Validation blogged
Jun 1, 10 2:52am

When John Still joined Dagenham and Redbridge as manager in 2004 they were in the Conference and were small-time team with little ambition. Still changed all that and has raised them from a part-time to team one of the most prominent in Essex, proven by the fact that they will be playing the likes of Southampton and Charlton next season. Fans of Dagenham and Redbridge may been forgiven for being optimistic ahead of the new season but I wouldn't put it past them to achieve a solid mid-table spot, It's not unrealistic when you look at the players on show. Still believes in Non-League players more than any other manager and on Sunday they were promoted thanks to two of them, Paul Benson and Danny Green.

Still's confidence in these players in astounding and it has been rewarded with promotion to League One for the first time in the clubs history, albeit a short one. There are many incentives for managers to follow his path, non-League players are hungry ones, determined to do well now they've reached the big-time. They command low wages, something which is extra important for a club of Dagenham's size with an average attendance of just 2098 it's something which will likely follow as Still looks to build the club in stature and size. Next season they could be looking at sell-out games, something which they won't have seen for a long time and this can only further the club. Should they remain in the league next season and avoid relegation then they have a bit of breathing space and be able to spend a bit of money, or maybe even improve the stadium.

Whatever happens next season for Dagenham, it's sure to be one that the fans will always remember, will Paul Benson continue his goal-scoring feats? Probably. Will John Still keep faith in his Non-Leaguers? Most likely. Good times are ahead of Dagenham..

Validation blogged
Jun 1, 10 2:50am

A poor and turgid performance from England saw them narrowly avoid an embarrassing loss against Japan. Despite the pre-match odds giving Japan little chance of getting something from the game they looked more like a team prepared for a good run in the World Cup than England and shocked them on 7minutes with a good goal from Tulio on a corner. That goal set the tone for the first half with Japan having numerous chances to score whilst England rarely threatened, Lennon's shot straight at the keeper the closest England came to scoring.

Half-time was greatly received and England made 5 changes with the poor Walcott going off for Shaun-Wright-Phillips, who put in a good shift in an effort to take his seat on the plane to South Africa on Tuesday, in particular winning the Free-kick from which a blatant Japan handball gifted Lampard the chance to equalise. This being England however, he missed from the spot, something we've become accustomed to over the years. England started to get more into the game and threatened more before a touch of luck gave England a goal. A fine run by Joe Cole, also looking to get to South Africa, was met with a low cross which was headed in the net for an own goal by Tulio. Japan shot themselves in the foot again with another late own goal, this time from Nakazawa and despite Heskey's late miss, England held on to win.

So, of those hopefuls who are hoping that they've made an impression, how did they do?;

Theo Walcott - Poor performance from Theo who often gave the ball away and lost it in key phases of attack. He still possesses pace though, something which we need at the World Cup to terrify defenders and nip round them. On today's showing I wouldn't take him. HOME

Jamie Carragher - As much as I despise seeing Carragher in an England shirt again after his remarks in the past, he was one of the better defenders on the pitch today and the defence looked to be more composed on the ball and Carragher lead by example. BOARDING

Emile Heskey - Despite only a small cameo appearance in which not much could've been expected of him, Heskey failed to flatter. It's been a long time since Heskey scored for England and it was a worrying sign when he missed a glorious chance near the end. HOME

Joe Hart - Did exceptionally well in his 45 minute stint and made a number of key saves which kept England in the game, highlight being a quick dive following a shot in the box which deflected off Terry. BOARDING

Darren Bent - Didn't score but with the service given that would've been a tough task to ask for him. Looked aware and had his wits about him, not afraid to go into a tackle and could be an alternative to Heskey but with goals added. BOARDING

With those players in mind, my final 23 would be this;

Goalkeepers; Joe Hart, Robert Green & David James
Defenders; John Terry, Jamie Carragher , Rio Ferdinand , Ledley King , Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Michael Dawson and Leighton Baines
Midfielders; Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, Shaun-Wright-Phillips, James Milner, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick & Gareth Barry
Strikers; Wayne Rooney , Darren Bent, Peter Crouch & Jermaine Defoe

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section.
Validation blogged
Aug 24, 09 8:38pm

Michael Owen scored his first Premiership goal for Manchester United against Wigan on Saturday in a 5-0 second half demolition of the Latics. A well-placed pass by Nani carved up the Wigan defence and left Michael Owen to gleefully dink the ball over the out-stretching Kirkland to give United a 4-0 lead, which was finished late on by Nani's free-kick. It's a sweet reward for Michael Owen who has been battling to regain his form and fitness that made him one of the hottest strikers in English and European football. Owen showed glimpses of his previous embodiment during the Wigan match and will now hope to push on and get more goals for Manchester United.

Owen, 29, was born in Chester and became a boyhood hero for many teenagers in the Mersey surroundings. A dominant striker for Liverpool he broke records and was compared to the former Liverpool striker, Ian Rush. Owen's 8 happy years in Liverpool's first team were the best of his career and the start of a troubled future. Joining Real Madrid he initially started slowly but brought the fans around only to be pushed back in the standings with the arrival of Julio Baptista and Robinho and his move to Newcastle followed.

He showed glimpses of skill and vision to wow the Geordie faithful but his injuries crept back denying his participation, the most serious being an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury which kept him out for months. After Newcastle were relegated he ran down his contract and joined Manchester United much to the football communities shock. Many people had expected him to join Hull, Stoke or Everton but his move to Old Trafford will likely anger Liverpool fans.

Wether he keeps his form up is one to be answered in the coming weeks and matches and if he can re-capture his England place then he could finally set his sights on breaking the England record for goals, currently on 40, he needs 10 to break the record set by Bobby Charlton. The ultimate bitter-sweet moment could come on the 25th October when Manchester United travel to Liverpool, if Owen scores the winner in front of the Kop another chapter will have been written.

Validation blogged
Aug 21, 09 12:53am

Not even the most optimistic Burnley fan could predict a victory against Man United, everyone was certain of a Man United victory and betters were hopefully of getting some quick dosh in exchange from this match. Burnley had other plans and set out to play a delightful game which shocked the visitors. Man United were far from their best , off form and not looking like scoring they had every attempt broken by down but the man Burnley really should thank is Brian Jensen. "The Beast" as he is more popularly known by Burnley fans denied Manchester United at every chance and even took a hit to the face to prevent Berbatov late on.

Robbie Blakes power drive sent Burnley ahead much to the delight of the Turf Moor faithful and it is Turf Moor that will likely be a heralding ground of hope for Burnley and they should look to utilize their home advantage to stay up. No team should enjoy going there and if they can manage to turn it into a fortress then they have a great chance of staying up. A good start to the season is also needed but the crest of the high wave after this performance will be allowed to continue for a day or so before Coyle rallies he's men for the next game.

Validation blogged
Aug 20, 09 10:33pm

Neville after Liverpool game

Mention the word "derby" to any football fan and they'll most probably think of the games that fans long to see. The games that involve to attacking teams going hammer and tong to take the bragging rights until the next meeting. Derbies are the number one games in the season for most fans and are always ear-marked for months before it even happens, simply because they are such great games.

The Manchester City derby is no doubt one of the biggest in the country. Contested between Manchester United and Manchester City football club's, it has seen 149 games between the two teams. The rivalry is built more on geographical positioning than any other reason. The next game which will mark the 150th game between the two teams is scheduled to take place on the 30th of November at the City of Manchester stadium. Perhaps the most defining moment of the Manchester derbies is Dennis Laws goal that sent Manchester United down at the end of the 1972/73 season:

"I have seldom felt so depressed in my life as I did that weekend. After 19 years of giving everything I had to score goals, I had finally scored one which I almost wished I hadn't" ~ Dennis Law

But the Manchester derby isn't the fiercest derby in England, let alone the World for me. You have to look abroad to some of the less talked about derbies in this country that light the blue touch paper weeks, even months before hand. Roma, Celtic , Rangers , Lazio, River and Boca. Take a bow. Whilst built around different reasons for hate (Celtic and Rangers is religous , River and Boca is purely historical and Roma vs Lazio is down to political beliefs) they all retain a sense of pride amongst the fans.

Celtic vs Rangers ~ The Old Firm

Rangers vs Celtic
This game isn't just about the dominance of the both clubs, it has a much more yealding effect than that. Religion is the core of most chants and it is evident if you attend an old-firm game. Celtic was built on foundations of a Catholic church which had links to the Irish and Rangers were founded on Protestant grounds, which normally sparks religious slander against both teams. Sectarian violence is common place between the two teams and some people have even asked for specific songs to not be sung as they are so insulting towards the fans and team.

Because of both clubs religious backgrounds it is very very rare to see a Protestant playing for Celtic and a Catholic playing for Rangers. Only a handful of players have done so in their career. Mo Johnston is the most prominent figure to have completed this feat. The first catholic player to sign for Rangers in 1989 under Graeme Souness. Both clubs openley admit that sections of their fans do part-take in sectarianism but have made little to no effort to stop it. The uproar of the Mo Johnston incident was one that angered both Celtic and Rangers fans:

"I had bodyguards for nine months, 24 hours a day, ~ Mo Johnston

Aside from religious and succes views the last reason that this derby is so intense is the short proximity between the two teams which enables banter to fly across Glasgow. The smaller teams in Glasgow (Partick Thistle , Queens Park , Airdrie United , Albion Rovers , Dumbarton , St.Mirren , Clyde and Motherwell) have seen attendances of home matches affected and, in some cases, away matches between any of the aforementioned sides. However, the Old Firm is estimted to be worth £120 million to the Scottish Economy and to this day is the most contested , most violent fixture in Scottish football and in my mind, the UK.

Roma vs Lazio ~ Derby della capitale

Roma vs Lazio
Where Celtic and Rangers leave off of Violence, Roma and Lazio prevail. The derby della capitale , or Rome derby as it is affectionately known outside of Italy is contested between Roma and Lazio at the amazing Stade Olimpico in the center of Rome. As of note their has been many riots before, after and even during this game and there has been one noteable death within the stadium. Lazio Vincenzo Paperelli was killed by a flare. This encounter is normally down to political beliefs and this shown sometimes through the players who have played for the club. One of the most noteable being Paolo di Canio and his infamous Nazi Salute.

Fascism was a right-wing movement common place in Germany and Italy during the second world under Hitler and Benito Mussolini. However, after the war the Italians made a declaration of Fascist propganda to be illegial and punishable. When Paolo di Canio made a fascist salute against Juventus in December 2005 he was fined 10,00 Euros , suspended for one game and asked to speak for his actions. His tattoo of DVK, the Latin name for Benito Mussolini strengthens his Fascist ideolgy.

"I will always salute as I did yesterday because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people" ~ Paolo Di Canio

Aside from Paolo Di Canio the clubs have competed 161 games between them with Roma taking the spoils so far with 57 wins out of the said 161. Lazio have won 43 and their have been 61 draws between the two teams. Perhaps the most famous match between the two sets of fans is the encounter in March of 2004, where it saw the match abandoned after 49 minutes of play. Riots and rumours in the stand spread and after totalitarian control was starting to sway towards the crowd, the referee abandoned the game on the grounds of safety. The Roma ultras fought the police with 13 arrests and 170 injured fans. Before every game the ultras of both teams put on fantastic displays intending to intimidate the opposition fans, this is the spectacle that makes visiting the game worthwhile.

Boca vs River ~ Superclásico

Boca vs River
Argentina's biggest derby is the Superclasico , contested between Boca Juniors and River Plate of Buenos Aires. Both clubs were formed in the poor district of La Boca and have remained a strong rivalry throughout their existence. Involving the two most popular and successful teams in Argentina make it a fan favourite and ensures high crowds at every match and high tv figures. Such is the passion for the fans that the ground is know to shake with the rythmic jumping of the fans. A high portion of games have had riots conclude or prelude the action on the field. It is known outisde of Argentina as well and is respected as the best derby outside of Europe and featured on the "50 sporting things to do before you die" list that appeared in the observer.

"Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about - and it's only a couple of quid to get in" ~ The Observer

70 % of Argentine football fans are enthralled by the encounter and the physical displays at La Bombonera and El Monumental are real indications to the effort made my fans of both teams. There have been over 300 encounters between the two teams with Boca having won 116, River 104 and 100 draws. One main reason that this is the most popular game in Argentina is the prominent attacking display that both sides posses and use to bewilder there oppenents. Similar to the Roma vs Lazio games , it is normally common place to see violence, usually against the police.

This hatred of the police was reciprocated after the Puerta 12 tragedy. 12 fans were killed when a stampede crushed the fans at the front of the terrace at El Monumental in 1968. Many people were blamed for the events and the deaths of the people killed (average age was 19) but the most common name thrown around was the police. In the end no-one was found guilty but this was the start of the hatred for the police and one of the main reasons why it is so violent at this games.


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