Monthly Archives: October 2010

Touching down in Toronto?

The Vancouver Whitecaps have former Tottenham exec Paul Barber leading them into MLS. Now Toronto FC is looking to a Yid legend, tabbing former Spurs hero Juergen Klinsmann to try and right it’s ship. So says Stephen Brunt in The Globe & Mail. Not as coach or GM but as a consultant/technical adviser, something he did for the LA Galaxy in 2004. A nice bit of news on a Friday afternoon for the local lads whose just-concluded season, as Len outlined earlier, was pretty dismal.

Speaking of Spurs, I’m jetting off to Europe tonight, rather looking forward to attending the epic THFC-Inter tilt at White Hart Lane next Tuesday night. To say stoked would be something of an understatement. Will post some thoughts late next week. You’re in Brent’s hands until then.

Ian Harrison

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TFC in need of stability

There's not much to smile about for Tom Anselmi and TFC.

Toronto F.C. held its annual post mortem on Tuesday, ending a disappointing season that saw the club miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

Player after player stood at the podium and answered questions about what they thought went wrong in 2010.What started as the year everything was supposed to change, the year in which TFC was supposed make the playoffs and challenge for a berth in the MLS Cup (scheduled for November 21 on the home grass of BMO Field), has ended as badly or worse than any season before it.

First up was C.E.O. Tom Anselmi, the man in the hot seat right now. Anselmi is in charge of bringing in the right people to do the job Mo Johnston couldn’t. He blamed the instability of the team on its constantly changing coaches (five in four years) and a revolving door in the team’s dressing room that has made it hard for the club to have any kind chemistry. When he makes his next front office hire, Anselmi desperately needs to get it right this time.

Dwayne De Rosario

Next up was captain and team leader Dwayne DeRosario.  He came here to win championships.  He did his part scoring 15 goals on a team that was built around Preki’s defence first mentality. As much as he might like to, DeRosario can’t sign his own paycheque. He expects to be back, but refused to talk about his contract situation. Interim G.M. Earl Cochrane says keeping DeRo happy is a top priority but the Canadian international plans to keep a close eye on what MLSE does in the offseason.

All the players said they were happy in Toronto and would like to stay on next year, those with contracts and those without.  Maicon Santos wants to be back, Chad Barrett called Toronto is a special place and expects to return.  Adrian Cann enjoys playing in his home town and wants to come back.

Julian DeGuzman was uncharacteristically upbeat and chatty, sayinghe  wants to win in his home town.  DeGuzman says he’s scored four goals his whole career and hopes the fans and media will understand he’s not here to score goals and the team doesn’t need a major overhaul.

Last up were Cochrane, aAssistant G.M. Jim Brennan and interim coach Nick Dasovic.  The three are not guaranteed to be back next year but said they will go on scouting and signing players as they see fit.  Cochrane said TFC needs to get younger and quicker and be able to adapt to the North American style of travel and play (are you listening, Mista?).  If offered the position full-time, both Dasovic and Cochrane would be happy to stay on.

From top to bottom, players and management all echoed the same sentiment: this club needs stability and leadership.  The constant turnover of coaches and players must end to give the players time to learn a system and be able to gel, both on the field and off.

Lenny Grammenopoulos

 

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Fergie’s Fantasy – Cleaning the sheets

No, this is not another column about Wayne Rooney (though did anyone notice it was the day after I published last week’s anti-Rooney rant that he came to his senses? I’m sure Wayne is a regular At The Rails reader). This column is about getting points without getting goals. And the way to do that is picking players on teams likely to deliver clean sheets. When your goalies and defenders don’t let the other team score you get four points, the same amount for a goal by a striker, so its worth the time to pick a strong back four and keeper.

The obvious choice here are players from Chelsea, who have seven clean sheets in nine games. Petr Cech might be your best bet here though because regular defenders like Ashley Cole and John Terry are pricey. Not to say they aren’t worth it, but defenders are where most fantasy managers save money in order to spend more on high priced strikers and midfielders.

The key is that it doesn’t matter how many goals a team concedes, but how many clean sheets they keep. For example, when Wigan are bad they seem to concede a pile of goals, but they have low priced defenders who have kept three clean sheets. That’s more than Liverpool (two) and Tottenham (one). The other surprise in this category is Sunderland, tied for second in the league with Manchester City in the clean sheets stat with four. Again a team where bargains on defence can pay off (and I recommend a particular player from the Black Cats below…).

Week in Review – Top Performers

Samir Nasri – the Arsenal midfielder was the top point getter in the league last week with a hat trick of sorts. He had a goal, an assist, and his team kept a clean sheet. Nasri is increasingly becoming a bigger part of the Gunners’ offence and is a solid choice as long as he stays healthy.

Javier Hernandez – the man who rescued Manchester United from another disappointing result. Hernandez scored both goals in a key 2-1 win over Stoke City. He then came on as a sub and notched the winner in United’s League Cup victory over wolves. He’s a great choice while Rooney’s hurt, but will probably see his playing time cut back when Wayne returns.

Liam Ridgewell – a goal plus a clean sheet meant Ridgewell was the top scoring defender last week. Birmingham play a strong defensive game and have notched three clean sheets themselves so expect Ridgewell to continue to be a safe fantasy bet.

Scott’s Subs:

Last week I told you to pick up Dimitar Berbatov, Rafael Van Der Vaart, and Florent Malouda. Berbatov disappointed but the other two scored so I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. The points per game average for my recommended players was 5.3. The league average was 4. The average for players I told you to steer clear of was 2. And that would have been lower except Andrey Arshavin proved me wrong and scored for Arsenal. Here are my suggested subs for this week:

IN

Didier Drogba – Yes he’s the most expensive player in the league in fantasy terms. But 43% of all fantasy teams are paying the price. Can you afford not to?

OUT

Fernando Torres – I’m sure Torres will be a golden boot winner in the coming years (perhaps in the Championship if Liverpool doesn’t start improving) but this just isn’t looking like his year. The talent is there, but right now you can pick up someone who will score just as many goals for half the price.

IN

Ahmed Elmohamady –Do I know a lot about Ahmed “Tickle Me” Elmohamady? Not really, other than that isn’t his nickname. But numbers don’t lie. He is third in points for defenders behind Chelsea’s Cole and Terry. He is the defender with the highest value in the league when you look at his points vs. cost. And his cost has risen the most of any defender so buy now.

OUT

Tony Hibbert – The Everton defender is priced like a starter, and often plays, but rarely for the full 90 minutes. Avoid him.

IN:

Nani – Wasn’t Antonio Valencia supposed to be the one to try and replace Cristiano Ronaldo? But with his injury, the weight of scoring goals  and delivering lovely crosses from the wing has fallen on Nani, who has answered handsomely. And don’t worry, you don’t lose fantasy points for players faking injuries only to be fine moments after the ref stops the play.

OUT:

Joe Cole –I know I’ve picked on Joe Cole in the past. But not in my new Scott’s subs section! I want him to do well, I really do, but he just isn’t doing well. And you should avoid him until he starts putting some balls into the back of the net.

Scott Ferguson

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Wayne’s wild Man. U-turn

What the…? In a show-me-the-money move more shameless than his initial ‘I want out of Man Utd’ act, Wayne Rooney has done an abrupt U-turn and signed a five-year deal with the Devil…uh, Red Devils. This confirms everything I ever suspected about the supernatural abilities of Sir Alex Ferguson, who no doubt used his paranormal powers to convince ownership to double Rooney’s wages, and got the supposed wantaway player to stick around at Old Trafford.

It’s a story more surprising than Liverpool keeping a clean sheet in Napoli, or the scuffling Scousers flying to Italy with Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson at the controls. And no matter where you stand, it’s enough to drive one to drink…or do something illicit. Right, Paul Gascoigne?

If you’re a fan of the Red Mancs, you might as well celebrate with a $115 beer. The rest of us will have to settle for something a little less extravagant. But hey, it’s Friday, and we like drinking (remember, we here at At The Rails take you from the bar to the terrace, and back), so don’t just settle for plonk…seek out one of these beauties if you can and console yourself with the fact that Rooney still faces three weeks on the shelf with an injured ankle, hasn’t scored in open play since March, will have to overcome some serious resentment in the locker room, and just re-upped with a team whose supposed commitment to chasing trophies and signing top-quality players is somewhat dubious, given that the interest rate on club debt is higher than its current point total.

Of course, as bad as Glazernomics are, things could always be worse. Raise your glass for forlorn Pompey fans, whose cash-strapped club looks to be disappearing entirely.

Hands off, he's still ours!!

And, as Sports Illustrated’s Miles Jacobson points out on Twitter, there’s an easy way for the Mancs to make some more cash: now all those fans who burnt their Rooney shirts will be buying new ones. Hey Scott, there’s one with AON on it if you like.

Meanwhile, our Arry, like Ian Holloway before him, reckons the whole incident is just another example of spoiled little rich kids grabbing all the power in the world of sport. Fair enough, Arry, but perhaps you should be focusing on keeping Everton off the scoresheet for longer than 67 seconds in Saturday’s match at White Hart Lane. Sure, David Ginola, once a footballer, now a golfer, thinks the Yids are poised to become the class of North London. But another start like Wednesday in Milan, and Arry might as well hit the links as well.

Ian Harrison

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Fergie’s Fantasy – Et Tu Rooney?

We're bloody sick of him, anyway...

First, as a fellow Ferguson, I’d like to declare my bias towards football’s greatest manager Sir Alex Ferguson (Ed. Note: For the love of Pete, give it a rest!)  Bias now declared, I would to say to Wayne Rooney… why? Why must you correct Sir Alex about your ankle injury? You know you are injured… you have been since late last season. Remember when you came back too early and ended one of your best seasons with a whimper? Remember when you were basically useless during the World Cup? Remember when you had ice on your ankle in a photo recently and were carted off the training ground this week on a stretcher? Yet, when Sir Alex tries to defend you by saying you aren’t scoring because you are injured, you say you are fine and you now say you want out.

So where does this leave me? I’m now the owner of an embarrassing Man United jersey with AIG on the front (you remember they planned to give employees millions in bonuses while getting billions from a government bailout) and Rooney on the back… who may end up at — of all places — Manchester City (can we have Carlos Tevez back then? Pretty please?).

Not since Wayne Gretzky left Canada for Los Angeles has a man named Wayne disappointed me so much. If this was a hand-written note, the words would be smudged with a few of my unsuccessfully repressed tears…

But back to my fantasy column. I think it goes without saying that, as a fantasy owner,  you need to get rid of Rooney now and never start him again. No player performs well under these kind of off-field distractions. You need only look at how average Cesc Fabregas has been this year for the Gunners as an example of what happens when a great footballer no longer wants to play for his team.

Top Performers

N'Zogbia: Hard to pronounce, hard to predict

The three big point getters from last week were Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia with a pair of goals, Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez — also with two goals — and Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh, who had a brilliant goal along with an assist.

The best long-term bet of the bunch is Carlos Tevez. On a team filled with talent, he has carried the offence and is a huge reason why Man City are currently second in the table. That said, he may not be the best choice for this week. His manager is musing aloud that Tevez needs a rest. I suspect he doesn’t play in the Europa League game and is in this weekend… but you never know.

You also never know what you’ll get from Charles N’Zogbia. He is wildly inconsistent but has the skills to be on a much better team than Wigan (sorry Latic fans). His price is low enough that he is worth taking a chance on.

The best bet may actually be Chamakh. He is exactly what Arsenal has needed this year in the striker role: a talented player who will bury it, given the chance. Even when he isn’t scoring, he always looks dangerous.

Scott’s Subs:

I’ve been making these recommendations every week but I feel the need to somehow track whether the players I’m telling you to pick up are actually serving you well. From this week on, I’ll offer three subs a week and track them for five games versus a) the league average, and b) the players I suggest you take out. If I do very badly, I will pretend I never promised to do this.

IN

Shrek's Loss... Dimmi's Gain

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England still looking for results…

 

He's in better shape than England's back four...

 

This next one is going to get me in a lot of trouble…

This week, the world watched and cheered as 33 Chilean miners were rescued after spending 10 long weeks trapped in the bowels of the earth.

Still easier than being an England fan.

Of course, I can joke now.  All of the miners are safe and sound… and to be honest, some of them looked like they enjoyed the ride up.  But’s it’s not been a fun ride for those who support the Three Lions.

Tuesday’s game against Montenegro was ghastly: shades of the World Cup against Algeria.  No ideas, no goals, errant passing and shoddy refereeing.  You could say England have been fumbling around in the dark with no way of knowing how this will end.  Ashley Young looked like he tripped over his neighbour’s hard hat…

The Chilean miners had their entire country and — you could argue — the entire world cheering for them.  But no one feels for England and its spoiled millionaires.   By the middle of the second half, you could hear the frustrated fans groaning every time England tried to move forward, only to have a player stumble over a cross or lose the ball in no man’s land.

On the Guardian’s podcast, the crew mentioned how tiny Montenegro overachieves for a country its size, with decent handball (snicker) and water polo teams.  Add football to that list.  The former Yugoslav state is the fifth seed in the group, but after playing half of its Euro qualifying games, it sits in first place… undefeated.

It’s not all darkness for the Lions.  They are also undefeated.  But in a group that plays two fewer games (meaning there are six fewer points up for grabs), they can not afford to finish second.  That means their final qualifier next year in Montenegro has assumed greater importance.

Let’s hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… even if it is a long way off.
Brent Lanthier

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Filed under English Football, Euro 2012

The Hits Keep Coming

 

Again? Really?!?

 

England has taken another injury hit. This time, in-form Darren Bent says he cannot face in-form Montenegro because of a groin injury.  The news follows Captain Schtupping’s exit from the squad; he says his back hurts, poor dear.

There are now four players who say they can’t play. Last week, Everton’s Phil Jagielka and Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon withdrew.  That means Rio Ferdinand — who has only played four games since May — will partner up with either Gary Cahill or Joleon Lescott at the back.  Logic dictates putting Cahill in… but that won’t happen.

What’s worse is Fabio Capello taking the captain’s armband back from Steven Gerrard and giving it to Ferdinand.  What for? Because England are winning? Even Sir Alex has taken away Blame-It-On’s captaincy of United because of the uncertainty over his bum knee.

Meanwhile, Peter Crouch is coming in for Bent.  A good move, as Crouchie is the anti-Rooney: scores little for his club, but is a wunderkind for the Lions.

With tiny Montenegro full of confidence after going 3-0 so far in qualifying, I hope England aren’t in for a shock…. sigh….

 

Again? Really?!?

 

Gazza Watch:
For the second time in less than a year, Paul Gascoigne is arrested for drunk driving.  Can you say Georgie Best?

Brent Lanthier

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Filed under English Football, Euro 2012

LFC doesn’t get its day in court…

 

Liverpool FC expands its fan base...

 

ESPN Soccernet says the British High Court will not hear Liverpool’s blockage of Hicks & Gillett’s blockage of the sale of the club.  It sounds like the court’s a bit backed up… perhaps reading ‘Arry’s comment about the case will make the court throw up… which will likely make it feel better in the end.

And what is Woy Hodgson’s position in all this? The Guardian reports that the gaffer has been reassured by new (potential) owners NESV that his job is secure.  But our friends at ESPN say the new guys could kick him out

Of course, the Liverpool sale has reached the fifth estate in Beantown… since the owners of their beloved Red Sox will now own the Reds as well.  I can already hear the Boston fans singing:

“When yoo waak… tru dah staam… hold ya head ap hyyyyy…. and dohnt be afraid of da daak….”

More to come… BPL

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MLSE’s ticking time bomb

If Saturday’s away defeat to Seattle proves one thing, it’s that Toronto FC has an awful long way to go before the club can justify the support it gets.

At one stage during the 3-2 defeat at Qwest Field, it felt scarily like the men against the boys, providing clear evidence on the differences between the operation of the two clubs. Seattle, resplendent in their attacking, free-flowing style, looked light years ahead of their Canadian counterparts. Toronto struggled to match the hosts for pace, passing and persistence.

Arguably, you cannot blame the players. TFC has something of a reputation for not being aesthetically pleasing but robust, solid and unwilling to surrender. As their form earlier this season suggested, they don’t go down without a fight. But try as they might, they simply don’t possess the quality to compete. So, who is to blame?

Let’s have a look at Toronto’s other teams. The Maple Leafs, bursting with proud hockey history but without silverware in 43 years, frequently fill their arena and subsequently annoy their fans with sub-par performances. The Blue Jays, World Series Champions in 1992 and 1993, produce fine displays in infrequent bursts, and even finished with a winning record against the New York Yankees this season. However, regardless of their fine start, they yet again failed to make the playoffs. As for the Raptors, now without Chris Bosh, they’re really pretty rubbish, aren’t they?

Sensing a pattern yet? All four of Toronto’s sports teams offer so much, yet always fail to deliver. With finance readily available, the sensible application of it is distinctly missing. Money is thrown around and season tickets prices are hiked.

But the biggest connection is ownership. Three of these four teams are run by the Maple Leas Sports and Entertainment. In fact, the one that isn’t is the most recent champion, the Rogers Communications-owned Blue Jays.

MLSE take it for granted that their huge fan base will always come out, regardless of price. Toronto FC charges an extortionate amount for its top tickets. Even more, in fact, than Manchester United charge. Next season, fans will have to fork out even more.

Mark my words, if Toronto FC doesn’t invest in three top acquisitions during the off-season, and I mean top signings, next season will see a mass exodus of support. Already, red seats seem to outnumber real fans at home games. If things keep going like this, TFC will sink without a trace. A revolving door of playerd and management simply doesn’t work.

Do yourselves a favour, MLSE, give Tomas Rosicky and Deco a call and agree a contract. It may seem ludicrous, but who’d have thought three years ago that Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez would be playing for a team named after an energy drink?

Sam Saunders

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Oh, give me a home!

For a club that dreams as big as Tottenham Hotspur, whose long-lived fantasy of Champions League football has finally become a reality, there’s no doubt a new stadium is required to remain competitive with the Premier League’s highest rollers. Tottenham has long exhibited fiscal prudence with its wage bill – no Manchester City-style spending sprees leaving mega-millions in debt at Spurs, thank you very much.

Tottenham’s annual outlay on salary is said to be some 50 million pounds, about half that of local rivals Arsenal and less than a third of Chelsea’s. That’s thanks in large part to the limitations of a home ground where capacity is just over 36,000, far below the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. Almost as many supporters, 32,000 by one count, are on a waiting list for season tickets.

That’s why I didn’t consider Tottenham’s biggest victory last week to be their Champions League home debut, an entertaining, penalty-strewn 4-1 victory over Steve McClaren’s old outfit, reigning Dutch champions FC Twente (a mosht shatishfying night for Shpursh, the former gaffer might have said, was the sly joke in The Telegraph). It wasn’t even the brilliant display that night (red card notwithstanding) of deadline day signing Rafael Van Der Vaart, surely the steal of the transfer window, or his equally efficient display in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa.

For me, the biggest decision of the week for Spurs was Haringey Council’s approval of a 56,000-seat  stadium redevelopment plan, complete with new homes, hotel and supermarket, just north of White Hart Lane, the team’s home since 1899. Say what you will about its similarity to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, just down the road. That home, still in the same borough as Highbury and little more than a stone’s throw from the old site, seems to be working out just fine.

London Mayor Boris Johnson still needs to sign off on the new venue, to be built on a four-phase plan that would require no ground-share during construction and give Spurs fans a home where they are closer to the pitch than any other new venue in the country.

But even before Boris had a chance to pour a cup of tea and begin poring over Tottenham’s proposal, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was muddying the waters, making a joint bid with sports & venue giant AEG to move out of the borough and down the road to Stratford, into the Olympic Stadium that will be left vacant after the 2012 Summer Games.

It might be financially prudent, saving Spurs the hefty cost of putting up an entirely new home in a time of financial insecurity that has made debt more of a dirty word than ever (Hello, Messrs. Hicks and Gillet in Liverpool! Hiya, Glazer guys of Manchster!) But the timing could hardly be worse, could it? Haringey now feels hoodwinked, as do West Ham, who had made their bid to move into the Olympic venue just one day previously. Is a ground share with the Hammers an option? No one knows for sure.

And who really wants to watch football at a converted, downsized stadium that will have a running track separating the pitch from the stands? Community use, concerts and other events (rugby and Twenty20 cricket, for example) would make keeping the pitch in pristine shape a major headache. No one wants to end up drowning in debt, and it may be prudent to keep one’s options open, not knowing how the mayor’s office will rule. But I have a feeling this will all end badly, putting  Tottenham’s much-needed move into a new home that could raise the cash for continued Champions League appearances under serious threat.

Ian Harrison

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