Thursday, 21 April 2011

The question everyone's asking has finally been answered...

Good morning Terrace Talkers, Aaron here! It's been a while since I last rocked you with my hastily cobbled notes; well in this time I have been doing extensive research across the globe (well, the internet) to finally find the answer to the question people have been asking for months. Thanks to the kind of detective skills that would put Batman to shame; I have successfully worked out the answer to the most important question in football history...

Does Fernando Torres need a hug?

The answer is: Yes, yes he does.

Absolutely he does

That's all from me Terrace Talkers, tune in next week when I tackle another important question: Is Aaron actually Batman?

Hint: Absolutely I am.

Hmmm, I've just been informed by the rest of the Terrace Talk team that 2 paragraphs is not enough for an article. I should probably kill some time by going through my lengthy* investigation process.

Exhibit A

There, straight from the horses mouth; Fernando Torres needs a hug. Well, I only watched the first 4 seconds where he spoke about the last few days being "very hard" but what else could he possibly have spoken about? He couldn't talk about all the goals he was looking forward to scoring, because he isn't scoring! He couldn't have started talking about how sad he was to leave Liverpool because he fucking loved leaving Liverpool! From his form over the last few months and the first few seconds of video, I can only conclude that at some point in the interview, he talks about his desperate need for a hug. Perhaps he mentions it shortly after the part where he reveals that the Chelsea kit is woven together with orphan tears (Again, probably. I should really watch the video.)

Ok, maybe I'm not Batman, but I'm at least Monk

Exhibit B

Not satisfied with the damning evidence I already had, I decided to interview someone in the know: A Chelsea fan I work with, this interview is 100% real, and 120% mind blowing!

Me:  Do you reckon Fernando Torres needs a hug?
Chelsea Fan: Probably, he's on now and we're winning 3-1 [Against Birmingham]
Me: Thank you

Exhibit Conclusion:

There you have it! Irrefutable evidence that Fernando Torres needs a hug more than anything in the world. So, faithful readers, if you see him out and about, or even sat at a restaurant with his know what to do. Meanwhile this is the Worlds Greatest Detective  er, one of the better detectives...a relatively subpar detective signing off.

From Batman to Scooby Doo in the space of one article...being a detective sucks

*Investigation process was absolutely NOT lengthy

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Luciano Gaucci - A Tribute to a Madman

Football has seen some extraordinary characters over the years; Italy in particular has treated us to more than a few colourful types, none more so than former Perugia president Luciano Gaucci. Italian football is infamous for corruption and certain presidents of Italian football clubs are notorious for their eccentricity, but Gaucci’s roll of honour tops them all. Here’s a few of his finest moments.

Luciano Gaucci made his money through racehorses - and it was a racehorse which landed him in trouble just two years into his reign as Perugia president. At the end of the 92/93 season, Gaucci’s Perugia had achieved promotion from Serie C1 following a 1-1 draw with Siracusa and a 2-1 play-off win at Foggia. After an investigation, Gaucci was accused of bribing a referee with a racehorse. Consequently, Perugia were relegated back to Serie C1 and Gaucci was banned from football for three years.

Amongst the madness that has surrounded the Italian it’s easy to forget that he has a very good record in the transfer market. He’s plucked players like Fabio Grosso, Fabio Liverani and possibly most notably Marco Materazzi from the lower divisions, who later turned out to be Italy internationals. He also somewhat pioneered ‘tapping into the Asian market’ and found success with the signing of the first Japanese player to play in Italy, Hidetoshi Nakata. However, anybody reading this who knows anything about Luciano Gaucci knew this was coming; in June 2003 his most famous and controversial signing came in the form of Saadi Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Before even playing a single game for the Umbrians, Saadi Gaddafi received a 3-month ban after his urine sample contained traces of the illegal substance nandrolone. The Libyan was better known for his antics off the pitch than on it, including a €392,000 unpaid hotel bill he racked up. Perugia coach Serse Cosmi refused to play Gaddafi despite Gaucci’s insistences. That was until Saadi was handed his chance as a substitute in a game against Juventus where he played 15 minutes. Gaddafi was sold to Udinese and later Sampdoria and amassed a whopping 26 minutes of Italian football.

There was one transfer which eluded Gaucci and that was his attempts to sign an unspecified woman. He said on women footballers: “While most of them are gifted, they are also too small and physically weak to play with the boys. I'd have to find a big girl who is also athletic, maybe 6'3" and 13 and a half stone, and who can learn to play the game.” “Someone like Venus Williams, though obviously not her." Gaucci had previous when it came to breaking the gender divide, in 1999 he appointed the first and only woman, Carolina Morace, as manager of a professional men’s team at one of his other clubs Viterbese, she lasted just three months before falling out with Gaucci and resigning. Gaucci said in his explanation: “She made me employ a fitness trainer, who used to be a PE teacher at secondary school.” He came close to signing a woman on a couple of occasions but never realised his dream.

Another example of him showing initiative in the Asian market was the signing of Ahn Jung-Hwan, and with this came Gaucci’s most infamous display of childishness. Ahn scored the winning goal against Italy in the 2002 world cup thus knocking them out. Gaucci didn’t take too kindly to this ‘behaviour’ and in one of the most petulant actions in the history of football; he terminated Ahn’s contract citing: "He was a phenomenon only when he played against Italy. I am a nationalist and I regard such behaviour not only as an affront to Italian pride but also an offence to a country which two years ago opened its doors to him." "I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian soccer." He later tried to take the comments back but it was too late with Ahn saying: "I will no longer discuss my transfer to Perugia, which attacked my character instead of congratulating me for a goal in the World Cup."

When our favourite president isn’t signing the son of a dictator or inexplicitly sacking people, he might be seen getting into fights, unveiling banners supporting George W. Bush (who he professes to be a close friend of), describing goalkeepers as ‘disabled people’, threatening to sign a horse or threatening to send his players to a 40-day training camp if they don’t win. He frequently criticized players, presidents of other clubs and the authorities of the game publicly and would never hold back on the way he felt towards people.

In 2005 he went to The Dominican Republic as a fugitive after Perugia went into bankruptcy and a warrant was issued for his arrest for his part in a fraud. Prosecutors claimed there was a good 40 million Euros which went missing from the football club’s account and turned up in the accounts of some of Gaucci’s other businesses. That warrant was eventually lifted and he returned to Italy in 2008.

There is absolutely no doubt Luciano Gaucci is one of the most colourful and controversial characters to ever be involved with the sport and amongst the publicity stunts and the losses of temper, he is also very clever and he’s an extremely astute businessman which often gets overlooked. Perugia most definitely increased in stature during his time at the club and he achieved promotion to Serie A. Luciano Gaucci is the type of person English football can only dream about and one thing’s for sure, the game we love is a less stirring place without him.

“Everybody laughed at me when I signed Nakata, so I will enjoy it when I prove everyone wrong. We’ve been trailblazers before, and we’re going to break new ground again.”

- James

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Best League in the World?

‘The Premier league is the best league in the world.’ Over and over again I hear this muttered between single minded people (probably Sun readers), who sit down every Saturday and Sunday to let Sky feed us 90 minutes of the richer team beating the poorer one. Sky has created this aura that the Premier League is the place to be. This has led to an arrogance in English league. The likes of Harry Redknapp, Alex Ferguson and other Premier League managers go into the transfer market, using the money Sky have given them, and assume that every player will sell their own mother just to ply their trade in the best league in the world. I’m sure that Harry’s right, it probably has nothing to do with 1.3 billion Sky alone pump into the league.
It infuriates me that English fans dismiss teams like Shaktar Donetsk in the week against Barcelona simply because of their country of origin. My friend turned to me on Thursday and said that Real Madrid had a tougher tie than Barca. Apparently ten man Tottenham are a more formidable foe than Shaktar. I then tried to explain that Shaktar are a more established European side than many think and that Barca’s 5-1 victory was a stunning feat. As I expected his argument was that he had ‘never heard of any of them’. Like Sky my friend just dismissed any team that didn’t affect him and a combination of blind rage and a sudden feeling of can’t be arsed stopped me from taking the argument further.  
Two fingers to Sky? Probably not.
During the Fulham, Blackpool game on Sunday Chris Coleman said something along the lines of ‘the bottom teams can beat the top teams, that’s what makes this league the best in the world.’ One second please Chris? Wigan have an aggregate score against Manchester United this season of 0-6. The Premier League is no different to La Liga or Serie A. I know people will argue that only Barcelona and Real Madrid can win La Liga. And that realistically only either of the Milan clubs will win Serie A, but let’s face it, only the current top four are likely to win the Premiership. Harry Redknapp may talk up his Spurs side but Tottenham winning the league would be as amazing as Ledley King having an injury free season.
Worse than Gray?
This season has been one of the most unpredictable for years. Some would argue that the other 16 teams in the league are catching the top four and making it much more competitive. I don’t. In my opinion the league is getting worse. The PFA Player of the Year award nominees were announced today and looking at them I couldn’t name one outstanding player. Certain players have had spells of good form, much like Wayne Rooney and tourettes but no one player has been consistently great. Look at Manchester United. They are more than likely going to be crowned champions this term but have at times been dreadful. If you were to rank teams in order of how they’ve played in games, United would be mid-table or lower and relegation fighting Blackpool would be top.
Nominated for what?
The Premier League is definitely beginning to lose it’s glamour. No longer drawing in the best payers soon La Liga, thanks to Spain’s low taxes will probably be the next dominant force, as long as the teams can sort out their finances. Don’t despair though English fans, as long as there’s Sky Sports we can sit in our chairs oblivious to the great football being played all other the world.                

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The week in hastily cobbled together notes.

As someone who has only been truly following football for the last 6 years (for those of you struggling to comprehend that amount of time, it's approximately the same amount of time Shaun Wright-Phillips has been getting paid to do nothing at all.) I didn't feel comfortable listing the best XI players from my life time. I'd sooner listen to Mark Lawrenson than join the long list of tabloid hacks, lazily pasting together a series of superlatives to describe modern greats like Lionel Messi.

Good player, but I think that giant ball sums it up better than I can.

Instead, I thought I'd rather discuss the week itself, as if the title of this piece didn't give you a clue, I haven't exactly sat down and composed my thoughts. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a newspaper to hand to remind me of some of the lesser events our great sport has thrown up this week, let's proceed anyway...

True Moron

That little subtitle had a bit of thought put into it. For anyone working for the News of the World or any such tabloid, I just wanted to show how easy it is to not replace the word "true" with "troo" when writing yet another story on Wayne Rooney. Seriously, those puns are grating on my nerves.

You can probably guess exactly what I'm about to talk about; Rooney's foul mouthed rant at...well, no one in particular, shortly after single handedly disposing of West Ham. People often refer to Rooney as someone who truly loves the game, a man who would stop his car and join in if he saw a few kids having a game in the park. I don't get that vibe from a man who scores a match winning hat-trick, and refuses to break into a smile. The Terrace Talk team watched the game together, a game that was quite enjoyable as a spectacle until Rooney decided to turn it into a public call out to his doubters. It's hard to enjoy football when one of it's biggest draws takes his aggression out on the viewing public because he hit his peak sometime last year.  Then again, I certainly wouldn't enjoy being a striker if my supply line came in the form of Darron Gibson.

"No that's fine Darron, you had every right to shoot from 40 yards. It was silly of me to think you wouldn't take the shot on, at least this one remained in the stadium..."

Home comforts?

On another note, a great record came to an end on saturday, as managerial master Jose Mourinho finally witnessed a home defeat for the first time in 9 years. The last time it happened was February 23rd 2002 when the Portuguese genius was still in charge of Porto! It's almost a shame that the team who broke the record were not a team of the calibre of Barcelona, but rather Sporting Gijon. With no disrespect to Sporting, I think most people would've expected a truly great team to end what has been an astonishing record, a record that will probably never be beaten. Speaking of Madrid...

A trip to the Bernabeu is one thing...

...but it's nothing compared to the importance of a saturday afternoon trip to the DW Stadium. Tottenham, like so many teams before them, seem to be placing greater emphasis on their glamour tie with Los Blancos then they are with trying to get back to the promised land of Champions League football next season. While it's impossible to say Spurs haven't been a breath of fresh air this year, to say they're unlikely to win the biggest club honour is a massive understatement, needing to beat the the big two Spanish teams (providing of course, Barcelona get past a difficult Shakhtar team) before likely facing up against Chelsea or United in the final makes this years Champions League no more than an (almost) impossible dream. In the way of a non-league team going to Old Trafford in the F.A.Cup, Spurs' priorities should be to enjoy the occasion and give a good account of themselves, anything else is a bonus.

Their number one priority this season is to finish in the top 4 for a second consecutive season, doing so would mean they're once again able to invest in playing talent, and possibly even mount a serious challenge for the title providing Harry can find the right players. Everton will tell you that staying in the Champions League is much harder than getting there in the first place, and if cash-rich City beat them to the spot this year, it's likely they'll never wrestle it back.

Those are the main points I've drawn from this weekend of football. If anyone has any other great/interesting moments from this week, or if you just want to tell me I'm full of shit (I'm referring to you Darron Gibson), we have a comments section for that very reason.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Harry Redknapp - Charismatic and Lovable, or Offensive and Irritating?

My personal views on Harry Redknapp are as follows; I can’t stand the man, the way he patronises reporters with arrogant, sarcastic answers to reasonable questions, the way he undermines some of his players (David Bentley/Darren Bent) whilst overrating others (Jermaine Defoe/Gareth Bale), the way he constantly tries to unsettle other clubs’ players by talking about trying to sign them, his over-use of words such as ‘you know’ and ‘top’, plus his general attitude of ‘I’m just a regular, down-to-earth, east-end guy who’s everyone’s friend, just call me ‘Arry’ has me seething every time I see his smug, saggy face appear on my T.V screen.

Having read that, you may be forgiven for thinking that this post is just a one-sided attack on Redknapp but I know an awful lot of people who have entirely different opinions of him which I find hard to comprehend, so I will try and make this argument as balanced as possible. To illustrate my point that he divides opinion, I sent the same text message to two of my friends which read; ‘What do you like about Harry Redknapp?’ to which one of them replied ‘I like watching Tottenham play and he calls a spade a spade’, whereas the reply I received from the other friend who was faced with the same question just simply read ‘Nothing, he’s a prat’ before swiftly moving on to ask me an equally trivial query of his own, which was whether I would class a Panini as a sandwich.

There’s no doubt he’s doing a decent job at Tottenham, (as he likes to remind us on a regular basis) they were bottom of the Premier League when he took over and he’s taken them into the Champions League. He’s signed a lot of players since he arrived but he deserves credit for the achievement nevertheless. The style of attacking football Spurs have played in his time at the club and his ‘loveable and outspoken’ nature has seemingly won Redknapp and Spurs alike a lot of popularity with the press but a lot of football fans aren’t buying it. I belong to the group of people who feel his attitude comes across as arrogant and cocky, and not in a Jose Mourinho ‘twinkle in the eye’ type of cocky, more in a patronising and smug way.

Examples of him disrespecting reporters are common. Whilst conducting a post-match interview following Tottenham’s home defeat to Wigan at the end of August 2010, Sky Sports’ Rob Palmer innocently began a question to Redknapp with “You’ve made your name as a wheeler and dealer…” to which he interrupted by saying “No I’m not a wheeler and dealer – fuck off” then he started to walk away from the interview, which led Palmer to needlessly apologize, then Redknapp responded with “I’ve not made my name as a wheeler and fucking dealer, don’t say that, I’m a fucking football manager.” Rob Palmer was right though; Redknapp has made his name as a ‘wheeler and dealer’ and has been dining out on this tag for years.

His sarcasm and belittling of people doesn’t just stop at journalists though as his own player Darren Bent found out when he missed a headed chance to score the winner for Spurs in a game against Portsmouth. Redknapp ridiculed his player Bent after the game by saying, "My missus could have scored that. David James had given up on it. He had turned his back and was getting ready to pick the ball out of the net.” "He did not just have a bit to aim at; he had the whole goal to aim at. What can you do?” Many people would respond to comments such as those with, ‘Good old ‘Arry, he always tells it like it is!’ and then proceed to describe him using well coined clich├ęs such as ‘He’s a character’ and ‘What a breath of fresh air’.

His perceived lack of respect for journalists and players isn’t his only crime (literally in some cases (allegedly)). Another thing that has got people’s backs up is his apparent lack of loyalty to the clubs he’s managed at. Admittedly this isn’t a trait which exclusively applies to Harry Redknapp, but that doesn’t make it any easier for angry Portsmouth fans who have had Redknapp walk out on them twice, both at times when they needed him most. Just a few weeks after the first time he walked out on Portsmouth, he joined their most bitter of rivals Southampton, before rejoining Portsmouth after suffering relegation with Southampton. He did a good job there and won the fans around but then he was off again, this time to Tottenham, leaving Portsmouth in the lurch once again. If that wasn’t bad enough he proceeded to raid Portsmouth of their best players and they were relegated the following season after financial difficulties. His constant fluttering of his eyelashes towards the England job suggests he may not be in it for the long haul at Spurs either. It could easily be argued though, that there is nothing wrong with attempting to further your career. Then there have been the allegations of corruption, and the tax evasion charge on which everybody has their own opinions.

It may not look like it but I have tried my best to stay diplomatic about Harry Redknapp during this post even though I’ve clearly stated my own views on the man (and I could have gone on and on with that). He has never been far from controversy during his managerial career yet people still seem to have great affection for him, particularly in the press. I don’t know if I’m missing something when it comes to Redknapp or whether certain people just don’t see him the way I do. I'll end with a quote and you can make your own mind up about it.

On Samassi Abou: "He don't speak the English too good." Harry Redknapp

- James