Thursday, October 27, 2011

Racism in Football.....neither clever, nor funny but hardly avant-garde!

Racism is nothing new in football. This week, though, it is news in football.

Racism in association football is the abuse of players, officials and fans because of their skin colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity. Some may be targeted (also) because of their association with an opposing team. However, there have been instances of individuals being targeted by their own fans.

Here in England, Chelsea's John Terry is battling accusations of racism this week after his team's weekend loss to Queens Park Rangers.

As of now, Terry is still the captain of the England international squad, but the issue is quite serious, with both the Football Association and police launching investigations.

In the latest contentious episode of Terry’s career, video posted on the Internet appeared to show Terry (right) directing a racial slur at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during last Sunday’s game. The issue could again throw into question Terry’s suitability as England captain.

Terry has been in trouble on and off the field throughout his career. He regained the armband only this year after being stripped of it by England manager Fabio Capello in February 2010. He allegedly had an affair with the former girlfriend of Chelsea and England team-mate Wayne Bridge.

Rio Ferdinand, the older brother of Anton and Terry’s longtime defense partner for England, took over as captain only to relinquish the position 13 months later.

Terry was also fined by the club after he and three teammates drunkenly abused American guests at a hotel the day after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Less than two weeks ago, Liverpool's Luis Suarez was accused of racist abuse against an opponent, Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
With the English FA expected to seek Manchester United's permission to speak with Evra, as it launches its investigation into the Frenchman's allegations, one post-match witness from the Anfield players' tunnel said the defender had remained "very angry" 20 minutes after the game, when he and Alex Ferguson visited the match officials' office to report that Suarez had called the player a "n****r" at least 10 times during the 1-1 draw.

It might be weeks or months before we know exactly what happened. Until then, it will be hard to judge these incidents in their historical context.

Racism in football is rife right across all of Europe, in many forms, and has been so going on decades. It is just that it seems to be more prevalent in Eastern Europe at present, and with next years European Championships scheduled to be jointly held in Poland and the Ukraine, these are worrying times. All the major footballing nations across Europe have been subject to periods of racist (and sometimes fascist) behaviour over the years, including the likes of France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

The worldwide governing bodies of the game, along with the players need to set an example to the supporters, because the fans do not need much incentive to light the blue touch paper, and use racist behaviour as a means of provoking a sharp reaction on and off the field.

However you only need to look at recent incidents this year to show that this type of abuse is gathering momentum, despite several high profile campaigns over recent years to rid the game of this virus!

If society cannot behave itself away from the game, then the job of controlling hundreds of thousands of football fans every week is a futile one.

Here are several high-profile examples of controversial racist incidents not directly fan related:

The Player:
Lazio striker Paolo Di Canio (right), found himself in trouble with the Italian football authorities in December 2005, after giving an alleged fascist salute in their Serie A match away to Livorno.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, Di Canio made the gesture to the visiting Lazio supporters while he was being substituted.
Games between Livorno and Lazio are always tense because of the political leaning of the clubs' supporters. Livorno have always had a strong left-wing following, while Lazio supporters have links to the far right.
ANSA said Livorno fans waved communist flags with the hammer and sickle emblem, while Celtic crosses (a popular symbol for the neo nazis especially as the swastika is banned) were spotted in the Lazio enclosure.

It is not the first time Di Canio's politics have landed him in hot water. In March 2005 he was fined 10,000 euros for giving a fascist-style salute at the end of the Rome derby two months earlier.
Di Canio denied any political significance but the Italian football league's disciplinary commission ruled his gesture had "unequivocally recalled a precise political ideology which could have provoked a violent reaction from fans".

The Player:
Also in 2005 Serbian striker Nenad Jestrovic became the first player to be dismissed in a Champion's League match for alleged racist comments while his side, Anderlecht of Belgium, played against Liverpool earlier in the month. UEFA banned him for three matches.

Former Manager, TV Analyst and Newspaper Columnist:
On the 21st April 2004, Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea player Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, ".....he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick n****r". Although transmission in the UK had finished, the microphone gaffe meant that his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian "by mutual agreement" as a result of the comment.

In Dec 2010 the Pizza Hut restaurant chain was accused of racism after asking a group of black professional footballers to pay in advance for their meals.
The demand was made as a table of white youngsters seated nearby were allowed to settle up after eating.
Five AFC Bournemouth players were stunned when a duty manager told them to pay up front because of "the way you lot look."
When they refused, staff claimed they were being "disruptive" and called the police.
Officers arrived at the restaurant but took no action after the players, including first-team regulars Anton Robinson, Liam Feeney and Marvin Bartley agreed to leave.

Pizza Hut were forced to apologise to the League One stars and admitted they had been treated "very shabbily" but insisted there was no racism.
However, midfielder Mr Robinson, 24, said later: "The only thing that was different was the colour of our skins."

So with players, television presenters and society unable to control their vile tongues, it is no surprise that the fans of the game continue to use racism to further stoke up the fires that already smoulder!

Here are some incidents of racist behaviour by fans that have all taken place in 2011 alone, right across Europe.

The Fans:
15th October 2011: Corsican nationalists have accused the French Football League (LFP) of racism as the fall-out from a brawl that marred the end the second division match between Bastia and Lens continues. Three players – Gilles Cioni of Bastia and Lens duo Gabriel Cichero and Samba Sow of Lens, were sent-off towards the end of the 2-2 draw at the Stade Armand-Cesari.
As the players made their way off the pitch, fighting continued in the tunnel, and Cichero – a Venezuelan international defender – is alleged to have kicked Bastia director Alain Seghi in the face, breaking his nose, cheekbone and eye-socket.

September 2011: England's Ashley Young was targeted by Bulgarian fans (right) not because he is a great player - one who has illuminated the early stages of the English Premier League season with Manchester United - but because he is black.
However, the actions of a minority in the international match in Sofia in September showed that, for some countries, attitudes that seem out-of-step in today's multicultural world are still prevalent. Bulgaria's German coach Lothar Matthaus, who has since been sacked, was so embarrassed by the fans' behavior that he publicly apologized after the match.

April 2011: Real Madrid striker Emmanuel Adebayor has said nothing can be done to stop racism in football after he was targeted by Tottenham fans during his side’s Champions League win over Spurs. The on-loan Manchester City man scored twice in Madrid's 4-0 win at the Bernabeu but was singled out by the travelling fans following his three-and-a-half-year spell with Tottenham Hotspur’s rivals Arsenal.
The Tottenham fans are reported to have sung a derogatory chant about Adebayor's parents.

March 2011: A German teenager admitted throwing a banana onto the field in the direction of Brazil soccer star Neymar during a friendly with Scotland in March. First it was believed that the notorious Tartan Army, Scotland’s raucous rooting section, had flung the fruit, which caused all manner of controversy. When the teenager came forward, the Scottish Football Association demanded an apology, saying; "Scotland supporters are known for impeccable behaviour." Everyone had a good laugh over that quote.

January 2011: Kenny Dalglish's job as Liverpool's new short-term manager this week will include investigating a racism row involving the club's academy players. It follows an allegation that Crystal Palace's players were subjected to racial abuse during their FA Youth Cup fourth‑round tie at Anfield. One player said he was "disgusted" by what he had heard.
The Football Association contacted Palace for a full account of what happened and to ascertain whether they intend to make an official complaint.

The FA may also ask to speak to Dan Pringle, one of the players involved in the 3-1 defeat for Palace. Pringle expressed his dismay on his Twitter account after the match, saying: "Disappointed with result but really disgusted with the racism from Liverpool throughout the game. Disgraceful."

When he was contacted by several Palace supporters he later clarified that he was talking about Liverpool's players rather than the crowd.

Liverpool reacted with surprise, not least as they had several black players in their team. A club spokesman said: "We didn't receive any complaints either during or after the game and nothing was mentioned by the referee."

There have been many high-profile incidents of racist behavior towards players in recent seasons. Here are some examples of racist behaviour by fans going back to 1988.

August 2010: The Lokomotiv Moscow soccer team sold Peter Odemwingie, who is half-Russian and is a Nigeria international, to West Brom in the transfer window in August, with some Lokomotiv fans displaying an offensive banner on his exit. Their fans celebrated during the next game with a banner (below) showing a banana and the message: "Thanks West Brom."

"It's a minority group but it's really sad - I have a good relationship with the club but this is a big disgrace," Odemwingie told BBC Sport.
The 29-year-old explained that black players are regularly subjected to insults in the Russian league but said the authorities do not act.
"Some fans treated me well at the club - only a group of supporters have shown how narrow minded they are to the world," Odemwingie said.

From BBC Sport: The Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary body held a board meeting on 25th August 2010, but opted not to fine Lokomotiv and Sorokin, who is also the Russian Football Union’s director general, who insisted that the banana banner was not "racist."

Racism seems particularly endemic in Russian soccer, "The supporters' attitude to black players in Russia is appalling, it's totally abysmal," Keir Radnedge of World Soccer magazine told CNN.
"Not only is there racism towards black players in Russia, but there is an inter-racial side to things, where players or fans from countries that formed part of the former Soviet Union get targeted as well."
Zenit St Petersburg - Russia's most fascist and rightwing club, virulently racist, they won't even let non-whites on the team and have admitted this publicly.

February 2010: A racist football fan was banned from matches for three years yesterday after abusing striker Darren Bent's mother. John Davison, 26, called Shirley Bent a "n****r" as he walked past her on the way to watch her son play for Sunderland at Wigan Athletic.
John Davison, 26, called Shirley Bent a "n****r" as he walked past her on the way to watch her son play for Sunderland at Wigan Athletic. He was also fined £170 and ordered to pay Mrs Bent £50 compensation.

African star Samuel Eto'o (right) has been targeted on several occasions.
October 2010: While playing for Italian side Inter Milan, play was halted for three minutes after Eto'o was abused by supporters of Sicily-based Cagliari.

February 2006: While playing for Barcelona, the Cameroon striker was so incensed by chants from Real Zaragoza fans that he walked off the pitch.

April 2009: Internazionale's Mario Balotelli, an Italian footballer of Ghanaian descent, was subjected to racial abuse from Juventus fans. They were handed a one game home fan ban as a result

March 2008: Black players of French side Marseille - including André Ayew, Ronald Zubar and Charles Kaboré - were targeted by the fascist fans of Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.

24th March 2007: In a match between France and Lithuania, a racist banner was unfurled by Lithuanian supporters. Directed against France's black players, it represented a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors (blue, white and red), with a slogan of "Welcome to Europe"

13th January 2007: The FA charged Newcastle player Emre Belözoğlu with "using racially-aggravated abusive and/or insulting words", referring to an incident during the 3-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on 30th December 2006. Emre was, on the 16th February 2007, accused of more racist behaviour, this time against Bolton's El Hadji Diouf. However, on 1st March 2007, it was revealed that Diouf would not be pursuing his claim. It was also later revealed that Watford player Al Bangura had released a statement declaring that he was the victim of racist abuse from Emre. On the 19th March he was cleared of the charges relating to the Everton game.

No smoke without fire in my opinion!

March 2006: Two Eastern German soccer teams in the fourth division, FC Sachsen Leipzig and Hallesche FC, had just drawn 2-2 on 25th March in Halle, and the fans weren't happy.

Leipzig's Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was walking off the pitch when hooligans ran up to him, spat at him and called him "Dirty n****r," "Shit n****r" and "Ape." He ignored it and walked on. Then, when he passed the main stand and heard fans making whooping monkey noises at him, he decided he'd had enough. He put two fingers above his mouth to symbolise a Hitler moustache and stuck out his right arm in a Nazi salute to the crowd.
Given their behavior, one might think they would have appreciated the gesture and even returned it. But a Hallesche FC supporter attacked him from behind with a corner flag and another grabbed him in a stranglehold. Ogungbure pushed them away as a teammate intervened and dragged him towards the tunnel, to the safety of the changing rooms.

January 2006: After racist chants one weekend in stadiums in Italy and Spain had brought African players to tears, the European Union and soccer's governing body planned to get tougher on soccer's major problem.

On soccer pitches across Belgium the following weekend, players wore a black and white stripe on their faces. In Italy, an anti-racism banner was unveiled before the opening whistle of every top Italian league and Italian Cup match.

The measures, organized by the Belgian and Italian leagues, followed a shameful weekend of racism in European soccer. The week before Messina's Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro threatened to walk off the field after fans of his team's opponents, Inter Milan, repeatedly hurled racial epithets at him.

Two Espanyol fans were suspended for abusing Barcelona's Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. Kameni has been a regular victim of racial abuse from a section of the club's radical fans as well as opposing supporters at other grounds in Spain. Meanwhile the Brazilian midfielder Fredson, were subjected to racist chants in Madrid by fans of opponents Atletico Madrid.

November 2004: An large explosion of racial abuse in European soccer was seen and the return of a problem once thought of as a relic of the game. But has it really ever been away?
The recent increase in reported offences has once again turned the spotlight on the uglier side of the beautiful game and raised the question: Are these latest sickening outbursts just copycat incidents or is European soccer still rife with racists and xenophobes?

Racist taunting aimed at Partizan Belgrade's black players overshadowed the Serbian side's 2-2 draw against Lazio in Rome to plunge the game in Europe into another race shame.
Lazio’s hardcore Ultras (right), notorious for their xenophobic and racist views and their support for the former right wing regime in Yugoslavia, targeted Cameroon striker Pierre Boya in particular, during the explosive UEFA Cup Group E clash.

Two days later following the incident in Rome. Real Madrid's Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen was marred by racist chanting by Spanish fans with Bayer's Brazilian defenders Roque Junior and Juan the target of abuse from Real's Ultra Sur hooligan element during the 1-1 draw. The Spanish giants became the subject of an investigation by UEFA as a result.

Also in November 2004: The specter of racism then reared its ugly head in the English Premiership when Birmingham City striker Dwight Yorke was abused by a Blackburn Rovers supporter, as he warmed up on the sidelines with his fellow substitutes during the match.

January 1988: Mark Walters debut for Rangers FC. Walters became the first black player in Ranger's history, making his debut on 2nd January 1988, in the Old Firm derby match with Celtic at Parkhead, Scotland.
Celtic fans marked the occasion by throwing bananas and making monkey noises, with some even wearing tuxedos — or "monkey suits" — to the match. During the same game, in defence of Walters, Rangers’ fans, responded with an 'unconscious' racist song, singing "I’d rather be a darkie than a Tim" (Tim being a slang term to describe a person of Scots-Irish catholic decent). The match commentator seemed oblivious to the racial implications: He commented - "Well the game was slightly held up while some assortment of fruit was removed from the pitch. You can see it there, just in front of The Jungle."
The Scottish Football Association chose to remain silent on the incident.

It was in the mid-1980s that German football club St. Pauli's transition from a traditional club into a "Kult" club began. It was also during the 1980's when the club first became associated with the Skull and Crossbones symbol.

The deal is St. Pauli is no ordinary team. This is an anti-racist, anti-fascist, pretty much anarchist soccer team which represents a shall we say bohemian area of Hamburg home to prostitutes, squatters and activists of the left wing and anarchist persuation. Opposition to fascism, sexism and homophobia has actually been included in the club constitution.

More than 20,000 fans regularly pack the home stadium, and the club has the largest proportion of female fans in German football.

The ugly cloud of racism appears to hang like a shadow over soccer, particularly in Eastern Europe, but with the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine on the horizon, a campaign to ensure that such behavior is stamped out in stadiums is gathering pace.
Rafal Pankowski heads Poland-based organization 'Never Again,' which works closely with European football's governing body UEFA and Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). Their collective aim is to challenge racism in Eastern European soccer, with particular emphasis on next year's co-hosted tournament.

"Unfortunately it seems racism is deeply rooted in the culture of soccer, especially in Eastern Europe," Pankowski told CNN. "Of course it's a broader problem, affecting countries such as Spain and Italy, but it is a real issue in Eastern Europe.
"We appreciate the steps and initiatives that UEFA are taking, but we are still a very long way from eradicating the problem and it's just not something that can be eliminated overnight."

Earlier this year, 'Never Again' published a report called "Hateful" which documented the number of racist incidents in Poland and Ukraine.
It detailed 195 individual incidents of racist and discriminatory behavior in an 18-month period from September 2009 to March 2011, a figure that underlines the amount of work that still needs to be done.

A slap on the wrists, puny fines and meaningless five-minute delays to matches will not deter the racists, but what will?

The relationship between 'race' and football takes a number of forms. It has long been the case that a number of fans have used Saturday afternoons at football matches to air their racial prejudices but it is now recognised that this minority of racist fans is only part of the problem. What is also important is how members of minority groups can become involved in football as players, coaches or spectators, the interest they take in football and whether in certain areas they feel excluded.

The UK was the first country to make a concerted effort to rid the game of racism, at least in its most obvious forms, with the founding of the ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign in 1993, followed two years later by the launch of ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ in the north-east of England, and the Football Unites, Racism Divides project in Sheffield. FURD is now centrally involved in international campaigns against racism in football, through the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network.

Racism is not a problem of football's making. It is society's problem. Yet it is an issue the game cannot afford to sideline. It presents it with responsibilities - and new opportunities.
The game’s ruling bodies - and clubs and players as its ambassadors - have a responsibility to protect and promote its image as the game that unites the world. They must act wherever necessary to ensure people can watch and play free from prejudice and abuse.
They also have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to creating a better society.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Football's Most Sensational Teen Transfers!

Fee: £300,000 from Chester to Liverpool, aged 18, in 1980.

Rush began his playing career at Football League Third Division side Chester. After impressing in the youth ranks, he made his Chester debut in April 1979 against Sheffield Wednesday and went on to play 34 League games and score 14 goals before
Liverpool payed £300,000 for the 18-year-old in 1980. Rush finally made his Liverpool first-team debut five months after his arrival, in December 1980 in a league game at Ipswich Town, and though it took him a little while to get going he formed a memorable partnership with Kenny Dalglish. In the 1983-84 season Rush scored an incredible 47 goals as Liverpool won an unprecedented treble of League, European Cup and League Cup. Juventus paid £3.2m for him in 1987 and he scored 13 goals in his only season in Italy, before returning to Anfield in 1988. He eventually surpassed Roger Hunt's 245 goals to become the Reds' record hitman with 346 goals in 660 games. Rush won five First Division titles, five League Cups, three FA Cups, the European Cup and was the Club's top scorer nine times, during his incredible career with Liverpool, spanning fifteen seasons. Rush said farewell to Anfield on 20th May 1996.

Fee: £250,000 from Crystal Palace to Manchester City, aged, 17 in 1979.

After beginning as an apprentice at Crystal Palace, MacKenzie was just a 17-year-old trainee when Manchester City decided to spend a quarter of a million pounds on the Palace midfielder in 1979 - although he had yet to play a single Football League match, so it really was a huge gamble at the time. He gained a reputation for scoring spectacular goals, most notably in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay against Tottenham Hotspur. He left City after two seasons to join West Bromwich Albion where he spent six seasons at the Hawthorns before joining Charlton Athletic. He later had spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Shrewsbury Town. He made 353 career appearances between 1979 and 1994, scoring 41 goals.

Fee: £3.3 million from Tranmere Rovers to Everton, aged 19, in 1998.

After being released by Nottingham Forest, he started his career at Tranmere Rovers in August 1996 as a trainee. By November 1996 Simonsen had already made his League debut for the club.
At the age of 19, and after just 42 league and cup appearances for the Tranmere first-team, Simonsen was bought by Everton for a record breaking £3.3 million in September 1998 and became Britain's most expensive teenager and goalkeeper.
But despite the price-tag he did not make his Everton debut until the 1999–2000 season, in a League Cup tie against Oxford United. In six seasons at Everton he played just 37 times in all competitions and football's forgotten teenager was given a free transfer to Stoke City in 2004. Simonsen was named as Stoke City player's player of the season in the 2004–05 season. He left Stoke in July 2010 on a free transfer after spending six years at the Potters, and making almost 200 appearances.
He currently plys his trade with League One side Sheffield United.

Fee: £25.6 million from Everton to Manchester United, aged 18, in 2004.

His senior debut for Everton came on 17th August 2002 in a 2–2 home draw against Tottenham. His first senior goals came on 2nd October 2002 as he scored twice in a 3–0 win at Wrexham in the League Cup. These goals meant that Rooney was Everton's youngest-ever goalscorer at the time. On the 19th October, five days before his 17th birthday, Rooney scored a last-minute winning goal against Arsenal.
Rooney signed for Manchester United in 2004 for a fee in excess of £25 million.
He scored a hat-trick on his United debut against Fenerbahce in the Champions League. These goals made Rooney the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League aged 18 years 335 days.
For his club at least has hardly looked back since. Between 2006-2009 he formed an lethal attacking partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo, in a United side that won a hat-trick of Premier League titles and the Champions League.
The striker has struggled to hit these dizzy heights in the last couple of seasons, but he still holds an impressive career record of 158 goals in 332 appearances for the Red Devils.

Fee: £250,000 from Oldham Athletic to Liverpool, aged, 17 in 1985.

At £250,000 Harrison became the most expensive 17-year-old footballer in the world when he signed for Liverpool in 1985. Harrison had only made five first team appearances for the Latics, though it included a virtuoso performance against the Reds in an FA Youth Cup match. However, injuries wrecked any chance of appearing in a competitive match for Liverpool. First came a horrid fall through a greenhouse where he almost died as a result of loss of blood. Thereafter he suffered double hernia, cartilage, knee and shoulder injuries and on the last reserve game of the 1989-90 season he shattered his knee against Bradford.
After having undergone 23 operations at Anfield, there was no way back for Harrison and he had to retire from football at just 22 years of age. The player's plight was alleviated somewhat by a testimonial game between Oldham and Liverpool in 1992, but sadly Harrison was not even fit enough to turn out on the field for a token appearance.

Fee: £5 million (plus clauses) from Southampton to Arsenal, aged 16, in 2006.

Walcott was a product of the Southampton F.C. Academy. The striker became the youngest-ever player at 16 years and 143 days to feature for the Southampton first team, after coming on as a substitute in Southampton's 0–0 draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Football League Championship in 2005.
Sven-Goran Eriksson shocked the footballing world by naming the 17-year-old in his 2006 World Cup squad, just five months after Arsenal signed him from Championship side Southampton and before he had even made his Gunners' debut.
On 30 May 2006, Walcott became England's youngest ever senior football player by appearing in a 3–1 friendly win over Hungary at Old Trafford at the age of 17 years and 75 days. Four years later he wasn't even in Fabio Capello's 2010 squad.
He still hasn't hit the expected heights since, due in part to injuries, but Walcott has shown flashes of brilliance. Most notably he produced a stand-out performance against Liverpool in the Champions League, while for England he hit a hat-trick in September 2008 against Croatia in Zagreb to underline his ability.

Fee: £2 million from Notts County to Arsenal, aged 15, in 1999.

Arsenal paid Notts County £2.5m in 1999 for the 15-year-old midfielder, which was a record for a trainee. After the youngster's two spells on loan at Watford and a substitute appearance for the Gunners against Middlesbrough in the League Cup when he was just 16 years 319 days. He scored a hat-trick for Arsene Wenger's side on his full Premier League debut against Southampton in May 2003. Disciplinary problems, including serving 31 days of a three-month prison sentence while on loan at Birmingham City in 2005, has seen him play for six clubs since leaving north London to join the Blues, including three seasons at Liverpool and a spell in Spain with Real Zaragoza.
He is now plying his trade at Stoke City and featured in the 2011 FA Cup final.

Initial fee: £8.1 million from Ipswich Town to Sunderland, aged 18, in 2011.

After joining Ipswich as a trainee in July 2008, the striker made 72 first-team appearances, coming off the bench 33 times and scoring a total of 15 goals.
Wickham made his first-team debut for Ipswich at the age of 16 years and 11 days against Doncaster Rovers in April 2009.
In May 2010 Wickham helped England to victory in the European Under-17 Championship, scoring the winning goal as they beat Spain 2-1 in the final.
On 29 June 2011, Wickham signed a four year deal with Premier League club Sunderland for a fee of £8 million. The fee has the potential to rise to £12 million over the course of the contract. Wickham made his first competitive appearance for Sunderland when he came on as a substitute in the 1–0 defeat to Newcastle United in the Tyne–Wear derby on 20 August 2011.

Fee: £5 million from Southampton to Tottenham, aged 17, in 2007.

At 16 Bale became the second youngest player after Theo Walcott to play for Southampton when he made his debut against Millwall. His efforts on the south coast were enough to persuade Spurs to spend £5m on him a year later, fending off interest from Manchester United
On a personal level the winger got off to a good start scoring in three of his first five games.
But Spurs were beginning a downturn in fortunes and they failed to win a single game in any of Bale's first 24 Premier League matches he played – a record!
Rumours of a loan move to the Championship were rife just last year, but an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto gave him a rare run in the team and he hasn't lost his place since. Last season he captivated the world with stunning performances in the Champions League and topped his year off by picking up the PFA Player of the Year award.

Initial Fee: £1.5 million from Millwall to Liverpool, aged 18, in 1995.

Kennedy began his professional career at Millwall, making his senior debut in April 1993 in a win over Charlton, when still only 16. Kennedy joined Liverpool in March 1995 for an initial £1.5 million fee (potentially rising to £2.3 million), making him then the most expensive teenage footballer in British history.
However, opportunities at Anfield were scarce, as he failed to fit into a midfield boasting the likes of Steve McManaman, Patrik Berger and John Barnes. Kennedy was in the starting line-up four times in his first season, but astonishingly was given only one chance in the first eleven over the next three seasons. In total he managed just 21 appearances in all competitions.
In the summer of 1998 he was transferred to Wimbledon for a fee in excess of what Liverpool initially paid for him, despite only making fleeting appearances for the Reds!
Kennedy only spent one season at Wimbledon before signing for Manchester City. Kennedy's career has also seen him turn out for Wolves, Crystal Palace and Cardiff. Kennedy, now 35 currently plays for Championship side Ipswich Town.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011/12 - The npower Championship. Update!

With the football international break upon us, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on my progress in this seasons Texaco sponsored Championship Fantasy Football league.

Two months ago I selected eleven players from the second tier of English football that I felt would excel for their respective clubs this season, as I pitted my wits against friends and football fans around the country, in a 'foolish' attempt to convince myself that my knowledge of Championship football was equal to or maybe even superior to that of other football fans.

I must point out that I have stayed within the rules, which fundamentally consist of four main criteria - keeping within my set 'fictitious' financial budget, selecting a maximum of no more than three players from any one club, choosing one of two formations for my team, namely 5-3-2 or 4-4-2 and finally observing the rules regarding the transfer of players in/out my side, as set out at the start of the competition.

Now, who would have thought with nearly a quarter of the season gone, newly promoted Southampton would be top of the league, with Middlesbrough second and Derby, along with another newly promoted club Brighton in the top six.

More surprising is possibly the shocking form of managerless Nottingham Forest and South London's Millwall, and the rather average start to the season made by the likes of relegated Birmingham and last seasons play-off finalists Reading.
Money-bags Leicester started poorly but are making good progress, as are Leeds and Cardiff.

My own club Crystal Palace have surprised me with a solid start to the season after fighting off relegation for the previous two seasons, and they are also into the last 16 of the League Cup. Peterborough too have kicked on well after promotion from League One last season...........but it's still very early days!

So how has this reflected on the Championship fantasy football team I selected two months ago?

At the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign my team was as follows:

Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davies (Southampton).

Defenders: Ian Evatt (Blackpool), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff), Sean St Ledger (Leicester).

Midfield: Kevin Nolan (West Ham and Captain), George Boyd (Peterborough), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Lee Bowyer (Ipswich).

Strikers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton, pictured right), Rob Earnshaw (Cardiff).

Since then I have made five transfers: First to go was Sean St.Ledger, a player I really thought was going to score me a lot of points after his £1.2m move from Preston, but he has failed to deliver. Leicester started the season poorly and St.Ledger has rarely featured, so I think that was a good move. I replaced him with Palace's versatile Norwegian full-back/midfielder Jonathan Parr and he has one cleen sheet and two assists in five appearances. Steady if not spectacular.

I recently made another defensive transfer when I off-loaded former Palace favourite Jose Fonte from a Souhampton side that was scoring goals for fun but conceding too many for my liking. Derby's Jason Shackell has replaced Fonte, but although he was a cheaper option he has not really improved my defence significantly with one cleen sheet in three appearances, but if Derby continue their good form he may prove a valuable acquisition. Without doubt the purchase of a Middlesborough defender would have been a better option, as three of their defenders are the top defensive points scorers in the league!

In midfield I believed the experience of Lee Bowyer would have been a bright light in the Ipswich side, but both Ipswich and Bowyer started slowly, and although Ipswich's season has picked up, Bowyer has failed to impress in my opinion. I replaced Bowyer with another Derby player, the experienced Ben Davies and he has had a greater impact, with four assists in his six games since I brought him in.

Kevin Nolan was my most expensive purchase at the beginning of the season, but he has had a stop-start season so far, terrific one week and anonymous the next. Maybe he is taking time to settle in at West Ham. However I have been more impressed with the displays of his team-mate Matt Taylor, a summer signing from Bolton, so I swapped Taylor for Nolan.

In midfield I have also replaced Peterborough's highly rated George Boyd with Saints Adam Lallana who has so far had an outstanding season for his club. The England U'21 international is currently the top point scoring midfielder in the Championship. Lallana has four goals from midfield and a host of assists in a free-scoring Southampton side, who have bagged 25 goals in their opening 10 games!
Meanwhile Boyd has made a disappointing start to the season.

Up front Rickie Lambert is rattling in the goals with eight in just ten appearances, but Rob Earnshaw concerns me. He has only netted three times this season, and has recently lost his place in the Cardiff team. I am definitely looking for a new striker, perhaps Miller, Jermaine Beckford, Glenn Murray, Ross McCormack or Chris Wood would be more effective. I have the international break to decide who to partner Lambert with.

As it stands today my current team is as follows:

Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davies (Southampton).

Defenders: Ian Evatt (Blackpool), Jason Shackell (Derby), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff), Jonathan Parr (Palace, pictured right).

Midfield: Matt Taylor (West Ham), Ben Davies (Derby), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Adam Lallana (Southampton).

Strikers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton and Captain), Rob Earnshaw (Cardiff).

Rickie Lambert, Blackpool defender Ian Evatt, and Leeds midfielder Robert Snodgrass have been my stand-out players so far this season. As far as my own season goes I am in the main competition along with tens of thousands of other players, and also in three private leagues.
My current points total is 125, after ten league games.

I am 2,386th overall in the whole competition, 3rd of 28 players in the 'Holmesdale Radio' private league, 26th of 752 in the 'Official Crystal Palace FC' private league and 3rd of 99 in the 'Where Eagles Dare' private league.

Until next time............good luck!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Babe Of The Month - Sexy Spanish Golfer Beatriz Recari

Beatriz Recari Eransus (born 21st April 1987) is a Spanish professional golfer on the U.S based LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET).

Born and raised in Pamplona in northern Spain, Beatriz won the 2004 Spanish Amateur Golf Championship and the 2005 French Amateur Golf Championship. In 2005, she was also a member of 'Team Europe' in the Junior Solheim Cup.

She qualified for the Ladies European Tour in November 2005 and turned professional at age 18, for the 2006 season. She won her first tournament as a pro in her fourth LET season at the 2009 Finnair Masters in Helsinki, Finland.

Beatriz won her first LPGA event in October 2010 at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in northern California, and made the cut in her final five events to finish as runner-up to compatriot Azahara Muñozthe for the title of 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year.

So far in 2011 Beatriz has played in 17 tournaments, making the cut 13 times, with a best finish of tied 11th at the Shoprite LPGA Classic at the Bay Course, Dolce Seaview Resort, New Jersey.

This month Beatriz is off to Asia where there are LPGA tournaments in South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. There are also LET events being held in Sanya and Shanghai in China.

You can follow Beatriz on Facebook and on Twitter