Friday, July 31, 2009

Eredivisie Preview - Just in time for kick off

In case you were unaware the Dutch Erdevisie kicks off this afternoon (14:45 Eastern) with a match between SC Heerenveen & Roda Kerkrade. I think that Heerenveen should pick up the three points tonight given that Roda only narrowly avoided relegation last season, while Heerenven finished 5th. But now onto the interesting stuff:

The Top of the Table

Last season saw AZ Alkmaar win their second Erdevisie Crown, and it was also significant due to the fact that the "Big Three" - Ajax, PSV, & Feyernoord were not in the top two. Steve McClaren's Twente grabbing second place. In the close season there was a lot of movement, and most of it was with the coaches. AZ lost their coach Louis van Gaal to Bayern Munich, and replaced him with former Valencia boss Ronald Koeman. While in Amsterdam Ajax had their coach Marco van Basten quit (he actually quit with a few games left in the season) and he was replaced by Hamburg boss Martin Jol. There were a few player moves as well, in addition to losing their coach Ajax also lost their captain as Thomas Vermaelen joined Arsenal. However they did find replacements in AZ's Demy de Zeeuw & former Hamburg defender Timothee Atouba. PSV bolstered their lineup with the addition of former Blackburn Rovers defender Andre Ooijer & Orlando Engelaar from Schalke. So I guess now is the time for predictions I think that PSV will win the 2009/2010 Erdevisie. They have added experience and experience that wants to be in The Netherlands. I like Martin Jol as a coach and I think that he will certainly have Ajax playing better football then they did under Marco van Basten. However just as Ajax had to sell Huntelaar last season, I am worried about their ability to hold onto their Uruguayan Star Luis Suarez. Speaking of which....

Players to watch:

Luis Suarez - Ajax's star player, Martin Jol is trying to sign him to an extension to rebuff interest that is starting to come from other European Clubs. Suarez is 22, and a Uruguayan International who was second in scoring last season while also being the league leader in assists. If he stays healthy and at Ajax, then they will definately be competing for the title.

Jonathon de Guzman - The Feyernoord winger has been increasingly mentioned as a player that may return to play for Canada internationally. This is because since declaring his intention to play for the Dutch, and representing them at the Olympics, he is not achieving the potential that was expected of him. I made him one of my players to watch as this is definitely a season where he needs to step up and get noticed or watch his chance of play for Holland pass him by.

Real Madrid's Dutch contingent - With all of the signings that Madrid have made this season, it looks like their entire Dutch contingent (Sneijder, Robben, van der Vaart, Huntelaar, & van Nistelrooy) may be allowed to move to new clubs. At the moment no one has left, but if any of these players choose to return home they will certainly tilt the balance of power into their new clubs favour.

The Rest of the League & Relegation

It will be interesting to see how Gronigen deal with the loss of their leading scorer from last season Marcus Berg who made the move to Hamburg (now Ham"Berg"?) after impressing with the Swedish U21 side during the European Championships. There are also a lot of teams with a shot at Europe as those from 5 to 8 entering a Europa Cup playoff. I think that Feyernoord will make a push up the standings if Jonathon de Guzman starts to live up to his potential, and they should be helped by Gronigen loss of Berg.

In the relegation battle I see the fight mainly between three sides Roda Kerkrade, newly promoted RKC Waalwijk, & Hearcles Almelo. Roda were lucky to not get relegated last season. Waalwijk were the second team promoted. While Hearcles have sold some of their best players from last season. I think that the Eerste Divisie Champions from last season VVV Venlo will finish near the top of the bottom half of the table.

So there you have it my Erdevisie Preview for the 2009/2010 season. I apologize to fans of the Dutch league for the shortness of it, I wasn't able to get as much research done as I wanted given as I thought that the season started next week instead of this week.

The rest of the league previews will follow a similar format - Top of the table, players to watch, rest of the league, & relegation. Another note is that the Polish Ekstraklasa preview will come out next week. It looked like a corruption scandal was going to delay the start of the season, but now looks as if matches are underway today.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Julian de Guzman to Portsmouth could it really happen?

As soon as Lassana Diarra was sold to Real Madrid I told anyone that would listen "We have a JDG sized hole in our midfield." JDG is of course Julian de Guzman, star Canadian midfielder who was seeing out his contract at Deportivo La Coruña in the top flight of Spanish football. Sadly he spent most of last season on the bench at Depor after privately and later publicly complaining about the €800,000 in unpaid bonuses he had earned. In the 2007/2008 season he was the club's player of the year as well as the Gold Cup MVP. To claim the honour from Deportivo La Coruña he led the club to European football. The Gold Cup MVP is also considerable seeing as how Canada only reached the semi final. Now that you have some back story, we can go back to January 2009 when JDG was sitting on the bench in Spain and refused to sign a new contract with the club until they paid the bonus money. That is why I thought it would be an ideal time for Portsmouth to use some of the £20M that we received for "Lass" to buy JDG. I thought that rather then let him leave for free at the end of the season La Coruña would be open to an offer. Disappointingly no offer came from Portsmouth and surprisingly no other clubs bid for his services either.

When the transfer window opened at the start of the summer, I wasn't sure of where Julian would end up and who would be in charge at Portsmouth. Julian came home to Toronto ahead of joining up with the National side for the Gold Cup. He did interviews where he talked about his desire to stay in Europe and said that now was not the time for him to join Toronto FC. Just a note here Toronto's director Mo Johnston has always described Julian as the ideal designated player for Toronto FC. Then before the Gold Cup got underway there were rumours that TFC had offered him a contract. That of course was not the surprise, it was the fact that he was considering it that got the attention of the blogosphere and the media as a whole. Eventually it came out that the deal offered was $10M over 3 years (about £30,000/week) and what was more it was nearly done. This combined with the fact that The Score's Kristian Jack wrote an article that had two key points. First that the deal with TFC was 90% complete. This news worried a lot of Canadian supporters, as it would not have been good for our best player to return to the MLS in the prime of his career. Don't get me wrong, it would have been a great signing for TFC, but bad for Canada and bad for Julian. The second point KJ made was that Julian had tried to drum up interest from Celtic, Spurs, & Pompey. His attempts weren't greeted with much enthusiasm from the clubs. This set off a flare in me, JDG wanted to play for Pompey and we weren't interested? Looking back I hope now that the lack of interest was because we didn't have an owner or a manager in place. It was a similar situation with Celtic not having a boss either. Spurs were linked with JDG in January but perhaps had filled the role that JDG was going to play in. What ever the reasons were, I did take some spirit from the fact that JDG had considered Pompey a possible destination.

I then set upon the task of letting other Pompey fans know that JDG is interested in playing for us. I started by writing to the club and urging them to sign JDG (I had done this in January as well and I have yet to hear a response from either message). Then it was on to the forums I made posts that we should sign Julian and over the course of July it started to gain support, there were other Pompey fans that had seen him play and thought he would be a good signing. It was starting to gain momentum then I sent a question to Pompey Talk from the News (the News is a Portsmouth based newspaper) which they read out and then discussed Julian for about a minute. Most of them hadn't heard of him, but they were going to look into it and mention it to Paul Hart when they saw him. I can only hope that this happens.

The facts remain the same Julian needs to find a club, and Pompey need players. Given that we are offering trials to 25 year old midfielders from the French League, I am a little baffled that we haven't made a move Julian yet. As the topic continues to spread I hope that Julian is given a look. A possible bonus is that Portugal are now training in North Portugal about 300km from where Julian played in Spain, hopefully some casual enquiries would bring Hart more encouragement to sign JDG. We play Fulham in a little over a fortnight and I know I am not alone in wanting to see Julian de Guzman in our starting lineup at Fratton Park on August 15th.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Six

In this episode Sam from the Canadian Stretford End & I discuss the Gold Cup Final, preseason matches, Le Trophée des Champions in Montreal, transfer rumours, and the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League match with TFC. Enjoy.

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Six - click on the link on the right side to subscribe with itunes etc.

Just an update - in the pod you will hear me talk about Nikola Kalanic from Croatia who was likely (and hopefully still is likely) to sign with Pompey. It now appears that his transfer has broken down over agent fees.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts on the Trophée des Champions

I had a good time at the Trophée des Champions in Montreal. My seat was behind the net, which made is really confusing when an offside was called as we had no clue what had happened. The game unfolded much as you would expect, it was all Bordeaux. Guingamp had some early chances but they became few and far between as the match wore on. There was a good crowd at the match, actually it set a record for attendance for Le Trophée des Champions at just over 34,000. Unfortunately Bordeaux didn't seem that bothered about entertaining the fans. They played a cautious slow possession game that lulled both the Guingamp defense and the fans to sleep before finding a through ball. It was an effective technique that resulted in four or five great opportunities. However it reminded me a lot of watching a power play in hockey where a team will just pass around the outside and the crowd wants them to shoot. Guingamp didn't seem up for much entertaining either as any time Bordeaux star Yoann Gourcuff started to dribble he was cut down, apparently they had no intention of winding up like PSG's defenders that are all over youtube getting burned. Which is a shame as Gourcuff's quality was noticeable, and he was unlucky to not be on the score sheet as his free kick (that led to the second goal) bounced off the post.

I tried to keep an eye out for Marouane Chamakh as he is linked with a number of premier league clubs. He seemed to be a decent striker, he scored a goal with a cheeky chip that was disallowed for offside. He was able to get into good positions, however the aspect of his game that most caught my were his dives. A strong breeze could draw a dive from Chamakh, when ever he felt the slightest contact he flopped, it was embarrassing. I was at the match with some friends some of whom were new to football and they started making fun of how easily he went down, it was that obvious. If Chamakh does move to England, he may well score more goals than Johan Elmander, however he will not be a popular player unless he learns how to stay on his feet.

Credit needs to be given to the Guingamp fans as they were out in large number and there were a plethora of Brittany flags in the crowd. There was also a group of about 30 supporters that seemed to have made the trip from France, and kept singing for their team throughout the match. There were some Bordeaux supporters that also came from France but there were not in as good a voice as the Guingamp fans. That said the largely neutral crowd at the Olympic stadium cheered loudly for both goals. As I mentioned above the patience of the Bordeaux attack lulled everyone to sleep including the fans, this was immensely obvious as the wave started, and then made four or five complete laps of the stadium. While it was nice to hear a lot of noise, I suspect that a good number of the fans enjoyed the wave more than the second half.

Just a quick mention of the "turf" where the match was played. To call it an inch thick would be generous, it basically looked like that fake grass that comes with an indoor putting kit laid directly over top of concrete. As a result any ball in the air took quite a large bounce when it landed on the "turf". Which may have contributed to the possession style we saw from Bordeaux. While being fully aware of the climate restrictions that are placed on matches played in Canada, this is a sport that really needs to be played on grass. Admittedly there is nothing short of buying a few hundred thousand dollars worth of sod, that could be done when you are playing a one off match in an indoor facility, but for clubs in Canada just go and get grass.

All things considered I would say that Le Trophée des Champions 2009 in Montreal was a success, and hopefully more of these sort of matches will come to Canada. Montreal did an excellent job as host, both teams received so much support from the crowd that would have thought they were from Honduras... It is matches like these that can help football grow as a sport in Canada, I am hopeful that as a new attendance record was set this time that perhaps Le Trophée des Champions could become a Montreal fixture.

Friday, July 24, 2009

League Previews

Alright football fans a new campaign is almost upon us. My plan here at Think it all in is to preview some of the leagues that are getting underway soon. As a Portsmouth fan I will obviously preview the next Premier League season and probably the Championship as well for any Newcastle fans. I thought I would also look at the Turkish Super Lig, Ligue 1, La Liga, Serie A,Bundesliga (now that my team Freiburg are back up), & the Polish Ekstraklasa.

If there is any league that you would like a preview of that I didn't mention in my list above let me know and I will do my best to include it. I also plan on recruiting some expert opinions so if you follow one or all of those leagues let me know as I have a few questions for you.

Off to Montreal for Le Trophée des Champions!

Tomorrow I am off to watch the debut of the French season, Le Trophée des Champions. Which for the first time ever is being held outside of France, in the largest Francophone city outside of France, Montreal. Which is conveniently located 2 hours away from Ottawa. The match features last years Ligue 1 winners Lyon - what someone else won? Oh right for the first time in 7 years Lyon didn't win, so it will be Ligue 1 Champions Bordeaux. Their opponents are Ligue 2 side Guingamp who won the French Cup. Bordeaux have added Yoann Gourcuff to their ranks, but are without Gabriel Obertan who joined Manchester United. They should however have striker Marouane Chamakh in the lineup, but he has been linked with a number of premiership clubs.

Bordeaux shouldn't have any problems with Guingamp, but given that this is the French League's overseas debut I am hopeful of a good match.

If anyone is interested in attending the match at the "Big O" in Montreal tomorrow at 3pm. I happen to have two extra tickets, write a comment and let me know if you are interested.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All Aboard - How to jump on the Bandwagon before anyone notices

Welcome to my guide on how to jump on the bandwagon before anyone notices. The whole reason being of course that if you are planning on picking a team to support in England, you would like to feel like a genuine fan. If you pick one of the established big teams (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal) because they win things then you are unashamedly jumping on the bandwagon (other reasons such as family ties, players from your country [Hargreaves doesn't count] or they have the word Arse in their name add some legitimacy). The same goes if you pick Manchester City, ever since they started buying everyone they could think of, their bandwagon is getting full. But this guide is designed for those of you who don't have a team yet and are looking to make the right choice. Perhaps you follow another league like the Bundesliga, La Liga, or Serie A, or maybe you are new to football and reading this because I told you to. Whatever the reason, I have identified a few teams that are likely to go places, that way when your club hits the big time you will already have been a fan for a few years.

If you have not read the Some Canadian Guys Guide to being a Canadian Premier League Fan, I suggest you do so. It will provide some helpful tips about your impending football fandom. In step two they talk about picking a team that is ripe for promotion, this is key to getting on the bandwagon before anyone notices. I am going to look at four teams in England that are ripe for jumping on the Bandwagon. They are all in different leagues and at the moment there bandwagons are moving slowly, or parked, so no one will notice if you jump on, not to mention you will have been there a little while by the time that people start clambering to support your team.

Without further delay your first option. League Two side Notts County. They finished 87th out of the 92 professional football teams in England last season. However they were bought (pending league approval) buy a Qatari consortium. They have installed Sven Goran Eriksson as Director of Football. Yes you read that correctly, it is former Lazio, Manchester City, Mexico, & England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. In case you don't know a director of football is sort of like the general manager in North American sports. Eriksson has pledged to take the magpies to the Premier League.

Notts County are one of the World's oldest football clubs and in fact Juventus got their black & white colours from Notts County. Admittedly the magpies are in the news a lot now, so it would probably be best to wait until the Premier League starts before jumping on the bandwagon, unless you plan to do a little research into the past few seasons and then say something along the lines of "I can't believe that we got Sven!". Most Premier League fans won't check back on the Magpies until near the end of the season to see where Sven has got them. I think that there is no reason to believe that the Magpies will not be in the Premier League at some point in the next decade, by which time you will have been a dedicated supporter and have enjoyed a lot of success in getting promoted three times.

Estimated time to the Premier League 6 - 9 years.

Let's keep on going to the next club, (cringe) League One side Southampton. Now you will have to excuse me here as Southampton are the arch rivals of my club Portsmouth, we tend to refer to Southampton and any player that has ever played for Southampton as "Scummer". However in the interests of providing you with choices, here we go. Southampton were just relegated from the Championship, and they will start next season with negative 10 points because they went bankrupt. Only two weeks ago Southampton were bought by Swiss billionaire Markus Liebherr, who has installed former Reading, West Ham, and Charlton manager Alan Pardew as the manager. They have almost no players at the moment as they had to sell all of them to avoid collapsing entirely before they were bought. However Pardew has proven himself to be a decent manager, and could get the Scummers err Saints back to the Championship in a few seasons. It remains to be seen how much of his fortune that Markus Liebherr is willing to spend to improve the team, but it is likely that if they reach the Premier League that they will likely stick around.

Estimated time to the Premier League 5 - 8 years. (They will never be as good as Portsmouth)

The next stop on the Bandwagon tour, is Championship side Queens Park Rangers. They are actually the second richest club in England, after Manchester City. This is thanks to the big bucks of India's richest man (and London resident) Lakshmi Mittal. There was a lot in the news about the club when Mittal took over, but since they failed to attain promotion last season, they have been out of the news. They haven't been spending absurd amounts of money, but once they reach the Premier League, and they will reach the Premier League, they will spend money and I expect them to stay there once they make it. Which is why now is a great time to jump on the QPR bandwagon.

Estimated time to the Premier League 1-3 years.

The final club is Premier League side Portsmouth. They are already in the Premier League and have been bought by U.A.E. businessman Sulaiman Al Fahim. He has big plans for the club and is planning to start slowly. He wants to develop a strong youth academy and build a new stadium. The evidence is the fact that newly appointed boss Paul Hart has stated that the main goal for the club next season is to avoid relegation. Given that this is a slow build and Portsmouth aren't likely to tear up the league, it is a good time to jump on board the bandwagon. As a Portsmouth fan myself I would gladly welcome you to the fold. In fact Portsmouth or Pompey as we are also known are home to the best fans in the football, another bonus when picking a club. Not to mention if you live in Canada you would boost the Canadian Pompey supporters by 5% (based on my belief that there are already 20 of us). If you are curious about what life is like a Portsmouth fan, you can read Chuck Culpepper's book Bloody Confused.

Estimated time to the Premier League - Already there.

So there you have it, four choices that will put in you in a great position as a fan in a few years, so if you are looking for an English team to support have a look at a few of these choices and choose wisely, because many people don't choose teams most are born into them, so switching allegiances is heavily frowned upon. Once you have your team, sit back, relax, and watch the matches, the tough part was choosing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Five

Joined once again by my co-host Sam Gregory from the Canadian Stretford End and also by special guest Brendan Dunlop from THE Hardcore Footy Show. Listen as we discuss the Gold Cup, preseason friendlies, and of course more transfer madness. Enjoy,

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Five - You can subscribe to the pod via the links on the right.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Portsmouth have a new owner!

It is official now. Suliaman Al Fahim is the new owner of Portsmouth Football Club. This is fantastic news for all Pompey fans.

Of course the takeover has been wrought with difficulties, changing expectations, and rumours galore. That hasn't changed, the first piece of news out of Fratton was that Paul Hart officially had his interim tag removed and he is now the manager of Portsmouth. To say I was a little surprised when I saw this is a bit of an understatement. Now don't get me wrong, Paul Hart is a decent manager and all the players love him, but I think he may be a tad overrated since he got to follow Tony Adams. Hart led us to safety and at the end of last season I wouldn't have been surprised to see him named full time boss, until I heard about the takeover.

As soon as Suliaman Al Fahim was linked with Portsmouth so were, Slaven Bilić, Roberto Mancini, and Sven Goran-Eriksson. You may recall that I even wrote a post about it. As I have already mentioned I think that Hart is a decent manager, but he is not in the same class as any of the other managers that I just mentioned. I fully admit to thinking that Mancini would be the next Pompey boss. The one thing that I am worried about is that to succeed in the Premier League you need to be more than a decent manager.

The other hiccup that fans have noticed is that the buying power that we were rumoured to have with the new owner doesn't seem to have materialised. The rumour is that there were other investors who did not want to be subjected to the Fit & Proper Persons test (a requirement for anyone owning more than 10% of a Premier League Club). This means that Pompey are still looking for transfer bargains.

I know that all Canadians will agree with me that there is not a better bargain out there than Julian de Guzman, who is available on a free transfer after parting ways with Deportivo La Coruña. With some of the selling that we have done, we need help in all positions. At least with Hart in place we can start to bring in new players as we now have someone in charge. Given that the preseason is already underway I hope that we start signing people quickly.

Peter Storrie has mentioned that Portsmouth have 3 or 4 players lined up who could be signed quickly plus another 3 or 4 that they are looking at. I am looking forward to figuring out who these players are. As it happens, Pompey are playing their first preseason match tonight against Havant & Waterlooville (you may remember their FA Cup run). There are few players with us on trial plus a bunch of players that I have never heard of.

Hopefully by the time that the season starts we will have a better idea what the squad looks like, and the sort of year that we can expect. I am interested to here your thoughts, so vote in my poll and let me know where you think that Pompey will end up next May.

Play Up Pompey! Pompey Play Up!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Canada Qualifies for the World Cup!

You may have gathered that this is not a football post... but I felt the need to congratulate the Canadian athletes that have qualified for not one but two World Cups!

Earlier this year the Canadian Cricket team qualified for the World Cup in 2011 to be held on the Asian subcontinent. The most impressive thing about the qualifying tournament was that our best player was injured early on and we managed to qualify without him. Canadian Cricket is definitely on the up.

Last week the Canadian Rugby team qualified for the World Cup to be held in 2011 in New Zealand. We qualified by beating the United States in Edmonton. We have been draw into a group with France, New Zealand, Tonga, and an Asian Qualifier. It will certainly be a challenge, but hopefully Canada can shock the world and make it out of the group. We do have the advantage of playing New Zealand last, if they have wrapped up the group by then we might have an easier time.

Two World Cups in 2011. Hopefully our Cricketers & Rugby players will inspire our footballers in their World Cup qualifying that will get underway in 2012, and then we can have another World Cup Qualification to celebrate!

In case you are interested: Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and England & Wales*, are the only teams to play in the Football, Rugby, & Cricket World Cups. England has won the Football and Rugby World Cup and twice been the losing finalists in the Cricket World Cup. While Australia has won both the Rugby and Cricket World Cups it has failed to make the Football final.

* - England and Wales play together in Cricket.

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Four

I was not joined by my normal co-host Sam from the Canadian Stretford End, instead I was joined by John Molinaro from the CBC. John & I discuss the Gold Cup, Canada's future both in the short term and looking ahead to Brazil 2014, transfers and more.

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Four

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Four

As always there are two places to listen. You can subscribe to Canadian Terrace Talk with itunes via the second link. The subscription links are on the right side.

Be sure to join us for Episode Five, when we are joined by Brendan Dunlop from Hardcore Sports Radio.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Portsmouth Takeover Where are we?

There are a lot of rumours swirling around at the moment. So here is what I have heard about the takeover.

The due diligence process is complete. This is fact and has been verified by BBC & Sky Sports. What does it mean? Due diligence was the process where the prospective buyer (Sulaiman Al Fahim) goes over the owner's (Alexandre Gaydamak) books. The books were apparently a lot messier than was originally thought. I have heard rumours of dubious loans etc., but the process is complete which means that Sulaiman Al Fahim knows exactly how much money Portsmouth owes and who it owes it to.

The fit & proper persons test is underway. This is the test that the Premier League does on all owners to make sure that they have money, and came by it legitimately. The test used to be a joke, until the League came under a lot of pressure after it approved former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra who allegedly embezzled a lot of government funds. This process should take two weeks (ending on July 24th, 2009). Sulaiman Al Fahim has said he is not worried about it as he is also a UN goodwill ambassador and if he can pass the UN test he will surely pass the Premier League test.

Once the fit & proper persons test is complete the takeover can go ahead which brings me to the last sticking point. The price. It was initially reported that the takeover price would be around £60 Million. By the time that the takeover is completed Portsmouth will have sold Glen Johnson for £17Million and Peter Crouch for £12 Million. This has caused a delay in the due diligence and restarted negotiations about the price that Sulaiman Al Fahim wants to pay, as now the club is without its two best players. All indications are that a price will be agreed in advance of the completion of the fit and proper persons test. That means that on July 24th Sulaiman Al Fahim should be unveiled as the new owner of Portsmouth Football Club.

Who will be in charge? Paul Hart is still the interim manager and is running pre-season training that is underway. He will definitely still be at Portsmouth, but will likely revert to his old role as director of the academy, or perhaps become an assistant to the new manager if Brian Kidd does not stay on in that role. The next manager is likely to be either Slaven Bilić, currently in charge of Croatia or Roberto Mancini formerly of Inter Milan.

How many players do Portsmouth have? We currently have 15 senior players (over 18) under contract, but one of those is Peter Crouch who is certain to leave. Portsmouth will undoubtedly be buying more players before the transfer window closes. However the worrying news is that we may buy as few as five giving us a squad of 19 until the transfer window opens in January. Of the youth players - I think that only Matthew Ritchie is ready to try with the first team boosting the number to 20 which is really really small. If you are interested there are plenty of rumours about who the players are that will be signed, but I won't get into that here.

Why did it take so long? Partly because it was announced way too soon. The due diligence process usually happens behind the scenes, so does the fit and proper persons test, which is why you usually only hear about a takeover a day or two before the new people are actually in charge of the club. Because of the way that Portsmouth's season ended in a relegation battle instead of the top half of the table. I think it was a time for some good news, but this story broke the morning of the Champions League final. In May. It has been an extremely difficult couple of months, for Portsmouth fans, players, staff, everyone. It was simply announced too soon. Partly I believe to try to retain some of our star players, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel the journey to new ownership is almost over.

It may have been a rough ride, but there are plenty of Portsmouth Supporters that recall when we were sitting 91st out of 92 teams in the mid 70s, and where we are now is an awful lot better than where we were then.

Play Up Pompey!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Looking Ahead to World Cup Qualifying 2011

As a supporter of Canada, it is disappointing that we are already eliminated from the World Cup that is due to take place in less than a year in South Africa. But it is never to early to look ahead to 2014 in Brazil right? Which is exactly what I have done. Looking at the way that qualifying took place the last time around, I spent most of my weekend figuring out FIFA qualifying and ranking systems, to determine where Canada (and all other CONCACAF countries) stand in relation to Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. So here goes:

You may recall that the World Cup Qualifying Draw was made BEFORE the Gold Cup in 2007. My planning was based upon this being the same next time around which means that the WCQ Draw will happen some time in May 2011. FIFA rankings take into account the last four years of a teams results. There is no penalty for losing, you gain points through wins & draws. A team can lose points over time as the ranking system values results differently. So the Current year is rated at 100%, last year at 50%, two years ago at 30%, and three years ago at 20%. So a team will appear to have lost points if a strong result crosses the threshold. I have skipped this by adjusting the values as if the date was May 2011, using the following dates. June 07 - May 08 20%, June 08 - May 09 30%, June 09 - May 10 50%, and June 10 - May 11 100%. We are already in the third phase for points that count towards are position in May 2011. So without further delay here are the current standings:

May 2011 Ranking Country Points for May 2011 Gap behind next Current CONCACAF Ranking
1 United States of America 6969.28 0 1
2 Mexico 4933.1705 2036.1095 3
3 Costa Rica 4669.233 263.9375 2
4 Honduras 4546.451 122.782 4
5 El Salvador 3419.134 1127.317 10
6 Jamaica 2600.405 818.729 5
7 Trinidad & Tobago 2557.7775 42.6275 7
8 Canada 2437.255 120.5225 11
9 Panama 1949.369 487.886 6
10 Haiti 1437.871 511.498 16
11 Guatemala 1120.88 316.991 14
12 Cuba 1119.918 0.962 8
13 Grenada 1118.388 1.53 9
14 Antigua & Barbuda 918.595 199.793 12
15 Suriname 768.825 149.77 15
16 Barbados 735.335 33.49 13
17 Bermuda 479.3575 255.9775 21
18 Guyana 392.36 86.9975 17
19 Netherlands Antilles 360.06 32.3 19
20 Nicaragua 263.2875 96.7725 18
21 St. Kitts & Nevis 230.095 33.1925 20
22 Puerto Rico 221.2125 8.8825 23
23 Belize 116.875 104.3375 25
24 St. Vincent & the Grenadines 107.695 9.18 22
25 Cayman Islands 65.875 41.82 24
26 Turks & Caicos 63.75 2.125 27
27 British Virgin Islands 59.5 4.25 30
28 Bahamas 42.5 17 26
29 Aruba 32.5125 9.9875 31
30 Dominica 24.65 7.8625 32
31 St. Lucia 21.25 3.4 29
31 Dominican Republic 21.25 0 28
33 US Virgin Islands 17 4.25 33
34 Montserrat 0 17 35
34 Anguilla 0 0 34

Teams 1 - 6 are the top seeds and are placed in the draw for Stage 2 of Qualifying in such away that they will be the top two teams in the three groups that form Stage 3.

Teams 7 - 12 are also given a bye to Stage 2, but they could end up with any of the top seeds (This is where Canada was last time around)

Teams 13 - 35 are placed in Stage 1, with one team randomly getting a bye to Stage 2.

Stages 1 & 2 are a playoff format - with only one team advancing. Stage 3 is three groups with four teams with the top two teams advancing to Stage 4, or "The Hex".

The Hex is where 6 teams fight it out for 3.5 places in the World Cup (The .5 is a playoff against a 5th place South American team).

For Canada to have the best chance possible at reaching The Hex, we should try to ensure that we are in the top 6 teams by May of 2011. As you can see we are currently sitting in 8th. In case you were wondering these stats are current, including the group stages of the Gold Cup. Should Canada manage a quarterfinal victory against Honduras we will gain 615.825 points (410.55 if we win in overtime or shootout) towards our May 2011 totals. Which would see us break into the top six. Getting results in the Gold Cup is very important for Canada as it is our only chance to accumulate big points before the World Cup Draw is made in 2011. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about. A friendly match has a multiplier of 1, A Gold Cup Qualifier or World Cup Qualifier 2.5, Gold Cup or Confederation's Cup 3, and World Cup 4. So if Canada beat Honduras next week in a friendly we would get 205.275 points towards 2011.
If Canada beat Honduras next week in WCQ we would get 513.1875 points towards 2011.
If Canada beat Honduras next week in the Gold Cup we would get 615.825 points towards 2011.
And If Canada beat Honduras next week in the World Cup we would get 821.1 points towards 2011.

Any CONCACAF country that makes the World Cup will get a big bonus for any results they get there. As will any team still in the Gold Cup (except for Guadelope who are not a country or member of FIFA, incidentally teams do NOT get points for beating them either). The six sides still competing in The Hex will also get a chance to boost their numbers with inflated multipliers. The Central American teams & Caribbean teams will get an advantage of playing in Gold Cup qualifiers before May 2011. Canada, USA, & Mexico get automatic places in the Gold Cup and thus do not get the opportunity to get points from qualifying matches.

So what can we do to make sure that we are in a great spot in May 2011? Simple win the Gold Cup, beating Honduras, USA, & Mexico ideally, but even that won't guarantee us a top six finish. WE NEED TO PLAY FRIENDLIES, LOTS AND LOTS OF FRIENDLIES! I was surprised to see the sheer number of matches that Trinidad & Tobago play, which is why even though we won our group in the Gold Cup, and they failed to qualify they are still ahead of us. Jack Warner knows how the system works and is certainly using it, and so should we! With the new rules that make virtually no difference between the U21 side and playing in a friendly. I would like to see Canada field teams (not necessarily our A team, perhaps the U21 team) in senior friendlies against any opposition we can find. There are certainly some teams where we could get more points, such as European or South American opponents as European teams give a multiplier of 1.00, while CONMEBOL gives 0.98 compared to 0.85 for CONCACAF and everyone else. But the main thing is that we need to play matches. Take the team on a Caribbean tour, play St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Aruba... and rack up points along the way. We could be sneaky about it and play teams when they are at their weakest for example play Bolivia at sea level, play a country with one star when that star is injured, or our tried and tested strategy of playing anyone in November in Edmonton.

Canada really needs to take advantage of the fact that we can field a squad of North American based players, and these players are off from November to March. Canada needs to go on a tour and play a lot of matches in that time. If we don't play a lot of friendlies then we won't be able to grab a place in the top six, which means we run the risk of ending up in a group like we did last time around, which is something nobody wants to happen which is why I am sounding the alarm now.

I will keep updating the list. I will post the updated at the conclusion of the Gold Cup.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Three

Sam from the Canadian Stretford End & I dissect the Gold Cup thus far. Naturally we focused most of our attention on the Canadian performances. We also turned our attention to some of the transfers in past week, as well as those rumoured to be happening.

Belated Congratulations to Michael Krakowiak who won my Confederation's Cup Pool. So all the bragging rights go his way. Congratulations Michael you knew more than I did at the Confederation's Cup. In case you didn't get a chance to check the final standings Michael beat me on a tie breaker, in what was a very close finish.

To listen to the podcast select either link below, Enjoy

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Three

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Three

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Two

Sorry for posting this late, I was away from my computer over the weekend. I should be able to post episode three in the middle of the week.

Sam, of the Canadian Stretford End, & I are guest less and make are way through the past few weeks of Confederations Cup, UEFA U21s, transfer madness, Voyageurs Cup, TFC, & then look ahead to the Gold Cup.

By far the most interesting point was when we deduced that Canada must be better than Italy & Spain.

You can listen to the episode here or here.