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.
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