Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should Canada be broken up?

Was the title misleading enough? This isn't an article supporting Québecois or Western secession, but one supporting breaking the Great White North into Canada-West and Canada-East for the World Junior tournaments.*

You may be asking; Amrit, why would you even dream of this? You may also be planning a fire-bombing of my house. I would ask you not to do the second, but I will answer the first question.

First off, we're too dominant. Yes, it's possible to be too dominant. Since 1988, Canada has won 13 of its total 15 gold medals. In other words, teams other than Canada have only won nine times. NINE! Now, you may be saying, "Amrit, that just means we're awesome, stop your damn whining!" But I contend that this dominance is bad for the sport.

While Canada pours significant amounts of money into its junior and development programs, that spending isn't really justifiable for anyone else... because they don't have the results to back up any extra investment. Russia won three bronze medals in a row between 2005-2007, and has won the last two bronze medals. Do you think the Russians are going to put more investment into a program that doesn't seem capable of pulling off a gold medal win?

Further, support for junior hockey in places whose names don't start with "Ca" and end with "da" goes down. As sports fans in Ottawa show time and time again, it doesn't matter how much your team tries, or the style of hockey they put on the ice, if you're not winning, no one cares.

Seriously, take the Czech Republic. Arguably a hockey country (anyone who's been to the tourist area in Prague knows what I'm talking about), they have a successful domestic league and a solid history in the World Juniors, having won 14 medals as the combined Czech Republic-Czechoslovakia (but only three in the non-Communist era). We've all seen the strength of the Czechs in the NHL, why doesn't it translate into the World Juniors? Well, when they get beaten by scores like 8-1 (Canada v Czech Republic, their worst loss in the tournament last year), what incentive is there to follow them? Seriously -- the photo above was taken during 2008's IIHF World Junior tournament in the Czech Republic... look at those packed seats!

Canada is probably the only country that really gives a toss about the World Juniors, and it's got a lot to do with the fact that the team is a consistently dominant force. Unfortunately, Canadian dominance is leading to the rest of the world giving up... it's time to even out the field.

Split Canada down the middle for the World Juniors, make the tournament more even, and the level of competition should increase. Otherwise, all we're going to see is the red'n'white kicking the shit out of everyone for years to come (the pre-tournament warmup games are certainly giving us a hint of that... 6-2 over Sweden, who've won the last two silvers, and 3-0 over Finland last night... the Finns managed a grand total of 17 shots).
-----------
* How much do you love that map? For serious! Windows 7 is pretty awesome... MS Paint has stuff like "crayon" and "oil brush".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maybe I should start doing a weekly roundup?

Also, you should read Bucholtz's post on the importance of Paul Henderson's goal in 1972, and the significance of the Summit Series in general.

Read it. Read it now. And watch Espo's rant. It's awesome. More awesome than even Pachelbel's Rant.

Justin Dunk Point/Counterpoint

Hello out there, we're on the (interwebs)*... again. ... Finally.

At any rate, I'm not going to talk about the start of the NHL season as planned, because it will only make me sad. I was a sad panda last night.

As you may have heard, in the world of interuniversity sport, Guelph quarterback Justin Dunk was suspended for yelling "FUCK WESTERN!" at the camera during Guelph's homecoming game. This game was not only being broadcasted on TV Cogeco or something, it was on The Score. Even though the suspension has now happened, Jake and I wrote a Point/Counterpoint in the Journal arguing the legitimacy of the suspension. It's posted below:

Should Dunk have been suspended?

Amrit Ahluwalia

During The Score television network’s Sept. 26 broadcast of the football game between the Guelph Gryphons and the Western Mustangs, Gryphons quarterback Justin Dunk broke for a 22-yard touchdown rush, ran to one of The Score’s cameras and yelled “Fuck Western!” to the country.

There hasn’t been OUA action on the incident, but Guelph suspended Dunk for their next regular-season game against the Waterloo Warriors. This was absolutely the right course of action.

It may have been what Dunk was thinking, or even what the Guelph Homecoming crowd was screaming, but it was inappropriate for the face of the team and the school to scream a profanity into the camera.

He almost certainly caused embarrassment to his school and probably a fair amount of vitriol to watching Western fans, and Guelph couldn’t appear to idly stand by. It may seem harmless at the time, but he effectively insulted Western’s entire student body, its wealth of alumnus and everyone affiliated with the school—especially its athletics program.

I think what players say on the field, only in view and not in earshot of the cameras, is their own business. But when they run into a camera they clearly intend the world to hear their words. Had Dunk done the same thing in any televised professional sporting event he would have faced fines or suspensions. Soccer’s Didier Drogba received a four-game suspension from UEFA after swearing at a TV camera on May 6 after Chelsea lost to Barcelona in the Champion’s League semifinal.

In smaller towns like Kingston and Guelph, where the highest level of local sport is OHL hockey, university sport takes on a local flavour. The players bear that responsibility on top of the demands of the student-athlete.

Dunk is the face of the Gryphons. He was in their commercial on The Score, and he must be expected to set an example for youth.

I think Dunk is in a position to receive at least a two-game joint suspension from the school and the league, given he sullied the name of OUA football and his own alma mater in one fell swoop. He can count himself lucky not to be facing greater punishment.

Football’s a passionate sport, and people are always passionate on the field, regardless of the sport. But 90 people suited up to play in that game and 89 of them avoided swearing on national TV.

Jake Edmiston

Guelph’s quarterback Justin Dunk was suspended by Guelph athletics this week for using obscenity in front of a camera from The Score. He won’t play in tomorrow’s game against the Waterloo Warriors.

Dunk forgot to cleverly manipulate his words. The phrase he used on Saturday was two letters away from the “Wuck Festern” slogan printed on hundreds of chests at Queen’s Homecoming football game against Western last year.

Dunk’s actions may have been offside, but they were part of a certain culture surrounding interuniversity football games. Chants from student sections aren’t always conducive to family television. Neither are candid end-zone celebrations. That’s why seven-second delays are handy, but The Score wasn’t operating with one. If last Saturday at Richardson Stadium had been televised, a crowd roar of “York loves dick” may have been broadcasted nationwide.

Sports induce emotional responses in athletes and fans. Dunk got emotional, but one could cut him slack considering he spends his afternoons avoiding 300-pound men with a penchant for roughness. If one player is going to receive a venomous response for using football-game vernacular then maybe it’s a good idea for those watching at home to be seven seconds behind, to protect certain ears and certain reputations. If Guelph suspended Dunk, they should be frequently escorting fans and athletes out of Alumni Stadium for a nice soap-gargle.

Dunk exposed it; he didn’t start it. He shouldn’t have said it, but you wouldn’t be pressed to find more offensive material in a locker room. Rivalry is entwined in competitive sport and the colourful outbursts it creates are part of the entanglement. If it’s an issue, make it an issue with every player and fan. If it shouldn’t be on television, use a panic button to blank out words and sterilize the sexual euphemisms.

Guelph Athletics could have acknowledged the trend of vulgarity as a part of the culture; they could have made the trend an issue. Instead, they’re making Dunk the issue. His actions now appear to be an isolated incident being dealt with internally. That’s effortless for the university and difficult for Dunk, who has to put his dignity in the swear-jar and watch from the sidelines next week.

Dunk graduates this year. Instead of focusing on football, he’s probably hoping the people reading his resumé don’t also read the CIS blog or national newspapers.

----------------------
* Best video footage to the Hockey Song ever. Ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nurturing to take over poaching in Premier League

It's about time. According to the BBC, Premier League teams have agreed to a system where they must name eight 'home grown' players in their squad of 25.

A home grown player is someone who has played for a club in England or Wales for a minimum of three years between the ages of 16-21. This is fantastic news.

Essentially, it will bring about a system similar to that in place in the Europa League and the Champion's League, where teams must name eight home-grown players, five of whom who must have spent those formative years at the club itself.

Though there are easy ways around this system (you could do a Chelsea and poach 15-to-18 year olds from elsewhere... though that hasn't worked for them in the past), it's a way to both increase the chances for English-and-Welsh born players to play top flight football and a way to stem the ridiculous spending binges of some of the new-money clubs that have pushed their way into the upper echelons of football, without imposing the EU-banned 6+5 player quota discussed last year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, I am pretty sure I have hit near rockbottom in terms of my sports fandom. The Toronto Blue Jays are simply awful. Manager Cito Gaston clearly does not care, the best pitcher in baseball Roy Halladay clearly wants out and ownership is getting ready to sell the team. The Jays started out like a house on fire, peaking at a sparkling 27-14 record, the best in the American League. Halladay was Halladay, the pitchers were pitching great, and hitters were smoking the ball. And then injuries. Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan started the year on the disabled list, and both have suffered further and further setbacks, to the point where it would not be a surprise if Dustin McGowan never pitches again. They were joined by Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Ricky Romero, Robert Ray, Scott Downs and the complete and utter destruction of BJ Ryan.

On the offensive side, the Jays employ one of the worst everyday players in baseball in Vernon Wells, except he is due in excess of $60MM in the coming years. Scott Rolen, one of the most likeable Toronto sports figures I can remember, decided he had had enough and asked to be traded. The Jays then let Alex Rios and his limitless potential walk away. The end result? Since being 27-14, the Jays have gone 30-53 to sit at 57-67. And they neglected to shell out the money for their top draft picks.

This is the closest I have ever come to giving up and turning my back on this team. My brother and his wife just gave birth to a baby boy. He and I are in complete agreement that he is not to be raised as a Toronto Blue Jays fan.

I was at the Rogers Centre on Monday night. It is the only game I have been to this year and I went specifically to see Roy Halladay pitch. He really is a no-hitter waiting to happen. People often say that Toronto is a great sports town, the Leafs have sold out since World War II, the Raps have a great fanbase etc. The attendance at the Rogers Centre was 1/3rd its capacity. I have been to maybe 70 or 80 games at the Rogers Centre and the only time I had ever seen a lower attendance was for a mid-April game in 2003 against Boston in the middle of the SARS epidemic in Toronto. Sitting at the game on Monday, I don't think I have ever been so dispassionate and depressed while watching sports.

Even worse, I get to look at the standings and see a team like the Colorado Rockies locked into an absolutely amazing stretch drive playing exciting game after exciting game, while I have to cheer on a team that puts Kevin Millar, Randy Ruiz and Raul Chavez into the same lineup.

I need a drink

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reasons you should never trust online polls

But first -- WOOOO ENGLAND WON THE ASHES!!!! STUFF IT AUSTRALIA! This was probably the worst weekend for Australian sport in a long time, they lost the Ashes to England, the title of best Test cricket team to South Africa and lost in the Tri-Nations (rugby) to New Zealand. Very crappy weekend.

Now for the feature presentation - the reason internet polls are dumb:

I suppose a small amount of explanation is required before going into my rant. You see, The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team finished 2-6 last year. Those two wins were actually an improvement on what was expected from this team... that hadn't won a game since 2001. What right-thinking individual would rationally come to the conclusion that this is a team that was bound to win this season. Further still, how could 40.48% of respondents to the poll think that?

Effectively, the OUA (poll found here) is asking what school the respondent goes to or went to. Polls like this are moronic, they don't give any real information, they just find out whose fans visit the hosting website the most. Polls like the one TSN is currently running on their NHL website (whether Dany Heatley will still be an Ottawa Senator by October 1) are more telling, as fan allegiances only play a small role in the option the answerer clicks (although Sens fans who like Heatley will probably be clicking "Yes, he'll be a Senator").

These kinds of polls really do, to some extent, give an idea of what the public thinks on an issue. For team-based polls, though, almost any fan is going to pick their team to win it all. After all, this is the year!!! Right? So why bother?

Unfortunately, it's an idiot-trap. It's a bit like Las Vegas, you see all the fancy lights and all of a sudden some greasy-haired, shiny-shirt-wearing creep named Gino owns your house. You see the poll, answer it, and are maybe attracted by a story. Who knows? I know people who go to certain sites on a weekly basis specifically to answer a poll.

This all leads me to one very simple conclusion:


Should this blog have a weekly poll?

View Results
Create a Blog Poll

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on today's Premier League action

I can't think up a better title than that... it's late, cut me some slack.

Anyways:

Burnley 1 - 0 Manchester United

Who the hell saw this coming? But then, it's early days and United haven't quite gelled yet. Seeing Burnley win their first home top-flight match in 33 years was wonderful... but to see them win it against last year's league champions? Fairy tail stuff!
At any rate, positives for United: Michael Owen was decent, he got himself into dangerous positions and was moving the ball around well, but needs to find his scoring touch. Also, the possession tells the story, United were dominant with 63% of the ball, but they just couldn't score (not to say they didn't have their chances, putting 9 shots on goal and missing another 9). Unfortunately, in losing Christiano Ronaldo, they seem to have lost that cutting-edge against teams they should be beating... no one really stepped up today and they really missed that lacquered up pansy.
For Burnley, they have easily the most courageous keeper I've ever seen in their great Dane, Brian Jensen, picking up the man of the match award. Their centre-backs were equally deserving of praise, throwing themselves in front of everything United could give them, and doing their best to get in the way. An inspiring effort from all 11 on the pitch.

Hull 1 - 5 Tottenham Hotspur

6 points from two games. It took Spurs 10 games to reach 6 points last year. Oh... and we're top of the table. I'm not taking a win over a decidedly crap Liverpool and Hull as a sign we'll win the championship, but it's rare you hear the Match Of The Day pundits declare (without laughing) "Tottenham for the title". I choked up a little when they said it, I'm not lying... in 21 years I've never heard that said seriously. Spurs were magnificent today, the passing, the movement, the Jermaine Defoe hat-trick... I'm really excited this year. It seems to be clicking.

Birmingham City 1 - 0 Portsmouth

David James will forever argue the penalty... but he shouldn't have been challenging for the ball in the first place, it was nowhere near the goal. I think the most significant question one can ask from this game is: why has he decided to make himself the most utterly ridiculous-looking footballer in the league (Cissé's in Greece now)? He really looks like some ridiculous 70s pornstar, getting into the habit of grabbing all kinds of stray balls (I'm sorry, this is a family-friendly blog... I couldn't resist though).

Liverpool 4 - 0 Stoke

This result should never have been in question... but last year both matches with Stoke ended with goalless draws... so I suppose Liverpool had reason to be wary (especially after their horrible start to the season at White Hart Lane). Glen Johnson, Liverpool's new right-back fresh from Pompey, might be the most inspired non-Spanish acquisition ever made by Rafa Benitez. In the attacking third of the pitch, he gives Liverpool so many new options, he was hands down their best player today (as he was against Spurs on Sunday).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fore and Against

Amrit already mentioned it, but I feel like I have to chime in as well. The inclusion of golf into the Olympics is simply regrettable. If the Olympics are supposed to be the pinnacle of athletic achievement for anybody in their given sport, then golf should not be included. If Tiger Woods wins, will anyone care? Will people fundamentally alter their viewing of him? If he does not win, will his career not be full? Will any of them really be representing their countries? The proposed format, a simple 72 hole tournament with a field of 60, is not even interesting. If it were organized by country, whereby each country has a team of 4 and they do something this way, it would be much more interesting.

Let's say Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson, Anthony Kim and Stewart Cink are teamed up for the USA in the gold medal match against a British team led by Rory McIlroy, or a Spanish team led by Sergio, especially if the 2016 Games are in Madrid. Make me want to look forward to the Olympic golf tournament like I look forward to the Olympic basketball or hockey tournament. I can only see Lebron and Kobe teaming up with Chris Paul at the Olympics, or Sidney Crosby setting up John Tavares at the Olympics. I can see Tiger and Phil dueling at any tournament, but teaming them up against every country in the world would be something special. Watching Padraig Harrington or Ernie Els or Ryo Ishikawa or Jeev Mikah Singh try to will their respective countries across the finish line would be a site to behold.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Canada's Olympic hockey jerseys hit the interwebs

As you may have seen on Icethetics and Puck Daddy, Canada's 2010 Olympics jerseys leaked. They are these:



I both dislike and like them. I like them in that they're simple, Canadian and the weird little pattern inside the maple leaf is First Nations artwork. Classy.

I dislike them because of the fact that THE CANADIAN HOCKEY FEDERATION LOGO IS STILL ON THE JERSEY, which you may remember being the problem in the first place. Secondly, while I like the idea of the First Nations artwork, I think it makes the maple leaf look sloppy. We should be embossing the artwork into the main body of the jersey, as Puma did during the 2006 World Cup (to the right is Ghana's jersey, Ghana's soccer team being known as the Black Stars).


EDIT -- Apparently the national federation logo is allowed to be on the jersey, it's just not allowed to be the main crest. That's why Sweden's jersey still has the circle with the ship in the top left corner. So I guess my only real problem with the jersey isn't actually a problem at all. That said, I think they would still look better with the embossed pattern being on the body of the jersey rather than the crest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Greetings from away! (again)

Hello interworld!

Similar to this time last year (maybe a little earlier in the month, but nevertheless) I'm off on vacation during summer, and have decided to compile a list of thoughts. That said, this list should be more sport-related than the last one.

1. Golf should never, ever be an Olympic sport. I could live with Rugby 7s being in the Olympics, it's a great sport, it might increase rugby's popularity (not just league, union or 7s, but as a whole) and is evenly contested (the alleged problem with softball and baseball). Don't get me wrong, the concept of the amateur athlete competing in the Olympics is totally false, and that's not the argument against golf. It's a bit like tennis in the Olympics -- they're nothing special, just another blip on the Championship circuit. For every other sport, the Olympics are something really special, something to work towards, something to take your game to a higher level for. For tennis it's just another tournament, except with less prize money. And I feel that's what would happen with golf.

2. I've been watching Czech league hockey as they compete for the Tipsport Hockey Cup* (I think it's this thing... but it's clubs so I'm confused now) and have come up with three conclusions. (a) You don't really notice the ads on the jerseys unless you look for them. (b) I love big-ice hockey, there's so much space, defense needs to be more positional, hits need to be more thought out (and the Czechs love to throw hits, I didn't know it either), and transfer between defense and attack is unbelievably fast. It's really entertaining. (c) I like no-touch icing, it's safer and doesn't seem to kill the game all that much.

2a. Where else can a lowly North American like me continue to watch Hasek do the worm on ice?


3. Czechs drink some weird, weird hard liquor. There's Becherovka, which is a 'must-have' drink that tastes like a mouthful of herbs. There's just about 5 different colours of absynthe, and a cannabis flavoured absynthe, not to mention cannabis flavoured vodka, rum and all kinds of other drinks (including tea).


4. Czech beer is fantastic. Doubleplus delicious.


5. There are souvenir shops galore in Prague, and a lot of them sell North American sport-related Matryoshka dolls. It's weird to be in central Europe, and seeing a little Russian doll painted up like a Montreal Canadian, another one painted up like Tony Romo, one beside that in Chicago Bulls strip, and finally a nondescript Boston Red Sock to finish up a row of bizareness. (I couldn't be bothered to resize my own ginormous digital camera picture, so I'm ripping this one off the internet... much like all the other pictures. It does the trick).


Anyways, as you read in yesterday's post from Phil, England seemed to do pretty well against the Dutch. Unlike Phil, I think England are actually capable of winning 2010's World Cup for two reasons:
1) With a solid, first-choice keeper in goal who doesn't play for West Ham, England can be a force to be reckoned with (as long as the media doesn't tear their confidence to shreds... read; Robinson, Paul whose gaffe against Crotia [which I still argue was Neville's fault] continues to haunt him)
2) Spain won their second Euro 44 years after winning their first. England won their first World Cup in 1966. There ya go.

Netherlands v England: An assessment

It's been some time since I last posted, but let's just forget about that and get right down to business.

England claimed a creditable 2-2 draw today in Amsterdam after some horrible defending gifted the Dutch two goals in the first half. While there was quite a bit to note from both sides on the technical level, which is why I watched with a pen and pad ready, both the English and Dutch fans at the Amsterdam ArenA last night can be forgiven for not being any closer to an idea of how their teams will fare in South Africa come June.

1. David Beckham is a good footballer, but one suspects that he's a bit of a luxury to be a whole 1/11th of a side challenging for a World Cup. There's no doubting he's one of England's best players even now, but I think a bit more courage could be shown over the next few months to find a permanent option down England's right flank. Perhaps the Premier League season will enlighten us and provide Fabio Capello food for thought? Maybe Jermaine Pennant, perhaps England's only footballer playing abroad, will shine at Real Zaragoza (he loves Spain's 13% 'non-domiciled' tax rate) and get his chance?

2. The full-back play was generally average, with one exception. Glen Johnson looked all right at best, and we've come to expect much more in an attacking sense from Ashley Cole that he gets 6/10 from me when he simply defends. Johnny Heintinga is nothing special on a good day, and faced against Ashley Young in the first half he was unadventurous. However, Edson Braafheid, the latest Dutch footballer from the Surinamese production line, looked very good at left-back as he did under Steve McLaren at FC Twente and looks like a very good purchase for Bayern Munich. Expect to see much more of the short yet solid full-back.

3. Rafael van der Vaart produced a fine display playing behind the main striker as part of the attacking three in midfield (perhaps out of romanticism, news websites listed the Netherlands' squad as 4-3-3, but in reality they're still playing Marco van Basten's much-maligned "un-Dutch" 4-2-3-1). He has a point to prove to his employers in the Spanish capital, who haven't even bothered giving the man a squad number for the coming season.

4. Is this the end of the road for Emile Heskey? While he seems to have formed a good relationship with Wayne Rooney, we all know that Heskey had a near-telepathic relationship with Michael Owen. Depending how the upcoming season goes, you may see West Ham's Carlton Cole leapfrog the ageing and slightly out-of-form Villa man for a World Cup starting berth, especially as Owen is out of the England picture for good.

5. Neither team is likely to win the World Cup in South Africa next year, that's just the way it is. England lack a certain guile at times, even though they are now more rigourously coached tactically than at any time since the late 1980s. And the players at Capello's disposal are, with few exceptions, not every exceptional. The Netherlands have a strong footballing culture (but a weak domestic league) yet players like AZ Alkmaar's Stijn Schaars, while impressive at times in his passing and decision-making tonight, and certainly improving, can't provide that trophy-winning je ne sais quoi.

Then again, it was just 95mins of useless friendly, wasn't it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh God why?

Why did we spend a reported £9M on Peter Crouch? Seriously? He has a list of clubs played for about as long as his gangly 6'7" self, and unspectacular numbers at all of them.

That he broke into the England team is still something of a mystery, but then you recognize that he came into the team when Sven was picking players like Theo Walcott to play at a World Cup finals when he'd never played a Premier League match and it starts to make more sense.

Now, the idea of a 6'7" striker (the tallest outfield player in the Premier League, I might add) coming to Spurs would normally make me salivate... but Peter Crouch is effectively useless. He's tall, but he has trouble heading the ball efficiently. And as far as skills-by-foot go, well. See for yourself:

Yeah, that's Crouch. Missing completely (45 second mark). He was in acres of space against Trinidad and Tobago. He was alone, maybe 12 yards from goal. Centered perfectly. Lovely cross from Beckham. Crouch made contact with the ball. It went across the net to go out of play where the 18-yard box starts. Wow.

Now, don't get me wrong - his size does make him useful. He has the ability and length to get to poorly delivered crosses (you saw an example in the video above, about 2 highlights before his epic miss). But, unfortunately, he doesn't have the skill to finish those chances.

Crouch's greatest ability is holding the ball. He is spectacular at holding the ball and allowing others to get into scoring positions. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the skill to distribute the ball well enough to allow those scoring positions to be utilized effectively.

Maybe I'd be happier if this wasn't just our third (and most impressive) signing of the summer. I might also be happier if he didn't cost £9M. Absurd.

I agree, Peter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Things I learnt while watching Spurs v Barcelona

Last night Spurs played Barcelona as part of the inaugural Wembley Cup. The Barcelona team that played was very much a B-squad, there was no Messi, no Henry, no Puyol -- though Gudjonssen and Touré played.

Anyhow, Spurs drew 1-1. Yay? Mmmm, not as such. I was really disappointed by what I saw on the field, and learned a few things about my team and what they need to do to go forward. Most of them stem from really poor managerial decisions by Harry Redknapp (yes, the same guy I was in love with about 6 months ago).

1. The team needs to be built around Tom Huddlestone, not Wilson Palacios*.
Tom Huddlestone was fantastic last night. He started off in center back (we have three injured CBs... why has Harry not thought about getting another one?) before moving into his more comfortable position of centre midfield in the second half. He was distributing the ball effortlessly, almost every ball he distributed was perfectly weighted, and fell right into the run of whoever he was hitting it to anywhere on the field. It was incredible. Wilson Palacios was the height of useless. Barcelona's goal** was largely his fault (he is number 12, watch him start running the wrong direction giving Touré a path to goal. Who's the only one whose challenge actually landed? My boy Huddlestone).
Turns out, he's not creative at all. He's a battering ram. But not a skillful battering ram -- his positioning is very poor, he's extremely gullible, and he spent most of last night getting in the way than he did doing useful things.

2. Why sell the Welsh international fullbacks and buy Championship ones to replace them?
Chris Gunter - 20 (born '89)
Gareth Bale - 20 (born '89)
Both are full internationals for Wales, Gunter plays right back, Bale plays left back. Both are incredible on the ball. Both are wonderful crossers, and excellent defenders. Bale is one of the best left-footed free kick takers I have ever seen. Both are incredible talents for the future. So Redknapp sells Gunter to Nottingham Forest and wants to sell Bale, citing lack of experience as their main problems. His idea for replacing them? Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker, from Sheffield United.
Kyle Naughton - 20 (born '88)
Kyle Walker - 19 (born '90)
Walker has two matches with the England U19s under his belt, Naughton has played twice with the England U21s. They are not nearly as talented as the two Welsh internationals (Walker only just broke into the Sheffield first team last year)... but apparently they're what Spurs need to fill the lack of experience brought by Bale and Gunter. I had the distinct displeasure of watching Naughton last night - he's disturbingly gullible and made the right flank so unsafe that Corluka (who was playing centreback) wound up leaving the middle open most of the time to cover for Naughton.

3. Jermaine Defoe cannot operate as a lone striker
He just can't do it. The service he was getting was terrible (Huddlestone was playing centreback, remember?), Modric was not playing as an attacking midfielder, but a left winger, and no one was going forward, leaving Defoe with no options. It's not so much the fault of Defoe that he can't do it, it's the inability of the midfielders.

4. Our kids want it more than our seniors
The beauty of friendlies is that there are seven subs, and the halftime switches don't count toward that total. So last night we got to see a lot of Spurs' reserves playing the second half... and they were fantastic. While our seniors were largely standing around while they were playing, waiting for something to develop around them, the kids were on their toes and moving.
making things happen. It's how we wound up scoring (oh yeah, it was a reserve [Livermore, below] who scored our goal).


5. Harry needs to get his head out
Like I said, a lot of the problems right now boil down to Redknapp. Why does he want to buy Viera? Why did he/does he want to get rid of our Welsh internationals? Why have our only purchases this summer been completely unncessary? We have problems at the striker positions, sure. But before Redknapp came in, we were leaking goals but we were also scoring at will. Bring in Redknapp and Les Ferdinand as a striker coach? We stop scoring goals. I don't think it's a problem with the strikers, but their coach. We obviously have holes at centreback, why haven't we bought anyone? We have Huddlestone, but Redknapp wants to sell him. Palacios is useless, but Harry's building the team around him. Oh... and he wants to bring in the greatest has-been of the past decade. What's he doing!?!?!

------
* See the bottom
** I don't know how to mount videos

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's been awhile....

After moving, various (and ongoing) computer problems and (as Amrit pointed out) general laziness, I think it's time to post something.

Recently, my favourite baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays have begun exploring trade options for the best pitcher in baseball (indisputable fact), Roy Halladay. This seems contrary to common sense: you do not trade the best. But if Wayne Gretzky can get traded (twice), then anyone can get traded. Kobe Bryant was almost traded a few years ago, but he said no at the last hour because the players going the other way in the deal would have made the Chicago Bulls a really, really bad team, even with Kobe. Baseball is different, though. Each team has literally more than 100 players in their organization. You cannot trade draft picks, but you can trade prospects.

Now, I do not want the Jays to trade Doc because I do not want to see him in another uniform. But, his contract is up after next season, and he has told the Jays he will explore the free agent market, which he has never done before. He will be entering his age 34 season at that time, but could command a 5-year, $100MM deal, maybe even higher. If AJ Burnett can get a 5-year, $82.5MM, Doc can go triple digits. Trading Doc makes sense because the Jays have to maximize their returns. In a trade, the Jays can demand 2 sure-fire, can't-miss top prospects, plus 2 middling prospects and 1 hit-or-miss prospect.

But should the Jays trade him? I said it awhile ago, but 2009 is really about 2010. Even with the super fantastic hot start this season, the Jays year was and is 2010. This year is about figuring out who can contribute next year. Roy Halladay gives the Jays the best opportunity to compete next year. A rotation of Halladay, plus the emergence of Ricky Romero, the returns of Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch, and all the kids (Cecil, Mills, Rzepczynski, Ray...) can yield 5 solid starters. If JP Ricciardi thinks 2010 is not the Jays year, we will find out soon when he trades any asset he can (Scott Rolen, Marco Scutaro, Jason Frasor...) to get some prospects back. The Jays have little high-end talent at the top of the system (Snider and Arencibia), but boatloads of prospects way down the chain (Ahrens, Jackson, Tolisano, Moises Sierra, Yo Chavez, Gus Pierre, David Cooper*).

So JP has an option. Trade Roy and don't compete until 2012 or later, or go for it in 2010. I think he will go with the latter as JP's contract is also up next year. I won't be happy when Doc walks after next year, but he has earned the right to win, and the Jays might not be the best situation for that.

I hate being a fan of this team.

-------------------
* I really hope that Balbino Fuenmayor, Moises Sierra, Yohermyn Chavez, Gustavo Pierre and Mark Rzepczynski are on the same team one day, just to give announcers nightmares.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How the mighty have plummeted uncontrollably

He led Swedish club Gothenburg (I cant do umlauts, so I'm spelling it the English way) to the Swedish treble in 1982; league, league cup and UEFA Cup. He then went to Portuguese club Benfica and won the league, the cup and finished second in the UEFA Cup. After a stint with Roma (where they won the Coppa Italia) he went back to Benfica, to win another league title and finishing second in the European Cup. He then went back to Italy to lead Sampdoria to a Coppa Italia, then won a crapload with Lazio. In 2002, he got the big job: England manager. He managed a stellar record in getting England to major championships, but could never quite pull of big-game wins. He left England in 2006, and took charge of Manchester City in 2007... that ended abruptly (mentioned in this article) . He followed that up with a stint with the Mexican national team... who politely asked him to piss off after one year at the helm. But, our favourite trooper of a Swedish manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson has landed on his feet. Oh yes, he has taken over as director of football at powerhouse club... Nottingham County.

If you're scratching your head trying to work out who Notts County are, don't be discouraged, you're not alone. Eriksson's name is probably the only one on their staff list you're likely to know. But, thanks to a takeover by a Middle Eastern conglomerate (they're taking over everything these days, aren't they? Those Middle Eastern conglomerates!) they can afford a big hitter like Sven. At any rate, Notts County were relegated last season from the First Division (one below the Championship, two below the Premier League) to the Second Division, where they will face stiff competition from Accrington Stanley, Dagenham & Redbridge, Grimsby Town, Port Vale and Rotherham United.

Notts County, whose stadium (Meadow Lane) boasts a mighty capacity of 20,300 (though most of those seats are typically empty), claim to be the oldest team in England, established in 1862... EIGHT years older than Maidenhead United FC! Damn, I thought the oldest team in the country was here. Ah well.

At any rate, Sven's really come a long way from England, hasn't he? At least the supporters of Notts County can count on their team never being picked by ability, but by fame and name. Oh wait... alright maybe Notts' teams will be picked by ability, unless you've heard of, well, any of these guys.

Oh. And Sven plans on taking them to the Premiership. I'm really excited to see how this one goes. Good thing Sven took his trusty right hand man Tord Grip with him as a "General Adviser", maybe he'll be able to keep a grip on reality for his five-year stint at the lowest point of his career before deciding to find a respectable Championship club to align himself to, or just deciding to call it quits altogether.

You've got a lot to ponder there, Sven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

75 years is a longer time than you might think

Things that happened in 1934:
- Alcatraz becomes a prison
- Flash Gordon is first published as a comic strip
- Germany signs a 10-year non-aggression pact with Poland
- Bonnie and Clyde kill two highway patrolmen in Texas a month before they're killed in a shoot-out (seriously)
- Dionne quints are born
- Hitler becomes the Führer of Germany
- The Chinese Long March begins
- Persia becomes Iran
- Jean Chrétien, Hank Aaron and Ralph Nader are born

OH - and 1934 was the last (and first) time England won an Ashes test at Lord's Cricket Ground, the official home of cricket (yes, this sentence is what that string of random events was leading up to).

Enter 2009 - the second time in the history of the Ashes (a history that began in 1882) that England managed to beat Australia at Lord's.


How I would love to tell you about the drama of the event, the edge-of-your-seat cricket taking place as the Aussies edged ever closer to beating the seemingly impossible-to-match target score set by the English. How I would love to tell you of the relief that washed Graeme Swann's face as he bowled out the last Australian. How I would love to tell you the fantastic story of Andrew Flintoff, playing in his last 5-day series, taking five Australian wickets in his last Ashes Test at Lord's. How I would love to tell you about the simple glory in England winning at Lord's. Unfortunately, I can't. I didn't get to watch it.

You see, the BBC, who has aired The Ashes for at least the past decade, decided not to pick it up this year, letting it go instead to SkySports. Now, you're probably saying, "Amrit, I didn't want to read an article about cricket, but I am anyways because there's nothing else to read. Now you're subjecting me to another TV rant? Why do you keep doing this to me? Also, can I have your autograph?"

Well, reader, yes, you can have my autograph. But this is actually important, because it proves that my theory works, and could work in the UK too! Hurrah! Assuming you were too lazy to read through the hyperlinked article, I suggested that the CBC become an opt-outable tax (yes, I am a Queen's student, I love things that are opt-outable) for having programming that lots of watchers weren't remotely interested in (oh, they're dropping The Simpsons now as well).

Now, in the UK, in order to operate your TV, you have to pay an annual £142.50 (approx. $280) TV licensing fee, which is used to fund the BBC. For that, the BBC offers commercial-free programming which is supposed to strike the fancy of all its veiwers, while maintaining strong cultural identity in what it shows. And is there anything more British than (a) cricket and (b) competition with the Australians? I mean really, the British define themselves by sport and sporting accomplisments, and getting one over the Australians is about the only thing that could make a gentryman crack a smile (even for a second).

So while the most exciting test in the past 75 years of Ashes cricket was happening at Lord's... I was either watching The Open or any array of home makeover shows (they're interesting, don't hate). Meanwhile, that most interesting of cricket matches was happening on SkySports, a cable channel which costs anywhere from £16.50/month to £35.50/month.

And thus, the BBC has put British TV-watchers (sports fans specifically) in much the same situation as the CBC for Canadians. You pay taxes for TV you don't want to watch, while you pay extra to get the cable channels to watch the TV you do want to watch. I pray you governments, let people opt out! Let people choose to watch what they want to watch! Don't hold us subject to the whims of stuffed shirts sitting in their ivory tower of television! We beg of you a system of television which reflects the wishes of the people! (Okay, I might be getting a little too dramatic here). But seriously, that £16.50/month for SkySports (£198/year) wouldn't be so daunting if the TV license wasn't being forced on people. Allow people to opt out of the BBC, allow people to opt out of the CBC, and I can promise you a vast improvement in the quality and type of programming that would be on offer. And no more crap like Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello-o-o-o-o-o!

Well... as hiatuses (hiatii?) go, this was one hell of a long one. But we can explain! I promise. I was doing a summer school program at Queen's castle in Herstmonceux (would recommend it to anyone who was pondering doing it), Phil's doing something important and Milway's extremely lazy.


But, I'm done my summer program, Phil remembered that he has opinions on things and Milway's still lazy, but also watching baseball, so this blog should get up and at 'em in short order.

On the docket for the near future:

I'll be talking about The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia (and will go on an Amrit-vs-CBC style rant... except about the BBC!!! DRAMA!), and who knows, maybe I'll delve into the Heatley thing... because that hasn't been done to death. Phil will be writing about the ridiculousness of the transfer window in football lately (non-Premier League too), and Milway might write something too. Who knows.

Anyways, once again - sorry for the extended break. I know all three of our readers have been pulling their hair out for months wondering where we went... well... we went to SchoolTown. Don't hate.

Expect new stuff tomorrow!

PS -- the picture. I typed "back from vacation" into Google Images and that popped up... it was so awesome I couldn't help but use it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Football's moral high ground

Chelsea were eliminated by awful refereeing, but for them to have gone through would have been an insult to football.

Chelsea are a disgrace. They didn't try and score at the Camp Nou, and eased off too much after scoring at home. Barcelona may only have had one shot on goal last night but it's all about taking the chances you're given. There's an away goals rule for a reason, and in this respect Barcelona handily win the "moral tie" because they tried and tried and tried to play their game, and it worked. For such an expensively-assembled Chelsea team to 'park the bus' is reprehensible and ignores the fact that football is a spectator sport where enjoyment and artistic expression matter almost as much as winning.

To be fair, the referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, robbed Chelsea of an appearance in the final, despite Abidal's red card after Anelka's clear dive. Drogba, unlike his partner in attack, was on his feet for most of the game, and earned at least two clear penalties. When he's serious and focused he is an amazing player and an asset to any team, and he was for both legs. Then he squandered all the goodwill in a few crazed minutes.

Let's give credit where credit is due: Guus Hiddink had every reason to be frustrated yesterday, but he expressed it in a civilised, gentlemanly and respectful way. Despite his attempts to control his players failing, he is still one of few to emerge with any dignity after that shambles.

John Terry gets an even greater deal of respect from me for comporting himself in a civilised way after the game. He acknowledged that Alex was booked for a foul he himself had committed, which is remarkably forthright from any footballer. After the game, did he don flip-flops and scream at the ref? No, he went to the Barcelona dressing room, shook hands with the manager and his players, congratulated them and left quietly. Drogba and Ballack can learn a thing or two from their captain and their manager.

There are a number of things that are great about football: attack, fluidity, artistry, pride. The list goes on. Two teams from the four semi-finalists showed these characteristics, and it's proof that there is a God that they are both in the final.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I hate to gloat...

...but I'm pretty happy that although my prediction for the CL Semi-Final at Old Trafford was horribly wrong, the old tactical brain is still working.

In my last post, I suggested that
you may see a strange combination of United midfielders (Anderson + Fletcher, maybe)
to counter Arsenal's relatively new tactical approach. Well, it turned out to be the case. After the match, BBC chief football writer Phil McNulty had this to say:

Anderson and Darren Fletcher were outstanding in midfield. The recent heavy-legged look had gone from United as they played at the high-tempo that suits them best.


Perhaps Sir Alex reads TINONFTSB?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Champions League Semi-Final Previews

My apologies for the long hiatus...it's been a very busy time. I felt I should share some of my thoughts on the upcoming Champions League semi-finals.

After some of the great football from the last round, there is abundant optimism for the next stage. Being used to rubbish (or in Jorge Valdano's words, "shit on a stick") from any Liverpool-Chelsea encounter, we were instead treated to a 7-5 aggregate tie between the two. Bayern Munich, the great Teutonic hope, were victims to a 45min flurry of goals in Barcelona which the Catalan club's president Joan Laporta deemed to be the best in the club's history.

Tuesday, 28 April
Barcelona v Chelsea

This one will be a treat. We should consider ourselves privileged to see this 2009 Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola the same way contemporaries were privileged to see the great Brazil side of 1970. I fell in love with Barca under the Dutchman Louis van Gaal (who, incidentally, won the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar last week) and Pep Guardiola's side has made me renew my vows. Daniel Alves may be less adventurous as against Almeria and Valladolid, for example, so expect Iniesta and Xavi to be more decisive, trying to find space just in front of Chelsea's makeshift back four.

Guus Hiddink, both a gentleman and master tactician (van Gaal is only one of these) threatens to rain on the Barca parade. Master of upsetting the bookies, you have to imagine that Chelsea will find some way of getting through a weak Catalan central defence. Watch out for the central midfield battle - it's all about how Essien and Lampard gel, and how Barcelona position their midfield trio to contain them. Will they play Keita? Busquets? Either way, Hiddink has plenty of answers.

Barcelona have been rampant but chased by a Real Madrid side who have won 18 of their last 19 games (in rather ugly fashion, too), and all eyes are on the decisive Clasico derby this weekend. At least one of Pep's eyes too, one would imagine. "We haven't won anything yet", is the weekly line from Guardiola, but the problem lies in deciding what to win and how.

Prediction: I think a 1-1 draw is on the cards, and don't be surprised if Chelsea make it to the final.


Wednesday, 29 April
Manchester United v Arsenal

This one has 'classic' written all over it. Keane, Vieira, van Nistelrooy and Keown may be gone, but the hunger remains.

For a neutral, to see the sensational Andriy Arshavin cup-tied for this game is a major turn-off, but this game should be a very entertaining affair. Arsenal are unbeaten in the league for over half the season and there is an aura of solidity around the side. Still, consistency has been hard to acheive and a blip is always a distinct possibility. One would favour United in the midfield battle but Fabregas's new advanced role could be tactically problematic for United. Alexandre Song, lying deep in midfield, has been a revelation this season. Watch for a tense first half dominated by the battle in the middle of the park.

United's lineups this season have been rather erratic, so who knows whether Berbatov or Tevez will get the nod? Cristiano Ronaldo is hitting form and Ryan Giggs is fresh off a PFA award win. Sir Alex Ferguson will undoubtedly have an eye on the weekend derby with Manchester City, but watch for a full-strength side. Sorry Nani, no action for you. Fabregas will exploit the space between the back four and midfield, so you may see a strange combination of United midfielders (Anderson + Fletcher, maybe) deployed to counter this threat.

Prediction: I have this one down as a 2-1 win for Arsenal against the old enemy. The game at Old Trafford the following week is probably the most unpredictable game of the season. Another Chelsea-United final may be on the cards, but don't be surprised to see Arsenal knock the prospective English champions out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Why does the CBC insist on sucking?

I'm sorry that this is the first post we've had up in over a month. Late March and April are busy here in Kingston, we've got papers and exams coming out the wazoo.

That said, this last annoyance by the CBC is too much for me to bear. I know I seem to have it out for the CBC, and jump on every dumb thing they do to make my argument more cogent... and that's mostly because I do.

Last year, the CBC did something called "Test the Nation: Sports". It was this wonderful little trivia thing where people printed off an answer sheet and watched the show and circled the correct answer on their answer sheet. Such fun! CBC win! Look at those smiling faces of Ron McLean and Wendy Mesley, they know they're doing a good thing!


For the past few weeks they've been advertising doing it again, and I was pretty excited. It was scheduled to be Sunday, April 11 at 7pm. So last night rolled around and a buddy of mine came over and we printed off the sheets again and plopped down in front of the TV.

It seemed a little suspicious that I remembered a lot of the celebrity guests from last year, but figured they just got the same people back, no big deal. Then I felt like I remembered some of the jokes at the start, but decided that I'd watched enough Hockey Night in Canada that I've come to predict Ron McLean's jokes. Then the questions started... and things started to feel a little fishy, like I'd done this before.

Then I looked at the bottom of the answer sheet, and it said "May 25th at 8pm!". Then the commercial break ended and, for 2 seconds, the words "Pre-Aired Programming" popped up on the screen. And my heart immediately sunk.

Don't tell me you couldn't come up with FIFTY more questions!!! Don't tell me you were so lazy you couldn't even be bothered to change the daggum date on the answer sheet! What is wrong with the CBC!? Why are they so set on losing all their sports viewers?

Other than Don Cherry and Ron McLean, Hockey Night in Canada took a nosedive this year. They're dropping all baseball coverage. They're dropping their CONCACAF Champion's League coverage, and knocking back (if not dropping altogether) figure skating, skiing, aquatics and world athletics.

I've put up the CBC's mandate multiple times, so I'm not going to do it again. Refer back to here if you want to read it again.

I understand the economic times are tough, and the CBC's been forced to cut back heavily. But it seems sports are shouldering most of the burden. While they spend the money to bring in Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and keep making that rubbish Little Mosque on the Prairie, we're losing the chance to see real Canadians compete in sports that, as Greg put so well over at Out of Left Field, "may not be sexy to beer companies or generate the same kind of knee-jerk lunacy that infects Canada like a sickness every four years during Winter Olympics hockey games".

The fact that the CBC couldn't even be bothered to come up with 50 more questions was pathetic, and really rubbed in the point that they couldn't care less about the sports-watching Canadian public.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the CBC isn't accountable for the programming decisions they make and, as such, can cut and pay for whatever they please. This while Canadians are forced to pay for it through their taxes. Make the CBC opt-outable, and I tell you what they'll figure it out really quickly.

As for right now, I'm still stewing about the lack of Test the Nation. Thanks CBC, you ruined my celebration of Jesus coming back.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let's Pop Some Popcorn!

It looks like my Buffalo Bills have signed notorious malcontent Terrell Owens. I am not sure how I feel about this one. The more I think about, though, the more I am liking it.

It's a one year contract for $6.5MM. This means cutting him will not be a huge problem if he steps out of line. He would be the #2 receiver behind Lee Evans. The new depth chart would be Evans and Owens, followed by Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed in the slot, with James Hardy (if he recovers from a torn ACL) and Steve Johnson as short yardage possession receivers. It automatically makes the Bills offense much scarier. Trent Edwards needs another target, that was clear last season. Especially when teams would double Evans, he had to throw to Josh Reed quite a bit. So now the Bills can roll out Marshawn Lynch early to pound the line and bring the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, have Evans as a threat over the top, throw in Owens somewhere in the middle, and then Roscoe and Josh hitting the seam. That is a lot for a defense to watch. If the Bills draft a pass-catching TE (probably in the 2nd round with Cook out of Southern Miss) then this offense looks downright frightening.

In my memory, this is the biggest name that the Bills have added via trade or free agency. Maybe Drew Bledsoe is up there, and maybe Doug Flutie, just because of his ties to Toronto. This is a move that the Bills do not make EVER. They do not add the potential clubhouse cancer. But if you look at this team now, it is much improved. Russ Brandon has a done a heck of a job adding pieces like Drayton Florence to replace Jabari Greer and add depth for when (not if) injuries hit and adding Geoff Hangartner to fill that hole at Center.

The AFC East (Buffalo, Miami, NYJ and New England) must be considered the toughest division in football, top to bottom. Last year, the Bills went 0-6 in divisional play, making them an afterthought in this division. Not anymore. Miami is due to regress after overachieving last year. The Jets don't have a QB anymore, unless Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff really steps up. The Patriots are the Patriots and will continue to be the presumptive favorites until they are not, if that makes sense. The Bills were stuck in purgatory, but decided to take a shot.

I'm excited as can be and cannot wait for training camp in Rochester, NY this year.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Naptime

Hi there folks,

Sorry for the non-posts in the past few weeks. Phil, Milway and I have all been disturbingly busy since the end of Reading Week (for Americans: Reading Week = Spring Break in February).

At any rate, Phil and I (with the exception of the last one) are still doing Premier League Punditry at Sporting Madness every Sunday with Andrew.

I'll put up a "what happened in the past few weeks" post soon enough, stay posted.

Cheers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Viva México!

So, I just got back from Mexico and, like an unbelievable geek, I spent a long time watching sports at the resort. You know, between drinking and sitting by pool/beach/bodies-of-water.

Anyways, Mexican football is something totally different. I've never watched Mexican football before, and the style is very different than the game I'm used to.

The central midfielder's role is very different than it is in the European game. Where in the game I'm used to the number 10 is a holding midfielder, responsible for the defensive and offensive side of the game, making runs, distributing passes, all that stuff. In the Mexican (or maybe South American, didn't watch enough of the rest) game, he's got a very different role. There, the number 10 has time to wait, see what happens, and distribute the ball more evenly. Also, he typically doesn't run, and doesn't find himself doing much in the defensive zone on a regular basis.

Also, they've (number 10s) figured out how to make defense unbelievably tricky. Long shots have far more importance. Smashing the ball from around 25 yards on a regular basis if there's no easy or obvious pass. I think it takes something away from the creativity of the game, but obviously it makes defending more difficult because you need to cover strikers, wingers and the long shot... which you typically don't see in the European game.

I say it wouldn't be a bad idea to implement the long shots into the English game - we pride ourselves on power and have been victim to a severe lack of creativity in the past 10-40 years. I say the hell with it, give the ball to Lampard/Gerrard/Carrick/whoever and let them smash the ball from 25 yards and confuse international defenses.

I'm not sure how coherent this post is, I haven't slept in a while - but yeah. Point being: Mexican football interesting, number 10 different role, long shots are awesome, defending is tough.

Last point: this picture is amazing, hopefully a sign of things to come? Mexico + Spurs = long shots and Giovani dos Santos being more used? I bloody hope so.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Most Underrated: Midfielders

Here's the second of three instalments in this series: The midfielders...



Albert Riera (26, Spanish, Liverpool)
A bit of a late bloomer, perhaps, but arguably one of the reasons Liverpool have been maintaining a title push this season. Of four signings made the improve the width of that team this year, he has been the only one to do so. Will never be a regular for Spain but his recent involvement in the team shows that he's gaining admirers.

Esteban Cambiasso (28, Argentinean, Internazionale)
Perhaps one of the most tactically gifted midfielders in the game, the Argentinean midfielder has a fantastic eye for a pass and splendid movement. Not the most glamorous player at Inter and certainly not for Argentina, but he is at his most effective when operating just ahead of the centre circle. His goal against Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup shows why a player of his style will always be in demand.

Michael Carrick (27, English, Manchester United)
I go on about Michael Carrick quite a lot on this blog, but I think he is still underrated. He has been very good for England when called upon and his neatness is the difference, for club at least, between 0-0 and 1-0 in tight games away from home. Pauk Hayward, writing in the Guardian today, insists that:
"Carrick is one defence against the entirely rational suspicion that Englishmen will never be able to pass or keep the ball as well as the best Europeans or South Americans."

For that alone we should applaud the lad.

Park Ji-Sung (27, South Korean, Manchester United)
This lad is all energy, but there is more to his game: in the defensively minded formations that won United the Champions League last year, Park Ji-Sung worked tirelessly to deny space and make the difference with limited opportunities. The young Rafael, at right-back, plays best with Park ahead of him - the Korean midfielder being more willing/able to go from one touchline to the other than many of his more fleet-footed Portuguese team mates. The functioning of Manchester United as a unit owes a lot to this man both in the dressing room and on the pitch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Team Canada sweater released

Mostly because I haven't seen this anywhere but Icethetics, I've decided to throw it up here.

In November, I put up a post about how the IOC is finally forcing Team Canada hockey to move away from its classic logo, as no country is allowed to display their national sports federation logo during the Olympics. As such, Hockey Canada was forced to find something new.

Something new has arrived. Well, something new arrived months ago, but I just found out about it.

Behold: Team Canada's new sweaters.


I, for one, really like it. The colour is awesome, described by designer David Young as "Canadian blood red". The logo is classic, harking back to the Canada Cup days, but modern. Plus, it'll make my 1976 throwback sweater a little more modern (which has its good and bad points to it).

Either way, I was really worried about what they were going to do with the new Team Canada sweaters, but I really, really like this.

Good job, Hockey Canada!

EDIT: August 14, 2009. Hockey Canada's 2010 Olympic jerseys were leaked... see them here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Phil's Notebook: Chelsea go wobbly, Platini speaks sense


Another week has passed. If you're looking for information on David Beckham, please look away from the information herein.


Chelsea in trouble

Who would have thought that the well-oiled machine bequeathed by Avram Grant (credit where credit is due!) would disintegrate so fast? Scolari's latest Portuguese signing, Ricardo Quaresma, is only 25 yet has already flopped at Barcelona and Inter. He is so remarkably one-footed that he uses the outside of his right foot, the trivela move to cross and shoot, all the bloody time. It is as bizarre as it is sad, highlighting a remarkable deficiency in a footballer once on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of potential. Chelsea take on Hull at Stamford Bridge this weekend, but I think Hull are in with a chance here especially as Hilario will be in goal due to Petr Cech's injury. This could be the upset of the weekend.

Italian football returns?
Looks like AC Milan can still attract big names (and big offers), and the Serie A itself is as competitive as it has been in some time. Roma and Genoa are competing for 4th spot, and Cagliari are on fire of late. Diego Milito, a striker I rate extremely highly, is back from injury for Genoa to face Roma on Sunday - it could be a decisive encounter. I don't think Italian football is in a renaissance: one only needs to look at Roma's finances to see a microcosm of the general situation there. A more organised method of selling TV rights as well as ensuring safer stadiums - a la Premier League - might be a start.

A sentence or two on Fulham (I want to get this over with as much as you do)
Their oft-overlooked manager Roy Hodgson was silly to let go of Jimmy Bullard, but he's stabilised Fulham remarkably and made one or two good loan signings this January. They play far more attractive football now and thoroughly outplayed and beat Arsenal earlier in the season.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Sunday 1330 GMT
This is going to be a very good game involving two sides with a lot to prove. One is a talented squad unexpectedly battling for survival, the other a club which has seen its perennial challenges for honours wither away in the Abramovich era. Predicting a result for this one looks near-impossible, but a win for Tottenham is a real likelihood. Debuts for Robbie Keane and Andriy Arshavin look likely, so goals should be plentiful. An atmosphere of civility and healthy banter in the stadium and outside it (and 3 points for Arsenal) would make it a perfect Sunday.


Marek Hamsik
The young Napoli midfielder is getting attention from Juventus and Real Madrid, after impressing for two seasons in Serie B and Serie A and coming close to joining Inter in the summer. I rate Hamsik alongside Lassana Diarra and Daniele De Rossi as a top class ball-playing central midfielder. He is ready for the step up to the elite, in the €30million fee bracket most likely.


A word from Michel
As the debate rages about the merits of having a transfer window at all, UEFA president Michel Platini has echoed one of my own concerns, asking:
"What next? Clubs signing a player for one game? The Champions League final?"

He has gone on to say that a system will need to be devised to prevent such excesses, but that the transfer window itself does not look viable in the long term. Good man.

Premier League Punditry
is back on Sunday, same time same place. I'll bring you a post on underrated midfielders some time soon. That's all for today, enjoy the weekend!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hartsburg fired


Unbelievable.

Please refer to my past rants on firing coaches too early, I don't like repeating myself and I am literally shaking with rage right now.

I was pretty excited when Hartsburg came, but really, really hoped the Senators organization would grace him patience as he was taking on his first major coaching role in just under a decade.

This was, of course, the perfect year to bring in an inexperienced coach. This year's Senators are probably the worst team we've had in a very long time - slow defence, unproductive and single-plane offence, no goaltending. No coach could possibly be expected to really succeed with this unit at their disposal. I hate to tell you this, Bryan, but Craig Hartsburg isn't Gordon Bombay. He can't take the shittiest team ever and make them beat evil Icelanders to win the Junior Goodwill Games*.

So, after 48 games, they're giving him the boot. Another good coach gets thrown to the wolves because someone in the higher echelons of an organization can't get their shit in order. This is the season when all Ottawa's dumb management decisions finally caught up with them, and Hartsburg is being made to suffer for it.

Shame, shame, shame.

----------
* I don't know where all the Mighty Duck references came from, but I'm running with it

Return of the King

I'm not thrilled about it, in the analytical sense... but as a football supporter I couldn't be more pleased.

Robbie Keane is back, we spent £15m for him. We sold him, of course, for £20.3M. So, good profit and he's back.

Let's break down the Tottenham players who came back after 12 months or less.

Jermaine Defoe
Pacy striker, incredibly useful under the instruction of Harry Redknapp. Pavlyuchenko's greatest skill is providing perfect through balls, he should continue to flourish at Spurs with good service from the midfield.
Good Buy

Robbie Keane
As I said yesterday, I'm fearful of what might happen. I hope he doesn't feel dejected by Liverpool selling him at cut-price, he unfortunately couldn't perform under the instruction of Rafa. What Keane needs is a free role, to move as he pleases around the 18 yard box and be provided service from the midfield, and he'll get that from our current midfield and Redknapp. Like I said above, we still make a little over £5M from the deal, so it all works out.
Good Buy

Pascal Chimbonda
One of the true cancers to the Spurs dressing room last season. He walked out of the Carling Cup final after being substituted. He refused to play center back when asked, even though we had no one else who could play the position. He was the true definition of ass. I'm still not sure why we brought him back, we have two of the most promising right-backs in the Premier League in Vedran Corluka and Chris Gunter... we need help on the left. THE LEFT, 'Arry! I don't understand the point of buying back Chimbo, I hope he isn't as cancerous as he was last season.
Bad Buy

With Wilson Palacios in Tottenham's midfield now (having recently arrived from Wigan), we have a stronger, more creative holding midfielder, finally replacing Michael Carrick.

At any rate, recent developments would suggest we certainly aren't headed for relegation, but I doubt we'll get a Europe spot now.

COYS!

EDIT - Robbie Keane was in fact bought for £12M, making it a nearly £10M profit.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

If you can't beat 'em, for the love of God don't let 'em beat you!


I can't believe Tottenham. Honestly, we're horrible. I don't know if any other team has allowed more goals i the last five minutes of a game than Spurs. I also don't know how to find that stat, so we'll just assume I'm right.

At any rate, Spurs went down 2-0 at the Reebok - but then they fought back to 2-2 thanks to some good effort from the team and *sigh* Darren Bent. Who would've thunk it?

But then, four minutes to time, we lost. 3-2. Off a corner. Story's in the books.

Now, the question comes back to "what to do?". I'll tell you what not to do: bring back every former player and their grandmother. Unbelievable. I love Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane, I was extremely happy with their play at White Hart Lane and I was horribly sad to see them go. When Chimbonda left - I was excited.

And yet - we've spent far more money than we made trying to bring these guys back. Defoe's been off his game, but he's getting there. That said, it's a slightly different situation - he never wanted to leave and he's coming back to play under his favourite manager. Chimbonda was shite at the Lane, bad for morale, bad for the team. Now - Robbie Keane. His boyhood club was Liverpool. If I were a professional footballer and Spurs offered me the chance to play in North London, I'd be there in a second. Then, if Spurs decided they didn't really want me anymore, and sent me back to the team I came from for half the price they bought me for... well I'd be crushed. And I certainly wouldn't be excited to play. That's what's going to happen if we bring back Robbie Keane, and it's a scary prospect.

Anyways, this is a team that needs to do a few things;
1) Have the mental strength to pull through the last minutes of a match
2) Be smarter than a monkey with a wheel when it comes to transfers
3) FUCKING WIN

Now, in university 'news':
1) Men's basketball played a hell of a game against the Varsity Blues. With a minute and a half left they tied it up. With 17 seconds left they went down by 4 points and the game was lost.
2) Men's hockey had one hell of a weekend - they beat Ryerson and U of T with minimal fuss, though they almost blew it against the Varsity Blues.
3) I've been throwing around ideas for how our football team is going to do next year, and I'm starting to get increasingly excited by our prospects. Maybe we're not going to fall apart next season?

As always, Andrew, Phil and I will be doing Premier League Punditry today at 1:15 p.m. at Sporting Madness, be tharr or be squarr...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Phil's Notebook: Barca, Bargains and Beckham

Following a good reception for my first post in this series, "A few notes from the week", I've decided to make the now-rebranded series, "Phil's Notebook", a regular fixture.

This Piqué-d my interest
Sold back to boyhood club Barcelona by Manchester United for £7million this past summer, Gerard Piqué (22 on Monday) has quietly established himself as a top class defender back in Catalonia, starting regularly alongside Carles Puyol. Gabriel Milito, brought in last year under Frank Rijkaard, cost three times more and failed to make a real impact. Pep Guardiola has managed this team flawlessly.

Bargain buys
Aston Villa winning the signature of Emile Heskey for only £3.5million may be the most decisive transfer of this window. Aston Villa's odds of a top four finish are very, very good at the moment.

Incidentally, Robin van Persie is on his longest injury-free stretch in some time and has quietly found his way back amongst the top two or three strikers (on quality) in the Premier League. He assisted or scored almost every Arsenal goal in January. Having come in the summer of 2004 for £2.75million, he stands out as a bargain worth remembering.

From Blackburn to Olympiakos
Matt Derbyshire, Blackburn's young prospect and perpetual substitute, has gone on loan to Greek side Olympiakos for the rest of the season. Such broadening of footballing horizons will only improve his game and his character. While Matt Derbyshire will probably never be a great footballer, one suspects that England might have lifted a trophy by now if its most promising players (you know the ones) had gained the crucial extra 5% by leaving their narrow English comfort zones.

Everton's 4-6-0
It's only partly accurate to call it that. It's more of a 4-4-1-1 with midfielders Fellaini and Cahill up front. The kind of 4-6-0 pedants like me enjoy involves a bit more fluidity and movement when attacking or regaining possession - something which Everton will probably gain over the coming weeks of playing like this.

Andriy Arshavin
It's quite popular to slag the guy off at the moment, but he does possess a great deal of quality and is a far better player than Roman Pavlyuchenko by most accounts. Arsenal were linked with him about a year before Euro 2008, let's not forget that either. I certainly don't think he's the player we needed most, but he can excel in England and I have a feeling he could make an instant impact.

What to watch for this weekend
If Arsenal fail to win against West Ham and Aston Villa beat Wigan, we can begin to talk about UEFA Cup/Europa League football for the Gunners.

Tottenham travel to Bolton in what must be a relegation six-pointer. I'm hoping Bolton lose.

If David Beckham plays well against Lazio on Sunday, look out for Milan hinting at a permanent deal. The MLS would want £8million, from what I understand.

Real Madrid travel to Numancia - can they close the gap on Barcelona? My feelings about Madrid are well-documented, but they do show extraordinary spirit and the acquisition of Lassana Diarra has been a rare masterstroke on their part.

Premier League Punditry returns on Sunday at Sporting Madness.