Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Black Stars - A History of Ghanaian Football

England host Ghana, popularly known as 'The Black Stars' in an international friendly on Tuesday 29th March - in what will be the first ever meeting between the two nations at senior level.

There have been a handful of meetings at youth level, Ghana beat England convincingly 4-0 at the FIFA U20's World Cup two years ago, while England U18's emerged the victors in 2007 in a friendly at the Priestfield Stadium.

A full-house is expected at Wembley stadium including an almost unprecedented 20,000 tickets taken up by fans of the visitors.

The game takes place just a few days after both nations will have played important international fixtures, England in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Wales, and Ghana in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Congo.

The current crop of British based Ghanaian footballers are certainly excited and looking forward to the first ever meeting between the two sides.

The Sunderland trio of Muntari, Mensah and Asamoah Gyan (right) are in 'The Black Stars' squad for the encounter, and Muntari told BBC Newcastle:

"We want to play, it's at Wembley, against one of the best nations in the world, no one wants to miss big games and important games like this one."

Muntari added: "We've been looking forward to this game for a long time, and even the people in Ghana are looking forward to us playing England, we're just looking forward to the day. We want to win, but we want to play good football and entertain the fans."

Rather that pursue a typical line of red top tabloid journalism, questioning the inadequacies of our own international squad, the FA's shortcomings, the cost of the 'new' Wembley, Capello's salary, or the the latest rather uncomfortable topic of the national team captaincy, I thought I would take this opportunity instead to look at the history of Ghanaian football and some of their most famous players.

The Ghana Amateur Football Association was founded in 1957, soon after the country's independence, and was affiliated to both CAF and FIFA the following year, Englishman George Ainsley being appointed coach of the national team. Before gaining independence from Great Britain in 1957, the country played as the Gold Coast.

Charles Kumi Gyamfi became coach in 1961, and Ghana won successive Africa Cup of Nations titles, in 1963 and 1965. They also reached the final of the tournament in 1968 and 1970, and their domination of this tournament earned the country the nickname of "the Brazil of Africa" in the 1960's.
However the team had no success in FIFA World Cup qualification during this era, and failed to qualify for three successive African Cup of Nations in the 1970's.

They went on to win the African Cup of Nations in 1978 and 1982.

Ghana enjoyed tremendous success at youth level in the 1990's, winning the World Under-17 title twice in 1991 and 1995, and finishing runners-up to Brazil in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 1993 (also known as the World Youth Championships).

However during the 1990's disharmony among the squad, which eventually led to parliamentary and executive intervention to settle issues between two of the team, Abédi Pelé and Anthony Yeboah, may have played some part in the failure of the team to build on the successes of the national underage teams.

By 2004 Ghana had slipped to 89th place in the FIFA World Rankings, but a new generation of players who went to reach the final of the 2001 FIFA Under-20 World Cup (World Youth Championships) became the core of the team at the 2002 African Cup of Nations and the 2004 Olympic Games, and were undefeated for a year in 2005.

Ghana reached the finals of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, held in Germany, the first time the team had reached the global stage of the tournament. Ghana started with a 2–0 defeat to eventual champions Italy, but wins over the Czech Republic (2–0) and USA (2–1) saw them through to the second round, where they were eventually beaten 3–0 by Brazil.

The Black Stars went on to secure a 100 percent record in their qualification campaign, winning the group and becoming the first African team to qualify for 2010 FIFA World Cup. The World Cup Draw in Cape Town on the 4 December 2009 saw the Ghanaian team drawn alongside Germany, Serbia and Australia in Group D.

They were able to reach the last 16 of the tournament after they finished second in their group behind Germany. In the last 16 they played the USA, defeating them 2–1 in extra time to become only the third African nation to reach the World Cup quarter-finals. They then lost on penalties to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, having missed a penalty in extra time after an almost certain goal was saved off the line by Luis Suarez's deliberately parried handball. Suarez was shown a red card for his actions, but that could not hide the disappointment and injustice felt by Ghana.

Ghana boast an array of talented players that ply their trade all over Europe, including The Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and the German Bundesliga.

Famous Ghananian Footballers, both past and present:

Samuel Kuffour - 1993 - 2009
Michael Essien - 2000 - present
Richard Kingson -1995 - present
Tony Yeboah - 1982 - 2003
John Pantsil - 1999- present
Asamoah Gyan - 2003 - present
Sulley Muntari - (right with Beckham) 2002 - present
Kevin-Prince Boateng - 2004 - present
Abedi Pele - 1978 - 2000
Ibrahim Abdul Razak - 1999 - present
Matthew Amoah - 1998 - present
Junior Agogo - 1997 - present

In the 1990's, Abédi Pelé and Tony Yeboah received FIFA World Player of the Year top ten nominations: the following decade Sammy Kuffour and Michael Essien received Ballon d'Or nominations. Abédi Pelé was listed in the 2004 "FIFA 100" greatest living footballers.

On 13 January 2007, the Confederation of African Football voted Abedi Pele, Michael Essien, Tony Yeboah, Ibrahim Abdul Razak and Samuel Kuffour as members of the CAF top 30 best African players of all-time. In addition, Abedi and Yeboah were voted as among of the best African players of the century in 1999 by IFFHS.

The England squad to play Ghana is from:

Goalkeepers: Carson (West Brom), Green (West Ham), Hart (Manchester City)

Defenders: Baines (Everton), Cahill (Bolton), Jagielka (Everton), Johnson (Liverpool), Lescott (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Barry (Manchester City), Downing (Aston Villa), Jarvis (Wolves), Lennon (Tottenham), Milner (Manchester City), Parker (West Ham), Young (Aston Villa), Wilshere (Arsenal);

Strikers: Bent (Aston Villa), Carroll (Liverpool), Crouch, Defoe (both Tottenham)).

England v. Ghana - International Friendly, Tuesday, 29th March 2011, kick off 20:00 BST at Wembley Stadium, live on ITV1.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scotland ready for the Samba attack - Betting News with Betfred


With international football taking place this weekend and early next week, anyone looking to bet on a Premier League game,will have to hang fire for another week before they can have a flutter.

However, there is still plenty of football around for punters to get their teeth into, including an intriguing match which is set to take place in London on Sunday afternoon.

Scotland face Brazil at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and, for the first time in a while, there are not too many shocks in the Scottish squad.

Despite missing a few senior players Scotland coach Craig Levein otherwise has as strong a squad as is available to pick from, and I'm sure every one of his players will be eager to prove themselves when the hordes of Scotland fans descend on London for their teams clash with the 'Samba-Boys.'

Scotland are priced at 8/1 to secure an unlikely victory with the football odds compilers.

Darren Fletcher, Steven Naismith and Phil Bardsley definitely miss out, all through injury while Celtic skipper Scott Brown is also a slight doubt, although he did travel to the squad's five-day gathering in La Manga this week.

The absence of Naismith leaves Scotland light on forward options for Sunday's friendly, and whilst not normally blessed with world-class strikers, Kenny Miller (8/1 to be first goal scorer) is the only out and out forward in the squad with genuine international experience. Miller will be making his 53rd appearance in a Scotland jersey when he lines up against Brazil.

One thing that could play into Scotland's hands is the fact that Brazil coach Mano Menezes is not using this fixture as a warm-up for the important Copa America tournament in July.

Instead he is planning to use Sunday's game to identify players he could use for the 2012 London Olympics, meaning the Brazil squad is full of younger faces, but they still remain 4/11 favourites to win the clash.

That does not mean the 'Samba-Boys' squad is below par, with players such as Lucio, Maicon and Daniel Alves among their defensive options.

It is in midfield and attack that coach Menezes is likely to be more experimental. Scotland fans are likely to be glad the big-name duo of Alexandre Pato and Nilmar are struggling with injuries, while Pato's Milan club-mate Robinho seems to have fallen out of favour with Menezes.

Menezes has also resisted the temptation of recalling former Barcelona forward Ronaldhino, who was widely being tipped for a recall to the squad. However 21-year-old Leandro Damiao, who has scored 13 goals this year for Internacional, and has yet to earn an international cap, may well get his chance!

My Tip of the Week:

Brazil should undoubtedly prove too strong, so it is a case of predicting a winning score. 14/1 with Betfred for either a 4-0 or 4-1 Brazil win seems a fair price for a game that should be blessed with goals galore. For the 'Bravehearts' out there Betfred go 10/3 on the double result being a draw at half-time and Brazil at full-time.

Sunday 27th March: Scotland v Brazil, kick-off 2pm, live on ITV1.

By Drew Swainston
(Guest writer from Betfred on behalf of Beer Footy and Birds!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Stoke out for revenge against West Ham - FA Cup Betting News with Betfred


West Ham United have turned things around in recent weeks, and they will be looking to replicate their recent Premier League form when they meet Stoke City in an intriguing FA Cup quarter-final tie this Sunday, but the hosts could be out for revenge.

The Hammers steamrollered Stoke 3-0 at Upton Park last weekend, in a Premier League fixture thanks to goals from Demba Ba, Manuel da Costa and Thomas Hitzlsperger and anyone making football predictions may fancy The Hammers to do the business once more.

But it could be a lot different in the FA Cup as the Brittania Stadium is a notoriously difficult place to win at, and West Ham have been fragile on the road this term, with just two league wins all season.

The football odds compilers make Stoke 11/10 to win the cup tie, and it's worth noting The Potters have yet to lose in front of their home fans since the turn of the year. In 2011 they have won three and drawn one of four Premier League games at the Brittania Stadium, but their away form not unlike that of West Ham's has been pretty dire, and that could go some way to explaining the recent rout at Upton Park.

Tony Pulis has already confirmed that Thomas Sorensen will play in goal and he could make a number of other changes for the FA Cup clash, which could make 13/5 for a West Ham victory look somewhat more tempting.

Up until a few weeks ago, it was West Ham's cup successes that had helped to save Avram Grant from the 'revolving door.' However the London side are facing a huge relegation battle, and there is always the fear the FA Cup can be more of a distraction than a blessing.

West Ham's defence has looked suspect on several occasions this season. That coupled with the loud Staffordshire home support, a big powerful Stoke attack and those legendary Rory Delap long throws will test West Ham's resilience to the core.

Stoke star Glenn Whelan reckons the crowd could be the preverbial 12th man for City, and help give them an edge to exact some measure of revenge on the Hammers for the league result.

He told BBC Radio Stoke: "We're on our home patch, that's where we're solid and hopefully that's what we'll be on Sunday.
If we can get right at them in the first five or ten minutes, I'm sure the crowd will be right behind us."

The resurgence at West Ham means they are now a vastly superior team to the one they were only a few months ago when they recorded a 1-1 draw at the Brittania Stadium thanks to a goal from, who else, their captain and talisman Scott Parker.

This is the second successive weekend that these clubs are meeting, and the fourth time they will have locked horns this season. Stoke are yet to win!

But a wounded Stoke are going to be a dangerous animal, and one the travelling Hammers need to ensure they don't take lightly.

My Tip of the Week:

Stoke look like they are going to be too strong for West Ham, but it should be a tight game unlike the Upton Park clash. With this in mind, odds of 2/1 for under 1.5 goals in the game looks a good bet.
I also fancy Stoke's fit again Matthew Etherington to get on the scoresheet against his former club. He is 10/1 to be first goalscorer and 11/4 to score at anytime with Betfred.

Sunday 27th March: Stoke City v West Ham, kick-off 2pm, live on ITV1.

By Drew Swainston
(Guest writer from Betfred on behalf of Beer Footy and Birds!)

Monday, March 07, 2011

A well-grounded football education - Plymouth Argyle FC

*Ground Name: Home Park (opened 1901)
*Address: Home Park Stadium, Plymouth, Devon, PL2 3DQ
*Main Club Number: 01752 562561
*Club Founded: 1886
*Club Nickname: The Pilgrims
*Ground Capacity: 19,500
*Current League status: Npower League One
*Official Club Website:
*Email address:
*Record Attendance: 43,596 vs Aston Villa, Division Two, 10th October 1936
*Record League Victory: 8-1 vs Millwall, Division 2, 16th Jan 1932 & 8-1 vs Hartlepool Utd, Division 2,
7th May 1994
*Nearest Train Station: Plymouth station is about a 15-20 min walk from the ground. On exiting the station, turn right, down the hill under the railway bridge and follow this road to the ground, which is on the right.
*Pubs for away fans: The Britannia in Wolseley Road, which is a ten minute walk from the ground. Alternatively there is a good variety of pubs in the city centre. Beer is also available inside the ground

The Ground:
Originally built in 1893, Home Park was extensively redeveloped in 2001/02 at a cost of £11 million. Three sides of the ground are now a modern well-proportioned and comfortable stadium, with the remaining side due for redevelopment. The Grandstand is the only side of the ground that is underdeveloped. The lower tier, which stretches the length of the pitch, is open, a legacy of the open terrace that used to be there and is uncomfortable in wet and windy weather. The upper tier is covered but only stretches three-quarters of the pitch. The dressing rooms are located below The Grandstand and there is a scoreboard between it and The Devonport End. A new, multi-tier stand, with a capacity of 6,000 is planned, though no date has been fixed for the commencement of this development. The Devonport Stand was the first of the new stands to open and is home support only, including a family enclosure. Like the other two stands it forms one continuous sweep around the ground in a single tier, allowing for a real atmosphere to be generated. The Lyndhurst Stand is a single tier, which continues the sweep around the ground, joining the two ends. The louder Plymouth fans sit in the Barn End corner which generates an excellent atmosphere between opposing supporters. The Barn Park End houses away support that takes up a varying amount of the stand, depending on the fixture. The views & facilities are very good.

Home Park - home of Plymouth Argyle FC

Fiercest - The club's traditional rivals is fellow Devon side Exeter City, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth (the Plymouth-Portsmouth game is known as the Dockyard Derby). Although the rivalry with Exeter City has been blunted for a while due to a difference in Divisions, Argyle's relegation into League One at the end of the 2009/10 season, coupled with Exeter City's survival has reignited the tensions. Welsh sides Cardiff City and Swansea City are also seen as local rivals. A distinct rivalry arose between Argyle and Luton Town after inflammatory comments made by Joe Kinnear who was manager of The Hatters during the 2001–02 promotion season, although this mutual antipathy has now somewhat abated. Similarly, after the departure of Ian Holloway to Leicester City in November 2007 a noticeable mutual dislike arose, although this mutual antipathy has now similarly subsided.

Famous/Celebrity fans:
Michael Foot - Former Labour Party Leader
The late Sir Clement Freud - Broadcaster and former MP

Legends that have worn the shirt:
Jack Chisholm - 1949–1954
Johnny Williams - 1955–1966
Colin Sullivan - 1968–1974
Jim Furnell - 1970-1976
Paul Mariner - 1973-1976
Kevin Hodges - 1978–1992 (Manager 1998-2000)
Tommy Tynan - 1983-1985 & 1986-1990
Paul Wotton - 1994-2008
Also Paul Sturrock (Manager): 2000-2004 & 2007-2009

Argyle Villans:
Taribo West - 2005-2006
Ian Holloway (Manager)- 2006-2007
George Reilly - Reilly scored the winning goal for Watford against Plymouth Argyle in the 1984 FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. Nearly 20 years later, Reilly was working as a bricklayer on a building site in Corby, when he was attacked by another worker who bit part of his right ear off, before whispering "Plymouth" in his other ear by way of explanation.

The city of Plymouth is now the largest in England never to have hosted top-flight football. They are the most southern and western League club in England.

At the height of the Cold War in the sixties, Argyle went on a tour of Eastern Europe, which included a match against Legia Warsaw, played in front of 100,000 fans.

In 2006 Viz magazine ran a one-off comic strip 'The Pirates of Plymouth Argyle' based on the team.

On 21st February 2011, the club issued a notice of intention to appoint an administrator and were immediately docked 10 points by the Football League which dropped them to the bottom of the League One table.
The club officially went into administration on the 4th March 2011.

# Next time I shall be picking another English Football League club at random, in my efforts to give all my readers the opportunity of 'a well-grounded football education.'