Friday, 28 May 2010

The Lottery That England Must Win

By Shane Thomas

Amongst the well-worn cliches that cause my eyes to roll in annoyance is the one regarding the nature of the penalty shoot-out. You know the one, the one that involves the words "penalties" and "lottery". If you haven't heard it before, then pay close attention to the football punditocracy over the next month. You will.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

British Football - A Sporting Rant

By Shane Thomas

Ah, to be a blogger. A lot of it consists of surrounding yourself with information about your respective subject matter (sport, politics, the Lost finale) and then disregarding it all as pure twaddle. Taking the codes and conventions of whatever you have decided to blog about and thinking that you can do better than other people. This often results in rhetoric known as 'the rant'. Well given that football has been a major part of my life for 23 years, here's my rant about problems that I have with the current state of 'the beautiful game'.

Dirty Cheating Foreigners?

Throughout the past season, The Daily Mail newspaper ran a campaign for diving or 'simulation' - to give it its correct term - to be eradicated from the game. There were photos of two players indulging in examples of alleged simulation on The Mail's website to illustrate their point. The players? Arsenal's Eduardo Da Silva and Liverpool's David N'Gog. A Croatian/Brazilian and a Frenchman. Not Wayne Rooney, who was booked for diving in Manchester United's defeat at Old Trafford to Aston Villa. Not Steven Gerrard who... well if I was to list the amount of times that he has gone down when barely being touched I wouldn't be able to rant about anything else here.

As well as showing up The Daily Mail's propensity to paint all things foreign in an antagonistic light, the sad fact is that the press often reflect popular opinion. And far too many people who watch football are happy to believe that the majority of players who come from abroad to play in Britain are glorified mercenaries. Players who would not think twice about breaking the rules of the game to gain an advantage, who are only in England for the riches provided by The Premier League's clubs. People who have no love for the game and no connection to the fans or fabric of their particular club sides.

But it goes even deeper than this. It relates to how some people in this country view the rest of the world, a view exacerbated by Britain's tabloid press. It's a well-worn cliche that Britain is the land of fair play. And if Britain is where fair play resides, then by extension it is conspicuous by its absence elsewhere.

Well enough. Stop it. Stop it now. While it is arguable that other football cultures are more susceptible to certain unsavoury aspects of the sport, to brand any non-British footballer as a dirty, cheating foreigner is outright xenophobia, pure and simple. And Britain is hardly in a state to moralise to other nations. While diving and gamesmanship are undignified, its preferable to some of the overzealous tackles that we see often see in the UK. While the aforementioned Eduardo was pilloried for his dive against Celtic last August, I find that eminently preferable to him having his leg broken by someone who doesn't know how to tackle properly. Have we conveniently forgotten the challenge from Martin Taylor that put Eduardo on the shelf for almost a year? While the Arsenal man has managed to play again, he has never been the same player since. But why worry about him losing the best years of his professional life. He's only a dirty, cheating foreigner.

The Minorities

New Prime Minister David Cameron started his campaign for Number 10 in Leeds, making a speech in which he referred to the 'great ignored'. Now while paraphrasing Mr Cameron made me vomit in my mouth a little bit, there are three cross-sections of society that seem to be ignored in the world of football. Women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities.

Football is the most popular sport globally, and yet, intentionally or otherwise, it seems restricted for particular pockets of society. Britain is a country that prides itself on its tolerance and diversity. Yet there is a marked absence of women, gay people and ethnic minorities. Yes, ethnic minorites - I know black players populate the UK leagues and national sides. But how often do you see people of Asian descent being cheered on from the stands? Sadly Manchester United's South Korean midfielder, Ji-Sung Park is the exception, and not the rule.

But Britain has been subject to immigration for decades now. While I hear the explanation that immigrants from Asian countries have an inherent insularity, and they would rather play football amongst themselves, that argument holds no water. If that was the case then you wouldn't see people who hail from the Eastern side of the globe working in other industries in this country. And yet no eyebrows are raised when an Asian works in an office block or in the retail industry.

Maybe there's still institutionalised prejudice in football? Whatever the reason is, the FA have a responsibility to take football to all parts of the country. How many Asian children must watch their favourite players on Sky Sports and yet feel that their dream of playing at the highest level is fantasy because the system isn't in place to take talented Asian children and process their talent in the same way that helped to launch the likes of Theo Walcott or Adam Johnson. Not only would it set a laudable example of inclusion, but it's simple probability that the wider range of players you have to choose from, the more likely that your country's football will improve.

The exclusion of women and homosexuals however, is not an issue of increasing standards of competition but increasing standards of moral decency. It stands to reason that football players, like all sportspeople, will be somewhere near their peak of physical condition. Someone who is capable of more than the ordinary person on the street, approaching levels of superhuman ability. Well it seems that to be born gay or a woman doesn't fit in to that ideal. We see it in today's society, "Women can't throw" or "Man up, don't be such a faggot"!

Now I'm not suggesting that we should have professional teams that mix the genders, or that increased tolerance will result in more women taking part in the game. But the general apathy shown towards this issue is alarming. While Sky and the BBC have made strides - albeit very small ones - in making women's football more accessible to the British public, the FA have been dragging their feet on having a professional league in England, a promise they made years ago.

Also, in the history of football in Britain, which has lasted over a century, only one man - Justin Fashanu - publicly came out as gay. He was ostracised, discredited and even disowned by members of his own family as a result. Fashanu's tragic tale came to an end, when he took his own life in May 1998. This is still football's only encounter with homosexuality and the sport said, "P*** off you bender, we don't want your sort around here"!

The UK cannot call itself a tolerant society when this attitude is allowed to flourish in what is our national sport. The players union (the PFA) has over 4,000 members. How many of them are forced to conceal who they are for fear of the same treatment that Fashanu endured?

Britain has by and large managed to eradicate the vile racist chanting from supporters that was commonplace back in the 1970's & 80's. However, homophobic abuse is still not a rarity in the stadia and pubs where spectators see fit to vent their frustrations with their team's performance. As well as being illegal, this behaviour is a cancerous growth that shames all who are involved in football.

The Spineless Men Of Soho

As well as the foolish actions of the now former FA Chairman, Lord David Triesman, English football's governing body are increasingly becoming a punchline amongst the fans and media. So what's my beef with them? The mess they made of Wembley Stadium, a ground that has a pitch which resembles an allotment, ticket prices that have made the place a corporate hang-out rather than an arena for the genuine football supporter, and a structure which aspired to be the finest football ground in the world and isn't even the best in North London?

No, not that. Maybe it's the fact that the FA only govern the top level of the English game in title only, as the organisation is essentially in the pocket of the Premier League - a state of affairs that led the Chief Executive Ian Watmore to resign in frustration at the lack of power that the FA actually wields?

Guess again. How about their constant dallying over the building of the National Football Centre. A place which exists to ensure that England are suitably prepared to give young players and coaches the right footballing education needed to make this country a leading power in the game. A place which is still yet to be built, after a hiatus that stretches back to the 1998 World Cup?

No, not even that, my rant against them concerns something that I view as even more harmful than poor money management or lacklustre administration.

The FA have the power to retrospectively take action against players who fall foul of the laws of the game, but do so out of the sight of the referee. So if Darren Fletcher was to stamp on a fellow player behind the referee's back, the FA can use video technology to punish Fletcher, probably banning him for a number of games. Seems fair, does it not? Well there's a caveat involved. The FA say they can only take action if the match official did not see the incident. So if Fletcher was to stamp on a player in view of the ref, Fletcher could possibly get away with this misdemeanour if the man in charge fails to apply the rules of the game correctly.

What an absolute crock. This hypothesis would mean that Fletcher (or any other player, I don't mean to single out the Scot) would be rewarded for refereeing incompetence. The above was an incident that I just made up. The following however, actually happened.

On the 8th November 2008, the Barnsley striker, Ian Hume sustained a fractured skull in a match against Sheffield United. This was caused by him being elbowed in the head by the United defender, Chris Morgan. Now this was no accident. The incident has been repeated on television many times, and Morgan - who is not a footballer, but a vicious thug who masquerades as a footballer - is seen to have deliberately elbowed Hume in the side of the head. Hume was knocked unconscious and rushed to hospital. He needed emergency surgery as not only his career, but his life was in severe jeopardy. Thankfully the surgery was successful but Hume lost nine months of his career as a result of the sickening assault. And I care little of how emotive my language is, look the incident up on YouTube. It was an assault.

So it's clear as day on a video replay. Surely retrospective action was taken? Not a bit of it. The FA proceeded to give one of the best Pontius Pilate impressions I have ever seen. They absolved themselves from making a decision on Morgan, as the referee had seen the incident in question, and adjudicated that a free-kick in Barnsley's favour was sufficient.

A free-kick?? For what was frighteningly close to manslaughter on the pitch?? A man nearly died taking part in what's meant to be a game, and the only punitive measure taken was the award of a free-kick. Question the FA on this and they'll respond that they can't make alterations to a referee's decision as it'll discredit the officials as a result. Now while my riposte to that is, "who cares, as long as justice is done", this is actually disingenuous. Last month, in the Champions League semi-final match between Bayern Munich & Lyon, Bayern's Franck Ribery was sent-off for a reckless tackle on Lyon's Portugese striker, Lisandro Lopez. The challenge was indeed a dangerous one, and general consensus agreed with the referee's decision. Ribery was also banned for one match as a result of his red card.

Now UEFA are the organisation in charge of the Champions League, and after reviewing the incident again, they felt that the severity of Ribery's tackle warranted a three-match suspension. This resulted in Ribery missing out on playing in the final, and while Bayern appealed against the ruling, they were unsurprisingly unsuccessful. Again, if you look up the challenge online you'll see how negligent the tackle was. Consensus once again agreed with UEFA's decision.

Now not only was justice done here, but it should have larger ramifications. Such strict measures will discourage players from tackling each other in a careless manner that can cause serious injury and maybe even end careers. And UEFA's ruling did not result in the referee of the aforementioned match becoming a laughing stock. Just behaviour promotes more just behaviour. The callowness shown by the FA isn't only doing the domestic game a disservice but means that they are neglecting the duty of care they have to all of England's professional players.

The Luddites in Power

Allow my ire to stretch further than just Britain for a moment. Earlier in this season, FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that while he was at the helm, there would be no chance of video technology being used to assist referees during a game. This decision was made in the midst of the furore after France forward Thierry Henry's illegal handball that ensured France qualified for the World Cup at Ireland's expense.

Now it's obvious to many that a 'video official' could have not only spotted the handball immediately but also could have electronically alerted the referee, who could have then taken the appropriate action. While the pace that football is played at means that technology cannot be used for all contentious calls, but can be used for ones where shades of grey are absent, e.g. the ball crossing the line or whether a foul took place inside the penalty area or not. This can only serve to improve the game. What is most infuriating is not the rejection of technological assistance as a concept by FIFA. It's the obstinate refusal to even countenance it. And I may have an idea why this is.

In the last World Cup Final in 2006, Frenchman Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi. This made worldwide news, with even David Letterman making a joke about it on his chat show. Do you have any idea how the referee spotted what Zidane did?

He didn't. It was the fourth official, who was looking at a monitor by the side of the pitch. After spotting Zidane's misdemeanour, he notified the ref, who made the right decision and brandished the red card.

So then, technology was used, justice was done and Italy went on to win the World Cup. However, ask any FIFA official what happened and they will flatly deny that there were any external influences involved in the decision to send Zidane from the pitch on that night in Berlin. And then, in last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa, the excrement really hit the blades of a whirring fan.

In a match between Brazil and Egypt, English referee Howard Webb incorrectly awarded Brazil a corner kick after a shot from their centre-half, Lucio, was handled on the line. The fourth official spotted this on the pitchside television monitor, informed Webb, and a penalty was awarded. The successful spot-kick was converted and an enraged Egyptian side lost the match 4-3. Their complaint to FIFA was rejected, with world football's governing body claiming that the decision was made by purely organic means. Really now? So I suppose it was coincidence that a furious Sepp Blatter demanded that all television monitors should be removed forthwith from pitchside.

What Blatter's gripe is with referees receiving assistance is a mystery to me. What is certain however, is that his antiquated dogmatism is hurting the game, and it will take a major miscarriage of justice to happen to a major footballing nation before anything might be done. Ireland were just unfortunate enough to be a second-tier footballing country. If Blatter wants the sport to be a time capsule so much then maybe we should lock him in one and fire him off into space. It doesn't look like happening any time soon but the quicker this clown is removed from office the better.

Persona vs Ability

This is maybe the thing that annoys me the most about football, and sport in general. And it has nothing to do with the players. It's the spectators. Yes, you. The people who cheer and shout abuse, lionise and lambast. Time and time again, a player who has a positive public image is regarded as a hero, whereas one who is looked upon as a bad role model is treated as being a symptom of all that's wrong with Britain. A year ago, John Terry was seen as Mr England, captain of club and country, local hero, a man who would put his body on the line for the good of his team, an all-round good egg.

Then when the story broke about his marital infidelities with a woman who was romantically involved with a team-mate and friend, the perception of Terry irrevocably changed. Now he's seen as a morally bankrupt individual and a disgrace who is not fit to play for England.

So what changed? Essentially nothing. But who cares? John Terry, Ashley Cole = Scum. End of.

But here's the truth that people would rather not accept. Footballers, or any sportsperson for that matter, don't owe you a thing apart from their best effort when they take to the field of play. Leave their personalities out of it. You don't know them, they're not your friend. No footballer plays for the fans, they play to satiate their own desire for success. And nothing more should be expected from them. You're simply lucky that their desire to succeed happens to coincide with your desire to see your particular team do well.

I know I've touched on this subject before, but I will continue to do so until football fans see sense. There is NO, I repeat NO direct corollary between one's athletic prowess and the content of their character. So feel free to pass judgement on Ashley Cole's defending during the World Cup but leave the pontificating about him and 'Princess Cheryl' to the moronic rags and their half-witted readers that have nothing better to focus their attention on.

Woah, that was a long post. I obviously had a lot of stuff that I was steamed about. That was quite cathartic. Now that I'm suitably vented, I can relax now and look forward to the World Cup.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Ronnie's Demons May Finally Be Released

By Shane Thomas

In the recent World Snooker Championships, Ronnie O'Sullivan was eliminated in the Quarter-Final stage. Where O'Sullivan is involved, headlines tend to follow, whether in victory, but even more so in his failures. This is due to O'Sullivan being the most talented player ever to have potted a snooker ball. Despite the Essex man's incredible natural talent, he has never been able to dominate the game in the manner that many have expected from him. I must now qualify the rest of this post. What you will read from here onwards is in no way intended to defamatory or insulting. It is not based on fact or personal knowledge. It is just a theory of mine, musings from someone who has observed and marvelled at O'Sullivan for years.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The England World Cup Squad - Our Predictions

By Jonathan Wilkinson & Shane Thomas

With England manager Fabio Capello having named a provisional list of 30 players to go to the World Cup this summer, myself and Jonathan will attempt to predict which 23 men the Italian will select to try and win England's first World Cup for 44 years. While allowances have to be made for potential injuries, if the squad was picked today here's what I think it would be.

The 2009/2010 Premier League Team Of The Season

By Shane Thomas

As the Premier League has drawn to a close for another three months, it's time to take stock. My detailed club-by-club guide can be found here - But this post is for the players whose stars shone brightest this season. I will also give special mentions for those players who impressed but narrowly missed out on a place in my Premier League team of the season, which is as follows:

The 2009/2010 Premier League Club Review

By Shane Thomas

There's no point in trying to pretend. This was not a vintage Premier League season. The lack of investment at the so called 'Big Four' teams meant that the gap between them and the clubs chasing places in the Champions League narrowed. Especially in the red half of Merseyside. While some of the major names suffered a few bloody noses throughout the season, there were some impressive showings from clubs who may have been expected to struggle.

ARSENAL (3rd):

While many point to the fact that the trophy drought at The Emirates has stretched to a fifth season, many of those same critics had expected Arsenal to finish outside the top four Champions League places. Not only did The Gunners have few problems securing their place in the top four, but did it without a centre forward for a large part of the season. Indeed, it was only in the final weeks of the season that they fell out of the title race. While Arsene Wenger failed to bolster the squad sufficiently, he could never have expected the injuries incurred by Arsenal's best players, often at key moments of the season. I maintain that had Robin Van Persie been fit for the whole nine months, Arsenal would have won the league.

STAR MAN - Francesc Fabregas


The mood of positivity that has been around Villa Park since the arrival of Martin O'Neill began to fade around February. Losing the Carling Cup Final and unfounded Internet rumours that O'Neill had fallen out with Villa owner, Randy Lerner, has led many to believe that this season will be the Northern Irishman's last in the Midlands. Whether that's true or not, O'Neill has been allowed to spend a lot of money and it looks as if Villa are hitting their heads on a glass ceiling. They also lost an FA Cup Semi-Final on their second trip to Wembley and failed (narrowly) to break into the top four again. I personally think O'Neill should stay but he has to make sure that the club doesn't begin to stagnate.

STAR MAN - James Milner


On their first season back in the top flight, Birmingham were one of the season's success stories. Tipped by many (me included) to be relegation candidates, they confounded expectations by coming closer to to qualifying for Europe than going down. Their safety was all but assured by a 13 match unbeaten run, stretching from October to January. At one stage, Birmingham were the form side in the division. This was built on the solid defensive work of Roger Johnson & Scott Dann, while Joe Hart was superb as the last line of defence behind them. Between them those three were probably the best defensive 'triangle' of the season. This squad should be good enough to keep Birmingham safe next time around, but if McLeish wants upward progress at St Andrews then he'll need to add some firepower to his squad.

STAR MAN - Roger Johnson


Sam Allardyce has very quietly made Blackburn into a side that no team likes to come up against. Given that they looked certain to drop down to the Championship when he arrived, he has done some impressive work. This Blackburn side are very much like the team he had at Bolton. Direct, solid, awkward, and very difficult to beat. Allardyce managed to take Bolton in Europe. I for one, would not bet against him doing the same here.

STAR MAN - David Dunn

BOLTON (14th):

While I feel Gary Megson was unlucky to lose his job, Bolton now have a more accomplished man at the helm in Owen Coyle. Since being in charge, he has wisely taken his time in trying to change Bolton from playing their favoured long-ball style to a more progressive, one-touch passing style of play. By next season, The Reebok Stadium may showcase some of the most attractive football in the Premier League. As long as they can stay solid at the back, Bolton could be top-half material next season.

STAR MAN - Chung-Young Lee

BURNLEY (18th):

Were Burnley the Premier League's very own Jedward's? They were patently never good enough to be playing amongst English football's best and brightest, but a lot of people seemed to like having them around. While they produced some stunning results at Turf Moor, particularly against the bigger sides, their woeful away form and the loss of Owen Coyle to Bolton meant that Burnley were doomed before the turn of the year. While I won't miss any of their players, I will miss their fans. The best that the Premier League had to offer.

STAR MAN - Steven Fletcher

CHELSEA (1st):

An ageing squad of immoral, cheating, arrogant overpaid players that encapsulate everything that's wrong with football these days? A matter of opinion. Here's the facts - no team won more games than they did, no team lost fewer games than they did, no team scored as many goals as they did. This may be the last hurrah for this Chelsea side, but what a hurrah. To paraphrase the wrestler Ric Flair, "We are your Champions. Learn to like it".

STAR MAN - Didier Drogba

EVERTON (8th):

At times this season Goodison Park was more akin to a hospital ward than a football club. No side were more injury hit than Everton, so they can consider 8th place a solid effort, especially as they almost took the final Europa League qualifying place from local rivals Liverpool. But the questions over the club remain and they are increasingly pressing ones. How long can David Moyes keep overachieving on a relatively modest transfer budget? How long until a bigger side sees sense and gives Moyes a grander stage to display his managerial class? How long can Everton limp on with an atmospheric but ramshackle stadium? Can they still punch above their weight without major investment? Should they ground share with their rivals in red across Stanley Park? The wolves are knocking at Everton's door. The knocking is growing ever louder. Expect them to start huffing and puffing very soon.

STAR MAN - Louis Saha

FULHAM (12th):

It's very hard to say anything negative against Fulham. They're like Stephen Fry, the Premier League's very own 'national treasure'. Their extraordinary run to the Europa League final could easily have derailed them domestically. Roy Hodgson deserves credit for preventing such an occurrence as well as buying well in the transfer market to supplement the squad enough to cope with their marathon season, which has exceeded a whopping 60 matches. If only they can improve their away form they could be challengers for the top 7 again.

STAR MAN - Bobby Zamora

HULL CITY (19th):

I don't have many positive sentiments here. Hull were lucky not to have been relegated last season. Average management, a disastrous transfer policy and many sub-par players who seemed to spend most of their time fighting rather than playing. The altercation with two players that took place in front of the Women's Institute had to be one of the most unitentionally comedic moments of the season. Hull, back in the Championship - good riddance.

STAR MAN - None. I considered Jimmy Bullard but he doesn't deserve it either.


How the mighty have fallen. Liverpool overachieved last season and should have won the title. Not only did they fail to plug the gaping holes in their threadbare squad but they also lost one of their key players in Xabi Alonso. This was exacerbated by lacklustre campaigns from men like Jamie Carragher & Dirk Kuyt so maybe we shouldn't be so surprised by Liverpool's horror show in 2009/10. The club is in a mess, both on and off the pitch. I wouldn't expect a revival from them next season.

STAR MAN - Jose Manuel Reina


The opulent investment at Eastlands failed to deliver the top 4 finish demanded by the owners. They have plenty of individual talent but no man has been allowed to make the puzzle pieces fit yet. Hopefully Roberto Mancini will be given that opportunity. Given that the chequebook will be out in force again, City are my favourites to get 4th place next season, and with Tottenham being occupied by the Champions League, the door may be wide open enough for City's millions to barge their way into Europe's elite. They may even be a good shout to win the Europa League.

STAR MAN - Carlos Tevez


Not easy to evaluate United's season. Their transfer spending was poor, and at times looked a shadow of the side who had won three consecutive Premier League titles. But Wayne Rooney is knocking on the door of the upper echelon of the world's best players, and they only finished one point off becoming champions for a fourth successive season. They cannot depend on the competition being so poor again. This is a crucial summer for Sir Alex Ferguson.

STAR MAN - Wayne Rooney


With Newcastle gone, Portsmouth seemed to take it upon themselves to be the league's 'circus' club. To go into the shambles that the club has made in their corridors of power needs a blog post of its own. But credit must go to Pompey for getting to the FA Cup Final. Their fans are a credit to the area so I hope to see them back again. But they need to spend some time in the lower divisions to allow them to rebuild properly.

STAR MAN - Jamie O'Hara


Tony Pulis is is yet another unheralded manager who deserves plenty of credit for the job he's done this season. Consolidation is not something to be sniffed at, particularly as Stoke could easily have been a victim of 'second season syndrome'. However, the robust nature of their play cannot be ignored. There's a difference between being committed and reckless, just ask Aaron Ramsey. And Pulis also fell out with a worrying amount of players in his squad. Either he shows not enough prudence when signing players or he needs to change his man-management approach.

STAR MAN - Matthew Etherington


Very hit and miss were Sunderland. It looks as if the club is finally approaching a solid level of stability, and some of Steve Bruce's acquisitions, especially Darren Bent, shone. They also looked to have discovered a potential gem of a player in Jordan Henderson. But they concede far too many goals and their away form was embarrassing. With Newcastle back in the big time, the Sunderland fans will demand improvement.

STAR MAN - Darren Bent


While them achieving fourth place isn't the Cinderella story some have portrayed it as, they were still the first team since 2005 to break the cartel of the 'Big 4'. And for that alone, they deserve immense credit. While Spurs have always had an attacking threat, they finally fixed the defence. Under Redkanpp, they are no longer the soft touch that they were in previous campaigns. The real test begins next season, trying to combine the dual pressures of both the European stage & The Champions League. How Redknapp buys, or doesn't buy, will be his greatest test as a manager.

STAR MAN - Michael Dawson

WEST HAM - (17th)

Gianfranco Zola's dismissal earlier today shows that while he may not have been the right man to be in charge, his treatment by the club's new owners, David Sullivan & David Gold, was undignified, classless and crass. Zola showed incredible dignity throughout this time as the conduct of Sullivan & Gold not only affected him, but also the team. Whoever they appoint as his replacement, they'd do well to keep their mouths shut and let the manager manage. This is a football club, not a self-serving ego project. On the pitch, many of the club's better players also let their manager down. Mark Noble, Matthew Upson, and especially Carlton Cole owe West Ham a big season next time around. Cole's dismal second half of the campaign not only came close to costing West Ham their Premier League status but also his place in England's World Cup squad.

STAR MAN - Scott Parker

WIGAN - (16th)

The Premier League's 'Jekyll & Hyde' team. The DW Stadium was a graveyeard for the bigger names. Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool all leaving there with nothing. But they were on the receiving end of tonkings from Man.Utd, Spurs and Chelsea on the season's last day. I thought that Wigan would be relegation contenders so Roberto Martinez deserves credit for keeping them up. But they need to learn to defend better as they are far too open at times. He may also lose some of his better players, which seems to be the way of things at Wigan. Another tough season potentially awaits.

STAR MAN - Charles N'Zogbia


Mick Mccarthy has done a superb job keeping this Wolves side up. Let the half-wits who criticised him for playing a second string at Old Trafford be permanently silenced. Wolves are still in the Premier League, so go away and find something else to moan about. Looking at the personnel, it's a triumph of organisation and spirit, as frankly, there aren't many good players in this squad. McCarthy will need to strengthen if he is to repeat the trick next season.

STAR MAN - Kevin Doyle


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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Last Day of The Premier League - Live Updates

By Shane Thomas

As the Premier League title is decided in the next two hours or so, I'll be updating the situation as it develops. Unsurprisingly my focus will be on Stamford Bridge & Old Trafford but I'll do my best to keep half an eye on the other eight games as well.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Magic Weekend : Worth keeping?

By Jonathan Wilkinson

Last weekend I, along with a thousands of other rugby league fans went north to Edinburgh for the Magic Weekend, which is basically where an entire round of Super League is played in on weekend, 4 games on Saturday and then 3 on Sunday at Murrayfield.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The £20 Million Match

By Shane Thomas

In a few hours time Manchester City will play Tottenham in a match that will almost certainly decide who will claim fourth place in the Premier League, and with it, a chance to qualify for next season's prestigious Champions League. The lucrative nature of the competition means that tonight's contest will leave tremors throughout English football that could be felt for years.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Mayweather Soaks Up The Pressure To Arrive At The Brink Of Greatness

By Shane Thomas

Ever held a sponge underneath a tap for a few seconds and forgotten to roll your sleeves up, and you then find that your sleeves are as wet as the sponge is? Which do you think dries the quicker?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Shane Mosley - As It Happened

By Shane Thomas

While there will be a more detailed summation to come, here's my round by round updates as the Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Shane Mosley fight happens. Note all times are GMT.

3:45am - The cameras go backstage to Mosley's dressing room as he gets his hands taped up. Some nondescript hip-hop is playing, which I assume helps Mosley get into the zone. When I say nondescript I mean it. I'd love to hear some decent hip-hop come out of a boxer's dressing room. Some Mos Def or Q-Tip for example.