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FA Cup Horror Hair: AFC Wimbledon Winger Scott Wagstaff Debuts Enormous ‘Half-And-Half Beard’ For Fifth Round (Photos):

February 16th, 2019

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AFC Wimbledon winger Scott Wagtaff unveiled a bold new look ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Millwall after holding up his end of a bargain wagered before the previous round.

Wagstaff vowed to dye his large lumberjack beard if the Dons beat West Ham in round four, which they duly did – shocking their Premier League opponents with a 4-2 victory at Kingsmeadow in which the man of the hour scored two goals.

Sure enough, the 28-year-old opted for a strong half blue/half yellow colouring in homage to the club’s famous colours.

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Speaking before the game, Wagstaff told The Telegraph:

I’m really hoping it doesn’t rain. And after the game it better wash out – otherwise I’m going to have to shave it off and nobody wants that.

Wagstaff started and ultimately remained on the bench for the entire match against Millwall, as the Dons were knocked out in a slim 1-0 home defeat.

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Bit of an anticlimax, all told.

Old Timer: Ashley Cole, 38, Scores First Ever FA Cup Goal As Derby County Knocked Out By Brighton (Video):

February 16th, 2019

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The venerable Ashley Cole got himself on the score-sheet in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, notching Derby County’s consolation goal in their FA Cup defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion.

Making just his second appearance for Derby after signing on a free transfer in January, Cole was afforded a full 45 minutes to make a mark at the AMEX.

Trailing by two goals to nil, the 38-year-old defender popped up in the box to pull one back in the 81st minute after coming on at half-time.

Honestly, we’d be fibbing if we said the goal was spectacular in any way, but Tom Huddlestone’s clipped through-ball and Cole’s instinctive finish (and impassioned celebration) were both nice enough.

That was actually Cole’s first ever goal in the FA Cup, though it’s perhaps worth mentioning that he has actually won the thing no less than seven times.

Alas, two first-half goals from Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia respectively saw the Seagulls seal the win at Derby’s expense, sending Chris Hughton’s side through into the draw for the quarter-finals.

‘NE14 A Free Shirt?’ – AFC Fylde Offer Complimentary Goodie Bags To Three Young Fans Who Pranked Stadium Announcer (Photos):

February 15th, 2019

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AFC Fylde have plied three young fans with free stuff after the “cunning” trio pulled a prank on the club’s stadium announcer that ended up going viral earlier in the week.

During their 4-1 win over Ramsbottom United in the FA Trophy, Fylde were asked to put out an emergency message over the PA system to report a blocked car in the car-park outside.

Unfortunately, they didn’t read the registration number out loud to themselves before attempting to contact the driver of a white Nissan Micra with the registration number NE14 ABJ.

It wasn’t long before the youngsters –  came forward, most probably still giggling and enormously proud of their handiwork.

However, instead of reading them the riot act, Fylde accepted that they’d been “well and truly had” by Jak, Tom and Timo, and decided to treat the three lads to a mountain of free goodies, including replica shirts and other various goodies from the club shop.

According to the Fylde website, the lads were invited into their Mill Farm ground on Wednesday night, where they were presented with their spoils.

“The least we could do was return the favour and kit them out with our home strip and a goodie bag,” said club chairman David Haythornthwaite.

All’s well that ends well, even if it did entail falling hook, line and sinker for one of the oldest jokes in the book!

Barcelona Extend Ernesto Valverde’s Contract For Another Season As (Twitter) Fans Fly Into Faux-Meltdown:

February 15th, 2019

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With things going well, Barcelona have extended the contract of coach Ernesto Valverde until the end of next season, with the option of a further year.

There have been nigh-on constant discontented rumblings over Valverde ever since his arrival in 2017, the season in which he won a La Liga and Copa Del Rey double.

However, Barca have sought to cement the ex-Valencia boss’ position in the Camp Nou dugout by offering him improved terms.

The club announced the news on social media only to be met with a barrage of righteous indignation from “fans” clearly upset by the retention of a manager who has their side six points clear at the top of the league.

What followed was an entirely predictable deluge of reaction gifs, exaggerated despair, wanting-to-die-themed memes and #ValverdeOut hashtags, such is football fandom in 2019 – faux hysteria in the quest for internet points.

Among the very worst, most asinine online supporters (let’s face it, these creatures aren’t attending matches week in, week out), Barca have proved once again that they are right down there.

Europa League: Arsenal Suffer Embarrassing Defeat Against BATE Borisov, Who Haven’t Played Since December (Photo & Video):

February 14th, 2019

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Arsenal suffered an embarrassing loss against a team that haven’t played a competitive match since mid-December in their first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

On a ragged pitch, Unai Emery’s side were unable to break down BATE Borisov, who scored on the stroke of half-time and then sat deep for the remainder of the game.

Stanislav Dragun notched the decisive goal from a set piece, shrugging off a meek challenge from Sead Kolasinac to head over Petr Cech at the near post…

Despite Mesut Ozil finding himself left out of the squad once again, the Gunners still fielded a fairly strong side in Belarus, with Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lucas Torreira and Denis Suarez all making it onto the pitch at various points.

Indeed, Lacazette thought he’d managed to coax an equaliser early in the second half only to see his effort chalked off.

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The French striker then got himself sent off five minutes from time for flailing an elbow into the face of Aleksandar Filipovic.

By the end, with vim and vigour in short supply, Emery’s lacklustre team managed just three shots on target despite amassing almost 80% of the possession.

BATE will now carry a slim advantage into the second leg at the Emirates next week.

Rumbled: UEFA To Hit Sergio Ramos With Extended Ban After Real Madrid Captain Picks Up ‘Deliberate’ Yellow Card Against Ajax:

February 14th, 2019

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UEFA look set to rumble Sergio Ramos’ little ploy to free himself up for the Champions League quarter-finals after the Real Madrid captain appeared to get himself deliberately booked against Ajax on Wednesday night.

Marco Asensio put Real 2-1 up with just a few minutes to play, shortly after which Ramos – judging the result to be in the bag – went steaming into Kasper Dolberg on the halfway line and duly picked up a yellow card for his troubles.

Speculation was immediate that Ramos had got himself cautioned on purpose to instigate a one-match ban that would keep him out of the second leg at the Bernabeu but clear his slate as and when Los Blancos made it through to the last eight.

As the media continued to deliberate, Ramos tweeted to inform the world that he “did not force the card”.

The only minor bone of contention was that the 32-year-old had already admitted the opposite in a post-match television interview.

“Yes, the truth is that seeing the result, it was something I had in mind. I would be lying if I said I didn’t force [the booking],” Ramos said.

“It’s not about underestimating the opponent, but sometimes it’s about making decisions – and I’ve decided that.”

Anyway, it’s now for UEFA to decide whether or not to exact further punishment on Ramos as, according to their very own disciplinary regulations, players face a two-game suspension “for clearly receiving a yellow or red card on purpose”.

That was the exact same fate that befell Dani Carvajal, Ramos’ teammate at Real, when he was shown a ‘tactical’ yellow card against APOEL in last season’s Champions League group stage which was later deemed to be wholly deliberate.

Will UEFA have the wherewithal to meter out a consistent sanction? Honestly, we’re not overly confident.

Copa Libertadores: Oscar Cardozo Humps One In From Inside His Own Half As Libertad Trounce The Strongest (Photo & Video):

February 14th, 2019

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Fans of 2013-era Premier League gossip columns will no doubt remember Oscar Cardozo as the striker who was routinely linked with moves to the likes of Tottenham and Man City without ever coming remotely close to joining either side.

Having left Benfica some time ago, Cardozo is now 35 and plugging away in his native Paraguay with Club Libertad, who were in Copa Libertadores action on Wednesday evening.

Indeed, Libertad trounced Bolivia’s The Strongest 5-1 in the second leg of their qualifier, with Cardozo adding his side’s fourth goal in the 87th minute.

We’d estimate that the veteran target man somehow managed to score from a range of about 60 yards without the ball bouncing even once.

Hell of a hit, that.

There was still time for Carlos Cuogo to add a fifth for Libertad in stoppage time, thus securing them a fairly dominant 6-2 aggregate win.

They will now face either Deportivo La Guaira (Venezuela) or Atletico Nacional (Colombia) depending on who emerges victorious from their tie, to be concluded this evening.

We’d also like to take a one moment to salute Libertad coach Leonel Alvarez, whose barber clearly has just one image of Billy Connolly on the wall of his salon…

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Champions League: Son Heung-Min Continues Hot Streak As Tottenham Stuff Dortmund To Gain Strong First-Leg Lead (Photo & Video):

February 14th, 2019

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Tottenham mustered a fantastic win over Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Wembley on Wednesday.

After the first half finished goalless, Spurs blitzed the Bundesliga leaders in the second, scoring three unanswered goals to afford themselves some decent leverage to carry over into the second leg.

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Son Heung-Min opened the scoring just two minutes after the restart with his 11th goal in his last 12 appearances.

The finish was exquisite in and of itself, but just keep an eye on Son’s movement in the build-up – a touch, a glance, a sprint into the space and then enough composure to send a side-foot, nonchalant volley back across the goalkeeper.

Superb. The Korean forward really is at the peak of his powers at the moment. He’s as important to this Spurs team than anybody else.

Jan Vertonghen, impressive as an auxiliary left wing-back, added a second in the 83rd minute when the Belgian connected with Serge Aurier’s deep cross to volley past Roman Burki.

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Despite being unfairly denigrated by many fans for essentially not being Harry Kane, Fernando Llorente demonstrated just how effective he can be by providing an attacking focal point after coming off the bench.

The big Basque striker also managed to grab himself a well-deserved goal just a few minutes before full-time by getting a head to Christian Eriksen’s in-swinging corner…

After watching them have to battle back from the brink to even make it into the knockout phase, Mauricio Pochettino branded his players “heroes” in the aftermath.

Of course, there is still work to be done (the second leg is in Dortmund on 5th March) but with Spurs visibly progressing under a gifted manager, you’d have to install them as favourites to reach the quarters.

West Ham Youngster Declan Rice Pledges International Future To England After Winning Three Caps For Republic Of Ireland:

February 13th, 2019

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West Ham youngling Declan Rice has confirmed that he plans to pursue an international career with England rather than Republic of Ireland.

Though born in London, 20-year-old Rice qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents and has made 13 appearances for the Boys In Green, including three at senior level.

However, those three caps all came in non-competitive/friendly matches, meaning under FIFA rules he was still free and able to make the switch.

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Rice has today issued a thorough, respectful statement announcing he wishes to be considered for England selection from henceforth.

This has been an extremely difficult decision and, in all honestly, not one I expected to making at this stage of my career.

In recent weeks and months, I have discussed the situation with the people that mean the most to me. 

Like many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman […] However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection to the country.

Therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Particularly not for a young lad who never dreamed of being in this position.

The defensive midfielder, who has excelled for the Hammers so far this season, shared his thoughts on social media.

Having been informed of Rice’s decision, Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy told BBC Sport:

Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England. Good luck to him.

All seems fairly amicable between the two associations, and Rice comes across as a thoughtful and humble individual.

Along with the likes of Phil Foden, Harry Winks, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Cook, James Maddison et al, it’s good to see such a promising, versatile defensive player added to England’s plentiful midfield options in and around the Under-21 bracket, too.

How’s that for a potential Under-21 European Championship squad?

‘He Needs To Find Himself’ – Man Utd Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Admits He Can’t Get Alexis Sanchez To Work Properly:

February 13th, 2019

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that he is out of ideas when it comes to salvaging Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean put in another pallid cameo performance against PSG in the Champions League.

Sanchez replaced the injured Jesse Lingard at half-time but was largely anonymous in the second half, contributing little of note, much to the chagrin of his coach.

Speaking after the game, Solksjaer addressed the issue in front of the assembled media:

I can’t do anything about Alexis Sanchez. When he plays he needs to find himself.

We know there’s a quality player there.

Might we suggest a gap yahr backpacking through Thailand, or perhaps a soy-based yoga retreat in the mountains of Tibet?

The more we see of latter day Sanchez, the more he looks ready for MLS or the Chinese Super League. The technique is there in flashes, but the inclination and application – the relentless aggro that once propelled him – clearly is not.

The truth is he was beginning to look shot during his final season at Arsenal, and as the insipid performances continue to stack up, perhaps it’s time to realise that there isn’t anything left to salvage.

At 30, he may, without wishing to sound overly dramatic, be finished at the very top level.

Oldham Athletic: Paul Scholes Off To Winning Start As Latics Thump Yeovil 4-1 On Managerial Debut:

February 13th, 2019

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Paul Scholes got his managerial career off to a winning start as his Oldham Athletic side soundly thrashed Yeovil at Boundary Park on Tuesday night.

Having gone a goal up deep into first-half stoppage time, a second-half flurry eventually saw the Latics run out as 4-1 winners.

Characteristically, Scholes refused to get carried away after the final whistle:

It was nice, but it’s just a start. That’s all it is. I know there are tougher tests ahead, starting with Saturday against Crewe, who are going really well.

4-1 doesn’t reflect how difficult the night was. Yeovil made it difficult for us.

I’m really pleased with the goals. I said in my press conference on Monday that I knew there was talent in this squad.

I want them to enjoy and express themselves and the way you do that is by scoring goals.

The win elevates the ex-Manchester United midfielder’s side up into 11th, while Yeovil remain dangling just two places about the League Two relegation zone having now lost five games on the bounce.

Champions League: PSG End Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Honeymoon With Adroit Victory Over Man Utd At Old Trafford (Photos & Video):

February 12th, 2019

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PSG brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s undefeated run as interim Manchester United manager to an end with a succinct 2-0 win at Old Trafford in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

On an evening in which Thomas Tuchel got his plan of attack right from the off, a stultified United were often reduced to bystanders as goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe gave PSG victory on foreign soil.

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United’s cause wasn’t helped when both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard went off injured within five minutes of half-time, with the subsequent introduction of Alexis Sanchez once again proving somewhat akin to being reduced to 10 men.

Kimpembe then put the Parisians ahead in the 53rd minute when the defender came flouncing in at the far post to volley Angel Di Maria’s corner past David De Gea from point blank range.

Mbappe soon doubled the lead on the hour mark, galloping through the middle at full chat to get on the end of another inch-perfect Di Maria centre.

Just two minutes later it took a trademark De Gea reaction save to prevent Mbappe adding to his tally – a goal that would have seen him score his 15th Champions League goal and therefore move past Ronaldo Nazario’s career tally at the tender age of 20.

From that point PSG began to idle and slow things down while maintaining full control as United were pretty much left to their own devices – the travelling fans goading their hosts with choruses of ‘Ole!’ as passes were exchanged and minutes were wicked away.

However, there was still one more flashpoint left to come as the home side were actually reduced to 10 men in injury time when Paul Pogba was shown a second yellow for once again crucially mistiming one of those ‘leg dangle’ things he does.

And so it ended 2-0 to the Ligue 1 champions, with United – by Solskhjaer’s own post-match admission – facing a “mountain” of a second leg if they intend to continue fighting on the European front this season.

Pogba will definitely be missing through suspension, but United might also be without Martial and Lingard depending on the severity of their respective muscular injuries.

Honestly, depleted as they were, it’s difficult to see PSG, who look far more seasoned, letting this one slip from this particular vantage point.

Champions League: Manchester United Muscle Man Ashley Young Shoves Angel Di Maria Into The Stands At Old Trafford (Video):

February 12th, 2019

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With PSG in town to play Manchester United in the Champions League, Angel Di Maria suffered the ignominy of losing out to Ashley Young in a physical battle between two men who are essentially made of papier mache

Indeed, the Argentinian whisp, booed from the offset by the Old Trafford crowd, found himself head-over-heels, sprawled in the front row when Young used all of his 60kg bulk to shunt him over the touchline…

Bit risky by Young, especially given that he had already picked up a yellow card earlier in the first half.

Karma fans will be heartened to know that, as things stand, Di Maria is up on the deal having supplied both assists for PSG’s two goals.

‘I’m Glad He Saved My Header’ – Brazil Icon Pelé Pays Loving Tribute To Gordon Banks, An Old Adversary Who Became His ‘Magical’ Friend:

February 12th, 2019

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Of all the loving tributes that have been pouring in for Gordon Banks today, Pele’s farewell to his “magical friend” is perhaps the sweetest Pies have read.

The pair, of course, have been forever entwined since their shared nano-second during the 1970 World Cup group stage when Banks made that miraculous save to deny Pele’s goal-bound header.

On learning of his old mucker’s passing, the 78-year-old Brazilian icon took to Facebook to share his thoughts, revealing that he remains “glad” Banks saved his shot, for it kick-started decades of friendship between the two.

Pele’s message in full:

For many people, their memory of Gordon Banks is defined by the save he made against me in 1970. I understand why.

The save was one of the best I have ever seen – in real life and in all the thousands of games I have watched since.

When you are a footballer, you know straight away how well you have hit the ball. I hit that header exactly as I had hoped. Exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate.

But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him.

He came from nowhere and he did something I didn’t feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it l, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.

I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that – it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people.

So I am glad he saved my header – because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.

I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of.

Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being.

Bloody hell Edson, we’re tearing up here.

Looking at photos of Banks and Pele together in subsequent years, smiling away, embracing one another, the bond and mutual admiration is immediately obvious.

These is probably Pies’ favourite mini-sequence, with Pele finally getting his own back on his old adversary at Wembley in 2000…

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Ever The Gentleman: Journalist Recalls Gordon Banks Going Out Of His Way To Offer Excellent Advice To His Son, A Budding Goalkeeper (Photo):

February 12th, 2019

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As well as being a fine goalkeeper, it’s well established and well documented that the late Gordon Banks was a thoroughly nice bloke to go with it.

Just one example of Banks’ gentlemanly courtesy has been offered by former Leicester Mercury reporter Lee Marlow, who recalled a conversation that the Foxes legend once had with his son, himself a budding goalkeeper.

As the transcript shows, Banks was more than willing to offer the youngster a wide array of thoughtful advice.

The transcript in full:

Hello Lucas, your dad told me that you want to be a goalkeeper? Good lad. We always need good goalkeepers.

Here’s some advice from me…

First of all, you have to work hard. Being a goalkeeper is not easy. But the more you play, the more you practice, the easier it gets.

The more you play, your eyes will get better at spotting the angles. You begin to know where the ball will go. This is called anticipation – great goalies have good anticipation.

The eyes pick up the direction of the ball, how it floats through the air, and send messages to your brain and then to your hands. Keep practising and you’ll get better and better at this.

Always know where you are in the goal, narrow the angles down, make it as hard for the striker to score as possible.

Play with a smaller ball. Playing with a bigger ball will seem much easier if you’ve been used to playing with a smaller one.

Play games like table-tennis – that will help you sharpen your reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination. Throw a tennis ball against the wall and catch it.

And be brave – you have to be brave to come out for crosses, or dive at the feet of a centre forward trying to score past you.

And be brave, too, if you lose or make a mistake.  We all make them – I made some mistakes – but I never let anyone see that I was upset.

Good luck, Lucas.

He could have fobbed him off with a few platitudes and a pat on the head, but Banks instead went into great detail about what it is to be a goalkeeper in the interest of helping an aspiring youngster on his way.

Football has truly lost one of its very best.

‘In England They Don’t Understand The Rules’ – Rafa Benitez Fumes As Contentious Wily Boly Header Rescues 95th-Minute Point For Wolves Against Newcastle (Photo & Video):

February 12th, 2019

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Rafa Benitez was left fuming after a contentious 95th-minute equaliser from Wily Boly saw Wolves escape from Newcastle with a point on Monday night.

After Isaac Hayden had put the Toon ahead midway through the second half, Wolves levelled deep into injury time when Boly got above Martin Dubravka to nod in Adama Traore’s looping cross from close range.

However, the leaping Boly definitely appeared to at least lay a hand or two on Dubravka as he scrambled for position underneath his own crossbar…

With the final whistle sounding just seconds after the restart, Newcastle manager Benitez came stomping onto the pitch to share a few breezy opinions with referee Graham Scott and his linesmen.

Rafa continued on a rolling boil during his post-match interview:

In England they don’t understand the rules. I can say many things but it will not change anything.

I didn’t like the challenge at the end. You have to protect the keeper. We have been here for years and it’s still very difficult to explain that.

However, he did also concede that his goalkeeper could have been a little stronger under duress from Boly:

These kinds of balls you can do a little bit better – just punch the ball and finish.

It was not very clear watching the replay, but it’s something we have to defend better.

We know that it is England and people will come against the ‘keeper so he has to be strong enough.

Maybe it’s just because we’re English and don’t fully understand the rules, but that certainly looked like a case of weak goalkeeping.

Boly may have had his arms out, but that didn’t prevent Dubravka from jumping. He just got caught underneath the ball without the necessary room in a crowded six-yard box to rectify his positioning.

Any thoughts on the matter, Pies fans?

RIP Gordon Banks: England’s World Cup-Winning Goalkeeper Passes Away Aged 81:

February 12th, 2019

Reports: Aaron Ramsey Signs Juventus Pre-Contract, Staggering £400,000-A-Week Wages See Him Become Highest-Paid British Footballer In World:

February 11th, 2019

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Aaron Ramsey may well have hit the jackpot with his impending free transfer to Juventus if the latest reports over the size of his contractual agreement are to believed.

An update on the precise terms of Ramsey’s pre-contract agreement with Juve comes via David Ornstein, BBC Sport’s infallible font of all things Arsenal.

Ornstein reports that the deal, signed in January, will ensure the Welsh midfielder becomes the highest-paid British player of all time with weekly wages of “over £400,000-a-week”.

Christ, we knew it was big, but £400,000 a week? That’s approaching lunacy for a 28-year-old on a four-year contract. Ramsey has suddenly rocketed from a bargain(ish) freebie to a concerted risk of a signing.

It was thought that Gareth Bale would remain the highest-paid Briton in world football (£350,000-a-week at Real Madrid) but Ramsey’s new deal catapults him beyond his fellow countryman.

To put the numbers in some kind of perspective – which is fairly difficult – Cristiano Ronaldo currently earns somewhere in the vicinity of £535,000 every seven days at the Bianconeri in basic wages.

The next highest earner on the list is Paulo Dybala, who is purported to earn approximately £120,000 per week.

Ramsey’s a bloody good player, but that is insanity.

Tottenham Confirm There Will Be No Half-Time VIP Cheese Bar At New White Hart Lane Stadium, Nor Were There Ever Any Plans To Install One:

February 11th, 2019

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In a frankly gutting turn of events, Tottenham have announced that their new White Hart Lane stadium will not boast a special VIP cheese bar.

What’s more, the club have sworn that there were never any plans to install such a room at any point during the conceptualisation of the designs.

The Guardian reported in 2017 that the new Lane would feature several posh things, including one-way glass panels lining the tunnel to allow approximately 100 paying fans the chance to observe Spurs players as if they were locked inside some kind of nightmarish ‘human enclosure’ with enjoying a fine-dining experience in return for an entirely reasonable £30,000 a season.

We were also promised a “cheese room” for supporters/clients to select their own “specially sourced half-time cheeses” at half-time during matches.

However, after attempting to follow-up on what progress has been made in the subsequent two years, the Guardian have been informed by Spurs that there is no cheese room at their new stadium, nor were there ever any plans to install one.

Has the ridicule prompted a U-turn? No, insist Spurs. They were never going to have the cheese room in the first place – a story that has more holes in it than a full-flavoured emmental.

Unbelievable. It’s always the real, cheese connoisseur football fans who end up paying the biggest price.

Guess we’ll just have to continue sneaking our matchday wheel of gourmet Brie de Meaux through the turnstiles like common peasants.

Official: Oldham Athletic Name Local Lad Paul Scholes As New Manager (Photo):

February 11th, 2019

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Paul Scholes has been named as new manager of League Two side Oldham Athletic, the very club he supported as a lad.

The former Manchester United man had to seek clearance from the Football League before taking the job due to concerns his ownership stake in non-league side Salford City might constitute a conflict of interests.

However, following a meeting on Friday, Scholes has now been officially sworn in by the Latics on an 18-month deal…

Minor update: Salford have confirmed that Scholes has resigned his position as a director but maintained his 10% share in the club)

Of course, the rational expectation is that this may end up going fairly badly but it’s possible having a player of Scholes’ calibre and renown being involved on a day-to-day basis could also prove to be a massive boon/motivation for the Oldham squad.

The Latics are currently 14th in League Two, some nine points off the play-offs at the tail end of a crowded middle pack.

We only hope that Jose Mourinho is on hand to criticise his every move from this point onward.

Cheltenham Town: Luke Varney Wins January Player Of The Month Award, Takes Home Voucher For Nandos Sharing Platter (Photo):

February 11th, 2019

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Congratulations are due to Luke Varney, who has been named as Cheltenham Town’s player of the month for January.

The 36-year-old striker scored four goals in seven league appearances over the course of the month, helping the Robins secure two important victories that saw them pull away from the League Two relegation zone.

As such, Varney was named player of the month over the weekend after claiming 60% of the vote in the club’s social media poll.

He was then presented with the spoils: a Nando’s voucher – but not just any Nando’s voucher:

Another goal at the start of February (against Yeovil) proved to be the match-winner and Varney won ‘Man of the Match’ in the 1-0 triumph.

He is therefore the latest player to receive a Nandos Cheltenham sharing platter voucher.

The full value of the voucher is unknown, but Pies’ in-depth research shows that an “All Together Now” sharing platter for 2-4 people comes in at a hefty £9.95.

That strange scraping noise you hear is the sound of the boat being well and truly pushed out.

WWE Legend Mick Foley Confirms He Will Attend Sheffield United Game As Special Guest Of Billy Sharp After Unlikely Buddies Bond Over Sock Celebration:

February 11th, 2019

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WWE legend Mick Foley has confirmed that he will be attending an upcoming Sheffield United match after forming a strange friendship with striker Billy Sharp over social media.

Sharp recently caught Foley’s attention after celebrating a goal against Norwich by replicating the wrestler’s infamous ‘Socko’ gimmick, which led to the pair exchanging compliments on Twitter.

Things then proceeded to snowball to the point that the Blades invited Foley to come and watch Sharp in action at Bramall Lane – an offer he most eagerly accepted.

Lo and behold, the planets have aligned.

With Foley due to come to the UK to appear at a wrestling show on the weekend of 12th March, the 53-year-old hardcore superstar has confirmed that he plans to attend United’s Championship game against Brentford earlier that same day.

Whether Foley intends on serving as special guest referee for the match remains to be seen. Hopefully, he’s planning to pack his black-and-white striped shirt just in case.

Honestly, these must be scenes from a parallel universe that have leaked through the continuum somehow.

Madness: Man City Apologise For Playing Chelsea Anthem ‘One Step Beyond’ Over PA System After Thumping Blues At Etihad (Video):

February 11th, 2019

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Proving once again that fun will not be tolerated in the Premier League, Man City have formally apologised to Chelsea for their mischievous selection of post-match music in the wake of Sunday’s tie between the two sides.

Swiftly after City had railed their visitors 6-0, the hosts played ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness – Chelsea’s victory song – over the public address system at the Etihad.

The power play was warmly greeted by most right-minded fans on social media as an expert example of the football rustle. However, City’s top brass were reportedly altogether less enamoured.

According to the Evening Standard, “senior City officials” ordered the song be cut short and offered their immediate apologies to their Chelsea counterparts for “what could be interpreted as an act of gloating.”

That’s precisely what it was, and that’s precisely why it was so fantastic.

The Premier League: Where fun comes to die.

‘I Didn’t See Him’ – Maurizio Sarri Snubs Pep Guardiola Handshake After Watching Chelsea Get Eviscerated By Man City (Photo & Video):

February 10th, 2019

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Maurizio Sarri conducted football management’s ultimate sin (just ask Mark Hughes) after watching his Chelsea side get well and truly disembowelled by a rampant Man City side at the Etihad on Sunday.

After falling four goals behind inside the first 25 minutes, the Blues ultimately found themselves on the wrong end of a thoroughly embarrassing 6-0 pasting.

When the final whistle eventually put him out of his visible misery, Sarri just turned and started walking – completely ignoring the offer of a post-match handshake from Pep Guardiola.

Legend has it that Sarri is still walking and quite possibly won’t stop until he reaches the bottom of the ocean.

Patent bollocks, but the Italian coach attempted the following excuse during his post-match press conference:

I didn’t see [Guardiola] at the time but I will go to say hello to him later, as usual.

I wanted to go to the dressing room and in the moment I didn’t see him. I have no problem with him.

For what it’s worth, Guardiola seemed to accept Sarri’s version of events:

I have spoke with (Chelsea assistant) Gianfranco Zola. He (Sarri) didn’t see me.

I have an incredible relationship with him so no problem.

We can’t exactly blame Sarri for his thoughts being elsewhere, especially given that his days as Chelsea manager may well now be limited to single digits.

Man Utd: Red Devils Return To Top Four After 3-0 Stroll To Victory Over Fulham (Photos & Video):

February 9th, 2019

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Manchester United will end the day in the top four of the Premier League for the first time since the opening day of the season after yet another convincing display, this time away to struggling Fulham.

United came into the game eight league games unbeaten under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and took the lead after just 14 minutes, with the rejuvenated Paul Pogba scoring a fine effort at the near post.

That goal came after the hosts almost took the lead themselves in the first minute, with Luciano Vietto firing wide after being set up by Andre Schurrle.

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However, midway through the first period, the Red Devils struck again, with Anthony Martial scoring a superb solo goal.

The visitors were now in complete control against a Fulham side looking more and more likely to find themselves playing Championship football next season.

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Just after the hour-mark, Pogba would score again, this time from the penalty spot after Juan Mata was fouled in the box by Maxime Le Marchand, a player who had a game to forget.

The game would end 3-0 to United, a result which seems them leapfrop Chelsea into fourth place in the table, with Solskjaer making it a record-breaking 25 points from his first nine games with United, more than any other boss in their first nine games in charge of a team in the Premier League.

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While United continue to thrive under Solskjaer, Claudio Ranieri’s Fulham show few signs of avoiding the drop come May.

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Bayern Munich: Javi Martinez Claims To Have Come Up With Concept Of ‘The Hunger Games’ Novels:

February 9th, 2019

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Bayern Munich defender Javi Martinez has made the outlandish – if not entirely serious – claim that he created the original concept of the vastly successful ‘Hunger Games’ franchise.

For the uninitiated, the Hunger Games are a series of novels written by American novelist Suzanne Collins which were later turned into a series of equally lucrative movies starring Jennifer Lawrence as some kind of bow-wielding dystopian child warrior.

Discussing his love of writing with German magazine Socrates, Martinez said:

Writing is a great pleasure for me, even as a teenager I started to write a book.

And believe it or not, the plot was pretty much the same as ‘The Hunger Games’.

It was strange (to see the Hunger Games movie).

I was sitting in the cinema and thought: ‘It does not exist, that’s my idea, which I had years ago, the creators must have stolen my computer!’

While most would instantly realise that Martinez wasn’t airing a wholly serious grievance, the Bayern player still faced a significant amount of backlash on social media, with people pointing out that Hunger Games was actually inspired by a Japanese film called ‘Battle Royal’ that was in turn inspired by a novel written in 1999 when Martinez was just 10 years old.

The Spaniard then actually felt the need to clarify that he was joking by following up on Twitter with a photo of him reading ‘Night Over Water’ – another book shamelessly “stolen” from him, this time by author Ken Follett.

“Not everything is meant to be dead serious,” Martinez quipped below. 

In a perfect or even vaguely sensible world, he wouldn’t have had to explain that – yet here we are.

Werder Bremen Latest Club To Celebrate Anniversary With Special One-Off ‘Spliced’ Kit (Photo):

February 8th, 2019

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Werder Bremen have announced that they will wear a special kit for their Bundesliga game this coming weekend to celebrate their 120th anniversary.

Umbro will ply Bremen with a one-off “spliced” shirt for the match against Augsburg on Sunday, which is vaguely reminiscent of the jumbled shirt that Inter Milan are planning to wear in the derby against AC Milan in March.

While it’s not actually comprised of tatters of retro strips, the Bremen shirt is distinctly green and vivid in what Umbro claim is a deliberate homage to the “loudest fans in the league”…

Photo: Umbro/Werder Bremen

The shirt is available online but only in a limited batch of just 1899, in reference to the year in which the club was founded.

It ain’t cheap either, with each one costing €118.99 a pop.

Tempted as Pies may be, we’ll pass. After all, we’re probably going to need to eat this month.

Proper Boss: Liverpool ‘Keeper Alisson Becker Proves He’s In Process Of Perfecting Fairly Convincing Scouse Accent (Video):

February 8th, 2019

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“Ahright Veargil?” “Sound as a pound, la”

Having made the switch back in July, Alisson Becker is beginning to overcome the culture shock of swapping Rome for Liverpool.

To help acclimatise to daily life on Merseyside, the Brazilian goalkeeper has been attempting to conquer the oft-impenetrable local dialect.

While confidence isn’t exactly overflowing as his studies continue, Alisson proved in an interview with Sky Sports that he has at least mastered one key Scouse phrase…

Things are coming along nicely. Alisson might not be fluent yet, but that brief snippet of Scouse accent sounded suitably Carragherish.

At this rate, he’ll soon be crooning closed-eyed through a lilting acoustic version of The Anfield Rap.

“Well I came to England lookin’ for fame…”

‘We Want To Honour Him’ – Nantes Club President Reveals Plan To Retire No.9 Shirt In Tribute To Emiliano Sala:

February 8th, 2019

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Sadly, it was confirmed late on Thursday that Emiliano Sala’s body had been recovered from the bottom of the English Channel.

While we all knew it in the pit of our stomach, official news came through from the relevant authorities that the body retrieved from the submerged plane wreckage was indeed that of the Argentinian striker.

After what must have been a tumultuous night, Sala’s former club Nantes acknowledged the difficult realisation in an emotional statement posted on Friday morning:

There are difficult mornings, nightmarish awakenings where unfortunately reality catches up with us. Emi has gone away.

Arriving on the banks of the Edre in July 2015, Emiliano Sala has won the hearts of supporters in Nantes. Through his work, his anger and limitless kindness, he finished top scorer for the last three seasons.

The national and international tributes that have been offered to him are due to the person and the player he was. We are losing today a friend, a talented player, an exemplary teammate.

We do not forget in this drama the pilot and his family and trust the authorities to continue their research.

FC Nantes, its leaders, staff, and players present the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson their deepest condolences.

We will never forget you, Emi.

Nantes club president Waldemar Kita also added that he now intends to retire Sala’s shirt number as a lasting homage to their late friend.

I do not have the words, it’s a tragedy, I’m devastated.

Emiliano left his mark, which is why, like many fans, I want to honour him again by removing the No.9.

Nice touch. It’s precisely this kind of thing that shirt retiring should be preserved for.

RIP Emiliano Sala (1990-2019), David Ibbotson 

Fact It Up: Keisuke Honda Makes Unfortunate Pronunciation Error At Key Point Of Melbourne Victory Press Conference (Video):

February 8th, 2019

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For those out of the loop, Keisuke Honda is currently on the books at Melbourne Victory as well as juggling a part-time second job as manager of the Cambodian national team.

The Japan international signed with Victory last August but has seen his involvement limited by injury to the extent that, with a return to action anticipated this weekend, the club felt it necessary to re-introduce the 32-year-old midfielder to the national press.

Unfortunately, while speaking of his excitement to be involved in the cut and thrust again, Honda’s English pronunciation let him down at a key moment, leading to a sea of raised eyebrows out in the media pit.

Thankfully, Victory coach Kevin Muscat was on hand to make the goal-line save and clear up the confusion…

Discussing his injuries, Honda said: “I have to take care of myself. It’s bad but it’s real. It’s *fact*” – though it’s fairly clear what everybody else present thought the 32-year-old had just exclaimed!

Doesn’t help that we’re talking about a room full of people with Australian accents here, too.

For the record, Honda soon laughed the incident off and promised to do better next time…

Don’t worry Keisuke, everybody facts it up completely at some point or other.

Introducing Willy The Shark: Controversial Dancing, Humping, Pelvis-Thrusting Mascot Of Colombian Side Junior De Barranquilla (Video):

February 7th, 2019

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Known colloquially as the Sharks, Colombian top flight side Atletico Junior (or ‘Junior de Barranquilla’ as they’re more commonly referred) wanted a mascot that embodied their nickname’s sense of icy cold predation.

What they actually ended up with is Tiburon Willy (Willy the Shark) who, while not being overly vicious, is certainly not an anthropomorphic fish bound by any social conventions.

He dances, and when he dances he dances hard…

Willy’s aggressive gyrations, humping and power-thrustage have got him into trouble on several occasions in recent years, with opposing fans and teams not taking kindly to his unique brand of partisan rabble-rousing.

Indeed, he was fired by the club in 2009 for besmirching the shirt of a rival team immediately after a match, first ‘ravaging’ it with his teeth before using it to, well, just watch the video… 

Basically, Willy was – and may well still be – a bit of a pest.

To think, just a few decades ago, he was essentially just an elaborate cardboard hat.

Retro Football: George Graham Gives Demoralised Arsenal Squad Stirring Team Talk After ‘Battle Of Old Trafford’ Points Deduction, 1990 (Video):

February 7th, 2019

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When Arsenal quite literally slugged it out with Manchester United at the “Battle of Old Trafford” in October 1990, the penal consequences looked like they might upset the Gunners’ title drive.

Only two players were booked in the wake of the 21-man brawl. However, after an FA tribunal held the following month, United were docked one point and Arsenal, who were in Liverpool’s slipstream at the top of the Division One table, were docked two.

This saw them fall eight points behind leaders Liverpool (and just one point above Tottenham in third), leading to Arsenal defender David O’Leary to posit that the FA’s unprecedented ruling would ensure the “champagne would be out” at Anfield.

To this day, it remains the only instance in the history of the English Football League that a club have been docked points for player misconduct.

Anyway, with a demoralised squad to drag out of the doledrums, Arsenal manager George Graham gathered his players at the training ground for a timely cage-rattle.

Adopting a slightly unfamiliar positive tone, the famously stony Scot proceeded to lay it on the line in no uncertain terms…

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Steve Bould with a full head of hair is just wrong on an elemental level.

As for Graham’s stirring pep talk, it most certainly did the trick, as the Gunners came racing back to claim the title, ultimately going on to finish seven points ahead of Liverpool – thanks in part to a dominant 3-1 win over United in the reverse fixture at Highbury in early May.

‘The Battle’ went onto set the scene for many grizzly Arsenal-United skirmishes that followed over the prevailing years, right up until hostilities between the two clubs began to thaw in the 2010s.

Lost For Words: South American Commentator Accompanies Speedy Counter-Attack With ‘Car Engine’ Sound Effects (Video):

February 7th, 2019

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Venezuela side welcomed their Brazil counterparts to Rancagua for a Copa Sudamericano Under-20 tie which they ultimately won 2-0.

However, every single nano-second of action on the pitch was overshadowed by the free-form jazz being performed up in the TyC Sports commentary box.

Indeed, with human words failing him, the commentator on duty simply resorted to using loud “car engine” sound effects to convey the speed of the Venezuelan breakaway…

Sterling effort, and ten times more coherent that you’re average Sky Sports/BT Sport babbler.

Michael Winslow would be proud.

Back On Top: Man City Overtake Liverpool On Goal Difference After Hard-Fought Midweek Win Over Everton (Photos & Highlights):

February 7th, 2019

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Title holders Manchester City are back on top of the Premier League table after a deserved 2-0 victory away to Everton on Wednesday night, but only by the narrowest of margins.

The victory sees the Citizens leapfrog Liverpool courtesy of a superior goal difference (+7), albeit having played an extra game.

Pep Guardiola’s side came up against a hard-working Everton side, but the visitors eventually took the lead just before the break when Aymeric Laporte headed home from a David Silva free-kick.

In the second-half, the Citizens spurned a number of chances to increase their lead, with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling both failing to make the most of good opportunities.

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The Toffees struggled to create anything of note in attack and at the death, City doubled their advantage with Gabriel Jesus heading in after his first effort had been saved by Jordan Pickford.

The victory sees City rise back to the Premier League summit for the first time since mid-December, with the pressure now firmly on Liverpool to regain their lead at the weekend.

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Barcelona Reject Proposed Nike Shirt Design Because It Looks Far Too Much Like Something Real Madrid Might Wear (Photo):

February 6th, 2019

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Barcelona have rejected a new kit design proposal from Nike because it’s far, far too white.

According to Mundo Deportivo, Nike submitted the shirt to Barca as a possible third shirt to be launched for the 2020-2021 season.

The design featured the cross of Sant Jordi on a predominantly blank field, but was quickly rejected out of hand by the Catalan club’s board for looking a bit too ‘Real Madrid’ for their liking.

Image via Mundo Deportivo

Barca have played in white on their travels before, but not since the 1960s. The colour has since been unofficially “outlawed” by the club due to it’s more immediate association with their eternal Royalist rivals.

Indeed, so deep-seated is the hatred of all things Real that when Kappa introduced a white stripe along the sleeve of Barca’s 1992 home shirt, there was uproar among the more fervent section of the fandom. Since then, white has been avoided like the plague.

It shouldn’t be glossed over that Nike’s 2020/21 effort is also extremely hideous and could have quite legitimately rejected on those grounds too.

Splice Boys: Inter Milan To Wear Unique ‘Mash-Up’ Shirt Against AC Milan To Celebrate 20 Years Of Nike Partnership (Photo):

February 6th, 2019

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Inter Milan are supposedly preparing to take to the field in a dashing one-off kit when they play AC Milan in the derby in mid-March.

According to Corriere dello Sport, the Nerazzurri will wear a special “mash-up” strip – a spliced collage of home shirts from the 1990s to the present day – to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the club’s partnership with Nike.

Photo: Footy Headlines

Inter first signed up with Nike in 1998 in a strange season of split loyalties that saw them wearing Nike strips in domestic competition while continuing to wear Umbro strips in Europe.

Since then, Nike have been firmly in control, pumping out numerous variations of the famous blue and black stripes.

Fans will be able to see them all (or at least swatches of most of them) in one place when Inter take on their dearly beloved neighbours at the Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday, 17th March.

FA Cup Fourth Round Replay: Padraig Amond Scores Brilliant Set-Piece Goal As Newport County Eliminate Middlesbrough At Rodney Parade (Photo & Video):

February 5th, 2019

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Newport County of League Two are into the draw for fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1949 after seeing off Championship side Middlesbrough in their fourth round replay.

After the first tie ended 1-1 at the Riverside, the two teams reconvened on a raucous if slightly rain-lashed and blustery Tuesday night at Rodney Parade.

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Newport came with seconds of dropping into the non-league in 2017 thanks to a last-minute goal against Notts County on the very final day of the season. Under Mike Flynn, they currently occupy stead middle ground down in the fourth tier.

The Exiles generally outplayed Tony Pulis’ sluggish outfit and eventually heaved their way to a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of second-half goals from Robbie Willmott and Padraig Amond, the latter being an absolute beauty…

Excellent finish. Such a difficult skill to connect with a moving ball that sweetly on such a drenched pitch.

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Seeing off ‘Boro means that Newport have earned themselves a home tie in the fifth round and will therefore be welcoming Man City to their place on 16th February.

Extreme wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be great if they somehow bundled into the quarters?

Le Big Tease: Eden Hazard Claims To Have ‘Made Decision’ Over Chelsea Future In Radio Interview, Plans Afoot To Join Real Madrid In Summer:

February 5th, 2019

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We’ve most definitely been here before but it’s being reported that Eden Hazard has finally made a decision over his future at Chelsea in so far that he doesn’t intend to have one beyond June.

As part of a career retrospective interview set to air on French radio station RMC on Wednesday night, Hazard has said: “I know what I will do. I have made my decision.” – with many taking that as a clear signal that the 28-year-old is on his way to Real Madrid at the nearest available juncture.

According to Matt Law of the Telegraph, the interview was recorded around two months ago, since which point Hazard has maintained a deliberate coy air while facing questions about his future from the English media – to keep everybody guessing.

Below are just a selection of quotes attributed to Hazard regarding his plans over the past year or so…

  • “I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision – if they want to let me go. You know my preferred destination” – July 2018
  • “I have two more years of contract and we will see what will happen. Leave this year? I will not leave. I’m fine here, we’ll see what happens in a year or two” – August 2018
  • “Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club. We will see” – October 2018
  • “I want to win the Ballon d’Or. That’s why I want to go [to Real Madrid], maybe” – November 2018
  • “I do not want to have any regrets at the end of my it’s a decision I’m going to make, I do not know when, but I’ll take it” – December 2018
  • “You know me, I’ve always loved Real […] we’ll see what happens” – December 2018
  • “Why not (join Real)? You know what the answer is so you don’t have to ask the question. I won everything in England but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving. I’ve always said that I want to explore something different [after the Premier League], but there are also things that make me want to stay”  – January 2019

You get the picture. You can almost hear the eyelashes fluttering from here.

It is thought the RMC interview is set to confirm the Belgian’s intention to leave Chelsea at the end of the season and finally fulfil his dream of signing for Real Madrid.

What’s more, the Telegraph add that Real have “given Hazard the assurances he needs” over a large bid that will be forthcoming at the end of the season, with Chelsea still looking for around £100million despite the player having just 12 months left to run on his contract.

It’s all a little reminiscent of Antoine Griezmann’s ridiculous ‘Le Interview’ saga last summer, in which the French striker reportedly recorded two separate video messages – one confirming he was staying put at Atletico Madrid, the other confirming he’d be leaving for Barcelona – which were leaked to the press before the big reveal was made the following month.

These little teases just love the drama, don’t they?

Totally Subjective And Unnecessarily Cruel In Parts: 10 Most Boring Premier League Players:

February 5th, 2019

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Presenting Pies’ pick of the most boring, stultifyingly dreary players in the Barclays Premier League.

It’s all totally subjective and unnecessarily cruel for the most part, but what can we say? We’re in a bad mood.

In we delve…

Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea)

Chooses to prolong his self-inflicted purgatory at Stamford Bridge despite now having had plenty of opportunity to join West Ham as the prophecy demands. Very boring behaviour from a very boring individual.

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Jorginho (Chelsea)

One note, one tempo, one pass. Influence on games vastly overstated by disconnected tactics nerds. Talented and capable of much more but prefers to play safe at jogging pace in his cosy, complacent rut.

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Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace)

How on earth could you possibly get excited about Connor Wickham? Only classed as a striker because he said he was once as a kid and nobody ever thought to double check.

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Michael Keane (Everton)

Generic English centre-back of the most generic order. Heads things. Blocks things. Short-sleeved in all weather. Steams on cold days. Likes golf. Owns two CDs, both in the driver’s side door pocket of his car: Michael Jackson Hits and ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ by U2.

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Calum Chambers (???)

Like George McCartney before him, Chambers is one of those indistinct defenders who is hard to keep track of. Who does he play for? Arsenal? Fulham? West Ham? Is he actually just Carl Jenkinson by another name?

Flare Up: Borussia Dortmund Hit With Huge €62,000 Fine For Apocalyptic Pyrotechnic Display Against Fortuna Dusseldorf (Photo & Video):

February 5th, 2019

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The German FA have fined Borussia Dortmund to the hefty tune of €62,000 for their fans’ pyrotechnic bombardment during an away game against Fortuna Dusseldorf earlier in the season.

Dortmund lost 2-1 at the Esprit Arena on 18th December but that didn;t stop their travelling supporters from having a rare old pyro-party, with flames seemingly engulfing their section of the stadium at one point.

The DfB are attempting to crack down on the use of flares and fireworks at German matches and recently introduced a tariff that fines clubs €1,000 per flare spotted during any given match.

According to Westfalischer Anzeiger, Dortmund fans lit 36 “pyrotechnic elements” before kick-off, causing the start of the match to be delayed by nearly two minutes.

Further displays during the match mean Dortmund have been fined for 44 separate offences, plus a little extra for being repeat offenders.

Indeed, the club have now been fined a running total of €130,000 by the DfB since September 2018 having been charged and found guilty four times.

Creating an intimidating atmosphere is one thing, but that kind of money-haemorrhaging just isn’t sustainable.

‘He Didn’t Want To Open The Gap Any More’ – Jurgen Klopp Left Blaming Referee As Below-Par Liverpool Held By West Ham (Photos & Video):

February 5th, 2019

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Liverpool saw their lead over Man City at the top of the Premier League table reigned in to just three points after managing an underwhelming draw against West Ham at the London Stadium on Monday night.

With City winning at home to Arsenal at the weekend, the pressure was on the Reds to match that result in east London.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side started well and defended deep but it was the visitors who would score the opening goal on 22 minutes, with Sadio Mané turning and firing home from inside the box.

The goal came after some fancy footwork saw Adam Lallana set up (a very offside) James Milner, who in turn laid one on for Mané.

Just six minutes later, the Hammers got the equaliser their positive play deserved, when Michail Antonio netted via a clever Felipe Anderson free-kick.

Declan Rice, the hosts’ best player on the night, failed to make the most of a good chance before the break.

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In the second-half, Liverpool toiled only to see an uncharacteristically high number of their passes going astray.

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The game would end 1-1, with the hosts arguably unlucky not to pinch a win against the league leaders.

Jurgen Klopp was not best pleased in the aftermath and decided that, rather than the length of the grass, etc, it was poor officiating that had cost his side the win.

Grumbling after the final whistle, Klopp said:

In 50-50 situations it was always a free-kick for the other team, which was hard and did not make life easy.

As a human being, if I know I have made a big mistake (Liverpool’s offside opener) in the first half, I don’t want to open the gap any more.

Referees are obviously human beings, and I understand that, but I didn’t during the game because I had no clue that our goal was offside.

Pellegrini also stirred the pot, citing a goal scored by Klopp’s Dortmund team against his Malaga side SIX YEARS ago.

Klopp is used to winning with goals offside. He beat me with a goal that was seven metres offside. So he can’t complain about anything.”

That’s one heck of a grudge to still be bearing after all these years.

Terrific nit-pickery from the boy Pellegrino.

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Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Man City now play Everton on Wednesday and a win would put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, at least until the weekend.

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As for West Ham, they stay 12th in the table after a fine display which bodes well for the future.

Enjoy Your Trip: Jose Mourinho Falls Over At Russian Ice Hockey Match While Attending As Guest Of Honour (Photo & Video):

February 4th, 2019

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With the weekend to himself, Jose Mourinho took up the offer of being guest of honour at the KHL ice hockey match between Avangard Omsk and SKA St Petersburg in Balashikha, Russia on Sunday.

As such, the former Manchester United boss was tasked with performing the ceremonial face-off, which he managed to come through completely unscathed.

However, the same can’t be said about his return journey back off the ice…

This coming roughly four months after Mourinho met the same embarrassing fate whilst trying to skip over a velvet rope outside Wembley on his way into the stadium.

It’s precisely thing kind of going down under minimal contact that FIFA need to stamp out of the game.

Besiktas: Shinji Kagawa Scores Two Goals In Three Mad Minutes As Debut Pans Out Nigh-On Perfectly (Photo & Video):

February 4th, 2019

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Shinji Kagawa enjoyed a near-perfect start to his Besiktas career after moving to the Turkish side on a six-month loan from Borussia Dortmund last week.

After starting Sunday’s league game against Anyalyspor on the bench, Kagawa replaced fellow Manchester United alum Adem Ljajic in the 81st minute.

It took him six touches and roughly 17 seconds to open his account…

With that, Kagawa became the first Japanese player to score in Turkish football, and in the first ever Super Lig match to be screened live in Japan.

Two minutes, he had his second goal…

He may have only played nine minutes thus far, but Kagawa has already bolted up into second place in the Super Lig’s ‘goals scored from outside the area’ chart… 

Besiktas went on to register a really rather comprehensive 6-2 away win over Antalyspor, a result that sees them remain three points behind second-placed Galatasaray in the top flight pile.

‘I Believe In God’ – Dorados De Sinaloa Goalkeeper Has Manager Diego Maradona’s Face Tattooed On His Arm (Photo):

February 4th, 2019

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Dorados de Sinaloa goalkeeper Gaspar Servio has taken fairly extreme steps to ensure that he will be occupying his manager’s thoughts more regularly than usual. 

Indeed, Servio has gone and had Diego Maradona’s face tattooed on his arm along with the phrase “I Believe In God”…

Servio is Argentinian, perhaps explaining his fealty to ‘God’, and is also Dorados’ first-choice goalkeeper – perhaps unsurprisingly.

Can you just imagine the Premier League equivalent? Neil Etheridge having Neil Warnock’s face tattooed across his chest with a message reading “In Colin I Trust”.

Pleased To Meat You: Peter Crouch Given Traditional Burnley Welcome As Local Butcher Names Sausage In His Honour:

February 4th, 2019

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Having made his debut at the weekend, Peter Crouch has now been extended the formal Burnley welcome of having a sausage named in his honours.

As of Monday, Heys Family Butchers, just across the road from Turf Moor, will be producing the ‘Red Hot Robot’ in tribute to Crouch and his signature goal celebration.

The elongated sausage, which we are told is ideal for hot dogs, consists of shoulder pork marinated with chillies, paprika, jalapeño peppers, tomato, garlic, onion and a dash of lemon juice.

We usually only do celebratory sausages for players or managers when they have achieved something at the club, but Crouchie coming to Burnley has really caught the imagination and doing a Mexican themed sausage is something we have not done before.

We are well aware Crouchie loves nachos so these will compliment them perfectly.

Sounds delicious. A fitting tribute to one of England’s most unorthodox strikers.

Heys already produce a special Burnley sausage pack which contains eight ‘Claret Clouter’ sausages, as well as other similarly on-theme meat products.

Pies’ favourite must be the Dyche Deluxe, which is a slightly misshapen slab of raw sausage meat that has had one end dipped in neon orange fish-finger crumbs.

Man City: Sergio Aguero Nets 10th Premier League Hat-Trick As City Drub Arsenal To Close Gap On Liverpool (Photos & Video):

February 4th, 2019

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Manchester City moved to within two points of league leaders Liverpool after a convincing 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero was the star of the show for the hosts, with the striker bagging his 14th hat-trick for the club.

Shorn of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Sokratis, Arsenal’s defence was always going to struggle against the potent Citizens, with Stephan Lichtsteiner once again looking way off the pace.

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City took the lead within the opening minute after Alex Iwobi gave the ball away just outside his own box, with Aguero scoring from close-range.

However, the Gunners hit back on 11 minutes, with more poor defending, this time from the Citizens, allowing Laurent Koscielny to head home from a corner.

Unai Emery’s side settled after their goal although City continued to dominate possession.

Just before the break, Arsenal would concede a second, with Aguero finishing off a fine move from Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling, after more sloppy defending from the visitors.

The second half saw the hosts totally in control, with the Gunners failing to muster a single shot.

Aguero would complete his hat-trick just after the hour-mark, bundling the ball in via his elbow to seal the deal for the impressive Citizens.

That goal was the 30-year-old’s 14th hat-trick for City, and his 10th in the Premier League, with only Alan Shearer managing more.

Pep Guardiola’s side move to within two points leaders Liverpool, at least until the Reds play on Monday night.

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As for Arsenal, they find themselves in sixth place, with a top four finish now looking a tall order, with a huge amount of work needed to strengthen their squad.

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‘I Never Want To See It Again’ – Superstitious Wolves Boss Nuno Espirito Santo Rattled By Black Cat Pitch Invader At Goodison (Photos & Video):

February 3rd, 2019

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Play had to be stopped for several minutes during Everton’s home defeat against Wolves on Saturday when an encroacher of the feline persuasion came pottering out onto the Goodison pitch.

Those watching BBC’s Final Score were treated to full commentary from reporter John Acres, who poetically described the black cat’s movement across the field…

After a brief cameo, the cat was ushered off and play was allowed to continue, with Wolves cantering to a 3-1 victory.

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Asked about the stoppage after the game, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo admitted that the little interloper put him on edge:

Where I come from in Portugal, the black cat is bad luck so I never want to see cats again. I don’t like black cats.

He never want to see cats again.

Another perfectly normal quote to come from on another perfectly normal weekend in the perfectly normal Premier League.

‘Tell Gary Lineker To F**k Off’ – Cardiff Boss Neil Warnock Slips In Special Pre-Interview Message For Match Of The Day Host (Video):

February 3rd, 2019

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Neil Warnock had a few choice words for Match of the Day host Gary Lineker as he prepared to give an interview after Cardiff City’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday evening.

Gearing up for his media duties in the tunnel, Warnock was unaware the camera was rolling when he slipped in a special little message for Lineker.

“Match of the Day? Tell Gary Lineker to f**k off. Oh, have you caught that on camera? He called me Colin. Can I say ‘I’m Colin here’. You don’t know why I’m Colin do you? Right.”

For those not familiar, Warnock is called ‘Colin’ in reference to an unfortunate anagram of his full name: Neil Warnock = Colin Wanker.


Asian Cup: Japan Squad Tidy Up And Leave Dressing Room In Immaculate State Despite Losing To Qatar In Final (Photo):

February 2nd, 2019

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They may have fallen at the final hurdle, but that didn’t stop Japan from departing the 2019 Asian Cup with their usual grace and decorum.

The Blue Samurai lost 3-1 against Qatar in the final but still took the time to clean up after themselves and leave their dressing room in an even more immaculate state than which they found it.

The staff even left a thank-you message behind them at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, written in English, Arabic, and their own native tongue…

As we’ve seen several times before, if you want your arena deep-cleaned after a tournament, make sure to invite Japan.

January 2019: Eight Weird And Wonderful Deadline Day Transfers You Might Have Missed:

February 1st, 2019

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Photo: Burnley FC

When a 38-year-old Peter Crouch moving to Burnley is your biggest story, you should perhaps begin to realise that ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ doesn’t actually exist to provide 24 hours of rolling entertainment for a television audience.

It’s simply the final day of a seasonal window in which football clubs around the world are permitted to sign and register new players – some bloody weird ones, n’all.

As far as January 2019 is concerned, here’s a few of the odder moves you might have glossed over amid the vapidity of it all…

Yannick Bolasie to Anderlecht

After failing to impress at Aston Villa, Everton have chosen to farm Bolasie out a little further afield for the remainder of the season.

Apparently the transfer was only approved by the Belgian FA with roughly 30 seconds of the window left.

Sandro to Udinese

Udinese spent the majority of deadline day in negotiations with Derby County veteran Tom Huddlestone only for the deal to ultimately collapse.

However, the Serie A side did manage to procure themselves a former Premier League midfielder before the end of the day by bringing in ex-Tottenham nutter Sandro from Genoa on a short-term deal.

Alen Halilovic to Standard Liege

The boy who was supposed to be king is now at his fifth club since making his big jump from Dinamo Zagreb to Barcelona five seasons ago…

Lucas Piazon to Chievo Verona

Undisputed four-star general of Chelsea’s loan army, Piazon’s January switch to Chievo will preserve his impeccable record of spending every single season since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2012 ‘elsewhere’…

Erik Pieters to Amiens SC

Most Stoke fans were hoping for defensive reinforcements or two this window as they are notably short at the back.

Instead, the club loaned their senior left-back to a team fighting relegation from Ligue 1.

Wilfried Bony to Al-Hilal

Off to Qatar. Safe to say, the grand return to Swansea has not gone to plan…

Jerome Sinclair to Oxford United

From Liverpool wonderkid, to Watford also-ran, to League One in the space of three seasons.

Aboubakar Kamara to Yeni Malatyspor

Suspended by Fulham for brawling with one of their security guards, Kamara has been removed to one of Turkey’s lesser -Spors.

Nobody looks remotely happy about it…

Weird old deadline day, that.

Masterclass: Michael Owen Flexes Supreme Acting Chops Once Again In Excruciating ‘Deadline Day’ Huawei Advert (Video):

February 1st, 2019

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“This is your pilot speaking. Please try to refrain from leaping to your demise while I monotonously narrate a full day-trip around Dubai in real time”

Michael Owen has never been one to shy away from a cringe-inducing celebrity endorsement or three.

Who could forget his spine-tingling virtual reality helicopter tour of Dubai? Or the time he was hired by injury solicitors Gowling Law as their first all-wooden brand ambassador?

Now, on the day Newcastle finally broke his old transfer record, Owen has put pen to paper on an entirely different kind of deal.

With Joe Cole tacked on for good measure, the ex-England pair announced their very own ‘deadline day switch’… to Huawei mobile.

What follows is just over a minute of painfully dry acting and often-trotted clichés, as the pair discuss their “big decision” to change mobile providers.

It’s meant to sound like they are announcing a big move to a new club, except the tweet’s accompanying caption and insistence on @-ing Huawei kind of punctures any potential pretence.

There’s also the unfortunate truth that neither of them can convincingly portray professional footballers, despite spending the majority of their lives working in that precise field.

At least Cole is able to emote like a human being, as opposed to Owen, who gives the impression of a chronically dull man parroting lines while letting his imagination wander to which colour Range Rover he intends to buy with the proceeds: Titanium grey or Polished silver.

Owen’s efforts are further undermined by the fact that he appears to have tweeted out his decision to switch to a Huawei phone from his Apple iPhone.

In the immortal words of Neville Southall: “Yeah, nice one Michael.”

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