Monthly Archives: September 2011

Berbatov Is Forever Consigned To Under Appreciation

According to legend, Berbatov’s Mancunian adventure started unconventionally – under a blanket in the back of Ferguson’s car, as he was speedily whisked away from the admiring hands of Manchester City. 

In years hence though, all has been predictable. The daily abuse, the cheap cracks and descriptors starting with “l” are functions of a society inherently against footballers in the mold of Dimitar Berbatov.

Despite standing at six foot two, the Bulgarian hardly intimidates. His stature is slightly offset by a permanent slump of the shoulders and furrowing of the brow, two characteristics most manifest in times of struggle. And for Berbatov, struggle is never far away.

Quite apart from the expectation automatically applied to all Manchester United front players – especially ones that cost in excess of thirty million pounds – Berbatov is the subject of a special kind of scrutiny. There is an unshakable feeling among commentators and journalists alike that his case deserves questioning of an intensity normally only applied to England managers, brothel frequenters and John Terry.

To see Berbatov play is for many to have triggered a sort of righteous indignation, anger at an individual so distinctly different from the Premier League’s proletariat masses. The haughty exterior, hair band (until it was shorn a couple seasons ago) and deceptive, almost arrogant movement, all made great copy throughout each season of supposed under performance.

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Moment #2: Van Der Sar’s Moscow Heroics

This one is by me, The Chairman; David Yaffe-Bellany, editor of In For The Hat Trick.

The rain glistened off his head. Sparkling like the cosmos, the gloriously bald Nicolas Anelka took his first tentative steps. In the slightly blurred background, Van Der Sar beat his hands together looking, presumably, to inspire a last bout of energy. Twenty fellows anxiously waited, millions more consumed excitedly, all were transfixed by the action unfolding. 

I had always been a sucker for penalty shoot-outs. The sheer, almost manufactured drama inherent in these most ultimate of deciders is an addictive drug – pure, unadulterated adrenaline.

But here something was different. The grown men covering their eyes with scarves were my men, the sweat soaked victims of football’s fickle executioner were my players.  Everything was distinctly more personal.

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A neglected, fast cooling box of pizza lay discarded in the corner, beside it, an untouched pitcher of water. ESPN’s transmission lit up a rather morbid setting, even Tommy Smyth’s inept analysis was met with no complaint. Laying prone on the couch was a rather unattractive lifeform, its steely gaze fixed on the television – as the nostalgic elderly might have it, a quintessential twenty-first century human.

As Anelka strode nervously to the penalty spot, the slumping figure straightened to attention. Expectation began to prevail, hope usurped negativity. Dressed in marvelous green, Van Der Sar looked the part. His arms waved menacingly, daring Anelka to score, daring him to deny United a third sojourn into European nirvana.

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The Premier League Continues To Excel At Its Own Kind Of Magic

It wasn’t tiki-taka. Geometric precision may have been lacking, but the Premier League’s latest serving beats the rest in spice. As tactical and ideological trends emanating from Catalonia continue to dictate the musings of football’s intelligentsia, the English game remains resolute and stubborn.

Never mind the intricate little noises coming from Spain and the revolutionaries in Italy, here we refuse to conform. Here penalties are better in the stands, strikers when they’re missing and artisans when flat on their faces.

Here the populace care not for immaculate technicians. It is in its parochialism that the Premier League has once again usurped the rest, claimed lost ground in a perpetual battle for perfection. The decline of an overwhelmingly cosmopolitan outpost, coupled with an influx of English talent to the country’s most recent European adventurers has seen the league regain a superiority once considered inherent.

The difference is in the drama. As Tony Evans succinctly put it on Twitter, “football is more poetry than maths.” In search of poetic meaning, hunters had not to look far, the story of Fernando Torres might as well have been penned by Thespis or Aeschylus, such was the distinctness of its tragedy; redemption wiped away by a moment of the utmost horror. Someone high up there clearly owns a Manchester United scarf.

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Moment #1: Maurice Edu vs Celtic


Rangers fan and editor of  Two Banks of Four, Alistair Hunter kicks off our series with his  moment.

“…The definitive better late than never goal…”

Not my words, rather, the words of Sky Sports commentator Ian Crocker. He’s having to scream each syllable down his microphone to the benefit of, not only the television viewers, but himself too.

“I think we’ve just seen the goal that’s won the championship, here,” adds the pundit, allowing Crocker to catch his breath.

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Champions League Consigns International Break To Distant Memory

After two weeks of old arguments, the Champions League’s return proved a refreshing end to the monotony.

At what point England’s dour, 1-0 win over Wales was forgotten is hard to say. It could have been on ninety-three minutes at the Nou Camp, when Thiago Silva powered home a late equalizer, or maybe seconds later, as Ivan Peresic’s breathtaking volley flew into the top corner in Germany. The contrast between two midweek spectacles couldn’t have been more pronounced.

It seems that international breaks are now nothing if not depressing inevitabilities – interim periods cut from the same cloth as that mountain so elegantly described by the brilliant Dante.

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Roma And Juventus See Projects Head In Hugely Different Directions

To say that Rome wasn’t built in a day would be much too obvious. As streams of black and white clad supporters jubilantly exited Juventus’ shiny, new, packed to the rafters stadium, a wave of doom engulfed the capital.

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Fickle England Continue To Confuse

Frank LampardAs the goals flew by in Sofia, something happened. A drop, a loss, a departure. Memories wiped blank, evaluations reset and hopes freshly kindled. With Ukraine emerging into view, Bloemfontein faded – unhappy recollections usurped by a new wave of optimism.



And then the hit, the check, the end. Had one of the ninety nine times out of a hundred that Rob Earnshaw tucks balls into open nets come up, then a disastrous night would merely have been underlined.But this is why we love England. The groans a melodious complement to Lightning Seeds albums, songs of eventual English demise sung with pride, then dismay, then desperation. Quick rises and drops both in the big picture and the small – Owen’s masterpiece, offset by Beckham’s nadir; the joy of Munich, a misleading preface to failure in South
Korea.

INFTH Book Review: Behind The Curtain


Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football

Author of the universally acclaimed Inverting the Pryamid, Jonathan Wilson’s lesser known debut book details the history, culture and idiosyncrasies of thirteen nations’ footballing landscapes.Treks through the forgotten streets of Sarajevo, cups of coffee in Belgrade and late nights in Sofia, at times Wilson’s account of Eastern Europe can take on a sort of action adventure personality. For the writer though, this was part of the appeal.

“Something in me warms to eastern Europe, and I rather suspect it’s related to my affection for the classic thrillers of post-war espionage,” Wilson writes in the introduction. The statement is indicative of the book’s attitude towards eastern Europe, one both loving and curious, melancholy and honest. Continue reading

Fantasy Guide: Third Edition- International Break Review, Part One

The international break is always a wearing time for fantasy managers. With often five or more starters making long stressful journeys overseas to play in pointless friendlies or, even worse, semi competitive qualifiers, the prospect of an injury crisis mounts without players ever earning fantasy points. However, for close observers these games can act as vital indicators – key factors in transfer decisions and substitutions.

A Few Fantasy Premier League Notes:


Gary Cahill the goalscorer- On the occasion of his first competitive start, Gary Cahill opened the scoring for England with an effort from close range. Interestingly, that goal was actually atypical of Cahill, more often than not his strikes are from long range, that opening day sucker punch against QPR an obvious example.


Rooney’s continues to pick up momentum- Wayne Rooney is fast becoming a must have fantasy player. With five goals in three Premier League games, he is the league’s second top goalscorer and is showing no sign of a drop off. Two against Bulgaria merely served to underline his classy displays of late – only a fool would leave him out.

Van Persie scores four- It’s difficult to know how much to read into this given that the opponent was San Marino and the final result 11-0. However, Van Persie will nevertheless savor his four goal haul; the striker has struggled for consistency over the league’s opening weeks. With the transfer window concluded, the sense is that Arsenal are ready to move on from August’s horror show, and maybe even start churning out a few wins. Any pick up in form is likely to be a function of Robin Van Persie goals, especially if new signings Benayoun and Arteta bed in well.

Park Chu Young scores three- Arsenal fans desperate for encouragement will have been relieved by Young’s performance here. Three goals in what is technically “The World Cup” is not to be scoffed at, even though the opposition was Lebanon. Young represents a fascinating, if perhaps risky, option up front.

Part Two coming after the second round of international fixtures.
In the mean time, enjoy the rest of our fantasy coverage.

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