substitution. What ever the reason, in the confusion that followed and with the ref preoccupied by "Graham Poll yellow card mathematics", play continued with Celtic at full strength. All this from a man, who scarcely avoided slaughter at the hands of Sierra only a few weeks back, courtesy of the brave Fourie -gratitude personified.

Despite the referee's starring role, Celtic did manage to keep the football flowing, and virtually settled the tie right before the stoke of half time. Barrero was causing yet more problems for KU down the left wing, and after beating his man, squared a ball to McCann, who poised with intent just outside the 6 yard box, dummied the centre back and then calmly placed the ball past the despondent keeper.

After much delay, Celtic kicked off the second half reduced to 10 men, after the referee finally made account for all the frivolous yellow cards. The extra man gave KU some much needed impetus, and for the first time in the match, managed to enjoy healthy periods of possession, as Celtic were resigned to counter attack. Unfortunately for KU, resolute defending by the centre back partnership of Mercier and Carney, reduced attacks to long range efforts which usually ended up somewhere in the dense greenery behind the Celtic Goal.

Celtic, with a three goal cushion, were content to play counter attacking football, with the trap ready to spring in to action should an outlet arise. And, midway through the second half the trap was released with devastating effect. After being crowded by KU on the touchline, just inside the Celtic half, Bredin managed dig out a lush ball which released McCann down the left wing. McCann playing the loan strikers role, continued his run towards goal. With little in the way off reinforcements, McCann now deep in the KU box, went it alone and finished clinically beating the keeper at the near post.

The goal dispelled any hope of a KU come back, even after a penalty was awarded thanks to the linesman's intervention. The same linesman who had been involved in the substitution booking debacle in the first half. The penalty, which was converted served to be small consolation, and more of a blot on what was otherwise destine to be a fifth consecutive clean sheet.

Before the referee took mercy on KU, their was still time for Teague to get his second goal of the game. After another Celtic break away, Teague chased a through ball, with the keeper rapidly closing in and just managed to win the foot race, edging the ball past a fully committed keeper, and finishing from a tight angle into the vacant net.

Celtic still have to ensure they win their remaining games, and hope that KU drop points, but what ever the outcome of the TSSL media league come September, this victory has to go up there as one of Celtic's best performances to date. Next stop Morton, where Celtic will once again have to put on a display of the highest standard if they are to continue this winning streak.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Fionn MacCools Celtic 2-0 Hooligan

Despite the scorching, desert like conditions, Celtic remained cool in the last chance salon, deservedly picking up all 3 points against Hooligans Filmworks, after a bizarre 40 yarder and an unfamiliar hero securing victory at the death.

We are now in the business part of the season, and following last weeks disappointing draw, the margin for error could not be tighter as Celtic sit at the league's summit with only 2 points separating them from 4th place.

Hooligan, on the back of a defeat were also looking to put last weeks result behind them, but Celtic were not in charitable mood and found themselves on the back foot from the start. Celtic were leading from their impregnable back line which was arrogantly toying with Hooligan, like kittens playing with a ball of string. The Celtic defense has now gone an incredible 405 minutes without leaking a goal, which, if I had archival data, would surely prove to be a record. Perhaps resident statistician, Fitzpatrick will be able to verify??

It was at the opposite end of the field where Celtic need to improve upon though, goals were needed, and manager Tibby decided to reshuffle his pack bringing in McCallum to partner Curley in a bid to get Celtic re-firing on all 4 cylinders.

Following the early pressure, Celtic didn't have to wait too long for their first effort on goal. After a mazy run, cutting in from the right, Curley squared to Gonzales just inside the box, who flashed a shot goalwards, which Hooligan's unfamiliar keeper just about managed to tip round the post in not so convincing fashion.

Celtic continued to press, confidently knocking the ball about with small interchanging passes, playing the attractive football instilled in them from Mowbray inspired Tibby. For all the sexy football on display, Celtic would finally get their reward from a set piece following a freekick conceded about 40 yards out down the Celtic left. Box to box midfielder, Prior stepped up to the plate, in what was assumed would be a routine chip in to the box. Prior, having already spotted possible frailties in the Hooligan keeper had different ideas however, and from all of 40 yards, saw the keeper off his line, and audaciously lobbed the ball over the scrambling keeper.

The second half continued much in the same vain as the first, with Celtic bossing proceedings with slick passes starting from the back. Hooligan were pinned in to their own half, and could only relying on the occasional counter attack as small relief.

For all their pressure though, Celtic were unable to finish the game off and get the much needed second goal to ease nerves. The slender 1 goal lead remained intact, and eventually all the points were secured in the closing exchanges of the game courtesy of a sublime finish by Roberts. A finish any forward would have been happy with.

Having been released down the left channel, in behind the Hooligan defense, Roberts still had plenty of work to do, 40 yards from the glory that beckoned. Roberts' pace took his surging run into the unfamiliar territory of the oppositions box, and having decided not to square the ball to the on rushing reinforcements, bored down on goal and drilled a left foot shot into the bottom right corner.

Que the celebrations.....!

"Number 1" was the cry from Roberts as he ran off in jubilation like a dog let off a leash for the first time, and is still probably running loose across Cherry Beach as you read this. Hopefully, "number 1" will soon become 2, 3 and more, now Roberts has opened his account.

With Multinational, KU Golden Oldies and another team that shouldn't be in the league, all snapping at their heals, Celtic will likely have to win their 4 remaining games in order to stay on top of the heap, come September when champions are crowned. This will be Celtic's toughest test yet, with two of their remaining four games against title rivals Mutlinational and KU, leaving the TSSL media league delicately poised. Don't take your eyes off this for a second.

Fionn MacCool's Celtic1484239112828
Multinational Crew1484242142828
KU Golden Oldies1283138152327
Sierra Stars1382334151926
Zoomer FC135442323019
Globe and Mail FC144283229314
Hooligan Filmworks143472223-113
AS Rosso1440102541-1612
Trinity Park FC1400145114-1090

Friday, 14 August 2009

You know what is just around the corner.....

So, the scene is set, the team couldn't be in better shape after preseason training and friendlies in faraway locations. The tactics have been scrutinized and perfected down to the finest detail. The groundsmen has examined, and trimmed every last blade of grass. The weather -beaming. The boots -pristine. There is no more time left, we are on the verge, the unbearable anticipation is almost over.....

You would be given for thinking that the above was my fantasy of the beginning of the Premier League Season, but its actually the beginning of the 11 a side football season, if slightly exaggerated, that I want to bring to the forefront.

On a day when Richard Scudamore was promoting the Premier League as the global brand it has now become, expected to break the £1 billion mark in annual revenues for the first time this season, it seemed prudent to talk about grass roots football for a moment.

The FA have launched a new "What ever your level" campaign to get people back in to 11 a side football. I wouldn't normally start harping on about a "cause" but when I learned of the dwindling numbers of people playing 11 a side on the weekends, even I was surprised.

Over the last few season the number of teams signing up for 11 a side football has dropped by 1200. In the last season alone, 400 teams folded. The problem has a snowball effect, when too many teams fold within a league, it can cause a negative impact on the remaining teams, which in turn could see the entire league fold.

Its not all doom and gloom though for the game we love. The FA's National Game Strategy will see an investment of £200m into grassroots football over the next 3 years. In the mean time hopefully the video by the FA below will be inspiration enough to keep you from hanging up your boots. What ever your level, find a team and get stuck in.... I know I will!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Fionn MacCool's Celtic 5-0 AS Rosso

Celtic have rediscovered the rich vain of form enjoyed at the start of the season, but the comfortable 5-nil win over AS Rosso was overshadowed by the revelation that, after last weeks debacle in which a Sierra player ended the game by punching the referee instead of the more traditional 3 whistle blast, was once again plying his trade only a week later.

How on earth did he manage to dodge the disciplinary punishment we all had expected? Apparently, as the referee's official match report did not include a red card for the assault, effectively the punch never existed, meaning the Sierra player walks scot-free. Which, is basically the equivalent defence of getting away with day light robbery in front of 22 witnesses, due to a clerical error.

Also, in what is arguably even more stunning was the referee's assistant blatant denial about the event when questioned by Manager Tibby. It must be reassuring for any budding referee out there, to know you have no support from your fellow assistant when punches are thrown. Would his story but quite so non committal, had Fourie not be protecting the referee from an imminent beating??

So while the TSSL sit uncomfortably on the fence, picking a t the splinters, lets turn to matters on the match. AS Rosso started the game with only 10 men, but as so often we have seen throughout the season, Celtic struggled to break down a stubborn side determined to camp in their own half, intent only to counter attack.

This strategy, although risky, was not surprising given AS Rosso's numerical disadvantage and Celtic's depth in squad. However, when you invite so much pressure in your own half it is only a matter of time before the bridge is breached. And, despite the referee's assistant constant flagging for offside, (passive aggressive behavior from the pre-match tough questioning) Celtic eventually managed to cater for the questionable flag raising, when Curley was released down the left hand side with only the keeper to beat. With the on rushing AS Rosso keeper closing down the angle, Curley decided against the early shot, and with quick feet outrageously dummied the goal keeper, sending him the wrong way, which left an easy open net for Curley to knock home.

Celtic continued to pressure for a second goal before hand time, but were mostly frustrated by AS Rosso defensive tactics. Eventually, around 10 minutes before time, AS Rosso were strengthened by reinforcements giving them their 11th man. The extra man gave them renewed confidence, and AS Rosso began to creep away from the defensive tactics, which worked in Celtic's favour as their was now more space to exploit in the AS Rosso back line. So, the half ended with Celtic the stronger, and unfortunate not to take in a 2 goal lead, after creating 2 or 3 chances before the break.

The second half continued where the first had left off, with Celtic setting the pace and creating the better chances. Celtic were utilising the strength of depth in the squad with McCann coming on for Teague before the fist half ended and had already threatened with a well placed shot beyond the keeper which was trickling in to the bottom corner only to be cleared off the line. McCann proved that he was taking to the TSSL media league like a duck to water however, when he scored Celtic's second and his second in as many games for the hoops.

Celtic were now in full control and it would not be long before the third followed. Teague, was needlessly hacked down in the box, with has back to goal, which gave the referee little choice but to point to point to the spot. Teague was keen to take the penalty, with the hope of ending a goal draught, but the reliable Prior was in uncharitable mood, and continued his 100% penalty conversion with another expertly taken spot kick.

Winning the penalty kick would be Teague's last contribution before a 2 week sabbatical in Europe designed to get his head in order. However, rumours have been rife that Teague may be looking for new pastures, after being spotted in the near vicinity of the Parc des Princes, home of Paris Saint Germain. If a transfer does materialise, a return to GDL Athletic, Teague's former stomping ground, does however look the more likely destination.

Celtic's fourth came after Stuckmann finally made use of his 6ft 6" frame from a corner. The virtually impossible to defend against Stuckmann, rose to meet the corner with a commanding header, but was denied by a good save from the AS Rosso keeper. However the keeper could only palm the ball back in to Stuckmann's path, who, with a second bite of the cherry smashed home the half volley.

Celtic wrapped up proceedings with the 5th from Immaishvilli. After beating the offside trap, Immaishvilli was clean through down the left channel, and kept his composure coolly slotting the ball under the keeper from just inside the box.

Due to "technical difficulties", which suspiciously coincided with Teague's trip to Europe, unfortunately Sport Bullet was unable to report on Celtic's second game of the weekend against minnows Trinity Park, where a high scoring victory was predicted. Until the technical problems are resolved, which is estimated to take an unforgivable two weeks at the earliest, Sport Bullet will be relying on morse code for results. With regards to the Trinity Park game, we can confirm that Celtic met the bookies expectation with a 9-0 thrashing.

Celtic now go in to a crucial part of the season, having hit great form just at the right moment. However, they are now dependant on other teams dropping points, in order to claim the Media League title. In the mean time, Celtic will concentrate on their game and ensure they do all they can to apply the pressure on league pace setters Multinational.
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