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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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Callum Wilson Goes Rogue

So Gomez is standing between Callum Wilson and the ball as it is whipped in. When the ball arrives, Gomez starts to kick it away. But no, Wilson sticks his foot in front of Gomez's foot (and slightly injures him). But since the Gomez foot has struck the Wilson foot rather than the ball, it's a pen all day long. Except, as Lenin used to say, who is impeding whom?

Next, Wilson is holding the ball and then suddenly shoves it with some force into Mina's solar plexus. Mina doubles up but doesn't go down. The referee, who is two yards away and has seen the whole thing, gives Wilson a yellow card. For what, ref? If it's violent conduct, it's a red. If Wilson is conducting some kind of gestalt physical therapy, it's no card. So what was the yellow for?
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Mick Harper
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Handball mania got a fresh twist in Chelsea vs Rennes. The ball is fired into the box, it strikes the outstretched leg of a defender two yards away, rolls up his body, strikes his hand, it's a pen all day long. Now, this is old news in that the poor bloke's arm could be said to be in an unnatural position but the twist this time was that the ref gave him a second yellow and off he went.

You are supposed to get a yellow not for handball as such but for a deliberate handball (whatever that means when an accidental handball is no offence at all). The ref must have decided that he deliberately put his arm in an unnatural position even though he didn't know the ball was going to ricochet off his leg. Defenders have a lot to think about these days.
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Mick Harper
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Football Latest

Southampton were always going to be top this early in the season but if they want to do a Leicester I would strongly advise them not to play Theo Walcott at centre forward. Or at all.
Speaking of central strikers, the fact that we are all hopelessly in love with Tammy Abraham should not blind us to the fact that he is complete rubbish.
Manchester United have reached the tragic Late Wenger Stage: they have a hopeless manager but their players are so good they turn in terrific performances just often enough to keep him in place indefinitely.
Jermaine Jenas should be put in charge of FIFA.
The arm is mightier than the foot when it comes to offside decisions.
Defenders keep making the elementary mistake of clearing their lines without first looking round 360 degrees in case some attacker is close enough to dangle a foot at some time during the procedure thereby winning a pen, or at least a free kick on the edge of the area, hopefully a sending off for the defender, his suspension for three games, the ruin of his career, probable relegation for the club and an MBE for the ref and the bloke in the VAR booth for services to football.
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Mick Harper
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Keep The Home Fires Burning

Jose Mourinho has said he is uneasy that Gareth Bale will be under the jurisdiction of an Arsenal coach when the Tottenham winger returns to international duty next week.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:

Southampton were always going to be top this early in the season but if they want to do a Leicester I would strongly advise them not to play Theo Walcott at centre forward. Or at all.


I actually thought Che Adams was playing centre forward, but maybe we had two false nines.
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Mick Harper
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An interesting point. What do you call one of the front three who is playing, in MoTD's words, 'through the middle'? On the other hand, while observing the play of Tammy Abrahams, I kept thinking why is he playing at all, Chelsea seem to have two strikers already. He just seemed to be the 'hold-up, knock-down man'. The difference could also be seen when Manchester United replaced Martial with Cavani but nobody actually argues for Cavani to play from the off. And as for Spurs and gone-walkabout Kane...

Is the centre-forward dead? Or is Derek Dougan in a cave deep among the Mountains of Mourne waiting for the call to save his people? I just don't know, to be honest. I see Wiley is once again claiming to be a lifelong supporter of whoever is at the top of the table. Try Bray F.C.
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Mick Harper
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Speaking of which, we could go third if we beat Villa. A word to those thinking of shelling out £49.95 to watch it on Sky Pay-per-View. Save your money, the whole thing is on at three a.m for nuttin'. Mind you, that could be daylight robbery the way we're playing.
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Mick Harper
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What do we think about the minor British nations? The reason I ask is that, watching the highlights of Scotland and Northern Ireland playing their final qualifiers last night, I found myself rooting for Scotland on the sole ground that (at last) I recognised some of the names from the Premiership and quite fancied seeing them in the finals.

As soon as Northern Ireland came on I was praying for them to lose to Slovakia. I was seriously alarmed at the embarrassing prospect of such a band of squalidity appearing under the British label. Later I was surprised to see that Wales had already qualified. Oh good, I thought, watching Bale play is always good. Before remembering he probably won't be and won't be much good if he does.

I was amused to hear the ITV commentary team, trying to get us to pay proper attention to a friendly against Ireland, say "And there are no fewer than five players from the Championship in the Irish team." Good grief, who are the others playing for? Sligo Rovers? Dulwich Hamlet? Made all the worse by the peerless Roy Keane glowering in the background.

PS What makes Jersey and Guernsey any different from Gibraltar?
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Grant



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Scotland game was almost a movie cliche - great opening goal, last minute equaliser, 5-4 on penalties with last penalty saved.

Those pens made me wonder why goalkeepers ever try to anticipate the direction of the shot. If they stood still they would save at least a third of the time. And with VAR if they do anticipate the shot there is a good chance the referee will give the striker another go anyway.
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Mick Harper
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You are nearly correct. There is a difference between penalties and penalty shoot-outs. I will begin my analysis with the former i.e. correct strategy for goalies and specialist penalty takers.

It is correct for the goalie to anticipate since against a specialist penalty taker there is little chance of saving otherwise. A specialist can put it hard enugh and far enough that only anticipation will reach it. Standing one's ground, as a strategy, would not be correct because such a strategy would be quickly spotted, as a strategy. However, strictly speaking, it would pay a goalie to do it occasionally since a specialist penalty taker could never then put it down the middle, in case it coincided with a stand-fast from the goalie.

Notice, it would still be good strategy by the penalty-taker to put it down the middle occasionally but, if it coincided with a stand-fast, he would look a complete berk and would never hear the end of it. As I am often pointing out, footballers have a higher interest than the success of their team, and that is the success of themselves as players. Nobody ever says, "Don't worry about looking like a berk, we understand that this is rare enough to make it a correct strategy in terms of total penalties scored/saved."

Also note that specialist penalty takers can put it down the middle only because goalies always anticipate and dive against specialist penalty-takers. Older members will agree with me that this used to never happen because goalies never used to anticipate. With heavy leather balls and cloggy grounds, it was correct for goalies not to anticipate but to try and save after the ball was kicked.

Which brings us to penalty shoot outs...
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Mick Harper
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Non-specialist penalty takers i.e. the rest of the team taking their turn, cannot habitually put the ball in the corner with sufficient force. In other words they are de facto penalty-takers of the old school where it would pay the goalies not to anticipate but to dive after the kick is taken and they know which way to go. As long as the goalie habituates himself to this situation, he will always save the straight-down-the-middle kick. Currently he all too often starts to stand fast but sort of flops down on one knee while the ball whistles over his head. Soon this permanent stand-fast practice will be an observed strategy and thus preclude these non-specialists ever kicking it down the middle.

I trust everybody has observed the latest development which is for specialist penalty takers to lift the ball. Before, fear of ballooning it over the bar made this a non-paying proposition but since it has been found that a lifted ball will defeat a diving goalie including the trailing feet of a goalie when the ball is down the middle, this is now being cautiously adopted.

We should also note, pace Grant, that the 'goalie must stay on his line' enforcement has not been worked out to any conclusion as yet. It will certainly have radical implications except, as with Scotland's winning pen, the refs are still not applying it with the necessary strictness. Not that, in my opinion, they should be. You wait for VAR to be applied to people entering the box before the ball is struck .... that will cause ructions until it in turn gets played out to a conclusion.
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Mick Harper
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The Masters without the crowds is a blessed relief. That bloke who shouts "Get in the hole" every time someone hits it, even teeing off on a par-5, won't be missed. Also what won't be missed is the ridiculous habit of golfers marking the ball, picking it up, inspecting it and then placing it carefully back on the marker while we've popped out to do a bit of shopping. Ordinary golfers aren't allowed to do this, only professional golfers who insist on their right. Rite. Even though nobody has ever found anything on the ball since Gene Sarazin spotted a speck of dust during the third round of the Henry Doubleday in 1927 and it turned out to be a manufacturer's blemish.

Brits started off like a train, flattered to deceive, now clustered ready to make a charge tomorrow.
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Wile E. Coyote


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It won't be long before they can drive most par 5's. It is already down to a drive and wedge, for the bid hitters. "Get in the hole", get used to it.
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Mick Harper
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I am fascinated by this constant improvement in human performance, together with a resolute refusal to change things to reflect it, i.e. par-fives should start at six hundred yards. AE even has a name for it: Stockholm Syndrome. The fact that any club runner in the world today would win the 100 metre gold medal at the Stockholm Olympics of 1912 and yet there is no noticeable difference in the physique of runners. ...er ... club runners anyway.

Experts are always coming up with explanations for this but it seems to come down to "Human beings can always beat that which is put before them." So on to golf. Yes, the clubs are carbon fibre (twenty yards) and the balls are more aerodynamically dimpled (twenty yards) but Rory MacIlroy is not as strong as Gene Sarazin yet sticks the ball eighty yards further. You explain it.
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Mick Harper
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England 4 Iceland 0

I don't like it when Saka plays well on the national stage. He might get snapped up by one of the big clubs.
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