• England striker admits frustration at poor Old Trafford results • Player pleads for patience from supporters after derby defeat
Wayne Rooney admits opposition teams no longer fear coming to Old Trafford.
David Moyes endured the latest in a long line of disappointing nights at Old Trafford as his Manchester United team lost 3-0 to neighbours City. It was the sixth, and most devastating, home defeat of what has been a long and painful debut season for the United manager.
The last time United lost six league matches at home was in 2002 and that is a statistic Rooney feels is unacceptable. “It’s not good enough,” Rooney said in a frank interview with MUTV. “We can’t lose six homes games in a season and we have to put that right, and make this a place which teams fear again.”
Edin Dzeko scored either side of half-time before Yaya Touré added a third in stoppage time to seal a win that will no doubt raise further questions about Moyes’s future. The home fans who were left inside Old Trafford at the final whistle did not boo off their team but there was also a noticeable lack of songs in support of the United manager. Other supporters, meanwhile, vented their anger at former manager Sir Alex Ferguson over the appointment of Moyes.
Rooney has pleaded with the United fans for patience, despite what has been a dreadful season. He added: “They were great again tonight. As a team, we need them to be strong and to understand there has been a big change at the club. We have to step up and start giving the fans something to cheer about with some good performances and wins.”
“It’s a bad night and we didn’t deserve to win,” the United striker said. “We weren’t clinical enough and we didn’t create enough chances. No one likes to lose a derby game – they’re big games and they’re great to win but when you lose it’s not a great feeling.
“It’s probably been the story of our season so far, that we’ve got a couple of good results and then one which sets us back a bit.”
United have a home game against Aston Villa on Saturday, which is followed by a daunting double-header against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Rooney wants the team to bounce back quickly to avoid further embarrassments, such as the one they endured on Tuesday night.
“We know we have to respond,” the England striker said. “It’s a bad night for us all but we have to move on. We’ve got two big games coming up against Bayern Munich but first we have to focus on the Villa game and try to end the season on a positive note.”
You know you’re on a downer when even Paul Scholes pipes up to slag you off. The famously publicity shy former Manchester United midfielder made his punditry debut on Sky on Tuesday night, presumably as part of a some subtle Gary Neville-planned campaign to remind David Moyes what a decent central midfielder looks like – and he took time out from discussing the Manchester derby to give a characteristically no-frills assessment of Arsenal’s current woes, which, he reckoned, amount to just “a typical week for Arsenal”.
Scholes went on to decry, with barely disguised contempt, the “indiscipline” of Arsenal midfielders whose approach to matches appears to consist of going for “a little walk upfield, lose the ball, play a nice little one-two and not even bother sprinting back”. Arsenal, droned Scholes, lack urgency, method and leadership. They also lack a midfielder so committed to his profession that in 20 years he never learned to tackle but Scholes forgot to mention that. Still, Scholes’s outburst is a sign of the times: only a week after entire forests were felled to publish tributes to Arsène Wenger on his 1,000th match, questions about the manager’s current methods are being raised with new alarm. Funnily enough, the very last thing Scholes said in his punditry debut is that he’s available for work as a manager if a position should, you know, become available.
But is a position about to become available at the the Emirates? Some organs reckon not and claim Wenger is poised to finally sign a new contract, although the term of that deal has been reduced from two to three years, which still gives the Frenchman ample scope to lure Callum Chambers from Southampton; others insist Wenger will be invited to go spend some quality time with his new little gold cannon and that the new big shot at Arsenal will be one of Roberto Martínez, Brendan Rodgers, Jürgen Klopp or, of course, Steve Bould.
You’ll note Big Sam’s name does not feature on that list and, obviously, the only possible explanation for that is he’s not trendy enough. If his name were Sam Le Grand or Der Gross Sam, clubs would be pleading with him to come shower them with his magic dust. But no.
In fact, word is Allarydce may even be going out of fashion at Upton Park and West Ham fancy a makeover from that dashing foreigner Michael Laudrup.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are a lining up a new deal for Lionel Messi
and are preparing to play the Argentinian a world record £336,000 per week.
Expect to read reports in the next few days of Cristiano Ronaldo being “sad” at Real Madrid and seeking succour in the form of, let’s see now, a £337,000-per-week contract.
How much is Fernando Torres worth? That’s a matter that Chelsea could be discussing soon with Internazionale. And then they’ll go into another room in the San Siro and discuss Demba Ba’s worth with AC Milan.
Juventus, meanwhile, want Parma defender Gabriel Paletta.
Finally, with Vahid Halilhodzic set to step down after the World Cup, Algeria have started going through a wish list of potential new managers.
In fact, they must have started going through it a long time ago if they’re now reached the name Fabrizio Ravanelli.
The ex-Southampton star on his extraordinary post-retirement battle with drug and alcohol addiction which left him hiding in cupboards and hunting paparazzi in his garden with a knife
The following is an extract from Lars Sivertsen‘s article from Issue Five of the Blizzard, on 15 June 2012. The Blizzard is a quarterly football journal available from www.theblizzard.co.uk on a pay-what-you-like basis in print and digital formats.
On the face of it, the former Southampton captain Claus Lundekvam is a typical ex-footballer. Having been forced to retire because of injury in 2008, he lives in a house near the sea in his native Norway with his wife Nina, their two children and a dog named Lucky. He works as a regular pundit for TV2, the largest commercial broadcaster in Norway. All is well with Lundekvam. Except the story is slightly more complicated than that. A few years ago, shortly after his retirement, things went very badly wrong. “I would drink two litres of hard liquor and do between five and ten grams of cocaine every day,” he recalls. “At that point I’d given up. I accepted that as a human being I was finished.” Lundekvam, known to English football fans as a solid if unspectacular defender, became an alcoholic and a drug addict. And now he hopes to serve as a cautionary tale to others.
During the 1990s Scandinavian players became increasingly popular with English clubs. They had a reputation for being dependable on the pitch and unfussy off it. They adapted well, both to English football and to English culture. Few players personify this stereotype more thoroughly than Lundekvam. Having moved to England in the autumn of 1996 as an unknown, slightly gangly 23-year-old centre-back, he quickly established himself as a regular in Southampton’s defence. Matt Le Tissier described him as being “like Alan Hansen: very comfortable in front of his own goal, less comfortable in front of the opposition’s.”
Gordon Strachan, who managed Lundekvam between 2001 and 2004, went even further in deriding the Norwegian’s attacking prowess, suggesting at one point that referees should book Lundekvam for time-wasting when he goes up for corners and that if a corpse were to lie in the penalty area it would get its head to more crosses than Lundekvam did. A career total of three goals at club level would seem to indicate that the Scot had a point. Still, while he was unlikely ever to do anything particularly productive in the opposing box, he was equally unlikely to let you down at the back. And because of that, he ended up making more than 400 appearances for Southampton over the course of 12 seasons, captaining the club for several years and earning himself a testimonial at the end of it all.
“I was extremely determined to perform well,” he explains. Leaning back on a sofa at TV2’s studio complex in Bergen, Lundekvam speaks with a calmness that constantly threatens to slide into detachment. Listening to him, you instantly understand what Strachan meant when he said, “He was carried off at Leicester and someone asked me if he was unconscious. I didn’t have a clue. That’s what he’s always like.” And although his face doesn’t give away much, it’s impossible not to spot the nostalgia tinged with pride when he talks about his career at Southampton. “The thing I’m most proud of is when I signed a new contract,” he says.
“Not becoming a professional footballer in the first place, but having proved to myself that I could hold my own in one of the best leagues in Europe, that was the most important thing.” And after settling down on the south coast, signing for anyone other than Southampton was never on the cards. “I loved it there,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about Southampton before I went there, but I grew up by the coast and I loved the sea, so for me it was perfect.”
Playing for Southampton between 1996 and 2008, Lundekvam experienced first-hand the revolution English football went through, both on and off the pitch. “There was an enormous change in every way: the way we trained, how everything was set up, the facilities, how everything was sorted out for us,” he says. Today there are sports scientists, Prozone analysts, nutritionists and experts of every conceivable kind. In 1996, there weren’t. “It was chaotic,” he remembers. “I was brought over by Graeme Souness and he used to join in during training. He thought he still had it as a player and he would join in for five-a-sides and it always ended in a punch-up. Every bloody week.”
And after five-a-sides and a punch-up with Souness, it’s perhaps understandable that Lundekvam and his teammates needed a drink. “It was pretty much every day, after training we would meet up at the local pub,” he says. “It was part of the culture, part of being social. I think I benefited from being out with the guys; I was accepted in the group very quickly, quicker than other foreigners. I was part of the gang.”
Harry Redknapp once bemoaned the difficulties of integrating foreign players into a squad because “they don’t even drink”. There were no such problems with Lundekvam. “In terms of alcohol, there was a free flow of it,” he says. “But I never felt that the alcohol affected my performances. I knew what I had to do to perform.” The suggestion that he might have played drunk, as Tony Adams famously did, is instantly brushed off. “I don’t really understand how he managed to do that. It shouldn’t be possible. I can admit that I came to training with a hangover some times; maybe I still had alcohol in my blood and I was always dreadful.”
In spite of the odd hangover in training, Lundekvam was enjoying his football. “The first four seasons we didn’t have the best of squads, but we had Le Tissier and we had a fantastic spirit, and that kept us up. There were two or three seasons when we had great escapes. I remember one season we had nine points at Christmas, we were second from bottom and we managed to stay up. It was a fantastic feeling. We then managed to establish ourselves in mid-table for a few seasons and that was a big accomplishment for Southampton as a club.
“One highlight has to be the FA Cup final against Arsenal; that was a big day. It was incredible. When you’ve been in England for a while and you really get the English footballing culture under your skin, when you see how much it matters to the fans, then you understand what the FA Cup really means. So to get to be a part of that, it was huge.” As a person, Lundekvam seems every bit as steady and unassuming as he was as a player.
As time went by and English football hurtled into the new millennium, there were notable changes — not just on the training ground and in how everything was set up, but in the culture. “Players increasingly became prima donnas,” Lundekvam says. “Especially with the foreigners, less so with the British players as far as I could tell. At least not with the ones who came from the old school, the ones who had been taught that they had to work hard and clean their own boots. I think there’s something to that, but it all started to change. I was basically an adopted Englishman towards the end and I would spend a lot of time with James Beattie and Wayne Bridge and guys like that. We went to London to hang out with the Chelsea players and the Arsenal players and that sort of thing. And you could tell with the foreigners, especially the French guys, that they thought they were bigger and better than everyone else. When you’re a Premier League player now, you live in a kind of bubble where everything is taken care of for you. You hang out with all kinds of celebrities, movie stars and pop stars and whatever, that’s the kind of circles you socialise in as a Premier League player — at least these days it is.”
According to Lundekvam, there is a potential problem with the fact that top footballers have now become almost fully integrated into the celebrity and showbiz-scene. “The drinking culture in football has always been there and will always be there,” he explains. “You have parties when you can, after games and especially after wins, but that’s completely normal and it’ll always be like that — I have no problem with it. But in society today there are so many other drugs that are out there, drugs that are very easily available in that circle of people I was talking about. There is an almost free flow of other drugs, especially cocaine. It’s available to a much greater extent than before.”
For Lundekvam, the problems only really started after he retired. “I was injured for almost a year. I had three operations on my ankle before I realised that it was the end. But I was 35, so I wasn’t bitter about it, really. I’d experienced a lot and I even got a testimonial at the end of it.” But adapting to life outside of football and, more importantly, outside of the spotlight, proved difficult. “I think I was looking for something to replace the adrenaline rush, the buzz you get, that feeling of really being alive. You get used to performing in front of thousands every week and when that’s gone then suddenly there’s a huge mental void which becomes almost impossible to fill. At least for me. I just sat at home or did what I wanted to do, go on holiday, whatever. It became a vicious circle for me where there was more and more alcohol and I started trying this and that, and suddenly you’re in trouble.”
He remembers trying cocaine for the first time. “I was down in Marbella with some friends, that was the first time I tried it. It’s a typical place to go for a party and there’s even more of a drug culture down there. And when you’ve tried it once then you have an experience with it that sticks in your head. You can’t just try it once and think that you can stop it there, because it sticks with you. A lot of people can handle it, but some of us can’t and we develop an addiction.”
Things then went very badly wrong very quickly for Lundekvam but he managed to keep up appearances for a while. He was still living in Southampton with his wife and two children and for a period of time he combined life as a family man with his newly developed addiction to drugs. “I would drink a lot of alcohol and do a lot of cocaine and then I’d take 10-15 sleeping pills in the morning to get right again. I kept doing that for a while. I was smart enough to hide myself, I never showed myself outside when I knew I was on a lot of drugs, but both my family and those closest to me could obviously tell.”
This went on for about six months before his wife took the children and moved back to Norway. “I lived by myself for four months; my partner decided our kids couldn’t live with a father who was doing the kind of things I was doing. And at that point I had given up. I accepted that as a human being I was finished. I accepted and acknowledged that I was going to drink and do drugs until it killed me.”
His family, his determination not to let his two young daughters see him on drugs, had been the only thing holding him back. With them gone, things really got out of hand. “I just sat at home, because I had contacts and I had the finances to get whatever I wanted, I just had everything delivered to me.” Constantly high, drunk or both, Lundekvam took to roaming around in his garden with a huge knife, hunting paparazzi.
“With the combination of alcohol and cocaine, you get an angst and a paranoia that’s like nothing else and you think the whole world is watching you. So I unscrewed all the light bulbs in my house and I climbed the trees in the garden and crawled around out there.” The light bulbs he unscrewed because he thought they were cameras. One night he spent several hours hiding in a cupboard.
“I threatened everyone who came near me, the police, the ambulance people, I threatened them with a huge kitchen knife.” At one point Lundekvam was successfully hospitalised, almost had a heart attack at the hospital, slept for twelve hours and went straight back out to have a drink again. “I’ve always been like that, if I do something I do it 100%,” he explains. Unfortunately this also extended to substance abuse. He was arrested twice, first on 26 March 2010 (“on suspicion of being in possession of a controlled drug” according to a spokesman for Hampshire Police) and then on 16 April (“charged with section 39 common assault”), and he was hospitalised twice. Lundekvam eventually decided to end it all. He bought a one-way ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
“I still have the ticket, just to remind me,” he says. “That was the plan and it was going to be the end. I contacted the guy I used to organise my travels, told him I wanted a one-way ticket to Rio. I paid for it and everything, but I never made it to the airport. I guess they wouldn’t have let me on board anyway, but that was the plan. Because I knew that in Rio I would find the things I wanted, a free flow of cocaine and lots of gorgeous women. That would have been fine by me. It wouldn’t have taken long.” He had booked his flight during a drug-induced fit of despair in the middle of the night. By morning he was unconscious, which probably saved his life.
Lundekvam isn’t entirely sure how and why things turned. “It just happened one night, I think, when my head and soul gave in completely,” he says. “Something told me that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was just so tired, I was so completely empty. I just couldn’t take any more of it. And that made me very humble and I became incredibly sad. So I held my hands up and I asked for help. Thankfully I ended up getting the help I needed, because a lot of people tried, I went to the best psychologists, but none of them could help me.”
On 17 May 2010 — incidentally Norway’s national day— Lundekvam checked into the Sporting Chance Clinic. “I needed help from people who had been in the same situation themselves,” he says. “They know what it’s like. It’s like they speak the same language as you. That’s the difference. And of course they’re very good therapists, in terms of knowing what’s going on inside your head as an addict. So through them I got my life back.”
While still at the clinic, Lundekvam admitted to his problems in an interview on Norwegian television. He emphasised that the thing that haunted him the most was what he’d put his family through. When he left the clinic they were there waiting for him. His wife briefly moved back to England with the children but Lundekvam didn’t want to stay there.
“At that point I had so many terrible memories from the last two years in Southampton that I felt I needed a fresh start. So it was either moving to Spain or moving back to Norway. And there were people here in Norway who wanted me to come here, they told TV2 and suggested I could use my experience from playing in England as a pundit and that sounded interesting to me.” Now, two years later, Lundekvam is a highly regarded pundit on TV2’s Premier League broadcasts.
When Lundekvam retired from football, he had nothing in particular to do with his time, he had a huge adrenaline rush to replace, he had a lot of money, he was part of a social scene where drugs were rife and for years he had been part of a culture where you pretty much had a drink whenever you could. It’s really not all that hard to understand why things turned out the way they did. What is more ominous is the fact that this is the case for a large number of newly retired footballers, every year.
“I’m totally convinced that there is a large number of unrecorded cases of this problem — in fact, I know there is,” Lundekvam warns. “When you retire, it’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, because you still want to live up to your reputation as a professional footballer, with the image that goes with it, and that means a lot of drinking and a lot of other things. Retired footballers are a group of people who are especially at risk, I’m convinced of that. Because there’s a transition there that’s mentally incredibly tough, it’s very hard to handle. From being a star and living that kind of lifestyle and then suddenly it’s gone.”
The issue isn’t helped by the hype that surrounds modern football. “It’s gone completely beyond the pale, both the financial aspect and in terms of your status — you get everything handed to you on a plate and that does something to you. But when those days are over, there’s nothing that’s more quickly forgotten than an ex-footballer. So then you’re faced with an extremely tough battle. The only advice I can give is that you should get involved with something right away, something that gets you out of bed in the morning.”
Following the deaths of Robert Enke and Gary Speed, it should be obvious that footballers are far from the invulnerable demi-gods they are often treated as and expected to be. “It’s incredibly sad, but it’s part of reality. And I can see that very clearly because I’ve been there myself,” Lundekvam says. Still, depression and substance abuse remain issues that footballers, past or present, are reluctant to admit to or seek help for. “Especially here in Norway it’s a taboo subject and we’re very naive in thinking those problems don’t exist here. So hopefully I can contribute to changing that by going public with my problems. It’s such a big part of society, not just for footballers but for people in every walk of life, that if we have problems with alcohol and other things then we hide it. But of course that makes it very difficult to help anyone.”
Lundekvam got the help he needed in time and is now living a more or less normal life. “It’s a normal family life now. I feel very privileged, but at the same time life is challenging. Everyday life isn’t always easy. You have to learn things all over again, as a sober person. It’s an illness that you’ll carry for the rest of your life, so you always have to be careful. But as long as I stay sober, I think things will fall into place.”
“Isn’t it terrible to know that you can’t ever go for a pint again?” a co-worker recently asked Lundekvam. He thought for a minute before answering. “Yes, but thinking about what will happen if I do is worse.”
The Blizzard is a 190-page quarterly publication that allows the best football writers in the world the opportunity to write about the football stories that matter to them, with no limits and no editorial bias. All back issues are available on a pay-what-you-like basis in both print and digital formats from www.theblizzard.co.uk, with digital issues available from just 1p.
To take the second question first, then. Legend – and truth, most probably – says that the shirts were found in the loft of the Spital Hotel and donated to the club, known as Chesterfield Town at the time. Most likely, they had belonged to the defunct Spital Olympic club, and were perhaps made by simply cutting up union flags and stitching them together to create a football jersey.
Handily, Stuart Basson, Chesterfield’s official historian, was available to elucidate. “Chesterfield Town first played in their union flag kit on 16 November 1889, and wore the shirts until the end of the 1893-94 season, he explains. “The (second-hand) shirts were a gift from a pair of local businessmen named Mason, who made their money from a tobacco factory in the town and used some of it to aggressively promote their Spital Olympic side as rivals to Chesterfield. Spital played in the union flag kit up to their demise in 1888. I haven’t seen any explanation as to why the Spital side began playing in this kit, but I think it likely that the Masons were the sort of thrusting Victorian businessmen who would not have been averse to capitalising on patriotic fervour around the time of Khartoum, and the death of General Gordon.” Stuart also supplied a photo.
The National Football Museum has one such top in replica, with “Chesterfield Town 4 – Sheffield United 3” embroidered across the front in golden text along with the nickname “union jacks”. The words “Chesterfield” and “1866” can be found on the sleeve, and also the crooked spire for which Chesterfield is famous; this version was made to commemorate a famous victory over a bigger and more famous club, and also appeared on the back of a contestant in the ITV Sport Channel’s quiz show, “Do I Not Know That”.
As regards other examples of patriotism and nationalism, Barcelona’s current away strip, vertical red and yellow stripes, is similar to the Catalan flag, horizontal red and yellow stripes, while Athletic Bilbao’s away strip – green, with white and red stripes horizontal across the shoulders – resembles the Basque flag (a white cross and a green x on red background).
Meanwhile, sometime around 1986, Rick Stewart and Jason Green of Tynefield United and Roy of the Rovers comic, were picked for to play for a Great Britain select XI at youth level. The tops – “snazzy”, marvelled Green in the parlance of the time – were union flags and not at all dissimilar to those worn by the “Team GB” side at London 2012.
“What was the last English top-division goal not to be filmed?” tweets @ReddishShift.
Well, it is only since 1988 that a broadcaster – ITV and its ‘The Match’ programme – undertook to film every game. But whether every goal was shown was dependent upon the regional broadcasters, and so even in the early 90s, things that were missing were not missed.
For further details, we move to an email sent by Steve Williams. “That would probably be both of Sheffield Wednesday’s goals in their win against Manchester City on New Year’s Day 1990,” he replies to the original question. “In those days, matches not chosen for live broadcast or extended highlights would be filmed by a single camera. Unfortunately in this instance, the cameraman forgot it was a lunchtime kick-off, and didn’t turn up. After that, all top-flight matches were filmed with two cameras to avoid that happening again.” New Year’s Day, 1990, lunchtime kick-off? Gosh, people are so forgetful! And poor David Hirst, who not only scored, and not only went in net when penalty king Kevin Pressman was injured, but made notable saves from Steve Redmond and Colin Hendry.
However, Liam Derry can do better. “I’m not sure whether this counts,” he hedges, “as the video shows the ball nestling in the net, but it does miss the attempt on goal, and the corner which led to it. I’m certain this goal was never captured on film anywhere as Match of the Day that night showed the same sequence of footage as this video. I don’t know exactly why it wasn’t captured, but the overrunning of the preceding replay is probably something to do with it.” The goal in question was scored, apparently, by Ian Marshall – for Leicester City against Coventry City on 24 April 1999. Anyway, Liam, there was no need to hedge – it counts, and as far as we know, this is the most recent Premier League instance of the trope. There is, of tedious course, also José Mourinho’s “ghost goal” of 2005 – which, had it not been given, would have resulted in a penalty for Liverpool and a red card for William Gallas – but that either happened, or didn’t happen, in Europe.
Lastly for this one, in 1985-86, Manchester United won 10 straight games from the start of the season, a streak beaten in the top division only by Spurs’ 11 in 1960-61. Unfortunately for anyone interested – anyone like the Knowledge, say, whose first game came during this run – the telly companies and football authorities were in dispute, so footage of those games is limited to shaky club fuzz. Live games did not return until after Christmas, when Liverpool, in all-white, won in the Watford mud thanks to goals from Paul Walsh (two) and Ian Rush.
ALPHABETICAL SURNAMES – AND LOTS OF THEM
“What’s the longest footballer’s name you can think of that goes in alphabetical order?” asks Gareth Ventin. “I’ve only come up with a poxy four, for Bent.”
As you might expect, this is not the sole or correct answer – there’s the former Arsenal star, David Dein, for starters. Anyway, John C – who, if he is a footballer, counts himself – emailed in to nominate Walter Abbott, Johnny Berry and David Hirst, while Tom Locke got all linguistic on us. “Given that the longest word in English so structured is a mere eight letters (Aegilops, and even that’s a Latin proper name), it’s not too surprising that Gareth didn’t find much. There are loads of players called Bain and Beck, but the best I can do – assuming double letters are permitted – is Aymen Abdennour, who is a Tunisian defender on loan to Monaco from Toulouse. Of course, that is an interpretation from Arabic spelling, but also in France, there is Francis Gillot, Bordeaux coach.” Of course.
And Stephen Hyde has also been busy – or not busy, depending on your perspective. “Extensive research of the Premier League Era (it’s what Sky would have wanted) has revealed a handful of players with five-letter surnames all in alphabetical order – Bernard Allou, Greg Berry, the magnificently-named Martyn Booty, Shaun Derry, Rory Ginty, John Hills and Billy Knott. I can’t stretch it to six, though apparently Milenko Acimovic was known simply as ‘Acimov’ to his mates when he was with Tottenham. Ben Amos deserves a mention as both his first and last name are in alphabetical order, and if you’re going to insist that the entire name is in order then I’m afraid I can’t get much further than Jo.”
And then there’s Pete Tomlin. “This sort of question is a dream for someone as sad as me and I have spent a number of hours poring through the squads of all 92 football league teams. I can tell you that, ignoring the players’ first names, I have found there are 29 footballers whose surnames are in alphabetical order (assuming double letters are allowed). Disappointingly, the longest surname is five letters: Jordan Binns (Doncaster Rovers), Paul Corry (Sheffield Wednesday), Martin Fillo (Brentford), Billy Knott (Port Vale), Sam Morsy (Chesterfield) and Durrell Berry (Plymouth) share this ‘record’. There are two players whose first name and surname are both in alphabetical order (using the shortened version of their name as listed on official pages): Ben Amos (Man Utd) and Billy Knott (Port Vale). The team with the most players with alphabetically-ordered surnames is Port Vale who have three (Knott, Ryan Boot and Dominic Dell). However, my favourite discovery has to be the Burnley youth-team player Kevin Ly.” Here is the complete list from Pete:
Clint Hill (QPR) Filip Kiss (Cardiff) Ben Amos (Manchester United) David Fox (Norwich) Danny Fox (Southampton) James Fry (Birmingham) Leon Best (Blackburn) Bradley Orr (Blackburn) Leon Cort (Charlton) Jordan Binns (Doncaster at Goole) Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest) Paul Corry (Sheffield Wednesday) Almen Abdi (Watford) Martin Fillo (Brentford) David Amoo (Carlisle) Lewis Guy (Carlisle) Alex Gott (Coventry) Dean Cox (Leyton Orient) Billy Knott (Port Vale) Ryan Boot (Port Vale) Dominic Dell (Port Vale) Matt Hill (Sheffield United) Lee Cox (Swindon) Alan Gow (Bristol Rovers) Lee Bell (Burton Albion) Sam Morsy (Chesterfield) Matthew Gill (Exeter) Durrell Berry (Plymouth) Barry Corr (Southend)
So, the Knowledge decided to investigate, and came by Zema Abbey, formerly of Baldock Town, Hitchin Town, Cambridge United, Norwich City, Boston United, Wycombe Wanderers, Bradford City, Torquay United, Forest Green Rovers, Kettering Town, Barton Rovers, Halesowen Town, Arlesey Town and now player-manager of St Neots Town. Unsurprisingly, the same attribute is shared by his brother Nathan Abbey, formerly of Luton Town, Chesterfield, Northampton Town, Stevenage Borough, St Albans City, Hayes, Boston United, Leyton Orient, Bristol City, Torquay United, Brentford, MK Dons, Rushden & Diamonds, Kettering Town, Arlesey Town and now St Neots Town.
Next, in search of length and waiving the need to still be playing, we moved on to Ghanaian names, given their propensity for starting with the letter ‘a’. We discovered Mohammed Abu – and, accordingly, Samassi Abou, formerly of West Ham – along with Lovelace Ackah, not useful for our specific purpose, but absolutely so for the wider one of existing. Others to emerge were David Addy, and various with surname Addo, Adu, and Amoo (again). A further country thought to be helpful was Algeria, and yielded Hocine Achiou, along with Smaïl Diss, Abdel and Meziane Ighil.
“The answer given in the recent edition for this question reads that the biggest difference was between Clint Marcelle (5ft 4in) and Kevin Francis (6ft 7in) at 15 inches,” emails Gabor Schaeffer. “However, the 2013-14 edition of the Argentinian Primera División saw 5ft tall (or 5ft short) Daniel Villalva paired with bulky striker Hernán Boyero, who stands 6ft 4in, which I believe is 16 inches of difference. Interesting side note is that they both were on loan at the club, Argentinos Juniors, at the time. They played together at least three times.”
“Are the Laudrups (Finn, Michael, Brian, Mads, Andreas) the greatest footballing family of all time?” wondered Jasper Uhl back in January 2007.
There or thereabouts, Jasper, although they could well be bested by the Nordahl family of Sweden. “All of the brothers (Bertil, Knut, Gunnar, Gösta and Göran) played in the Allsvenskan, the elite league in Sweden,” explains Fredrik Andersson. “Four of them won the Allsvenskan (Bertil, Knut, Gunnar and Gösta). Bertil, Knut and Gunnar played for the Swedish national team and won Olympic gold in 1948, and they also played in Serie A. Gunnar played for AC Milan (1949-1956) and Roma (1956-1958). He won the Serie A title twice and was the top scorer on five occasions. Bertil spent three seasons with Atalanta (1949-1952), while Knut played for Roma between 1950 and 1952. Another member of the Nordahl family who played professional is Gunnar’s son Thomas, who played in the Swedish elite league and Anderlecht in Belgium.”
“Does the Knowledge or any readers have any recollection of a manager succeeding following a vote of confidence from the board?” asks Patrick Campbell.
“Who was the first player to wear fluorescent boots? Who can we blame for ruining football?” sighs Rob Smyth.
“Have the four English professional divisions ever had four champions beginning with the same letter in the same season,” ponders Gregg Bakowski for no reason other than it popped into his head when he was cycling to work.
“Brondby IF have conceded an own goal in each of their last three home matches,” notes Henrik Hansen. “That has never happened before for a Danish Super League team, but how common is such a streak on the global stage?”
• Vokes and Stanislas edge Burnley closer to Leicester • QPR move up to third thanks to Yossi Benayoun stunner
Leeds United, a club in crisis, were pummelled 4-1 at Bournemouth. The strikers Yann Kermorgant and Lewis Grabban both netted twice before Ross McCormack pulled back a late one for well-beaten Leeds.
Second-placed Burnley profited from Leicester City‘s 1-1 draw against lowly Yeovil Town as they beat DoncasterRovers 2-0. Sam Vokes fired in a penalty shortly after half-time before Junior Stanislas made sure the Clarets moved three points behind Leicester in the title race.
QPR moved up to third as they ended Wigan Athletic‘s stunning run with a 1-0 victory, thanks to Yossi Benayoun’s 16th-minute goal.
Benayoun saw red late on but Harry Redknapp’s men held on against a Latics side that had won nine of their past 10 games. QPR’s hopes of automatic promotion appear remote, however, as they remained 10 points adrift of Burnley.
DerbyCounty were unable to hold on after Patrick Bamford gave them a first-minute lead to lose 2-1 at Ipswich Town. A Jonathan Williams screamer levelled the match on 68 minutes before the defender Christophe Berra won it in injury time. Victory moved Mick McCarthy’s side two points from the play-off places but those just inside it had a night to forget.
In addition to Derby and Wigan’s defeats, sixth-placed Reading suffered a forgettable 3-1 home reverse to Barnsley. The Tykes began the night rock-bottom but were gifted a 16th-minute lead when Chris O’Grady easily intercepted a poor back pass and laid off the ball for Stephen Dawson to score.
Pavel Pogrebnyak levelled from the penalty spot moments later but that was as good as it got for the Royals. Reuben Noble-Lazarus put Barnsley ahead again on 53 minutes before Dale Jennings smashed in a third to prise the Yorkshire club off the bottom.
Millwall replaced them in last place after they lost 3-2 to Birmingham City at the Den.
Jordon Ibe’s opener was cancelled out when Steve Morison’s tight-angled shot went in with help from the Blues defender Paul Robinson. Headers from Andrew Shinnie and Nikola Zigic gave Birmingham the breathing space they needed as Simeon Jackson slotted a late penalty.
Charlton Athletic opened a three-point gap over the relegation zone as they beat managerless Nottingham Forest 1-0.
Rudy Gestede scored an injury-time equaliser as Blackburn Rovers snatched a thrilling 3-3 draw at Watford.
The hosts thought they had wrapped up the points moments earlier when the substitute Cristian Battocchio ran clear of the away defence and scored.
A see-sawing contest started with Marco Cassetti giving Watford a fourth-minute lead before David Dunn and Craig Conway wrestled the lead to Blackburn. Troy Deeney levelled from the penalty spot before the late drama.
Albert Adomah twice equalised as Middlesbrough drew 2-2 at Huddersfield Town. Adam Hammill and Nakhi Wells had put Town ahead.
Leon Best slid in an injury-time winner as Sheffield Wednesday beat promotion-chasing Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 while a 16th-minute David Wheater header was enough for Bolton Wanderers to overcome Blackpool by the same scoreline.
Ramos was dismissed for the 19th time in his career after bringing down Neymar in the second half of the 4-3 defeat to Real’s arch-rivals. It means the Spain international defender is ruled out of a return to his former club Sevilla on Wednesday night, although Real now intend to take the case to the Spanish Sport Ministry’s administrative court to request an injunction on the suspension.
The case was based around the argument that Ramos did not foul Neymar and the move that led to the incident began in an offside position. Real Madrid supplied video evidence to back their case but it was rejected by the competitions committee, meaning they will now turn their attention to gaining an injunction.
Ramos was included in Carlo Ancelotti’s match squad named on Tuesday but his participation will now rest on the administrative court’s ruling.
• Moyes insists ‘planning already under way for future’ • Sir Bobby Charlton certain Scot is right man for job
David Moyes insists he will be Manchester United manager for the long term, with the Scot revealing there are plans in place for “many seasons to come”, despite a dismal first campaign in charge.
Under Moyes United’s faltering title defence has left the team 18 points behind the leaders, Chelsea, and 12 from Manchester City in advance of Tuesday’s 167th derby at Old Trafford.
Last week Moyes came under increased pressure following the 3-0 home loss to Liverpool. But writing in the matchday programme for the derby, the manager said: “Our thoughts are well and truly on the future and our planning is already well under way, not just for next season, but for many seasons to come.
“During Manchester United’s long periods of dominance in the last two decades, which brought unparalleled success, many other clubs had to undergo periods of turnaround and they knew tough times when things were not going well for them. They looked to change lots of different managers and players, all the while trying to find ways of keeping up and competing with United.
“We are now in our own time of change and we are going through a tricky period, like those other clubs had to go through. Here at United, the plan is for long-term stability. A base has been brilliantly set by managers past at the club, and I will be looking to continue that. Rest assured that we are giving everything we have to have a lasting, positive impact here at Old Trafford.”
Despite the club’s executive taking a dim view of the loss to Liverpool and the 2-0 defeat at Olympiakos in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, Moyes said he retains its backing. “We at the club understand that we are in a period of transition. Football is cyclical and it will not be long before we are on the up,” the 50-year-old said.
However, Sir Bobby Charlton, who is on the United board, offered the strongest criticism yet from a high-ranking member of the hierarchy. Speaking in Malaysia, he said the team had played “really, really badly” but did back the Scot. “It doesn’t mean we are going to change everything. I’m absolutely certain that we picked the right man,” he told the BBC.
• Some executives talked about removing Michael Garcia • Jim Boyce ‘would have considered quitting’ had plan worked
The former FBI investigator looking into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups almost fell victim to a plot by some Fifa executives to remove him from the organisation’s ethics committee.
Michael Garcia, who heads the investigatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, has been charged with examining the chaotic dual bidding race for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively in December 2010.
The US lawyer turned up unannounced in Zurich last week to speak to those members of the executive committee who were around during the controversial process, which was mired in allegations of bribery and vote swapping. Some were believed to be unsettled by his presence and it has now emerged that informal conversations took place among some unnamed executives on the fringes of the meeting in an attempt to remove Garcia from his position.
The Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce, Britain’s representative on the 24-person executive committee, told the Guardian he was aware of the plot but said it never made it as far as the executive committee boardroom.
He said he would have been appalled if the plan had been raised officially and would have had to consider his position if anyone moved to unseat Garcia or interfere with his independent investigation.
“It is something that did go on but I don’t know who was involved. There was a bit of informal chit-chat,” he said.
In a statement, Boyce added: “As someone who has been brought up with honesty and integrity – and it was a great honour for me to be asked to be a vice-president – if this had been proposed at the exco meeting or I thought for one moment Garcia would be removed in any fashion from carrying out his full investigation, I and others would be aghast and would have had to consider our positions because things at Fifa have been improving greatly.”
It is believed that some of those executive committee members who have joined Fifa’s top table since December 2010 intervened to protest strongly that it would cast the organisation in an even worse light if Garcia was blocked in any way.
There is no suggestion that the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, who last week refused to comment on fresh allegations of illicit payments between former Fifa executives Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner after the World Cup vote, was involved in the discussions regarding Garcia.
Any move to remove Garcia or abolish the reformed dual-chamber ethics committee, introduced in the wake of the storm of protest that accompanied the sullied 2011 Fifa presidential election, would have been unconstitutional in any case.
Having been created by the full Fifa congress, which will next meet in São Paulo on the eve of the World Cup, it is not within the executive committee’s power to interfere with the supposedly independent ethics committee.
The Fifa executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan told Reuters: “I am very happy that Michael Garcia will continue in his work. There were some questions raised about the necessity of having an independent ethics Committee cut, to be honest, I think that idea was stopped. “There were certain people like myself who could not accept that this could happen. He was supported by our congress and given a mandate and I am very happy he will continue with his work.”
The new ethics committee was approved by the congress in June 2011 while Garcia himself was appointed in June 2012 at an extraordinary executive committee meeting.
Garcia, a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, was empowered by Congress to “leave no stone unturned” in his quest to discover if there had been any wrong-doing regarding the voting procedures in the World Cup bidding process. He has already toured the various bidding nations, including England, to interview all of those involved in the bid process and gather evidence.
As Fifa’s first independent ethics investigator and prosecutor, Garcia was also empowered to investigate the votes-for-cash scandal that led to the long-serving and high-ranking Fifa officials Warner and Bin Hammam leaving the organisation.
Warner resigned under a cloud and Bin Hammam was banned for football for life after they were implicated in paying cash bribes of $40,000 to Caribbean Football Union members during the Qatari’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Blatter as Fifa president.
• Centre-back viewed as vital to David Moyes’s rebuilding • Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand set to leave United
Manchester United are to offer Phil Jones a new contract and the defender is open to tieing himself to the club beyond the two years that he will have left on his current deal in the summer.
Talks have not yet started owing to Jones having an injury-interrupted campaign, though the 22-year-old has been told that David Moyes views him as an essential member of the team over the coming seasons.
Jones, in the third season of a five-year deal, earns around £50,000 a week and he can expect a marked increase on these terms. The hope is that a strong finish to the campaign can pave the way for smooth negotiations and United do not expect any particular stumbling blocks to Jones committing his future to the club.
Jones’s desire to throw himself into every challenge is of concern to Moyes as this is a prime factor in the number of injuries he has suffered. Since breaking into the Blackburn Rovers’s team in 2010 Jones has suffered 18 different injuries of varying degree, with 16 of those coming at United, dating from December 2011.
This season Jones has been injured on five different occasions, with these including foot, pelvis, knee and hip problems plus concussion, though he has still managed 30 appearances for United – including in the Community Shield – and two more for England.
Moyes said: “I think that is how he plays. He is an old-fashioned player who throws himself about and you may say: ‘Why did you do that?’ But that is why he has had a few injuries and been caught out a few times. We certainly don’t want that to continue. We think that, with maturity, he will recognise when he should go for it and when he should stand up.”
Despite Jones having signed in summer 2011 to join Smalling, who was bought the year before, the pair only played together for a first time in central defence earlier this month, in the 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Of the partnership, Jones said: “I think the first ‘click’ I really had was playing in the Under-21s with Chris Smalling at the back. I thought every time we played together, we understood each other’s game and we complemented each other well. Hopefully that can kick off at Manchester United as well.”
Jones’s ability to step into midfield to play an anchoring role with ease is a further plus for Moyes. Last month the Scot said: “I see Jones settling in at centre-back and, in time, he will become a very good centre-back, but I think, right now, he is a very good defensive midfield player which we might need in some games.”
When signing in June 2011 in a £17m transfer from Rovers Jones described joining United as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” after Sir Alex Ferguson had spotted his potential despite him having made his Premier League debut only that spring.
Jones made his England debut against Montenegro in 2011 and was praised by the then manager Fabio Capello for being “born with talent”. However, he has managed only nine caps for the national team since. He featured in the home friendlies against Scotland and Chile as a substitute this season but did not make the squad for any of the World Cup qualifying games.
Trinity Mirror is to launch the next phase of its digital-first strategy with a restructure of its operations in the north-east by taking a giant step into the future.
Under the slogan Newsroom 3.1, the company is introducing a new publishing process in its Newcastle and Teesside newsrooms.
In the coming months a similar digital-first working system will be rolled out to the publisher’s other regional centres in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Huddersfield.
It comes against the background of a rapid increase in online audiences. Trinity Mirror recorded 119m page views on its regional sites in February alone, a year-on-year rise of 72%.
“There has been huge growth in the past year,” says the company’s regional chief, Neil Benson. Together, the regionals and the nationals (largely the Daily Mirror), are now drawing more than 60m uniques a month.
In a press release, Benson is quoted as saying: “Digitally, we have made great progress over several years but we now need to accelerate the growth and engagement level of our digital audiences.
“In an era when audiences want access to live-up-to-the-minute information across a variety of platforms, our working day will no longer be built around our print products.
“The new structure gives us the capability to produce more digital content all day and every day, while still producing brilliant newspapers.”
In practical terms, it means that the entire focus of newsrooms throughout the day will be on posting copy online. Previously, there was a tendency to favour digital in the mornings and then work on print after that.
Now content will be created in order to hit key digital audience spikes across the day, ensuring that users can find refreshed and new content each time they visit a website.
That online content will then be edited and packaged into the print versions of the north-east region’s newspapers – the Chronicle, Evening Gazette, Journal and Sunday Sun.
It amounts, in other words, to a change in the mind-set for the editors and journalists. Print comes second and with it, a change of editorial emphasis in the newspaper – “less megaphone, more discussion,” says Benson.
As for the effect on jobs, the overall size of the north-east’s editorial team will increase by 17. There will be 25 new roles but eight existing staff are at the risk of redundancy.
Among the new digital positions will be jobs specifically aimed at increasing audience engagement and driving traffic, such as social media editors, planning analysts and advance content writers.
In addition, two football roles will be created with a Newcastle United editor and a Middlesbrough FC editor.
Darren Thwaites, the publisher’s north-east editor-in-chief says: “The demand for local content is as great as ever and it’s our job to give the audience what they want, when they want it.”
Evidently, Newsroom 3.1 will make maximum use of content through SEO and social media as well as through digital analytics tools, such as Chartbeat and Omniture.