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Next time I’m coming back as a footballer!

Michael OwenSo this morning Michael Owen has announced his intention to retire at the end of the season at the grand old age of 33.

Owen burst on to the scene as a teenager at Liverpool and made England’s 1998 World Cup squad aged just 18. He announced himself on the world stage with a memorable solo goal against Argentina in that tournament and scored a hat-trick as England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in September 2001.

He has scored 220 goals in his club career, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup (three times) and UEFA Cup. Owen was named European Footballer of the Year in 2001 – the first Englishman to achieve the accolade since my own particular favourite, Kevin Keegan, in 1979.

“Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career,” Owen has written in a statement on his website.

But it’s not quite pipe and slippers time yet for Michael.  He has indicated that he would like to become involved with Chester FC in some capacity when he retires, as it was his local team growing up and the team his father used to play for.   As a professional footballer he can take benefits from his pension at his protected pension age of 35 and continue to play for, or be employed in a non-playing capacity with, any Football League club as long as he, for example, do not own or control the club.

So spare a thought for us mere mortals who will be working until we’re old and decrepit in a job we most probably despise before being eligible to retire.  All you’ve had to do is run around the park with the lads for 90 minutes on a Saturday with the odd mid-week game and a few hours training each day for less than half the years we have to work.  Am I jealous?  You bet your sweet **** I am!!!

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Dry your eyes mate!

I do hope Sir Alex Ferguson has recovered this morning from Manchester United’s exit last night from the Champions League – too “distraught” to face the media apparently, the purple-nosed one declared himself to be “in no fit state to talk”.

They were beaten by Real Madrid in the second leg, having been reduced to 10 men after the controversial sending off of Nani in the 56th minute and there has been the usual outcry from United fans about the unfairness of the sending off as it changed the game entirely.  Up to that point they were undoubtedly the better side and it looked likely that they would definitely proceed to the next round.

In  any game of football, however, a player is asking for trouble by connecting with an opponent’s midriff.  Nani’s boot was definitely raised with painful consequences, accidental or not.  That said, there was still palpable shock when the red card was brandished.

Nani's high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa that earned him a red card.

Mourinho’s decision to bring on Luka Modric straight away was a masterstroke and it was then Ronaldo, until that point largely subdued, reminded Old Trafford why he is such a formidable destroyer of defences.  Both players scored within three minutes of one another and, however impudent it was for Mourinho to shake Ferguson’s hand and set off for the dugout with the final exchanges of stoppage time still to be played, the truth is the game had already been won.

At the final whistle, with one manager unable to bring himself to talk and another contemplating another pulsating Old Trafford victory for his collection, what we are left with is the whining of the United fans who feel they were robbed of the chance of further glory in this competition and a Turkish referee who will have probably needed a police escort leaving the stadium, before a swift flight back to Istanbul this morning.

But at the end of the day, it is just a football match – no-one died.  So I leave you with the chorus to this well-known song by The Streets, [adapted to suit the gender change!]:

Dry your eyes mate
I know it’s hard to take but [his] mind has been made up
There’s plenty more fish in the sea
Dry your eyes mate
I know you want to make [him] see how much this pain hurts
But you’ve got to walk away now.

Ferguson crying

Think before you tweet!

I am all for freedom of speech but there are a few basic rules to follow when you decide to use Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or if, like me, you want to also blog as well.  The main one being:

Think before you hit the Post or Publish button!

This advice is never more important than if you are a person who is already in the public eye – footballers especially please take note!  Some of the worst offenders have been:

  • Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand who was fined £45,000 in August for bringing the game into disrepute after responding to a racially-suggestive tweet about Ashley Cole
  • Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong was also fined £6,000 in the same month after he used a derogatory term about Tottenham fans
  • Then Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 in January 2011 after he linked to a mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt

So there was little surprise this morning when I read that Ashley Cole has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association in relation to a Twitter comment he posted about the governing body.   Responding to the FA’s judgement in the John Terry racism case, he tweeted on Friday: “Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFT***S”.   He has now deleted this tweet and issued an “unreserved apology” to the FA but the damage has already been done and he has until 16:00 BST on Thursday, 11 October to respond to the charge.

However, when former England captain Alan Shearer told the BBC at the weekend that Cole should be banned for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino as a punishment, Cole, 31, then responded by retweeting a message which criticised Shearer.  When will he learn?

Former England left-back Graeme Le Saux is working with the FA to guide players on how they communicate.  The former Southampton, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers defender Le Saux is currently helping to make videos for the FA which will be shown to players about how the governing body operates and the punishments they can hand out for unacceptable behaviour, including the use of social media.  He said this weekend – “The whole pleasure and access that social media gives you is that you are in control of what goes out there, but you must be sensible enough to hold that back.”

Social Media is not for people to bully, insult or intimidate, it is for communication.  My advice to these players is straightforward.  Instead of using your hands to type insulting messages for all to see, try just using your feet to kick a ball – this is after all what you’re being paid for!!!

Only thing missing was a helicopter!

This time last year I was writing about Helicopter Sunday when the SPL title race was left to the final day of the season and the cup was taken to the winning ground by helicopter – on that occasion it was Rangers … what a difference a year makes! 

Today, however, the sheer distance between the 2 teams in contention for the Barclays Premiership was too great for even a helicopter to be able to reach the winning ground in time so apparently there were duplicate trophies at both Sunderland and Manchester City’s grounds to be awarded to the victor of today’s nail-biting decider … and what a close one it was too!!  I was unable to watch the game live but had both Twitter and Sky Sports on my phone and practically kicked every last ball myself it was so tense!

With the Man Utd game finishing a matter of 3 minutes before the Man City game, they and their supporters could have been forgiven for thinking they’d done enough with a 0-1 win, but City were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with two injury time goals, the winner on the 94th minute from Sergio (Kun) Aguero.  Happy days!  Having not won the title since 1968, this is an historic moment for the blue half of Manchester and I am delighted for them.

With my actual team, Arsenal, finishing the season in 3rd place, we are assured another exciting season of Champions League football to keep us all on the edge of our seats next year and I leave you with this final thought …

Arsenal are the best team in London.  United aren’t even the best team in Manchester – BOOM!!!

#Fergietime (cont’d)

Following on from my last post, it seems that ‘Fergie Time’ has made it into the Urban Dictionary with the following description:

‘Fergie Time”:  Any amount of time, in any football (soccer) match, which has been added on, in addition to the added time (injury time) that had already been prescribed at the end of the 90 minutes.  Any amount of time that a match is played after the said amount of added time, is referred to as ‘Fergie Time’.  (Added time of 3 minutes has been announced, play carries on after 93 minutes, player scores on 95 minutes).

I was also interested to see another entry in this section – ‘Fergie Watch’ which is a timepiece that runs contrary to the laws of physics.  If your football team is winning after 90 minutes your watch actually runs faster than the referee’s.  The other team’s coach has a watch that runs slower and the referee runs like the clappers whether you’re winning or losing.  This is Fergie’s Watch.

They’ve both played a blinder!

The 2011/2012 football season is drawing to a close and with one game left, things couldn’t get any closer for the 2 Manchester sides with City having the advantage only on goal difference with one game each left to play!

Those games will be Manchester City at home to QPR and Manchester United away to Sunderland, both on Sunday 13th May.

So here is where the points are at the moment:

If I were a betting person, my money would be on City. Their last game is at home which obviously gives them an edge but I would never underestimate the red side of the city who seem to have the devil’s own luck in these circumstances!

Who could forget the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich where they scored 2 last minute goals in injury time to win the game 2-1, after having trailed for most of the match?

Events such as these have led to the new phrase being coined of #fergietime but, despite #fergietime during the last encounter between these 2 great sides last week, Manchester City came out the victors and I for one am hoping that this is an omen for the final trophy of the season!

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