The Groundsman’s Shed

Grounds’ Clippings: The Guvnor at Blackburn by groundsman
June 22, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Blackburn, Cristiano Ronaldo, football, Footballers, MK Dons, Paul Ince, Real Madrid

It’s Sunday.  I’m at work.  Italy and Spain are strolling around a pitch in Vienna looking as if this were a friendly rather than a quarter final match in the European Championships.  If they’re not going to be bothered today, I may not as well.  To be honest, I’m still a bit gutted about the Dutch loss to Russia last night- but at least it was a quality match. 

In the meantime, it’s a bit of a slow news weekend all around, but some folks have managed to pick out some quality goodness:

The Guvnor’s Coming To Ewood Park (The Guardian): Paul Ince has become the first black manager in the Premier League after being appointed manager of the Blackburn Rovers.  That’s right, he beat out Big Sam Allardyce for the jobby job, and here’s hoping the former England captain and MK Dons manager will make it through his three year contract.

Just let him bloody go!  If Cristiano Ronaldo wants to go to Real Madrid, then let him- if only so that writers can stop wasting column inches online and in the sports pages on this guy.  Yeah, he’s a really good player, yeah, he’s probably not a very nice chap- we know, we know.  I found this fantastic letter to Cristiano from a ManU fan, and well- it says it all. (Manchester Red)

How many sports blogs are written by women?  Let me rephrase this: How many sports blogs are obviously  written by women? Do you care? As a woman footie blogger, and a fan of bloggery in general, I was stoked when Anna of This Is Extra Time sent over this link to an interview with Andrea from Ladiesdotdotdot about blogging whilst female.


Is Real Madrid really that amazing?? by groundsman

Real Madrid have 31 league titles to their name after today, despite some shaky performances.  We don’t really keep up with the Spanish leagues over here in The Shed, but after watching Barca in the Champions League (“pretty pass, pretty pass, pretty pass, d’oh!”), and seeing Villareal play, it does seem as though there isn’t a lot of meat to the top league in Spain.  Those of you who watch that league week in and week out– is Real Madrid really that much better than the rest? 

Grounds Clippings:

David Beckham scored twice in the Galaxy’s 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake on Sunday.  The match report says Beckham’s goals were the only shots on goal in first half for Los Angeles.  Wow.  That team is really, really terrible.  I mean really terrible.  Good Lord.

-Movin’ on Up! West Brom and Stoke are going up to the Premier League!  I had a whole article written about what Stoke would bring to the Premiership, but I haven’t gotten around to editing it.  Fulham is a step closer to staying in the Premiership, while today’s opponents Birmingham City could go down right back down to the Championship if Reading and Fulham both win their matches.

-Will Hersey over at The Observer is shaking his fist in the general direction of these Top Ten Worst Football Managers.  Agree? Disagree? 

You can win a date with Patick Vieira.  Seriously.  If you’re not into a former Arsenal man, you can always have some referee (Anders Frisk).

[AP/Bernat Armangue]

Arsenal: “How Did We Get Here?” by groundsman

Say what you will about the intriguing romance of the FA Cup, but I believe the amazing story of this English football season has been Arsenal’s magnificent fall from the manicured lawns of greatness to the vast ghetto that is mediocrity. 

As the season draws to a close, I think it’s time to see how we (I am an Arsenal supporter, so in this case, it’s not the “royal we”) got to this point.  I hope to prove to some of you in the Gooner Nation that now is not the time to turn on Arsene Wenger, even as he continues to bleat on about not conceding the title, because it may have been lost long ago. 

Let’s look back on the stories concerning the Arsenal squad throughout the season:

July 27, 2007: The Guardian predicted Arsenal would end the season in 4th place in their “Premiership Preview” section.   The Gunners were also put at 12-1 odds for the title.  The journos reason for the less than stellar finish?  A lack of depth and experience in the team, and not enough spending during the summer

December 18, 2007: The BBC dubbed the squad a group of “classy youngsters”, glowing words evoking a notion of a golden generation of incredible ballers poised to set the Premiership alight.  Headlines from various news sources posed questions like, “Can Anyone Beat Arsenal”?  It seemed few could- with Adebayour firing like mad, and Fabregas showing lovely and creative technical play, even whingeing from fading goalkeeper Jens Lehmann couldn’t silence the Gunners on the battlefield.

January 22, 2008: The day Tottenham beat Arsenal 5-1 at White Hart Lane.  A somewhat weakened side was competing in this match, and it was woefully bereft of possession throughout.  Gallas and Bendtner had a very public row, and the pair seemed out of sorts for many matches to come.  This was seen as a fluke at the time, merely a bump in the road, and besides- who cares about the Carling Cup?  Since January, the Gunners have struggled with the exact same problems as that “fluke team” who lost to those Lilywhites. 

February 2008: The month when everything seemed to come apart for Arsenal.  On February 11th, the team went 5 points clear at the top of the table.  Just six days later, they were beaten to a pulp at Old Trafford by a Manchester United team that had, up until this point in the season, been mistake riddled and frequently winning only on the back of steady goal scoring by Cristiano Ronaldo.  Only 8 days after that defeat, the team lost Eduardo da Silva to a rough challenge from Martin Taylor.  They drew that match at Birmingham, and went on to tie with such regularity, it was as if it were all planned by Wenger.

April 5, 2008: Arsene Wenger appears to publicly lose it in the technical area during Arsenal’s draw with Liverpool.  This is the second of three straight meetings between the clubs, and the second draw between them- though Liverpool sent out a side of relative unknowns.  The goal for each team was scored by a player who has been relatively quiet as of late; Crouch for Liverpool, Bendtner for Arsenal.  After the match, Wenger said it is “never mathematically over”, though our friends at Acme Calculator Co. would say otherwise.

For the last word, we should perhaps go back to The Guardian who said on July 27th: “The outcome could be anything from a new Wenger contract, a wealthy new owner and a shiny new trophy to a fifth-placed finish and mass departures.”  The team isn’t in danger of slipping to fifth, but it does seem that this was to be seen as a rebuilding year back in July– so why the shock and anger now?  The Premiership title race is over and done for the Arsenal,  and chances are great that they will come out of this season without a trophy.  Wenger took a gamble with a squad of youngsters- but they’ll be older and wiser come August, and hopefully, surrounded by a few new pricey signings as well.  “Arsene knows…” and perhaps, so should the fans.

[Photo: AP/Sang Tan]

In case you were in any doubt as to why England aren’t in Euro2008… by groundsman

…please see a replay of the second half of today’s friendly against France. 

It was supposed to be meaningless, but the saddest thing is that for the first half, before a massively unfortunate error by David James, the England team had a bright, if not desperate start, signifying that to these boys who have an empty summer stretching before them– this means quite a lot.  So eager were the lads to please the coach, the fans, themselves- they were all running out of their shirts.  It was sloppy, nervy play expected of guys who aren’t practising with eachother regularly, but it was a sight better than the mess that followed.

I don’t blame Capello– we all knew there were fundamental problems with the national team’s play.  I just wonder how he’s going to be able to teach these guys how to pass cleanly and quickly, tighten up their play, and react with their heads and not just their bodies.  Owen Hargreaves had a nice match, but then- his aggressive tactics usually make him shine in international play for some reason.   As for the captain situation, the Rappin’ Rhymin’ Cap’n and his immediate predecessor had a very rocky start, with Rio Ferdinand giving some very good opportunities up front for Les Bleus, while John Terry played an unfortunate part in the moments leading up to Anelka colliding with James, and after Franck Ribery‘s goal(and then the yellow card for a tribute to his deceased friend), he was fairly quiet  for the rest of his time on the field, leaving at half time with a sore thigh.  

I’m not entirely sure about David Beckham’s performance.  It wasn’t shambolic by any means, and he didn’t appear to injure himself, so those are two pluses.  As for his ability to still contribute to the team- he was never a fast boy, and his pace has tapered off even more- but while he was on the pitch, the plays did work through him very well- there was just incredibly poor finishing.  Rooney and Gerrard were taken off the pitch at halftime, perhaps fatigued from Sunday’s hard work for their clubs, and also– they were simply useless for the first 45 minutes.  However, the substitution of Owen and Crouch was like a child being promised a pony for her birthday only to recieve a mechanical bull. 

Overall, the team WAS different than they have in past years, they held posession a bit longer than usual and seemed intent upon trying to pass more often, rather than the ol’ “Hoof it up to the man up front” technique, which they lapsed onto whenever they seemed worried.  Which was often.  It was nice to see them trying something “different”, and it’s never good to see them lose.

On the bright side, my home country’s team won 3-0.  USA! USA! USA!  I was watching the above tosh live, purely because I wanted to see what Rio would be like with any sort of responsibility for anything held over his head.   I’ll see the US match a bit later, but I’ll just say this– if England play against Team USA like they did today, I’ll be dumping tea into the river Thames whilst wearing a tri-corner hat and screaming things about how much I love our Founding Fathers after the match. 

Going to London for the match on May 28th?  Let me know! 

[Photo: AP/Michel Euler]

Roundup: The MLS, Eduardo is Alive, and Frank Lampard in a Ninja Costume by groundsman

The Question: How long will Arsenal miss Eduardo? by puppdogsandicecream
February 24, 2008, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Arsenal, double compound fracture, Eduardo da Silva, football, Footballers, Injury, Video

We’ve heard the term “double compound fracture”, but what does it really mean?  

Good Lord.

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Arsene is human, Eduardo may be ruined, but Arsenal still tops the table. by groundsman
February 23, 2008, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Arsenal, football, Footballers, punditry, Video

Arsenal 2-2 Birmingham City  In a post match interview,  Arsene Wenger said Martin Taylor “should not play the game again”.  All of the media headlines then read, “Arsenal Boss wants Leg Breaker Banned for Life”.  That’s not what he said- Wenger said Taylor shouldn’t play again, and if the poor excuse his coach gave is really portraying this guy’s skill level (McLeish: “…[Eduardo da Silva] was too quick for him“) then he really shouldn’t be playing at that level, should he? 

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