WSOTP pod: episode 39

Well, this first season of the Wrong Side of the Pond podcast has been one crazy ride.

WSOTP Podcast - Season 1 Episode 39

on the season finale of the podcasdt, the guys talk city capturing their second title in three years and allow a liverpool fan to eulogize the season.

So on this week’s episode, we look back at our very first predictions at the beginning of the season, and take a team-by-team look at how every club in the Premier League fared this year. We also found time to sing the praises for NBC’s stellar broadcasting efforts this season, review last week’s MLS action and more.

And just in case you’re still in the dark, this week’s episode is actually the grande finale for this first go around. After 39 straight weeks of recording, I’m pretty sure Jeremy and D.J. deserve the break, if for no other reason than to appease their very generous and understanding wives. But worry not, listeners. We’ll undoubtedly be back again for the start of the next European campaign for Season 2 of the WSOTP Pod. Plus, we’re planning on doing a few special edition World Cup episodes in the summer to tide you over — some of which will potentially be recorded live on Fountain Square ahead of our USMNT watch parties! Stay tuned for further details.

So to all of you out there, thanks so much for listening in to our first season and we look forward to talking to you all again next season… cheers!


Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

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WSOTP pod: episode 38

WSOTP Podcast - Season 1 Episode 38

the look on a dejected scott parker’s face was probably shared by many american fans this past weekend.

While there’s a strong desire to call this latest episode of the podcast the “Cinco de Mayo Special”, Jeremy would probably prefer we call it the “Nose Picking Special” thanks to this hysterical fan shot from this weekend’s action. But there was way more than nose-picking to talk about this week. For instance, an all-Madrid Champions League final has now been set. And over in the Premier League we had time to talk about Fulham’s sad demise, Liverpool “slipping” up once again, City taking the psychological advantage, Manchester United’s managerial plans, and D.J. tries his best to not nod off to sleep as he is forced to talk about a Spurs’ lackluster already-on-the-beach display.  We also take discussed some of the weekend MLS action, including the Crew getting dominated on the road in Kansas City.

And as a written reminder, we’re looking for pod listeners and blog readers to submit their eulogies of their clubs’ seasons to share on next week’s season finale for the WSOTP Podcast. If you feel like summing up your club’s abysmal/amazing campaign, send it across via email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com.

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

WSOTP pod: episode 7

WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 7

WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 7

with how much i was tripping up this week, i should have been taken down off the pod like jacko was taken down at craven cottage.

The number seven is normally a lucky number, but for whatever reason, Episode 7 of the WSOTP Podcast was anything but lucky. Instead, I was on fire with blurting out what were actually non-factual facts. I guess I’m not entirely out of luck though, as my partner in crime Jeremy Lance has a knack for stellar editing, so you won’t be subjected to quite as many of my verbal gaffes as we were. So, what exactly did we talk about that tripped me up so much? In addition to our normal wrap up of the previous weekend’s Premier League and last week’s Champions League action, we also talk at length about the player turmoil at Chelsea, the lack of relevance of the Capital One Cup and Europa League, Brian Ching’s testimonial and further thoughts on the Cincinnati Saints and Cincinnati Dutch Lions discussion.

And as always, don’t forget to send us your questions and we’ll answer them on next week’s pod.

Click here to subscribe to the WSOTPpod on iTunes.

ten words or less #42

ninja balotelli

despite becoming a full fledged ninja, balotelli still can't put his bib on right.

It’s happy times at wrong side of the pond these days. Spurs are still sitting in a lofty position in the table at fairly advanced stage of the season, even despite dropping points on a cold wet night in Stoke.

Speaking of cold nights, I’m also looking forward to the winter weather that’s finally descending upon the Midwest. I means finally allowed to starting thinking about the only other hobby besides soccer-obsession that I really take part in… snow riding. However, I’m not foolish enough to think that all of you are as equally pleased about the arrival of Old Man Winter as I am. Don’t worry though, you’re not the only ones: Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli also hates the cold, and is apparently hoping that his knowledge of the ancient art of the ninja will keep him warmer through the frigid Northern English winter.

If looks could kill, Ronaldo would be a murderer… –

…so you better give him more of your money! –

Fulham to redevelop Craven Cottage and still keep the cottage. –

This documentary makes me wish I understood Russian. –

Someone actually thinks Harkes was “getting better” at commentating? –

Messi comes to his senses, ditches PES for FIFA. –

Tévez saves Christmas from Sepp Blatter. Absolutely brilliant. –

The Timbers never cease to amaze me with awesomeness. –

ten words or less #20

in the future, it might not be the best idea for this dad to bring his son to craven cottage.

it’s time for another international break and i’m already bored of it. not even marquee match ups like england-wales, usa-argentina, nor cyprus-iceland have tickled my fancy. so in an effort to help you find something interesting to read while redknapp and speed argue over who hurt bale first, here read these:

someone please explain to me how this will work. –

craven cottage just became a lot less safe for kids. –

i suddenly want to go to practice. –

stupid scum, but you have to admire his club loyalty. –

even gods like to play amongst mere mortals. –

i wish our country had this kind of passion. –

so what happens when higuaín comes back? –

david luiz: “i like turtles” kid all grown up. –

round up #23

now that the transfer window has (quietly) closed and the theatrics of the world cup are slowly fading into the background, i feel like we can finally focus on what really matters: the football.

this would be awesome... if marquez wasn't there.

but, let’s be honest.. i love the fluff that comes with it. and here’s the best i’ve come across on the tubes in the last week.

mind blowing social experiment of the day –
if you were take a stroll around say, downtown manhattan, while the world cup final was on this summer, and nothing would have looked any different than any other normal day. thousands of people would still be snapping pictures in times square, buying knockoff purses in chinatown, and strolling about times square. but flash to brazil, and things are clearly different. one man had the bright idea to roll around são paulo during the world cup finals with a video camera. the biggest city in south america was a virtual ghost town. while it’s not surprising that the soccer-mad country would be consumed by the big event, i am a little shocked to not see a single person in the entire clip. which makes me wonder… how the hell is this country going to host the finals in 2014 if no one wants to work during the games?

making the most of being sent off – dirtytackle @
fellow defenders will agree with me when i say that those nancy-fancy forwards always go down for fouls pretty easy. they fall with the slightest nudge, rolling about like someone castrated them instead of a having just suffered a little shirt pull. it certainly doesn’t help that the refs always tend to give those diving bastards the benefit of the doubt. so trust me when i say we defenders have some pent up rage that lives within us all. so when you see a defender lose it a little when they get a foul called against them. but the reaction of the guy in this video, well, i just can’t find the words to stick up for him.

donovan’s ridiculous price tag –
when donovan signed the four year extension with the galaxy in the fall of 2009, two things immediately came to mind:

  1. landycakes is a moron, and apparently never wants to play in europe ever. why would he put himself in a position where it would be harder for him to move abroad?
  2. MLS just made a shrewd move to make sure they got paid when donovan tried to make his eventual move to europe.

both thoughts were true, to an extent at least. donovan’s contract extension did nothing but give MLS the upperhand with any potential suitors from the old continent, meaning they could ask for a good deal more money in any transfer moves for the golden egg. landon’s extremely successful loan to everton, coupled with his good performances in south africa, meant that donovan was a hot commodity. don garber’s eyes no doubt had dollar bills instead of pupils at that point. unfortunately, their little plan turned into a giant cockblock. perhaps catching wind of interest from cash-laden citeh drove up their asking price, but america’s pride and joy isn’t worth $16 million. in the end, neither party got what it wanted. great.

the crest of a wave? –
i love logos… they’re fascinating to me. to me, there is nothing more iconic than an emblem that is instantly recognizable the world over (nike, mcdonald’s, coca-cola; please take your bow). it’s a necessity in this day in age where everything is branded. but the incredibly difficult thing about having a good logo or crest is creating it.

i for one don’t mind most teams taking a stab at remaking their image, though it’s insanely hard to create a new identity that is still grounded in tradition. while the article gives credit to arsenal and chelsea for their new crests’ paying homage to their histories, i also think tottenham deserve credit in the same regard. while some clubs make the change very poorly, there are, of course, also clubs like fulham that desperately needed to change, and did so well.

henry and rafa take the path –
the fact that this photo can even happen in this country… boy, it makes me feel like MLS is on to something special. ignore for a second that RBNY might be trying a little too hard to be the new cosmos. can you imagine sitting next to henry, one of the best players of an entire generation, on the subway? that’s equivalent to sitting next to brett farve or derek jeter, and easily being able to take a picture with them and not get mobbed in the process. please MLS; intelligently ride this wave of awesomeness.

revisiting “boarding passes, please”

way back in january, i wrote the longest blog post i’ve ever written outlining who i thought bob bradley would be taking to south africa this summer. i’ve been anxiously awaiting the day bob would finally announce his 23-man roster, just to see how well i would do predicting bob’s simple mind.

the USMNT arrived in south africa on memorial day. it's time to see how accurate i was at picking the 23 guys who would get a ticket back in january.

that day has come and passed.

and guess what? i didn’t do too bad.

though there were some shock exclusions/inclusions, most of which i like much better than i had predicted bob capable of selecting. though i don’t want to go on giving him too much credit at this point. let’s revisit that subject after the world cup.

so let’s get on to evaluating how well i did picking who i thought bob would be giving his boarding passes to. and we may as well re-evaluate the players he chose while we’re at it.

for sure on the plane (8 out of 8 correct)
these were the guys i knew would be in south africa. i would have wagered anything on it… but i didn’t, because i’m an idiot (not that there really are any places to bet on “what eight guys will definitely make the US world cup roster,” are there?). either way, i killed it on this round.

1. CORRECT – landon donovan (f – l.a. galaxy): landycakes has certainly set the stage for himself going into the summer. his loan to everton turned out to be a fantastic move, finally proving himself at the highest level consistently. if he has a good world cup, his price tag will skyrocket and MLS will surely cash in on bidding war that will ensue for his signature in august. so, it’s easy to say that donovan has some lofty expectations to meet. will he be able to handle the pressure? here’s hoping he does.

2. CORRECT - tim howard (gk – everton): having a world class keeper is the best remedy for having a suspect backline. good thing that’s not a problem for the USMNT, right? … RIGHT?!?!

3. CORRECT - jozy altidore (f – villareal): my worries persist about altidore. he didn’t get any regular time at with one of the worst premier league teams this season. though he showed some flashes of brilliance, they were very quick flashes and few and far between. i still doubt he’ll ever be able to play a full 90, and he can’t be in that great a form if he wasn’t breaking into relegated hull city’s line-up. he’ll be a starter on june 12th, but will he do anything productive. probably not (yes, that is a challenge jozy. prove. me. wrong.)

4. CORRECT - carlos bocanegra (d – rennes): chuck. what an enigma. captain of the USMNT, regular in europe. but we just can’t ever seem to play him in his best position: left back. if they would play him there instead of the center, then we wouldn’t have to freak out anymore about whose playing on the left flank. we have plenty of quality center backs bobby; please play bocanegra where he belongs. oh, and let’s hope he is fully fit come the england game.

5. CORRECT - michael bradley (m – borussia mönchengladbach): the coach is bringing his kid along, and just like every national pool players’ parents’ worst nightmare, i’m sure they’re all thinking that the coaches kid will get the favoritism. while a case could be argued for this when mike was brought into the national team fold a few years ago, it definitely isn’t the case any longer. bradley deserves to be here. let’s just hope he can keep a level head for the next few weeks.

6. CORRECT - jay demerit (d – watford): if he can shake the injury bug that he’s had over the last year, i want to see jay starting at centerback next to onyewu. that way we can play bocanegra at his natural left back.

7. CORRECT - jonathan spector (d – west ham): pencil him in as the starting right back (though he could face some competition from steve cherundulo), but it’s possible we could see him on the left too. let’s hope he remembers to bring his consistency boots too.

8. CORRECT - brad guzan (gk – aston villa): back up (to another retired american) at aston villa, back up for the national team. poor guy will probably never get to play.

don’t have my pass yet, but pretty sure i’m getting one (8 out of 8 correct)
i must have been taking my genius pills still at this point, because i nailed this round too. don’t worry, this won’t become a trend.

9. CORRECT - oguchi onyewu (d – a.c. milan): gooch proved his fitness  after the horrific torn patellar tendon that he suffered in the USMNT’s last world cup qualifier. the question that remains though is whether or not he can play at the same level he played at in last summer’s confederations cup. if not, the yanks are in trouble.

10. CORRECT - clint dempsey (m – fulham): deuce came back earlier than anticipated from his partially torn knee ligament, even contributing in fulham’s late season run to the europa league final (including this STUNNING goal against  juventus at craven cottage). promising news for a team that needs good injury news.

11. CORRECT - ricardo clark (m – eintracht frankfurt): finding regular time at the end of the bundesliga season was key to clark making the final 23, and he’ll be in tight competition with michael bradley for the starting defensive midfield slot on june 12th.

12. CORRECT - stuart holden (m – bolton): i’m glad stu made the team, especially after he cracked into bolton’s squad towards the end of the english season. i was worried he wouldn’t see the minutes after his leg break a few months back. his creativity and consistency are in demand with this roster, and i’d love to see him make the starting 11 against england.

13. CORRECT - jonathan bornstein (d – chivas usa): just as i predicted, the mexijew made the squad simply because we had to bring in another true left back. and hopefully he’ll only play because we’ve gotten to plan C, D or E due to injuries. or if we’re up by two goals against england and we bring him on for a forward… but hopefully not even then.

14. CORRECT - steve cherundulo (d – hannover 96): he’s healthy, and has loads of experience in europe and internationally, but he still can’t get in front of spector. but if spector catches one of his patented cold-streaks, expect steve to steal back the spot.

15. CORRECT - benny feilhaber (m – agf aarhus): not the danish-based player i would have liked to see make the final roster (cough, rolfe), and not exactly the beset player the USMNT have at their disposal. but he’s got the experience and bob’s confidence. let’s just hope he ends up keeping bornstein company on the bench.

16. CORRECT - maurice edu (m – rangers): edu played great for rangers down the stretch this season, and his reward was earning back the national team spot he hadn’t occupied in nearly 9 months due to a knee injury. should be a starter, but that’s only if bob can see beyond benny.

yeah, i think so, but… (4 out of 7)
here’s where it fell apart for me. but that’s to be expected, as these guys are pretty much the fringe players in the squad. like i said earlier though, bob surprised me with some of his picks in this space, in a good way (for now at least).

17. WRONGconnor casey (f – colorado rapids) edson buddle (f – l.a. galaxy): saying that i am stoked that casey didn’t make the roster is an understatement. but there is no way that i could have predicted that buddle would have made this team. who would have known that he would have caught fire this MLS season? certainly not me, and certainly not anyone else back in january. i hope he can keep up the good form, because we certainly don’t have many other forwards with impressive goal scoring credentials lately.

18. CORRECT - jose francisco torres (m – pachuca): miracles do happen, and torres is proof of that. i didn’t think that there was a chance in hell that bob would pick him. now that he’s made the team, my thought process is, “i doubt bob will use him.” if he does though, i would not be surprised to see torres involved in something awesome.

19. CORRECT - demarcus beasley (m – unattached): despite rangers not extending his deal, lazarus has risen from the dead and has reclaimed his national team spot. after last summer’s performance in south africa, i thought for sure he was done. i still think that bob doesn’t quite trust him anymore though, and would be surprised to see him get tons of time in june. and if we play him on the flank in the back again, i might actually fly to south africa to and beat bob silly.

20. CORRECT - marcus hahnemann (gk – wolverhampton wanderers): edged out troy perkins, as he should have. not much to say here, other than it will take a weird sequence of events to actually get to see the wolves shot blocker get the nod in south africa.

21. CORRECT - clarence goodson (d – start): i felt like i was going out on a limb to call this one back in january, and my how well that worked out for me. he’ll provide solid cover in the center of defense in the event that we have any major injury problems.

i certainly wasn't expecting a former MLS journeyman to make the final 23. gomez's good form has made me look silly.

22. WRONG - edgar castillo (m – tigres) herculez gomez (f – pachuca): looks like i picked the wrong mexican player for this spot, and i’m not surprised i didn’t see this one coming either. gomez has been in stellar form in mexico this season, and we needed to bring another forward in good form if charlie davies wasn’t passed fit.

23. WRONGcharlie davies (f – sochaux) robbie findlay (f – real salt lake): i don’t need to reiterate why i wasn’t surprised to see charlie not make the squad, but i’m still upset that he won’t be in south africa. will findlay and castillo be able to fill davies’ growing empty shoes? i don’t know. but they need to, because jozy doesn’t look to be prolific at anything aside from headbutting people.

final tally: 20 out of 23 players picked correctly.
so overall, i was pretty pleased with myself on picking this roster. do i like all of the picks? no, not really. but could they really have brought in anyone else (aside from davies or rolfe… both of whom are hurt) that would have been major improvements? no, not really.

no sense in getting all worked up either way, at this point at least. let’s see how bob uses the 23 guys at his disposal, then we can start kicking and screaming. until  then, let’s support out boys and hope that my hired snipers can pick bob off before the 12th.

the european playoff proposition

I love the promotional playoffs in English Championship. They add an additional layer of drama to an already drama-filled promotional race at the end of each season. Often times, the playoffs expose little known teams to the big-time spotlight, giving those sides a rare shot of a match at the fabled Wembley.

The play playoffs are also provide a unique solution to a problem that plagues the promotion-relegation system in England.

In recent years, the top flight Premier League has received increasingly lucrative broadcasting deals, with a majority of these profits distributed amongst the member clubs based on final ranking in the league table for that season. So the higher your team finishes, the larger slice of the profits it receives. The lower divisions have a substantially smaller broadcasting contract than the Premier League, a jaw-dropping £1 million per game versus £45 million. This often produces a large disparity in revenues for lower league clubs compared to their top-tier counterparts, thus making it more difficult for those sides to compete.

the playoff system has provided jubilation for teams like burnley. why couldn't playoffs do the same for fulham, man city or tottenham?

After a club is relegated from the Premiership, for the next two seasons they receive a parachute payment from the higher-tiered league’s television contract to help them cope with the loss of revenue. The complaint here is that these parachute payments to former Premiership sides has in-turn created another gulf in wealth between those clubs and clubs who have never reached such lofty heights.

Many believe, and rightfully so, that these parachute payments have created a “bounce back” effect that enables the richer sides to quickly regain promotion back to the higher league. And as the cycle repeats itself, an ever increasing gap in income eventually makes it impossible for new sides to ever be promoted… or so the paranoid will have you believe.

That’s where the playoff system comes in as a solution. By allowing the sixth through third place finishers in the league fight through a playoff tournament for the the third and final promotion place, you increase the chances of a side that hasn’t been promoted before (or at least in a while) to make the jump up. The final of the Championship playoff is often referred to as the richest game in football, due to the large financial boost the winning club will receive from the Premier League’s broadcasting revenue the next season.

Want proof that the playoff system serves this important purpose? Here are some examples from the last ten years:

  • Burnley finished 5th in the Championship last year, yet gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 1976. They earned this reward by first knocking off 4th place finisher Reading, and then by defeating third-placed Sheffield United in the final before a crowd of 80,500 at Wembley.
  • In 2005, West Ham finished 6th in the Championship before beating 5th place finishers Preston North End in the playoff final to earn promotion.
  • The 2004 final saw 6th place Crystal Palace knock-off 3rd place Sunderland in the semifinal, and then 4th place West Ham to go up.
  • In 2003, 5th placed Wolves beat 3rd placed Sheffield United to make the jump.
  • The 2002 playoffs had 5th place Birmingham City and 6th placed Norwich City advanced to the playoff final, with Birmingham city taking the spoils.

In fact in the last decade alone, only four 3rd place finishers (Bolton in 2001, Watford in 2006, Derby County in 2007 and Hull City in 2008) have won the playoffs to claim the promotion spot that would have been theirs had there been no playoffs.

And it’s this discussion and thought process that scares the living bejezus out of the Big Four clubs.

Why? Because some members of the Premier League are pushing for awarding the fourth and final Champions league spot to the winner of a similarly designed playoff. No set format has been discussed to this point, but they are debating allowing teams as low as 7th place to have a shot at the big show.

Man United’s Fergie isn’t a fan. Liverpool’s fat spanish waiter doesn’t want it, though admittedly that’s probably because his side is most likely to concede their spot. Arsene Wenger of arsenal thinks it’s a bad idea. And even Man City’s Roberto Mancini is against it, even though it’s his side who would currently benefit from the plan.

So the next question becomes, why would the Premier League do this?

One word: money.

Remember the 39th Game proposal that the clubs shot down a season ago? This plan was to serve two purposes. Firstly it was to give smaller sides (who typically don’t do foreign tours in the summer) more exposure in new markets, and consequently grow the fan base of those sides and the Premiership as a whole. Secondly and as a result of the first, by increasing the fan base and exposure of the Premier League, the demand for watching the entire season would go up in new markets and would likely grow foreign revenue streams (broadcasting rights, shirt sales, sponsorship opportunities, etc.). Oh yeah, and the league could continue to line it’s pockets by broadcasting these games on a pay-per-view basis.

FIFA was, unsurprisingly, against this idea. Sure, it would grow the Premier League’s popularity… but it would also cannibalize the local leagues’ exposure at the same time. I mean, who would you rather watch: a bunch of hacks locals that play for Selangor FA from the Malaysian Super League, or a mid-table Premiership side. No contest, right?

This European playoff is no different. The EPL will try to mask their new plan’s monetary ambitions by saying things like, “It will give the mid-table teams something to play for at the end of the season,” “The fans will love it,” or “It will provide more parity in the league.”

The fans will no doubt go crazy for it, especially for those that rarely — if ever — see their club compete for a Champions League spot suddenly getting a shot at the big time. That’s why it’s not really that surprising that mid-table clubs are obviously throwing their support at the proposal. And why not? Tottenham and Aston Villa have been trying to crack the top four for years now; this would give them an easier route to do so. And yes, by giving more teams a chance to pull in lucrative Champions League money, parity might be restored… if only a tiny, tiny bit.

But make no mistake, the playoff for the last Champions League spot would serve the exact same purpose as the 39th game plan. They want to find a new way to get a tsunami of cash pouring into the league coffers each season. And it’s that greedy ambition that makes me think that the Champions League playoff proposal is a terrible idea.

The first, and biggest reason why the playoffs shouldn’t happen is fixture congestion. The fixture calendar in England is already too crowded, with some teams taking part in up to five official competitions in a season (Ex: Manchester United in 2009-2010: the Premiership, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup). Asking a team to play potentially three more games would further expose the players to exhaustion and injury. In years that feature international tournaments, the playoffs would rob players of some of the crucial rest period between the end of the domestic season and the World Cup/European Championships.

The other thing that the Premier League may be taking for granted is that the fourth Champions League spot is hardly a guarantee. UEFA awards the number of Champions League places given to each country based on how that country’s teams have performed in European competitions over the previous seasons. If your league’s teams consistently perform poorly, then your coefficient will change and one of your spots could be awarded to another country (I hope you’re listening, Italy).

even league champions may not have the right pedigree for european competition. imagine how a 7th place team may fare in europe.

When Blackburn qualified for the Champions League by shockingly winning the title in 1995, the Rovers crashed out of the Champions League finishing bottom of their group with just four points to show. Though a talented side, their lack of European experience was the obvious reason for their failings on the continent.

If the Champions League playoffs had been in place last season, we could have potentially seen Fulham in the Champions League this season. And though Fulham are handling themselves just fine in the Europa League this season, would they be able to cut the mustard in the more competitive competition? Notice that European heavyweights Liverpool struggled this season in the Champions League, despite being very acclimated to the competition.

The point I’m trying to make is if the Premier League sends under qualified competitors to the Champions League, and they perform poorly, then there is a good chance that England could lose out on their fourth spot.

And there’s another huge kink in this design. How will the Premier League deal with doling out the Europa League qualification places if the playoff format is applied? Normally the qualification spots(s) is(are) given to the the fifth (and typically sixth) place finisher(s) in the league. Do they give the europa spots to runners up for the playoffs? Do they give it to the fifth place finisher as normal, and if so, what happens if that team wins the playoff?

If the the Premier League adopt this plan, there are just too many complications if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong: I would love to watch these playoffs regardless of what teams were involved. There would be just as much drama and excitement in them as the promotional playoffs. And as a Tottenham fan, the playoffs sound great since Spurs chances of reaching the Europe’s biggest stage will definitely go up.

But honestly, the system works just fine as it is now. Why throw in any more unnecessary layers in the process? Let’s leave Champions League qualification alone, and let everyone qualify based on season long-merit. Don’t let the thoughts of even more money skewer the judgment in this scenario.

And besides, knowing my luck, Tottenham will finally land fourth place the year that these rules are enacted… and you know they’ll just blow it in the playoffs anyway.

round up #12

the holiday season is one of my favorite parts of the year, but not for the reasons you would expect. gifts under the christmas (or minora?) tree are nice and all, and getting to see the friends and family is great, too. but what really get’s me amped for this part of the year is the craziness that is the world of soccer.

there is the the jam-packed fixture list: midweek and weekend premier league matches, the oft overlooked club world cup, europa league games, and some midweek scottish premier league games as well (including a stunning goal from demarcus beasley a.k.a. lazarus — thanks to charlie fiction for the great nickname). there’s the looming shadow of the january transfer window too, so the rumor mill is running overtime accordingly. and of course there was today’s champions league round of 16 draw, which gave us some excellent fixtures to look forward to in the new year.

eddie johnson fulham

eddie johnson has seen limited time while at fulham, and probably won't be seeing much more.

so with all of this going on, what better time is there to give you all another news round up?

KO is end of world for eddie –
amercia’s most overrated striker, eddie johnson, looks to have run out of luck in west london, as gaffer roy hodgson has placed him on the club’s transfer list. really, i’m not that surprised. johnson has played in eight matches at fulham (none as starts) without scoring a goal, and his loan at cardiff city last year yielded only 2 goals in 33 appearances. aside from a hot run of form before the 2006 world cup where he scored 7 goals in 6 qualifiers, and two decent MLS campaigns, i don’t think he’s really done that much to prove himself as a european calibre player.

fulham seem content to let him leave for the paltry sum of £1 million, and i doubt many teams in england would be willing to pay that for him. i wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up back in the states sometime soon, which may be the only way for eddie to resuscitate his unlikely bid for a world cup roster place.

lehmann banned for three games –
stuttgart shot stopper jens lehmann is, hands down, the dumbest player in the game right now. i gave him the benefit of the doubt back in september when he was caught after a game at oktoberfest without his club’s permission. but i’m recanting my kindness, as it’s been nothing but down hill for the german keeper since because he keeps making the worst decisions ever.

last week he was caught taking a leak behind the sponsor boards during a champions league game (click here for video), and was somehow spared punishment — but not mockery. however, he really took the ticket this past weekend before, during and after his bundesliga match against mainz. first, he was rightly red carded for stomping on mainz’s aristade bance’s foot. he promptly stormed out of the stadium, where he stole a fan’s glasses during a confrontation. after finally giving the poor schmuck his glasses back, he proceeded to board the team bus… only to quickly change his mind and exit, hail a taxi to the airport, and then fly home to munich to presumably cry. all of this comes after refusing to pay a €40,000 fine for criticizing the club the week before for sacking manager markus babbel.

it might be time to for lehmann to follow the advice of oliver kahn, his former national side teammate, and retire — before he kills someone.

adidas to end newcastle united kit deal –
rumors are circulating that adidas have grown tired of the bad press that mike ashley’s reign over st. james park has brought the club, and that the sportswear giant will be ending their sponsorship of newcastle united as a result. the “three stripes” have almost become synonymous with the iconic black and white striped kit, and adidas’ backing out is a slap in the face adding to the club’s continued fall from grace. puma is rumored to be picking up the club after this season, though many fans are justifiably worried that the big cat’s templates won’t suit the club’s style (i agree).

there was also an interesting tidbit at the end of the story about my spurs, who are rumored to be moving back to adidas next season after refusing to renew their contract with puma. i’m having mixed feelings about this; puma’s made some solid kits for tottenham over the last few years (especially the bad ass brown kits from a few years back) and i just don’t know how adidas’ cookie cutter kit designs and shoulder stripes will look on the yids.

catalonia call up cesc fàbregas –
none of you will likely be surprised to hear that arsenal manager arsene wenger is upset with a national team call-up for one of his players, as the frenchman is generally annoyed with any and all national team call ups for his players. however, for once i’m going to side with him completely. when wenger received notice that the catalonia coach johan cruyff had called in his captain, cesc fàbregas, for a friendly against argentina just before christmas, he was rightly irate. why? because the catalonia national team isn’t even a real national team! hell, catalonia isn’t even a real country… it’s a region in spain that wants to be it’s own country (like the spanish quebec). their football association isn’t even recognized by fifa or uefa, and all they can play are friendlies.

with arsenal’s busy upcoming december schedule, and cesc already nursing a hamstring injury, there is absolutely no reason that cruyff should have called him in. besides, the fake national team also called in six players from barcelona. to be honest, i see this as nothing more than a veiled recruiting trick by the catalonia FA to try to persuade fàbregas to join barcelona.

arshavin at anfield –
it’s no secret that anytime andrei arshavin walks into anfield, the entire kop shudders. the arsenal ace has been a force in both of his visits to liverpool’s historic ground: he scored four times in his first visit last year, in addition to netting the winner just last weekend when the two sides met. to celebrate the russian’s pwnage of the kop, a clever arsenal fan went back to the future to create this funny youtube clip:

a special thanks to my buddy milky for pointing this out, as i know it was especially hard for him to forward this along with him being such a big liverpool supporter. as he put it, “if i don’t laugh, i’ll cry.”

round-up #10

it’s so unsurprising, but now that i find myself with more time to write than i can remember, there hasn’t been as much going on to write about for these (somewhat) regular news rounds ups. lucky for you, i’ve scoured the deepest reaches of the interwebs to dig up some interesting tidbits that you might have missed during the hoopla of the last week of world cup qualifying.

this is how every ireland fan felt at the time of henry's handball assist to william gallas

grimsby town fan letter –
i doubt many of you spend much of your time following grimsby town of england’s league 2, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t noticed that they currently lie 23rd in the table of 24. their poor form hasn’t gone unnoticed though, as they have left some of their supporters infuriated by a supposed lack of effort that will likely see them relegated out of the football league system back to the county leagues. one exasperated fan by the name of “poojah” was so put off by their play that he wrote an open letter to the team to express his displeasure with them. originally published in the local grimsby telegraph, poojah gives a tongue lashing — err, writing? — that leaves no doubt about how he feels:

Use your imagination, guys – strangle yourselves or cover yourself in tinfoil and take a fork to a nearby plug socket, or something. Just put yourselves and us fans out of our collective misery.

trust me, it’s definitely worth the read, especially if your side has ever had you mad enough that you would like to go on a shooting spree in the club offices.

van persie to use placenta fluid to boost recovery –
probably one of the most talked about topics in football right now, but i have to put in my two cents. when arsenal’s dutch striker went down in the holland-italy friendly last weekend, few were surprised to see that he was seriously injured. after all, robin is completely made of glass and is likely the most injury prone player in all of football. what is surprising though is his decision to see a serbian doctor who specializes in the use of placental fluid to help decrease recovery time to serious injuries.

as a former biology major, i can’t tell you that it will for sure help, but it definitely won’t hurt. placental fluid has an extremely high concentration of development hormones and immunological proteins. these could, and i stress could, help van persie’s torn ligaments to heal faster and fight off infection more efficiently. liverpool are claiming the same specialist helped with the recent speedy recoveries of benayoun and reira. but odds are this is just some witchcraft BS that won’t help at all. it does make me wonder though, where is she even getting this stuff from?

al fayed – hodgson is committed –
fulham owner mohamed al fayed has been forced to quash rumors of manager roy hodgson’s imminent departure. after steering “fulhamerica” away from relegation in the ’07-’08 season and into europe last season, it’s easy to see why many clubs and national sides might be interested in the english gaffer. speculation of him leaving has increased of late, seeing how he hasn’t entered into discussions with the club over a new long-term contract. my advice to fulham: give the man whatever he wants and do it quick. the fact that he has done so much with the club on a severely limited budget is nothing short of a miracle. and while shooting for another european spot this season might be a stretch with a thin squad, the london club would be foolish to not tie him up quickly.

as henry shows, footballers can’t be trusted –
undoubtedly the biggest controversy in the sport right now is thierry henry’s handball assist that sent ireland packing in their world cup playoff yesterday.  and i have to admit, the handball is such an un-henry-like action that it even caught me by surprise. sure, the french captain admitted to “accidentally” handling the ball in the post-match presser. but article author john leicester’s complaints that henry celebrated gallas’ goal immediately after, instead of running over to the ref and admitting his cheat, are completely ridiculous. honestly, what footballer, no matter how honorable or decorated, is going to do that?!

however, leicester does raise a good point in here too. video replay is not an answer here, as it is too time consuming and will break the flow of the game that makes the sport so appealing. it’s time for fifa and uefa to stop experimenting with the extra goal-line officials and make them a full-time reality, especially during high profile matches and tournaments. if not, we’ll never hear or see the end of it.

youth soccer goalie scores on her own team –
in what is fast becoming a news round-up trend, here is this week’s video clip of the week. as an ardent follower and player of the game, it always brings back fond memories of my youth to see little kids playing the beautiful game.

to see this little 5-year-old girl accidentally “bicycle kick” the ball into her own net definitely made me LOL. but then i stopped laughing. why you ask? two reasons:

  1. this clip currently has over 320,000 views, and some of the user comments have been a little harsh on the hapless youngster. it’s just a cute little girl who is trying to learn to play soccer, so let’s go easy on her internet trolls. hopefully this doesn’t cause some undue embarrassment for the girl down the road, let alone spoil her opinion of the game.
  2. some day i’m going to have children. i’ve already accepted that karma will repay me with nothing but daughters. and knowing my genetics, i’ll probably be one of those dads that tries to live vicariously through his children. so it’s entirely possible that my daughter(s) will either a) do something like this and i’ll giggle, or b) and most likely, it will be an ominous sign that my daughter(s) will be terrible at the sport i love. frump.

but it’s still funny… and i hope you enjoyed.