Friday, 26 March 2010
Old Trafford is a magnificent stadium drenched in history. The home of Manchester United and the occasional England friendly this 76,000 all-seater is the pride of Manchester.
Nicknamed the 'Theatre of Dreams' by United fans, this ground has had players like Best, Charlton, Busby, Beckham and Ronaldo all calling its turf 'home'.
I was excited for the tour, however, this excitement didn't compare to the amount i'd had the week before travelling on the same train to the game against City in the Carling Cup semi-final.
I expected the tour to be a basic walk around a stadium I have visited many times in my nineteen years, but it turned out to be different...
The tour guide was extremely enthusiastic about the club and had every fact locked in his brain to release whenever a question was fired at him.
We were taken around the stands and bombarded with information, before being lead to the player's lounge and changing rooms. Here was a section of Old Trafford i had never seen before and it felt unbelievable to be sat in the same seat that Rooney sits in before walking out in front of the Manchester faithful.
I imagined Fergie shouting at me for being lazy and missing that sitter in the first half and i felt like one of the players, a childhood dream!
After this was the part i was most excited about...Walking out of the tunnel. We were arranged into two teams and were lead out by two little lads who couldn't believe their luck. It was breathtaking. It was hard to imagine the ground full of fans shouting my name as i came out of the tunnel, but i tried thinking about it nonetheless.
To enter into this battlefield every weekend for these players must be such an amazing feeling, one i don't quite get walking out of a dingy changing room on Preston's sunday league circuit...
The museum tour followed and chance to bask in the rich history of my club. Memories of the treble still give me shivers and i can watch Ole's goal over and over again without getting bored..'United have reached the promised land' WOW!
I left with a huge smile on my face and an empty stomach...Meat/Potato pie and chips? Done Deal!
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Always touted as one of the biggest games of the season, this clash between the two red Lancashire giants has more at stake than the usual derby.
Liverpool, who have had a torrid season so far, are looking to claw back fourth place but a loss at Old Trafford would have a disastrous effect with close rivals Aston Villa, who have a couple of games in hand, looking to get a maximum six points from two home games in the next week.
Having already been knocked out of the FA Cup, Carling Cup and Champions League prematurely, Liverpool must up their performances dramatically to even stand a chance of finishing in the top five. With off-field distractions such as transfer speculation and player/manager fall-outs 'The Reds' must knuckle down for the business part of the season to ensure that the prestigous reputation of the club stays in tact.
United, on the other hand, have had another brilliant season and are looking to retain the Premiership for a record fourth year in succession along with another possible trip to the Champions League Final. This of course on top on the Carling Cup Final win against Aston Villa.
A win against Liverpool at Old Trafford will erase recent memories of the 4-1 defeat suffered last season to the same opponents and will no doubt put Chelsea under pressure to hold onto their slender lead at the summit of the league table.
With Vidic and Ferdinand reunited, The Red Devils look like a much stronger side capable of clean sheets once again, and on top of that, there seems to be no way to stop Wayne Rooney. Good news for England fans!
Liverpool will turn up confident of a victory with Torres and Gerrard looking to cause Vidic a headache once more and with the last result still fresh in their minds. Rafa will no doubt attempt to enter a war of the mind against Ferguson but will most probably end up looking like the fool as usual.
Sunday is the day, and the match promises to be a brilliant spectacle..!
Photo By: http://img.skysports.com/09/03/218x298/Manchester-United-Liverpool-Premier-League-Pr_1998483.jpg
I'm not personally a fan of African football as i find that many of the international teams rely on just a few players of worldwide recognition to get the result.
Also, it seems like the 'big' African countries don't seem to put in the effort against the 'lesser' ones resulting in teams like Egypt not reaching the World Cup Finals.
However, after constant bombardment of information by a close friend, i have had to learn to take African football more seriously.
The African Cup of Nations threw up some entertaining games with the opening match coughing up eight goals in a memorable comeback which ended 4-4.
With dwindling crowds, the players showed the commitment and stamina for which African football is well-known and a strong Egyptian side came out on top with Zidan impressing.
As for the World Cup, i am still unsure of whether the African sides can out-perform some of the top World teams, but Senegal and Ghana has proved that is is possible in recent competitions, so we will have to wait and see on that one.
Although individual African teams may struggle, its fair to say that an African XI would be good enough to challenge any team the rest of the world could put together with the likes of Drogba, Adebayor and Eto'o leading the line...
The future is bright for African football with many of its young talents still yet to peak and with up and coming countries, who are ploughing more money into football and the community around it.
Photo By: http://www.pdnonline.com/photodistrictnews/photos/2006/07/africangame6.jpg
Friday, 12 March 2010
Alistair Cook became only the fifth player to score a century on his debut as captain for England, on day one of the first test in Bangladesh.
He finished the day on 158 not out and will hope to push on for the double ton, putting England fully in control.
But not to get over-excited, Bangladesh (no disrespect) are not the greatest test side in the world and on a flat pitch it was maybe expected that big scores would be recorded.
Nevertheless, for such a young player to take the captaincy and all the pressure that comes with it, it was a great innings.
Also, a great innings from Kevin Pietersen who has struggled for form recently after returning from injury and has had trouble answering his critics. England's iconic number 4 hit 99 runs from just 135 balls before being cleaned bowled one short of his century..disaster. He hit 15 fours and one six, showing his explosive style is still there, great news for England.
BBC Sport Quote: "The innings made a mockery of his recent struggles, with a renewed confidence against left-arm spin no doubt the most pleasing aspect for England team director Andy Flower."
It was a puzzling decision by Bangladesh to put England into bat first after winning the toss on such a good batting wicket, but England will have to work hard to finish the innings in a strong manner before putting in a shift in the field.
The hosts' record of never having won a Test at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium could well be set to continue after a disappointing day for them.
Photo By: BBC Sport
Friday, 5 March 2010
The incident at Fratton Park is a classic example of why football needs to introduce technology to aid referees in making football a fairer sport.
Cricket and rugby have sucessfully incorporated technology into the game with decisions regulary going to a third official to make the correct call, after careful viewing of replay footage.
Liam Ridgewell's 'Goal' would have changed the FA Cup semi-final completely and on Birmingham's form this season they would probably have produced a comeback, however, with the officials struggling to see the ball crossing the line Portsmouth went on to win the game comfortably.
It was tough on The Blues who deserve more out of their season than they have already got and, even though Portsmouth have had off-field problems, i would have prefered to see the Midlanders on their way to Wembley.
Opposers to Technology in football say the game would be too stop-start and it would ruin the pace of the British game, however, its not likely that the referee will refer to a distant official for a dodgy throw-in decision, instead it should just be major incidents that could turn the match.
FIFA have decided not to go ahead with plans to introduce the technology but i don't think it will be long before plans to properly bring in an all-seeing official especially if a major mistake is made in the World Cup in Africa...
Photo By: http://www.conita.com/files.php?file=aaa_488827925.jpg
Thursday, 4 March 2010
A double brace from substitute Peter Crouch saved England's blushes as they ran out 3-1 winners over a dogged Egyptian side at Wembley.
Egypt took the lead with a brilliantly taken goal by Zidan after Matthew Upson slipped leaving a route to goal free for the egyptian striker, but two goals for Crouch and one for Wright-Phillips wrapped up the victory for England who, no doubt, must improve to even compete in the upcoming World Cup.
John Terry recieved a hot reception from the England fans when his name was read out before the game and for each early touch of the ball. It's fair to say Terry has done wrong and the banter he receives at club level is perfectly fine, but to jeer a player who is representing his country and is struggling with confidence doesn't make too much sense, especially with all the expectation of the summer World Cup.
Gerrard and Lampard, yet again, showed that they are miles better for club than country and Capello showed that he is not scared to replace the England 'stars' for more hard-working players like Milner and Carrick, who have earnt their appearances after recent club form.
Capello's decision to replace Defoe with Crouch at half-time bemused many but nobody was complaining after the big robot added to his impressive goalscoring record for his country and continued to stake a claim for a seat on the plane to South Africa.
With Cole, Johnson and Ferdinand missing at the back England looked a bit wobbly but i'm sure the return of these key players will boost confidence in the squad and will hopefully lead to better performances in the future.
With all the negatives came another win under Capello and the Three Lions should look to push on from this victory against a side highly rated in the World Rankings.
Photo By: http://www.sinnacle.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Peter-Crouch-England.jpg
Monday, 1 March 2010
England v Egpyt
Another pointless friendly right in the thick of the season, but nonetheless a great game in prospect.
A game which most people expect England to win comfortably en route to the World Cup finals in South Africa, however, taking a quick glance at the World Rankings shows you that Egypt are just one place behind England, where they lie tenth.
Capello supposedly chose Egypt for this game with the idea that they provide a similar challenge to which his England side will face against Algeria in the World Cup group stage.
Looking at the Egyptians, it's very very difficult to understand how they didn't qualify from the African World Cup qualifying group, especially with the best record in the African cup of nations out of any team and recently setting a new record for 19 consecutive unbeaten African Cup of Nations matches.
With talent such as Zaki and Zidan, Egypt should have had no problems qualifying, however, they have only previously qualified for the World Cup twice, going out in the first round on both occasions.
England have no doubt named the strongest squad available with a few new faces filling in the gaps. The likes of Hart, Shawcross and Cole will look to impress if they get the oppurtunity and it will be interesting to see how the England fans react to Shawcross and Terry throughout the game. I'm sure every England fan will hope to see Rooney starting after the pantomime regarding his injured knee and apparent flu, and i'm sure this will happen. Wayne is always eager to play and impress and will look to add more goals to his recent impressive form.
The game will not be as one-sided as many people think it will be but a good, strong performance from the three lions should ensure a victory which will start the World Cup preparation positively and hopefully lead England to glory in Africa.
Photo By: http://www.brandsoftheworld.com/brands/0006/5984/brand.gif