Thursday, March 31, 2005

Boring International Weeks

When browsing my favourite football news sources, looking for that issue to write about for this very blog entry, I came across nothing of interest, and consequently nothing to write about.

I then thought of why this is so, and then I came about a reason for this, which ironically gave me something to write about: international football.

Quite frankly, international weeks are very boring, and these two weeks have been no exception.

I have little love of international football, except in the two major tournaments -- the World Cup and the European Championship.

The matches are usually boring -- either meaningless friendlies or inconsequential qualifying matches -- and provide very little in the way of issues and controversies, unlike the colourful and active world of club football.

The only real controversy that ever arises from international weeks are England's selection dilemmas, which are so predictable that they are not deserving of the "controversy" tag anymore: "boring" is more fitting.

Really now, the "left-wing selection dilemma" has been flogged for a long time, yet no definite answer has been produced: one week Ashley Cole is the solution, then Stewart Downing in the other, then Joe Cole, etc., casting itself as a very one-dimensional debate.

And no, the Sol Campbell - John Terry “debate” is no real debate at all, but rather a hapless attempt by the media to fill in for the lack of stories.

We know that coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will not drop Campbell in favour of Terry, because that is clearly not his style: he always insists on keeping faith in his starting eleven, barring the left-wing.

I will end the rant there, in the hope that you have not already been bored by my hapless attempt to keep Football Musings "your daily source of football opinion".

Let us further hope that club football will make its re-entry into the media sooner, rather than later, bringing an early death to the current, but very boring, international window.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Moaning Mourinho Backflips

Whether Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has a conscience or not is debatable after he contradicted his initial version of events of the half-time scrape in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match against Barcelona in late February.

Initially, he complained to the media that he saw Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard enter the referees' room: "When I saw Rijkaard entering the referee's dressing-room I couldn't believe it. When Didier Drogba was sent off I wasn't surprised."

However, Mourinho now claims that he did not see Rijkaard enter the referees' room at all, but rather a member of his backroom staff did: "If something happens in the football stadium and I don't see it and if some of my people say to me 'I saw this', I say it's true."

The "Special One" should be in for a hell of a time when Thursday's UEFA displinary hearing on charges relating to his comments is over, because his initial (and presumably false) comments prompted some Chelsea fans to threaten referee Anders Frisk with death, who resigned shortly afterwards.

The situation is completely unacceptable.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Raul's Insecurity

Raul's recent comments on fellow Real Madrid player Michael Owen can be interpreted as a request for the English midfielder to leave the club.

He said to the Sunday Mirror: "If anyone is unhappy here I think it's best that they leave. And that means anyone, including Michael Owen."

"We only need people here who are desperate to represent Real Madrid."

And why would captain Raul question Owen's commitment and encourage him to leave?

Quite simply, Raul has not been performing very well recently, while Owen is scoring goals off the substitutes bench, putting the Spaniard’s place in the starting eleven under threat.

It is an interesting piece of speculation to ponder...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Brazilliant Support

If there was any national team deserving of success, you could probably look no further than Brazil.

A crowd of 25,000 fans turned up on Saturday to watch Brazil train before a Sunday World Cup qualifier against Peru, which is quite an astronomical figure for a training session before a match of little importance, considering that World Cup qualification is expected.

It demonstrates just how much the team pleases their supporters, and what a great rapport and level of understanding that the supporters have with the players.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Poor Result

Australia's 2 - 1 win against Iraq on Saturday night in their friendly international at Sydney's Telstra Stadium is plainly not good enough.

If they are to have any success in World Cup qualifying against the fifth-placed South American team, then they should be shrugging off challenges from weak Asian football nations, rather than giving them a sniff of victory.

The defence is especially an area of concern, which does not seem to be receiving enough attention from national coach Frank Farina.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

FA Cup Integrity Kept Intact

The news that the English Football Association has decided that replays for the FA Cup fifth and sixth rounds next season for European competitors will go ahead is a victory for the integrity of the honourable cup competition.

The idea of having no fifth and sixth round replays for matches involving European competitors was suggested as part of a plan to allow the England national squad four weeks of preparation for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but the FA found a solution to complement both the FA Cup and England, which involved moving the sixth round matches to a Wednesday.

Let us not speak of such silliness again, shall we?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Colegate Toothpaste

The English Football Association have finally charged Chelsea, manager Jose Mourinho, and Arsenal full-back Ashley Cole for the "tapping-up" affair involving the three entities, and about time too.

After many weeks of wrangling, you would have suspected that this charge would come out soon, especially since there was plenty of evidence to be found to support the existence of the alleged meeting in a hotel, which is quite a public place.

Hopefully, some harsh punishment will get handed out to all three of the culprits in the "Colegate" affair, should they be found guilty of discussing a potential move from Arsenal to Chelsea for Cole, who was in a protected contract.

The punishments handed out recently by football authorities all over Europe have been weak, equivalent to the price of Colgate toothpaste to the ordinary working person, which is not very much at all.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Australia's Good News

The Asian Football Confederation has accepted Australia's request to join them, which would see the Oceanian nation move out of the Oceania Football Confederation after the next World Cup in 2006, should FIFA accept the proposal.

The move would be great for Australia, since qualifying for the World Cup is far more competitive, but more importantly, it is also a host to four-and-a-half Cup spots.

This is in stark contrast to the current OFC qualifying scenario, whereby the winner of OFC qualifiers (usually Australia) play only two legs of "real" competitive action against the fifth-placed CONMEBOL national team, which does not allow much room for error.

The current OFC nations would also benefit from the proposed move, since they would no longer have a confederation dominated by one nation, making way for a competitive region.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Toshack Dreaming

Wales national manager John Toshock has told the media that his predecessor, Mark Hughes, failed to put in a plan of action for the future, with seven players already retired.

However, Toshack can hardly blame Hughes for this, as the retirements took place due to the resignation of the man who helped the team overperform in his time there.

In addition, it was Toshack himself who jeopardised Wales' future by when he forced experienced midfielder Robbie Savage into retirement, dropping him from his latest squad in order to play a West Ham player who has not yet started one senior game.

How playing an English Premier League regular in favour of a Championship struggler is meant to help the future of Wales is beyond me.

With only 90 players to choose from for the Wales nation squad, you would think that John Toshack would treat his players with respect, and had done everything he could to convince most of the retired players that he was the man to take them into the future, in order to have them help Wales.

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Hint For Glazer

You just have to wonder when Malcolm Glazer will take the hint and stop his plan to take control of Manchester United PLC, which has been labeled "aggressive" and "potentially damaging" by United chief executive David Gill.

A survey taken by independent market research company Benchpoint, commissioned by the Red News fanzine, has revealed that 97% of respondents are against the American business tycoon's involvement in the club, where he already owns less than 30% of the shares.

That means "get out", Mr. Glazer, or at the very least be content with the share you already have.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Silent Revolution

Blackburn Rovers are currently treated very negatively in the media -- being the least reputable club in the final four of the FA Cup, they are seen as undeserving of their place.

Coupled with the dogged defensive football they play, they receive very little plaudits, with Wednesday's 0 - 0 draw at Liverpool remembered as a boring game, rather than as the excellent Rovers performance that stifled Liverpool.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's whinge in the media has also contributed to a "dirty" image in the media, rather than a desired "physical" image -- a team of dirty players who look to break legs and ankles, and cause fights.

It is refreshing to see at least someone in the media give the Lancashire team the plaudits they deserve, in the form of Henry Winter's article, in which manager Mark Hughes is credited for the "quiet revolution" at Ewood Park.

It is pointed that Hughes has made terrific signings in the form of Robbie Savage, Ryan Nelsen, and Aaron Mokoena, who have all added to the grit and leadership to a side who are no longer the defensive pushovers they once were, which has allowed Blackburn to move from last place on the English Premier League table to fourteenth place.

Players have improved out of sight, most notably defender Andy Todd who former manager Graeme Souness was looking to get rid of, but is now captain of the rising team, although players in attack have not improved so much.

The team is hardly attractive or even able to play an attacking game, especially since there are no strikers performing to Premier League standards at the moment, apart from Paul Dickov who runs around like a headless chicken and thus leaves too many gaps centrally.

However, given some investment in attacking players in the summer transfer window, Blackburn Rovers may very well deserve the plaudits they deserve next season, earning plaudits for their solid defensive game, as well as their attacking prowess -- ironically, much like the Chelsea of this season.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Cahill Deserves Oceania Award

Tim Cahill has been named the Oceania Football Confederation Player of the Year for 2004, an award that he fully deserves in comparison to his rivals.

The two most popular Oceanian players, Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton, have achieved little with clubs Liverpool and Blackburn respectively, while Marco Bresciano and Mark Schwarzer, two other contenders who finished second and third respectively, have put in only average performances at their clubs.

However, Cahill is also worthy of this award because of what he has achieved in the past year, and especially in the latter half of 2004.

It was in the middle of 2004 that he signed for English Premier League club Everton, coming from the English Championship, where he made an immediate impact in a key midfield role.

His six goals and five assists so far this season have helped propel the blue side of Merseyside into a potential and surprising Champions League qualifying position in the league.

And, of course, let us not forget that he made an FA Cup final appearance with Millwall last season, where he also played a key midfield role.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Blackburn Play For Blackburn

Blackburn Rovers' advancement to the semi-final of the FA Cup, in which they will play Arsenal at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on April 16, has seen numerous pundits and football fans frothing at the mouth.

Being the most unglamourous and least talented team of the four teams, which also includes Manchester United and Newcastle United, they have come under a heavy barrage of criticism, especially for their style of football and lack of talent.

As a Blackburn supporter from abroad, let me tell you one thing: the Rovers senior team is not the plaything of any other football supporters.

Their job is not to entertain you, but to win matches and to do their best to win trophies for the Blackburn Rovers Football Club, including their supporters.

If manager Mark Hughes decides that playing an "unattractive" defensive game, a style that fits the strength of the current team, along with plenty of aggression off the ball, then that is what will be done.

No-one connected with the club will shed a tear for the "neutral fan" if they win the trophy in the wake of a country full of yawning people.

In addition, I would also like to add that the FA Cup is well within reach of the Lancashire club, who has only conceded four goals in the last nine competitive matches.

They could very well go all the way if they keep their concentration and make the most of their opportunities in the final third, which anyone watching the team recently would know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Enemy Of Football

Shortly after my last article on the forced resignation of referee Anders Frisk, which I specifically blamed on Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's outburst, and generally on the negative attitude amongst managers and players toward referees, I found that UEFA Referees' Committee Chairman Volker Roth very much agrees.

He called Mourinho an "enemy of football", while saying that "it's the coaches who whip up the masses and actually make them threaten people with death."

It is great that Roth has come out and been very frank about the whole situation, who is willing to stick up for referees in a time when no-one else will, despite their pitfalls.

The time has come for FIFA to look at what can be done to stop these forced resignations in future, which should incorporate not only punishment, but also education of managers and players on their responsibility toward referees and the laws of the game.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Frisky Job

The news that leading referee Anders Frisk has resigned in order to protect his family is a very sad day for football, which should have the powers at FIFA scrambling to prevent these forced resignations in future.

The threats that Frisk and his family have received were a result of the heated Barcelona - Chelsea Champions League second-round first-leg encounter.

Didier Drogba was shown the red card and this prompted Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to blast Frisk post-match, where he also accused the referee of being influenced by Barcelona's manager Frank Rijkaard.

It is most disappointing that Frisk has had to resign because of one heated match in which he did little wrong, if anything, but what is especially disappointing is that a sore loser in the form of Mourinho has further triggered a horrifying anger in a few fans, who have gone as far as threaten the Swede.

The culture in football dictates that referees are enemies to the teams on the field, which consequently means that they are subject to frisky abuse from players and managers alike, but that has to stop, and soon.

FIFA should be looking at ways to instill respect for referees in relation to players and managers, and might want to take a few tips from their rugby counterparts where referees are treated very well, if only to ensure the safety of these professionals from a few fans who want to take their anger to an unacceptable level.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The French Prodigy

The recent appointment of Gerrard Houllier in a casual technical director role for Football Federation Australia is great news for the development of the world game in Australia, which is a long way under par at present.

The former National Technical Director for the French Football Association from 1990 to 1998 will no doubt bring a vast amount of experience to Australian football, which should greatly benefit the youth development system that he will monitor and improve.

The very fact that France won the World Cup in 1998, a win that had Houllier's work as a solid springboard, is enough to suggest that his expertise and time at the FFA will vastly improve the prospects of domestic football and international success in the future.

Gerrard Houllier will not have the easiest of jobs in such an underdeveloped football nation, but the very fact that football is the number one participated sport in Australia, especially at the junior levels, should be a great base for the Frenchman’s work.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Banality Reigns Supreme

When it comes to anything involving Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic, banality reigns supreme.

The rivalry and hatred between the sets of fans of the Protestant and Catholic clubs respectively is puzzling to the outsider, those without tempered experience in the religious clash, and this writer.

The banality continues in the case of the March 23 Auld Firm charity match, which will feature former greats of both clubs.

The potential appearance of former striker Mo Johnston for angered Celtic fans, who threatened to boycott the match, which was successful in forcing him out of the encounter.

He would have appeared in both strips if he played, playing one half for each team.

The gripe dates back to 1989, in which Johnston agreed to join Celtic for a second time, only to join Rangers in the end.

It is very disappointing that this happened, since the gripe dates back to last century and does not affect both clubs in the present day, apart from some fragile egos.

You would have thought that even this gripe from a bygone era would have been forgotten, if only to support the setting up of a support centre for children with special needs, but apparently not.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Plenderleith Attacks

Ian Plenderleith recently wrote an article on football web logs, in which Football Musings and other blogs (some of which I recommend in my right menu) were criticised for not being very readable.

The article is featured in the April issue of the When Saturday Comes, a magazine that first appeared as a fanzine in 1986.

"Which leads me to too much news and not enough musing at Blackburn blog Football Musings ('your daily source of football opinion' -- if only)," was what Plenderleith said of the blog created and written by yours truly.

The crux of his argument is that most football web logs are far too boring, or at least are boring to a degree, and that the "unwritten rules" of a blog -- humour and provocation -- were not being widely followed.

Now excuse me Mister Plenderleith, but there are evidently no unwritten rules of a good weblog.

Did you not notice that most of the blogs you pointed out for some sort of criticism make up the cream of the football blog community?

That is evidence enough of there being no unwritten rules.

And that is the beauty of the blog; that bloggers are able to take different approaches and build their own vision of what a blog should be.

If they did not, and if everyone wrote in Plenderleith's vision, I daresay that football web logs would be a little boring!

Myself, I am currently a Bachelor of Arts student, who has also completed a Certificate IV in Liberal Arts.

As a student of Politics, History, Philosophy, and Media Studies, I try to bring the values I learn in good essay writing to my football blog.

I like to look at things in a more unattached, bland, seemingly uncontroversial, and logical way.

What absolutely detests me is when media hacks write provocative pieces, but contain little, if any, evidence in support of their view, or indeed, thoughtful critiques.

I avoid them whenever I can, and I only go out to read them if I am aware of them mentioning my own work (like Plenderleith’s article, whose existence was told to me by the good folk at the Round And White blog).

So yes, my blog might not contain as much musing as Plenderleith likes, because I like to base my opinion on plenty of evidence, in the academic way in which I am accustomed, whereby my opinion is not so dominant.

But as I said above, the beauty of the football blog is that I can shape it to my liking, and this is the alternative I want to offer, which I believe has been a success in the few months it has existed.

Finally, we come to Plenderleith's conclusion: he tells us that the lesson for those with zero replies to most things is to keep blog entries “short and witty”, in order to actually provoke replies.

That is a strange conclusion to make, especially since almost all of the blogs, including mine, have a good number of comments.

In my opinion, I do not think Plenderleith had a thorough look at the blogs he reviewed, especially since he erroneously said my blog was dedicated to Blackburn Rovers (it is not)!

However, I will be using his uninformed opinion on Football Musings in a catch phrase, since I think it will be a nice way to incorporate reverse psychology into promotion.

And in case anyone wanted to know my opinion on Ian Plenderleith's blog: it's boring, especially the entry in which he reviews forty albums!

Now seriously, that entry is far too long (and boring), to the point where I was quickly looking for the "links" section in the left menu.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Stead Scores The Winner

Striker Jonathan Stead scored the winner for Blackburn Rovers over Everton in an English Premier League fixture at Goodison Park to overcome a season-long scoring drought.

Winger Steven Reid was the player who executed the through-pass which allowed Stead duly score from the right corner of the penalty box.

Stead, who came on to replace an injured Paul Dickov in the first half, truly looked like a player with little confidence, but played like a seasoned player after scoring in the 1–0 win.

Manager Mark Hughes would undoubtedly look for more performances like that from the England Under-21 striker for the rest of the season -- and the re-capture of last season's form, in which he scored six goals in 13 starts -- to stave off the relegation threat.

Despite Stead standing out in the Sunday fixture, the whole Rovers team also came out of the battle with credit, putting in an all-round performance, especially defensively.

The likes of Steven Reid and Aaron Mokoena played magnificent games, with the latter player protecting the Blackburn goal with several headed clearances out of the penalty box.

Everton would be extremely disappointed with the result, which was a massive blow for their Champions League aspirations.

The blue side of Merseyside currently sit in the Champions League-qualifying fourth place, eight points in front of rivals Liverpool, who have a game in hand.

Blackburn Rovers sit in 14th place on the English Premiership table, seven points ahead of the relegation zone.

Everton: Martyn, Pistone (McFadden, 76 minutes), Weir, Arteta (Ferguson, 24 minutes), Bent, Kilbane, Cahill, Yobo, Osman, Hibbert, Carsley. Substitutes Not Used: Wright, Stubbs, Plessis.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Johansson, Reid, Flitcroft, Mokoena, Thompson, Pedersen, Dickov (Stead, 15 minutes). Substitutes Not Used: Enckelman, Short, Tugay, Gallagher.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Nelsen Impresses In England

Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes has correctly trumpeted the signing of New Zealand international captain and defender Ryan Nelsen, who was signed on a free transfer in the January transfer window after playing in the United States of America.

Nelsen has only played seven games so far for the top flight English club, but he has already made an impressive mark on Blackburn, especially with his defensive heroics against Burnley in Rovers’ 2 - 1 FA Cup fifth round replay victory.

Hughes had no qualms giving the commanding centre-back the captaincy in that game, after fellow defender and captain Andy Todd was suspended for accumulating five yellow cards.

"Giving Ryan the captaincy was a recognition of how he's performed for us," said Hughes. "It would be fair to say he's one of my best signings. He's got a great presence about him on the pitch."

The New Zealander’s performance in England could be good news for other top players in Major League Soccer in the US, who may well be scrutinised more closely by European scouts, giving rise to the potential of further signings.

Nelsen’s settling into the English Premier League might also indicate that the level of talent in New Zealand is not as low as first thought, which could potentially give rise to a little more competition to Australia’s dominance in future World Cup qualifying campaigns in the Oceania region.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The FA Butcher The FA Cup

While I am sympathetic to England national coach Sven-Goran Eriksson for wanting the English season finished earlier, in order to have adequately prepare his players before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the English Football Association's subsequent solution to implement Eriksson's request has butchered their most prestigious Cup competition.

The FA Cup final and the end of the English Premier League 2005/2006 season have both been brought forward a week, in order to allow four weeks of preparation for the England squad, which is fair enough.

However, the fifth and sixth rounds of the FA Cup will now not have replays for drawn games that involve at least one team that is still involved in the UEFA Cup at the time, while Champions League teams will not replay any sixth round drawn matches.

The consequence of this decision is that some drawn matches could have replays in those rounds, while other matches do not.

This seriously undermines the balance and integrity of the competition, as there is one rule for some matches, but different rules for others.

Surely, the FA must be able to fit in those extra replay fixtures somewhere in the fixture?

If not, a Wednesday night fixture for the FA Cup final would have been a viable alternative solution that would help avoid this situation, rather than the traditional Saturday fixture, even if traditionalists would have been up in arms.

That is because the axing of some replays for some rounds is even worse (not only for traditionalists), since it seriously changes the nature of the competition.

In the end, the solution is a poor choice that will surely reduce the status and importance of the FA Cup.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Aragones Given Virtual Pat On Back

Spain national coach Luis Aragones has been given a virtual pat on the back after receiving a measly £2,060 fine by the Spanish Football Federation for a racist comment.

He was heard referring to France international Thierry Henry as “that black shit” at a training session in October.

A friendly between Spain and England following the incident was marred by racist abuse towards the black players on the field, which further enraged the international football public on the racism in football issue.

Henry's fellow Frenchman, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, was not happy at the small punishment, and he had every reason to be angry.

He received a fine of some £15,000 for calling Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy a “cheat”, which would not be seen as a just punishment by much of the football public in comparison to the lenient punishment Aragones received for racism.

“You compare his fine and my fine, and if you consider his was for racist abuse, then you seem to get away with it more in Spain than you should,” said Wenger.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Blackburn Triumph In Lancashire Derby

Blackburn Rovers have won the East Lancashire derby and fifth round English FA Cup replay against Burnley 2 - 1 at Ewood Park, thanks to a Morten Gamst Pedersen winner.

Tugay got Rovers off the mark with a goal from a deflected shot on 31 minutes, before the Clarets' Micah Hyde equalised before the break.

However, left winger Morten Gamst Pedersen played the hero by hitting back five minutes before the end of the second half, enshrining his name into the Blackburn Rovers history book.

The winger has already endeared himself to Rovers fans, scoring six goals in 13 starts, while also providing a creative threat in attack.

His influence and potential ability has been likened to that of former Rovers star Damien Duff, who was transferred to Chelsea almost two seasons ago.

January signing Ryan Nelsen was also hailed a hero by the Rovers faithful for his defensive performance on the pitch.

The New Zealand international superbly captained the team in the absence of fellow defender and captain Andy Todd, despite making only his seventh appearance in a Rovers shirt.

As a consequence of the win over Burnley, Blackburn Rovers will play Leicester City in the sixth round of the FA Cup at Ewood Park.

Should they beat the English Championship side, as expected, they will play a semi-final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Mokoena, Nelsen, Johansson, Emerton, Savage (Flitcroft, 46 minutes), Tugay, Pedersen, Gallagher (Bothroyd, 58 minutes (Reid, 79 minutes)), Dickov. Substitutes Not Used: Enckelman, Short.

Burnley: Jensen, Camara, Sinclair, Duff, Whittingham, Oster, Moore, Grant (Branch, 84 minutes), Hyde (Roche, 90 minutes), Cahill, Valois. Substitutes Not Used: Coyne, Pilkington, Scott.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Arrogant One

The tide has turned on Jose Mourinho; once the arrogant, but likeable manager of Chelsea Football Club, the man has now found himself few fans after his finger-shushing gesture in front of Liverpool fans in his team’s 3 - 2 win at the Millennium Stadium in Wales.

He is now simply an arrogant manager who has only a few redeeming qualities, namely his ability to organise his players and win trophies for his club.

Those who dislike the man are fully justified by their reaction to this man, as there has been a disturbing trend in Mourinho’s behaviour that has become apparent in his time in England.

Namely, the former Porto manager has little, if any, sense of humility, in his comments.

At the best of times, the Portuguese has an arrogance that many find nauseating.

When he first arrived at Stamford Bridge last June, he was quick to make his mark: “Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one.”

However, it is not his arrogance at the best of times that has made Mourinho such a disliked manager.

There are many examples of a sore loser who bemoans that the opposition did not play a style of football that suited his own team.

For example, a goalless draw in September against Tottenham led him to make the remark: “As we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal”.

Against Blackburn in February, he commented after a 1 - 0 win: “They felt they couldn't beat us playing football so they tried to beat us in a different way -- direct football, first ball, second ball, being nasty and hard and trying to intimidate players.”

If Jose Mourinho is to regain many fans in the football world again, he must change his attitude toward others, mainly opposition teams, and show some humility.

When Chelsea wins, he should give the opposition respect, and when the opposition puts up a good fight, he should praise them for testing his players.

These are simple adjustments that would do a world of good for his reputation.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Chelsea Win English Carling Cup

Steven Gerrard helped Chelsea win the Carling Cup final 3 - 2 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday to mark the beginning of a potentially successful Roman Abramovich era.

The score was 1 - 1 after 90 minutes, thanks to a Gerrard own goal that cancelled out John Arne Riise's first minute opener for Liverpool, before Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman hit back with a goal each in extra time.

A late goal by Antonio Nunez made the score 3 - 2 late in the game to give the Reds some hope of reaching a penalty shoot-out, but the score stayed that way for the rest of the match.

Blues manager Jose Mourinho, despite leading his Chelsea team to their first trophy under his management, was not present on the touchline during their remarkable extra time performance.

He was sent to the dressing room by the fourth official in the second half for provoking Liverpool fans with his celebration when they equalised, in which he signaled them to be quiet by putting his index finger to his lips.

The Reds would no doubt be disappointed with this result, not only because they lost, but because they were in better form leading into the match than their London counterparts.

In the mean time, everyone connected to Chelsea would be extremely happy that they secured their first trophy in five years, and would undoubtedly be confident of securing the English Premiership title to add to their success later in the season.