Monday, August 23, 2010

Fergie still won't talk to the BBC; weekend round-up

Sir Alex Ferguson may be getting the rap from the Premier League for continuing an on-going six year feud with the BBC. The Premier League isn't particularly interested in the feud itself but consequences of it: Ferguson apparently vowed never to speak to the BBC again in 2004 and hasn't granted it a single interview since! 

The feud apparently stems from a report by the BBC in 2004 on Ferguson's son, Jason, who was a football agent. Needless to say, the piece wasn't too flattering (at least in the eyes of the Ferguson family) and a feud was born. Here's what Fergie had to say about the BBC in 2007 as reported by the Independent:

"They did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that.

"But it is such a huge organisation that they will never apologise. They don't even care if you sue them or whatever, because they are so huge and have insurance. They carry on regardless and it's breathtaking."
The Premier League is now looking at stepping in to resolve the matter. For one, the BBC can't be too happy that it's been unable to conduct a single interview with the legendary Scot. This, of course, doesn't bode too well for the BBC considering the fact that there are fewer stories bigger than Man Utd. 
As for the Premier League? I guess they aren't too happy that the most successful manager in Premier League history doesn't give post-match interviews to the biggest news organisation in Britain.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Huang abandons Liverpool bid

Hong Kong businessman, Kenny Huang, has put an end to his company's bid to takeover Liverpool. Huang was reportedly frustrated with the lack of progress on the negotiation table with Liverpool's board after tabling a bid several weeks ago. A statement from Huang's QSL Sports, as reported by BBC Sport, said:

"Over the past few months we learned first hand that Liverpool has a very special place in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

"We concluded that a plan that properly capitalises the business and provides funds for a new stadium and player related costs would allow Liverpool FC to provide its great fans with the success they deserve.

"Our strategy and unique ability to expand the fanbase in Asia would also have been of benefit to all. We regret that we will not have the opportunity to implement this strategy."

Initial reports had suggested that a delay in Huang's or any other takeover bid for the club was due to a Premier League ruling that requires prospective buyers to show proof of funds and that none of Liverpool's suitors had completed that process. That theory, however, has been ruled out as BBC Sport says that Huang had provided proof of his funds.

This would then lead many to conclude that Huang's decision to withdraw his bid owes to the fact that Liverpool's American owners had no intention of selling the club to him and were still holding out for a higher offer. If this is true, it illustrates a very bleak future for the football club as Huang had been tipped to be the best and only candidate available to rescue Liverpool from their financial woes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fergie starts the mind games with City

No one doubts Sir Alex Ferguson's expertise in the art of mind games. The Scot has traded barbs with so many of his counterparts over the years that it's highly unlikely his peers will throw him a farewell bash when he finally retires. Just about anyone who's posed a threat to United's domination in Premier League has been a victim of Fergie's infamous mind game. And from Kevin Keegan to Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex has always, one way or another, emerged the victor in psychological warfare.

This leads us to his latest battle against his new foe, Man City, by labeling the club's transfer policy as "kamikaze." From a neutral's stand point, it would appear that Ferguson's remarks over another team's spending policy is laced with envy. Everyone is now quite familiar with Man Utd's financial woes and their lack of presence in the transfer market this season only confirms just how limited the funds are at Old Trafford. 

Furthermore, Man City isn't by a long shot the first club to be splashing it's cash in the transfer market. Chelsea held that status a few years back while Real Madrid's transfer budget two seasons ago would make City's spending this summer look like child's play. 

But Roberto Mancini, like his predecessor, seems to have fallen straight into Fergie's trap and has had to come out and defend his summer spending spree. The fact that Fergie's remarks come right after City's dour draw against Spurs may indicate his real aim: to remind City's billionaire owners just how reckless their manager has been with their cash. 

In fact, Fergie did the same thing a year ago to Mark Hughes when he labelled the City a "small club" and commented on the wisdom of signing too many strikers (for those who don't remember, City signed Tevez, Adebayor and Santa Cruz last season). We'll never the true impact of his comments but it certainly heaped more pressure on Hughes who was trying to put City alongside United in stature in Manchester. As expected Hughes couldn't justify his transfer policy and was later sacked. 

It would seem as though Mancini is now a target and all Fergie needs to do is keep reminding the Italian's bosses on how badly he's spent their money. It doesn't take a genius to realise the sort of pressure Mancini is already going through without entering a war of words with the Old Trafford boss. But the effects of those mind games of Fergie' is not just targeted at Mancini but at his signings themselves who are already under tremendous pressure to deliver. 

In the big picture, it does seem a little odd that Ferguson would choose to pick on City who, as far as most pundits are concerned, will not be a threat to United or Chelsea this season. But then again, for Sir Alex, this is about who is the biggest club in Manchester.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New faces at City but same old story

Looks like Roberto Mancini and his predecessor do have one thing in common: the innate ability to translate obscene transfer expenditure into nothing. After commanding the position of biggest spenders in Premiership for the second straight season in a row, Mancini's Man City bore remarkable similarities to the City under Hughes.

The Man City that turned up at White Hart Lane was weak in both the midfield and defensive departments and often bereft of ideas up front. It was almost as though City hadn't spent any money this summer! Their best spell of the game was perhaps in the opening minutes of the game when new signing David Silva demonstrated some of the qualities that made him one of the most sought-after wingers in the last few years. But after the seventh minute or so, Silva then decided to pursue the art of obscurity on the pitch much like what he did in the World Cup in South Africa which earned him a near permanent spot on Vicente Del Bosque's bench.

But Silva wasn't the only one guilty of being engulfed in that sea of white in midfield. Many of his teammates were caught catching a cat nap on several occasions, especially the ones in defense. Fortunately for Mancini, Joe Hart played the game of his life today. One wonders if Shay Given would've been able to have withstood that onslaught on Hart's goal.

To a certain degree, City will be happy to take a point off from a game in which they were second best by a mile. But chances are Mancini won't be taking out his players for a celebratory drink this weekend after that poor performance.

As for Tottenham, all I can say is that Harry Redknapp's side was unbelievably unlucky not to have taken all three points today. They did everything right and looked even stronger than they were last season. What's perhaps most impressive are the various attacking options in his side. If this a sign of things to come, it could be a good season ahead for Spurs fans.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No More Becks for England!

It has to be a dry day at the rags when the biggest story is the end of David Beckham's England career. I can't quite say the news came as a surprise. Who would've thought that an injury-prone 35-year footballer would be forced out of the England squad? If Gareth Barry and John Terry can be considered too old for England, did Becks ever stand a chance?

Maybe all the hoopla has something to do with the fact that Becks has been England's biggest footballing sensation for over a decade. No other English player has reached the heights of fame and stardom as Beckham has and by the looks of it, it will remain that way for some time. Yet, the reluctance in letting Beckham go also speaks volume of the confidence English fans have in the future. Expect to see similar despair when Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney finally call it a day on their respective international careers.

But at the same time, while Beckham is being dropped for all the valid reasons, it just seems a little rich that it's Capello who's being merciless on the chopping block for the sake of "England's future." Now, if Capello was serious about England's future, he'd volunteer his head on to the block first before any player.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Villa's season over before it even begins?

It's never good to lose a manager mid-way through a season but it's about a million times worse when it happens five days before the campaign begins. As such, even without kicking a ball, Aston Villa are finding themselves being written off by most pundits while their odds of qualifying for the Champions League seems to have taken a steep dive.

The rags and Internet have been filled with all sorts of rumours as to why Martin O'Neill would have left his club in such dire straits on such a short notice. And to have done it to them just before their first match is almost akin to giving them the kiss of death which in many ways is quite unfair a side with as much talent and potential as Villa. When you consider just how young this side is, you really wonder if these players have the mentality to last through what will be a lengthy unsettling period for the club.

Some claim O'Neill had been disgruntled with his employer, Randy Lerner, for some time due to (yeah, you guessed it) a lack of funds and the straw that broke the camel's back was the club's willingness to sell James Milner to Man City. Milner, if you recall, was one of O'Neill's success stories in the transfer market when he bought him from Newcastle United. Milner flourished under O'Neill so it's no surprise then that former Celtics manager was incensed with the club's decision to sell the England winger. Then there are other rumours that another young star at the club, Ashley Young, was also on his way out to a bigger club. No one likes losing their best players, especially when you've been developing them for years.

But O'Neill's frustrations with his board are rumoured to have begun back in March this year which then begs the question why he chose to dump his club five days before the new season began.

The big question now is what happens to Villa in O'Neill's absence. Most of the best managers in the game are all employed and the likes of David Moyes have ruled themselves out. Then again, there are managers like Diego Maradona who are unemployed but I doubt the former Argentine gaffer is seeking life in the Premiership.

There is also a big chance that many of Villa's stars may end up leaving before the transfer window closes at the end of the month if they feel the club's prospects are heading south. Expect to see transfer requests by the likes of Young and Agbonlahor. At the end of the day, Villa's fans, and to some extent Premier League fans in general, will be the biggest losers as one of the league's most exiting teams is headed for its demise.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here we go again

Once again, Liverpool is rumoured to be the subject of a takeover a bid and this time, Chinese businessman, Kenny Huang, is leading a consortium of sovereign funds to rescue the Reds from the doldrums under Tom Hicks and George Gillette.

Unlike previous rumours, Liverpool's chairman, Martin Broughton, has announced that aside from Huang there are several other parties interested in buying over Britain's most successful football club and that a new owner may be in charge by Aug 31. Huang, on the other hand, has apparently given Hicks and Gillette 10 days to accept his offer.

Huang, like any rational thinking businessman, isn't interested in getting into a protracted buy over of the club that could well last six months or more. By then, who knows what Liverpool would be worth as manager Roy Hogdson would be deprived of some much needed transfer funds to build a squad worthy of challenging for honours. In fact, Huang has plainly said that he wouldn't be interested in buying over the Reds if he isn't able to provide Hogdson with the necessary funds to strengthen the squad.

While this would make perfect sense to the average football fan with a functional brain, the same can't be said about Hicks and Gillette. In fact, it's almost a mystery how these two amassed all their wealth. Despite pricing Liverpool at a ridiculous tag of GBP800 million, neither one of them seem serious about it. The Reds have had an array of suitor over the past 12 months and yet the two of them have rejected all bids.

During that course, Liverpool's fortunes have floundered with the Reds eventually finishing seventh in the league and missing out on the money-making Champions League. Likewise, the club's valuation has plummeted in line with it's endeavors on the pitch. This in turn has made it even harder for American duo to justify their hefty price tag of GBP800 million. Had they sold the club in January, there may have been a possibility of obtaining a bid for GBP500 million. Now, they'd be lucky to even get GBP400 million. And Liverpool's valuations are set to continue declining if Hodgson doesn't get to strengthen his squad.