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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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Apart from being manager of Huddersfield at the time. Boring, boring, Huddersfield.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The answer is counter-intuitive: when the other team presses, you simply order one of the centre backs to lead the line. This has two advantages: one, you have a big guy at the front who can actually head it, and two, you have one fewer player at the back who cannot control the ball and who is constantly giving it away. It's a win,win.
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Mick Harper
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Not bad. Reminiscent of my open-the-batting-with-the bowlers. But football is played in real time. How, when, do you order your centre back to do this? Let's see ... if they are pressing, that means you are playing it around at the back. OK, so Harry hurries upfield while you are doing this. As you say, he won't be missed. But he's a big unit, they won't miss him either. Ah... but I see the cunning in your plan. There is nothing they can do about it! They can't harry Harry because their brief is at the other end. Their own Big Unit is already manning the ramparts but even if somebody comes back to cover Harry, he'll be some limp-wristed midfielder who doesn't want his coiffure spoiled. "Yours, Alberto!"

Meanwhile, since you've been busy in the window, you'll have a Nat Lofthouse de nos jours already up there. Plus your own fully coiffed midfielder who's sidled up for the knockdowns. Wiley, I'm promoting you to sweeper at the Academy.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Thanks Gaffer. Can I stop cleaning your boots?
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Mick Harper
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I wonder if this still goes on. In the days of Charles Buchan's Football Annual, and I'm paraphrasing this from one randomly plucked from my shelves, every great star's life story included a mandatory section about having to clean the first team's boots. And wondering whether one day he would be good enough to have some cringing guttersnipe clean his boots.
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Mick Harper
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Premiership Notes, Second Half

Brighton paste Newcastle, Newcastle paste West Ham, West Ham paste Arsenal. If Covid rates keep doubling every week we are going to have to think seriously about cancelling this season.

MoTD doesn't show the kick-off -- we know it happens, we've seen it all before, let's get on with the action. MoTD shows the kneel-down -- we know it happens, we've seen it all before, let's not get on with the action in case anyone should think the BBC are a nest of white supremacists.

The Brighton pen. No protests from players, VAR, commentators or pundits. The bloke comes in from the side, kicks the ball away, his momentum carries him on to collide with the attacker who goes down in a heap. Call me old-fashioned but that's what we used call 'a tackle'.
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Mick Harper
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Speaking of white supremacists, my NFL team, the New England Patriots, are a) the most successful team during this millennium by a country mile and b) the only NFL club that has a majority white team. I'll have to explain the nuanced phraseology here since this remarkable fact has never been mentioned in my hearing (after twenty years of listening to NFL chatter inordinately) and may not even be true (for dataset reasons as you will see).

1. There are thirty-two NFL franchises
2. Each franchise has two 'starting elevens', the offence and the defence
3. Each franchise gets on Sunday/Monday Night football occasionally
4. When they do, each starting eleven gets their mugshots put up on the screen
5. M J Harper at some point started idly counting black faces versus white faces (which is not always clear)
6. It is quite common for all eleven to be black
7. All others are majority black except
8. The offensive (but not the defensive) starting eleven of the New England Patriots. And has been for as long as I have been observing these things.

Coincidentally or not, during this whole era the New England Patriots have been driven by a triumvirate consisting of an owner, a coach and a quarter back who are all avowed Donald Trump supporters. What this all means I cannot say but it sure as hell means something. If only a clear example of 'careful ignoral'.
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Mick Harper
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Luis Suarez is in spitting distance of going to the pen rather than taking them. He wants to go to Juventus, Juventus will pay full wack to get him. UEFA say no, Juve have already filled their quota of non-Euro players.
'No problemo,' says Uruguayan Luis, 'I'll take Italian nationality.'
'Problemo,' says the Italian government, 'you have to speak basic Italian if you want a passport.'
'No problemo,' says Luis and passes his Italian proficiency test at Perugia University.
'Problemo,' says the carabinieri, rounding up various academicos for giving Luis the questions in advance and still having to help him with his answers.

Asked for a comment by RAI Uno, Suarez said, "I no understand ze question."
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Mick Harper
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Correct me if I'm wrong (I was once) but Luis Suarez has committed a serious offence. In Britain it would be several, depending on circumstances anything from making a false declaration under oath to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. If he was a Romany tinker he would, I imagine, be in line for a short custodial followed by deportation and having his particulars entered into various multilateral watch lists.

So what happens when Barcelona draw AC Milan in the Champions' League and Suarez joins the queue at Malpensa Airport's immigration "Non-EU Citizens This Way Per Fervore"?

Arsenal are in a bit of parallel bother. Apparently you are only allowed twenty-one players in your squad aged over twenty-three and who are not either British or trained in a British academy. Currently they are already two-over and want to sign even more. They can't get rid of the likes of Kolasinac (boo, he should stay, I love you, Sead) or Sokratis (good riddance to bad rubbish) for love or money (not the money Arsenal are paying them). They will have to join Mezut Ozil as one of the "we'll have to carry on paying your wages but you are not allowed to play any football" people who congregate every Sunday in the lounge area behind the Charlie George stand.

I might see if they want to play in our five-a-side under the Westway. Oh no, I forgot, that's not allowed now either. How many nanny states can one man live under?
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Mick Harper
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The $55m question
Diacks' bank transfers linked to Tokyo 2020

The interesting thing about this Guardian report is not the Diacks' involvement, they've been a horror-show for years and are a standing rebuke to Seb Coe's 'Look ma, clean hands' posture ever since he marched into power in his Nike thigh boots. No, it's Japan that's the worry. If it were a level playing field, Tokyo would have got the 2020 Olympics anyway, it was Asia's turn and Tokyo were due another one after 1964. (Shame about 1940.) Japan is not a country that, at the governmental level, is particularly corrupt. Or even at all corrupt when it comes to this kind of grubbiness, which is mainly confined to funding political parties as it is in all democracies. Yet, it seems, if you want the Olympics, $55 million is entry-level for bungs. And that means a cabinet-level sign-off.

As a system, it really can't go on. Now the world has vaguely got used to at least comparing notes over Covid, maybe they can get their heads together over these multinational sporting bodies. In the past it is governments that tended to go cap in hand to Swiss lakeside retreats. Maybe they should realise they are actually quite powerful. A proper standing intergovernmental body to award sporting venues might be subject to all kinds of trade-offs but they are not, generally speaking, beholden to Diacks.

After that, banning all offshore banking would be a breeze. Though as a first step we might concentrate it all in London. What's that? We already have? Oh, well, in that case let's call an intergovernmental conference and kick the can down the road. One scandal at a time, one scandal at a time.
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Mick Harper
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Brighton 2 Man Utd 3

Yes, it was weird but the weirdest thing was that, despite hating Manchester United and being a one time habitué of the Goldstone Ground, I was vaguely wanting United to hang on for a draw. As you get older you hunger for the old certainties. I'm practically living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Folks that wanted VAR are turning against it. Sorry they are not, they want an improved version. So why not have a review. Yes that will sort it. That will get to the bottom of it.
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Mick Harper
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Yes, but before that there are two supra-decisions to be made
1. Are UEFA/FIFA 'guidelines' to be followed?
2. Is the aim primarily fairness or entertainment?

Once these decisions are made at the executive level, a panel of experts can thrash out the desiderata. This should result in the game we are traditionally used to but with instant review for egregious error. But meanwhile it should not be overlooked that it is all providing quite a lot of fun and games. Outrage is always box office boffo.
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Mick Harper
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Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0 (Arsenal on pens)

Don't be fooled by any of this 'Arteta, Miracle Man' crap. Not just because a near full-strength Arsenal team were played off the park by a team of Liverpool nobodies but the manner of it. The two full-strength teams had just played out a Premiership game a few days before when it became obvious that Arsenal's method of 'playing it out from the back' just wasn't capable of resisting the patented Liverpool full-court press.

So how did Arteta respond? Arsenal did it again, exactly, down to the two blokes on the goal line either side, with exactly the same result. Ping, ping, hoof, lose possession in the opponent's half; or ping, ping, no hoof, lose possession in your own half. It was pitiful to watch. They were like lemming automatons. Artetatons.

A word to all managers and players from your friendly AE analyst. If you are playing it out against a press, you cannot play it backwards. If you do you will immediately be pressed ten yards back from where you were. The first, or at most second, receiver must be able to 'turn and play'. Otherwise it is better to hoof it from where you are rather than the goalie or a bloke on the goal line having to do it. Here won't endeth the lesson as far as the dolt Arteta is concerned.
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Grant



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Bring back Theo. He might not have been very good but he was fast and when standing on the half way line he made the opposition worry about pressing too high.
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