Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Kids Are All Right (But, Joe Hart Isn't)

Harry Kane volleyed an injury-time equaliser as England snatched a dramatic point against Scotland after a flurry of late goals in their 2018 World Cup qualifier. Kane met Raheem Sterling's deep cross at the back post unmarked and slotted past Craig Gordon on ninety three minutes. England had looked to be heading for defeat when Leigh Griffiths curled in two brilliant free-kicks late on - both over the wall into each side of the net on eighty seven and ninety minutes. Joe Hart would have been very disappointed with both goals but then, he's probably been too busy filming more of those crap shampoo adverts to devote much time to his goalkeeping. As usual. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had given England the lead with twenty minutes remaining of a game which had barely fluttered to life before then with a strike that Gordon should have saved, just five minutes after Oxlade-Chamberlain coming on to the pitch. With Scotland's fans pleading for the final whistle and Hampden Park in a frenzy of nationalistic euphoria as they closed in on their first win against the Auld Enemy since 1999, there was only a minute left when Kane, given the captaincy by manager Gareth Southgate, rescued England. It kept a rather unimpressive England on course for next summer's World Cup in Russia and dealt a savage blow to The Scots' already dwindling chances. England remain top of Group F with fourteen points from six games, three points ahead of Slovakia in second place and and Slovenia in third. Scotland are fourth with but eight points.
Elsewhere, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill praised the spirit of his team after a vital one-nil win away to Azerbaijan in Group C. O'Neill's men looked to be hanging on for a draw until Stuart Dallas snatched the victory in stoppage-time. Dallas' first competitive international goal earned the Northern Irish all three World Cup qualifying points when it looked like they would be fortunate to escape the stifling Baku heat with a draw. They are second in Group C with thirteen out of eighteen points. World champions Germany - who gave San Marino a seven-nil hiding in Nuremberg - are the only team to have scored against them. A horrendous blunder from Stottingtot Hotshots goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saw Sweden snatch a stoppage-time winner against France to open up the battle at the top of Group A. The Arse forward Olivier Giroud fired Les Bleus into the lead with a superb volley into the top corner after taking the ball down at the far post. Sweden hit back just before the break when midfielder Jimmy Durmaz lashed in an angled drive. Jakob Johansson and then France forward Antoine Griezmann both had chances before, with just seconds of three minutes of added time remaining, Lloris dribbled the ball out of his penalty area only to trio over his own feet and scuff an attempted clearance. Toulouse forward Ola Toivonen clipped a first-time effort over the keeper from just inside his own half, which bounced into an empty net to spark wild celebrations from the home fans at the Friends Arena as Sweden moved above France to the top of the table on goal difference. The Netherlands are now just three points behind after sweeping past bottom team Luxembourg five-nil at the De Kuip in Rotterdam, which marked the first match of Dick Advocaat's third stint in charge of the Dutch national side. Bayern Munchen winger Arjen Robben put the Netherlands ahead after twenty one minutes. Wesley Sneijder - making a record one hundred and thirty first international appearance on his thirty third birthday - scored a second after thirty five minutes. Advocaat, who was named as Danny Blind's successor in May, saw his side go further ahead on the hour through Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Quincy Promes headed in a fourth with twenty minutes left, with a late penalty from Vincent Janssen completing the rout. Bulgaria, who had been third in the group, slipped to a two-one defeat in Belarus. Switzerland kept themselves ahead of Portugal at the top of Group B with a two-nil away win over the Faroe Islands. The Arse midfielder Granit Xhaka put the Swiss ahead with a low shot and Dirty Stoke's playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri's neat angled finish wrapped things up in the second half. The diving cheat Cristiano Ronaldo scored two close-range headers as Portugal won three-nil in Latvia. Ronaldo - whose double helped Real Madrid win the Champions League final in Cardiff last Saturday - put Portugal in front five minutes before half-time after Jose Fonte's header came back off the crossbar. Ronaldo added a second from almost on the goalline after sixty one minutes, with Porto striker Andre Silva adding a third six minutes later. Andorra moved off the bottom of the group table with a shock one-nil win over Hungary at Estadi Nacional where a header from Marc Rebes brought to an end a run of sixty six competitive matches without a victory for the Andorans. Belgium strengthened their position at the top of Group H with a two-nil win against Estonia, who finished with ten men. Dries Mertens put The Red Devils ahead from close range. Just before half-time, Estonia midfielder Artjom Dmitrijev saw the red card for a nasty foul on Marouane Fellaini. West Bromwhich Albinos forward Nacer Chadli made it two-nil with four minutes left. Second-placed Greece battled to a goalless draw away to Bosnia-Herzegovina, who remain one point behind. A late goal from striker Pieros Sotiriou gave Cyprus a two-one win over Gibraltar at Estadio Algarve. Cyprus took the lead in the tenth minute after an own goal by Gibraltar skipper Roy Chipolina. But the hosts levelled on the half-hour through Anthony Hernandez, only for Sotiriou to head in a winner with just three minutes left. Robert Lewandowski netted a hat-trick as Poland maintained their six-point lead at the top of Group E with a three-one win over Romania in Warsaw. The veteran striker opened the scoring with a twenty ninth-minute penalty and doubled their advantage when he added a second before the hour. A second penalty from Lewandowski sealed another win for the hosts five minutes later before Bogdan Stancu scored a late consolation. Stevan Jovetic was another hat-trick hero as Montenegro held onto second place in the same group with a four-one win over Armenia in Podgorica. Denmark also kept up the pressure on Poland with a three-one win over ten-man Kazakhstan in Almaty.
England won their biggest international title since 1966 by beating Venezuela one-nil in the Under-Twenty World Cup final on Sunday. It was England's first appearance in the final of a global tournament since their World Cup victory fifty one years ago. Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin's first-half goal was enough for victory thanks to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman's second-half penalty save. Woodman denied Adalberto Penaranda from the spot after the Malaga forward was fouled by Kyle Walker-Peters. The referee pointed to the spot to signal a penalty before referring to the video assistant referee. The decision stood - there was the slightest of contacts - but Woodman's strong palm kept out Penaranda's effort. In the first half Ronaldo Lucena hit the post with an audacious long-range free-kick that had Woodman well beaten, while Stottingtot Hostshots midfielder Josh Onomah saw a powerful effort strike the underside of the Venezuela bar after the break. After the match, England forward Dominic Solanke, due to join Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws from Moscow Chelski FC on 1 July, was awarded the Golden Ball given to the player of the tournament. Woodman - who also saved a penalty in England's earlier match against Costa Rica - was awarded the Golden Glove, given to best goalkeeper of the tournament. England's youth teams have won the Under-Seventeen European Championship twice - in 2010 and 2014 - and the Under-Twenty One European Championship twice - in 1982 and 1984. Their previous best at the Under-Twenty World Cup was third place in 1993. Of that squad, only four players went on to represent England at senior level - Nicky Butt, Nick Barmby, Alan Thompson and David Unsworth. Six of the current squad which triumphed in South Korea on Sunday were part of that Under-Seventeen European success in 2014. Woodman, Jonjoe Kenny, Dominic Solanke and captain Lewis Cook all started in Sunday's final, while Dael Fry and Woodman's Newcastle team-mate Adam Armstrong were on the bench.
Former Blunderland manager David Moyes has been extremely fined thirty grand by the FA after telling the BBC reporter Vicki Sparks that she might 'get a slap' in March. Moyes' vile and odious comments came following The Mackem's home draw against Burnley in the Premier League (from which they were,subsequently, extremely relegated). The Scot was asked by Vicki - a former colleague of this blogger - if the presence of Blunderland's usually absentee-owner, Ellis Short, had put extra pressure on him. Moyes, who resigned as Blunderland boss in May, subsequently expressed his 'deep regret' for his comments. But, that cut no ice with the Football Association who told him not to be such a daft planks and never say such crassly ignorant things again - or anything remotely like them - should he ever get another job in football. Which, given his recent disastrous record at The Mackems, The Scum and Real Sociedad is somewhat open to question.
We end with some awfully sad news. The former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tioté has died aged thirty after collapsing during a training session in China, a spokesman for the player has announced. In his seven years at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) United, the Côte d'Ivoire player made over one hundred and fifty appearances. He joined the Chinese second-tier side Beijing Enterprises in February. 'It is with deep sadness I confirm that Cheick Tioté sadly passed away earlier today after collapsing in training,' said spokesman Emanuele Palladino. 'We cannot say any more at the moment and we request that his family's privacy be respected at this difficult time. We ask for all your prayers.' Born in Yamoussoukro in 1986, Cheick was part of the Ivorian national squad that won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. He began his professional career with minor league side FC Bibo in his native Yamoussoukro. Cheick then joined the Belgian side Anderlecht in 2005. A loan deal took him to Roda JC for the 2007-08 season, after which he remained in The Netherlands with a permanent move to FC Twente in July 2008 where he made eighty six appearances and won the Eredivisie league title in the 2009-10 season under manager Steve McClaren. Cheick, a combative, hard-tackling defensive midfielder, then signed for Newcastle in 2010 for three and a half million quid. He appeared one hundred and fifty six times in all competitions for The Magpies and scored once. But, the goal in question will never be forgotten. In February 2011, he hit a memorable volley as The Magpies came back from four-nil down at half-time to draw with The Arse in a remarkable Premier League game. He had joined United earlier that season and was named as an unused sub for Newcastle's home loss to Blackpool soon after arriving in the UK; Cheick's first outing for the club came a week later at Everton when he completed a flawless ninety minutes 'looking instantly at ease in a central midfield anchor role and never wasting a ball.' That was the first of twenty six league appearances in what was a memorable first season (and, almost as many yellow cards!), capped by that long-distance goal and followed by a new six year deal. Capped by the Côte d'Ivoire at U23 level, Cheick won his first senior cap in June 2009 in a friendly against Cameroon. Cheick had impressed in three appearances for the Côte d'Ivoire during the World Cup Finals in South Africa just weeks before he joined Newcastle. Both then manager Chris Hughton and chief scout Graham Carr would later claim credit for having spotting him. By the 2014-15 season Tioté had lost his regular starting place at St James' Park and was sidelined with a foot injury, aggravated while on Nations Cup duty. The installation of Rafa Benitez saw Cheick start Newcastle's final six Premier League games and he remained a Magpie despite drawing interest during the summer of 2016 from various overseas clubs. A Championship debut came from the bench during a one-one draw at Aston Villains in September and starts came against Birmingham City in the FA Cup in January - a one-one away draw and three-one home success. Seemingly set to join Sporting Gijon in Spain, continued rumours of interest from clubs in China eventually brought an offer from Beijing Enterprises Group and he was confirmed as their player in early February. A statement from Newcastle said: 'We are devastated to have learned of the tragic passing of Cheick Tioté at the age of just thirty. The thoughts of everyone at Newcastle United are with Cheick's family, friends, team-mates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.' 'Cheick was one of the best we had in terms of his attitude,' Toon legend and coach Peter Beardsley told BBC Radio 5Live. 'He had a wicked sense of humour, he was top class and he will certainly be missed in this city.' Beardsley added: 'He was flat out every day in training and was a brilliant example to the kids at our club. He loved a tackle - he wasn't horrible, but very aggressive. Every time he saw the ball he went for it. He was also really funny in the dressing room. He had a brilliant smile and he lit up a room. He was fantastic.' On Tioté's goal against The Arse, Beardsley added: 'It was an unbelievable volley and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. I can still see him running up the end of the pitch. He must have run seventy metres to celebrate with the fans. In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.' A devout Muslim, Cheick observed fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He had two children with his first wife, Madah. During his time at Newcastle, the couple lived in Ponteland close to Newcastle airport. In September 2014, it was reported by the Evening Chronicle that Tioté had married a second wife, Laeticia Doukrou, in the capital of the Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Interestingly, Goal Is An Anagram Of Gaol

Arsene Wenger secured his record seventh FA Cup final win as The Arse produced a fine display to win a Wembley thriller against ten-man Moscow Chelski FC. Alexis Sanchez gave The Arse the lead in contentious fashion after only four minutes, when referee Anthony Taylor overruled his assistant after he had flagged for offside against Aaron Ramsey. The Premier League champions also claimed - correctly - that Sanchez had handled the ball in the build-up to the goal. Their task became even harder when Victor Moses was - again, correctly - sent off by Taylor in the second half after receiving a second yellow card for diving. Diego Costa revived Moscow Chelski's hopes of a repeat of their league and cup double in 2010 when The Arse;s keeper, David Ospina, failed to keep out his deflected shot with fourteen minutes left. The Arse refused to be denied, however, and were back in front inside two minutes when Ramsey, who scored the FA Cup final winner against Hull City in 2014, did it again with a header from substitute Olivier Giroud's cross. Which was good because it kept the TV schedules broadly uninterrupted for the rest of the evening.
A twenty one-month jail term handed down last year to Barcelona and Argentina footballer Lionel Messi has been confirmed by Spain's Supreme Court, but he is unlikely to go to prison. Because he is very rich. Messi and his father Jorge, who manages his finances, were both convicted in 2016 of defrauding Spain of over four million Euros in taxes. Jorge Messi's jail term was reduced because he has now paid some of the taxes owed. In Spain, prison terms of under two years can be served under probation. The case will now return to the court in Barcelona that handed down the original judgement. Messi, a five-time world footballer of the year, has denied any involvement and told his trial in June 2016: 'I only worried about playing football.' But in its decision on Wednesday, the court said: 'It defies logic to concede that someone who earns a large income does not know that he must pay taxes on it.' Well, you'd think, wouldn't you? Both men were originally convicted of three counts of fraud, for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009 and were also given heavy fines. They were found very guilty of resorting to fictitious companies to evade Spanish taxes on income from companies using Lionel Messi's image rights. Jorge Messi's jail term was reduced from twenty one months to fifteen by the Supreme Court to take into account the money he had since handed to the tax authorities. Messi's high-profile trial is not the only one involving Barcelona stars and the Spanish government. Defender Javier Mascherano - also an Argentine - admitted to tax fraud, escaping a jail term with a one-year suspended sentence. Brazilian star Neymar is also facing allegations of corruption and fraud over his transfer to Barcelona in 2013 - a case which also involves his parents. Prosecutors allege the transfer cost much more than publicly declared and that millions were concealed from authorities. And, in the same week as Messi's sentence was upheld, former president of the club, Sandro Rosell, was extremely arrested as part of a money-laundering investigation.
Shekih Yer Man City defender Jason Denayer 'regrets' becoming involved in a brawl outside a Brussels nightclub in which he 'reacted instinctively' by kicking out at a man who was punching his friend. An eight-second video of the incident - which took place on Sunday - shows the twenty one-year-old striking a man who is punching another man on the floor. A longer version shows how Denayer, at first reluctant to intervene, strikes out when his friend was pinned down. 'I reacted instinctively,' he said after the video appeared online. 'Of course I regret to have been caught up in a conflict that was not mine to begin with, but I saw my friend was in real danger and I had to interfere and protect him.' Belgium international Denayer, who has been on loan with relegated Blunderland this season, then left the scene in his car, which had been damaged by friends of the man he kicked, according to the player's agent. 'Jason tried to be peaceful and to avoid further escalation,' Jesse De Preter told BBC Sport. 'He then gets pushed away from the scene and about forty people start to fight. Jason went to his car, which was destroyed fifty per cent by friends of the guy, but he went home and told the police. The police have made a report but there are no charges against Jason. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.'
Southend United will reportedly 'take time to consider' Nile Ranger's future, after the striker was very jailed for eight months for online banking fraud. The twenty six-year-old was extremely sentenced for conspiracy to defraud by obtaining bank details and transferring money. he Shrimpers chairman, Ron Martin, said that the club need to assess 'the impact of this startling, unexpected, outcome.' Ex-Newcastle and Swindon forward Ranger joined Southend last summer and signed a contract until 2020 in December. Ranger - who committed the offence in February 2015 - scored eight goals in twenty eight appearances for Southend last season. Before joining Southend in August 2016, Ranger had not played a competitive game for almost two years, during which he spent several months absent from Blackpool which he put down to 'being distracted' following death of two close friends. Southend manager Phil Brown said before signing him that Ranger was in the 'last-chance saloon' during a one-month 'test period' at Roots Hall. Ranger was also subject to a Football Association investigation this season, unrelated to the criminal sentence and had previously had several run-ins with the law during his time at Newcastle. Following the result of the hearing at Wood Green, Martin's statement continued: 'As I have said previously, this offence occurred long before Nile joined the club and everyone deserves a second chance, which the club has afforded Nile. [He] is unlikely to ever be a model professional, however during his time at Southend his behaviour has been acceptable and improved. We have worked hard at rehabilitation and Nile has responded well to his team mates both on and off the pitch. At the time of writing, the club is awaiting details of the court hearing and will review the details before coming to any decision surrounding Nile's future.'
Blunderland manager David Moyes has extremely resigned following The Mackems relegation from the Premier League. The end of the Black Cats' ten-year stay in the top flight was confirmed when they lost to Bournemouth last month. Moyes informed chairman Ellis Short of his decision to step down at a meeting in London on Monday. 'I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League,' said Moyes. The former Everton and The Scum manager took charge at The Stadium of Plight in July last year, after odious lardbucket (and drag) Sam Allardyce left to become, briefly, England manager. Blunderland finished extremely bottom of the Premiership table this season with but twenty four points, having won only six games. 'I pursued the services of David Moyes for a considerable period prior to his appointment last summer, which makes the announcement of his departure difficult for everyone concerned,' said Short. He added that Moyes was not taking compensation for his departure, calling it 'a testament to his character. In the days ahead we will take some time for reflection and then focus on recruitment and pre-season as we prepare for our Championship campaign. We wish David well in the future,' added Short. The Scot had faced calls from Blunderland fans to quit and initially said it was 'too soon' to commit to the club following relegation. However, earlier this month he suggested that he would stay with The Mackems in the Championship next season, saying: 'I know what needs to be done to get back in the Premier League.' In a club statement on Monday, Moyes said: 'I would like to thank Ellis Short and the Board for giving me the opportunity to manage Sunderland and the fans for always being so passionately supportive of their club.' This is the first time that Moyes has been relegated as a manager, having warned Blunderland supporters just two games into the season that his squad would struggle. And, let's face it, you know you're club are in trouble when your manager is talking about a season-long relegation struggle before the end of August. Moyes' departure from Blunderland after a truly desperate - if, from a distance, very amusing - season of one calamity after another ended in relegation carried an air of inevitability. And, it is only a minor blessing for The Black Cats that the decision has been taken so quickly after its conclusion. It is a sign of how Moyes' stock has fallen that since he was awarded a six-year contract to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at The Scum in 2013 he has been sacked at Old Trafford, again by the Spanish side Real Sociedad and now has a relegation and resignation on his CV at Blunderland. And, there are still two years left on that original contract with The Scum. Moyes looked a solid appointment in succession to odious lardbucket (and drag) Allardyce but set the negative tone he adopted for the entire campaign when he flagged up a relegation fight after only two games of the season. Blunderland's football was drab and draped in defeat. They have, in short, been a sodding disgrace. The only shining lights were leading scorer Jermain Defoe and promising goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - both of whom now look certain to follow Moyes out of the door. Moyes made some defiant noises about taking charge of Blunderland in the Championship but, in the end, his unpopularity with Mackem fans who had suffered all season, plus the embarrassment of relegation, left him with nowhere to go but away from Wearside.
On, still the hilarity continues. Odious lardbucket (and drag) Sam Allardyce has extremely resigned as Crystal Palace manager five months after he joined the Premier League club. Allardyce replaced Alan Pardew in December on a two-and-half-year deal with The Eagles then one point above the relegation zone. The sixty two-year-old, who had an ill-fated one-game spell as England boss, led the club to eight wins in twenty one games to guide them to a fourteenth-place finish. 'I have no ambitions to take another job,' Allardyce said in a statement. 'I want to be able to savour life while I am still relatively young and when I am still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager. This is the right time for me. I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.' Odious lardbucket (and drag) Allardyce revealed his decision to chairman Steve Parish at a meeting in London on Tuesday. The Eagles are now looking for their eighth manager in seven years. Although it took Allardyce six games to get his first victory the former Notlob, Blackburn Vindaloos, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle, West Hamsters United and Blunderland boss maintained his record of never being relegated from the Premier League. Albeit, he remains about as popular as a nasty rash on the bell-end at - at least - three of those clubs. Only Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and David Moyes have managed more games in the Premier League. Allardyce's final game in charge of Palace came on Sunday, a two-nil loss at The Scum, having guaranteed safety the previous week by thrashing relegation-haunted Hull four-nil. Following defeat at Old Trafford, Allardyce indicated his plans to improve the Palace squad in the summer. He had told BBC Sport: 'We now need to grow, develop and invest. You need to choose the right players and not the wrong ones. Recruitment is the difficult task in the summer.'
They're the team from the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup Under Twenty finals and they very nearly pulled off a huge shock holding Mexico two-two until the final seconds of their match in South Korea, but Vanuatu's hearts were broken when the Mexicans scored a winner with pretty much the last kick of the game. So, high drama and a momentous occasion for football in the tiny Pacific island country, but sadly no-one in Vanuatu got to actually watch the game live and see their team make history. The national broadcaster VBTC had said late on Friday that 'matters were in hand' and the match would be shown, but they failed to deliver and now, there are reportedly to be a lot of very angry people in Vanuatu. Harry Attison from Capital 107FM in Port Vila said that he fielded 'a series of calls' from people demanding to know where the TV pictures were, while trying to keep his radio audience up to speed with the game. The President of the Vanuatu Olympic Committee, Antoine Boudier, said that the state broadcaster had 'let the nation down.'

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies' manager, Rafa The Gaffer Benitez, can expect up to one hundred million knicker to spend during the summer on new players following 'positive' discussions with owner Mike Ashley reports have suggested. Benitez guided The Magpies back to the Premier League at the first attempt. And, truly, it was glorious in Th' Toon Army's sight. However, he was said to be seeking 'assurances' that he would be able to strengthen his squad again after the club's promotion. In a club statement, Ashley said that Rafa and managing director Lee Charnley can have 'every last penny the club generates' to build for next term. Benitez added: 'I'm pleased with how the meeting went and the positive approach we are all taking together to build on what we have started this season. There will be challenges ahead of course, the summer will not be easy, but the hard work has been going on for some time and we can now continue positively with the development of the squad ahead of the start of the new season.' The former Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, Moscow Chelski FC and Real Madrid manager signed a three-year contract to remain at Newcastle in May 2016, despite the club dropping into the second tier, and the Spaniard led them to the Championship title on Sunday.
The English Football League recorded its highest cumulative attendances for almost sixty years in 2016-17, with more than eighteen million fans watching matches. Crowds attending Championship, League One and League Two games were up by eleven per cent on the 2015-16 campaign and the most since 1958-59 when 18.8 million punters turned out. The figure was boosted by almost two million fans of Newcastle United and Aston Villains attending home fixtures. However, there was a three per cent rise for the sixty seven clubs in the EFL this season and last. In the Championship, more than eleven thousand supporters went through the turnstiles, with Newcastle boasting the biggest average attendance of more than fifty one thousand (the highest for a non-Premiership or Division One side since 1975) and The Villains second with more than thirty two thousand. League One and League Two champions Sheffield United and Portsmouth had the highest average crowds in their respective divisions - The Blades with just under twenty two thousand and Pompey recording close to seventeen thousand. The three highest cumulative attendances came in the post-war period from 1948 to 1950, when more than twenty three million people watched games in tiers two to four each campaign. 'It is clear to see that the EFL continues to be one of the most watched football competitions and our clubs deserve huge credit for continuing to find new and innovative ways of encouraging supporters through their turnstiles,' EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said. 'We know that supporters continue to be the lifeblood of our game and the long-term future of the football in this country is looking very healthy, with more and more people choosing to follow their local clubs week in, week out.'
Italian football authorities may face disciplinary action over the treatment of Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari. Muntari was sent-off after leaving the field claiming that he was racially abused during a Serie A game. He was initially banned for one game but had this overturned by the Italian Football Federation after the outcry over the decision. 'We have a committee in charge of monitoring this and the committee will take action,' FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura told BBC Sport. 'What matters is that the committee has to act and the sooner the better. I have my personal feelings on anybody that is treated like he has been treated, on the pitch and off the pitch but I'm not here for my personal matters. I'm here to make sure that FIFA takes, through the committee, the appropriate action for any single discriminatory action.' On Tuesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said that he would speak to ex-Portsmouth player Muntari, who believes world football's governing body, and European equivalent UEFA are 'not taking racism seriously.' 'We will work together,' said Infantino, who also said that he intends to talk to the head of FIGC, Carlo Tavecchio. 'Unfortunately idiots, there are always idiots everywhere but we have to fight them. We have to work on the people.' FIFA was criticised for disbanding its anti-racism task force last September. The organisation defended this decision at the time, with Samoura then saying that it had 'fulfilled the mandate' for which it was set up in 2013 - which was to provide recommendations for 'a strong programme' to tackle racism. A number of these have been put into action, including the introduction of an Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System to assess eight hundred and fifty high-risk matches for potential discriminatory incidents during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and friendlies. Speaking ahead of this week's FIFA congress meeting in Bahrain, Samoura adopted a different stance to Infantino, saying: 'I don't have to call people anytime that they have been victim of an abuse.' She continued: 'We've been regularly publicising the action of the committee on every action that relates to racism, homophobic chants and any kind of discrimination. We have monitoring too on anti-discrimination. We have heavy sanctions every time we have been receiving reports.'
Former Sun editor the odious scumbag Kelvin Mackenzie is to leave the paper after making controversial comments in a column about Everton footballer Ross Barkley. The worthless, sneering louse Mackenzie was very suspended after comparing the player - who has a Nigerian grandfather - to a gorilla. A spokesman for the Sun said that Mackenzie 'remained suspended' but would not comment on reports of his departure. According to the Financial Times, however, the terms of Mackenzie's exit are currently being negotiated and he will not be asked to contribute to the newspaper again. In his column, the horrible Mackenzie said that looking at Barkley's eyes had given him 'a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo.' His eyes made him 'certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home,' he wrote. Alongside the article was an image of a gorilla next to a picture of the midfielder. The paper subsequently grovellingly apologised for the article, published on 14 April, saying it was 'unaware' of Barkley's heritage. The implication being,it would seem, that if Ross Barkley didn't have any African ancestry then the Sun would have stood by Mackenzie's spiteful, sneering, bully-boy scummish article and would have defended its own use the gorilla photograph. The Sun's snivelling apology claimed that as soon as Barkley's 'background' was drawn to its attention, the article was removed from its website. Perhaps significantly, however, the apology did not extend to other elements of the article, in which the odious rotter Mackenzie suggested that the only people in Liverpool who could earn as much as footballers were drug dealers. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson had called for Mackenzie to be sacked over the column, describing it as 'a racial slur' and 'a disgrace.' Barkley's lawyers also made a formal complaint about the piece. At the time, Mackenzie claimed that he was 'unaware' Barkley had a Nigerian-born grandfather and denied the column was 'racist.' The Sun's publisher, News UK is, of course, part of News Corp, run by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch. Ofcom is currently examining an eleven billion smackers bid from Twenty First Century FOX, also run by billionaire tyrant Murdoch, of broadcaster Sky, of which it already owns thirty nine per cent. The BBC's media editor said billionaire tyrant Murdoch and the company 'hoped' that by showing they were willing to sack a long-standing louse such as Mackenzie they will 'send a signal' to Ofcom that they are fit and proper to own Sky outright. When, of course, they are not a fit and proper organisation to run a piss-up in a brewery. Mackenzie was editor of the Sun when it published its infamous front-page article blaming Liverpool fans for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which ninety six people died. Mackenzie - after years of arrogant and sneering dismissal of all criticism of the piece - subsequently claimed that he was 'completely duped' and that he had been the victim of a 'black' operation to smear the fans and protect police incompetence which caused the tragedy. One or two people even believed him.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Just Champion

An eighty-ninth minute 'twenty five yard screamer' from The Aston Villains' Jack Grealish gave The Villains a draw against already promoted Brighton & Hove Albinos and meant that yer actual Keith Telly Toping's beloved (though unsellable) Mapgies are the 2017 Championship Champions by but one point. Th' Toon needed to achieve a better result than The Albinos and did so thanks to a three-nil home victory against yer actual Barnsley. Ayoze Perez, Chancel Mbemba and Dwight Gayle scored for United, but it was Grealish's late strike which, ultimately, sealed The Magpies' title. It was a comfortable win for Rafael Benitez's side - yet it looked like it would not be enough to seal the top spot, after Glenn Murray's penalty had put league leaders Brighton in front at Villa Park. However, despite being down to ten-men following Nathan Baker's red card, Grealish beat Brighton's keeper David Stockdale to send The Magpies above The Seagulls in the table. Stockdale who was at fault for the goal, ironically, had used several interviews in recent weeks (like this one, for instance) to criticise those who dared to suggest that Brighton would 'bottle it' in the race for the Championship.
This blogger has to say that, normally, he loathes The Aston Villains and their notoriously fickle and angry fans and everything that they stand for. Keith Telly Topping had a couple of very bad experiences as an away fan at Villa Park in the Eighties and Nineties. They're one of a handful of clubs that he always watches for their results and wants to see lose - badly - directly because of such past indignities (others include Sheffield United, Wolverhampton Wanderings, Wigan Not-Very-Athletic and Dirty Stoke along with, needless to say, The Mackems and The Smoggies). Except for today, obviously. One also rather felt from The Albinos, it has to be said and, especially, for their manager, Chris Hughton, who still has a lot of friends in the North East after his managing Newcastle to the last time they won the Championship, in 2010 and who proved what a class act he is by congratulating Newcastle on winning the league despite his own, obvious, disappointment. Still, by a huge distance, the best two footballing sides in the Championship have gone up to the Premier League and that's the way it should be. Under Rafa The Gaffer, Newcastle brought twelve players to the club after relegation to the Championship last summer, with Matt Ritchie and Gayle moving down a division to sign five-year deals. More than fifty million smackers was spent in transfer fees durig the summer - although that was more than offset by the sales of various lazy glakes like Andros Townsend, Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum among others. Nevertheless, The Magpies were still under huge pressure to achieve immediate promotion - a feat which they managed with two games to spare despite losing the first two games of the season. Benitez's side have battled with Brighton throughout the season for top spot, but since The Seagulls achieved promotion on 17 April they have dropped off the pace dramatically. Ultimately it was three straight wins for Newcastle and three matches without a win for Hughton's side that told, giving Th' Toon the perfect end to the campaign.
      At the bottom, the three-way fight to avoid the final relegation place was very lost by Blackburn Vindaloos, despite a three-one win at Brentford. Nottingham Forest's home victory over Ipswich and Birmingham's narrow win at Bristol City condemned the Vindaloos to life in League One next season. It was, truth be told, a bit of a bugger as to which of the three teams fighting for the last relegation place this blogger wanted to go down. He really dislikes Forest, another place where this blogger once var nigh got his head kicked in for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and, especially, after that utterly criminal alleged 'win' over our lot last December when Henri Lansbury - ironically, now playing for The Aston Villains - cheated a disgracefully incompetent referee into sending two of our lot off (both, subsequently overturned on appeal, not that this changed the result, of course). But, that said, Keith Telly Topping has a good mate who is a big Forest fan and there's still a bit of residual respect hung-over from The Cloughie Years. This blogger is, usually, okay with Birmingham ... except that they've now got Hapless Harry Redknapp as their manager. Plus, Jasper Carrott's a big fan so, you know, demotion to the National League would be too good for 'em under any normal circumstances. Blackburn Vindaloos, frankly, deserve everything they get for the outrageously poor way the club has been run by its absentee owners during the last few years. But, Matt Smith's a big fan and one would never want poor old Smudger to suffer. In the end, though, it was a bad day for Smudger.
Finally, one has to wonder if that was the real Championship trophy or whether they had two - both, presumably, replicas - one at St James and one at Villa Park in case of either eventuality?
The Football League has written to Huddersfield to 'request their observations regarding team selection' for last Saturday's two-nil defeat by Birmingham City. The Terriers made ten changes for the trip to St Andrew's having sealed a Championship play-off place, but the EFL said that the result would stand. Blackburn Vindaloos manager Tony Mowbray later questioned Huddersfield's line-up. Blackburn, who currently occupy the final relegation place, are two points behind Harry Redknapp's Blues - that's Birmingham, incidentally, not a Muddy Waters b-side - with one game to play. The EFL said in a statement: 'We have today written to Huddersfield Town to request their observations in relation to team selection during their recent Championship match with Birmingham City and, as per our regulations, the EFL executive will refer the matter to the board if it is deemed appropriate to do so. It should be noted, however, that the result of Saturday's game will stand in all circumstances and any potential action would be taken against Huddersfield Town directly.' Blackpool and Wolverhampton Wanderings were both fined for fielding much-changed teams in League matches in 2010 and 2009 respectively.
The Football Association will trial 'sin bins' in the lower leagues of English football from next season. The FA plans to introduce what it calls 'temporary dismissals' in England's step seven - six tiers below the National League - and the leagues below it. They will only apply to yellow cards shown for dissent and will see players leave the field for ten minutes to sit on The Naughty Step. It will also be tested in Sunday League and male and female youth football. More than one thousand clubs received e-mails over the weekend asking if they were willing to be part of the pilot process. What will happen to those who say no is not, at this stage, known. However, as an incentive, clubs are normally charged a ten quid fine for each yellow card they receive but the FA will not be charging this administration fee for those that participate. Step seven is the bottom level of English football's National League System, which feeds into the country's professional leagues.
Blunderland manager - for the moment, anyway - David Moyes has been given more time to respond to a Football Association charge for telling BBC reporter Vicki Sparks she might 'get a slap.' Moyes was extremely charged with bringing the game into disrepute with his comments after the game against Burnley in March. He was initially given until 6pm on 3 May to respond but the fifty four-year-old requested more time. To get his story straight, presumably. The Scot now has until 10 May to respond or to cough up to his guilt and take the punishment due like a man. Moyes' comments came after an interview in which he was asked by Vicki whether the presence of Blunderland's absentee owner, Ellis Short, in the ground had put extra pressure on Moyes. He said 'no' but, after the interview, added that Vicki 'might get a slap even though you're a woman' and that she should be 'careful' next time she visited The Stadium Of Plight. What a total hero he is, threatening a woman just for doing her job. Class act, Mister Moyes. The Mackems were battling against relegation at the time but their drop into the Championship was confirmed after a home defeat by Bournemouth on Saturday.
Meanwhile, both Blunderland and Bournemouth have both been extremely charged with failing to control their players in last Saturday's Premier League match at The Stadium Of Plight. The Football Association charge relates to an incident in the seventy sixth minute of Bournemouth's one-nil win, which saw Blunderland very relegated. The clubs 'failed to ensure that their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion,' the FA said. They have until 6pm on 5 May to respond to the charge. Players from both sides were involved in 'an altercation' when Blunderland's Fabio Borini challenged Bournemouth defender Lewis Cook from behind. There followed a geet rive on with kids gettin' sparked and aal sorts. Borini and Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter were shown yellow cards, the latter for his reaction to the foul.
Matias Dituro is the goalkeeper of Bolivian club Bolivar. His duty is to protect the goal, try and get clean sheets and lead his team at the back. But he can also score goals. The Argentine goalkeeper scored for his club in a win over San Jose last week by punting the ball from his own box into the open goal at the other end of the field. Take a look here.
Mind you, if you think that's good, check out Oscarine Masuluke, the goalkeeper for Baroka FC in South Africa's top-flight, scoring a quite stunning overhead kick in the ninety sixth minute of their game against Orlando Pirates. Tasty! The goalkeeper was sent forward for a late corner to try and savage something from the match, which Baroka were losing one-nil at the time. With the set piece only half cleared, Masuluke was first to the loose ball and, with his back to goal, launched himself into the air to score spectacularly.
Sky Sports really should have had a bit of a rethink concerning the abbreviations that they used for Saturday's game between Hartlepool United and Doncaster Rovers which, despite a battling two-one win, still saw the Monkey Hangers relegated from the Football League after ninety six years in residence. (This blogger is indebted to Chris Orton for both the observation and the screengrab.)
Everton winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare earlier in the week. The thirty-year-old was taken to hospital 'for assessment' after police were called to Salford on Sunday. Lennon is now 'receiving care and treatment for a stress-related illness,' his club has said. The England international, who joined Everton from Stottingtot Hotshots in 2015, has not played for the first team since February. Greater Manchester Police said: 'Police were called at around 4.35pm to reports of a concern for the welfare of a man on Eccles Old Road. Officers attended and a thirty-year-old man was detained under section one hundred and thirty six of the Mental Health Act and was taken to hospital for assessment.'

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Money Is The Root Of All Malarkey

As we all know, dear blog reader, there is no such thing as a 'good' week for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies. Every time a silver lining appears on the horizon a sodding great cloud usually comes along to obscure it. The people running that club really are remarkable in their ability to screw up almost everything they touch and give their long-suffering supporters reason to shake their heads in sad bewilderment and mutter the same thing that The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy suggests a bowl petunias falling to Earth does: 'Oh no, not again!' Just two days after their confirmed promotion back to the Premier League, St James' Park along with West Hamster United's London Stadium were raided by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs officers following an investigation into the clubs' transfer activity. Rafael Benitez, celebrating promotion on Monday, told reporters it was good to work at a club where there's no backroom politics, a not-so-subtle reference to his tumultuous time at Real Madrid. With Newcastle having documents seized and further questions looming for its senior officials, he may have spoken too soon. HMRC officers also reportedly visited offices belonging to Moscow Chelski FC 'in connection with its wider investigation,' a club spokesman confirmed. But, media reports suggested that the club's premises were 'not raided' and no arrests were made. According to local media reports, French officials arrested four football agents, with Marseille's transfer dealings understood to be under investigation. Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley was reportedly arrested following the raids on Wednesday morning though he was released later that day without charge. HMRC said that they had arrested 'several men working within professional football industry for suspected of income tax and national insurance fraud. One hundred and eighty HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France today. Investigators have searched a number of premises in the North East and South East of England and arrested the men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones. The French authorities are assisting the UK investigation, have made arrests and several locations have been searched in France. This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences.' West Hamster's London Stadium was raided at around 8am on Wednesday morning. Officials 'co-operated' when asked to hand over documents relating to the investigation (such an odd phrase, that. I mean what the Hell else are they going to do but co-operate when The Law arrives and demands they hand over their records?) The Daily Torygraph claimed that the investigation 'extends to other clubs in England.' Charnley was appointed in 2014 to help The Magpies' owner, Mike Ashley, with recruitment. He played a key role in the appointment of Rafa The Gaffer Benitez as manager last year and in persuading him to stay during the summer. He has been Ashley's closest aide in his time at the club, quickly rising up the ranks and is said to prefer being 'in the background,' according to an alleged 'source' allegedly close to the club. Meanwhile, Sky Sports' Bryan Swanson tweeted: 'We're told today's HMRC raids focus on player transfers between UK and France; image rights, benefits and agent payments.' The Evening Chronicle reported that HMRC officials had also been seen entering a house in the Gosforth area of Newcastle on Wednesday. Sky later claimed that the address was Charnley's. The Daily Mirra's report on the events of the day included the following gem: 'Toon owner Mike Ashley only found out from the TV news, according to the club's chief scout Graham Carr, dad of comedian Jimmy.' Graham Carr, of course, is not Jimmy Carr's father, he's Alan Carr's father. It's odd, isn't it? The Daily Mirra used to be a newspaper that got most things right. Till they stopped hacking people's phones, obviously. They quote Carr as saying: 'Mike wouldn't know what was going on in the office. He'd probably know the gross figures and all that, and how much is paid to agents. But he would probably leave Lee Charnley to run the club which he's done very well. It's a sad day for Newcastle, a real bolt out of the blue. It's a bit of a shocker.' Carr, admitted that he expected to be questioned himself 'but insisted he had nothing to hide,' according to the Mirra. French news outlets reported on Thursday morning that former Magpie Sylvain Marveaux was one of those detained in France. The midfielder joined Newcastle on a free transfer from Rennes during July 2011, leaving for fellow French side Guingamp on a loan deal exactly three years later after he'd fallen out of favour with then manager, Alan Pardew. Returning to Tyneside in the summer of 2015, Marveaux saw out the final season of his deal at Gallowgate before becoming a free agent and moving permanently to French side FC Lorient. The Sun claimed that the 2011 signing of Demba Ba by Newcastle from West Ham led to the establishment of an HMRC investigation in 2016 which, ultimately, prompted Wednesday's activities. They also go on to highlight an alleged 'dispute' which involved the signing of Henri Saivet by Newcastle in 2016 - with the player changing agents before he swapped Bordeaux for Tyneside. Saivet's former agent alleges that his client made that change 'following contact with Graham Carr and that Lee Charnley was also contacted over the situation,' according to the Sun. It would be really ironic of all this bother is over the transfers of a pair of useless glakes like Marveaux and Saivet, neither of whom contributed very much during their stays at Gallowgate. Inevitably, this news has led to speculation over a possible points deduction and/or transfer embargo affecting United if any financial impropriety is proven. That, of course, cannot be ruled out, although given the hugely complex nature of what is being investigated and the time for any potential case to come to court - if, indeed, it ever does - it would seem unlikely that anything could affect Newcastle's return to the top flight in the short term, particular as, at the time of writing, no one connected with Newcastle has actually been charged with any wrongdoing, much less tried and convicted or acquitted. What happens in the long term, though, is another matter entirely - and while this remains a tax issue, it's plausible that an ultimately negative outcome could trigger some form of action from the football authorities. In January, a Parliamentary Committee revealed that forty three players, twelve clubs and eight agents were the subject of 'open inquiries' by HMRC. And finally, from the 'you really couldn't make this stuff up' department, the Nufc.com website suggests that on the very day that St James' Park was raided by HMRC, 'a public seminar by The Chartered Institute of Taxation was hosted there!'
Meanwhile, of course, there's still some actual football to be played; Newcastle finished their season on the road with a record fourteenth away victory - beating the thirteen achieved by Kevin Keegan's team in the 1992-93 promotion season - to put the pressure on Brighton & Hove Albinos for the Championship title and end a mostly horrible week around the club on a lighter note. Fabulous strikes from Christian Atsu and Isaac Hayden in the second-half secured the points for Rafa The Gaffer's side as they moved a point behind Brighton who play at teatime on Saturday. After a fairly lethargic first-half, Atsu chipped in a nonchalant free-kick from the edge of the box to break the deadlock and ten minutes later Hayden rifled in a twenty five-yard effort to make the points safe. The promotion party atmosphere was taken down to South Wales as over four thousand boisterous and celebratory away followers continued the celebrations in fine fashion and the team and manager took the plaudits at the end. There could have been more goals for both sides as Cardiff wasted some good chances and United were denied two clear penalties, while Jazz Richards was lucky to stay on the pitch after a horribly reckless challenge on Atsu.
Blunderland manager David Moyes has been very charged by the Football Association after telling the BBC reporter Vicki Sparks she might 'get a slap.' Moyes (seen below shortly after a hamster had run up his trouser leg, seemingly) was caught-on-camera making the vile, bullying remarks after his team's draw against Burnley in the Premier League in March. The fifty four-year-old has expressed 'deep regret' for his comments. It came after an interview in which he was asked by Vicki - whom, as this blogger has previously noted, is a former colleague of Keith Telly Topping - if the presence of Sunderland's owner Ellis Short at the game had put extra pressure on him. He said 'no' but, after the interview, added that Vicki 'might get a slap even though you're a woman' and that she should be 'careful' next time she visited The Stadium of Plight. An FA statement said it is alleged his remarks were 'improper and/or threatening and/or brought the game into disrepute,' contrary to Rule E3(1). The Scot has until Wednesday 3 May to reply to the charge or cough up his guilt and accept his, frankly, overdue punishment. This occurred on the very day that The Mackem Filth extremely lost their latest Premier League game to another relegation-threatened side, The Middeslbrough Smog Monsters, to leave the Wearsiders on the brink of the drop.
Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been extremely banned from football for eighteen months after admitting a Football Association charge in relation to betting. The thirty four-year-old has been fined thirty grand and 'warned about his future conduct' after being charged with breaking FA rules for placing twelve hundred and sixty bets on matches between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016. Barton claimed that he is 'addicted' to gambling. He plans to appeal against the length of the suspension, calling it 'excessive. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem - I'm disappointed it wasn't taken into proper consideration,' he said. The midfielder bet on some matches in which he played but he stressed in a statement on his website that 'this is not match fixing' and that at 'no point in any of this is my integrity in question.' He added: 'I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement.' Barton also called on the FA to do more to tackle the culture of gambling in football. He added: 'If the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.' Players in England's top eight tiers are banned from betting on all football matches. Barton rejoined Burnley in January, having left Scottish Premiership side Glasgow Rangers in November. In the same month, he was given a one-match ban for breaking Scottish Football Association rules on gambling. Barton admitted the Scottish FA charge of placing forty four bets between 1 July and 15 September 2016, whilst he was a player at Ibrox. Barton said that since 2004, on an account with Betfair, he placed 'over fifteen thousand bets across a whole range of sports' - of which over twelve hundred were on football - staking an average of one hundred and fifty notes per bet. Between 2004 and 2011 Barton said that he also placed several bets on his own team to lose matches but added that he was not involved in the match-day squad in any of those instances. 'I had no more ability to influence the outcome than had I been betting on darts, snooker, or a cricket match in the West Indies,' said Barton. 'On some of those occasions, my placing of the bet on my own team to lose was an expression of my anger and frustration at not being picked or being unable to play. I have never placed a bet against my own team when in a position to influence the game and I am pleased that in all of the interviews with the FA and at the hearing, my integrity on that point has never been in question.' Barton's bets on matches he started include a three pound stake on himself to be first goalscorer for Sheik Yer Man City against Fulham in a Premier League game in April 2006. City team-mate Richard Dunne scored the first goal in a two-one defeat. It is understood that the FA was only made aware of the bets by the betting company prior to his second charge in December 2016, which led to its investigation. The high number of bets has resulted in a detailed and complex investigation and the timing of the charge was not related to Barton rejoining Burnley.
And now, dear blog reader, here's this ...
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies' Championship title challenge will go down to the last day of the season after Bristol City shocked Brighton & Hove Albinos with a one-nil victory at The Amex Stadium on Saturday evening. All of which means that if United can beat Barnsley at St James' Park on Sunday, The Seagulls will need to win at Villa Park to stop Th' Toon from, unexpectedly, nicking the title. Josh Brownhill's forty third minute header was enough to win the game for The Robins and secure their Championship status for next season but Chris Hughton's side rarely looked like breaking down the visitors. The play-off issues in the Championship were all more-or-less settled on Saturday too. Huddersfield had already secured their position in mid-week and they will be joined in the play-offs by Reading (whose one-nil victory over Wigan Not-Very-Athletic condemned The Lactis to a swift return to the third tier next season) and Sheffield Wednesday (who won at Ipswich). Fulham, who drew one-one at home to Brentford, will almost certainly join them after Dirty Leeds' play-off aspirations all but disappeared despite coming from three goals down to draw with Norwich at Elland Road. Fulham need just a point from their final game of the season - against Sheffield Wednesday - to guarantee sixth place. Even if they lose, Garry Monk's Dirty Leeds will still finish outside the play-offs in seventh place, barring a fourteen-goal swing in the final round of fixtures. At the bottom, three teams - Blackburn Vindaloos, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham - are all struggling to avoid joining already relegated Wigan and Rotherham in League One next year. Blackburn, who have not competed in the third tier since 1980, occupy twenty second spot but kept their survival hopes intact by defeating Aston Villains courtesy of Danny Graham's goal. The result moved The Vindaloos level on forty eight points with Forest, who were beaten at Queens Park Strangers with Conor Washington and Joel Lynch's goals ending a run of six successive defeats for The Strangers and guaranteeing their own safety. Birmingham claimed their first win under new boss, Happy Harry Redknapp and moved two points clear of the drop after seeing off Huddersfield. Despite playing most of the match with ten men after Che Adams' dismissal midway through the first half, Jonathan Grounds' header four minutes before the interval and Craig Gardner's seventy sixth-minute penalty gave The Blues a vital three points. The first Premier League relegation of the season was also confirmed on Saturday although, to be honest, Blunderland's demotion has been pretty certain for most of the season. Bournemouth's one-nil victory at The Stadium of Plight merely confirmed the inevitable for Hapless David Moyes and his sorry band of hasbeens and neverweres. Hull City's point at Southampton meant that The Mackems were mathematically relegated. In League One, Sheffield United were promoted on 8 April as they won at Northampton and The Blades clinched the title a week later when second-placed Notlob Wanderings lost to Oldham. The second promotion place was taken by Notlob Wanderings who defeated Peterborough three-nil on Sunday. Fleetwood could only draw with Port Vale and will now have to contest the play-offs along with Scunthorpe, Bradford City and Millwall who beat Bristol Rovers in a seven-goal thriller at The Memorial Stadium thanks to a late goal by Shaun Hutchinson. Southend and Rochdale missed out on the play-offs, the former despite beating Lee Clark's Bury. Coventry City were relegated to the fourth tier for the first time in fifty eight years after drawing with Charlton Not-Very-Athletic on 14 April, whilst Chesterfield's relegation was confirmed on 17 April after they lost to Scunthorpe. Swindon Town were relegated on 22 April with a home defeat also by Scunthorpe. The final relegation place went to Port Vale with Gillingham's point at Northampton taking them above The Vale. Bury and Shrewsbury - despite last day defeats - also survived. League Two Leaders Doncaster Rovers clinched promotion to League One on 8 April as they beat Mansfield. Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth both secured promotion on 17 April as Argyle beat Newport County six-one while Pompey won three-one at Notts County. The next four teams will contest the play-offs. Luton and Exeter are assured of being two of those, but another seven teams are all in contention for the final positions in the final round of games. The bottom two teams will be relegated to the National League. Bottom club Leyton Orient were relegated on 22 April after losing to Crewe. They will be joined by Hartlepool unless they win at home to Doncaster and Newport lose at home to Notts County. Leyton Orient's match with Colchester United was held up for nearly two hours after angry fans occupied the pitch. Colchester eventually won the match three-one after home fans - protesting against Orient owner Francesco Becchetti - got onto the pitch in the eighty fifth minute. Following the lengthy delay, the players returned and played the final eight minutes behind closed doors. A Football League statement said that the game was concluded 'to maintain the integrity of the competition.' It read: 'The decision to play the match to a conclusion was agreed with both managers and with the support of the match officials. The police and stadium security staff were happy for the match to restart and this took place at approximately 6.40pm. Despite requests for the fans to clear the pitch, there wasn't sufficient movement to allow the game to restart following a pitch invasion. A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned, as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct. However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition and in respect of Colchester United's position of being able to qualify for the League Two play-offs.' Before kick-off, troubled club Orient released a statement saying that they had cleared their debts to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. However, BBC London claims that some freelance contractors at the club are yet to be paid. The win moved Colchester up to tenth place, one point adrift of the play-off places with one match remaining. Lincoln City were promoted to League Two as National League champions on 22 April after beating Macclesfield. In the play-off semi-finals, Tranmere will face Aldershot, with Forest Green taking on Dagenham & Redbridge. The bottom four teams are relegated. Southport went down on 14 April after losing at Dover, whilst North Ferriby United were relegated on 17 April after a three-one defeat at Barrow. They were joined on the final day of the season by Braintree Town, who lost at Aldershot and York City who could only draw two-two with Forest Green as rivals Guiseley scored a last-minute equaliser against Solihull Moors to send The Minstermen down to the National League North. City now have only the consolation of an FA Trophy final against Macclesfield to look forward to in three weeks.

Monday, 24 April 2017

We All Follow United: A Tiding Of Magpies

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self shall say this but only once - and rather quietly - dear blog reader. Because karma is, as we all know, a right bloody bitch. And because gloating is so common and unbecoming. Most of the time.

When this blogger's favourite football team first gained entry into the equivalent of what is, now, the English Football League Championship (it was called the Second Division in them far-off days), they looked like this. And William Ewart Gladstone was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and her empire.
When this blogger's favourite football team first won promotion to the top division of English football - four years later - they looked like this. And, at the Battle of Omdurman, British and Egyptian troops led by Horatio Kitchener (he needed you) defeated Sudanese tribesmen led by Khalifa Abdullah al-Taashi. Who didn't like it up 'em, apparently.
Staying in the First Division for the next thirty five years (they actually won the damn thing four times, the last one in 1927) and, then, having got themselves relegated for the first time, they spent fifteen years back down among the dead men of the second tier. (Admittedly, this included all of World War II during which time football wasn't, exactly, the first thing on most people's minds.) The next occasion that this blogger's favourite football team won promotion, they looked like this. And, the actor and comedian Ronnie Barker, aged nineteen, had just made his stage debut in the play Quality Street at the County Theatre in Aylesbury.
Thirteen years of, very successful, top flight football followed (during which time, United won the FA Cup three times in five years) before another disastrous relegation occurred in 1961. Thus, the next time this blogger's favourite football team won promotion, they looked like this. And, the popular Merseyside beat combo The Be-Atles (you might've heard of them) made their second movie, Help! ... whilst stoned out of their collective gourd for the majority of the time on 'herbal jazz cigarettes.'
Another thirteen year itch followed - during which time, The Magpies won their last major trophy - the Inter City Fairs Cup, in 1969 - before another, largely self-inflicted and thoroughly depressing relegation campaign. The next time this blogger's favourite football team won promotion, they looked like this. And, the comedian Tommy Cooper collapsed and died on stage from a heart attack during a live televised show, Live from Her Majesty's.
It didn't last long, however, and five years later they were back in the Second Division (and, in serious financial trouble due in no small part to signing far too many ridiculously overpaid, lazy waste-of-space gutless cowards). But, a quasi-revolution was about to be sparked thanks to the acquisition of a talismanic leader. The next time this blogger's favourite football team won promotion, they looked like this. And, three members of the popular beat combo One Direction were in the process of being born.
An exciting decade followed with five top four finishes in the Premier League (including twice as runner-up), a couple of thrilling European adventures and two appearances in the FA Cup final (albeit, on both occasions the team turned up but then forgot to actually play) before a series of calamities and much crass mismanagement at boardroom level resulted in another relegation. Nevertheless, Th' Toon bounced back at the first attempt, whilst looking like this. And, a general erection resulted in the first well-hung parliament since the 1930s.
Developing, thence. a reputation for being up and down more often than the pants of some of the lasses doon Th' Bigg Market, like, United slithered to another disgracefully incompetent and cowardly relegation in 2016. But, thanks to the hiring of - for the first time in a very long time - a manager who vaguely knew what he was doing and despite more than a handful of hiccups along the way, now, The Black & Whites are back messing with The Big Boys. And they look like this.
How long they will stay there this time is a question probably well worth asking, dear blog reader. But, not today. Now is the time to have a - small - celebratory glass of a tasty beverage of your choice and go to bed in the knowledge that, next season it'll be visits to Old Trafford, The Emirates, Anfield, Stamford Bridge and The City Of Manchester Stadium (and, a bunch of five-nil spankings, like as not) rather than Griffin Park, Brentford, the Pirelli Stadium, Burton or the DW Stadium, Wigan. It's a necessary difference this blogger feels.

So, as you've probably gathered dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United secured an immediate return to the Premier League with an - eventually - convincing four-one home victory over Preston Both Ends on Monday evening. Christian Atsu put the Magpies two-one up shortly before half-time after Jordan Hugill had cancelled out Ayoze Perez's early opener. On a tense evening at St James' Park, the players' nerves (and, those of their long-suffering supporters) were settled when Preston's Paul Gallagher was sent off for handling an Isaac Hayden shot on the line and Matt Ritchie scored the resulting penalty. The establishment of a two goal cushion brought about an almighty roar of relief from the Geordie faithful and a fourth Magpies goal quickly arrived as Jonjo Shelvey's in-swinging corner rebounded off the far post and was deflected into the Gallowgate End goal via the shoulder of Perez to send Newcastle up along with Brighton & Hove Albinos. Satisfaction rather than euphoria was the order of the day after the final whistle and while the players were applauded as they saluted the fans, the biggest cheers were reserved for Rafa Benitez as he took to the field to acknowledge the backing he had received not only tonight but all season. The vague possibility of snatching the Championship title from Brighton still remains - a record-breaking fourteenth away victory at Cardiff on Friday evening would leave United just one point behind The Seagulls. Benitez's side had taken only one point from their previous three matches - and played like a bunch of gutless glakes whose collective arse had dropped out in two of those games, frankly - but their late-season wobble was not punished by their closest rivals. Defeats for Reading and Huddersfield on Saturday left Newcastle needing just one more win to guarantee a top-two finish. Nevertheless, nerves were evident among the players and the crowd, which was - as usual - in excess of fifty thousand, until Ritchie converted his spot-kick to stretch Newcastle's advantage against ten-man Preston with twenty five minutes to play. The hosts took advantage of poor Preston defending for all four goals, with Perez netting twice from corners and Atsu finishing a terrific lightning three-man counter-attack in first-half stoppage time after North End had lost possession in midfield. As the final whistle blew, the Tyneside air felt Arctic but Benítez bore the look of a man feeling the warmth of the sun on his back for the first time following a long, hard winter.
Benitez had made a huge impression on Newcastle supporters in his two-month stint at St James' Park at the end of last season, despite being unable to save The Magpies from dropping out of the Premier League. He was widely expected to leave a club destined for the Championship in the summer - he was, after all, a former Champions League winner with Liverpool and had been in charge of Real Madrid only two months before replacing the hapless Steve McClaren. However, instead of activating the clause allowing him to leave Newcastle in the event of relegation, the Spaniard chose to sign a new three-year contract. 'The love I could feel from the fans was a big influence for me,' he said in May 2016, upon signing the deal. 'This is a huge club and I wanted to be part of the great future I can see for Newcastle United. The main thing for me is that I have assurances that we will have a strong team - a winning team.' Benitez was backed extensively in the transfer market last summer and more than fifty million smackers was spent as one of the most expensive squads in Championship history was assembled. Among the in-comings were striker Dwight Gayle and winger Ritchie, who cost a combined twenty two million notes from Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively and they have repaid their sizeable transfer fees with thirty four league goals between them. Newcastle recouped all of that outlay - and more besides - with the sales of disgracefully underperforming cowards such as Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend to Premier League clubs. Indeed, it was something of a running joke on transfer deadline day that Newcastle were the only club in the summer to spend over fifty million quid and still end up making a more than thirty million knicker profit! As for those who stayed following relegation, they have also played their part in Newcastle's success. Jonjo Shelvey, an England international as recently as November 2015, has featured in every league match he has been available for this season and has been the team's main creative forces in midfield. He may not have got here in time to avoid relegation, but Rafa The Gaffer managed to restore competence, commitment and belief in both the dressing room and in the stands - a truly monumental achievement given the years of chaos and mismanagement that had preceded his arrival. Now, of course, the question remains whether he will be backed in the summer with the funds he clearly wants to build a side that can compete in the Premier League. Whether, in fact, owner Mike Ashley shares his ambition. Time will tell, it usually does. As always with this club, uncertainty surrounds the future after Benitez resisted the opportunity on live TV to guarantee his own future with the club. 'You never know, that's football,' he said. 'I'm very happy and very proud for everything we have achieved. Hopefully we have the foundations that can guarantee the future. We need to enjoy this day and afterwards we will see.' The message was clear for all to hear: Benitez will not commit himself to the long-term at Newcastle unless he is given substantial backing from Ashley to create a squad capable of doing more than just surviving in the Premier League. Ashley was not at last night's game when Benitez provided the answer to those who questioned whether he would be able to handle the difficult demands of the Championship. 'It feels really good,' he said. 'I'm really proud of everyone because we knew it would be difficult at the beginning, when everyone was saying, "Rafa has no experience of the Championship and it will be tough." They were right, it was very difficult, but the commitment and hard work of the players every day, and the staff and everyone involved, and then the support of the fans, has made a massive difference. '
Playing to bumper home crowds of fifty two thousand punters can make or break a player, particularly when the club they play for are such hot favourites for promotion. Whilst Aston Villains, also relegated last season, failed to acclimatise to life in the Championship, with their league position dipping at one stage as low as twentieth, The Magpies have not been outside the top four since September 2016. 'It's not easy to drop into the Championship,' former Newcastle winger Chris Waddle (a vital part of the 1983-84 promotion side) told 5Live. "'ewcastle are a big scalp, with the fan base they've got, home and away, so every game has been difficult for them. As we saw, Aston Villa found it difficult and they've got a big support as well. But Newcastle, for all they've had a bit of a wobble, they've been up there all season.' Newcastle secured promotion this term with two games to spare, but they will not match the achievements of the last Magpies side to go up from the second tier in 2009-10. They had been relegated in 2009 with the club's record goalscorer Alan Shearer in caretaker charge - and began 2009-10 in apparent chaos with Chris Hughton as caretaker manager. After a positive start to the season, the popular Hughton was given his first permanent managerial role in October and he led Newcastle to the title with one hundred and two points from their forty six games - twenty three points more than third-placed Nottingham Forest. There was little investment in new players but the majority of the squad from the previous season remained. Captain Kevin Nolan led by example, scoring seventeen league goals from midfield, a tally matched by emerging striker Andy Carroll. Although promotion to the top flight has once again been achieved at the first opportunity, the Championship title is likely to elude Newcastle this time around. Leaders Brighton - ironically, now managed by Hughton - will be crowned champions if they win either of their final two league matches.
Former Newcastle coach Steve Stone believes the current squad needs strengthening again during the summer. 'They still need an awful lot of new players before next season,' he told BBC Radio 5Live. 'Fans realise they're not going to win the Premier League next season and they will struggle to get into the top ten. They need to get a foothold in the Premier League first, otherwise they will become a yo-yo club. It's been a long time since Newcastle were battling at the top of the Premier League. They finished fifth under Alan Pardew the season I was there [2011-12], but they haven't been up there on a consistent basis since Bobby Robson left [in 2004]. Now is the time to buy and build, and make sure club doesn't have to play in this division ever again.' Stone added: 'The fans absolutely adore Rafa Benitez and they have from the start. They chanted his name throughout the game. But he knows now that he needs money and it will be interesting to see if they give him the money he deserves. Everywhere Rafa goes, he gets a massive reception. Newcastle were lucky to get him - they needed him more than he needed Newcastle. Since getting here he has realised what it's all about and he's bought into it.' Meanwhile, club legend Alan Shearer added that Benitez is 'a huge figure at the club. He loves the place and the passion of fans - and it's hugely important Newcastle keep hold of him. I'm sure he will demand the team has to be improved and will demand a few quid to do that. You can't stand still. You can't be loyal and give all the players that have got the team promoted a chance. You've got to go out and buy new players. People realise the team needs improving to get to where they want to be and that's got to be the top half of the Premier League. Now it's about where Newcastle want to be - do they want to get up to the Premier League and be in the bottom three or four fighting against relegation, or do they want to have a go at it? I'm pretty sure I know what Rafa will want to do.'
Several United promotion-winners from previous decades were in attendance, with Frank Clark (1964-65) a guest of his former team-mate and now club director Bobby Moncur. John Anderson (1983-84) was on his regular radio duty for BBC Newcastle. Peter Beardsley (1983-84) was also there, as was Robert Lee (1992-93) fulfilling a punditry role for Sky Sports and Steve Harper (2009-10) was spotted in the stand. Messages of congratulation from ex-Magpies flowed in on social media after full time, with the likes of Alan Shearer, Jonas Gutierrez, Warren Barton, Shay Given, Danny Simpson, David Edgar, Jermaine Jenas, Peter Lovenkrands, Mick Quinn, Steve Howey, Joey Barton and Mehdi Abeid all contributing. Even Andros Townsend managed to squeeze out a tweet of support. It may have been past Moussa Sissoko's bedtime, though, as he was curiously silent on the matter. Which is jolly surprising as he always had plenty to say for himself when he was up here.