Sunday, September 30, 2012



Not enough 'Fergie time'! Sir Alex blasts referee Foy after Spurs defeat (SPORTSMAIL, 30 September 2012)
Sir Alex Ferguson has called for time keeping to be taken out of the control of referees after complaining about the amount added on during Manchester United's 3-2 defeat to Tottenham.

Chris Foy played four additional minutes in the second half at Old Trafford. [...]

But the Scot was furious at what he believed was a lack of injury time, which he felt did not take into account six substitutions and some time-wasting tactics from the visitors.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Teenage kicks could be right way for Rodgers to rejuvenate Liverpool (IAN HERBERT, 29 SEPTEMBER 2012, Independent)

Their dire failure to retain enough strikers when the transfer window closed last month is an outcome of a flaw in the club's senior management structure – the absence of a fully-empowered chief executive – which still has not been fixed. But the hole which was created in the squad has allowed some young players around the fringes to suggest, in convincing terms, that Liverpool possess the most talented teenagers in the Premier League.

If a side in which the Spanish 18-year-old Jesus "Suso" Fernandez may start are defeated by Norwich City today, then Liverpool may find themselves joint-bottom tonight. But ignore the bookies, should you hear them promoting short odds on Rodgers winning the sack race. Rodgers is building something very interesting and club owner John W Henry, perhaps the canniest mogul in United States sport, knows it.

If Liverpool finish 16th this season, as the club's playing foundations go in, Henry will accept it, and so will many supporters. The singing of Rodgers' name when the club were 1-0 down at West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup on Wednesday told us a lot. His decision to send on a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old at 1-1 revealed even more. This was a Liverpool who had not won a domestic fixture all season. However, their excellent football won through.

Young players like Raheem Sterling – raw, yet remarkably high on game intelligence – and Suso, a teenager possessing the coolness to set up a goal against Manchester United last weekend – are not of Rodgers' finding. Both belong to the academy system Rafael Benitez built up. There were a few bids for Suso on deadline day and only now is work under way to extend his contract, which is in its last year. But while using youngsters can buy a manager time, Rodgers has required depths of courage to give them a go and make them believe.

Andre Wisdom, a defender who stagnated like some others in the Kenny Dalglish era but shone in Liverpool's Europa League win in Berne last week, is in the same bracket, but the best may be yet to come. Look out for Jack Robinson, with pace and the tactical nous Benitez always wanted drilled into the Academy players, who has the potential to be a first-team left-back for a decade to come. Jordan Ibe may follow. There is some surprise around the England Under-17 ranks that Jerome Sinclair, who became Liverpool's youngest player, at 16 years and six days at The Hawthorns, should have accelerated into the team so fast. Even the Football Association had not seen that one coming.

"It's funny how things work out," said Rodgers. "Maybe it's fate. Maybe this is all part of the story. Sometimes things happen by design, others by necessity." He's a master of rhetoric and knows all too well that this fits a long Liverpool tradition. why this team still has Johnson, Gerrard & Reina on the books.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012


Forza Pro : Video games meet reality in small-town Italian soccer (Brian Phillips, August 23, 2012, Grantland)

Football Manager is relatively complex and difficult to master, but it's still a video game, meaning it's basically amenable to the direction of human desire. Unlike reality, it wants you to win. So I was sad but not entirely surprised when the real-life Pro Vercelli went under. If anything, the club's collapse seemed to underscore its basic fragility and hopelessness, which had been what drew me to it as a video-game proposition in the first place.

I'm going to try to be really brief and precise about what happened next, because it doesn't need any adornment. In August 2010, the city of Vercelli transferred the defunct club's name, colors, and history — essentially its entire identity — to another, smaller local club, Pro Belvedere, which effectively became the new Pro Vercelli.5 Pro Belvedere had just been relegated from the lowest-tier professional league in Italy, but because of a vacancy, the newly reconstituted Pro Vercelli was allowed to continue in the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione. Improbably, they finished third. They lost a promotion playoff 5-4 on aggregate to Pro Patria, but then a slew of financial catastrophes (soccer economics = hurricane, remember) left several clubs unable to compete in the next league up, the Lega Pro Prima Divisione, the following season. A few months after it ceased to exist, Pro Vercelli was lifted by default into the Lega Pro I, its highest level of club football in more than 30 years.

There are two national leagues in Italian soccer, Serie A (the top flight, where teams like Milan and Roma and Napoli play in front of massive crowds and choreographed tifosi) and Serie B (the second tier). These are, from a media/money/attention standpoint, essentially the only leagues that matter. Because of their surprise promotion to the Liga Pro I, Pro Vercelli started this past season just one division below Serie B. They were in over their heads. They were also within sight of elite-level soccer for the first time in decades.

And after a few weeks, unbelievably, they started winning. Behind a surprisingly effective attack and a defense anchored by 19-year-old Alberto Masi, Pro Vercelli started outplaying teams with legitimate shots at reaching Serie B. Then, ultra-unbelievably, Pro Vercelli started winning enough that it seemed like they had a legitimate shot at reaching Serie B. Late in the year, they missed a chance to move into first place in the league and a guaranteed promotion spot. In the end, they were forced to play in a two-legged playoff against the heavily favored Carpi. Which — transcendently ultra-unbelievably — they won, thanks to a 3-1 comeback victory, on the road, in the second leg. You can watch the video; it's an amazing record. All these mad heroics going down in front of banks of empty seats.

Anyway, the result: Starting Saturday, when they open the 2012-13 season against Ternana, Pro Vercelli will play in Serie B, where they last appeared three years after the end of World War II.

It was surreal for everyone, I imagine, or at least for everyone within the vanishingly small group of people who were paying attention, to see Pro Vercelli — two seasons after being left for dead — come out of the mists to qualify for the second division of Italian soccer. It was doubly surreal for me, because it almost exactly mirrored what had already happened, three years earlier, in my game. Nail-biting comebacks, expectation-defying winning streaks, youth players blossoming at exactly the right moment, playoff victories against long odds — this was all straight out of my Football Manager run. The players had different names, and, fine, my fantasy world team hadn't been helped by other clubs going bankrupt,6 but otherwise? It felt like the same story.

I had chosen a team to save that couldn't possibly be saved in real life. And here they were, in real life, being saved.

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Cameron ready for the big show (Ives Galarcep,  AUG 30, 2012, Fox Soccer)

If his performance in his official Stoke City debut was any indication, Cameron is ready for the leap. He turned in a Man of the Match performance in Stoke’s 0-0 draw against the Gunners. Cameron’s length and quickness helped slow down Arsenal’s pass-happy attack, and he showed Stoke fans that he is a player ready to be a key part of the team right away.

“It was a dream come true,” Cameron said of his Premier League debut. “Not a lot of people have this opportunity and for me it’s an opportunity that I want to take full advantage of.

“Guys like Brian McBride, Joe Max-Moore, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey. Those guys have paved the way for American guys to get the opportunity to play over here,” Cameron said. “They made the US players more respected in a way, and for me I’m just coming here, keeping my head down and working hard.”

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has made it clear that Cameron’s versatility was a key attraction in buying him from the Houston Dynamo. Cameron played almost everywhere but in goal during his five seasons with the Dynamo. Against Arsenal, Cameron featured in central midfield, where his ability to cover ground, pester opposing playmakers and ability to deliver quick probing passes helped him enjoy a strong debut.

The transition from MLS to the Premier League can be a difficult one, but Cameron credits playing for Dynamo head coach Dom Kinnear, as well as his experiences with the national team this year, with preparing him for the big move. The result is a player with the athleticism, engine, size and skill to thrive in the Premier League.