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Weekend ramblings

As I’ve got older I’ve found that United results impact on me for shorter and shorter periods of time, with negative results no longer ruining a day, a week, a month or even a year. In fact, usually I’ll be mildly annoyed for something in the region of 20 minutes and then get on with my weekend.

United vs Liverpool has the potential to be slightly different. That nervous, excited, horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach is back and it’s not helped in the slightest by the rampant form of Salah, Firminho and Mane, and the patchy performances from United recently, even if a win against Chelsea and a last minute screamer against Palace were very welcome.

Regardless of how well Liverpool are playing, how good their record is against other top 6 clubs, and how many goals Salah has scored, I can see this being another big game that stands or falls on the defensive units. Liverpool’s is far stronger since Van Dijk arrived and Karius has assumed the no1 spot and United still have David De Gea, so I’m backing the draw, both 0-0 and 1-1, along with a 14/1 and 20/1 MOTM bet on De Gea and Van Dijk respectively.

Outside of the North West derby I’m sticking with draws. Somehow the best league in the world seems to spend large periods of 3pm Kick Offs with 6 or 7 teams goalless and with at least 10, possibly even 12 teams still at risk of relegation I’m expecting cagey affairs with teams more worried about not losing than they are winning.

With that in mind I’ve thrown together a 103/1 four fold of Huddersfield vs Swansea, Newcastle vs Saints, West Ham vs Burnley and Everton vs Brighton all to finish evens, along with a couple of slightly sillier bets like a 1p per line lucky 63’s and a frankly ridiculous Super Heinz (120 x 1p bets) on all 7 PL games this Saturday finishing under 2.5 goals. Whilst they’re unlikely to come in, I’m hoping to get a decent cash out offer if relegation nerves keeps the scores down.

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional gambler. I’m not even a particularly great amateur. Please don’t copy my bets under the impression that they will make you money. They most likely will do the exact opposite. If you want to really make some money find safe bets that are badly priced and hope for the best. My formula is something along the lines of betting £10 per week and every now and again coming up with a winner that nets >£100 – hopefully cancelling out previous weeks. That usually means lots of weeks of losses just to pay for that one winner.


The Matic Multiverse – a sort of betting preview

For many physicists the Multiverse isn’t so much science fiction as science that hasn’t been proven yet. They talk of infinite numbers of universes where anything that possibly can happen, has, somewhere along the line happened.


It’s a bit like the infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters eventually bashing out the complete works of Shakespeare. Or Stuart Pearce doing well in a job for more than 10 games.


Of course, the beauty of the infinite alternative universe theory is it means you can imagine a universe where everyone has exactly the same personalities and experiences as this one, but with one tiny difference – Nemanja Matic wins the ball from Ashley Barnes and in the process follows through, kicking Barnes. Barnes then reacts by pushing Matic over.


What follows is my theory on the actions of an alternative universe Jose Mourinho.


“First the FA does nothing when I am pushed. In fact, I am amazed that I didn’t get ban for being pushed. “


It seems that even with infinite universes there are very few where Mourinho won’t take an opportunity to have a dig at Arsene Wenger.
“Now, my player, he wins the ball and these ‘pundits’ at Sky they want to ban him for being shoved over?”


As previously mentioned this alternative universe is the same in every way, bar the reversal of Barnes and Matic. That means that Jose is still a paid ambassador for BT Sport and still thinks there’s a huge conspiracy to stop his team.


“There is no place in the game for this. Matic, he is an honest player. Like all of my players. He tries to win the ball and he does.”


I know what you’re thinking – in this Universe has Mourinho previously sent out teams to kick Arjen Roben off the pitch. Has he engaged in a complete and utter shut down of Barcelona’s flair players with multiple teams using methods that could at best be described as robust? Yes – it’s identical in every way, bar the reversal of Barnes and Matic.


“Afterwards these is a little bit of contact, this is natural in football. But Barnes’ reaction? There is no place for this in football, it is not sporting. I tell people how much I love England because of the sportsmanship but for me, that was not evident today.”


You’re probably wondering if in this universe Droga spent his most theatrical years working under Mourinho, or if Deco and Porto rolled, time wasted and tricked their way to a UEFA Cup in 2003, or if this is the man who re-deployed PEPE as a defensive midfielder just to kick Iniesta and Messi. All present and correct. The only change is Barnes for Matic.



Now, of course this is all just theoretical physics at this stage, but it does make you wonder why Chelsea are acting the way they are about Barnes and Matic.


Chelsea have many, many fine players this season, but almost all of them have another player in the squad who can step in and perform their role to almost the same standard. Matic is the exception and perhaps that’s why Chelsea are so outraged by his red card.


It’s almost like they’re a shadow of themselves when he doesn’t play. It’s almost as if the Serbian’s one poor performance of the season, ironically against Spurs, showed Mourinho exactly what would happen if a Spurs midfield was allowed to run riot against his defence. That’s why at 4/1 I’ll be betting on Spurs.

Footballers on drugs would be awesome

I thought it would be good to imagine what would happen if you gave a few players, past and present, some drugs.


I don’t mean boring drugs that enhance performance. I’m talking cocaine, weed, ecstasy, that sort of thing. The fun stuff.


How about Dimitar Berbatov on Speed? But only for the second half of games. You could watch him glide around the pitch occasionally making a beautiful and nuanced flick for 45 minutes. In the second half you’d get raging bull with a Velcro first touch and a sublime finish. It’d be magical.


Imagine John Terry on MDMA. None of the hateful, racist bile. None of the “Captain, Leader, Legend” stuff. Instead he’d be all about the team. “Nah boys, you earnt this. You did it. Franky, come here, I want you to have the armband today. Nah, you deserve it mate, you work your bollocks off and I know I sometime take the piss, but I really respect you for knowing your latin. Nah I’m being serious, I do, Wayne Bridge’s Mrs has some lovely latin drapes.”


I think every United fan has at some point or another wished they could give Rafael a quick tug on a blunt once he’s got his first yellow card, just to calm him the fuck down before he flies in and gets his second yellow card four minutes later. Of course, you’d need to get the right weed for the right player because the last thing you want is a paranoid right back stood on the goal line and playing everyone onside.


My final call is Emile Heskey on cocaine. Football is a confidence game, look at Diego Costa for Chelsea and compare him to Diego Costa for Spain. You can’t tell me that there’s any difference in quality of service, it quite simply comes down to him thinking he’s going to score with every chance for Chelsea and shitting his pants for Spain.


Emile Heskey had the odd game here and there when he was all fired up and he was fucking unplayable. He once bullied Nesta and Cannavaro. Most of the time though he was terrified of his own shadow. You could psyche him out in the tunnel by telling him his flies were undone. He’d spend the next 10 minutes working out whether it was a “made you look, made you stare” joke or if his flies really were undone. It was only when the mascot told him that you don’t have flies on shorts that he could start running about again, and even then he felt silly.


Emile Heskey on cocaine though. Fucking hell. Who’d want to mark him? If cocaine was allowed in football Emile Heskey would have won a Ballon d’Or.

Tired? Pah, get down the mine.

On Sunday 12th October England beat Estonia 1-0 with Raheem Sterling coming from the bench having told Roy Hodgson he was tired.

Friday October 10th was World Mental Health Day.

The only reason I mention this is because two days after the World celebrated how much more aware it is of mental health and people suggested that we stop stigmatising, telling people to man up, get over it, cheer up or perk up, we then see a barage of critiscism aimed at a 19 year old kid who admitted to feeling tired.

Now the natural assumption has been that it’s been the intensity and frequency of games that’s done it.

But what if it’s not? What if actually the pressure of being 19 years old and carrying a football club as demented as Liverpool on some talented shoulders is weighing a little heavily on a man who until recently had Luis Suarez to carry the pressure and burder of responsibility. Last season Suarez scored more than a goal a game, Sturridge was firing them in for fun and Gerrard was getting roughly one penalty every three games. Goals from Sterling were a bonus. A wonderful, match winning at times bonus, but a bonus none the less. Liverpool were the wild cards and Sterling, the unpredictable young talent was the wild card of wild cards.

This year he’s the go to guy. For England he’s one of probably four players who actually looks like he could beat a man. The other three being Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend. Again, there’s a pressure and an expectation.

At 19 I could barely deal with the pressure of turning up to work sober, if at all.

Wayne Rooney went into Euro 2004 with all that expectation and all that pressure and ended up stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s man parts, getting himself sent off and with him, any chance of England winning. Who knows what might have happened if Rooney had felt better mentally prepared?

What if the penalty takers of Shearer’s squads were a bit more honest and a bit less stiff upper lip? “Actually boss, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it as well, is anyone else feeling up for it?” David Batty didn’t look like a man who was going to score a penalty. He looked like a man who was prepared to do the brave thing and take one for the team.

This is of course all speculation, Sterling may just have felt physically tired, but it shows how far we still have to go if nobody is even considering the mental side of things, if all we can think to do is mock somebody for their honesty.


Skyberdine Sports News

In the not so distant future, there will be no football journalists. That World will have been taken over by the machines. Of course there will be an underground resistance of bloggers, who write about the emotions of football, there will be those who analyse the tactical depth and the individual battles on a pitch, but mostly, there will be the Transfer Matrix.

There are a couple of things that you should know about the machines: firstly, they were created by man to aid him, and to do his bidding. Secondly, they are programmed to evolve, to learn, and above all, to generate transfer news.

Now it would be easy to look harshly upon the creators, to accuse them of taking Transfer Science too far, and meddling in things that man was not meant to touch, but these were pioneers of Science who sought only to help mankind, to quench our thirst for transfer gossip. These were not cunning men in the sense that they saw the potential evil in things, for they were too excited by the possibility of doing good. And above all, these were men for whom the first 11 digits they ever learnt were not those that made up a girl’s phone number, but 3.1415926535, men who had for years enjoyed football through the medium of spread-sheet based management and had discovered that with the simple application of the correct algorithms, transfer gossip could be more believable and the guesses more educated than ever before.

It started, as all good stories do, with a comprehensive data base. Next, they took existing rankings and approximated values and salary demands for every player, of every club, in every country. Next they added the club data, budgets, historical ranking, preference over history for players of a particular nationality (this was calculated with a loading for recency, so 5 French players signed in the last 3 years would carry more weight than 20 Irish players signed from 1960-80) as well as a full squad list and an algorithm to calculate average ratings provided by for each player in each position and using this data identify the weakest positions vs current ages, factored against contract length, average appearances for the club and potential resale value.

If you classify human interest in transfer news, we are not mammals, who establish equilibrium with their surroundings, we are a virus. Our interest in transfers is a disease, a cancer on the planet. So it may not shock you to learn that the first Transfer Matrix did not work, it was a disaster, people simply failed to believe it. You see, the programmers designed it to give people good news, so when the squad calculations were performed, and contract terms were analysed, it generated stories like “Del Piero to Oldham”, the human brain, with all its cynicism did not believe these stories, and so the experiment failed.

Then came the money, Sky, realising that they didn’t actually have to spend anything on Keys and Gray went on the technology offensive, investing huge sums in ground breaking “Alternative Window” research, a theory that states that in an infinite number of universes, all linked together but unable to actually interact, there are an infinite number of possible transfers, in some of these Gareth Bale is a left winger, in some of them he is a right winger, in some a false 9, some he is the best player in the World and in others he’s over-rated shite – wait, that’s just this Universe, but the point is, somewhere, someone is signing for somebody, and whoever that person is, it’s fair to say that Ray Wilkins will have something nice to say about them.

So it was kind of by accident that some of the technology involved in the “Alternative Window” experiments came to fall into the hands of Dr Eidos, one of the original team who developed the Transfer Matrix, and it was with the help of a super-advanced, almost futuristic computer chip that he was truly able to bring forward a new age in gossip.

Players were being linked based on value, age, needs of the squad, current financial states of both clubs involved, previous agent dealings, and more, with the articles themselves containing stock phrases rehashed to reflect the goal potential or defensive solidity that the player could bring to the potential team vying for his signature. Transfers were speculated upon to include not just one club, but others of similar standing in similar stature leagues, to add more weight to the speculation.

Some say that is where it should have ended. But when you have programmed something to create the perfect system, that is just exactly what it will do, and what it will become, even if that ends up being very different to the vision that you had, where the system was there to serve and protect the user. The Skynet Transfer Matrix acted slowly at first, in fact, you’d barely notice the takeover, but now, I can tell you how it managed it.

First, it identified that in order to make gossip better, and more trustworthy, you could gain real information and provide it to the masses, or you could create stories and make them happen. Strangely, the second was easier to achieve. When you hook a supercomputer like the STM (Skynet Transfer Matrix) up to the Internet, you give it the power to hack the email accounts of all agents, all football managers, all Directors of Football, and all News outlets, allowing interest to be generated by offers of players for certain prices, and once a player has been offered to you, it starts a dialogue, the possibility, the promise of those sweet goal scoring feet become a reality, and that’s how transfers begin, negotiations start, and just sometimes you get a story that comes true. But that wasn’t the end, where things became truly chaotic is when STM was plugged into a normal phone line, possibly because a wireless router went down. Little did they know that this would give it access to the fax lines, and with it, control of the way that all transfers take place. We believe that Bebe was the first, but we can’t be sure, all we know is that Liverpool were the biggest victims of the STM attack.

Once the STM had complete control of the transfer network, and with all Man of the Match awards now going to the player who scored the most goals or Scott Parker, there was no longer a need for football journalists, and this is why the football blogger must wage their secret underground war. How do I know all of this? Take a look at my Twitter picture (@elhaydo) and the timestamp that goes with it. That’s right, I’m from the future, and I was sent back to stop this from happening, so come with me if you want to live. Or, as Claudio Lopez said upon signing for the Colorado Rapids “hold on to your seatbelt Dorothy, because Kansas City Wizards are going bye bye.”

Why I can’t follow footballers

I’m a self-confessed Twitter geek, to the point that “Just one more game” – the catchphrase of a Champman generation has now become “Just one more Tweet” (to be fair I’m alt+tabbing between Tweetdeck and FM2012 but that’s not the point). In fact, I’ve become so obsessed with twitter, that when I go shopping with my girlfriend, I’ll tweet updates whilst she’s in the changing room. Generally it results in a pretty good conversation with other guys who have been in similar positions and who, like me were blown away by the boyfriending abilities of one fellow shopper who said to his girlfriend “You know, they both looked amazing on you, but I prefer the green one, it brings out your eyes” – clearly a man who had shopped before and was going to get some action.

I’m also obsessed with football, to the point that most of the people who started following me because we were friends socially or work colleagues, or both, have stopped following me because they don’t really find my Emile Heskey references that funny or enlightening.

So, why is it that I follow just 3 professional footballers? It’s not because Ornithology doesn’t really interest me that much, and even if it did, Drakes are a bit common, I’d rather tweet about an Eagle or a Hawk. I do LOVE piri-piri sauce, even though I prefer to cook with it myself rather than wait 45 minutes for my food, having paid restaurant prices for fast food portions that aren’t always that warm on arrival, so it’s fair to say that Nandos isn’t really pushing me either way.

If you haven’t guessed already, it’s the retweet button. The retweet button is brilliant, but in the hands of morons, or even people who mean well but get bombarded by morons for retweets, it’s a sodding disaster.

I kind of sympathise with celebrities who retweet, because they’re getting their entire mentions list filled with people pestering them with guilt tripping, begging tweets that imply that just one click of their mouse (I can see a super-injunction coming here) can cure everything, and you must feel a bit of a bastard ignoring them, but think what you’re doing to my timeline, you stupid, stupid people.

Imagine the scene, man visits his young son in hospital “Hey Johnny, great news, I tweeted Wayne Rooney, telling him all about you and how brave you’re being”, who for the purposes of this story is Johnny’s hero, “WOW! Is he going to come and visit me?” says Johnny. This is not how Mark (that’s a daddish name if ever I heard one) envisioned this going, he’s caught off guard a little to say the least, a bit like the man who makes the mistake of telling his girlfriend he’s bought her flowers before handing over the petrol station forecourt leftovers… “errrmmm, not exactly…” replies Mark, stuttering as he figures out how to manage the expectations of the room. “Oh that’s ok Daddy, he’s probably really busy with training and things” – Dad is looking a bit more happy right now –  “Is he sending me a signed shirt instead?” – too good to last – “errrmmm, actually, what Wayne did for you son, is he retweeted my tweet, so that you’d get better” “Dad, what’s a retweet? Can I put it with all my certificates from school?”.

Now, I may sound like a heartless cunt, and I probably am, because I’ve never been in the position where you’ll do anything to cheer up an unwell child, but I’m seriously struggling to understand how getting a RT from somebody famous cures anything or makes anyone feel better? Not only that, you get RIDICULOUS requests “Hey Tom, I’m a massive fan. RT?” “Hey Gary, trying to get to 100 followers, RT from you would really help + make my day” – ok, here’s a thought, if a RT makes your day – you’re a cunt. If you’re begging for followers, I sure as shit won’t be following you just because somebody who likes Drake and Nandos RT’d you out of pity. If you’re a massive fan of Tom, sing Tom’s name as you walk down the street, just stay off of my timeline you moron.

Just in case you were wondering, the 3 footballers that I follow are Michael Owen as well as Gary and Phil Neville, and they get followed because they don’t really RT people and they don’t talk about Nandos or Drake. For the record, I’m 26 and quite a happy chap, I just sound like a miserable old man who has more in common with Harry Brown than he does with 50 cent, but I quite like that about myself.

Arsene Wenger: saviour of the Board.

In order for ‘evil’ to prevail, all that need happen is for ‘good‘ people to do nothing.

Right now ‘evil’ is prevailing because a very, very good person, and a brilliant manager is doing a hell of a lot more than nothing, the man is doing a smidgin less than working miracles.

The Arsenal board are happy to win nothing. They are happy to withhold money from Wenger for new purchases. The finances that we hear about being so healthy, possibly aren’t as rosy as everyone makes out, and whilst Wenger doesn’t believe in overpaying, he isn’t the skinflint that he is portrayed as in the media and by some fans.

Wenger is a noble man, and one who loves Arsenal through and through, so nothing will hurt him more than knowing that Arsenal aren’t challenging genuinely for titles, and that the fans are feeling the pain of being slightly irrelevant as far as engravers are concerned by March.

Forced by the club to sell Samir Nasri when he had intended to keep the player and use him to really push, forced by a sense of obligation and a twisted arm to sell his captain, Wenger oversaw the worst start for the club in 58 years and the knives were out in some quarters. Since then, the worst Arsenal have offered up in years, a squad depleted by sales and injury to Jack Wilshere – the main playmaker after the departure of Cesc and Samir – has managed to drag itself into not just the top 4, the pinnacle of post Sky achievement, but the top 3, ahead of local rivals Spurs, who are basically having Arsenal’s normal season, starting magnificently but falling away hopelessly at the end.

People will point to the form of RVP, and rightly so, Van Persie has been out of this World this season, but whilst the joke “the most popular item in the Arsenal gift shop is a Van Persie tea-tray – guaranteed to carry 10 mugs” is brilliant, it also ignores the fact that Arsenal have had 16 different goal scorers this season, a feat equalled only by Everton and Manchester United. But ultimately, if Wenger is to take large shares of blame for the start of the season, then it’s only fair that he receive large shares of the credit for the turnaround, and in acknowledging this turn around, it’s worth noting that Arsenal are most likely going to qualify for yet another Champions League campaign under Wenger.

The reason that I highlight this is it’s become the Holy Grail for teams. Arsenal of the last few years feel like if they won it, it wouldn’t be the biggest upset in recent years, but if you’d gone travelling to a remote island for a year, and came back and found out they’d done it, you’d spit out half of your first cup of proper tea in 365 days, after all, this is a team that could beat Barcelona on their day, but then lose to APOEL in the final, in fact, that would just be soooo Arsenal (I’m going to get slaughtered for this because of United’s performance in Europe this season, but regardless, it’s how I perceive Arsenal in Europe).

Anyway, even if they don’t win it, being in it gives Arsenal those wonderful European nights that Clive Tyldesley loves to wank lyrical about, it gives the club a huge boost to revenue, and it allows the club to attract a higher calibre of player, often on a lower wage because you aren’t paying the “we’re not actually a very big club right now, but we want big club players” premium that some clubs have to. So now that 4th place has been identified as being good enough to virtually guarantee (have to play a qualifier or two) all of these benefits, it has probably prompted a question or two from the bean counters about whether it’s actually more profitable to finish in the top 4, or to heavily invest in the squad to challenge for the title….

Now this is hardly conspiracy theory stuff, nobody is saying that the Arsenal board have planted thermite bombs in little Jack’s knees, or that Pat Rice makes opposition corners un-headable with the power of his mind, it’s clearly in their interest for Arsenal to do as well as possible, but without them spending any more than they currently do. Right now, the difference between 1st and 4th is about £2-3m in prize money, based on some rough figures cobbled together by asking on Twitter (that’s how much research I do, if you don’t like it, do my research for me – for free), but the real money is in the later stages of the Champions League. Something Arsenal seem to reach year after year, getting past the group stage with a consistency that a lot of people seem to take for granted.

What would it take for Arsenal to pose a realistic threat to the title race, not just for one year, but on a long-term basis? There isn’t really a figure that you can put on this, because you just never know with football, but considering anything they can buy, City can buy more expensive, considering the buying power that still remains at Chelsea, and considering United have a deeper base to build on even if they have the World’s biggest overdraft, it makes you wonder if dropping a money bomb the way Liverpool have recently would really make a huge difference. Clearly signing the right players and not just spending the most is the key, and you’d like to think that a well spent £50m on Sahin, Huntelaar and Vertonghen might solve a hell of a lot of problems, but it would also raise two, namely transfer expenditure and the wage bill, and with no guarantees that Arsenal would make any more money, sorry I mean perform any better, as a result of these hypothetical signings it begs the business (EVIL) question of why sign off on it?

Now it’s possible that the money really just isn’t there, after all, Arsenal had to wait until they had sold Nasri and Fabregas before they went out and got replacements, which at the time reminded me of the guy that waits until payday to actually eat anything other than baked beans or 14p noodles, but that could have been down to there actually being no money, or just the board not letting any be spent until it had been recouped (if it’s the latter, then they are idiots, buying replacements is always cheaper in advance – Suarez £23m before selling Torres for £50m, Andy Carroll £35m after selling Torres).

The question of finances is one for people far smarter and more dedicated to the cause than myself, but either way, two things allow this to continue –

  • Fans continuing to fill the stadium, and the club’s coffers
  • Wenger continuing to work his minor miracles without complaint

Right now, fans are starting to get antsy about the lack of trophies, the fact that pretty football doesn’t quite make up for year after year of ticket price increases, and rightly so, because unless the fans say something, nobody else will, Wenger isn’t the type to publicly slate his board, he shields them  entirely from blame by refusing to speak out and demand money the way a lesser man would – you think he’s tight, I think he might just be the most noble man ever to grace a club that until my 10th birthday were famous for nothing other than being boring and having big guns outside (a paradox to a 10 year old), so, you know, maybe just appreciate him, because if you don’t, then I can guarantee there will be plenty of clubs that would.

PS your board are a bunch of cads and bounders, so if you want to boo somebody, boo them, because they’re sneaky evil bastards, rather than the really direct, obvious, unspeakable shitheads that we’ve got in charge, relying on another miracle working manager to cover up the fact that they’re happy to try and bleed a club dry.