Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Theo [Walcott] sometimes asks me if I will take the citizenship and I say: ‘Yes, if you want?’ Then he says, yes, he would like me to. But all the England players are very important. I would like to know what they think and if I will be welcome."
"I have to see what people think because it’s not an easy decision. I’m 32 so I don’t want any problems with anyone. This is not a silly thing. You are playing with the hearts of people. It [an England cap] is not something you can buy in a shop. I don’t want to disturb anybody. I want to make everybody happy.” - Manuel Almunia.
Runner-up: “I’ve never known anything like it before. I don’t know why there are internationals scheduled this week. I’m baffled and it really is total nonsense. International friendlies should be banned anyway.” - Steve Bruce.
Today’s overview: Every so often we hear about the threat the Premier League is under from illegal football websites, and today this issue comes back to the fore in an article by Owen Gibson.
“The Premier League’s class action lawsuit against Google-owned video sharing website YouTube rumbles on in the United States… It will ultimately hinge on whether judges rule that the site should have taken responsibility for removing non-copyrighted clips itself or if it is enough that it promises to do so once they have been identified by the rights owner… One advantage the Premier League and sports rights owners have over the music and film industries is the fact that their value lies in live action. Whereas an album or film only needs to be copied once before the potential exists for millions of perfect illicit copies to be distributed over the internet, the appeal and value of a Premier League clash diminishes drastically as soon as the final whistle goes.”
Manchester United goalie Ben Foster has been forced to pull out of the England squad, leaving goalkeeping options down to a minimum for Fabio Capello. This leaves the question as to whether Manuel Almunia, who is now eligible for British citizenship, should be coaxed into the Three Lions frame. The Guardian’s Donald McRae gets the inside track in an interview with the Arsenal number one.
Although refusing to name Almunia as an option, Sam Wallace pokes holes in all the other goalkeepers available to England. “There is no telling how long James might be able to go on but at his advanced age there is the potential for rapid decline… Green attracts great loyalty from West Ham fans, but it is among the England staff that there seem to be doubts that he is of the absolute highest quality… [Joe Hart] has not made the great progress once expected of him. Scott Carson’s reputation might never recover from the disastrous night against Croatia in November 2007. Paul Robinson is not a serious option.”
Extrapolating, Kevin McCarra observes “the goalkeeping situation reflects a larger truth. The manager’s options are restricted. The squad announcement had a despairing note when he judged that he might as well confine himself to one right-back, Glen Johnson.” Oliver Kay seems to prove McCarra’s point by reeling off his expected England team for the Holland match. “As it is, the rest of the team would appear to pick themselves for the friendly against Holland, with Glen Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole in defence, Theo Walcott, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard in midfield and Wayne Rooney operating behind Emile Heskey in attack.”
Taking a step back, Ian Wright rants at the timing of England’s friendly with Holland. “What on earth were the FA thinking in agreeing to this fixture so near to the start of the top-flight season? It’s nothing short of farcical. Our best players should be with their clubs, making their final preparations for Saturday’s big kick-off. Instead, they are wasting valuable energy hopping across to the Continent for a game we could all do without. It’s absurd.”
Newcastle fans must be smacking their heads against the wall after reading Louise Taylor’s article in the Guardian. “Mike Ashley has warmed to the idea of keeping hold of Newcastle United for another year and possibly installing David O’Leary as the new manager, according to a source close to the club.”
Offering a slight difference of opinion on the Magpies’ future, Rob Stewart writes “[Mike Ashley] has drawn up a shortlist of five out-of-work managers to take the helm if he fails to sell. That includes former Leeds and Aston Villa manager David O’Leary, former West Ham manager Alan Curbishley and their former Celtic counterpart Gordon Strachan, as well as two unknown foreign managers.”
Helen Power and George Caulkin join forces in The Times to also spout the return of O’Leary with the Toon, as well as tracing Ashley’s new demands. “David O’Leary could be the new manager of Newcastle United by this weekend… The Times has learnt that Ashley… is insisting that all potential bidders for the club… place a refundable deposit of about £25 million with his lawyers by Friday to stay in the race that, with the new season under way, has reached a pivotal moment.” Matt Lawton claims a different set of Ashley demands in the Daily Mail. “Mike Ashley has given Newcastle’s prospective buyers 24 hours to increase their offer by £10million — or he will pull the plug on the takeover.”
Joining Newcastle fans in the doldrums are Portsmouth supporters. According to Nick Szczepanik, William Hill last night cut the odds against the troubled Hampshire club being relegated from the Barclays Premier League from 15/8 to 6/4 after hearing whispers that administration was imminent.”
Is the credit crunch finally getting to the world of footballers?
Coming straight out of left-field, Mikey Stafford reports on how “Middlesbrough defender Andrew Taylor is launching a new website that will put an end to his fellow pros being charged too much by tradesmen who see young multi-millionaires as soft targets… Inspired by the unsatisfactory installation of an audio system, the new website will be music to the ears of the country’s 4,000 professional footballers, who are all being sent log-in details for the site, which will list the approved and trustworthy purveyors of ‘luxury lifestyle products.’”
Onto the transfers, where Gary Jacob mixes fact and speculation saying “Fulham agreed a £2.5million deal to sign Kalu Uche from Almeria last night and are fighting off Arsenal’s interest in Brede Hangeland.” In the face of Arsenal’s interest, the Daily Mail link the Cottagers with “22-year-old Dane Magnus Troest from Genoa… [and] Middlesbrough’s Robert Huth.”
The Sun splash with Ian McGarry’s EXCLUSIVE that “Roman Abramovich will fly to Germany to make a £40million raid for winger Franck Ribery.”
Confusion reigns over Manchester City’s pursuit of a new centre-back.
Without questioning whether they are paying over the odds, David Hytner farts, “Manchester City will encounter little resistance from West Ham United if they follow up their interest in Matthew Upson with a bid of around £15m.”
For Ian Herbert though, the asking fee is too high with “Manchester City ready to move to bring their former captain Sylvain Distin back to the club, as West Ham’s demands for Matthew Upson’s services are proving higher than the Premier League’s big spenders are willing to pay.”
Never ones to miss out on a transfer lie, the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman coughs “Manchester City expect to have Joleon Lescott playing for them in time for the big kick-off on Saturday… City believe their final offer of £20m plus add-ons for the England defender will be accepted by Everton.”
Moving on, Aston Villa appear to be plotting a dissection of Middlesbrough’s talent, Louise Taylor detailing that Tuncay, David Wheater and/or Robert Huth could all be heading to the Midlands. While The Independent claim that, “Everton remain hopeful of signing the Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos.”
Wrapping up the rest of the gossip The Sun go about regurgiating old rumours including linking Sol Campbell with Notts County while also repeating yesterday’s rumour that “Everton are lining up a £14million bid for Paris St Germain midfielder Stephane Sessegnon.”
Lastly, The Mirror announce that “Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce has swooped for Spanish legend Michel Salgado—and hopes to tie up a quick deal for him before the season starts.”