Fergies Flops



After a comment was left on my Fergies best buys post that I make a list of the flops that have arrived at Old Trafford during this same period, I thought it only fair that I comply, purely in the interest of balance.

Not every purchase made works out how you imagined, and there are various factors that come into play for this, the individual not settling in the area, personal problems, a new style of play, the cultural differences and of course not being able to adapt to the pressure. Whatever the reasons behind their failures this is a list of some of the flops that have been brought to United by Sir Alex.

1. David Bellion. Arriving from relegated Sunderland with the title of the “next Thierry Henry” Bellion did little to suggest he was worthy of being mentioned in the same breathe as the French genius. After scoring in his first game, a pre season friendly against Celtic in America, there was optimism to follow the controversial signing of the Frenchman. There were suggestions that Bellion had been tapped up by United while at Sunderland, and claims that he had also been offered to Arsenal by his agent without Sunderlands knowledge. There is little more to say about Bellion as he did very little while at United. There most have been some promise there as Sunderland fought for him, and United wanted and got him, but what promise there was was never seen by the United fans. After spending time on loan at West Ham Bellion was moved on to Nice in France, initially on loan and then permanently.

2. Eric Djemba Djemba. The defensive midfielder arrived at United in 2003 after some impressive performances in France for FC Nantes. The Cameroon international was known as a tough tackling, skillful, midfielder, who would be vying for the role of Roy Keanes successor at United. While some early performances were good Djemba Djemba found himself in and out of the first team as United used a variety of midfielders in what was seen as a transitional period for the club. The constant rotation did little for the form or confidence of Djemba Djemba who soon found himself sold to Aston Villa having failed to impress the staff or fans of United.

3. Kleberson. The Brazilian midfielder came to the attention of the world, and United scouts, during his impressive performances during the 2002 World Cup, where he helped Brazil lift the trophy. Brazil coach at the time, Scolari, declared that Kleberson was the driving force behind Brazils triumph, prompting interest from several clubs, including Newcastle and Leeds. He was thought to be close to joining Leeds until the deal fell apart when Kleberson decided to remain in Brazil as he would not leave without his girlfriend, who he could not marry until she turned 16. Kleberson eventually arrived at United for 6,5 million pounds. Kleberson spent much of his time at United on the injury list, seldom playing consecutive games. Perhaps it was the constant injuries, or the change in culture and style, but Kleberson never regained the form that made him a wanted man and eventually lost his place in the Brazil squad to. He was sold to Besiktas in Turkey.

4. Liam Miller. The Irish midfielder arrived at United on a Bosman free from Celtic, where he had been pretty impressive, particularly in Europe. However after some initial promising performances Miller found his first time opportunities limited. In all he only managed 22 first team appearances in 2 years at United. During his frustrating time at United, the end of which was spent on loan at Leeds, Miller still managed to hang on to his international place with the Republic of Ireland. He moved to Sunderland to join former team mate Roy Keane, the Sunderland manager, and helped them win promotion back to the Premiership. Miller will be hoping to show the United fans and staff that he is a better player then they saw in the coming season.

5. Juan Sebastian Veron. Veron arrived at Old Trafford for a record fee of 28 million pounds, the Brit sh record at the time. Veron was impressive in his early United career, particularly in Europe, but then his form began to decline and he was rarely the player everyone had hoped for during the rest of his 2 year stay at United. The reasons behind this where multiple, firstly he found himself injured for much of his time, secondly United where never sure where to play him often using him behind a lone forward in van Nistelrooy, and most importantly, the pace and physical nature of the English game was not suited to Veron’s thoughtful game. This was clearly seen with his performances once he returned to the slower game in Italy with Inter. Veron may have just been a victim of a different style and a team unsure how best to use him.

6. Diego Forlan. Forlan came to United from Independiente in Argentina. It took 8 months and 27 appearances for him to score his first goal, a penalty in a European game against Maccabi Haifa. Although seen by many in England as a flop, Forlan was well liked by both his team mates and the fans at United as he always gave his best and it was evident that he was a good player. He managed to score a few goals after breaking his duck, and they usually ended up being important goals such as a late equaliser against Villa, a late winner against Chelsea, and a couple of goals against Liverpool. The arrival of Rooney saw Forlans chances limited and he moved on to Villareal in Spain, where he finished the season as Spains top scorer with 25 goals, and the European Golden Boot winner, despite not arriving at the start of the season, and so missing a month or so of games. His form has continued in Spain where he has been linked with Barcelona, Valencia, Liverpool and now Atheltico Madrid. Forlan is showing the type of scoring form that made United bring him to England, and perhaps given the time he would have shown at Old Trafford. Many of his appearances where as a substitute, and I don’t believe he was given a fair go at establishing himself at United.

7. Massimo Taibi. The Italian keeper was brought to United as one of the many who were asked to fill the void left by Peter Schemiechel. After an impressive debut performance against Liverpool, where he was named man of the match, Taibi only managed 3 more games for United. This followed a 5-0 loss to Chelsea, where he was blamed for some of the Chelsea goals, and a game against Southampton when he let a tame Matt Letissier shot through his legs, to the embarrassment of all. He has gone on to play well for a number of clubs in Italy since then, but will always be remembered at United for a brief, inept, career.

It is perhaps no coincidence that many of Fergies flops have been central midfield players, as he attempted to find the answer to life without Roy Keane. Perhaps he now has the answer in Owen Hargreaves, but he did have a fair go and finding a replacement for Keano!

Fergie’s Best Buys



With Manchester United taking the lead in the transfer market, having spent about 50 million pounds on three players, and their rivals, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, yet to splash the cash, I thought I’d come up with a list of who I believe are Sir Alex’s top 10 buys in his United career. The list is an opinion so there may be a few names that many would not have on their list and will probably be a host of players that people think should be on the list that aren’t. The players I have chosen, I believe, have brought something to the team and helped create the success that Fergie has enjoyed during his time as United manager, thus someone like Rio Ferdinand, United’s most expensive player ever, has not made the list. This does not mean I think that he is a bad player, Rio is a great player who brings an assurance to the defence, but I think he has not been one of the top 10 buys that Fergie has made. So here’s the list, in no particular order.
1. Mark Hughes. The Welsh forward, now managing Blackburn and doing a very good job of it, was brought back to United by Sir Alex, having been sold to Barcelona, and having a loan spell at Bayern Munchen. Sir Alex has said that he would never have sold Hughes had he been the manager at the time, speaking volumes of his admiration for the Welsh Dragon. Hughes, although not a prolific goal scorer, led the line better then anyone in his day. If the ball was there to be won, he won it. He held on to possession no matter what form of physical abuse he was up against, always getting up, dusting himself off, and getting on with it. It was said that Hughes was not a great goal scorer, but a scorer of great goals.While this may have been true it should not be underestimated that Hughes was a scorer of important goals. During the FA Cup semi final in against Oldham in 1994, with United a goal down at time just about up, there was only one player you wanted the ball to drop to, only one player who could execute a difficult volley, with a defender on top of him, under that kind of pressure – and Hughes delivered. Just as he had in the Cup Winners Cup final a few years earlier, against Barca, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.

2. Steve Bruce. The centre back, bought from Norwich, formed the back bone of one of the best defences in United, and English football, history. Partnering Gary Pallister for much of Fergies early success, Bruce was an uncompromising centre half who would have played with a broken leg if the team needed him to. Best remembered for two late headers that won the match against Sheffield Wednesday, the game that was the turning point in United winning their first league title for 26 years, and started United’s league dominance of the 90’s. Was captain of a United team that is considered one of the toughest, in terms of mental and physical strength, teams in United history, with players such as Hughes, Ince, Pallister, Robson, Schmiechel, Cantona and Bruce. It is a mystery how he was never capped by England, considering these days player;s such as Zat Knight at Fulham have worn the Three Lions shirt. Bruce is currently managing Birmingham, and has just guided them back into the Premier League.

3. Gary Pallister. Arrived at United from MIddlesbrough for a then record fee. After struggling with the pressure of his big move during the early part of his United career, blossomed into one of the best centre halves in the game. Should have won more the 22 caps he did for England. Formed the best centre back pairing, during Fergies years, alongside Steve Bruce. United won 4 league titles, 3 FA Cups, a League Cup and Cup Winners Cup, during Pally’s time at the heart of their defence.

4. Denis Irwin. The Irish defender, bought from Oldham, will probably go down as one of the best full backs in the Premierships history. Played as both a left and right full back, together with Schmiechel, Paul Parker, Bruce and Pallister, formed what is regarded as the best defensive team of Alex Furgesons time in charge. Carried on playing for United until the age of 37, when he moved to Wolves for the last 2 years of his playing career. Dubbed “Mr Dependable” Irwin was usually one of the first names pencilled in for any United squad and always gave a solid performance. During his time at United he won 7 league titles as well as 3 FA Cups, a League Cup, a Cup Winners Cup, and the Champions League. He was a member of the
treble team of ’99.
5.Peter Schmeichel. The Great Dane is arguably the best goalkeeper ever, and certainly in the Premier League. Ended Fergie’s search for a top class keeper, and when he left in ’99 it took the signing of Edwin van der Saar to finally find a replacement for him. He holds the record for the best games to clean sheet ratio in the Premier League with 42%. In 2000 Fergie described the price paid for Schemiecle, 530 000 pounds from Brondby, as the bargain of the century. With Roy Keane suspended Schemiechel captained United in the Champions League Final, his final game for the club, and the final piece in the treble winning season.

6. Eric Cantona. Bought from Leeds, when Howard Wilkinson phoned to enquire about buying Denis Irwin, Cantona was the catalyst to United ending their 26 year wait for the League title, and kicked off their period of dominance in the 90’s. Cantona brought class and sophistication to a talented team that thought it was cursed to never win the league. He was voted United’s greatest ever player. A controversial figure, who is best remembered by those outside United for his kung fu kick at a Crystal Palace fan after being sent off in the match, and was later suspended for 8 months. Cantona retired at 30, wanting to finish at the top rather than fade away. Accused by some of not being influential enough in European games, an accusation that has been pointed at Thierry Henry these days, and not making it as an international player after a fall out with the French Football authorities, Cantona will always be remembered by United fans for what he did on the pitch for them and not his failing elsewhere. Cantona was instrumental in bringing a professional attitude to the players coming through at the time, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Nevilles amongst them.

7. Ole Gunner Solsjaer. The Norwegian forward arrived at United an unknown from Molde. He ’99 he scored the dramatic winner against Bayern in the Champions League Final. He will always be a hero at United for that very reason. It’s everything else he’s done that will see him go down as one of the best purchases ever made. In his debut season he scored 18 goals as United went on to win the title. He earned the nick name the “Baby Face Assassin” during that season, because of his youthful looks and his deadly displays in front of goal. During the ’99 season United accepted an offer from Spurs for Ole, but the Norwegian turned them down, determined to fight for his place at United. That season ended with his winning goal in Europe. Solskjaer has fought off the challenges of many forwards during his time at United and is still there today. He went through a 3 year period of serious injury to play his part in the title winning team of this season. Solskjaer is a favourite of fans, staff and players at United, and at 33 years old is still one of the best finishers in the game.

8. Roy Keane. Bought for a British record fee of 3.75 million pounds from Nottingham Forrest. The Irish international became one of the best players of the modern era and one of the most inspirational in United’s history. Keane took over the captains arm band when Cantona retired. United won 4 league titles under his captaincy and 7 in all. Keane expected, and often got 110% from his team mates whether in training or in a match. Although playing in a glamourless role of defence midfielder, Keane will go down as one of the best players in the history of the game. His reading of the game, and match situations, more then made up for what he lacked in skill. Keane is currently managing Sunderland, whom he led back into the Premiership by winning the Championship in his first season as a manager. He is seen as a potential United manager of the future.

9 Christiano Ronaldo. The recent winner of all the individual awards up for grabs this past season, Ronaldo has developed from a player of much potential, to one of the best in the world. After a pre season that saw his United future in jeopardy, following the Wayne Rooney incident at the World Cup, Ronaldo has put in the type of displays that make United fans hope he stays at the club forever, and opposition fans wonder how to stop him. His ball control and speed make him a full backs nightmare, and he has been the main reason for United wrestling back their title from Chelsea. With the peak of his playing days still to come Ronaldo could be the jewel in Uniteds crown for many years to come, and hopefully take their challenge in Europe to the heights of ’99. Still young and able to improve, the levels he could reach are frightening. Lets hope that they are realised at Old Trafford.
10 Edwin van der Saar. United have tried 10 different keepers since Schemiechel left and, until Edwin arrived, had failed to fill the Great Danes void. Edwin brought a calmness to a defence that has proved vulnerable in pressure situations and many at United will have wished that he had arrived earlier in his career. It was the arrival of Edwin that allowed United to stop the slide that had begun after their 2003 title win, and to finally win back their trophy and stop Chelsea from matching United’s 3 successive title wins. The Dutch cap record holder may not have many years left at the top, but his short spell at United has been an influential one.

There are players at United today who will someday I believe challenge those on this list for their spots, but for now they have not done enough to justify being here. Wayne Rooney may be a controversial omission, but he will in time prove to be one of United’s best ever buys, while if there was one more place on the list it would go to Ruud van Nistelrooy, who I believe should be on the list but could not find someone to remove. Another who will, I believe, prove to be a great United player is Vidic, while Foster, Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves will no doubt prove to be great buys. As always not everyone could make the list, so feel free to leave comments of any you think should be on or who should not

Tabloid Transfer Speculation




  • Arsene Wenger is lining up a sensational £11million swoop to take Nicolas Anelka back to Arsenal.
  • Liverpool will this week smash their transfer record and complete the £25million signing of Fernando Torres.
  • West Ham have made a dramatic £11million swoop for Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.
  • Tottenham expect to complete the signing of Darren Bent from Charlton on Monday.
  • Chelsea are set to complete an £18million deal for Brazilian Alexandre Pato.
  • Harry Redknapp is planning to hijack Newcastle’s move for Fredi Kanoute.
  • Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is reportedly set to end his interest in Nigel Reo-Coker,
  • Steven Davis could be on his way from Aston Villa to Middlesbrough for £3million.
  • Portsmouth are leading the chase for Poland hotshot Radoslaw Matusiak.
  • Sunderland boss Roy Keane has tested Stoke’s resolve by launching a bid for Danny Higginbotham.
  • Kieran Richardson has admitted for the first time he may have to contemplate life away from Manchester United.
  • Georgios Samaras is being offered an escape route out of Manchester City by his former club Heerenveen.
  • Bolton striker Henrik Pedersen is being lined up as a replacemenet for David Nugent at Preston.
  • Aston Villa’s Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba is wanted by Benfica.
  • Newcastle and Celtic are eyeing Holland Under-21 striker Maceo Rigters.
  • Sunderland are eyeing Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson.
  • Four Premiership clubs, Birmingham, Fulham, Aston Villa and Portsmouth, are chasing Marlon Harewood.
  • Lee Hendrie is still hoping Derby manager Billy Davies will make him part of his Premier League plans.
  • Fulham and Blackburn are in the hunt to sign Espanyol defender Juan Velasco.SUNDAY MIRROR:
  • Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal future will be decided this week while he is preparing to bring Nicolas Anelka back to the club.
  • Manchester United are set to launch a new bid to sign Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
  • Gordon Strachan is the man Manchester City will turn to if they fail to land Sven-Goran Eriksson.
  • Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp is set to make a move for Manchester United striker Alan Smith.
  • Fulham and Blackburn are leading the chase to sign highly-rated Espanyol defender Juan Velasco.
  • Bernardo Corradi will be the next departure from Manchester City.THE PEOPLE:
  • Nicolas Anelka is set to make a dramatic return to Arsenal as the replacement for Thierry Henry.
  • Portsmouth are winning the race to sign Preston striker David Nugent.
  • Middlesbrough are on the brink of completing a dramatic swoop to land Barcelona forward Javier Saviola.
  • Reading will have to pay £2million to land Rob Hulse from Sheffield United.
  • Rafa Benitez has turned down the chance to bring Michael Owen back to Liverpool.
  • Micah Richards has pledged his future to Manchester City despite interest from Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
  • Darren Bent will have a medical at Tottenham on Monday as he completes a £16million switch from Charlton.
  • Coventry have failed in a bid to land Francis Jeffers from Blackburn.
  • Everton are winning the race to sign Fulham midfielder Papa Bouba Diop.
  • Derby are hoping to complete a £3.5million deal for Claude Davis.
  • Manchester City flop Georgios Samaras is wanted by his old Dutch club Heerenveen.
  • Nottingham Forest have lined up their second major signing of the summer – Andy Cole.
  • Sevilla have told Premiership clubs interested in Freddie Kanoute they will have to pay £8million.
  • Portsmouth and Bolton want to give Spanish striker Ismael Urzaiz a chance in the Premiership.
  • Leeds are set to thrash out a deal with Sheffield United right-back Rob Kozluk who is willing to drop into League One despite interest from the Championship.
  • Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday are doing battle for Scunthorpe striker Billy Sharp.
  • Southampton have rejected a £2million bid from Sheffield Wednesday striker Kenwyne Jones.
  • Crystal Palace are on the brink of signing Lincoln left-back Jeff Hughes for £300,000.
  • Harry Redknapp is set to sign full-back Martin Cranie from Southampton although a tribunal may have to decide on the fee.THE MAIL ON SUNDAY:
  • Sven Goran Eriksson will confirm his return to English football this week by taking over at Manchester City.
  • Portsmouth are trying to hijack Newcastle’s move for Alan Smith.SUNDAY EXPRESS:
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid both want Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

  • A Pollock-less South Africa



    For South African cricket fans a future without Shaun Pollock is one that fills many with dread. For a decade the red headed open bowler, and lower order batsman, has been the spearhead of the South African attack, as a strike bowler when he first came into the team, and as a miserly economic bowler, as the years have lessened his pace. The reality is that Pollock, as much as many would like to see, can’t go on forever, and the South African hierarchy have decided that this season will be used to assess Pollocks airs.
    Pollock has responded to calls for his retirement time and time again, with wickets, a match winning economic spell, or some wonderful stroke play with the bat, yet even he knows that the time will soon come when he wont be the man called upon with either bat or ball by the South African captain. Pollock, who underwent minor foot surgery recently, has been left out of the squad that is playing in Ireland against the hosts and India. During the recent Afro/Asia series Pollock travelled as a batsman only, not bowling a single ball, and showed enough form and style to suggest that he could fashion a new role for himself in the team, as a batsman who bowls rather then as a bowler who bats. He scored his maiden ODI century and scored another undefeated 50 in the three match series. With Pollock resting back home in Durban, the South African selectors have called upon Cape Cobra’s young all rounder Vernon Philander to make his debut in place of Polly. Indeed coach MickeyArthur made no secret of the plans to blood Pollocks successor over the coming season

    “We need succession planning in key areas to ensure we have a pool of
    players who can play at this level. A guy like Shaun Pollock has given us yeoman
    service, but he needs to be managed through this season and a couple of other
    senior players do too,” Arthur said.

    “We’ve identified Vernon Philander as a possible back-up as an
    all-rounder, along with Albie Morkel, who played in the Afro/Asia Cup, and Ryan
    McLaren and Johan van der Wath, who I’ve been keeping an eye on in county

    The interesting aspect of these comments is that they see Pollocks replacement as being an all rounder, rather then as an opening bowler. While Pollock is a genuine all rounder, and maybe should have been used higher up the batting order throughout his career, something he would have preferred, his role in the team in both test and ODI cricket has been primarily as an opening bowler. Yet the selectors tend to talk of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn as the future opening bowlers and Philander, Albie Morkel, McLaren and van der Wath, as Pollocks successor. This clearly shows that although Polly has rarely been used up the order, they realise that his batting brings a balance to the lineup that would be missing if he were to be replaced by a bowler.

    The idea to give these all rounders increased exposure so as not to have to start from the beginning when they eventually take over has merit so long as the selectors don’t pigeon hole these players as Pollys replacement and exclude them for other jobs. A guy like Johan van der Wath could do a job as an opening bowler or first change, he swings the ball both ways, and as a devastating middle or lower order batsman, and should perhaps be in the team right now, alongside Polly. He is the man who should have come into the side when Klusner was left out and has been over looked for the last year. While there is potential in the other players, having them all compete for one place, and pushing someone like van der Wath down the pecking order, giving him limited exposure as they rotate these players, may be to the detriment of South African cricket.

    The fact that, post World Cup, the selectors have an eye on the future, and wont be waiting until their hand is forced, suggests that South African cricket is looking forward, and while this can only benefit the team in the long run, lets hope the Pollock has a few more years left in him yet. South Africa’s star all rounder is far from finished.

    Can Beckham Save the Galaxy?



    With David Beckham due to start his American career soon with MLS side LA Galaxy, are the league and the country expecting to much from him?
    His new team currently stand second from bottom of the Western Conference with two wins from nine games, and will be hoping that Beckham turns their fortunes, much as he did in the latter half of Real Madrids La Liga season. Yet the American crowds, of which the MSL will be hoping will greatly improve with the super star signing, and more specifically the Galaxy fans, should hold their breath for a moment, take a step back, and realise that David Beckham will be a great addition to their team, and not the saviour that they are praying for.

    David Beckham may be acclaimed for his role in turning a potentially disastrous season for Real into a successful one, with performances that lifted the team and won games that would have been draws or losses a few months earlier, enabling Real to pip Barcelona to the La Liga title, and end his stint in Spain with a long awaited trophy. The Galaxy cant expect the same miracle to envelop them. Firstly the scenarios are very different. Beckham took a team that was “struggling” in 3rd or 4th place, to the top. In America he is going to have to improve a genuinely struggling team, something he has never done, having played for Manchester United and Real Madrid. His team wont be as helpful as the players at Madrid were. While at Real he knew that any cross he put into the box would be put away by Ruud van Nistelrooy, any cross field pass would be controlled and played on by Roborto Carlos, and any through ball would be run on to by Robinho, at the Galaxy he will be playing with the likes of Cobi Jones, the all time American cap holder with over 160 appearances, and a one season flop at Coventry City, and Abel Xavier, formerly of Everton, Liverpool and Middlesbrough, but coming to the end of his career now in America. The effort may be there but the talent and skill wont. This will test all Beckhams patience and nerve as normal incisive passes between the full back and centre half run through to the keeper without the forward making the run on time, passes into space end up being lost possession as no one spots the pass, and Beckham is forced to play like the older kid in a play ground kick about, bullying his way past everyone, doing it all on his own. This is how he will have to adapt his game and play, for as much as the MLS bills itself as being a competitive league that is of a far higher standard then the rest of the world would believe, it isn’t. The Galaxy may be able to give Chelsea a game in a pre season friendly, which could be Beckhams debut, but in a competitive game a Championship team would get past them. Beckham will have to rely on his set piece skills, from free kicks at goal, where he should improve his scoring record, and will have to take more shots at goal then he is used to, with the shot rather than the pass being the better option. The game Beckham has been playing for his career thus far will change and it may be sooner rather than later that he wishes he had postponed this particular adventure by two or three seasons. He will also be playing in unfamiliar scenery, and by that I don’t just mean in America, but rather in front of seemingly empty stadiums. The MLS teams play in Football stadiums for the most part, meaning that even and impressive attendance by MLS standards of say 25000 people will look rather paltry in an 80000 seat stadium. This is not what Becks is used to playing in front of week in and week out.

    The other problem Beckham will face will be a jealousy problem, with playing with and against players who wont be getting paid in a few life times what the Galaxy will be paying Becks for a few years work. In a professional world you’d think his team mates would just get on with it, but there are bound to be a few problems, especially if he proves to not be as successful right away as many are hoping. He will also no doubt be targeted by the opposition and can expect a few welcome kicks and late tackles. Beckham will have to win over the players like he will no doubt win over the fans.

    The major impact that Beckham will have in America will be as the face of of the MLS, with bringing out the fans and getting the games watched on TV. The MLS will be hoping that the Beckham brand will allow the game to grow and improve, and for that to happen Beckham will have to play well and be seen playing well. Another problem that both the MLS and Beckham face is the American factor. Americans tend to idealise the individual rather than the team and their sports tend to play into this. American Football is a game where the entire team either protects the quarter back, or makes him look good by getting on the end of his passes. Basket ball sees the team play around the point guard. Soccer sees each individual play apart in the teams game, which is why Zidane, the best player in the world at the time, didn’t win as much with Real has had been expected. It’s a game where the team is the most important element of the game and not the individual. This is where the American system fails soccer and where the MLS may struggle if Beckham does not turn the Galaxy into a winning team from the off.

    Beckham has gone to America to spread the game to the American league, but the job he must undertake is one that perhaps he wont be able to fully appreciate. No doubt Becks will give it his best though, just as he has everything else in his career. Lets hope the Americans appreciate him, and the sacrifice he will be making to ply his trade on their shores – Becks should be playing in Europe for another few seasons at least.

    Becks Made Giggs the Best!



    This past weekend Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs was awarded an OBE in the queens birthday honours list, while ex United team mate David Beckham packed his bags for America with a La Liga winners medal finally in his possession. While Giggs seems to keep going, adapting his game to his increasing years, and Beckham sets off on another media frenzy in yet another country, trying to bring sexy back to the MSL, can it be said that David Beckham has allowed Ryan Giggs to become the legend he is now?
    When Giggs made his debut at 17 years old in, 1991 against Everton, few could have imagined that over 700 games later, and 9 league titles, he’d still be around, hoping to go past Sir Bobby Charltons record for most appearances for United in the near future. Yet while there are many reasons for Giggs longevity at the very highest level, from his fitness, his desire, his character, the manager, his opting out of many Wales friendly matches and his family lifestyle, perhaps it was the rise of David Beckham that played a significant role in allowing Giggs to enjoy the success he has attained and more to come.

    When David Beckham announced himself to the world, with his goal from the half way line against Wimbledon on the opening day of the ’96/97 season, a new pin up boy of world football had arrived. While Giggs had been shielded from the press in the formative years of his United career by Sir Alex, there was bound to be a time where it became to much for him, the constant remarks and comparisons to George Best. Beckhams super star status, being the next bright thing in British football, his good looks, dating a Spice Girl, his life being tabloid fodder, all helped to take the pressure away from Giggs. The camera’s now had a new target – one that seemed more willing. As Becks was hounded, and as his star rose, Giggs quietly went about his life and his football. Beckham grow and grow over the years to become the England captain, the most marketed player in football, and the owner of the best right foot in the game. Then he left for Madrid. The Beckham media frenzy followed him to Spain, and wherever else he ventured, and back home in Manchester the local press had a new pin up – Christiano Ronaldo.

    While the camera’s were focused elsewhere Giggs carried on putting in the performances and consistency that has led to him being regarded by many as the best player to have played in the Premiership, something he he has done for every year of his career. He is the most decorated player in the game, with 9 league championship medals, 4 FA Cup winners medals, 2 League Cup winners medals, a Champions League winners medal, as well as medals for winning the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. He is approaching the record for most appearances by a United player, has scored the fastest goal by a United player, after 15 seconds against Southampton in 1995, along with Gary Speed is the only player to have scored in every season of the Premier League, is the first player in Champions League history to have scored in 12 successive seasons, his goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final replay of ’99 was voted greatest ever FA Cup goal, Giggs has been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, in 1995, the Premiership Team of the Decade, in 2003, as well as the FA Cup Team of the Century. He has also twice won the Premier League young player of the year award, in both 1992 and 1993. Giggs is also the only United player to have played in all 9 League winning teams and also the only United player to have played in both League Cup winning teams.

    There is every reason to believe that Giggs would have still completed his illustrious list of honours without the help of Beckham taking away the media focus, but it would have been a real test, one that no player has yet come through, including Best and Beckham himself. By taking away a bit of the outside interference and allowing Giggs to get on with the football in his life, Beckham has played a role in ensuring that Ryan Giggs will go down as Manchester Uniteds greatest ever player.

    A Spanish Title for Becks



    David Beckham brought the curtain down on his Real Madrid career, and possibly he’s career at the highest level, with a La Liga medal, his first piece of silverware during his 4 year stint in Madrid, after Madrid beat Mallorca to win the league on the final day.
    In front of a capacity crowd, that included Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes sitting with Victoria Beckham, and triple French Open winner Raphael Nadal, Madrid started nervously and as Barcalona took a 3-0 lead into the half, Madrid found themselves 1-0 down and without La Liga’s top scorer, Van Nistelrooy, who limped off with a injury. After all the talk of the fairytale ending to Beckhams Spanish adventure it was looking more likely that the fruitless three seasons past would again repeat themselves.

    The second half got worse as Barca took a 4-0 lead and began to think about the title.The stage was set for the fairytale to unfold as Roborto Carlos, like Beckham also playing his final match for Madrid, was brought down outside the box, in Beckham territory. As the stadium held its collective breath, waiting for the departing hero to signal his final act in a Madrid shirt by continuing his almost signal handed fight to rescue Madrid’s season, Beckhams freekick floated over the wall and dipped a fraction too late as it clipped the top of the bar. Beckham, who had not trained since injuring his leg while on England duty, could not last the full 90 minutes and was taken off after the hour mark, replaced by Reyes, his final act as a Madrid player completed, he could now only watch. They Reyes substitution changed the match as within minutes of coming on he equalised and from that moment on it was all Real. Two more goals followed, the last a great strike by Reyes again, and Beckham had his La Liga medal.

    While all of Madrid will mourn the loss of Beckham, as he takes his brand to LA Galaxy, the loss will certainly be felt by the top scorer in Spain this season, Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ruud benefited from Becks crossing during his years at United at it was the double act of Beckham and van Nistelrooy that brought Madrid from the brink of disaster to league champions in the space of a few months. The final match of the season may have been one to many for Becks to influence, but next season, a Madrid without the Beckham supply line, will find goals harder to come by.
    Beckham may have come to Madrid in the mist of a media circus, he may have left with his new pals Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in tow, but in between that the Madrid fans will have enjoyed a thoroughly professional player, who always gave his best for the team, a man who lead from the front, who let his right foot do the talking, and a player who, although he gave a lot on the pitch, will be remembered more when he is no longer there, when the crosses aren’t streaming in from the right, when freekicks are given in his area, when the players run out of ideas, David Beckham, the footballer, will be missed. Surely they will regret the club stalling over handing him a new deal and losing him to the less intense Major League Soccer.

    All the realisations have come to late. The next chapter in the life of David Beckham begins in a few weeks in LA, possibly against Chelsea, although England will be hoping his legs have a little left in them for the final hurdle of the European qualifiers. Whether or not this is the case many at United and Madrid will be feeling that Beckham should still be doing a job for them. And the kids in LA will be licking their lips and lining the streets for tickets as the circus moves to America, and the star attraction hopes to make America take notice of the the worlds best game. Good luck to him, he’s done his bit for us all.

    Tabloid Speculation




  • Police will issue criminal charges to ‘bung cheats’ after being given 26 pages of evidence by the Stevens enquiry.
  • Carlos Tevez is on the verge of agreeing an astonishing new deal to stay with West Ham.
  • Darren Bent will turn down a move to Liverpool to sign for Spurs. His signing will spark a £24 million spending spree for Martin Jol, who also wants West Brom’s Curtis Davies, Dutch left-back Royston Drenthe and French youngster Biaise Matuidi.
  • Arjen Robben has turned down a new contract offer from Chelsea twice within the last week.
  • Sam Allardyce will prepare for life without Michael Owen by making a £7 million bid for Sevilla striker Fredi Kanoute.
  • Graeme Souness has launched a sensational bid to take over Coventry.
  • Jose Mourinho has revealed that he came close to quitting Chelsea last season.
  • Everton are eyeing a double striker swoop for West Ham’s Bobby Zamora and Manchester United’s Alan Smith. Fulham, Blackburn and Middlesbrough also want Zamora.
  • Liverpool will make a move for £13 million-rated Zaragoza striker Diego Milito.
  • Wigan look set to join the race for Robbie Savage.
  • Manchester United’s swoop for Eidur Gudjohnsen will be scuppered by the potential makeweight in the deal – defender Gerard Pique.
  • Wolves have had a £1.8 million bid for Billy Sharp rejected.
  • Coventry, Leicester and Wolves all want Forest winger Kris Commons.
  • Sven-Goran Eriksson will become Manchester City’s new manager if Thaksin Shinawatra’s takeover goes through.
  • Curtis Davies is set to hand in a transfer request at West Brom, with Spurs his most likely destination.
  • Patrick Vieira fears that the rumours surrounding Arsenal will ruin his former club.
  • Harry Redknapp claims he is being victimised in the football bungs ‘witchhunt’.
  • Spurs will make a £3 million bid for Italy’s World Cup winning centre-half Marco Materazzi.
  • Yossi Benayoun will ask to leave West Ham after hearing of Liverpool’s interest.
  • West Ham will do what Portsmouth and Everton wouldn’t by matching Benfica’s £12 million asking price for Manuel Fernandes.
  • Middlesbrough will demand Gary O’Neil and Sean Davis in any deal that would take Yakubu back to Portsmouth.
  • Fulham are the first club to make a firm bid for Marlon Harewood, offering £3 million for the West Ham forward.
  • Everton will chase Australian midfielder Vince Grella on the advice of Tim Cahill.
  • Portsmouth want to bolster their midfield with Lyon’s Alou Diarra and Watford’s Hamuer Bouazza.
  • Derby have tabled a £4 million bid for QPR striker Lee Cook.
  • Rams boss Billy Davies will also make Tyrone Mears’ loan deal permanent, as well as offering Chris Riggott a return to Pride Park.
  • Teddy Sheringham wants to continue his career at League One side Bournemouth.
  • Graeme Souness could launch a £70 million bid to buy Manchester City.
  • West Ham will launch a £12 million bid for Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen after the collapse of the Darren Bent deal.
  • Graeme Souness has threatened to sue the Quest Investigators after he was named in their bung inquiry.
  • Thierry Henry’s move to Barcelona has moved a step closer after the Arsenal board told Arsene Wenger they would not stand in his way if he wants to sell his captain

  • Meet the New Faces



    With South Africa embarking on a short ODI series in Ireland, where they will play one match against the hosts and three against India, the selectors having given a few fringe and up and coming players the chance to stake a claim for a place in the squad for the forth coming season. The squad sees Jacques Kallis lead a team without captain Graeme Smith, and all rounder Shaun Pollock, both are being rested, and sees five players called up who did not travel to the Caribbean for the World Cup. The new faces are; Morne Van Wyk, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Thandi Tshabalala and Dale Steyn.

    A brief introduction follows of the new faces for those unfamiliar with South African cricket.

    Morne van Wky

    Morne opens the batting for his franchise team, the Eagles, in all forms of the game, but can operate anywhere in the top or middle order. He is a wicket keeper batsman, but whereas Boucher would be classed as a keeper who can bat, van Wyk would be a batsman who can keep. It is likely that, like AB de Villiers, another wicket keeper batsman, he will play as a batsman in this series, and will more than likely open the batting with de Villiers. He has played for South Africa before in an ODI, on the tour of England in 2003 he made his debut in the triangular series final, where South Africa were well beaten by England. Morne has a first class batting average of 39,15 with a top score of 200 not out, and a domestic limited overs average of 41,99 with a top score of 160 not out. van Wyk was recently named MTN Domestic Championship Cricketer of the Year, Standard Bank Pro20 Cricketer of the Year, and Domestic Players Player of the Year and the 2007 Mutual and Federal SA Cricket Awards evening.

    JP Duminy

    Duminy is a stylish top order batsman who has long been heralded as the future of South African batting. He has played 8 ODI’s for South Africa with little success thus far, but much of his initial matches found him batting at number 8 or 9. He has a ODI average of 24 with a top score of 60. He bowls occasional off spin too, and has taken a ODI wicket. His first class record sees him with an impressive average of 50,86 and a top score of 169. Duminy has the potential and class to be a mainstay in the South African batting line up in both ODI and Test teams of the near future. His maturity belies his tender age and many will hope that this is the season when he takes the step up from promising player to established star. Duminy plays his domestic cricket in Cape Town for the Cobras. JP will join an Emerging players team for a series in Australia in July.

    Vernon Philander

    Duminy’s Cape Cobra’s team-mate, Vernon Philander, gets his first call up to the South African ODI team. Philander is an all rounder who really came to prominence with some fine displays with both bat and ball in the recent domestic season. Along with Johan van der Wath and Albie Morkel, Philander is seen as one of the potential successors to Shaun Pollock, when the ever green star all rounder decides to pack it in. Philander generally bowls at first change, but can open the bowling, while his batting is particularly effective in the middle order, but would not be out of place in the top order either. He is a particularly effective closer of an innings with the ability to find the boundaries and hit the ball far and hard. He has a first class average of 26,15 with the bat and a top score of 168, while his bowling average is an impressive 24,19 with 5/49 being his best. Philander. Vernon will be part of the Emerging team that heads to Australia in July.

    Dale Steyn

    Steyn is perhaps the best known of the new faces in the ODI squad due to his test exploits last season. A genuinely quick bowler, Steyn will add variety and aggression to an attack that was seen as predictable during the World Cup. Although far from the finished article the selectors will be hoping that he has the same impact that Malinga and Tait had during the World Cup, with a role as a strike bowler being earmarked, rather than a containing bowler. His job will be to take wickets, to strike early and to break partnerships. Steyn has played 11 Tests for South Africa, but has be unable to force his way into the ODI set up, only playing 4 ODI’s. He has been picked for this series for his pace and South Africa will be counting on the added explosiveness to complement their reliable attack. Steyn is currently enjoying a spell at Warwickshire which should help to add to his experience and development. Steyn should be a regular in the Test team for the current and future seasons but will be hoping to break into the ODI team too. Should see the recent performances of Morne Morkel for the African team in the Afro Asia series as a spur to enhance his performances, with Morkel waiting to claim a place too.

    Thandi Tshabalala


    Tshabalala is the player that the public having been crying out to be included in the national team for over a season now. The young finger spinner is the fresh hope of a nation in need of a spinner for both the long and short version of the game. The public, and even the national team, have had little confidence in the spinners who have tried their luck for SA in the recent past. Tshabalala, although still young and inexperienced, is the player who hopes to change the nations fortunes, in terms of a quality spinner. He first came to the attention of those in South Africa 2 seasons ago in the Pro20 series. In a format that has been pretty severe on spin bowlers Tshabalala excelled, taking his record this season to 31 wickets in 23 games at an average of 14,35 and a strike rate of a wicket every 13,19 balls. His domestic limited over record sees him with an average of 27,42 and an economy rate of 4,65, very respectable figures and the bases for calls for his inclusion. The selectors have been wary to rush him into the tame, with the expectation on such young shoulders the fear is that a few bad performances against world class batsman could hinder his development rather than quicken it. The idea was to give him a few more seasons of domestic cricket to allow him to understand his game more and the role he has to play. The short series in Ireland was seen as an ideal time to give him exposure to international cricket without thrusting to much responsibility his way. As the only spinner in the squad Tshabalala seems guaranteed to make his ODI debut during the series. Tshabalala will join Duminy and Philander in the Emerging players tour to Australia


    Sat 23 June Ireland v India
    Sun 24 June Ireland v SA
    Tue 26 June SA v India
    Fri 29 June SA v India
    Sun 1 July SA v India

    Becks is Back


    BecksDavid Beckham has, over the last few months, made both his international manager, Steve McClaren, and club manager, Capello, eat their words.

    After the World Cup in Germany last July, following Englands loss to Portugal, Beckham stood down as captain of the team, but said he would still make himself available for his country, that he would not be retiring. Unfortunately for Beckham Steve McClaren took over from the departing Sven Goran Erikson as the England manager, and in an effort to distance himself from his predecessor, left Beckham out of his first England squad. McClaren’s view that this was a new team, it needed new faces, youthful faces, and Beckham wasnt a part of that, was generally applauded by many writers, many of whom had been calling for Beckhams head for a while before. Beckham, although never blessed with pace, could not beat defenders anymore and was wholly reliant on his long passing game. Pace was needed out wide, and Aaron Lennon was seen as the answer and successor on the right flank. Beckhams preferred role, down the middle, was occupied by Lampard and Gerrard, both of whom had excelled at club level, but never gelled as an international partnership, but were stuck with. The captaincy went to Chelsea’s John Terry. Beckhams international career seemed over.

    As Becks was passed over with each new England squad named, and with his Real Madrid contract up at the end of the season, he began to look at the options for his next big move. While a return to England was mentioned, even a return to United at one stage, it was seen as more likely that Beckham would opt for the fashion capitol of Milan. Milan were interested, brand Beckham is bigger than Beckham the player, and any team would welcome a slice of that pie. Beckham, and presumably his wife Victoria, had other plans, and announced that at the end of his contract with Madrid he would be joining MLS side LA Galaxy in America, in a financial deal that would shatter all previous records in world football. Beckham was bringing the Beckham brand to America.

    Following the announcement that he would be jetting of to the States once his deal with Real had expired Capello told the worlds press that Beckham would no longer be considered for Real as his future was no longer with them, effectively putting Beckham in no mans land. Not wanted by his club or country what was Beckham to do? The answer to that says a lot about the man. If he take away his celebrity status, his sponsorships, his sometimes over the top lifestyle, what you’re left with is one of the most professional sportsmen in the world. Beckham did not cry, sulk, or throw his toys out of the cot, he turned up for training, trained as hard as ever, kept himself in shape, and never complained. His attitude was commended by all his team mates, and his manager. With the form of Madrid subsiding, and with a growing injury list, it was only a matter of time before Becks was called upon again. And when he was he never looked back. His form has been sensational, leading a Madrid fine fightback that now see’s them on the verge of their first title, and first trophy, since Beckhams arrival four seasons ago. Capello has gone as far to say that Beckham is playing as well as he had been for Manchester United, and that he was wrong to have ever left him out and wishes he could get him to stay next season. Some retraction. But all true. Beckhams form, coupled with Van Nistelrooys goals, have seen Madrid claw their way back into the title race and now only need to match Barcelona’s result on Sunday to claim the title.

    While Madrid have gone from strength to strength England have been floundering. There have many loud calls for McClarens head, less than a year into his reign. With things reaching a point where the next bad result was potentially McClarens last game, the England manager followed Cappellos lead and recalled Beckham to the national team. In the two games he has played since then, one a friendly against Brazil and the other a Euro qualifier against Estonia, Beckham has set up 3 of Englands 4 goals and received standing ovations from the crowds. Whether or not Beckham will be picked once he leaves for the states is up for debate. The standard of football there is equivalent to maybe a mid Championship team, and the travelling that he would have to endure would not be easy. Beckham is adamant that he will fly across the world to play for his country, and with a few caps to go to reach the 100 club you wouldn’t bet against him.

    Beckhams professionalism has been the key to his great come back, and for this he must thank those at Manchester United, in particular Sir Alex. While a lot of it may be the man himself, it is the foundations he received at United that are now paying dividend’s. Work ethic plays an important role at United, where you always see star attacking players like Giggs tracking back to defend, where it is not unusual to see Rooney as the covering right back when United are facing a counter attack,and where training and preparation are the key to success. It is worth noting that other player from other clubs, most notably Robbie Fowler and Steve Mcmanaman have progressed backwards once they have been dropped from their team. The work ethic instilled in Beckham has been his saviour and will continue to bless him with as long a career as he wants.