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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hot-Headed Baker Burns Coventry

Millwall have started the season very well. Though I am yet to work out at what stage the nation’s league tables cease to be ‘embryonic’ – what are they now, foetal? – three wins from four for Kenny Jackett’s side leave them sitting in fourth. And nine points from 12 is decent form in anyone’s book.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Ireland’s Industry; That Is What We Are

If you’re lucky enough to follow Magic Spongers on Twitter (advantageous as the inexplicable ravings are restricted to 140-characters), you’ll know that I watched the second half of Aston Villa’s tie with Rapid Vienna with interest. For some reason, you got the impression an implosion was coming, and it duly arrived, making Kevin MacDonald’s side the dodgiest villa I’ve seen in Europe since my post A-levels holiday to Tenerife.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Some Like It Scot

If you’d asked us at the end of last season about the summer’s activity in the transfer market – and had we been feeling particularly facetious – we’d have probably said something along the lines of: ‘Oh, City will pay £30mn for any English midfielders going, as well as second-tier European footballers, United will be so bereft of funds they’ll get a homeless man in on the cheap and Gordon Strachan will answer everyone’s question about how the SPL would fare in England by signing 12 more players from Rangers and Celtic’.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Good Times At Goodison?

Mikel Arteta – Spanish or English? Well let’s be honest, he’s about as English as Manuel Almunia; who is as English as Antonio Banderas playing a Spanish waiter in a Spanish re-make of Fawlty Towers.

England captain Steven Gerrard said recently of the Everton midfielder, “I'd certainly love nothing better than to see Mikel Arteta available for England. You want to play with the best players, and if it makes the England squad better, of course I'd like to see it”. As an Englishman, extremely disappointed in my national team, I would find it hard to argue against his inclusion in the next squad; something we have already fore-fronted on the blog. And you have only to ask any Everton fan what the guile of their number 8 means to them. Now fully fit, he could make the difference to Everton’s season.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Keeping Wolves from the (Trap)door

PARTISAN ALERT – While most of us spend our time trying to keep them out, Drew Kearns explains why this year, the Wolves themselves have battened down the hatches and barricaded themselves inside Molineux with 1,057 sandbags, copies of every Premier League table since 1992, some loo roll and a healthy dose of belief.

It lurks in dressing rooms up and down the country, hiding in lockers, behind mirrors, inside showers, beneath piles of dirty kit. Always ready to strike and claim a new victim. Ready for its name to be cited as the reason for heartbreak, heartache and fortunes lost. Its malevolent presence is a source of constant fear for those who otherwise appear so sage and safe. This year I am concerning myself with this painful disease; this infection of our beautiful game. It is of course second-season syndrome, and I am a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Bigger Pitchure

This plastic pitch stuff is a right old bru-ha-ha, isn’t it? ‘It’s not an excuse’, harrumphed Harry Redknapp, before going on the claim that at least four of his elite, highly-paid, professional sportsmen ‘couldn’t handle’ playing on what was essentially a soft flat carpet. I’ve heard all about the ramifications of artificial pitches for the knees of Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone, but then I’ve also been hearing about how hard and unforgiving ‘these new grass pitches’ are for the last five years. Surely spraying gallons of water over any pitch before kick-off makes them reasonably dangerous too?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Boothroyd Enjoys Platt-itudes On Watford Return

This season, our aim is to actually get round some of the London grounds (we do live here, after all), given that last season, with the same intention, we made it to a total of maybe three. After Stevenage last week, this week it's the return of Aidy Boothroyd to Vicarage Road.

'I don't think it'll be that bad,' said the Watford fan in the pub of their reaction to Aidy Boothroyd, as the former Hornets manager returned to Vicarage Road with Coventry City. 'There might be some tutting', he added thoughtfully. 'That or some folks opening their thermos more aggressively than normal'.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Moving On Up

Stevenage celebrate promotion

Watching Macclesfield play at Stevenage last weekend I was struck by a couple of things. The first was that it is very difficult to achieve things in a game of football (like attacking) when the ball spends seven minutes of every ten either in the air or out of play. The other was that it was almost universally agreed before kick-off that the sides promoted from the Conference, Stevenage and Oxford, would ‘do well this year’, with the only justification being that ‘promoted teams always do well’.

A 2-2 draw for the Silkmen was received well by most of the Macclesfield faithful. An 89th minute equaliser was hard to swallow, but again, the opinion prevailed that we would have taken a point before the game. Even Gary Simpson, speaking after the match, reckoned that, “We battled hard away from home against a side who I still believe will be one of the front runners this season.”

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Blackpool All At Sea

‘We are starting 20 million miles behind (everyone else)’, sighed Ian Holloway in July, with the slightly desperate air of a man who has been juggling red apples and red onions for a while and now that it’s come to the moment he has to take a bite from one of them, is struggling to tell the difference. And Blackpool, with just one signing so far this summer and few seemingly in the pipeline, could be forgiven for feeling the same way.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Let's All Have A Xisco

Magic Spongers’ new boy Alex Bingle looks at returning Premier League big boys Newcastle United in the sort of new-boy-on-returning-big-boy encounter normally reserved for sprog-bashing day at boarding school.

The Toon Army; football’s believers, the legion of dreamers. It started again with Kevin Keegan’s revolution and is yet to abate. They are one of the biggest clubs in England: big stadium, big support and (until recently) big money signings. You can’t really argue that Newcastle United are not a major player in Premier League folklore unless, of course, you move in Mackem-biased football fraternities. Counting the likes of Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola and Alan Shearer among their alumni and with a passionate fan base and atmosphere to match, St. James’ Park will still be an intimidating venue this season.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Like Blues In A China Shop

In the summers between football seasons, most of us do similar stuff: go on holiday; enjoy beer gardens; pretend we don't care about transfer speculation when in fact we love it; and try not to read too much in to pre-season friendlies. This summer though, I've been doing none of that, because I've been trying in vain to work out exactly what the fuck is going on at Manchester City.

With their opening Premier League fixture now under two weeks away, City have a senior squad of 38. This is quite a lot, but it's not unheard of, especially when you consider Rafael Benitez’s small village of a squad (62 players). However, it shows no signs of shrinking, regardless of the number of players that will miss out on the 25-man Premier League squad Roberto Mancini will have to compile by the end of August. Even then though, having a few players who are 'bit-part' isn't THAT unusual. What IS unusual is when you career around the world buying players you don't need for money they aren't worth. I bet they haven't even bought a longer bench. Where's Joleon Lescott going to sit?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Wonderful Wilshere Overshadows Familiar Faults

I watched the Emirates Cup this weekend – pretty much the first football I’ve seen since the World Cup and Javier Hernandez / Spain’s Under-19s on YouTube. Despite finding it slightly odd that in a tournament also containing AC Milan and Lyon, Arsenal v Celtic was the match trumpeted as the ‘showcase’ by Sky on Sunday afternoon, it was enjoyable enough. And after all, it’s not like Sky aren’t used to trumpeting ANY fixture as world-beating on a Sunday afternoon.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this tournament was renamed the ‘Jack Wilshere Cup’ next season, such is the little Englishman’s deserved dominance of the headlines after Arsenal’s two matches. Wilshere has two of the qualities missing so desperately from all things to do with English football this summer – confidence and composure. He doesn’t ‘attempt’ cross-field passes, one-touch layoffs, turns and runs through the middle of midfield like so many English midfielders, he just executes them. His first touch is superb.