Exclusive football shirt raffle!

Front of shirt
Front of shirt

OK, folks. Here is a chance to own a very exclusive Real Betis Vietnam football shirt as worn by the amazing kids at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. There were never many of these shirts and BDCF are looking for new sponsors so there simply will not be any more of this particular design.

Featuring the Real Betis badge and name, BDCF logo and Catholic Relief Services on the sleeve, the shirt has a large number 7 on the back along with the charity URL. It’s lightweight material with “breathable” fabric under the arms and down the sides. It is brand new – I’ve worn it once to check it for size and fit.

The size is “XL” and this is a western XL by my judgement, not a Vietnamese one. The V-collar means it hangs off me. I’m an average size for a 35 year-old white guy.

Back of shirt
Back of shirt

So here’s how it works. I will cover all costs involved in this little raffle including postage to wherever the lucky winner resides. Hopefully we’ll raise more than the overheads! “Tickets” are one Australian Dollar each and you “buy” them by making a donation to Blue Dragon via PayPal. When you donate, please leave a comment here (or if you’d rather not make it public, contact me directly) and tell me how much you donated and therefore how many times your name will be popped into the hat.

The donation page is here

We’ll say the deadline is October 15th 2009 which gives you the thick end of a month to save up. I’ll pick the winner at random then and get in touch with them via email, so please include a valid mail address on your comment. Don’t worry – nobody can see your email address except me and I promise with hand on heart that I will only use said address to let you know if you’ve won and to get a mailing address from you.

So… what are you waiting for?

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British football – my opinion

A soccer ball that is "thermally bonded"
These things cause a lot of emotions to run high

I’m about as unbiased as it comes when talking about the home nations’ football teams. Being born in England of a Welsh dad and a Scots mother, I still have sympathy with the Northern Irish purely because I don’t want them to feel left out.

So what’s happened to the state of the nations? Why are England the only one qualifying (sorry, Ireland – but by your own admission you need a miracle now)?

There are three factors that I can spot a mile off. I’ll deal with the first as it’s not purely an England thing:

1) Foreign manager

Yes, I know the Scots had Bertie Volks who’s German hence why I said this isn’t a purely English situation. We just happened to get someone who’s turned out to be really good. Eriksson wasn’t bad, either. However, should we be allowed to have a foreign coach? After all, we’re not allowed foreign players in the national squad.

If we can’t find a decent enough English coach, then surely that should be our problem and we should have to settle for the best we can find. The same as if we struggle for strikers, or goalkeepers, or left-footed wingers.

My opinion on this is that if you appear above a certain level in the FIFA rankings as a national team (or by some other dividing line) your coach must satisfy the same nationality requirements as any other member of the squad. This would allow for fledgling nations to have someone with experience elsewhere brought in (like the mackem bastard Reid in Thailand) to give the team structure and knowledge. With luck, the team progresses at which point when that manager leaves he must be replaced with a national of that country.

Obviously, this means England should have an English manager. I don’t care what some of the die-hard bunch say – if we won a world cup under an Italian manager it would take some of the gloss off it for me.

2) Population size

There are more people in London alone than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. England simply has a bigger pot to pick players from than any other home nation.

Look at the teams way down the rankings. Compare them to the population of their country. There’s a ridiculously obvious link between placement and population. It’s not hard and fast, I’m sure, but the pattern is there.

Think about it. If a person has a 0.05% chance of developing into a football player of any calibre at all, then the larger the pool of potentials you have to pick from, the larger the number of finished articles you’ll have.

Short of a rule change – such as going as far back as grandparents’ countries of birth to decide nationality – there’s nothing Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Andorra or anywhere else can do about this.

3) Foreign players in the game

This seems to be being addressed by FIFA although the European Court of Interfering ******** seem to be doing their utmost to stop it. The upcoming regulations will, over seasons, force teams to field (or at least have on their books – I need to check) gradually more and more home-grown players up to a certain ratio.

Right now, you name me an English Premier League club that regularly fields more than three English players. By that I mean, they start and play pretty much ninety minutes of each game on the trot.

Now, do the same with Scotland. Rangers and Celtic are (and no offence to whoever finishes third each season) the only teams to play at any reasonable level. And they’re both chock full of foreigners. The other teams in the SPL and lower leagues all have far more Scots players than the equivalent EPL teams have English ones. But they’re not up to the standards of the Big Two due, in part, to point 2 above.

Wales don’t have a hope in hell as the only teams in the country that are remotely good are playing in the English leagues. Cardiff is probably the largest “force” in Welsh football and they’re currently in the English second tier. I know – we play them on Sunday afternoon.

Without looking things up, I can’t comment on the Irish league. However, I would suspect that – as with any decent Scot or Taff – they get drawn to the English (or other overseas) leagues for the cash.

Why nurture your own talent when you can buy it from a small village in Argentina? Why take a risk that the 8 year-old from Kilmarnock with excellent ball skills won’t peak when he’s 11? Just buy a pre-developed striker from AC Milan instead.

Remember the last time England were any good? I’ve made this point on other blog posts, but at one time the core of the England squad all played for Newcastle. Four years later, they were all Manchester United players. They played as a squad week in, week out. Now we’re picking two from one team, one from elsewhere, another from another and so on. We have a collection of talented players, but a weak team. Of course, on recent outings this has finally come together. It’s taken a lot of years and several managers, though.

These are the problems that I think face British football. England have been lucky in recent years that we have had some decent talent come through. But we don’t have that much depth as regards a good squad. It’s purely our (England’s) population that’s keeping us top of the British “League”.

So please don’t blame Craig Burley. On the strength of their performance last night I think Scotland achieved all they could with the resources they have. Just unlucky finishing – and the lack of a top-class striker who can compete with the Rooneys, Henrys and so forth of this world – stopped them hammering the Dutch.

The worst thing Scotland could do is to sack Burley. The best thing they could do would be to embrace the FIFA regulations and force Rangers and Celtic to field a minimum three Scots-bred players.

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Football fixtures on Google Calendar

Newcastle United F.C.
Newcastle United

A few weeks back I posted a link to my Google Calendar with the Newcastle United fixtures on. I had to do this as Google removed the “search” option so it was impossible to find any useful calendars.

They’ve not reintroduced this, but they have added a new slew of “Interesting Calendars” (their words) which include fixture details for a ton of football (sorry, “soccer”) teams as well as a plethora of other sports. As a bonus, you can watch the scores update in real-time-ish as the match progresses via the details on your calendar.

To get to them, look down the bottom left of your Google Calendar screen for “Other Calendars” and click on “Add” at the bottom of the list. Then just navigate through the categories to find the club and competition you want.

I would note a couple of things, however. And these are the reasons I’m keeping my calendar online and updated as well. The first is that there are no TV details for the games. This is understandable as mine’s geared at UK users whereas Google’s far more international. The second is that it looks like you have to subscribe to three or four calendars for each team if you want to follow their league, league cup and European fixtures as well. Why not one calendar for all fixtures regardless of competition?

Oh, and they’ve mis-spelled “Darllington” (sic) in the League Trophy section. Note that this is the Trophy and not the League Cup. They’re different and there doesn’t appear to be a listing for League Cup fixtures. Unless they’re included with the main team fixtures – in which case why not do the same with the League Trophy ones? [I just checked – they’re not. Google doesn’t list our fixture at Peterborough on the 22nd of September]

So, 75% for effort to Google. But I still think they’d have been better just replacing the ability to search for useful calendars. The work would be done for them – and better – by fans of the sports in question. Mind you, I bet the American sports are far better organised especially as, with the NFL at least, there’s only one competition.

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Quick message for Spurs fans

Spurs badge 1983-2006
Tottenham Hotspur

I have nothing against Tottenham Hotspur. They’re an OK team, they’ve progressed well over the last few seasons and they play half-decent football. Alright, so they’re now one of “those bloody Premier League teams” since we got relegated, but they’re hardly one of the worst.

However, I shall be hoping every decision goes against them this season. All the dodgy stuff, the results, poor player performance. The lot.

For why?

Because Harry Redknapp gives the best post-match interviews bar none when he’s pissed off about a poor result. Fergie’s just a miserable, whinging bastard. Wenger didn’t see anything so he can’t comment. That French guy at Liverpool… well, who can understand him?

But Redknapp is genius.

Please don’t take it personally, guys and gals. At least you know why I’ll be cheering on 18 of the other teams against you. You didn’t think I’d want the mackem filth to beat you as well, did you?

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Easy Wednesday?

Newcastle United F.C.
Newcastle United F.C.

A few blogs have been mentioning that the last time Newcastle United played Sheffield Wednesday at St James’ Park, we won 8-0. Fair do’s, but a lot has changed since then!

For a start, we’re a shadow of the side we were then. It was Bobby Robson‘s first game in charge and a team almost always does better in that situation as players try to make their mark. And when that manager takes over from an utter arse, confidence is also an issue.

Non more so an example than Alan Shearer that day, who scored five. He’s always said Bobby brought him back from the brink and that was the game that proved it.

Wednesday were relegated that season and went into freefall. Everyone beat them. They aren’t that team any more. They won’t be so easy tonight.

Fingers crossed, but no way will we see 8 goals on either side.

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