United pull an Arsenal, Gerrard case shines light on Liverpool fans and lots more

As we amble through the ‘most amazing transfer season ever’, drunk on the memories of the ‘closest title race ever’ from last season and looking forward to what surely must be ‘the most exciting Premier League season ever’, it’s easy to miss the trees for the forest – or the blinding neon light that is 24/7/365 football.

Looking back at the week gone by (thankfully light on the bitchfest in Manchester), there’s a bit of Middle Eastern madness in the Premier League and at Meadow Lane, most Liverpool fans finding out that they’re idiots (a bit early in the season for this), the MLS show how out of touch they are with football fans and football fans in the MLS show how out of touch they are with reality.

Pre-Season Friendlies Bollocks

Tim Rich, the Guardian’s man attached to Manchester United’ Asia tour, was refreshingly honest about the main objective of ‘friendlies’ – a negotiating tool for securing advertising deals for the club in question. Michael Owen scored two goals with two substitute appearances, but the reaction to that has been reasonably muted – one, it’s pre-season and two, it’s in the Far East. The real test for these teams will come in the opening weeks of the season, and that’s still a good three weeks away.

But then there’s the US tour of Chelsea, where Dominic Fifield (and a host of other analysts) ignore the simple fact that Italian clubs start their seasons (and therefore their pre-season) two weeks after the Premier League and are unlikely to be at the same level of fitness as their English counterparts.

Chelsea beat Inter and out of nowhere Ancelotti’s use of 2 strikers and a diamond midfield formation is being lauded as visionary. Never mind that Scolari’s start to life at Stamford Bridge was similarly heralded, or that football is more than used to the ‘new manager’ effect on players and team performances. And this is without considering the difference in fitness levels.

No point in letting a sense of perspective get in the way of a story, hmmm?

Fahim takes over Portsmouth, bids for Megan Fox

That dude who the press thought was the owner of Manchester City last year has finally completed his takeover of Portsmouth FC. He’s also confirmed Paul Hart as manager (and presumably tasked him to get Pompey back into Europe or die trying) and will now be looking to bring in Megan Fox new blood into the club to sustain some semblance of a challenge for next season.

Whether he will plump up the cash for a new stadium right away remains to be seen. Despite his reputation, the man does seem to be smarter than Mike Ashley or the Liverpool owners – so I wouldn’t expect him to waste money or make promises he can’t keep.

Fahim can’t be credited with Crouchie’s rejection of Sunderland though – apparently Abbey Clancy fancies a move to London and has no interest in returning to north England. You know who’s the dog in that story (and here’s the full dog story if you’re interested).

And the Megan Fox reference? It seems to be the logical choice for Fahim – after all, Pam is getting a bit old now and there is no way in seven hells that Angie will give this guy the time of the day.

Sven tied up in Notts

Notty Sven has landed in Nottingham, speaking about the challenge of taking a football club from League Two to the Premier League in 5 years while trying to bed all the women in the area during that same time. The Premier League is pretty much the Holy Grail for footy clubs outside the top tier in England and despite another rich Middle Eastern owner backing Notts County there’s a bid difference between spending money and winning promotion (just ask QPR).

And there’s no guarantee that more women means better looking women (there’s a reason why thy men have all left…), so Eriksson, if he has such lofty goals, may be a disappointment and get disappointed in the same tenure.

Having said that, his experience and contacts are immensely valuable, so even if he doesn’t know the league, he can help the club on the business side of things and could make the difference between the club getting their first choice players or not.

Drunk Gerrard and sorry Liverpool fans

This summer’s most entertaining court case has given us new and old insights into Liverpool.

One, that Steven Gerrard is a mere mortal and not above getting into a scrap after having a few drinks. I have no problems with footballers getting into the occasional scrap – people are people and there are always misunderstandings. What’s wrong is when you have people going out of their way to get into trouble or if they have a history of offensive behavior (Barton) – and Gerrard is neither, despite his ‘advice’ to Rooney to kick Ronaldo after the 2006 World Cup.

So Gerrard’s still a good guy in my books – misunderstandings happen, mistakes are made and just because you throw a punch at another guy doesn’t make you into a bad example for children.

But we already knew that Gerrard was mortal and not God’s gift to Liverpool. We knew that he wasn’t above a little play-acting, we knew that he’s incredibly gifted but not superhuman, we knew that he’s not the smartest chap on the team and we knew that he was seriously, seriously tempted into moving to Chelsea before Liverpool bribed him with more money, begged him to stay another year and won the Champions League seemingly out of nowhere (he would surely have left if they hadn’t). Loyalty then, has as much to do with chance and circumstances as it does with who you are as a person.

Liverpool fans on the other hand seem to live in another world where Gerrard is god, Carragher is a hero for turning his back on his country, where Torres and Gerrard never dive, where Rafa’s factsheet is bulletproof instead of complete fabricated bullshit and where it’s always Liverpool’s year…wait, where was I? Yes, Gerrard is god.

When news of this incident involving Gerrard first broke, Liverpool fans swarmed the Internet angrily defending Gerrard, claiming that he would ‘never’ throw a punch and that it was a conspiracy theory by people jealous of Liverpool’s success on the pitch.

Which brings us to our second insight gleaned from this court case – that Liverpool football fans are idiots.

But we already knew that – so what’s new about this case? Apparently, Steven Gerrard was not only drunk (by his own admission, on a drunk scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being a drunk homicidal maniac – he was at 7) but he couldn’t land two of the three punches he threw at the other guy. So much for being an ‘expert’ boxer.

Expect the case to go out with Stevie G getting a suspended sentence (he received an honorary fellowship from the University of Liverpool last summer, it would be horrific to think of Liverpool’s pride and joy going to jail for assault) and having to pay a hefty fine. I don’t expect him to get any punishment from the Premier League either.

Having said that, isn’t this usually the type of high-profile case where the FA rush to cover their arses and make an ‘example’ out of a team / footballer to warn others? Luckily there is no condemnation of Gerrard / Liverpool / football in general in the press during this trial, so the FA is unlikely to get bothered. And if Terry can make a complete arse out of himself and be made captain, Gerrard can surely get away with punching a guy for not giving him the remote.

The MLS Boom is so ON!

I’m going to republish the email I got instead of making any comments on this – although if you’re interested you can read my thoughts on it on Twitter.

Fans of Major League Soccer can now customize their Internet browser with their favorite MLS team. Brand Thunder’s browser Booms! (a combination of a browser skin/theme, sidebar and toolbar) have soft launched at http://brandthunder.com/gallery, by Monday, 7/27, they are expected on MLSnet.com. There is no defined date for when each team will make it available and start promoting on their site. The Kansas City Wizards, however, did release the first MLS Boom! a few months ago (http://kcwizards.com/browser).

Technically speaking, fans download a Firefox Add-on that offers the team look & feel, toolbars, sidebars and other content or functionality like photos or videos of the players, team and games – all to their existing browser. Experientially, fans get a browser that captures the energy of their favorite MLS team. The user can also choose between a full graphically-rich view, or a toolbar only view. Plus, if more than one MLS team Boom! is installed, the user can easily switch between the versions by clicking the “B/T” button in the toolbar.

Isn’t this exciting?

While we’re on the subject of US football, congratulations to the Los Angeles Sol for being the first WPS champions.

United pull an Arsenal and piss on City

United took a page out of Arsenal’s playbook as the Glazers’ spokesperson Teshin Nayani spoke to the press recently about how United were playing ‘prudent’ and didn’t feel the need to spend money for the sake of it while other clubs around them threw around cash obscenely.

“Our operating profits are climbing and we continue to secure sponsorship deals. Our stadium is packed out and we have very good media revenues. On a normal business level, United is in a very strong position and, so far, unaffected by the economic downturn. The manager has a significant amount of money to invest if he wants to.

We do have debt service and carry a significant amount of debt but our interest payments are around £43.3m a year while our operating profit was £80m topped by an extra £25m from transfer profits. We are talking about a net amount of about £60m. That cash can be reinvested in the squad. The point is there is money coming in.”

Gill has also spoken about wanting to sign players who want to play for the red shirt and not mercenaries after money and fame – a clear swipe at both Tevez and Manchester City (but not at Ronaldo, who has received nothing but praise from Manchester United since his departure – remarkable considering that this player has left United against their wishes).

The truth about United is that the summer market has seen the top stars of today (who all grew up idolising Madrid – the dominant force in Europe at the time) ache for Spain and haven’t found the right players that would improve United.

I’m sure that, for example, United would have loved to buy Huntelaar as a third striker, but if Benzema is your first choice and he’s not coming in, will you spend 15m on a 24 yr old and sign him up on an expensive 4-5 year contract, or would you spend 0m on a 29 yr old and sign him on a 2 year pay as you play contract?

Your third striker is always going to be a ‘backup’ – and while Benzema would have been a sure starter, Huntelaar wouldn’t be, and paying over the odds when you have a cheaper option isn’t ambition, it’s madness.

If only someone could tell that to City. On second thought, don’t. Let them chase Terry. Speaking of Terry, he’s due to announce his final decision on the Chelsea / City affair soon (based on his comments post-match after Chelsea beat Inter 2-0). I’m expecting a statement today.

EPL’s fit and proper test is a sham

An extract from David Conn’s article on Derby County:

Yet even under the current “fit and proper person” rules, Mackay would have been waved through: people can have run scores of companies into insolvency; they are barred from football directorships only if they have unspent criminal convictions or have been directors in two insolvencies at football clubs.

Premier League football – if you’ve committed fraud and haven’t been caught, come screw us over.

David Beckham, LA Galaxy and US football

Galaxy fans – you are idiots for believing that Beckham would sacrifice his international career to play in a league below his standards, you are idiots for thinking that a man who has committed his long-term future to the US by setting up an academy, moving his family and laying the groundwork for owning an MLS franchise has ‘turned’ his back on the MLS because he wanted to play in the World Cup, you are idiots for applauding the supreme idiots who heckled Beckham to the extent that he had to go talk to them and you are idiots for

US football and the MLS are on the up. Part of it has to do with the exposure Beckham has brought to the sport (within the US) and part of it has to do with how the MLS, Beckham and other ‘players’ invest in the sport’s future in the US. Fans will play a major role in it too, even though there are competing sports in US that won’t allow football to get to the level it is in South Korea or the whole Far East region.

But abusing (and celebrating the abuse) a guy who wants to play for his country AND is still committed to improving football in the US? That’s real classy folks.

More to keep you company over the weekend:

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