Thursday 23 December 2010

FA nominate David Bernstein

The FA Board has nominated David Bernstein to be the new Chairman of The Football Association.

Mr Bernstein was recommended by the Nominations Committee – chaired by Phil Gartside and consisting of Michael Game, Tony Kleanthous and John Ward. This nomination was approved unanimously by The Board today and The FA Council will be asked to endorse this appointment at its meeting on 25 January 2011.

David Bernstein, aged 67, was on the board of Manchester City FC for nine years, five of them as Chairman. During this time the club returned to the Premier League and David led the negotiations which delivered a new stadium for the club. He is a chartered accountant with a long career in business, sitting on the Boards of several public companies including the French Connection Group Plc, Ted Baker Plc and Blacks Leisure Plc, where he has been Chairman since 1996. Since 2003 he has been a Director of Wembley Stadium and has been Chairman since 2008. He is also President of the National Association of Disabled Supporters.

Acting Chairman Roger Burden said: “The Board was united in its view that David would make an excellent choice as Chairman of the organisation. I have worked with David for some years and have always been impressed by his professionalism and integrity.”

“We look forward to working with David to take The FA forward in the best interests of football at all levels across the country.”

Nominations Committee Chairman Phil Gartside said: “David was the outstanding candidate for the role. He combines strong business and leadership skills with tremendous insight and knowledge of football.”

FA General Secretary Alex Horne added: “I very much look forward to working with David and together focussing on the priorities for the development of English football. We have a busy year ahead with work starting on St George’s Park, the launch of the Women’s Super League, England men’s and women’s teams competing in major competitions at a variety of age groups and a drive to implement the recommendations of our review into international player development.”

Mr Bernstein said: “I am honoured to be asked to take on the role as Chairman of The FA. It is a tremendous challenge but I look forward to working with the Board, the staff at The FA and everyone in football from local playing fields to Wembley and the international stage. ”

My Debt to Enzo Bearzot

Friday 17 December 2010

Champions League Draw - Last 16

Eight of the 16 teams in the draw – those that won their sections in the group stage – are seeded, with the eight runners-up unseeded. The runners-up are drawn first and play the first-leg matches at home. They cannot be paired with either the winners from their section or clubs from the same association. Matches 15/16/22/23 February & 8/9/15/16 March.

Group winners: Tottenham Hotspur FC, FC Schalke 04, Manchester United FC, FC Barcelona, FC Bayern München, Chelsea FC, Real Madrid CF, FC Shakhtar Donetsk

Group runners-up: FC Internazionale Milano (holders), Olympique Lyonnais, Valencia CF, FC København, AS Roma, Olympique de Marseille, AC Milan, Arsenal FC

Group winners

A: Tottenham Hotspur FC 
Can play: Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
Qualified as: fourth place, England / began in play-offs
Last season: did not enter
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 1
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: semi-finals

B: FC Schalke 04
Can play: Inter, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
Qualified as: runners-up, Germany
Last season: did not enter
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 3
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: quarter-finals

C: Manchester United FC
Can play: Inter, Lyon, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
Last season: quarter-finals
Qualified as: runners-up, England
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 16
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (three times)

D: FC Barcelona
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Roma, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
Qualified as: champions, Spain
Last season: semi-finals
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 15
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (three times)

E: FC Bayern München
Can play: Inter, Lyon Valencia, København, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
Qualified as: champions, Germany
Last season: runners-up
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 15
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (four times)

F: Chelsea FC
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Milan
Qualified as: champions, England
Last season: round of 16
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 9
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: runners-up

G: Real Madrid CF
Can play: Inter, Lyon, København, Roma, Marseille, Arsenal
Qualified as: runners-up, Spain
Last season: round of 16
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 15
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (nine times)

H: FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
Qualified as: champions, Ukraine
Last season: UEFA Europa League round of 32
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 6
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: group stage


A: FC Internazionale Milano
Can play: Schalke, Man United, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Madrid, Shakhtar 
Qualified as: holders / champions, Italy
Last season: winners
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 10
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (three times)

B: Olympique Lyonnais
Can play: Tottenham, Man United, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Madrid, Shakhtar 
Qualified as: runners-up, France
Last season: semi-finals
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 11
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: semi-finals

C: Valencia CF
Can play: Tottenham, Schalke, Bayern, Chelsea, Shakhtar 
Last season: UEFA Europa League quarter-finals
Qualified as: third place, Spain
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 7
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: runners-up

D: FC København
Can play: Tottenham, Schalke, Man United, Bayern, Chelsea, Madrid, Shakhtar
Qualified as: champions, Denmark / began in third qualifying round
Last season: UEFA Europa League round of 32
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 2
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: group stage

E: AS Roma
Can play: Tottenham, Schalke, Man United, Barcelona, Chelsea, Madrid, Shakhtar
Qualified as: runners-up, Italy
Last season: UEFA Europa League round of 32
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 7
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: runners-up

F: Olympique de Marseille
Can play: Tottenham, Schalke, Man United, Barcelona, Bayern, Madrid, Shakhtar
Qualified as: champions, France
Last season: UEFA Europa League round of 16
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 7
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (once)

G: AC Milan
Can play: Tottenham, Schalke, Man United, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Shakhtar
Qualified as: third place, Italy
Last season: round of 16
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 14
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: winners (seven times)

H: Arsenal FC
Can play: Schalke, Barcelona, Bayern, Madrid
Qualified as: third place, England
Last season: quarter-finals
Seasons in UEFA Champions League: 13
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup best: runners-up

Focus on the achievements....

Wednesday 15 December 2010

England choose Chris Tremlett

2010 SWAI Awards

Nominees for the 2010 Airtricity / Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland Personality-of-the-Year Awards have been announced.

The prestigious awards, which include the overall accolade of Personality-of-the-Year and the title of Goalkeeper of the Year, will be presented at the Airtricity/SWAI Annual Banquet in Dublin's Conrad Hotel on Friday 14 January.

All six nominees for the title of 2010 Personality-of-the-Year are vying to win the Airtricity / Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland award for the first time. Managers Michael O'Neill, Paul Cook and Pat Devlin are short-listed, as are players Joseph Ndo, Richie Ryan and Gary Twigg. 

Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O'Neill secured the Hoops' first League title in 16 years after a thrilling Premier Division campaign – and Rovers went close to their first double since 1987 but lost the FAI Ford Cup final to Sligo Rovers after a dramatic penalty shootout.

Paul Cook is recognised for his achievement in helping Sligo win an FAI Ford Cup and EA Sports Cup double, while also steering the Bit O'Red to third place in the table and European football next season. 

Pat Devlin took over first-team affairs at Bray Wanderers in August following Eddie Gormley's departure. The Seagulls were bottom of the table and looked certain for the drop, but Bray avoided relegation following a dramatic play-off with Monaghan United.

Gary Twigg was one of O'Neill's key players again this season, despite missing the first six league games after surgery on a calf injury. He made his return and the goals flowed, putting away 26 in all competitions.

Although Cook masterminded Sligo's trophy charge, he couldn't have done it without key players Richie Ryan and Joseph Ndo. 

Ryan was arguably the best midfielder in the League of Ireland this season and that was acknowledged by his peers in November when crowned PFAI Player of the Year on top of an Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award also presented that month. The only blot on his copybook was missing the FAI Cup final through suspension.

Ndo joined Sligo at the start of the season from Bohemians, although the Bit O'Red had to patiently bide their time as red tape prevented him making his debut until late April. The former Cameroon international was at his swaggering, confident best, driving Sligo to success this season, and he capped off the year with a man-of-the-match performance in the FAI Ford Cup final win over Shamrock Rovers.

The other main award of the night at the upcoming 2010 Airtricity / Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland Personality-of-the-Year Awards is the Goalkeeper of the Year Award which will go to Alan Mannus, Ciaran Kelly or Peter Cherrie – all of whom are also bidding to win the award for the first time.

Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus was central to the Hoops first League title in 16 years, but was powerless to prevent Sligo denying the Hoops the double in the FAI Ford Cup final.

Ciaran Kelly was the reason, as he saved all four of the Hoops penalties in that dramatic shootout at Aviva Stadium. The Mayoman deputised in the second part of the season for injured Richard Brush and played an important role in the team's notable success this year.

Dundalk had a roller-coaster season, with the highs of leading the league and playing in Europe, coupled with the lows of a mid-season slide down the table, but Peter Cherrie – despite a foot injury that left him on crutches for weeks – remained consistent with some excellent displays as he closed out the season as the Lilywhites Player of the Year.

SWAI Personality of the Year nominees: Paul Cook (Sligo Rovers), Pat Devlin (Bray Wanderers), Michael O'Neill (Shamrock Rovers), Richie Ryan (Sligo Rovers), Joseph Ndo (Sligo Rovers), Gary Twigg (Shamrock Rovers)

SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year nominees: Peter Cherrie (Dundalk), Ciaran Kelly (Sligo Rovers), Alan Mannus (Shamrock Rovers).

Monday 6 December 2010

José Mourinho's ban reduced

FIFA Ballon d'Or 2010

The contenders for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the best player of 2010 and for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2010 award were announced on Monday during a press conference held at the headquarters of the sports daily L’Equipe in Paris, in which Jérôme Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, François Morinière, CEO of France Football, Jean-Pierre Papin, a former winner of the Ballon d’Or, and Christian Karembeu, a member of FIFA’s Football Committee, took part.

In alphabetical order, the male nominees are Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina) andXavi (Spain), while Fatmire Bajramaj (Germany), Marta (Brazil) and Birgit Prinz (Germany) will contest the women’s award.

The candidates for the newly created FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award and the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football award were also announced. The contenders are the following: Vicente del Bosque (Spain/Spanish national team), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Barcelona) and José Mourinho (Portugal/FC Internazionale and Real Madrid CF) in the men’s category, and MarenMeinert (Germany/German U-20 national team) Silvia Neid (Germany/German national team) and PiaSundhage (Sweden/USA national team) in the women’s category.

All of these nominees were confirmed after a poll in which the captains and head coaches of the men’s and women’s national teams as well as international media representatives selected by FranceFootball voted for candidates. The votes from each of the three groups counted for one-third to obtain the final result.

The winners will be revealed at the first FIFA Ballon d’Or gala as part of a televised ceremony at the Zurich Kongresshaus on 10 January 2011, during which the FIFA FIFPro World XI and the FIFA Puskás Award for the most beautiful goal of the year will also be announced for the second year running. The online vote for fans on for the FIFA Puskás Award has now reached the 1 million vote landmark, with one week to go until the poll closes at noon CET on 13 December. The FIFA Presidential Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award will also be presented during the gala.

United Part Company With Hughton

Friday 3 December 2010

The Kaiser Still Rules

After the announcement by the President of FIFA that the 2018 World Cup had been adjudicated to Russia - with Qatar designated the host nation in 2022 – all the delegates of the losing bids were disappointed but little had the same post vote angst and recrimination evident from the English media. In Spain the media understood the financial horsepower and resources behind the Russian offering and seemed to accept their fate – with disappointment of course - but knowing they had secured the seven votes they had been promised. 

For England the fact that the bid never passed the first round and secured only two votes – one of which was certainly the former FA Chairman and FIFA Vice President Geoff Thompson – is alarming in so far as the horse trading suggested a higher count to Prime Minister David Cameron and David Beckham. Clearly they were way off the mark based on what we know now and at this level – with such high stakes poker in flux - any positive indications by anyone pre-vote is meaningless and counts for nothing. This time the usual health warnings have been shown once again to be most reliable yardstick rather any nods or winks in the corridors of a Zurich hotel. 

It is all not surprisingly as there is much money at stake with a bid – stadium construction contracts, ticket sales; corporate hospitality, TV rights, other broadcast rights, merchandising and so on. A few meetings in downtown Zurich were never going to prove enough to sway such important decisions. Indeed, only for the collapse of International Sports Leisure [ISL] in 2001 - FIFA's exclusive marketing partner - the financial value of the World Cup, which for years had only been a wild guess, was finally exposed when ISL went into liquidation owing more than 450 million Euros to creditors. 

The most telling moment however on the England bid came during the final announcement ceremony when Sepp Blatter regaled how football was actually invented in China – ad-libbing a little known gem of history – and an insult of sorts. 

Funnily enough the Spain-Portugal bid team thought they had enough votes in the bag to get close – which they did - only eliminated when unable to garner more votes in the last stage. Although the media have noted the loss they have moved on to La Liga on Friday reporting on Real Madrid’s effort to restore normal service for the visit of Valencia – following the trauma of their 90 minutes at Camp Nou last Monday night – with Barcelona meanwhile playing Osasuna – where they arrive as La Liga leaders for the first time this season. 

Meanwhile back in Qatar the race to start their building programme must get underway in earnest in order to get nine of the eleven stadia needed for the event in twelve years time. Although the Qatari’s were not seemingly as surprised by their selection as the rest of the world, FIFA are happy to continue with their vision of bringing the event to new territories - albeit on this occasion to somewhere the size of Manchester. 

The latest story now being that the World Cup that year could be moved to winter time – to avoid the high summer temperatures. 

The view the days before the vote was that England had “eight votes” with the Holland Belgium bid the first to be eliminated. So the surprise maybe was that the Dutch - Belgium bid was worthy of a second round and with the stature of Johan Cruyff involved and Franz Beckenbauer on the FIFA Executive Committee their bid was never going to be mistreated in the footballing geo-politik of such legendary players. 

And maybe that is the key. 

Football and FIFA are ultra conservative in nature and the sight of past legends may matter more than the modern day footballers – who are more bling – compared to the nostalgic work ethic of the latter day heroes. Therefore on their barometer the commercial brand that is David Beckham might not have been of enough stature to carry votes in the hallowed halls of Zurich. Especially in comparison to the Kaiser – Franz Beckenbauer - who after all was Chairman of the 2006 Organising Committee when he brought the tournament home to Germany. 

In terms of the Russian proposal it clearly seems - with hindsight - to have been a leading candidate from early on and the decision of their President Vladimir Putin not to travel for the presentation was more an optical decoy than first appeared. If, as alleged, the names of both winners were known before the announcements – even via Twitter - then Putin was boarding his jet in Moscow even before Mr Blatter had finished the ceremony 

In terms of exerting influence Franz Beckenbauer remains a dominant figure in the sport even today, and perhaps has done so ever since he stepped into the footballing world during the 1996 World Cup. Against that backdrop there was little favour even Beckham could bend if Franz was not on board with the England bid - even with royalty taking part in their bidding. 

In an environment where FIFA officials value their own fiefdoms with equal prestige the presence of Prince William may have held little sway and was probably matched in FIFA’s view by the eminences from Qatar. Unlike the Olympic bid where Seb Coe had spent years in the IOC corridors of power – a la Beckenbauer – the English presence at FIFA HQ is low and as the game has expanded the legacy of where football was invented matters less and less. 

For Josep Blatter the vision for FIFA is that football should go to new territories - which clearly ruled out the European bidders straight away. Although the vision on occasions has gone against perceived wisdom of football lovers as far back as USA 1994, followed by Korea and Japan in 2002 and then South Africa in 2010 – the vision continues. Even if during the alternate years it was all counter balanced with more traditional venues such as France in 1998 and Germany in 2006. 

In 1982 Joao Havelange, the previous FIFA President, extended the tournament to 24 teams from 16 in Spain and as the game expanded the footprint of football came to include African nations - Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Libya - Tunisia in the mix for the 2010 tournament that was to include 32 teams. When Sepp Blatter announced on 15th May 2004 that South Africa was the winner - having narrowly failed to win the right to host the 2006 event - the event would see six countries appearing in the tournaments with Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and the host nation all hoping to challenge for the title. But in the end it was not to be. 

Whether the event in South Africa was a success is still open to still debate and given the event was supported by €3.5bn spend by the host country that some argue should have been spent on other things. 

In the aftermath of the 2010 final Franz Beckenbauer summarised his views in the following manner. 

“The stadiums are the best in the whole world, some of them they are brand new and setting a new standard for stadiums. All together the atmosphere, the fans, the stadiums, the infrastructure, they couldn't be better.” 

“It is always the same, each country has a different character. Germany was criticised in the beginning. People said, ‘we believe the Germans can organise well, but they are not warm-hearted, they will not take care of the atmosphere’ but the result was a fantastic World Cup 

The whole world was celebrating and it is the same here. The next World Cup in 2014 in Brazil - there will always be someone who criticises them, but the reality is different.” 

Franz Beckenbauer may not be royalty but he is footballing aristocracy and his views still count these days. If he was not supporting the England bid then there was no real chance as the German’s CV also shows that he is rarely on the losing side 

He may have found it harder though to say no to Sir Bobby Charlton however?

Breathless brilliance of El Clasico

England's World Cup Humiliation

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Wilkins reaches 'amicable' resolution

World Cup 2018: England bid

Big questions remain unanswered

Hanafin slams Bonner exit

Trapattoni takes a six-figure hit

Roy Keane feels the heat at Ipswich

'So many love this game, yet .....

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Barca Better Team in Camp Nou

In a matter of minutes Barcelona had unravelled an unbeaten Real Madrid on Monday night in the first of the two El Clasico encounters with Mourinho returning after his last visit in the Spring when he ended the club’s Champions League dreams - leaving local fans ecstatic. The Champions League dream being - not only winning the trophy for a second consecutive time but also receiving the trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home of Real Madrid. 

In the end it was Inter Milan who collected the trophy with Jose Mourinho then committing further treachery – in the eyes of Barca fans - by joining the Madrid Club. 

As El Clasico’s tend go this match was an exciting one - if you were a partisan Barca fan – as only one team really showed up on the night despite all the pre-match hype about Real whoa were seeking their chance to widen the gap at the top of La Liga to four points. As always "The Special One" was enjoying being the centre of attention as he tends to on these big occasions. 

For his counterpart, Pep Guardiola, it was grist to the mill and he quietly went about his business all week hardly raising a wave in media circles in the build up to the match. In fact the exact opposite, going on to deliver the largest defeat to the Portuguese man - still known at the Catalan club as the “Translator”. 

On the night Barcelona’s fluid and flexible formation of Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi ran the Real Madrid back four ragged with Ricardo Carvalho, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo struggling to protect their goalkeeping captain, Iker Casillas. The ineffective use of the offside trap proved a limitation and unable to deal with diagonal balls that each time caught the Madrid back four flat footed. 

At the other end Ronald and Di Maria became less effective as the clock ticked and when Barcelona added to their two goal tally after half time – it was game over. 

Surprisingly Mourinho found no way to change the momentum and Barcelona continued to close down Ronaldo – using three men most times – cluttering the midfield leaving Alonso, Oezil and di Maria with little time on the ball to stamp control. 

Coming into the game Real Madrid led Barcelona one point in La Liga with Real looking four their eighth straight win after the 4-0 rout of Ajax in the Champions League last week. Similarly Barcelona had six straight wins including a record 8-0 thrashing of Almeria last weekend, and were undoubtedly confident they could secure a win at home. 

For the managers it was Pep Guardiola who added to his record which includes 2 La Liga Championships; 1 Copa del Rey; 1 Spanish Super Cup; 1 UEFA Super Cup; 1 FIFA Club World Cup and 1 Champions League. More importantly, he now holds a record of five El Clasico wins - out of five meetings - on his cv. 

For Mourinho the night was only a set back and not a humiliation with the better team winning on the night.

"One team played to their potential and one didn't," said Mourinho. "Loss, yes - humiliation, no. It was a defeat we deserved, we just weren't good enough.

"I have spoken to my players and I told them the season has not ended. Who knows what can still happen this year?"

"I don't think you can say it reflected the difference between the two sides," added the  Portuguese coach after his side suffered their first competitive defeat of the season. "Also, the championship isn't over today. We are two points behind the leaders but there are lots of games left to play. We have to show character, train hard and get back to winning. I wish we were playing tomorrow.

"You have to have character - when you lose by five goals you can't leave crying, you have to go and work harder. You never want to lose by these numbers."

Xabi Alonso echoed his manager's belief that the defeat would not have a decisive impact on the destination of the title.

"We didn't expect a game like this but there's a lot of the season left and this isn't over," said the former Liverpool midfielder. "Barcelona made things a lot easier for themselves by scoring the first so early and then getting the second quickly.

"It's been very difficult. We have to learn from the mistakes we've made."

Pep Guardiola said he was delighted to see his team play at their best in front of a global television audience thought to be about 400 million.

"We are proud because the world has seen us play the way we like to play," said Guardiola.

"I would like to take more points from Madrid but it's not possible. That team, with all that power, are just two points behind, but we are satisfied."

Striker Villa, playing in his first Clasico since signing for Barca from Valencia in the summer, scored two second-half goals.

"It's been a very important win," said the Spanish international. "We looked for the victory and we got it. And the result and the manner in which we achieved it, you cannot ask for more.

"We are two points clear but we need to continue working hard, we are only in November. Just as before the game nothing was lost, now neither have we won anything. We have an advantage but we need to continue working."

Real boss denies humiliation by Barca