What do Liverpool’s Andy Carroll, Bolton’s Mark Davies, and Man United’s Ashley Young have in common? All three have dived to win penalties for their respective teams in recent games. Carroll and Davies went down without contact from the Newcastle and Wolves defenders involved. Young went down after the slightest of contact from QPR’s Shaun Derry, who was subsequently sent off. Diving is so prevalent in the modern game that it will be impossible to eradicate. The authorities can put more pressure on players to stay on their feet with the introduction of retroactive punishment.
The only thing keeping Kenny Dalglish in his job at Liverpool is his legendary status as a player. Yes, Liverpool won the Carling Cup and are still in the FA Cup where they will play Everton in the semi-finals, but that is no longer enough to pull the wool over the eyes of long suffering fans of the club. The inept performance at Newcastle was bad, but Andy Carroll’s dive and Pepe Reina’s sending off made things worse. A lackluster win at Blackburn ended a poor run of results and quieted some of the critics, but a loss to Everton at Wembley will provide them an opportunity to make their voices heard again. Will the American owners be listening?
Juventus kept the pressure on Milan at the top of Serie A following two impressive wins at home to Napoli and away at Palermo. Juve’s attacking play was too much for both teams and they have an air of confidence about them that has been missing in recent years. The Old Lady remains unbeaten in the league this season and is only two points behind Milan, but with a game in hand. Having controversially exited the Champions League to Barcelona, Milan will be even more motivated to retain their title. Despite Juventus’ unbeaten run the Rossoneri are still favorites for the Scudetto due to a slightly easier run in to end the season. Juventus, though are growing in stature, and will be a force again on the European stage when they return to the Champions League next season.
Rangers are a club whose fans proudly claim to be loyal and British. They fly the Union Jack, not the Scottish saltire, as their flag. They make statements that as fans We Are the People, No Surrender and These Colors Never Run. Rangers are a quintessentially British club, part of the establishment in Scotland, and its fans are fiercely proud and defensive of their British heritage. It is a club that parades British troops as heroes to demonstrate its support for the armed forces and to remember current and historic wars fought by English/British armies. Rule Britannia, an ode to the English King George II, written in 1740, is belted out with gusto as if a game at Ibrox Stadium was the Last Night of the Proms. How ironic then that the club has failed to pay various taxes to Her Majesty’s Revenue Commission and that failure could see the club liquidated and its proud history erased?
Due to Rangers financial situation the club was placed in administration and subsequently docked 10 points in the league standings. Because of this penalty Rangers fans claim the Scottish Premier League title won by bitter rivals Celtic is tainted and deserves an asterisk next to it in the record books. What utter and complete nonsense! Throw out the financial predicament of Rangers - and Celtic are still worthy champions. They overturned a 15 point deficit and had gone top of the league before their rivals went into administration; they also have the most wins, the fewest losses, scored the most goals and conceded the least in the SPL. Celtic are worthy champions and only the most bitter of Rangers fans can deny it.
A deluded Chelsea-03 fan called in to one of the many talk radio shows and said that the best Champions League final would be Chelsea-03 facing Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho in Munich. He truly believed that such a final was meant to be and the script was written in the stars. He wasn’t the only one either. If a Bayern Munich-Barcelona final with the Germans playing in their own stadium is not enough of a story and a mouthwatering clash then what of the mother of all El Clasicos? Barcelona facing Real Madrid in a UEFA Champions League Final is the real dream final. Only myopic English and Chelsea-03 fans would say otherwise. No neutral wants to see Chelsea-03 in the final and risk the possibility that the morally bankrupt club wins the cup.
Giorgio Chinaglia passed away unexpectedly recently. He was a larger than life character who made a name for himself in the old NASL with the New York Cosmos. Prior to playing in America he was a title winner with Lazio in Italy. He represented the Azzuri 14 times before being kicked off the team in disgrace. His career with the Cosmos rehabilitated his reputation, and while he is considered a legend as a player in America, the term should not be applied to his career in Italy. He played in a poor Italian team and never rose to the level of adulation that the likes of Roberto Bettega and Paolo Rossi achieved, nor is he considered among the greats of the Italian or European game. Chinaglia was a good player, a legendary NASL star, an excellent analyst of the game, and one of the sports great characters. Yes, he was voted Lazio’s best ever player and one of the best in the NASL, but that does not equate to him being a legend throughout Italy.
Manchester City-08 and Tottenham Hotspur are battling it out for an unwanted title, winner of the biggest collapse in English Premier League history. City were the run away leaders and champions elect of the EPL, seven points clear of their bitter rivals Man United with the added bonus of having embarrassed them 6-1 at Old Trafford. They now trail United by eight points and face the real possibility of United clinching the title at the City of Manchester Stadium. When Spurs led North London rivals Arsenal by two goals at the Emirates on February 26 they were 47 minutes from establishing a 13 point lead over the Gunners and assuring a third place finish in the EPL. They now trail Arsenal by two points and are in a battle with Newcastle United and Chelsea-03 for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Somewhere Kevin Keegan is smiling.
Throughout the season Steve Kean (Scottish), Kenny Dalglish (Scottish), Arsene Wenger (French), Mick McCarthy (Irish), Andre Villas Boas (Portuguese) and Roberto Mancini (Italian) have been lambasted by the English soccer media. McCarthy and Villas Boas have since been fired as the manager of Wolves and Chelsea-03 respectively, so there was some justification to the criticism leveled at them. Dalglish led Liverpool to the Carling Cup, Kean may yet keep Blackburn up while Wenger has silenced all, but the most vocal of his critics. Only Mancini may deserve the abuse that comes his way. One manager who has managed to avoid any level of criticism is Harry Redknapp. Does his nationality have anything to do with it?