Friday, September 19, 2014

The Most Valuable Backup Goalkeepers in World Football


Once upon a time the role and status of a second choice goalkeeper at any football club was a pretty straightforward one!

Benchwarmer, emergency cover, training partner and room-mate are terms that immediately spring to mind when talking about backup goalkeepers.

However, major football clubs across Europe have been laughing in the face of that conventional wisdom, and have been buying backup keepers who could easily start as first-choice for other major clubs.

These goalkeepers are still worth decent amounts of money despite their status of having to warm the bench more often than not.

Take Chelsea's Petr Cech currently playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois following the Belgian's extremely successful loan spell with Atletico Madrid, culminating in 'Los Colchoneros' winning the 2013–14 La Liga title, their first since 1996.

Furthermore, there’s the fact that Manchester City recently signed Malaga’s Willy Caballero as back up to England's number one Joe Hart, and Barcelona signed both Chilean international Claudio Bravo and German international Marc-André ter Stegen for a combined total of €27 million, following the departure of longtime number one Victor Valdes – who still has yet to find a club.

Then what about Real Madrid, who recently signed Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas for €10 million to act as backup for Spanish goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, who at 33 years-old is arguably in the twilight of his career.

In the English Premier League you have, to name just a few, the likes of Shay Given, Thomas Sørensen, Costel Pantilimon, Artur Boruc, Boaz Myhill and Brad Jones who are without a first-team start between them this season! All very capable goalkeepers, but simply unable to establish themselves as first-choice at their respective clubs.

Backup goalkeepers are becoming a hotter commodity than ever in world football, and it became increasingly obvious during this summer's transfer window.

Here is a list of the most valuable backup goalkeepers in world football, based on their market value courtesy of transfermarkt.com


# Pepe Reina - Bayern Munich - €4.5 million

The son of famed FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Miguel Reina, Pepe Reina began his career with the Barcelona youth team and made his La Liga debut in the 2000–01 season. He signed for Villarreal in 2002 and moved on to Liverpool and made his debut in 2005. He went on to win the 2005 UEFA Super Cup, the FA Cup in 2006. In 2007, he reached the Champions League Final with Liverpool, matching the feat achieved by his father in 1974, but they lost to A.C. Milan.

Following eight consecutive seasons as Liverpool's first-choice keeper, Reina spent the 2013–14 season on loan at Napoli, where he was reunited with Rafa Benítez, the coach who signed him to play for Liverpool in 2005. During his loan tenure at the Italian club, Reina was part of the side that won the 2014 Italian Cup and finished third in the domestic league.

In August 2014, Reina joined the German club FC Bayern Munich on a three-year deal, as backup to Manuel Neuer – arguably the best goalkeeper in world football right now!


# Maarten Stekelenburg - AS Monaco - €5.0 million

The 31 year-old Dutchman plays for French club AS Monaco (on loan from English club Fulham), and for the Netherlands national team.

Stekelenburg is a product of the Ajax youth system, where he followed in the footsteps of Edwin van der Sar, who he succeeded in the Dutch national team and with whom he reached the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

He made his debut for Ajax in February 2002, and became their first choice goalkeeper during the 2005–06 season. That season Ajax won the KNVB Cup (the Dutch equivilent of the English FA Cup).
Stekelenburg was named Ajax 'Player of the Year' at the end of the the 2007–08 season.
In 2010-11 Ajax won the Eredivisie for the first time since 2003-04 and Stekelenburg was again named Ajax 'Player of the Year' - for the second time in his career.

This season Stekelenburg is acting as the backup for 'Les Rouges et Blancs' behind Danijel Subasic, the former Hajduk Split and Croatia goalkeeper, despite having represented the Dutch national team on 54 occasions.


# Jack Butland - Stoke City - €5.0 million

He’s been considered as England’s goalkeeper of the future, and the fact that Roy Hodgson brought him along to the European Championships two years ago while at previous club Birmingham City is proof enough that he’s got plenty of potential.

Butland began his career with Birmingham City, and made his debut in the Football League in September 2011 while on loan to League Two club Cheltenham Town.
Butland established himself as first choice keeper at St Andrew's in 2012–13 and was transferred to Premier League club Stoke City in January 2013 for a fee of £3.3 million. He was loaned back to Birmingham and went on to play in every league match in 2012–13. Butland then spent time out on loan at Barnsley before making his Premier League debut in January 2014.

However, 21-year-old Butland is likely to play the role of backup to Asmir Begovic at Stoke this season.


# Willy Caballero - Manchester City - €5.0 million

Caballero started his playing career with Boca Juniors in 2001.
The Argentine spent most of his career in Spain, representing Elche and Málaga and competing in La Liga with the latter club.
He joined Elche CF of Spain in 2004, playing nearly 200 games for the 'Los Franjiverdes' outfit. In February 2011, Caballero was transferred to Málaga CF in La Liga for €900,000 as an emergency transfer.

In the summer of 2014, he signed for Manchester City, but the 32 year-old has only made one appearance so far this season for City, in the 2014 FA Community Shield at Wembley.

Despite being snubbed time and time again by the Argentine national team, Caballero is highly thought of and it’s uncertain as to how long Caballero will be content to just be the second-string keeper at City, behind Joe Hart.
Hart, the England goalkeeper has come under much scrutiny in the last twelve months, following some high profile errors and he conceded a soft goal in City's last league game, a home defeat to Stoke, so maybe manager Manuel Pellegrini will consider giving Willy Caballero a chance sooner rather than later!


# Michael Agazzi - AC Milan - €6.0 million

He may be the least recognizable name on this list but Michael Agazzi built up a decent reputation for himself as the main goalkeeper at Cagliari.
In July 2009 Cagliari signed the goalkeeper from Serie B club Triestina in a joint ownership deal, for €575,000. However, he continued to play for Triestina until June 2010.

He became first choice goalkeeper for Cagliari at the start of the 2010-11 season, and went on to make well over 100 appearances for the Sardinia based club.
Following a brief spell at Chievo Verona earlier this year he moved to the San Siro in May 2014.

However three months later, Real Madrid and Milan reached an agreement over the transfer of Diego López, the Spanish born stopper, demoting Agazzi to Milan's backup keeper as López went on to start this season as number one, making his competitive debut in the first matchday of the new season in Serie A.

Agazzi may not have much of a chance to compete for game time at Milan if Lopez’s performances for the 'Rossoneri' are consistently strong.
The fact that longtime Milan servant Christian Abbiati is also still on their books at the age of 37 surely doesn't bode well for Agazzi, as he aspires to establish himself as first-choice stopper.


# Michel Vorm - Tottenham Hotspur - €6.0 million

He’s been capped 15 times by the Dutch national team – even going to the World Cup this past summer as the Oranje’s third choice keeper – but Michel Vorm’s recent decision to sign for Tottenham Hotspur may come back to haunt him. With the French international captain Hugo Lloris firmly entrenched as Spurs’ number one man, and with the evergreen American goalkeeper Brad Friedel still at the North London club, Vorm may have a difficult time starting games at White Hart Lane.

Vorm began his career at FC Utrecht in 2005. In order to gain more experience he spent the 2005-06 season on loan to FC Den Bosch. In August 2006 Vorm established himself as first choice keeper at FC Utrecht.

In August 2011, Vorm joined Swansea City for a fee of around £1.5 million. During his first season with Swansea his performances were so impressive that he won three awards at the club’s end-of-season dinner, including Players’ Player and and Supporters’ Player of the Year. He signed a four-year deal with Spurs in July 2014 for a fee of £3.5 million.


# David Ospina - Arsenal - €7.0 million

Following a great run by the Colombian national team to the quarter-finals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, it was clear that David Ospina needed to play for a bigger club than Nice in Ligue 1 of France – the club he joined in 2008 as a 19 year-old. However, Arsenal may not necessarily be the answer!

Although he’s clearly good enough to start for a major club, Ospina will likely have to fight for playing time with the Gunners’ longtime number one Wojciech Szczesny and their 22 year-old Argentine youngster Damián Martinez, who joined the 'Gunners' back in 2012.

With a market value of €7.0 million, and the fact that Ospina is still young for a goalkeeper at 25 years of age, the competition could potentially be fierce.


# Claudio Bravo - Barcelona - €8.0 million

Claudio Bravo is currently in the starting role for Barcelona, but that’s likely as a result of the fact that promising young German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out injured for the next several weeks. Once ter Stegen returns, though, Bravo may have to sit a number of games out for the Blaugrana. Thanks to his role playing for the Chilean national team that made it past one of the World Cup’s groups of death, as well as the fact that he was the longtime number one for Real Sociedad, Bravo may not be satisfied to have to be part of a goalkeeping tandem. Watch this space!

Bravo signed for Real Sociedad in a reported €1.2 million deal back in 2006 and played 229 times for the San Sebastián based club.

Bravo joined FC Barcelona this summer for €12 million (£9.7 million) thus becoming only the second Chilean ever to play for the Catalan giants after Alexis Sanchez, now an Arsenal player.


# Keylor Navas - Real Madrid - €6.0 million

Navas' performances for his country at the 2014 World Cup this summer were nothing short of sensational, and his role in Costa Rica’s run to the quarter-finals was instrumental.

He only conceded a single goal in the three Group games as Costa Rica qualified for the knockout stages as group winners. In the round of 16 match against Greece, Navas was named 'man of the match,' and was so again in the quarter-finals, despite his country being eliminated by the Netherlands in a penalty shootout.

Needless to say as a result of his World Cup heroics his reputation was enhanced immeasurably, and his Valencia based club Levante were always going to struggle to keep a hold of the 27 year-old.
On 3rd August 2014, Real Madrid came knocking and triggered Navas' €10 million buyout clause, and he signed a six-year contract with the 'Galácticos.'

His market value of €6.0 million shows that he’s good enough to start for many big clubs, but it’s unknown how often he’ll have to jockey for position with Iker Casillas for the number one role at the Bernabeu.


# Petr Cech - Chelsea - €17.0 million

Born in Plzeň, Czechoslovakia Petr Cech played for Chmel Blšany, Sparta Prague, and Rennes before joining Chelsea in 2004 for £7 million.

Although he was linked to moves away from Stamford Bridge in the summer, Petr Cech currently remains on Chelsea’s books, but it looks as if he’ll have to settle for a backup role behind young Belgian goalkeeping phenom Thibaut Courtois.
If he doesn’t win his place back at Stamford Bridge, I'm sure Cech will be looking to move elsewhere. His reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in recent years is still very much intact and for now, he’s still by far the most valuable backup goalkeeper in world football, even at 32 years-old.

Since joining 'The Blues' ten years ago, Cech has made over 450 appearances for the club and won a staggering array of silverwhere - three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Europa League and one UEFA Champions League.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

How do you solve a problem like Hodgson?


So the England national football team beat Switzerland in Basle last night thus recording their first three points in a competitive fixture since the 'Three Lions' overcame Poland in their final 2014 World Cup tournament qualification match back in October 2013.

England have now won back to back fixtures in the space of less than a week - in fact it was their first victories of any description since a couple of over hyped pre-World Cup warm-up wins back in March against Denmark and in May against Peru, both at Wembley.

England lined up against Switzerland with captain Wayne Rooney joined by Danny Welbeck, in attack, with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling behind.
A signpost for the future, Roy Hodgson has surely found a formation - with Arsenal's Jack Wilshere at the base of the diamond and Sterling at its tip.

Despite a nervy first-half and with vital defensive contributions from Gary Cahill and Joe Hart preventing the Swiss from taking the lead, England's bold approach and ability to counter attack at pace paid off. In the end it was a reasonably comfortable win, although a far from convincing performance. There still remain major question marks at the centre of defence, and with the holding midfield role.
Hodgson chose to play a couple of players out of position, a fad commonplace nowadays at club level as well. It will be interesting to see how Roy juggles the personnel next time out when England play San Marino on 9th October.

England have a crop of very talented youngsters at club level, some of whom still need blooding at international level, such as Callum Chambers, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Ward, Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw, Jon Flanagan, Nathaniel Chalobah, Andre Wisdom, Will Hughes and Tom Carroll while the likes of Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Barkley, Townsend and Sterling have already made an impact or are currently injured or coming back from injury.

If Roy has a fully fit squad to choose from it will be a game about formations, systems and giving new players an opportunity to fit into 'Roy's Model' because you can be sure the England management team will not be having sleepless nights worrying about the opposition's footballing ability, more likely nightmares about whether a team made up of accountants, bank clerks, librarians, students, hospital workers and barmen are all able get the day off work!

What I am saying is let's not get carried away and hail a brand new England era, and that this victory will automatically act as a fulcrum for a major turning point in the fortunes of our national team in the next few years. As fans' we have been teased endlessly in the past and as a result we are used to disappointment, so if you expect nothing then anything more is a bonus!

The public know full well that England are simply not good enough to compete with the world's best teams – in terms of technique, tactical nous, nerve and, most damningly, hunger!

Hodgson may have on paper at least been instrumental in the victories over the 'Norewigan Vikings' last Wednesday and in last night's Euro qualifier win against 'The Swizz Cheese Makers.'
Incredibly in beating Switzerland he has has quite literally secured England a place in the Euros 2016 finals to be held in France after only one fixture - in a group of six teams with a further nine qualification games remaining.

The re-structuring of the European Championships, allowing a further eight European teams (almost half of UEFA’s membership) the chance to qualify for the 2016 finals means England are in one of the weakest tournament qualification groups I have ever witnessed in all the years I have followed our national team.
Let me re-iterate that in no way is that the fault of Hodgson, it lies solely at the feet of UEFA.
My worry is how 'Woy' going to get the best out of the England players when they are up against some of the worst teams in world football. San Marino (Current FIFA World ranking 208), Lithuania (103rd), Estonia (93rd) and Slovenia (39th).

Slotted in to prepare England for France in June 2016 are two friendlies against .......no not Germany, Italy, Belguim, France, Netherlands, Argentina or Uruguay, all ranked by FIFA among the top 15 football nations, but against Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, currently ranked 28th and 66th respectively in the world.

Roy Hodgson was incredibly lucky to retain his position as the senior man in charge of England, after a calamitous World Cup campaign in Brazil this summer. 


The managers of Italy, Iran, Côte d'Ivoire, Honduras and Japan all fell on their swords after their teams' failure to enter the tournament’s knockout stages in Brazil in the Summer. Luiz Felipe Scolari quit as manager of Brazil after the host nation tasted their first back-to-back defeats on home soil since 1940 during a humiliating World Cup, as they were beaten 3-0 by Holland in the third place play-off, having lost 7-1 in the semi-final five days earlier to Germany.

It is also interesting to note that the players that won albeit unconvincingly last night, though some may argue the result is all that counts, was not to dissimilar to the squad that 'Woy' paraded in his final warm-up match in May, prior to our worst World Cup campaign since 1958.
Glenn Johnson was the only player to feature against Honduras in Miami and not to be included against Switzerland last night, with the exception of the now retired Gerrard and Lampard, and the injured trio of Sturridge, Barkley and Lallana.
Hart, Baines, Cahill Jagielka, Henderson, Wilshire, Lambert, Rooney and Welbeck all played on 7th June while Milner, Stones and Jones were unused substitutes.
Make of that what you will!

Hodgson did not do a hell of a lot wrong leading up to Brazil and in Brazil itself. He chose a young squad, was bold in his selections, played to his strengths with a positive approach from the start and also managed to keep a feeling of solidarity amongst the players, thus resulting in a happy bunch of campers, something former England boss Fabio Capello failed to do during a major tournament.

Perhaps in the process of defeat and externalizing blame, it is not unsurprising that attention turns to the role of the football manager, as the team leader with ultimate responsibility for their performance. So what do we know about the role of football managers? What is there to gain or lose by making a change of manager and what benefits are there in holding our nerve and sticking with a longer term strategy, even in the face of a disappointing tournament outcome?

Research into leadership theory splits into different views on the role of the leader in organisations in general. Some schools of thought believe that the success of the organisation is less about the leader, whoever that may be, than it is about contextual factors such as the quality of its people, its resources and so on. In the World Cup context, this perspective would suggest that, whoever is in charge of the national team, performance will be more or less what you would expect given the quality of the players at the managers’ disposal.

There are also theories that highlight how different types of leadership approach are required for different situations. This raises the possibility that some styles of leadership may be better suited to succeeding in tournaments such as the World Cup, compared with succeeding as a club manager.

Alternatively, there is “individualistic” leadership thought. This is the belief that a visionary or transformational leader makes the difference. A leader who is passionate, good at spotting talent, skillful at managing and motivating his team, can raise the level of performance. Early individualistic approaches took quite simplistic views that particular characteristics made a difference. Research has largely quashed these ideas, but it is interesting how the vestiges of this debate linger in the belief that someone who is an extrovert and leaps around on the touchline is necessarily a more motivational leader, than a more introverted, considered, strategic leader, who might already be mapping out the next steps for the team.

Of course the reality is that no single style of leader is necessarily the right one and that the teams which the manager leads also comprise individuals who may need different approaches to get the best from them.

There is simply no English manager with the credibility to replace Hodgson!
After being stung by those mercenaries Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson, the FA are determined not to go foreign again.


However you can't see the FA appointing the likes of Harry Redknapp, Steve Bruce, Stuart Pearce, Gary Neville, David Moyes or Alan Pardew as Hodgson's replacement, in the hugely unlikely event that they should completely change tact and fire him in the very near future!

What happens following the Euro's in France is a minefield - Hodgson will go either way, whether as a hero or a villan - in a lycra Superman outfit or bound, gagged and dragged off to an uninhabited island with a monster paycheck that he cannot cash, but with plenty of time to reflect on his time at the helm.


Monday, September 01, 2014

Babe of the Month - Latino Beauty Vanessa Huppenkothen


Vanessa Huppenkothen Labra was born on 24th July, 1984 in Mexico City. She is a TV Presenter, actress and model of German/Mexican decent. Her father is German and her mother Mexican. Vanessa is a lover of sport and in particular football. She grew up in Mexico, but she also lived with her father in Duisburg. At that time she attended FC Schalke games, and is still an avid fan of the Bundesliga.

After finishing school Vanessa studied International Relations and her master's thesis was on FIFA. She speaks four languages fluently - Spanish, German, English and French.
She currently works for Televisa Deportes, a division of the Mexican television network Televisa that produces sports programming for Canal de las Estrellas, Canal 5, Galavision and Televisa Deportes Network.



In 2008, she covered the Summer Olympic Games from Beijing. She reported on the Mexican soccer team during the Football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, and again was a presenter for Televisa's coverage of the Mexican national team during the 2014 Football World Cup. During the tournament in Brazil she generated considerable attention on social media platforms, and was among the top five social media searches in Singapore!


















Vanessa covers a lot of the football action in Mexico as well as conducting interviews with coaches and players.

She was featured as the cover feature model for GQ in June 2014 and Esquire in June 2013. Vanessa also featured in GQ in November 2012 .




You can follow Vanessa on TwitterFacebook and Instagram 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Crystal Palace Football Club Squad List - 2014/15


Goalkeepers:

#1.Julian Speroni - Age 35 - Date Signed: 12 Jul, 2004.
#13.Wayne Hennessey - Age 27 - Date Signed: 29 Jul, 2010.
#26 Chris Kettings - Age 21 - Date Signed - 31 Jan, 2014.


Defenders:

#2.Joel Ward - Age 24 - Date Signed: 30 May, 2012.
#3.Adrian Mariappa - Age 27 - Date Signed: 03 Sep, 2013.
#4.Brede Hangeland - Age 33 - Date Signed: 01 Aug, 2014.
#5.Patrick McCarthy - Age 31 - Date Signed: 12 Jun, 2008.
#6.Scott Dann - Age 27 - Date Signed: 31 Jan, 2014.
#19.Zeki Fryers - Age 21 - Date Signed: 01 Sep, 2014.
#27.Damien Delaney - Age 33 - Date Signed: 31 Aug, 2012.
#34.Martin Kelly - Age 24 - Date Signed: 14 Aug, 2014.


Midfielders:

#7.Yannick Bolasie - Age 25 - Date Signed: 24 Aug, 2012.
#8.Adlène Guedioura - Age 28 - Date Signed: 04 Sep, 2013.
#11.Wilfried Zaha - Age 21 - Date Signed: 28 Aug, 2014 (On season long loan from Man Utd).
#14.Jerome Thomas - Age 31 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2013.
#15.Mile Jedinak - Age 30 - Date Signed: 11 Jul, 2011.
#18.James McArthur - Age 26 - Date Signed: 01 Sep, 2014.
#25.Barry Bannan - Age 24 - Date Signed: 02 Sep, 2013.
#28 Joe Ledley - Age 27 - Date Signed: 31 Jan, 2014.
#42.Jason Puncheon - Age 28 - Date Signed: 31 Jan, 2014.


Strikers:

#9.Kevin Doyle - Age 30 - Date Signed: 01 Sep, 2014 (On loan from Wolves until January 2015).
#10.Fraizer Campbell - Age 26 - Date Signed: 24 Jul, 2014.
#16.Dwight Gayle - Age 23 - Date Signed: 03 Jul, 2013.
#17.Andrew Johnson - Age 33 - Date Signed: 03 Sep, 2014.
#29.Marouane Chamakah - Age 29 - Date Signed: 11 Jul, 2014.


Other Crystal Palace FC players not listed in the current 25 man squad for 2014/15 season:

# Glenn Murray - Age 30 - Date Signed: 31 May, 2011 (On loan to Reading until January 2015).
# Jonathan Williams - Age 20 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2011 (On loan to Ipswich until 31 December 2014).
# Jack Hunt - Age 23 - Date Signed: 02 Sep, 2013. (On loan to Nottingham Forest until 1 Jan 2015).
# Stephen Dobbie - Age 30 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2013. (On loan to Fleetwood until 30 Jun 2015).
# Kwesi Appiah - Age 23 - Date Signed 31 Jan, 2012. (On loan to Cambridge United until 10 Jan 2015).
# Alex Wynter - Age 20 - Date Signed: 01 Jan, 2010. (Season long loan deal to Portsmouth).
# Jerome B Williams - Age 19 - Date Signed: 26 Aug, 2013 (On initial one month loan to Southend Utd until 11th Oct 2014).
# Owen Garvan - Age 26 - Date Signed: 04 Aug, 2010 (On three month loan to Bolton until 12th Dec 2014).
# Stuart O'Keefe - Age 23 - Date Signed: 18 Aug, 2010.
# Lewis Price - Age 30 - Date Signed: 29 Jul, 2010.
# Peter Ramage - Age 30 - Date Signed: 8 Aug 2012.
# Hiram Boateng - Age 18 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2012.
# Sullay Kaikai - Age 19 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2013.
# Jake Gray - Age 18 - Date Signed: 01 Jul, 2014.
# Jimmy Kébé - Age 30 - Date Signed: 31 Aug, 2013.


Management Team:

First Team Manager: Neil Warnock
First Team Coach: Ben Garner
Technical Coach: David Kemp
Goalkeeping Coach: George Wood
Director of football: Vacant
Club Doctor: Bill Jasper
Physiotherapist: Alex Manos
Assistant First Team Physiotherapist: Matthew Roberts
Assistant Physiotherapist/Under-21 Physiotherapist: John Stannard
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Andy Page
Rehabilitation Coach: Joe Best
Masseurs: Ian Evans & Chris Swallows
Video Analyst: Liam Sweeting
Kit Manager: Brian Rogers
Assistant Kit Manager: Danny Young


*This page will be updated accordingly in the event of any new signings/appointments.

Friday, August 08, 2014

My Predictions for the 2014/15 Football Season and the Betting Odds.


Sky Bet League Two:

Winners: Luton 10/1

Runners-up: Southend (16/1 to win League Two, 9/2 to win promotion)

Promotion via Play-offs: Bury 7/4, York 7/2, Stevenage 4/1 or Newport County 6/1

Surprise Packages: Northampton Town and Cambridge United

Relegation: Exeter City 11/2 and Wycombe Wanderers 6/1

Top Scorer: Ryan Lowe (Bury) 12/1

Players to Watch: Kelvin Etuhu (Bury), Matt Palmer (Burton), Luke James (Hartlepool), Kwesi Appiah (Cambridge) and John-Joe O'Toole (Northampton)


# Sky bet odds correct at time of writing.

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Sky Bet League One:

Winners: Sheffield United 5/1

Runners-up: Leyton Orient (10/1 to win League One, 11/4 to win promotion)

Promotion via Play-offs: Preston 5/2, Bristol City 5/2, Peterborough 5/2 or Doncaster 5/1

Surprise Package: Fleetwood Town and Swindon Town

Relegation: Crewe 11/8, Colchester 11/8, Gillingham 2/1 and Rochdale 5/2

Top Scorer: Sam Baldock (Bristol City) 6/1 or Darius Henderson (Leyton Orient) 12/1

Players to Watch: Dele Alli (MK Dons) Jobi McAnuff (Leyton Orient), Stephen Dobbie (Fleetwood), Lanre Oyebanjo (Crawley), Sam Winnall (Barnsley), Nathan Thompson (Swindon) and Jose Baxter (Sheffield United)


# Sky bet odds correct at time of writing.

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Sky Bet Championship:

Winners: Wigan 9/1

Runner-up: Derby (7/1 to win the Championship, 9/4 for promotion)

Promotion via Play-offs: Cardiff 9/4, Watford 5/1, Bournemouth 13/2 or Wolves 13/2

Surprise Package: Brentford

Relegation: Blackpool 8/13, Charlton 3/1 and Leeds 7/2

Top Scorer: Chris Martin (Derby) 12/1 or Troy Deeney (Watford) 12/1

Players to Watch: Moses Odubajo (Brentford), Britt Assomablonga (N.Forest) Lewis Grabban (Norwich), Adam Le Fondre (Cardiff), Clayton Donaldson (Birmingham) and Will Hughes (Derby)


# Sky bet odds correct at time of writing.

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Barclays Premier League:

Winners: Manchester City 2/1

Runners-up: Chelsea

Europe (Champions League qualification): Manchester United and Arsenal

Surprise Package: Stoke City

Relegation: Burnley 4/7, Leicester 5/2 and West Brom 5/2

Top scorers: Daniel Sturridge 5/1, Olivier Giroud 18/1 e/w and Romelu Lukaku 20/1 e/w

Players to Watch: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Stevan Jovetic (Manchester City) Aaron Cresswell (West Ham) Kieran Trippier (Burnley) and Yannick Bolasie (C.Palace)


# Sky bet odds correct at time of writing.

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Babe of the Month - Aussie track athlete Michelle Jenneke


Michelle "Shelly" Jenneke was born on 23rd June 1993 in Kenthurst, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales with a population of around 5,000, and the 21 year-old is an Australian 100m hurdler and model.

In June she was selected to represent 'Team Australia' at the 2014 Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow, and it will be her 'major championship' debut.

Michelle received worldwide media attention in 2012 for her pre-race warm-up before the 100m hurdles race at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics in Barcelona - as seen in the video below.
She was one of the athletes featured in the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

In 2014 Jenneke was featured in a video-heavy mobile computing app on stretching techniques called:  'Stretch! with Michelle Jenneke.'


Michelle has trained with coach Mick Zisti as a hurdler from the age of 10 at the Cherrybrook Athletics Club. She competed at the Canberra hosted 2008 Pacific School Games in the 90 and 200 metres hurdles.

In March 2010, Jenneke finished 1st in the 100m hurdles and broke the Australian record in the women's sprint medley relay at the 2010 Australian Junior Championships.



Michelle Jenneke at the Junior World Championships in Barcelona in July 2012


























In July 2010, Jenneke was in Australia's team at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games, running the 100m hurdles and the women's medley relay.
In the hurdles, she came second with a time of 13.56 and setting a personal best after winning her heat, and the medley relay team came fourth. Her medal was the first Australia won at the Games in athletics.

At the 2011 Australian Junior Championships, she had a first place hurdles finish in the under-20 group.


In April 2011 she competed at the 89th Australian Athletics Championships and finished third in the 100m hurdles behind world champion Sally Pearson.

On 15th July 2012, Jenneke finished fifth in the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships 100m hurdles.

Michelle recorded a personal best time of 13.23 on her way to winning the 100m hurdles at the Queensland Track Classic in Brisbane in March this year.




Michelle inside Hampden Park, where she'll be competing in the 100m hurdles final today!
                      

                      You can follow Michelle on TwitterFacebookInstagram and on her website


Friday, July 25, 2014

All the latest transfer gossip across Europe!


Unsurprisingly clubs across Europe are extremely busy trying to negotiate transfer deals as they attempt to strengthen their squads ahead of their forthcoming domestic seasons.
The 2014/15 English Premier League season kicks-off on the 16th August, the German Bundesliga campaign will commence on Friday 22nd August, Spain's La Liga begins on the 24th August, while Italy's Serie A season opens up on the 31st August 2014.

Here is a round up of all the latest transfer gossip across Europe today!

Is your club involved?

Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Porto, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Lazio, Feyenoord, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, Leicester City, QPR, Crystal Palace, Hamburg, Napoli, Aston Villa, Southampton, Liverpool, Lille, Marseille, Dynamo Moscow, Everton, AIK, Ferencvaros, Besiktas, Pachuca, Celtic, Udinese, Sheffield United, Hull, West Brom, Sevilla, Norwich, Fiorentina, Monterrey, Watford, Nottingham Forest, Burnley, Cardiff, Millwall, Peterborough, Bristol Rovers and Rochdale .............are all caught up in the latest transfer news/rumours across Europe, as we speak.


Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal (right) has dealt a blow to Manchester United by ruling out a switch to Old Trafford - Daily Mail

Liverpool are now poised to move for the 27-year-old Chile international with a £42.5m bid - Metro

Atlético Madrid Madrid have made a fresh approach to sign unsettled Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, who is also been tracked by Inter Milan - thetimes.co.uk

Atlético Madrid have also expressed interest in Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla, from Arsenal - thetimes.co.uk and Daily Express

Arsenal are in pursuit of Real Madrid's veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The Gunners have offered the 33-year-old Spain international a five-year deal worth £1.4m a year - Daily Express

Arsenal target Jackson Martinez has admitted that he does not know where his future lies. The Porto striker who has a £32 million release clause featured for Colombia at the World Cup and has been coveted by Arsenal as well as AC Milan, Roma and Valencia - TalkSPORT

Jose Mourinho is close to completing a reunion with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, 36, as goalkeeper Petr Cech, 32, warns the Chelsea manager not to leave him on the bench next season - The Sun and Daily Mirror

The agent of Manchester City's Javi Garcia has denied striking a deal with Napoli for the 27-year-old Spain international midfielder - Forza Italian Football (Italian newspaper)

Barcelona have reportedly launched a £16m bid for Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian centre-back, who has been at Arsenal since 2009, is also said to be a target for Manchester United - sportsmole.co.uk

Manchester United are planning a move for 20 year-old PSV Eindhoven left winger Memphis Depay (right) - Metro

Borussia Dortmund are lining up an offer for Chelsea target Carlos Strandberg, the Swedish striker, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus also in the hunt. But they are all yet to firm up their interest with a bid – and they could be gazumped by Dortmund.
The Bundesliga side are ready to offer BK Hacken £1.2m for the striker - Bild (German newspaper)

Spurs defender Vlad Chiriches, 24, could be heading for the exit after just one season, with Roma weighing up a move for the centre-back - Daily Mirror

Liverpool on the verge of signing Southampton defender Dejan Lovren. It is believed that the two clubs have agreed on a fee in the region of £20m, with the Croatian international set to undergo a medical this weekend - skysports.com and sportsmole.co.uk

Lazio are ready to make their move for Manchester United and Liverpool target Stefan de Vrij. The Feyenoord and Dutch international defender is valued at £7 million - Il Messaggero (Italian newspaper)

Paris Saint-Germain could let 29-year-old forward Ezequiel Lavezzi leave if they will succeed in signing Real Madrid 27-year-old winger Angel Di Maria - Sportitalia (Italian TV)

Leicester City have joined QPR and Crystal Palace in the race for Tottenham's 23 year-old German international midfielder Lewis Holtby (right), on loan - Daily Star

Hamburg are trying to speed-up the negotiation for Napoli 29-year-old midfielder Valon Behrami - skysports.com

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert says that 29-year-old captain Ron Vlaar - who has been linked with Tottenham - is not up for sale - thesun.co.uk

Dani Osvaldo is set to become the latest player to leave Southampton by signing for Inter Milan - The Sun

Crystal Palace have confirmed the signing of striker Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff City on a three year contract for an undisclosed fee - skysports.com

Liverpool could face late competition from Atlético Madrid for the signing of Lille and Belgium international striker Divock Origi - Marca (Spanish newspaper)

Everton are stepping up their interest in AIK's highly-rated Sweden winger Nabil Bahoui - skysports.com

Everton are on the brink of clinching a deal for 21-year-old Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic from Ferencvaros - The Sun and theguardian.com

QPR have entered the race to land France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena from Marseille (right), after he rejected the chance to join Dynamo Moscow - L'Equipe (French newspaper)

Chelsea's German midfield misfit Marko Marin, 25, is in talks over a loan move to Turkish side Besiktas - skysports.com and thesun.co.uk

Chelsea appear to have failed, at least for the time being in their quest to sign 21 year-old winger Jurgen Damm from Mexican club side Pachuca - Record (Mexican newspaper)

Roma have confirmed the signing of 18 year-old Paraguay international striker Antonio Sanabria from Barcelona - skysports.com

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk, 23, is keen on a move to Southampton - but the Scottish club want at least £10m for the Dutchman - Daily Mirror

Juventus have signed midfielder Roberto Pereyra from Udinese on an initial one-year loan deal - transfermarketweb.com

Hull City are hoping to clinch the £2m signing of Sheffield United defender Harry Maguire today - Daily Mirror

Sevilla are ready to make an approach for Norwich midfielder Leroy Fer - The Times

West Bromwich Albion, are reportedly close to securing a double defensive deal.
Cristian Gamboa (right), who helped Costa Rica reach the World Cup quarter-finals, and Australian left-back Jason Davidson are said to be on the brink of moving to The Hawthorns - sportsmole.co.uk

Fiorentina are putting the finishing touches to a deal for 30 year-old Argentina defender Jose Maria Basanta from Mexican club side Monterrey - skysports.com

Burnley are lining up a bid for Nottingham Forest star Henri Lansbury - The Sun

Udinese striker Odion Ighalo, 25, has revealed he is close to sealing a loan move to Watford - skysports.com

Cardiff City have had a second bid for Southampton's 30 year-old defender Jose Fonte turned down.

Millwall have snapped up former Everton winger Magaye Gueye, 24, on a free transfer after a successful trial - skysports.com

Peterborough have signed 25 year-old right-back Michael Smith for an undisclosed fee from Bristol Rovers on a three-year deal - skysports.com

Rochdale have signed striker Calvin Andrew on a free transfer after a successful trial. The 27-year-old was a free agent after leaving York City in May - skysports.com


Monday, July 14, 2014

FIFA 2014 World Cup - The Worst XI Players


On the pitch the 20th World Cup finals held in Brazil was in the main one of the best tournaments in living memory. It pretty match had everything:- goals a plenty, drama, passion, tears, shocks, surprises, many memorable moments, great individual performances along with several teams that exceeded expectations.
However as with any team event there were players that were quite simply awful and contributed little to their respective teams.

As a result I have compiled a team of what I would consider to be the worst eleven players that took part in the tournament this summer.

Goalkeeper:
Iker Casillas (Spain)
South Africa’s Golden Glove winner had a terrible tournament. In the opening game, Casillas’s errors were costly: his absence for a free-kick led to the Dutch going 3-1 up, while a comical attempt to control the ball in his box allowed Robin van Persie to get his second of the game. In Spain's following must-win game, the Spanish captain inexplicably punched away a free-kick to gift Chile their second goal and send the reigning champions packing.


Left-back:
Leighton Baines (England)
If you are able to recall a positive contribution of the Everton player to The Three Lions’ cause, you must be a biologist specialising in micro-organisms.
Baines was toasted by the canny movements of Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva versus Italy, and he wasn't much better against Uruguay.


Central defender:
Pepe (Portugual)
The Real Madrid defender came into the World Cup as a Champions League winner, but his tournament will forever be remembered for an idiotic, thuggish headbutt on Germany’s Thomas Muller in the 37th minute of the opening game, that got him sent-off and helped condemn the Portuguese to their heaviest ever defeat in the competition.


Central defender:
Gerard Pique (Spain)
As one of many to play below his best for Spain, his dismal centre-half pairing with Sergio Ramos led to a shaky defence which incorporated a dodgy offside trap and lazy attempts to man mark the opposition. At least Shakira (right) was on hand to give him a cuddle and the opportunity off the pitch to make up for his pitiful performances on the pitch!


Right-back:
Glen Johnson (England)
Liverpool fans have been frustrated for ages about their longtime right-back's inability to man-mark or defend properly, but now their pain is shared by the nation after three below par performances during England's limp World Cup presence. He did tee up Wayne Rooney for his first goal at FIFA's big event, but it wasn't enough to mask his inability to defend, the key reason for him being on the pitch.


Midfield:
Steven Gerrard (England) 
Although he was praised for his mature adaptation into a deep-lying, restrained playmaker for Liverpool, Gerrard's attempt to reprise this role for England looked more headless chicken than fearless leader. He spent much of the World Cup chasing shadows or being overrun. His role in Luis Suarez's second goal, an unwittingly perfect flick-on for his club teammate's well-timed run, added further bitterness to a difficult campaign - and surely his last in an England shirt. Gerrard is not the only English player to make the list, so rest assured Steven, at least you'll never walk alone!



Midfield
Paulinho (Brazil)
Few Brazilian players covered themselves in glory during the finals, but Tottenham's Paulinho proved to be the pits. Toothless and insipid in the middle of the field best describes his performances. At the 2013 Confederations Cup Paulinho received the Bronze Ball as the competition's third best player. Not sure if it was the same player at the World Cup?


Mildfield:
Alexander Song (Cameroon)
After a close fight with Kevin-Prince Boateng of Ghana, Song claims the position. Not long ago, Song was deemed to be one of the most promising defensive midfielders in Europe. But he left Brazil a beaten man with a red card to boot following a boneheaded elbow to Mario Mandžukić's head in Cameroon's second group game. Croatia went on to win the game 4-0 and Song later apologized to Mandžukić, and to the people of Cameroon for being sent off.
FIFA punished Song with a three-match ban, as well as fining him. The match was further tainted following an investigation into possible match-fixing, after allegations in a German newspaper claimed that the convicted match fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal, correctly predicted the final outcome of Cameroon-Croatia match, which included the scoreline and the sending off of a player.


Midfield:
Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
Given his credentials AV was supposed to be the best player on the Ecuador national team. However The Manchester United man was completely overshadowed by his namesake Enner Valencia this summer. After being largely invisible in Ecuador's first two group stage games, Valencia topped off a torrid tournament by being sent-off for a foul on Lucas Digneh in is side's final but crucial group stage match against France.


Forward:
Diego Costa (Spain)
La Liga winner and symbol of Atletico Madrid’s greatest domestic triumph, Diego Costa was one of the World Cup’s biggest flops. Having opted to represent Spain over Brazil, Costa looked like a fish out of water and after three matches scoring no goals and Spain’s early exit, they aren’t complaining. His World Cup stats read: 50 touches of the ball in the tournament, no goals, no shots on target and just ten touches in total in the opposition penalty box.


Forward:
Fred (Brazil)
The ignominious Fred departed the pitch in his last World Cup game after his every touch was being met by jeers by his home crowd in Belo Horizonte. A single goal to his name in six games, the hapless and erratically Fred remains the most impressive non-striker at the World Cup. The definition of peripheral.


Other dishonourable mentions:

Stipe Pletikosa (Croatia)
Sergio Ramos (Spain)
Dani Alves (Brazil)
Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Cameroon)
Philippe Senderos (Switzerland)
David Luiz (Brazil)
Wilson Palacios (Honduras)
Shinji Kagawa (Japan)
Xavi (Spain)
Joao Moutinho (Portugal)
Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana)
Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon)
Hulk (Brazil)
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
Wayne Rooney (England)


Monday, July 07, 2014

How The English Premier League Season Finished A Decade Ago!


The 2003/04 Premier League season was a unique season for many reasons!

Arsenal, Leeds United, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Roman Abramovich, Glenn Hoddle, Arsène Wenger, Claudio Ranieri, Steve McClaren, Peter Reid, Chris Coleman, Sam Allardyce, David O’Leary, Sir Bobby Robson, Scott Parker, Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were all in the headlines for various reasons.

Nine of the twenty clubs that competed in the Premier League that season, a decade ago, were not plying their trade in the 2013/14 Premier League season just gone, one in particular is now a 4th tier league club!

What a difference a decade makes!

Here is a round up of where the twenty clubs that fought out the 2003/04 Premier League season finished in the league and any influencing factors or personnel that made an impression, good or bad!

20th: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Back in the top flight after 20 years away, Wolves did not win any of their opening seven Premiership fixtures and it was obvious that the season was going to be a long and hard struggle. Wolves finished bottom on 33 points, six points from safety with a goal difference of -39. They scored the fewest goals (38) during the season. They also failed to win any of their 19 away games during the season.

19th: Leeds United

Leeds was relegated in a season that saw their debts rise to £100 million and a lot of their key players sold. Peter Reid and Eddie Gray were both sacked during the season after a run of poor results, with Kevin Blackwell taking over towards the end of the season. Leeds had the dubious honour in the 2003/04 season of conceding the most goals of any club (79) combined with the most losses(21).

18th: Leicester City

Leicester finished the season in the bottom three and were relegated back to the first division after being promoted the previous season. Micky Adams failed to keep his side up in a season which saw three of his players Keith Gillespie, Frank Sinclair and Paul Dickov accused of sexual assault in La Manga, although all charges were dropped. That season Leicester won fewer games than any other side, just six out of 38 games played.

17th: Everton

The Toffees finished just above the relegation zone on 39 points after winning just nine of their 38 games throughout the season. This would be Wayne Rooney’s last season for the club, after he signed for Manchester United at the end of the season.

16th Manchester City

City finished in 16th position in their first season since leaving Maine Road, with Kevin Keegan’s side only confirming their stay in the division on the penultimate game of the season. Striker Nicolas Anelka was top scorer hitting 16 of their 55 goals scored in total that season.

15th: Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn had qualified for Europe in the two previous seasons and it was quite a surprise for Graeme Souness’ side to be batting relegation. The side managed a decent run towards the end of the season and were safe by the end of April and eventually finished 15th in the table.

14th: Tottenham Hotspur

A dismal start to the season cost Glenn Hoddle his job and he was sacked as manager on 21 September after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Director of Football David Pleat took over first team duties until the end of the season, but was unable to inspire Tottenham to a challenge for European qualification nor either of the cup competitions, and a 14th place finish in the final table was Tottenham's lowest since 1998. On the plus side Robbie Keane hit 14 goals for the North London side. Jacques Santini was appointed as the new head coach at the end of the season.

13th: Portsmouth

Portsmouth's Premiership debut was a fine one, as they finished 13th and established Fratton Park as one of the hardest Premiership grounds to get a result at. Harry Redknapp’s side had some impressive results at Fratton Park, including 1-0 wins over Liverpool and Manchester United and a 6-1 thumping of Leeds United. Only their dismal away form prevented them from finishing even higher, but it was still a very good season for the only newly promoted side to preserve their Premiership status. Yakubu Aiyegbeni hit 16 goals for Pompey, Teddy Sheringham was named 'Player of the Month' in August 2003 and Harry Redknapp won 'Manager of the Month' in April 2004.

12th: Southampton

Southampton finished 12th, the season after finishing in their highest ever position in the Premier League (8th). The Saints finished above their south coast rivals Portsmouth, but were shocked in March when Gordon Strachan handed in his resignation and was replaced by Paul Sturrock, even though former manager Glenn Hoddle was favorite. James Beattie bagged 14 goals for Southampton that season.

11th: Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough missed out on a top half finish by two points after losing 5-1 to Portsmouth on the last day of the season. However, Steve McClaren became the first Middlesbrough manager in 128 years to win a major trophy after 'Boro defeated Bolton to win the League Cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

10th: Birmingham City

Birmingham City had one of their best seasons in the Premier League, spending most of the season challenging for a Champions League place before a late slump saw them drop to tenth. Mikael Forssell was their top goalscorer with 17 goals.

9th: Fulham

Fulham finished in the top of the table for the first time in the Premier League, in what turned out to be a very good first season in charge for Chris Coleman who at the time of his appointment was the youngest top-flight manager ever.
Louis Saha was transferred to Manchester United for a fee of £12.4 million in January 2004 having already scored 15 goals so far that season.

8th: Bolton Wanderers

After two near misses with relegation, Sam Allardyce finally established Bolton as a Premiership team. They were League Cup runners-up and an eighth place finish was the club's highest final position for some 50 years. Jay-Jay Okocha won 'Player of the Month' in November 2003 and Sam Allardyce was named 'Manager of the Month' twice that season in November 2003 and January 2004.

7th: Charlton Athletic

The Addicks finished in their highest league position since the 1950’s, even though their late season slump cost them qualification into Europe. Midfielder Scott Parker was awarded the young player of the season award by the PFA, beating the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Glen Johnson who were also nominated.

6th: Aston Villa

Villa finished 6th in David O’Leary’s first season in charge, but this was not enough to qualify for Europe. They entered December on the brink of the relegation zone, but a great run of form beginning over Christmas took them into the top six during March. It was only defeat on the last day which saw them miss out on European qualification. Juan Pablo Ángel was Villa's top scorer with 16 goals.

5th: Newcastle United

Sir Bobby Robson guided Newcastle to 5th place on goal difference ahead of Aston Villa, and secured the Magpies a place in the UEFA Cup. Their fifth-place finish was achieved despite bad runs at both the start and the end of the season, with the club failing to win their first six and their last five league games. In fact they finished the season having drawn an astonishing 17 of their 38 league games and achieving only two away wins all season. Alan Shearer with 22 goals was the top scoring Englishman in the Premier league that season. In October 2003 Sir Bobby Robson won 'Manager of the Month' and Alan Shearer won 'Player of the Month.'

4th: Liverpool

Gerard Houllier’s side finished in the final Champions League place on 60 points, with Michael Owen finishing on 16 goals for the season. However, this was not enough for the Liverpool board with Houllier being replaced by Rafa Benitez and Michael Owen being sold to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

3rd: Manchester United

United won the FA Cup in May, but this success only partly compensated for a failure to win the Premiership title which, for at least the first half of the season, had looked likely to end up at Old Trafford. Ruud van Nistelrooy was on song as usual with more than 30 goals in all competitions, but the loss of Rio Ferdinand for the final four months of the season (part of his penalty for failing to attend a drugs test on 22 September 2003) coincided with United surrendering their Premiership crown and finishing third in the final table. The 2003/04 season was also Cristiano Ronaldo's first season at Old Trafford following his move from Sporting Lisbon in the summer. In December 2003 Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes won 'Manager of the Month' and 'Player of the Month' respectively.

2nd: Chelsea

Chelsea finished 2nd in Roman Abramovich’s first season at the club, even after spending more than £100 million on new players in the summer of 2003. In came the likes of Hernan Crespo, Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole and Claude Makélélé. The side did reach the Champions League semi-finals, but none of their new signings could help them win a trophy. Claudio Ranieri was replaced by José Mourinho at the end of the season. Ranieri was named 'Manager of the Month' on two occasions that season.

1st: Arsenal

Arsenal completed an entire Premiership season without losing a single game. Their final record read 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 defeats and a total of 90 points, eleven clear of Chelsea. Striker Thierry Henry with 30 league goals was undoubtedly the finest player in a brilliant side, though the likes of Robert Pires with 14 goals from midfield and Patrick Vieira earned similar plaudits for their own excellent performances. But it had not always looked like this. Until February, Arsenal had bounced between first and third place, as the three-way race with Chelsea and Manchester United seemed unpredictable. However Arsenal got even better in the second half of the season while their rivals faltered, and the title was wrapped up before the end of April. Arsène Wenger won two 'Manager of the Month' awards that season and capped it off with the prestigious 'LMA Manager of the Year' award. Henry was named PFA Players' Player of the Year as well as being the League's top goalscorer and Arsenal scored the most goals (73) and conceded the fewest (26), in what was a truly memorable season for The Gunners!

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' celebrate winning the 2003/04 Premiership title.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Babe of the Month - US Country Songstress Kaitlyn Baker


Gorgeous singer/songwriter Kaitlyn Baker was born on 23rd November, 1994 and raised in the small coal mining town of Pound in Wise County, southwest Virginia, USA with a population of just over 1,000 people.


Blue-eyed beauty Kaitlyn still lives in Pound with her parents and younger sister. She is in fact a coal-miner’s daughter. Today her father, Lyndon Baker, heads his own logging firm, but for five years he mined coal. Kaitlyn grew up with musical influences all around - her grandfather played banjo, her grandmother sang Loretta Lynn songs, and Kaitlyn's mother Tammy says that she used to sing before she could talk.

"My whole family has either been in the mines or associated with the mines" says Kaitlyn.
Her music is all about home and the coal-packed mountains where she was raised.

When it comes to her influences, Kaitlyn says that two stand tall above the rest: "My favorite artist has always been Elvis Presley. I grew up listening to a lot of older rock music, bluegrass, and country. I also listened to a lot of Martina McBride. She’s such a classy artist, and her voice is so powerful. I’ve always looked up to her."

Kaitlyn began singing in church at the age of seven and had finished three independent albums by the time she was 14. Then, at 14, still on her own, she delivered a country record called 'Sure Feels Like Home,' featuring songs written by various Nashville songwriters. By age 15, Kaitlyn was making regular trips to Nashville to write, record and perform her songs. "I was always in the studio" she says:
"If I wasn’t doing shows, I was in the studio."


In January 2014, 19-year-old Baker signed a contract with Nashville’s Silvercreek Records and she plans to release her first album through Sony/RED later this year.

Steve Pope, a veteran of Nashville’s music scene and now the vice president of Silvercreek’s Nashville operations said of Kaitlyn: "The Lord has blessed her with a great voice. The passion in her delivery makes her songs believable and she has a big heart."

The singer describes her songs as "mountain-y with a flash of bluegrass, a healthy dose of fiddle 
and a driving rhythm."
"We want them to sound rootsy," she says. I want people, when they listen to it, to be like, "Oh, I went to Virginia and back today."

All along, Baker has won applause - for the shows, the CDs and for a recent song 'Coal Train.' Kaitlyn says: "It’s such a good feeling to have so many people message you, call you, tell you how proud they are of you!"

'Coal Train' is an upbeat song Kaitlyn co-wrote with her manager Scott Arnold. With its searing guitar riffs and spine-tingling fiddle playing, Kaitlyn sings the story of a young man who leaves home in search of a better life, only to return to his roots years later.
The music video (below) for the catchy 'Coal Train,' is set near one of Pound’s historic markers and sings of the coal trains that have rumbled in and out of Wise County since the late 1800's - a tribute to her hometown.


The very talented and beautiful Kaitlyn Baker with her song and video titled 'Coal Train'

Kaitlyn has performed at venues throughout Virginia, Kentucky and Nashville, and has co-written songs with several established Nashville songwriters, including Silvercreek Records’ resident songwriter Janet Miller.

She has also opened shows for country singers Sammy Kershaw Doug Stone, Billy Currington, Rhonda Vincent and Brett Eldredge, as well as for the country band Sawyer Brown.

You can download Kaitlyn's outstanding debut single 'Burn' on iTunes - a real life story about burning down memories at the end of a relationship, which she co-wrote with Scott Arnold.
























Good luck to the new Princess of US country music, a small town girl full of big dreams! Xxx

You can follow Kaitlyn on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or visit her website


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All the latest transfer gossip across Europe!


The entertainment value at the World Cup finals continues to exceed the expectations of many a football fan, unlike England's all to familiar 'early exit' from another major tournament. Although the summer transfer market does not officially open until 1st July, clubs across Europe are however busy trying to negotiate transfer deals in an attempt to strengthen their squads ahead of the forthcoming domestic season.
Some of the rumours may be true, some of them mere speculation and a proportion of them could as they often are, be down to lazy journalism. You decide!

Here is a round up of all the latest transfer gossip across Europe today!

Is your club involved?

Liverpool, Athletic Bilbao, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Porto, Real Sociedad, PSG, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, AC Milan, hull, Spurs, Napoli, Dynamo Kiev, Benfica, Valencia, Stoke, Monaco, West Brom, Norwich, Swansea, Inter Milan, West Ham, Derby, QPR, Burnley, Udinese, Chievo Verona, Torino, Atalanta, Celtic, Zenit St Petersburg, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City, Brentford, Derby and Charlton...........are all caught up in the latest transfer news/rumours across Europe, as we speak.


Liverpool will discuss the future of striker Luis Suarez, 27, at a special meeting on Wednesday after the Uruguay international appeared to bite Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during their 1-0 World Cup victory yesterday - Daily Express and Daily Mirror

Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera, 24, (right) has passed a medical ahead of his £28.7m move to Manchester United - Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph

Arsenal are hoping to pip Liverpool and Manchester United to the signing of Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez - Daily Express and Daily Star

Manchester United are preparing a £30m move for Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Sami Khedira - Bild (German newspaper)

New Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal desperately wants to bring Bayern Munich's Dutch international Arjen Robben to Manchester, according to Ajax youth coach Bryan Roy - Daily Express and Daily Star

Atletico Madrid are keen on Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo, 28 (right) who is reportedly unhappy in England after struggling to settle in Manchester - Daily Mail

Manchester City have reportedly got no intention of selling Alvaro Negredo after the striker was linked with a move to Atletico Madrid - skysports.com

Porto have announced to the Portuguese stock exchange that Manchester City have signed their midfielder Fernando for £12million - skysports.com

Barcelona want midfielder Toni Kroos, 24, who is yet to renew his contract with Bayern Munich The German international is also on the radar of Real Madrid and Manchester United - Bild (German newspaper) and Daily Star

The Spanish press are reporting that contract extension talks between Real Madrid and Karim Benzema have broken down, with his performances for France at the World Cup leading to his agent increasing their demands.
Paris St Germain and Manchester City are among those monitoring the situation closely - Daily Star

Barcelona have snapped up Chile international goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from La Liga rivals Real Sociedad - fcbarcelona.com

Arsenal are interested in signing Mario Balotelli, 23 him from AC Milan, but are now playing down the sum to be paid from the 35 million euros originally to about 18 million euros - transfermarketweb.com

Real Scoiedad have clinched the full rights to Carlos Vela, bringing to an end Arsenal's attempts to re-sign the Mexican forward - Daily Star

Hull City have completed the signing of midfielder Jake Livermore (right) from Tottenham Hotspur on a three-year deal. The 24-year-old impressed while on loan at the KC Stadium last season and he has now joined permanently for an undisclosed fee, although reports have suggested it could eventually rise to a club record £8million.

Paris St-Germain are planning a move for Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure, 31, who claimed Manchester City did not excuse him from their end-of-season trip to Abu Dhabi to spend time with his dying brother, Ibrahim - Daily Mirror

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina, 31, expects to return to Liverpool after his loan spell at Napoli ended - The Guardian

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina remains unsure where he will be playing next season after confirming his agents are ‘working on my future’ - skysports.com

Newcastle United are readying a £2million offer for Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie (right) - The Sun

Somebody who is keen on cutting his wage bill is Mark Hughes, who has placed Peter Crouch in the bargain bin – Stoke City will accept anything in the region of £1m in an attempt to get his £50,000-a-week contract off the outgoings - theguardian.com

Valencia are better placed than Liverpool or Monaco for the signing of Benfica's Andre Gomes - Record (Portugal)

West Brom and Hull City are battling it out for £6.5m Norwich winger Robert Snodgrass - Daily Star

Atletico Madrid are poised to scupper West Ham boss Sam Allardyce's capture of Swansea's attacking midfielder Michu - Daily Express

Atletico Madrid have targeted Inter Milan and Colombian international midfielder Fredy Guarin. Inter are weighing up the chance to use him in a swap involving Spanish international 27 year-old midfielder Mario Suarez - transfermarketweb.com

Swansea City are close to signing forward Bafetimbi Gomis, 28 (right). The France international was released by Lyon at the end of last season - Daily Mirror and South Wales Evening Post

Derby County have rejected an offer for goal-scoring midfielder Craig Bryson - who has been linked with newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers and Burnley - skysports.com

Udinese have signed French striker Cyril Thereau, 31 from Chievo Verona Udinese fought off competition from Torino and Atalanta in order to seal the deal - Tuttosport (Italian newspaper)

Reports in Portugal are claiming that defender Ezequiel Garay has joined Russian side Zenit St Petersburg from Benfica for six million euros - skysports.com

Mikael Lustig is delighted to have penned a new deal at Celtic and insists leaving the club never crossed his mind. The Sweden international full-back has committed to another three years at Parkhead - skysports.com

Birmingham City have complete the signing of striker Clayton Donaldson from Brentford on a two-year deal - skysports.com

Sheffield Wednesday are keen on taking Andy Johnson (right) from Queens Park Rangers - Daily Star

The well travelled Spanish midfielder Marcos Tébar Ramiro, 28 has joined Brentford on a two-year contract - skysports.com

Derby County have signed defender Zak Whitbread on a free transfer following his release from Leicester City - skysports.com

Charlton defender Michael Morrison has put pen to paper on a new deal which will keep him at the Valley until summer 2016 - skysports.com