Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fernando Torres Heads An Illustrious List of 50-Goal Liverpool Greats

Before the Christmas football period, Fernando Torres stood on the cusp of greatness. Scoring 49 goals in 69 games meant that he was on the verge of becoming the fastest Liverpool player ever to reach 50 goals in the least number of games. Though it did not come against Portsmouth or Wolves, it finally came against top four hopeful, Aston Villa. And so, El Nino's 50 goals came in 72 Premier League games for Liverpool. That's a ratio of a goal in 1.45 games, an amazing strike rate! In only his third season, he has become a Kop legend.




Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roberto Mancini Brings Style And Swagger Back To The English Premier League!

Roberto Mancini's appointment has had the desired effect on the stuttering Manchester City team. In the two matches that the Italian has been in charge, the team has tightened up with two clean sheets and Carlos Tevez looks to be in the form of his life.

City's performance has been so encouraging that Mancini has been bold enough to change his cautious top four statement to legitimate Premier League title contenders. All these on the back of two wins on the trot.

I for one, am glad Mancini has arrived on Premier League shores. His style and confidence are reminiscent of one who had left...Jose Mourinho! Look, the similarities can be uncanny.

They wear their scarfs the same way...



They like embracing their best players...



They celebrate goals in the same unrestrained manner...



and also the same media-savvy personality




So who says Mourinho can't be replaced? The self-styled "Special One" privileged place in English football ironically, may be taken over by the man he replaced as Inter boss.

Roberto Mancini has officially brought back style and swagger back to the English Premier League.

An Optimistic Look Ahead, West Ham Can Beat The Dreaded Drop And Here's Why

The hectic Christmas fixtures have come and gone. And although West Ham ended the year 2009 dejected with that 2-0 loss to a very good Spurs side, we have every reason to rejoice. Why do I say that?

Well for starters, in the last three matches, West Ham have collected five out of a possible nine points while the rest of their relegation rivals only muster three points maximum. This has helped West Ham to move out of the bottom three.

Secondly, there is no question that West Ham has been notoriously anonymous in the second half of every game but interestingly, the last three matches have shown a reverse of that trend. We are now defending more in numbers, the midfielders (Collison, Diamanti) are tracking back to help with the weakest part of our defence i.e. the fullbacks. This has helped immensely in keeping the team's shape. The searing pace of the in-form Aaron Lennon was just too much to handle for any team in the Premiership so that's nothing to be ashamed about.


Thirdly, the return of Carlton Cole will boost the attacking third of our game. West Ham's next six fixtures are mainly against clubs in the relegation zone and lower half of the Premiership table therefore there is every chance that we can pick up valuable points from these matches. Maximum points even is not out of the question. The Cole-Franco partnership looked to be a lethal combination in the short time that they played together. Franco also did the business against Spurs, picking up a second yellow, making him miss the Arsenal FA Cup tie but will return for Premiership action after that. Smart thinking from this intelligent player.

Fourthly, talks of ownership interest are making its round intensely and there is every chance that the ownership issue can be settled before the January transfer market allowing the club to make player investment and strengthen the squad a bit more.

Let's take a look at the next six fixtures as the relegation battle heats up.

West Ham: Wolves (h), Portsmouth (a), Blackburn (h), Burnley (a), Birmingham (h) and Hull (h)

And the next six matches for the Hammers' relegation battlers are:
Hull City: Bolton (a), Wigan (a), Chelsea (h), Spurs (a), Man Utd (a), Wolves (h)
Wolves: West Ham (a), Wigan (h), Liverpool (h), Hull (a), Birmingham (a), Spurs (h)
Pompey: Arsenal (h), Fulham (a), Birmingham (h), West Ham (h), Man City (a), Man Utd (a)
Bolton: Hull (h), Arsenal (a), Sunderland (a), Arsenal (h), Burnley (h), Liverpool (a)
Wigan: Man Utd (a), Hull (h), Villa (h), Wolves (a), Blackburn (a), Everton (h)

All five rivals have much tougher fixtures than West Ham, which should feature well for the Irons. Portsmouth in particular will be decimated by players competing in the African Nations Cup. All five clubs face at least one of the "Big Four" as well as Champions League aspirants.

Zola and Clarke should be extremely aware that this is the best chance to get points on the board and massively improve West Ham's position in the league. To add more positivity into the mix, Jack "the new Gazza" Wilshere expressed his preference to come to West Ham on loan. If this is followed up by Gianluca Nani intently, then the Hammers midfield will have added the much needed class and creativity.

Confidence will be high after a successful Christmas period. A two-week rest and time to regroup allowing the West Ham players to recover from injuries (Parker, Noble and Ilunga) and their physical exertions together with a relatively easy fixture list surely represent a productive time ahead.

Come on You Irons!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 Most Creative Players In The Premiership 2009/2010

Basking in the afterglow of a rare West Ham win, I have been browsing at some statistics on the most creative Premiership players so far in the English Premier League 2009/2010 season. What I used to gauge creativity is the amount of chances created and assists credited, which should be a fair enough assessment of a player's creativity.

The Top 10 Most Creative Defenders



Leighton Baines is tops among the defenders. More interestingly, he is Everton's most creative threat with 36 chances created and 4 assists. Glen Johnson and Emiliano Insua are in the top four and the attacking fullback mentality is the reason the Liverpool defence are so shaky this season.

The Top 10 Most Creative Midfielders



Regardless of his lack of goal output this season, Frank Lampard at times, has looked the best player suited as the diamond head of Ancelotti's midfield. The chances he created (60) for Chelsea's frontline is the best proof that this intelligent player is one of the best attacking midfielder in the game today.

The Top 10 Most Creative Forwards



The clamour for Bobby Zamora to be included into the England squad seem justified from the statistic above, 35 chances created and 3 assists for Fulham. His all-round game has improved this season and the intelligence is starting to show with sterling performances against Manchester United and in Europe.

Let's see if these stats stay the same at the end of May.




Friday, December 25, 2009

Three Reasons To Be Optimistic About Liverpool's 2009/2010 Premiership Season

After the win against Wigan, Rafa Benitez declared that Liverpool's season will start then. However all that took place after Wigan was an embarassing defeat to Portsmouth. Embarassing because Liverpool hardly showed any attacking threat and were completely shackled by Pompey.

The poor showing by Liverpool has drawn much criticisms about the manager's handling of the club and questionable tactics. Also glaringly obvious were the lack of the fighting spirit demonstrated last season and the worryingly low confidence of the Liverpool players.

I fully believe that Liverpool will turn the corner and that corner starts at Wolves this Saturday. The rumblings within the club indicate signs of better things to come.



Thus, instead of highlighting deficiencies and reservations about Liverpool's season to date, I would prefer to focus on three reasons on why Reds fans can be optimistic in 2010.

1. Torres and Gerrard partnership resumes
It was reported that Rafa has held talks with the Liverpool captain about his performances and the meeting had the desired result. A more determined and influential Steven Gerrard is crucial for the improvement in Liverpool's fortunes. Another boost came in the form that Torres will not need operation on a hernia and this means that the T&G partnership is all set to resume. The Torres and Gerrard partnership guarantee goals and Liverpool are much better when these two play together.

2. Loss of Javier Mascherano means a return to an attacking lineup
Javier Mascherano's wild lunge into Tal Ben-Haim's knee resulted in the Argentinian damaging knee ligaments. With Masch out indefinitely, this paves the way for Alberto Aquilani to assert his push for a first team place. This immediately makes the Liverpool midfield more attacking in nature. Rafa will be hardpressed to maintain his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation without Mascherano and should opt instead for Aquilani. The Italian playmaker, with his passing ability, can provide the creativity and vision sorely lacking in the current Liverpool team.

3. Liverpool traditionally are stronger in the second half of a Premiership season
In the past four season from 2005-2008 Liverpool in the second half of the season have been remarkably strong, garnering 44 (2009), 39 (2008), 34 (2007) and 42 (2006) as compared to 42 (2009), 37 (2008), 34 (2007) and 40 (2006) in the first 19 matches. Though our points tally is slightly lower than in previous seasons (would be 30 from 19 matches if Liverpool beat Wolves), it is fair to say that Liverpool always gets going at the turn of the new year.

Rest assured, even if Liverpool do not achieve the revised target of fourth place, Rafa Benitez will resign. That's another reason to stay optimistic, perhaps Mourinho will be interested in returning to the Premiership as Liverpool manager.

Lastly, David Ngog's excellent form and goal scoring exploits has helped to put a shining light in an otherwise bleak season. Four goals this season and with a 29% shots to goals ratio percentage, he has shone in his limited role as understudy to Fernando Torres.

Okay, so there are five reasons to be optimistic instead of three. But the main thing is that it's still only halfway and there are 19 more matches to go. Fourth place is only eight points away! And there is still the Europa League trophy to be won!



Franco Injury Leaves Beating Portsmouth a Herculean Task

News have filtered through that Guillermo Franco was hurt in a freak training ground injury. This leaves West Ham and Gianfranco Zola short of striking options. So far goals have been hard to come by since the loss of Carlton Cole and now with Franco also out for two games, the situation is now extremely dire for the Hammers.

This makes the must-win match against Portsmouth an extremely hard proposition. So what should Zola and Clarke do to prepare and put a team out to face a determined and fired-up Portsmouth? Carlton Cole, Zavon Hines and Kieron Dyer are all on the injury list and thus there are no recognised strikers apart from youth teamers, Frank Nouble, Terry Dixon and Freddie Sears.

Looking through the player roster, one option is to play Alessandro Diamanti up front with Luis Jimenez as the second striker. With Junior Stanislas playing in the left midfield position vacated by Diamanti, there is every possibility that West Ham can get something out of this crunch match.

Alternatively, if Luis Jimenez is deemed too "soft" to face up to Tal Ben-Haim and Marc Wilson, then perhaps Zola can consider Jack Collison up front. The Welsh lad has notched two goals and three assists in 14 games this season. On evidence of his performance against Chelsea, he is regaining his form and confidence. With Diamanti feeding the balls through, this could be a winning combination. Julien Faubert, despite his inability to deliver crosses, can do the hard work on the right side of midfield.

Because the Hammers need to win this match, I would abandon the safety first tactic (we ARE playing at home!). Zola should drop the defensive-minded Kovac and play a more attacking midfield of Parker, Noble, Stanislas and Faubert.

Here are my two suggested possible lineups.

The Flat Back Four's Alternative #1 lineup (4-4-1-1):
--------------------------------- Green

Faubert --------------- Tomkins ------ Upson ------------ Ilunga

---------------- Parker--------------------------- Kovac

Collison -------------- ----------- ---- ------------------- Noble

------------------------ Jimenez

-------------------------- ------ Diamanti



The Flat Back Four's Alternative #2 lineup (4-1-3-1-1):
--------------------------------- Green

Spector --------------- Tomkins ------ Upson ------------ Ilunga

------------------------------- Parker

Faubert -------------- Noble ---- ------------------- Stanislas

------------------------ Diamanti

-------------------------------- Collison



Heck, if Arsenal can win playing without an out-and-out striker, then so can West Ham! Though Zola and Clarke have to contend with a crippling injury list, if the Hammers play with passion, determination and an attacking mentality, we can get three points from this game.

Come on you Irons!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Boy's Done Good!: West Ham's Guillermo Franco

Guillermo Luis Farcuason Franco was a little known entity when he signed on free agent status to West Ham United. At the time of signing, the Argentine-born Mexican international striker had just completed international World Cup duty for a jittery Mexico side unsure of qualification.

Admittedly, I first saw Franco in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup where he played a major part in Mexico's triumphant campaign. The striker scored twice (including a penalty) against Costa Rica in the semifinal and once more in the 5-0 battering of USA in the Gold Cup final. Mexico coach, Javier Aguirre heaped praise on Franco for his "target man" hold-up play and "team contribution" after he came on as a substitute in the 5-0 drubbing of the USA during July's Gold Cup Final.

He looked a very effective player with great technical skills and an eye for goal. The only negative part was his age (33), his suspect fitness and he can be injury-prone.


So far however, his sterling performances for West Ham have shown no such worries. Particularly pleasing was his performance against Chelsea last weekend. Playing as a lone striker, he showed strength, guile and lots of effort. Because West Ham's central midfield were preoccupied with keeping Lampard and Ballack, he kept coming in deep to pick up the loose balls and then releasing Diamanti on the left and Collison/Faubert on the right. It was Franco's through ball to Collison which won West Ham the penalty.

He has more than made up for the loss of Carlton Cole, putting in great performances week after week as the focal point of the West Ham attack. But it was his partnership with the injured Cole that really caught the eye. The Franco-Cole partnership coincided with possibly the best West Ham form this season, winning two matches, drawing two and losing two. West Ham also scored 15 goals during that period. Begs the question, what if Carlton Cole had not suffered that knee injury, doesn't it?

Overall, he has connected on 190 out of 280 passes i.e a passing efficiency of 68%. Franco has shown that he has vision by creating 12 chances so far for his Hammers team mates. His assist tally is currently at one but there will be more, I am sure. His goals to shots ratio is 14% which is comparable to the in-form Bobby Zamora.

Zola had this to say about Guillermo Franco settling so quickly into life in the Premier League:
"Franco has been very good for me. He's proving to be a very good player for us. He's been a very good gain for West Ham United.

"He is an excellent guy, he works very hard and, above all, he's a very intelligent player. He does the right things for the team and I'm really impressed with him."
His never say die attitude and intelligent play have endeared the naturalised Mexican to the Upton Park faithful, earning him adoration and adulation alike. With Franco leading the attack, West Ham, buoyed by the excellent result against Chelsea, will surely want to make all that effort count when Portsmouth comes a-visiting on Boxing Day.


The series of The Boy's Done Good! also consist of:
Bolton's Tamir Cohen
Chelsea's Michael Ballack

Tour Guide John Terry, Christmas Parties, Anderson's A Bag Of Tripe And Akon At Drogba's Event!

Stuff that I found amusing while reading this week's Premiership football news. Bob Holmes in the Malaysia Sun gives some great takes on the Premier League. And I have added other links that will add weight to what Bob talks about.

IT COULD ONLY HAPPEN TO CITY
(1) We thought we’d seen the last of this one, but no. Only City could spend £243m on players to slide down the table. Two years ago they were fourth at Christmas; today they are eighth.

(2) What makes City think an unemployed Italian, who needs Brian Kidd and David Platt to hold his hand, and correct his English, can do better than Mark Hughes?

RIO FERDINAND CHRISTMAS PARTY ORGANISER AWARD
Robbie Keane.
The Spurs skipper informed ‘Arry Redknapp, who thought he had banned his players from having a Christmas party, they were going on a golf trip to Dublin. Instead of that, they were several strokes ahead of ‘Arry and duly had their own booze-fuelled knees-up. It was, by all accounts, pretty wild. Just as ‘Arry was when he found out about it.
Find out more about Christmas footballer parties gone wrong here and here and here (dated 2007).

POLITICALLY INCORRECT

Arsene Wenger.
For saying: “Whoever organises the Premier League fixtures must have come from a Special School.”

ALBERTO AQUILANI ANONYMITY AWARD
Michael Owen against Fulham.

FOOTBALL DICTIONARY

Director of Football.
Title given to either fading managers the chairman cannot bring himself to sack or lurking predators positioning themselves to take the incumbent’s job. Nice work if you can get it. Examples: Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn who just played golf all day; Avram Grant who slinks under the surface like a crocodile waiting to pounce on his prey. Victims include Jose Mourinho, Paul Hart; Sven-Goran Eriksson who is being paid £2m a year by Notts County and doesn’t even take training when the manager quits.

ANOTHER BURGLARY ON MERSEYSIDE
Birmingham’s equaliser against Everton. Pure Larssony!

DODGY DEFENDER AWARD
Man City.
With that outlay, they really should have Dunne better.

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE WEEK
(1) Man City
“More draws than IKEA.” Various.

(2) Anderson.
“In fact, he has a face on him like a bag of tripe when I don’t play him.” Alex Ferguson.

FAREWELL TO THE MYSTERY MEN

It was nice not knowing you! So the former Notts County owners were not in it for the long haul after all. One minute promising Premiership football within five years, the next selling the club for £1. And still we don’t know who these “fit and proper” people are. Various names have been mentioned including the Dear Leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, Bernie Madoff, Alberto Aquilani and Tiger Woods.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK
(1)“I had a lovely letter from Tiger Woods thanking me for taking the pressure off him.” Mick McCarthy.

(2) “When you go to a World Cup, it’s like going to war. When you go to war, you don’t take your
wife.” South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira questions the old English WAG culture.

(3) “I am sitting here like a man waiting in the emergency room for his wife to give birth.” Hull manager Phil Brown describes waiting for news on Jimmy Bullard’s scan.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR
Sven.
“I don’t know where the money comes from? I am not interested. The important thing is that the money comes.” Should be turned into Latin and used as the motto of the Premier League.

NICKNAME OF THE WEEK
Pilot Light – Gary Megson.
Explains Chris Waddle, “because he never went out.”

PEARL OF COMMENTARY WISDOM

David Platt co-commentating for Sky during the Liverpool-Fiorentina Champions League game: “Of course Fiorentina will want to win this group, as it gives you a huge advantage. For a start, you get your away legs at home.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Frank Lampard thanked referee Mike Dean for giving him two practice kicks to score the penalty against West Ham. Wisely, he resisted the temptation to grab the match ball and claim a hattrick.

TRAVEL SICKNESS
Burnley.
At home they’re 5-3-1, away 0-1-8.

ALTERNATIVE CAREER
Tour guide – John Terry (see here).

NOT THE MIDAS TOUCH
Rio Ferdinand.
Last year the sometime restaurateur, Xmas party organiser, movie director, drugs test forgetter and occasional MU defender signed up to promote a luxury development in the Turks and Caicos Islands as a sound longterm bet for British investors. “It “ticks all the boxes,” he claimed. This year Turks and Caicos Islands government was dissolved amid claims of “gross corruption”; the islands placed under direct UK rule resulting in “unprecedented economic crisis”; islanders stage “anti-UK” rallies, telling local press: “Brits must get out now.”

SARCASTIC COMMENT OF THE WEEK

(1) Rafa Benitez.
“The referee was perfect.” Rafa didn’t add that it was a fact so we can only draw our own conclusions about a ref who sent off Javier Mascherano and didn’t give Fernando Torres the protection Rafa thought he deserved.

(2) Ryan Giggs.
“Cristiano is one of the best players in the world but I have to be honest and say I haven’t noticed much of a difference since he left.” Well, we THINK he was being sarcastic.

WELL WISHER OF THE WEEK
Kenny Dalglish.
“Hope it all goes well - people will be surprised to know you have a heart!” Sam Allardyce reveals the text sent to him by old mate Kenny Dalglish before the Blackburn boss underwent minor heart surgery.

PENNY FOR THE THOUGHTS OF...
Alex Ferguson.
As he struggles to cobble together a patchwork defence, a certain Gerard Pique will soon have to buy a bigger mansion – just to house his trophy cabinet. Sold off by Fergie as surplus to requirements for a paltry £4m,Pique is one of the pillars of the Barcelona defence that has now won six titles this year. Oh, and he’s Spain’s centre-back too – and they are European champions and favourites for the World Cup.

IS IT A PLANE? IS IT AN F1 CAR?
No, it’s Iker Muniain, the “Bilbao Rooney”.
He’s Athletic Bilbao’s youngest- ever player and youngest-ever scorer. Just turned 17, he is terrorising defenceslike no teenager has done since Rooney burst on to the scene in 2002. “He is a footballer with eight gears and in-built satellite navigation system,” said coach Joaquin Caparros.
More of Iker Munian here.

FIT AND PROPER?

Daniel Azougy, Portsmouth’s financial chief.
As Sol Campbell sues Pompey for non-payment of bonuses, it has emerged that their money man is a convicted fraudster. Club sources last night admitted they had no idea Israeli lawyer Azougy had a string of convictions for fraud and embezzlement. The Premier League didn’t either.

POT CALLING KETTLE BLACK

(1) Arsene Wenger who whinged about McCarthy’s team selection. But he had done exactly the same a week earlier in the Champions League. Tony Pulis said Wenger “moaned like a drain”. Make it a storm drain.

(2) England players who say they don’t dive. Step forward – or, rather fall over, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

WAG OF THE WEEK

Sylvie van der Vaart.
WAG of Holland and Real Madrid midfielder Rafael, she was voted top WAG of the last World Cup. No wonder recent rumours of interest in hubby by Premiership clubs have caused such a stir. After all, if she went to England, the Poshes and Coleens wouldn’t get a look in.

Look for Sylvie's picture here and here and here.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba took some time out from football to organize a fund-raising event intended to build a children's hospital in Abidjan (don't ask me where!) and Footy Factor captured all the events on video.

And finally, the piece de resistance (though a bit dated) is a video where the England football players came out in support of Comic Relief. Really funny spoof!


Monday, December 21, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 16 Review: Chelsea Stunned, Liverpool and Manchester United Soundly Beaten!

It was a fantastic weekend of Premiership football! I had said in my previous post that Portsmouth could really set the tone for a rousing round and they did just that. Beating Liverpool was a result which lifted Pompey off the bottom albeit only overnight. Still, history was made as the 500th Premier League goal of this goal-laden season was scored by Portsmouth's Nadir Belhadj.

Liverpool did not do enough to win the match and once again the overall lack of creativity and a moment of insanity by Javier Mascherano proved to be the Red's death knell. There is genuine pressure now for them to compete for fourth place. Jamie Carragher's 600th game ended in heartache and some soul searching is again required.

Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur are both staking legitimate claims for the fourth Champions League slot with excellent displays against Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers respectively. Villa in particular, are continuing the stealthy climb up the league table and Martin O'Neill is definitely a Premiership manager who can get the best out of his players. Putting aside the controversy of a sneaky Christmas party, Peter Crouch underlined the attacking threat that Spurs possessed. Both teams are really peaking at the right time and look in great form for the busy Christmas-New Year football fixtures.

Birmingham is easily the team in their best form the last two months having notched up five consecutive wins prior to last weekend. Their nine-match unbeaten run continued with a well-earned draw against Everton.

Samir Nasri's petulant act almost derailed Arsenal's quest for three points but in the end, the referee's leniency allowed him to stay on and the Gunners ran out 3-0 winners. At the City of Manchester Stadium, a topsy-turvy match ended with Manchester City getting the win. The lack of Premiership wins finally took its toll on Mark Hughes and he was replaced that very Saturday evening by ex-Leicester player, Roberto Mancini. Incidentally I had listed the sacking of Mark Hughes as one of five must-sees for this season. There is something about a former Red Devil managing the Blue half of Manchester that made this termination inevitable.

At the Boleyn Ground, West Ham United restored some pride into their season with a battling 1-1 draw against Chelsea. The Hammers' performance would have put a smile on celebrity comedian, Russell Brand's face.

Scott Parker and Guillermo Franco both had great performances. Diamanti also played very well, although Iain Dale thought the Italian could do better. Still, Diamanti scored that go-ahead penalty for West Ham and it always takes nerves to do so when the pressure is that intense. Likewise, Frank Lampard had to endure two retakes before tucking the third penalty attempt away. It was a controversial penalty given by referee, Mike Dean as Matthew Upson was wrongfully adjudged to have brought down Daniel Sturridge in the penalty box. More positively, West Ham kept up the intensity the whole match rather than fading in the second half as they have done so often this season. With the left footed Diamanti playing on the left side of midfield, West Ham had balance and width to worry Chelsea. In spite of the poor penalty decision, the draw must be viewed as a point earned and a real confidence booster for West Ham's next match against Portsmouth.

The most stunning result of the weekend had to be Fulham's masterclass display over Manchester United. Because the Red Devils fielded a make-shift defence, they were there for the taking. Fulham did not disappoint as they controlled the midfield area and Bobby Zamora was a menace to a patched-up United central defence of Fletcher and Carrick. Devils assassin, Danny Murphy emerged once more as the scourge of United when he latched onto lax possession play from Paul Scholes to stroke the ball past Kuszczak.

Sir Alex Ferguson paired Wayne Rooney with Michael Owen in attack. There were always criticisms that the two can never play together and these were confirmed. Neither looked threatening in front of goal nor did they show any understanding at all. Perhaps it was the formation that Fergie chose to field (3-5-2) did not quite work as the whole team looked totally disjointed. Fulham fully deserved their win and they are also in the mix for that fourth Champions League spot. Roy Hodgson's side do have Spurs and Chelsea in their path though.

Finally, to summarise it all. Week 16 results started with a bang i.e. Portsmouth upsetting the "mighty" Reds and then Fulham outclassing Manchester United. But Arsenal brought proceedings back to normal by beating Hull City and while Mick McCarthy's actions mid-week was vindicated, Chelsea were lucky to salvage a draw against a fighting West Ham United.

Saturday, December 19, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Portsmouth 2 - 0 Liverpool
FT Aston Villa 1 - 0 Stoke City
FT Blackburn Rovers 0 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
FT Fulham 3 - 0 Manchester United
FT Manchester City 4 - 3 Sunderland
FT Arsenal 3 - 0 Hull City
Sunday, December 20, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 - 0 Burnley
FT Everton 1 - 1 Birmingham
FT West Ham United 1 - 1 Chelsea

Who's Hot?: Birmingham, Fulham, Aston Villa
Who's Not?: Sunderland, Blackburn, Everton

The Flat Back Four's weekly English Premier League reviews:
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 1 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 2 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 3 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 4 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 5 & 6 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 8 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 9 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 10 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 11 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 12 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 13 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 14 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 16 Preview

Apart From Scoring Goals, What Has Robbie Fowler Been Doing In Queensland?

Robbie Fowler has been busy in the Australian A-League. Apart from having scored nine goals and one assist, he has been doing what marquee signings are meant to do.

Fowler kicks in for Mayor's Christmas Appeal
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
North Queensland Fury FC skipper Robbie Fowler has blasted past feeble goal keeping to kick home a win for the Townsville Mayor's Christmas Appeal.

Robbie peppered the goal guarded by Mayor Les Tyrell and Jupiters Townsville Managing Director Sean Knights with, with $2000 going straight into the Christmas appeal every time he scored.

Mayor Cr Les Tyrell said that with the chance of securing $20,000 for the appeal, there was no hesitation in getting one of the game’s greats to do the job.

“Jupiters have been very generous with their support for the Christmas Tree Appeal. Their support for the local community will be appreciated by a lot of struggling families this Christmas.”

“We were delighted that Robbie ciould take time out to support the Christmas Tree Appeal and it would be good to see the community get right behind the Fury on Friday night.”

The Fury captain said he was happy to help out any time he was calle don to support a cause for charity.
"Anything involving charity, it is important to do them," Fowler said.
"It doesn’t take long out of your day to do them. I got the call late yesterday and I was around to help and do whatever I could ... anything to put balls in the back of the net – I’m all for that."

While Jupiters Townsville managing director Sean Knights is a keen football fan and former player, he wasn't able to keep many shots out but that only meant a bigger contribution. Mr Knights said Jupiters had a proud tradition of support for the Appeal.

“This is the fourth year we have been involved in the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Appeal, and being a part of this initiative continues to bring a great amount of pride to our team,” Mr Knights said.

“It is important to recognise that many families in our great region struggle during this financially draining time, and it is a great feeling to be able to share our festive spirit with the community in which we operate.”
The Jupiters Townsville donation of $20,000 will bring the Mayor's Christmas Tree Appeal to its half way target. Townsville City Councillors will be present at the entrance gates of Dairy Farmers Stadium on Friday night for any ticket holders that wish to make donations to this very worthwhile cause.
And earlier in August, he went with Fishing Australia host, Rob Paxevanos on a fishing expedition after another charity fund raiser project in Cairns.
Fowler lands a monster
Thursday, 13 August 2009
North Queensland Fury Marquee Signing Robbie Fowler got out on the water recently with Fishing Australia Host Rob Paxevanos and landed a 15kg Spanish mackeral on his first blue water fishing expedition. Fowler joined Paxevanos and his crew after a four-hour drive up the coast to Cairns to take in more of the coastline he currently calls home.

The conditions were very rough due to very strong southeast winds, but their 47' charter 'Moana' was able to find some shelter behind Fitzroy Island near Cairns. The Fury Skipper proved to be as determined to catch a big fish as he is to score goals during a tough game and he put up with being bounced all around the boat and being hammered by rain and heavy spray.

It was hard to get to the better spots due to the conditions but the team persisted around the Island and Robbie eventually hooked onto the 15kg Spanish mackerel pictured - one of the best eating fish on the Great Barrier Reef.

“I was so impressed with Robbie’s competitiveness in conditions where the rest of the anglers in town where hiding at home,” Paxevanos said.

“He did an amazing job fighting the fish in the rough seas, especially given his previous biggest fish was a small trout back in England!”

“You should have seen all the kids go mad when he we got back to the Marina with his catch; it was a memorable day for us all.”
Fowler was impressed with his first taste of blue water fishing and was even more impressed with the fact he could eat his mackerel catch while it was still fresh.
“It was a fantastic day,” Fowler said. “It was just amazing to be out on a boat and
to pull in a fish that big ... it took a while but it was worth it”

“It was the first time I’ve really ever been fishing to be honest and it's an experience
I'll never forget. My Wife and kids won't forget the weekend away either - the hospitality was unbelievable”

Paxevanos and Fowler were in town as part of the "go fish for sick kids" tournament that is helping to raise funds for a children’s roof top playground at the Cairns Base Hospital.

Truly a role model for the young ones. As they say, players mature as they age and this is true in Fowler's case.

More Best Goals From The Half Way Line!

Following up on my post on "The Best Goals From The Half Way Line", Wigan's Maynor Figueroa's 60.6 yards freekick now officially joined that list. The Honduran international belted one over Stoke's goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen into goal during the Premier League weekend 12th December 2009. Sorensen in turn paid Wigan back for the humiliation by saving Hugo Rodallega's penalty to earn Stoke City a good point.




Paul Robinson in 2007 scored direct from a freekick in his own half a good 88 yards from goal. This was when Tottenham Hotspur met Watford on the 17th March 2007 with poor old Ben Foster in the Watford goal. He became the third goalkeeper to score in a Premier League match with that strike.




Just to appreciate the long distance strikes a bit more, the average length of a Premier League football pitch is 113 x 74 yards.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Europe Beckons For Houston Dynamo's Stuart Holden?

Ridge Mahoney in MLS Confidential wrote this on Stuart Holden. The Houston Dynamo midfielder looked to be seriously considering moving to Europe to enhance his footballing future after brilliant performances in the season just past.

What should Stuart Holden do?
by Ridge Mahoney, Friday, Dec 18, 2009 12:48 AM ET

If he goes for the money, Stuart Holden is already headed for Europe even if he hasn't signed a deal.

Whatever he wanted from Scottish club Aberdeen, it was too much, as Coach Mark McGhee said last month he couldn't afford Holden. A few English League Championship (second division) and Premier League teams are interested, and so what chance is there for MLS, which summoned him to the league offices last week to offer a tenfold increase, more or less, than the $34,728 he earned in 2009? Plus bonuses, of course.

An offer from an EPL club can certainly trump any Scottish club other than Celtic or Rangers, not to mention MLS, but there could be a few conditions attached. The lower-tier teams operate on much smaller budgets than the Big Four as well as Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa, and many of them could well be dragged into a relegation battle.

This last item could be important. Former U.S. forward Brian McBride ended up going to Fulham instead of Blackburn at the last minute when a Rovers' team executive insisted on inserting a relegation clause by which McBride's salary would be cut in half if Blackburn fell into the second tier. McBride balked and Fulham, whose coach at the time, Chris Coleman, had been monitoring the situation closely, swept in to make a deal.

Such clauses are not uncommon, even though teams relegated from the Premier League receive "balloon" payments for two years to assist their attempts to climb back up. And a half-price EPL contract would still far exceed the MLS maximum salary, but is this the right time for Holden to slog through a harsh English winter with a World Cup callup pending in May?

Holden might be short on time to establish himself as a bonafide EPL starter, which is what he would need to get sharp enough to hit the final World Cup training camp in top shape.

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear would green-light a Designated Player contract for Holden, as he's a staunch supporter of using those slots and the money for American players if at all possible. But last summer Houston instead signed Mexican forward Luis Angel Landin to an 18-month loan at a DP salary, which a league executive confirmed will exceed $1 million next season, so unless it trades for a second DP slot, the Dynamo can't go that route.

MLS commissioner Don Garber, as he did years ago with Cobi Jones, has personally intervened. An offer worth more than $300,000 per year is on the table, and even if he could make a lot more in England or Scotland, Holden should seriously consider staying stateside. He will be much more important to the Dynamo next season than he was in 2009 because Ricardo Clark is headed overseas this winter to Italian club Livorno. The Dynamo midfield is about to undergo a second extensive makeover in as many seasons, having lost Dwyane De Rosario to Toronto after the 2008 season.

Kinnear can probably cover for Holden by moving Brad Davis into the middle and giving Corey Ashe first shot to start at left mid, yet Kinnear must also begin grooming a replacement for rightie Brian Mullan, who finished the regular season fairly well after an indifferent campaign and regressed somewhat in the playoffs.

Kinnear has already stated he may move second-year sensation Geoff Cameron from the back line to his regular position of midfield, and a trident of Holden and Cameron and Davis would give Houston perhaps the best triumvirate in MLS.

Holden can't sign a short-term deal with MLS, simply because there is no such thing for a promising American player. Like Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard before him, MLS would want to lock him up to a long-term deal, which greatly increases the transfer fee it can request if a suitable offer comes from overseas.

What about the time-honored buyout clause, by which MLS and the player's representatives pre-negotiate a transfer price written into the contract that, if met, obligates MLS to sell the player, assuming he can agree on salary and other terms with said clubs? Again, such clauses are extremely rare in league contracts, which is one reason Taylor Twellman could do little but complain two years ago when MLS turned down offers from Preston North End that began at $800,000 and went as high as $2 million.

Preston broke the trend somewhat by making a big offer during the January window, but Twellman had already signed a new MLS contract that paid him about $400,000 a year and didn't contain a buyout clause. The Revs played hardball and the league fell in line. Had he turned it down, he'd have been free to take the Preston deal unencumbered. But there's a lot to be said about the bird in the hand, especially since he'd been slapped down with a $24,000 contract by MLS upon returning to America after bypassing the SuperDraft and laboring for two years in Germany without playing a first-team game.

And if MLS refused to insert a buyout clause into the contracts of Donovan and Twellman, it's not going to so accommodate Stuart Holden. But in MLS he will play a lot for a good team and set himself up for a move to Europe soon enough.


All shall be revealed come January. Right now, Holden is enjoying his free off-season time doing charity work and helping the community as can be seen with his "Bowling with Stu" interview on Fox 26.



A talented player who will not look out of place in Europe's top leagues. Look for Stuart Holden to make an impact in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

West Ham Must Play With Pride In The London Derby Against Chelsea

West Ham faces Chelsea in a Premiership London derby this Sunday, and there is no reason to be optimistic. Therefore the only thing for Zola and the Hammer fans to hope for is that the team plays with pride and fight. If there is anything that Everton's draw has shown, it is that Chelsea's rhythm must be disrupted and its players must not have time on the ball.

Franco has been fantastic in a West Ham shirt. It's a shame that he is not in a better West Ham team other than this current young squad. Diamanti scored his first goal from open play and we can expect him to turn on another energetic display at home. It is clearly a sign of the times when foreign-based players are leading West Ham instead of the likes of Scott Parker and Matthew Upson. Tevez singlehandedly preserved Premiership status for West Ham in 2005...can we expect the Franco-Diamanti partnership to work together and guarantee Premiership survival? It has to, considering that Parker, Upson and Cole are prime targets for the January transfer window.

Chelsea's Petr Cech is still the Barclays Premier League Golden Gloves leader with eight clean sheets, without looking anywhere close to his best. Chelsea have yet to lose in four visits to Boleyn Park, scoring 12 goals and conceding only two. The Blues main weakness is the inability to defend set pieces, having conceded 12 goals out of 14 from such situations.

The losses against Birmingham and Bolton have dropped the Hammers back down to the bottom three and the situation looks bad. West Ham are horrible in defence and toothless in midfield. Mark Noble must start this match in place of the poor Kovac. To win against Chelsea is a tough ask, West Ham cannot even take advantage on Chelsea's poor set piece defending!

Alessandro Diamanti's wife, Silvia Hsieh is said to be enjoying the London lifestyle. Will the Diamanti's stick around to take West Ham back to the Premier League next season?

A short recap of the Week 15 results, stunning result from Everton against Chelsea. I doubt that West Ham can produce the same type of fighting determination and setpiece expertise.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Stoke City 2 - 2 Wigan Athletic
FT Birmingham 1 - 0 West Ham United
FT Bolton Wanderers 3 - 3 Manchester City
FT Burnley 1 - 1 Fulham
FT Chelsea 3 - 3 Everton
FT Hull City 0 - 0 Blackburn Rovers
FT Sunderland 1 - 1 Portsmouth
FT Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
FT Manchester United 0 - 1 Aston Villa
Sunday, December 13, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Liverpool 1 - 2 Arsenal
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Sunderland 0 - 2 Aston Villa
FT Birmingham 2 - 1 Blackburn Rovers
FT Bolton Wanderers 3 - 1 West Ham United
FT Manchester United 3 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
StatusHomeScoreAway
FT Burnley 1 - 1 Arsenal
FT Chelsea 2 - 1 Portsmouth
FT Liverpool 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
FT Tottenham Hotspur 3 - 0 Manchester City

Rafa Benitez said that Liverpool's season will start by beating Wigan and the Reds fulfilled it. It was his third or fourth time using the same statement this season. Portsmouth could be tough opponents but if the Reds get the first goal then it would be an second consecutive win for Liverpool. It's an early kick off for Portsmouth v. Liverpool in a match which could set the "right" tone for all the fellow strugglers in the bottom three.

Castrol Football Rates The 2010 World Cup Contenders

Just like the Barclays Premier League and others like La Liga, Calcio de Lega and Bundesliga, the World Cup tournaments are pretty dominated by four nations. These are the nations with the most World Cup wins in the history of the tournament. Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina are the most successful teams in the World Cup. Will these four be the likely victors of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? Most likely not, as I personally favour a Spain v. England final to be held at the newly constructed Johannesburg Soccer City stadium.

Castrol Football has done an extensive round of predictions and what-if scenarios, and the result are as seen below, quantifying the chances of the aspiring footballing nations.

Brazil
SpainEngland
This is the probable opponents for England when they make it out of the World Cup group stages. Qualifying first in their group should give England a simple path to the semifinals where they will have to beat Brazil and then Spain to end 43 years of hurt. Don Fabio has got the England team playing with determination and organisation. For the first time in years, England may have what it takes to win this tournament.

Holland
ArgentinaGermany
Italy
France
Portugal
Ivory Coast

The rest of the competing nations at a glance:


It looks to be a different World Cup altogether, as apart from Brazil, traditional powerhouses are not considered favourites this time around. In fact, England have possibly the best chance of all to capture their second Jules Rimet trophy.

If you are a football fan who travels a lot on business, it may be best to start thinking of alternative ways of watching the World Cup. Live streaming football on PC could be a great option.


Castrol Football Rankings - Analysing the Barclays Premier League Player Performance

Latest Castrol Football rankings were out on the 15th December 2009. This is Barclays Premier League related player rankings.



Fernando Torres is still the top BPL performer as per last month's rankings. However, Andrei Arshavin's unstoppable goal at Anfield has enabled him to leapfrog Vidic and Gerrard into second place. Also Thomas Sorensen's recent penalty saving heroics have earned him one of the highest movers into the top 20.

For all the troubles that Liverpool are going through, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are still the top three best performing players in the Premiership. Hmmm, makes you think how much of these statistics can be taken seriously....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Malaysia National Football Team Ends 20-Year Wait For SEA Games Gold

While I was discussing the poor administration state of Malaysian football, I also touched upon the national football team having to face defending champions Thailand to enter the SEA Games semifinals. Well guess what? The Malaysian national team not only defeated Thailand 2-1 to earn the right to face hosts Laos in the semifinals, the U-23 youth squad went on to defeat Laos 3-1 and then Vietnam in the final.

The unexpected win was achieved through a Vietnamese own goal but the celebrations will carry on beyond Vientiane.

VIENTIANE - MALAYSIA beat Vietnam 1-0 in the Laos capital Vientiane on Thursday to take their first gold in the under-23 Southeast Asian Games football competition since 1989.

Vietnam, who had beaten Malaysia in the group stages, had the better of the first half but could not make their dominance count. Malaysia, superior in the second period, scored with just six minutes to go.

Under pressure from Malaysia's Talaha Norshahrul Idlan, Vietnam's Mai Xuan Hop could only divert the ball into his own net and his side were unable to find an equaliser in the time remaining.

Malaysia coach K. Rajagopal said his team were worthy winners. 'I think after the Thailand match my players showed what they have,' he said. Malaysia put holders Thailand out in the group stage, ending their run of success which started in 1993.

He said his team had shown 'a lot of determination, a lot of spirit, a fighting attitude and I think we are a good footballing team'.

'I think we deserve to be the champion of the SEA Games in 2009. I think we did beyond our expectations,' he added, saying he had encouraged his team to exploit Vietnam on the break. -- AFP

Ex-Malaysian national footballers joined in the applause for the Under-23 players and reminded all that Malaysian footballing pride has been restored. Restored that is, until the "politicians" in the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) decide to ruin whatever potential there is in the U-23 squad.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — The national football Under-23 squad carved their own spot in history today when they beat Vietnam 1-0 in the final, ending a 20-year wait for gold in football at the biennial SEA Games.

The victory in the match held at the National Stadium, Laos Sports Complex in Vientiane, was much anticipated by both visiting fans and at home.

National footballer Dollah Salleh said he was proud of the boys’ win after two decades of waiting for gold.

“I hope this will bring cheer to everyone who loves the sport and bring back glory to Malaysian football,” he said to Bernama here today.

Dollah was among the goal scorers when Malaysia last won gold at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 1989, defeating Singapore 3-1.

He said the success of the national Under-23 squad coached by K. Rajagobal should continue them emerge as a formidable team in the eyes of their opponents.

“I hope the players will up their performance from time to time if they want to defend their gold at the next SEA Games in Bandung, Indonesia in 2011.”

Former national football skipper Ahmad Yusof said the squad’s victory managed to heal the long-standing hurt and disappointment of every player and football fan in the country.

“The win today may also indirectly revive the spirit of every player in the Malaysia leagues which have been much belittled.

“I hope after this victory, the Malaysia football leagues would no longer be regarded as lacking quality as these leagues have managed to prove the capability of the players,” he said.

Former national football great Datuk Abdul Ghani Minhat said the squad’s victory at the 25th SEA Games should be celebrated by every Malaysian.

“Football is a sport for all and those involved directly or indirectly should celebrate this historic win,” he said. — Bernama

With this gold medal in football, Malaysia captured 40 gold medals in this year's SEA games held in Laos, finishing fourth in the medal standings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Katy Perry Is More Interesting Than West Ham's Current Performance!

In the wake of the extremely depressing Birmingham 1-0 defeat, even Katy Perry's rendition of
"Forever Blowing Bubbles" is just about the most interesting bit of news all week.
Listen to it from here:
PRETTYBUBBLES by katyperry

And also thanks to Katy Perry, footballwear is finally fashionable in the bedroom!




Thursday, December 10, 2009

Liverpool v. Arsenal Preview: Reliving The 1989 Championship Decider

West Ham Must Celebrate Jack Collison's Young Player Award By Beating Birmingham

Another crucial six-pointer awaits West Ham before the busy football period of Christmas and New Year's Eve. Birmingham and Bolton is next and the Hammers must bust a gut to beat these two teams. Could we get all six points against two sides who does not have the quality and ability that West Ham has? If we extend our first half form into the second half, I totally believe the boys can do get the desired six points.

Jack Collison recently added to his Young Hammer of the Year award by being named BBC London Young Player of the Year for 2009. West Ham should celebrate this achievement by going on a winning run. We have not won two consecutive matches this season and we must do so now!

Birmingham are in great form lately, having been unbeaten in their last six matches. Alex McLeish's side has also won three games on the trot and looking to match their best ever run of four consecutive wins. Birmingham do not let in many goals and in Joe Hart, they have arguably the best young goalkeeper in the English game. Hart have kept five clean sheets, making 53 successful saves. Only nine goals have been conceded at St. Andrews, fewer than any other Premier League stadium. Birmingham will be tough to overcome.

In tight matches, a moment of brilliance may be sufficient to win a match. That brilliance and unpredictability can be created and produced by the Italian, Alessandro Diamanti. Zola has so far been unwilling to gamble on the X-factor i.e. Diamanti. This is the ideal time to do it, since the Birmingham forwards score the fourth lowest amount of goals in the Premiership so far.

The West Ham defence will always be a problem this season, hence we will need to score more goals than the opposition. With Stanislas and Collison supporting Diamanti and Franco from wide areas, we should have a fairly attacking line up. The forward line which offers directness (Collison), pace (Stanislas), creativity (Diamanti) and guile (Franco). This is the side that could bring us three points and then Bolton awaits.

The Flat Back Four's favoured West Ham lineup (4-4-1-1):
--------------------------------- Green

Faubert --------------- Da Costa ------ Gabbidon ------------ Ilunga

---------------- Parker--------------------------- Noble

Stanislas -------------- ----------- ---- ------------------- Collison

------------------------ Diamanti

---------------------------------- Franco



Gianfranco Zola has admitted that West Ham are definitely in a relegation battle and need to galvanize the players to show determination and fight this season. Jack Collison and Scott Parker looks to be motivated...but what about the rest of the players? The head-to-head stats is in our favour, The Blues have only won five of 29 Premier League home games against clubs from London.

So, come on You Irons!


Growth Of Malaysian Football Requires The Right Club Structure To Attract Required Funding

The Malaysian Business Times published this article on the 21st October 2009.
Malaysia needs to learn how to put the right football club structures in place to attract funding, says football commentator Serbegeth Singh.

"What we have right now are just registered clubs. But our state football associations need a club structure and to have a youth development department to progress," he said at a press conference to announce an upcoming football business forum.

The International Football Association will be hosting IFA Asia 2009 from November 22 to 24 at Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

Better known as Shebby, Serbegeth who will be a guest moderator of IFA Kuala Lumpur 2009, said the country could benefit from this forum as prominent football personalities could share their technical know-how with local footballers.

Among the speakers attending this event include Chelsea FC board member Peter Kenyon, AFC president Mohammad Hammam, Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy and FC Barcelona senior youth coordinator Albert Capellas.

"Albert, who will be speaking on turning talents into stars, can share his technical expertise, because that is what we lack in this region," said Shebby.

He added that clubs in Southeast Asia could use the forum to learn how to market their leagues or clubs, as done in Europe.

Meanwhile, guest moderator Wan Zaleha Radzi added that Malaysia could learn how to develop sustainable relationships with corporates to build the local talent pool.

"Currently, sponsorship and funding comes in easily for sportsmen who are already successful. We need funding to nurture rising talents," she said.

The event will be the third IFA Asia forum, with the previous two held in Beijing, China.

In cooperation with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and sponsored by Chelsea Football Club, some 200 to 250 delegates will attend the forum to exchange ideas and opinions on the global football business.

The attendees will also include representative from European clubs such as AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Hamburger SV.

IFA founder and chairman Marcel Schmid said the event that draws football professionals, marketing pros, senior executives, media pundits and top traders allows for new ties and reinforces existing relationships.

Schmid said Malaysia was chosen not only because AFC's headquarters was based here but also due to the country's multicultural setting that would draw participation from other Asian nations.

Topics to be presented during the conference include professionalising Asian club football, trends and opportunities for investments in football clubs, how sponsorship rights fit a company's communication strategy, and will the FIFA World Cup 2018 or 2022 go to Asia.
Another ex-Malaysian international, Lim Teong Kim has this to say on one of his visits back to Malaysia, underlining the importance of a club structure and youth development system as building blocks towards successful clubs and national teams.

“When football is still the same (in Malaysia) after so many years, how can we expect to see any changes to the game or standard? Why criticise the present batch of players and keep banging them on their heads for failures when no one cares for the development of the game,” he said.

“Football is a national agenda. I feel that every state should have an ideal infrastructure to develop the game.

“I have been in Bayern Munich for eight years now. Even the eight-year-old players travel extensively to play in invitational tournaments to gain experience. There are eight professional coaches at the youth level and players get plenty of exposure.

“The facilities are well-equipped with dressing rooms, rehabilitation rooms, physiotherapy, sauna and relaxation rooms.

“In Germany, we have technical problems but no infrastructure problems. If there are no fields how can the coaches get to work?

“The National Sports School in Bukit Jalil alone is not good enough. State FAs must get their infrastructure in place otherwise they cannot expect to produce results.

“I am just trying to pass my experience and knowledge learnt in Bayern Munich. It is difficult to see success if changes are not made. There is a saying in Germany – changes bring prosperity, contentment brings complacency.”

Lim Teong Kim was a member of the national team who won the gold medal in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 1989. That was the last time the national senior team emerged as the champions of the regional international tournament. He is currently the assistant coach of Bayern Munich's U-19 team.

As we speak, Malaysia are fighting to make the semifinals of the South East Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar. The Malaysian boys will have to beat defending champions Thailand on 11th December 2009 for that semifinal berth. A tall order indeed, especially as Malaysia have to make do without suspended striker, Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak and defy the fact that Thailand have never failed to qualify for the semi-finals in SEA Games men’s football for 18 consecutive editions since 1973.


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