Wednesday 14 November 2012

‘The Beautiful Game: A Football Blog’

‘The Beautiful Game: A Football Blog’ 

By Dave McArdle

Across the Water

“Football. Bloody hell.” Sir Alex Ferguson’s quote sums up another fantastic week in the world of football – Suarez and Terry dominate the headlines at the Bridge, Man United come from behind to win yet again and Celtic beat a side considered by many to be the finest team ever to have played the game.

In Saturday’s action, Everton and West Brom continued their fine form of late and they both recorded 2-1 victories against Sunderland and Wigan respectively. Stoke beat QPR 1-0 at the Brittania while Reading and Norwich played out a scoreless draw at the Madejski. Arsenal and Fulham played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Emirates as Olivier Giroud and Dimitar Berbatov scored a brace a piece before Mikel Arteta missed from the spot with the last kick of the game. Andreas Weimann scored either side of the break at Villa Park before half-time substitute Javier Hernandez took home the match ball with a stunning second half hat-trick which keeps Manchester United 2 points clear at the top of the table.

 On Sunday, Manchester City mirrored their Manchester neighbours by coming from behind to win as Edin Dzeko spared their blushes yet again by scoring at the death to see off Spurs at the Eitihad, while Kevin Nolan’s first half strike was enough to see off his former club Newcastle as St. James’ Park. In the battle of the Bridge, Chelsea and Liverpool shared the spoils as John Terry scored for the hosts before colliding with Luis Suarez and departing the field with what looked like a season-ending knee injury. However, sources at Chelsea have revealed that the Chelsea skipper’s injury is not as bad as first feared and “he will be out for weeks rather than months”. Luis Suarez showed that Terry’s injury had not affected him too much as he popped up at the back post with 17 minutes remaining to earn a point for the men from Merseyside. Celtic were brought back down to earth after their wondeful win over Barcelona as they could only manage a draw at home to St.Johnstone. That result means Celtic now occupy second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, albeit with a game in hand over top of the table Hibernian.

Looking ahead to this weekend and Premier League managers will be hopeful that their players return from international duty without injury or fatigue. The action once more comes thick and fast as Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off is the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates. There are six 3 o’clock fixtures to enjoy as Liverpool host Wigan, Man City will entertain Wigan, Swansea make the long trek North to St.James’ Park, QPR host Southampton, Everton travel to Reading while West Brom welcome Chelsea to the Hawthorns. Saturday evening’s game sees Norwich host league leaders Manchester United at Carrow Road. Just the one game on Sunday as Fulham host Sunderland at Craven Cottage while on Monday, West Ham welcome Sunderland to Upton Park.

I will bring you a more detailed look at this weekend’s fixtures, as well as all the team news, in my blog on Friday.

Local Football

On Saturday evening I had the privilege of being at Villa Park for a thoroughly entertaining game of football. I was not In Birmingham watching Aston Villa square up to Man United but rather I was in Roscrea watching the Combined Counties Football League (CCFL) Senior Division game between second placed Killavilla United and fourth placed Arlington. Killavilla took the lead early on through full back Darren O’Connor as he headed in at the back post following a corner from David Nash. This game was memorable not because of fantastic goals scored but because of wonder goals that might have been. Midway through the first half, Killavilla’s David Nash tried a Beckham (or a Xabi Alonso to those of you of a Liverpool persuasion). From well inside his own half, he looked up, spotted the keeper off his line and went for it. The ball looked goalward bound but at the last second it veered left and just missed the post. Arlington had two wonderful efforts of their own in the first half – the first coming from winger Brian O’Mahony. O’Mahony found himself wide on the right wing and he cut inside before arrowing a sweetly struck left footed shot which he was desperately unlucky to see cannon off the crossbar.

 The second Arlington effort came as the half drew to a close from striker Joe Gorman. He picked up the ball inside his own half and ran at speed at the Killavilla defence. He twisted and turned, beat one, two, three defenders and when he caught a sight of goal on the edge of the box he produced a superbly struck effort on his left foot which again hit the crossbar and rebounded to safety. As the second half wore on, Killavilla committed to defence and aimed to soak up the pressure to bag a valuable victory but Arlington were not to be denied and they got their reward with just five seconds of normal time remaining. The ball came across from a corner and Arlington captain (and my man of the match) Dave Thorpe finished well for the equaliser. As for the memorable part of that goal, I’ll leave it to the tweet from Arlington goalkeeper ( yes goalkeeper) Brian McAuley: ‘killavilla 1-1 arlington dave Thorpe scored in stoppage time assist from yours truly’. And so sums up the CCFL – anything can happen and entertainment is usually always found. If you have never been to a CCFL game or even if you just haven’t been to one lately, try it out. If you’re a football fan it’s highly likely you’ll enjoy it. Matches are free so what have you got to lose?

Looking ahead to this weekend’s CCFL Week 15 action and one game in particular jumps out. Killavilla host Willow Park in Roscrea in a game that could go some way to deciding where the Senior Division title will be headed come the end of the season. They are two of the 3 sides who top the table on 17 points and a keenly fought contest is expected. The other side who join them in occupying the top spot is Mullingar Athletic – although they hold an advantage by virtue of having played a game less than their rivals – and Mullingar Athletic will be looking to rack up the goals as they host bottom side Gallen United. Our own Midlands 103 feature game for the week will see me travel to McCarthy Park in Athlone for the Umbro FAI Junior Cup 2nd Round between St.Peters and Wolfe Tone Celtic which kicks off on Sunday at 2pm and will be featured on ‘The Inside Line’ with Will O’Callaghan.

Some other games of interest this Sunday include Division 2 leaders Dynamo Town vs Frankford United in the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup 2nd Round, seventh-placed Melville United vs sixth-placed Monksland United in the Senior Division and runaway league leaders CK United against Mullingar Athletic in the Premier Division.

For comprehensive information on fixtures, results and tables in the Combined Counties Football League, visit:

International Preview

The Republic of Ireland will be looking to put the humbling defeat to Germany firmly in the rearview mirror tonight as they host Greece at the Aviva. Giovanni Trapattoni has selected a young side which only features three of the XI that started against Italy in the final game of our fateful Euro campaign – but anything less than victory tonight will surely see calls for Trap’s head intensify once more. Whilst I can sympathise with those disgruntled fans who wish to see the back of him (I was one of those fans who witnessed the ineptitude of our performances in Poland first hand) my issue is in who could we realistically bring in to replace Trapattoni. Some have suggested Brian Kerr or Mick McCarthy (who is rumoured to have had a clause inserted into his Ipswich Town contract that he can leave should John Delaney come calling) but while they may invigorate the team, are either of those men really going to produce any better results than Trap? To me it would represent something of a backwards step. Roy Keane’s name has also been mooted but could he ever be expected to work in tandem with the FAI after the debacle of Saipan? Stranger things have happened I suppose.

 The optimists among us Irish fans have suggested that the likes of Harry Redknapp could come in but realistically, Bertie Ahern has more chance of becoming Taoiseach again than we have of luring ‘Arry to Abbotstown. For me, were Trap to be given his marching orders, someone like Owen Coyle would fit the bill. Coyle is still quite young in managerial terms and his enthusiasm and his good relationship with his players, along with a disciplined approach, might just be what the doctor ordered to revive the fortunes of the boys in green. But all this talk could be thrown out the window this evening if Trap’s young troops can play a vast expansive, free-flowing brand of football, thump the Greeks and send us into March’s qualifier confident that we can beat the Swedes on their own patch. Sound unlikely? Well they do call him the lucky manager.

Republic of Ireland team to play Greece at the Aviva Stadium (live on Sky Sports 3 at 7:45): Westwood, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Ward, Whelan, McCarthy, McClean, Brady, Cox, Long.

Join me again on Friday where I will be previewing the weekend’s Premier League action along with a detailed look at the fantasy football where I will try to give some tips on how to stay ahead of the pack and earn the bragging rights down in the local (cue the swift demise of my fantasy football team and all my credentials as a fantasy football pundit!).

Please comment in the box below and I will try to respond as often as possible. The more debate and discussion we can create, the more enjoyable the blog will be.

You can now follow Dave McArdle on Twitter @DaveMidlands103


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