The S – Word


God lives in Catalonia

“Mega -Messi”, “Messi Masterclass”, “The Messiah”, “God lives in Catalonia!”

…are just some of the headlines that followed Barcelona’s 4-1 demolition of Arsenal last Tuesday – a crushing defeat that was orchestrated to perfection by one man, Lionel Messi. The Argentine scored all four goals at the Nou Camp, with a hat-trick in the first half. His goals, exquisite ones at that, gave the Catalan side a 6-3 aggregate win and a passage to a Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan.

Even I, here in my Pacific paradise, couldn’t miss the recent rhetoric about Messi and I was tempted to write about the FIFA World Player of the Year last month, following Barca’s 4-2 win against Real Zaragoza. Messi bagged another three in this game, becoming Barca’s first ever player to score consecutive hat tricks in La Liga, their previous outing being a 3-0 win against Valencia.

Leo has already won the Champions League trophy twice, he’s also got three La Liga titles to his name, a UEFA Super Cup, A FIFA Club World Cup and three Spanish Supercups. He is Maradona’s “successor” – words lauded by Diego himself, he won last season’s Ballon d’Or and he beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of World’s best player while he was at it. Oh, did I mention that he’s Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League? Not bad. It’s hard to believe he is still only 22…  

And just in case the Zaragoza goals didn’t have you drooling into your keyboard enough, here’s Leo’s in action against Arsenal:

A class act, I think you’ll agree. As far as week’s go, I’d wager that perhaps it was one of Leo’s best. Even the staunch anti-Barcelona/pro-Real Madrid newspaper ‘Marca’ praised the diminutive number 10 for his footwork against Arsenal. Could his week get any better? It could and it did. Pep Guardiola’s men rounded off a superb week with a 2-0 win in ‘El Classico’ against Real Madrid. Messi overshadowed Ronaldo, he scored is 40th goal of the season and, with Barca’s second goal from Pedro Rodriguez, his team went three points clear at the top of La Liga. Marca, not surprisingly, weren’t too effusive with their praise this time…

There are some number 10’s who have always been special, who will always captivate the public and who will never be forgotten. The likes of Pele, Platini, Puskas, Maradona and Eusebio, to name but a few. For me, it’s really interesting to witness the ascent of Leo Messi, as he’s one of the few current players who could rank alongside the greatest number 10’s of all time. Perhaps, to some, he already does. If he takes Argentina to a World Cup final win this summer, then he’ll certainly be up there and the comparisons to Maradona will ring truer than ever. But for Barcelona fans I’m sure they couldn’t care less – as their shy, 5ft 7, Argentine number 10 is already the best in the world. God, as they are saying, already lives in Catalonia.

Mahalo for reading!

As a side note you may wonder why Manchester United’s game against Bayern Munich hasn’t had a mention. I think that the less said about that one, the better. Ahem…

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Brown, Benali and years of geekdom…

There was once a time when I knew everything about football. When I was in my early teens I started going to games on my own and I started to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of Manchester United and the Premier League. It bordered on the obsessive, to tell you the truth. I could have told you in great detail about any player at Old Trafford; their career statistics, which was their best foot, what were their strengths, weaknesses and a minutae of detail about various stadiums around Europe where they played. Hell, I could have even reeled off players’ middles names, ages of their children and their favourite foods without too much thought. Not many people were beating down my door to hear this information, I hasten to add, but to me it mattered.

I collected match programmes, read every report and filed away almost every back page from The Manchester Evening News with great diligence. I must have contributed a pretty big large share of my pocket money to buy various pieces of memorabilia and merchandise too.

It was out with the pony stories and Enid Blyton books and in with the football reading material. It wasn’t just Manchester United though, it was everyone, every team, every player, everything.about.football.  I collected Manchester United magazine and Glory Glory Man United and would read them over and again until I knew every fact but I soon started collecting others; GOAL, Shoot, Match, Total Football, Total Sport, FourFourTwo, Premier League sticker books. My addiction was growing…

Also (I don’t know if I should admit to this) when I was younger I used to watch Match of the Day and take notes. I was determined to become the show’s first female presenter and I thought it best to chronicle the information. I kid you not. I used to write down the goalscorers, the names of the referees, bookings and more. Then I would file them in my MOTD box.  Ha! I was a geek, through and through. And my poor dad, I used to ask him (or is that make him I wonder?) quiz me on the previous night’s programme. Any car journey, long or short, was an opportunity to be challenged. Ask me about football dad, ask me, ask me, ask me. Or, Dad!! Peter Schmeichel is going to be opening a menswear shop in Deansgate on Tuesday. I HAVE to be there. How I knew these things I have no idea, but I’d always be there – nervous, sweaty-palmed, probably blushing, standing in various Manchester menswear shops, clutching my autograph book and waiting for one of my heroes, positioned awkwardly somewhere between the briefs and man bags.

My mum suffered the same treatment. She was frequently met with requests to drive me to watch reserve matches at Gigg Lane in Bury or to the Cliff – Manchester United’s old training ground. At the Cliff you could hang around in the car park, meet the players and they’d happily sign autographs for you. Back then players drove Renaults and Volkswagens. Now, at Carrington, you’d be lucky if you got a glimpe of one of them behind the tinted windows of their Bentley and extremely lucky if they stopped to autograph something.

I wonder how many other 13 year-old girls there were in Cheshire at that time who thought they should know what Southampton’s Francis Benali looked like or what Ruel Fox’s goal to game ratio was? Lessons in school became opportunities to talk football with the boys in my class. Hey – where do Galatasaray play their home games? I’d ask. This was far more interesting than physics. (it’s the Ali Sami Yen by the way…)

Francis Benali

There's only one Benali. Erm...

Throughout my teenage years and into my twenties this fanaticism grew and my love for football continued. Admittedly, it dipped a bit as I started university, did my fair share of partying  and developed a love for travel but it was always there. My capacity for remembering small details about players and their teams probably diminished a bit around this time and I refrained from keeping notes about Match of the Day, But I never fell out of love with the game.

These feelings never changed and that’s what led to my career in football journalism. Thank God all that information was actually used for something! Those hours spent poring over books and magazines were not in vain. Hurrah! Football journalism was heaven on earth for me and not just because I got to work with some of the best fellow geeks around. All day was spent either watching games, talking about them, writing about them – or being out and about interviewing players and managers and negotiating the slippery world of football agents. Morning duties included reading every back page and soccer supplement and Sky Sports News became a permanent fixture in my life. It was on in the background for up to 9 hours a day, we really had to know everything as soon as it happened.

And this is precisely what motivated me to write this entry. Back then I had to know everything and now, well… my knowledge is diminishing. I don’t know how many people in the world were affected by Phil Brown’s recent sacking at Hull City. Not many, I’d wager. For those of you not in the know, the perma-tanned and aptly named Brown was relieved of his managerial duties on March 15 and promptly made his exit from the KC Stadium and into gardening leave. Now, it’s not the sacking that bothers me. Sure, Brown seems like a nice enough guy and it’s not nice to see anyone get fired but what really gets me is that I DIDN’T KNOW!!!!

Former Hull boss Phil Brown

Former Hull boss Phil Brown

This must be how Samson felt after Delilah’s betrayal – his locks were shorn and his superhuman strength left him. The muscle-bound Isarelite was a changed man and that’s how I feel. Ahem, apart from the fact I am not superhuman, I’m not a man and I wasn’t deceived by a woman called Delilah, but you get my drift.

I moved to Hawaii. Quite possibly the best decision I will ever make. My days are spent on a beautiful island, in the sun, surfing and canoe paddling, life is truly perfect. I have to pinch myself regularly to make sure this is real. But it is a life with little football. I try hard to monitor all my favourite news sources and my friend, former editor and ex- Arsenal player Adrian Clarke has a great podcast that keeps me informed but many, many stories just pass me by. 

It made me chuckle, when I was thinking about this situation, that I was so affected by Phil Brown. I mean, really, of all people! But it wasn’t Brown, he is merely the poster boy who represents the growing gap in the knowledge I once had. A brown, slightly leathery, northern poster boy, with a penchant for odd half-time ‘motivational’ team talks, but a poster boy nonetheless.

So, I am not as up to date with English football as I once was – I don’t watch Sky Sports, I rarely see games and, with a tear in my eye, I gave away my  magazine collection when I left the UK. But life here is good, no – life here is fantastic and I still get to write about the sport I love. What could be better than that? Maybe I should start paying more attention to the smaller stories in English football, maybe I should write more. But as soon as Phil Brown gets a new job, I’ll be damned if I am not the first to know.

Thanks for reading my ramblings! Aloha, until next time…



Mo Money Mo Problems at Crystal Palace
March 18, 2010, 8:34 pm
Filed under: The Championship | Tags: ,

Every now and again there is a story in football that is just too good to be true. This is one such story, no question about it.

Rapper/producer/entrepreneur P-Diddy, aka Puff Daddy, aka Sean Combs is apparently tabling a £360m ($548m) bid for Crystal Palace. That’s right, Crystal Palace – the South London team who are currently occupying bottom spot in the English Championship.

P-Diddy. A big lover of Championship football.

Soccer doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage here in the United States and I can say with a good degree of certainty that Palace are not a team you could stumble across on ESPN. 2010 has not started well for the club – they’re facing relegation, they have been docked ten points for going into administration and earlier this month they lost manager Neil Warnock to London rivals Queens Park Rangers.

So, just how did Puffy come across the Eagles? Does he harbour a secret penchant for mediocre English football teams? Could he have been enticed by wet Wednesday night games down in sarf London? Or perhaps he thinks that the chance to work with manager Paul Hart and his assistant Dougie Freedman was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Wrong. He is considering a bid because he likes the club’s name. I kid you not.

“Sources” told The Sun newspaper: “Diddy was in London meeting football fixers a couple of weeks ago. The finance is in place, he’s just deciding who he thinks he’ll make a bid for. Portsmouth were mentioned but he thought Palace were a better idea. He could cover their debt and bankroll a return to the Premier League. He liked the name as well.”

I can see it now – Diddy relaxing by the pool, having breakfast in the Malibu sun, the light dancing off his many diamonds as he’s hand-fed eggs benedict by two oiled and voluptuous women in bikinis. Naturally his thoughts turn to soccer. Hmmm, he thinks, I want in to the EPL, maybe I’ll buy a club. He gets one of his lackeys to bring up a list of available English clubs on his iPad and Crystal Palace catches his eye. “Hey… Crystal!?!” he exclaims, “Is that like Cristal, my favourite champagne?” and “Palace? This team plays in a palace?” Upon reading this Puffy, I assume, was sold.

Puffy - your Palace awaits. Glamorous isn't it!

Cue a headline writer’s wet dream and puns aplenty. Today The Sun ran with “Palace fans giddy over bid-dy by Diddy.” Others went along these lines: “Diddy to be king of the Palace?” , “Cristal Palace”, the list goes on…

I don’t know if there’s any truth in the rumours but what the hell, it makes for an amusing piece of news. Anyway, whoever let truth get in the way of a good story? In football journalism it goes with the territory. It’s probably only a matter of time before the club comes out and denies all knowledge of the bid (-dy by Diddy, sorry…) but in the meantime it’ll bring Palace some positive press and some much needed escapism for the fans, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Until next time, thanks for reading!



Still Special – Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge
March 17, 2010, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Champions League | Tags: , , ,

Jose Mourinho was on familiar ground when he made his return to Stamford Bridge this week – to a key clash between two European sides in the Champions League, to an eager press pack – full of expectation and hungry for the kind of soundbites that only he can deliver, and also to tabloid tales of Chelsea defender Ashley Cole’s most recent philanderings. Nothing new there then.

When Internazionale were drawn against Chelsea in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League, it was a fixture that couldn’t have been more beautifully scripted. Mourinho, a god in the eyes of the Blues’ supporters, was to return to Stamford Bridge. However, it wasn’t to be the return that fans of the club have dreamed about and yearned for since he was ousted in 2007. No, he was to return as manager of the Nerazzurri.

Inter have been knocked out of the Champions League at this stage for the last two seasons running, at the hands of both Liverpool and Manchester United, so this year the need to get past the last 16 and past English opposition must have been stronger than ever, especially with Mourinho facing up to his old employers.

Add to that the fact that Chelsea’s newest manager is the former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti – he who presided over the Rossoneri for eight years and won two Champions League titles in his time with Inter’s biggest rivals – and you have an intriguing sub-plot to a game that is already sparkling with promise.

Okay, I have to admit at this stage that I am guilty of being a little bit in awe of Mourinho. Either that or a little bit in love with him. I know plenty of heterosexual males in the United Kingdom who would admit the same thing. What is it about him? His Clooney-esque good looks. his brooding temperament, his success?! I don’t know exactly but Mourinho was a breath of fresh air when he arrived in the Premier League in 2004. He was funny, he was charming, he was mischevious and most importantly he was a fantastic manager. I hate to admit it but Chelsea were outstanding when he was in charge. Likeable no, impressive yes.

The self-styled Special One.

And oh how we missed him when he left England, especially us football journalists – nothing was the same, no Jose-quips to look forward to in press conferences and Match of the Day, no exciting quotes to look forward to in the dailies, just more weary cliches from Premier League managers or their right-hand men. I think I can speak for almost every football fan at that time when I say there was a real sense of mourning when Mourinho departed. Love him or hate him, you missed him.

For those of you who may not already know what set Jose Mourinho apart from the rest, watch this Ahem, sorry about the music… 

Back to the Champions League. When Inter travelled to England for Tuesday’s game, they came with a 2-1 lead from the first leg at San Siro but progress to the next round was going to be far from easy. Chelsea, of course, had not been beaten at home in the Champions League for 21 games and have history of doing well against Italian teams at this stage in recent seasons.

But, in Mourinho’s words, his return was ‘almost perfect’. Thanks to Samuel Eto’o’s second-half strike, Inter ran out as victors with a 3-1 aggregate victory. Didier Drogba was also given his marching orders in the closing minutes of the tie. Pleased? Moi? Just a bit.

“I love Chelsea, I love this stadium, I love these people but I am a professional,” said Mourinho.

“I celebrated a lot in the dressing room when the game was over. It was a big victory for my team.”

It was almost like going back in time, we got to see Mourinho, we got to hear Mourinho and, just like old times, he celebrated a win at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps it’s easy to admire him when he’s not in charge of Manchester United’s Premier League opposition but it’s clear to me that Jose is still special and he’s still very much missed.

Thanks for reading!



Pacific tsunami and a City win
February 27, 2010, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Premier League, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Today has been surreal. I was woken up at about 3 in the morning, with news that a tsunami warning had been issued in Hawaii – following a devastating earthquake in Chile. The 8.8 magnitude quake triggered tsunami waves throughout much of the Pacific Ocean and, quite rightly, the warnings were taken very seriously here.

I’d gone to bed at about midnight, pretty tired after a sunset canoe paddling session, followed by a great margarita pool party (I know, it’s a hard life…). So when I woke up I actually thought I was dreaming. I went back to sleep for about 45 minutes until I was woken again. “Watch the news!” I was told.

I was glued to the news this morning, for tsunami updates

Everyone where I live was up and about – filling the cars with gas, water and food, as we’d been advised. When the air raid-like  tsunami sirens started sounding at 6am, it was pretty eerie. As a matter of fact, everything felt strange – the evacuations, emptying roads, everything closed down, panic buying at the supermarket, really weird. We drove ourselves to higher ground, parked up and spent six or seven hours watching the West Maui coast, anxious about the approaching waves, not knowing what would or could happen.

Thankfully Hawaii “dodged a bullet” – the words of tsunami expert and geophysicist Gerard Fryer. We saw some receding of water – which normally signals a wave is about to hit but nothing too damaging happened. There were sucks back and then surges along the parts of the coast that we could see, but no devastating walls of water.

What a relief! I was seriously impressed by the warnings we were given leading up to the expected time of the first wave, the evacuation procedure, everything. Hopefully nowhere else in the Pacific will be badly affected.

It seems a bit erroneous to talk about football in the same breath as earthquakes and tsunamis but if it wasn’t for the huge win that Manchester City registered against Chelsea today, I probably wouldn’t mention it.

But…I have to.

It’s rare that  I am pleased by a City win but today’s victory raised more than a smile. It was not just the manner of the defeat that pleased me (a 4-2 drubbing at Stamford Bridge with two Chelsea players sent off) but the loss on home turf also prevented Carlo Ancelotti’s men from going four points clear at the top of the Premier League.

It’s the second time this season that City have beaten Chelsea, which surely speaks volumes about the leaps they are making now that they’re, well, totally loaded. A top-four finish is looking more and more possible by the day, which takes some getting used to. City can’t actually win things can they? The fans I know from the blue half of Manchester will be howling with derision for me saying that but it’s just so hard to imagine. I mean really, silverware at Eastlands!?

Oh and  something else that I got great pleasure out of was Wayne Bridge’s refusal to shake John Terry’s hand. After the sordid philanderings I spoke about in my February 9 blog all eyes must have been on the pair and I think it was exactly the right thing for Bridge to do.

Snubbed!

I need some sleep after today’s events so that’s all for now… I’ll be back soon, hopefully after a Manchester United victory against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final.

Mahalo for reading!



The Rebel Who Would Be King. Falling for Eric all over again…
February 23, 2010, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Biographies, Eric Cantona, Premier League | Tags: , ,

“Football, even at its most enthrallingly beautiful, or, if you prefer, ‘artistic’, is nothing but pure manifestation; it is not a response to anything other than itself; it is an unfolding. The flow of the ball is self-contained, self-referential – and unrepeatable. A perfectly executed free kick might require just as much time on the training field as a bassonist, say, will spend rehearsing the first bars of The Rite of Spring in the concert hall. But, wheras the bassoonist will be able to play the same line after time, finding new shades of tone and refining new articulations, even the greatest footballer we could dream of would fail to repeat a single one of his masterful creations. A football team is not an orchestra. You do not pit two ensembles against each other, playing two scores which are not just incompatible in terms of meter and key, but also try to nullify each other, despite the wildest experiments of avant-garde composers. The greatest of managers is not a conductor, and the footballer is not a soloist: you do not write footballs on a stave. But Eric was driven by the belief that somehow, some were given the ability to do so – Cruyff, Maradona, himself. On that evening in Wimbledon, he wasn’t very far from convincing the rest of the world he was right.”

Extract taken from Cantona – The Rebel Who Would Be King by Philippe Auclair.

Normally speaking, football biographies leave a lot to be desired. Who could forget ‘My Story so Far’ by the (then) 20 year-old Wayne Rooney, inside which the Manchester United striker revealed gems such as “I can’t get to sleep without the hoover on.” and “I usually turn up to training wearing slippers.” Hmmm. Enough said. And if only I could forget ‘My Defence’ by Ashley Cole. 246 pages of drivel in which Cole earnt himself legions of enemies. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cole’s book. Here’s a taster…

Let me first set the scene. It’s 2005, Cole plays for Arsenal and a new contract is in the offing. The 24 year-old is driving home from training (I am hazarding a guess here but probably in a Baby Bentley or an Aston Martin Vanquish) somewhere in North London, when his agent Jonathan Barnett calls. Barnett has news from David Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman. Cole will not be receiving his demands of 60,000 a week, no, he’ll have to settle for a measly 55,000 instead. Fifty. Thousand. Pounds. A. Week. I’ll let Ashley take it from here:

“When I heard Jonathan repeat the figure of £55,000, I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He is taking the piss Jonathan!’ I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.”

And that snippet just about sums up the attitudes on display in most football biographies these days. But Eric’s biography is so very different. Call me biased, as my adoration for Cantona knows no bounds but seriously, SERIOUSLY this is a beautifully written book.

Cantona was a truly unique player and Cantona – The Rebel Who Would Be King is a truly unique read. Auclair writes with an elegance that I am equally envious and in awe of – his poetic prose tells the story of Eric’s career – from his early life in Marseille to ending his career at Manchester United. Eric’s involvement was zero, but this does not detract from Auclair’s meticulously researched and wonderfully crafted read. The French journalist interviewed 200 key figures from Eric’s career and must have watched hours upon hours of footage in the three years he spent writing the book.

The result is incredible and quite unlike any sports book I have come across in the past. I mean, really, name another football biography in which the writer makes reference to Velazquez, post-structuralist historians, the shirt of Nessus, Jacques Derrida and more? And also, as in the above quote, not many football biographies manage to draw parallels between the masterful creations of a footballer and the articulations of a bassoonist.

It’s just a shame that it had to end. Eric Cantona has always been my favourite player and in all probability he always will be. He was an enigma, a breath of fresh air and a huge catalyst in changing the fortunes of Manchester United. I think it’s the same for all United fans – we know that wonderful, talented players will come and go at Old Trafford, games will be won and lost, goals will be scored and they will be missed but one certainty stands head and shoulders above the rest. There will never, ever be another Eric.

“An artist, in my eyes, is someone who can lighten up a dark room. I have never and will never find difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970, and the poetry of the young Rimbaud.”  Eric Cantona 

And, readers from the USA, if you’d like to see a bit more of Le King. Watch this:

Thanks for reading!



Soccer’s JT makes the Maui News
February 9, 2010, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Football in Hawaii, World Cup 2010 | Tags: , , ,

When I saw a column about the England captaincy running in the Maui News this week, I knew it must be a big story. Not famed for its soccer coverage, even our local paper told the tale of John Terry’s recent ‘away days’ and subsequent demotion as England captain.

For those of you not in the know – John Terry has a reputation that stretches beyond the confines of the football pitch. Like many footballers before him he has an eye for the ladies and has openly admitted to cheating on his wife, Toni Poole, at least eight times before they were married in 2007 (imagine the count of the ones he hasn’t admitted to!).

Footballers + kiss and tell stories = everyday tabloid fodder, but the column inches devoted to Terry’s latest misdemeanours are even more lurid than most.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Tugendhat, a high court judge, lifted an injunction which had been preventing details of an affair between Terry and the ex-girlfriend of his friend and England team-mate Wayne Bridge. Terry, 29, is said to have started the extra marital affair with Vanessa Perroncel, mother of Bridge’s child, while Bridge played for Chelsea and the pair were neighbours in Oxshott, Surrey.

All smiles at England training. Little did they know...

Bridge is said to be “in bits” about the affair, while Poole has  retreated to Dubai with Terry’s children – three year-old twins Georgie John and Summer Rose.

Okay, so it’s not the first time a player has had an affair and it certainly won’t be the last but seriously, of all the women to choose – why would you do it with a team-mates girlfriend? Ex or otherwise…?

I have never been Terry’s biggest fan. Perhaps as a Manchester United fan it goes with the territory, but I did meet him once, about four years ago when I interviewed him for a radio show. I actually found him to be a nice guy – very agreeable and polite – quite the opposite to what I had expected. We had an amusing conversation about the merits of horseradish sauce and yorkshire pudding (Not part of the interview, I hasten to add) and I was slightly taken aback by the woollen jumper he was wearing – it had knitted deer on it. No, seriously, it did. But I came away from it thinking he was a nice fella. That dissipated over the years, I must admit, especially whenever United faced Chelsea…

Anyway – quite rightly (in my view) Terry was stripped of the England captaincy this week. Fabio Capello, the England manager, lived up to his own reputation as a strict disciplinarian and told Terry the armband was no longer his, following a 12 minute meeting at Wembley.

Capello said: “After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.”

“As a captain with the team, Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour. However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad. What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and Terry was notified first.”

Before the news of Terry’s demotion came to light I was wondering who would be a natural replacement as captain and it was quite alarming to think about how slim the pickings are.

There may be many natural leaders on the pitch – Terry, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, even Wayne Rooney, but honestly  – when it comes to role models the cupboard is bare. Terry – see above, Gerrard – in court recently for assault, Rio – we all know about his infamous ‘missed’ drugs test, Rooney – lewd tales of aging prostitutes. I’m not even going to start on Ashley Cole…

Even David Beckham. Becks, ‘Golden Balls’ oh how we all love him and how the sponsors love him, but even he has been embroiled in kiss and tells. Perhaps unfounded allegations, but who knows…

Role model or not, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand will be our new captain, with Gerrard as deputy. Rio has done a good job as United captain, when injury doesn’t keep him on the sidelines, and hopefully he can command the national team with responsibility and vigour as they head to South Africa in June. And hopefully he can keep peace in the dressing room – it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall when Bridge and Terry next meet.

I’ll be back soon, with a look at one of the most interesting football books I have ever come across. Until then, thanks for reading!