Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finally a new Podcast

With Matt back from his holidays, along with overcoming some technical difficulties we have been able to record a new podcast. This time we discuss the Women's World Cup, the Copa America, and the Canadian Soccer League. We also have a special treat for you, an exclusive interview with Capital City FC captain Clint Irwin! If you are in the Windsor area make sure to attend The Subs Bench Derby on Saturday with Matt wearing his new Capital City shirt.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The NASL is Coming to Ottawa

The news that broke late last week is now official. The NASL has awarded a team to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). The yet to be named team will play at a redeveloped Lansdowne Park. They will join the league once the stadium is complete, likely in 2013 or 2014. The NASL currently has eight teams, and will stay at eight next season with San Antonio replacing Montreal, who are joining MLS. John Pugh, the owner of the Ottawa Fury and the newest member of OSEG, has been named the team's President.

I was able to attend this announcement and had a conversation with Mr. Pugh. He told me that there would be fan involvement in choosing the team's name and colours. He also spoke of his desire for Ottawa to have a supporter group similar to the Southsiders or the Red Patch Boys. He hoped the games would be fun and noisy. I asked him if he was going to move the Ottawa Fury Women's team to Lansdowne, and he said that was unlikely. He also said there are no plans to bid for a WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) team. During Mr. Pugh's statement to the press, he mentioned that Ottawa would be participating in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, or as I prefer to call it, the Nutrilite Voyageurs' Cup. I asked him if he thought the NVC should be expanded to include teams in the CSL and other leagues across Canada. He said that is the way the FA Cup & US Open Cup are run and, though more logistically difficult, it is a great treat for fans and he wouldn't mind seeing something similar in Canada.

I also had the opportunity to talk with William Shenkman, another member of OSEG, who has previous football experience as he is part owner of Millwall in England. Shenkman talked about how Millwall came quite close to being relegated from League One in his first season at the club and of their later promotion to the Championship. I asked him if he thought a system of promotion & relegation would work in Canada & the United States. He replied that it wouldn't. He mentioned that clubs here, even established MLS ones, don't have the support to keep a club afloat if they were relegated. He mentioned that even in England some large clubs face a lot of problems if they are relegated and used Millwall's archrivals West Ham as an example. We discussed how difficult it would be for a league to lose a market like New York, LA, or Toronto through relegation. I also talked about expanding the NVC with Mr. Shenkman; he hopes it happens and would look forward to an Ottawa derby with Capital City FC. He told me he is glad there is another team in the city that is getting the community out to watch soccer. He said he doesn't think of Capital City as competition for the soccer dollar, more that both clubs are creating interest in local football and that will help everyone.

The final person I spoke with this morning was NASL Commissioner David Downs. We started by talking about stadiums. He thinks the redeveloped Lansdowne will be a great stadium, however he fears that its 24,000 capacity could be too big. He stated that somewhere between 5,000 & 15,000 seats was about right for the NASL. I asked him if he had a maximum number of teams that he would want to have in the NASL, in light of the MLS likely stopping at 20. He said that anywhere between 12 and 16 teams would be great, adding that eight is too few. Ottawa will be the ninth team when they join the league. He mentioned that the League is in talks with other cities, but wouldn't comment on who they are. He also said that it is important for his league to grow prudently. That said, he did expect there would be more growth now that the MLS is likely to add only one more side. The Commissioner said that everywhere there is a successful first tier there is also a successful second tier. He is confident that the NASL will be successful, as will a team in Ottawa.

Though I tend to share the Commissioner's fears about the 24,000 seat stadium being too large, I am excited to see what will happen next, and will be in the stands when Ottawa's newest professional team takes to the field. I should add that the City, OSEG, and CSA are in talks about having Ottawa as a host city for the 2014 U20 Women's World Cup and the 2015 Women's World Cup. Obviously, the redeveloped Lansdowne would host the matches. Hopefully the construction is finished before 2014 so we can have both NASL and the Women's u20 World Cup here in 2014.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thoughts on Villa's manager search

Aston Villa's search for a new boss is a getting a little crazy. The news today was that Wigan boss Roberto Martinez opted to stay at Wigan rather than join Aston Villa, which it must be said is a blow to Villa and their fans. The plus side is that with the relegation of Birmingham, Wigan can step in to fill the rival void. So besides Martinez who haved Villa talked to or been linked with?

1. Rafa Benitez -I can not understand why they didn't hire him. He decided not to take the job after requesting a 30M pound transfer kitty, which was turned down by the owner. So a multiple champions league winner was passed over because he asked for 30M? Didn't Villa let Houllier spend 24M on Darren Bent? Last season Villa spent most of the season battling relegation to get into Europe this club is going to half to spend money. Especially since they are getting a rumoured 16M for the sale of Ashley Young to Manchester United. I think that Villa made a mistake by not hiring Rafa.

2. Steve McLaren - The former England, Boro, Twente, Wolfsburg boss was supposed to have an interview, but had it cancelled because of comments from fans. I think that Randy Lerner was right in cancelling the interview. It is important for the boss to get off on the right foot with fans, just ask Roy Hodgson. Also while he impressed at Boro & Twente he was a failure at England & Wolfsburg.

3. Mark Hughes - Hughes was strongly linked with the post, as he left his role at Fulham. Villa have said that they are not interested in Hughes. That said they can't talk to Hughes until the end of June. I don't think that Hughes is the right fit at Villa. He like Steve Bruce has switched clubs numerous times, just he has done it with less winning.

4. Carlo Ancelotti - The former Chelsea boss who has said that he would like to stay in England, has also said that he is planning to take a year off. Which if he means it would rule himself out of the Villa job.

So after passing on Rafa and being turned down by Martinez, who should Villa be interviewing next?

1. Louis van Gaal - I am surprised that the former Ajax, AZ, Barcelona, Bayern, & Netherlands coach has not been interviewed already I think that he would be a good fit at Villa and has been successful nearly everywhere he has gone.

2. Claudio Ranieri - His name was linked to vacancy, but that was the last I have heard of it. Like van Gaal I think that Ranieri would be a great fit at Villa park.

Both of these men are the sort of managers that would succeed at Villa and help them get where they want to go. I think that they should be the top two names on the short list now, and should have been right behind Rafa & Ancelotti in the first place.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts on Canada - USA round 1

They were better than us. I thought that Hart's formation was the right choice, it worked well to contain the American wingers which was my biggest concern going into the match. However what seemed to happen was that our wingers would mark their wingers leaving huge amounts of space for the full backs to take advantage of, which they did. The US was at their most dangerous when they had their full backs attacking.

The first goal was unlucky, normally Lars makes that save. I expect that Milos will start the rest of the tournament now barring any further goal keeping errors.

Our marking in the box was poor. Ledgerwood noticed Dempsey was behind him much too late and Dempsey scored because of it. In the first half Carlos Bocanegra was left completely unmarked in the box but managed to miss from a few yards out. That was unlucky for the states so I felt that us being down 1-0 at the half was fair.

Problems in the midfield. Atiba is a good player but he is not Iniesta. Too often Atiba was left with no one to pass to and had to dribble his way past a few people, which he succeeded in doing a couple times. Often we would have players standing and waiting for a pass rather than moving into space and receiving the pass. Dunfield had a poor game. I know that he was starting due to an injury from JDG, his passing was very poor more often leading to turnovers than anything else.

Canada was too cautious in possession. We rarely tried a through ball and opted for a "safer" pass than a pass that put the Americans under pressure nearly every time. Specifically, when Dunfield opted to pass backwards to Ledgerwood instead of to DeRo who was in space and in a more advanced position on the right wing. There was a time when Simpson was making a great run into the box but rather than pass to where he was running the pass went behind him.

Ali Gerba was fantastic when he came on. He forced two great saves from Tim Howard. Speaking of which Howard was brilliant making a number of huge saves to maintain his clean sheet. When Gerba came on, Canada changed its formation and gave the USA more opportunities to attack us but Canada did create more opportunities. I expect that had we started that way the US would have scored more than two goals against us.

Man of the Match: Tim Howard

Play of the day: Clint Dempsey's flying back heel

I expect that Stephen Hart will go with a similar set up next match with changes bringing on Gerba likely for Johnson, JDG in for Dunfield if he is healthy, and switching the keepers.

Playing the way we did against the Americans I think that we should be able to get by Panama & Guadeloupe, but we will need to improve our passing to get through the Quarterfinals.

I am pleased that so many fans traveled to the match, I wish I could have been there. I was disappointed with the tv coverage in Canada. I would like to see Sportsnet move the Jays game to Sportsnet One and put Canada on the main network. If you are the home of Canadian soccer then act like it. The Jays play 162 games every year. This was our first competitive match in two years. I was also disappointed how many bars I had to go to before I found one that was showing it. However I was pleased that about half the Capital City squad turned up to watch as well, even if a few of them were cheering on the Americans.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Links to FIFA sponsors contact information

Here are electronic ways to contact FIFA sponsors. Some of the locations are defaulted to Canada as that is where I am. All of the websites for the sponsors also provide address and phone numbers where they can be reached.

Here is the link to FIFA's sponsor page.

I looked at the sponsors of the organisation rather than the sponsors specific to the World Cup. Here are the ways to contact them. Please do contact them as it only through volume that they will hear our message.

Adidas - http://www.adidas-group.com/en/local/contacts/contactus.aspx

Adidas - corporate.press@adidas-group.com

Adidas on twitter: @adidasUS @adidasUK

Coca Cola on twitter @CocaCola

Hyundai on Twitter @hyundai

Kia Motors on Twitter @Kia_Motors

Emirates on twitter @flyingemirates

Sony on twitter @sony

Letter to FIFA Sponsors

Dear FIFA Sponsors,

As you are no doubt aware there have been serious accusations of corruption within the FIFA executive. We as fans do not believe in FIFA's ability to investigate itself. We are calling on you to use your abilities as a sponsor of FIFA to pressure them to hold open, transparent, and independent investigations into all of the allegations of corruption.

We also regret to inform you that until you take action on this issue we will be boycotting the products and services your companies provide. We as fans and you as sponsors have a responsibility to hold FIFA to account; we are doing our part and it is now your turn.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Elder, a fan of football.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Year of Falling Giants

This past season has been very bad for a number of big teams. Their downfalls have been confusing and surprising; while some teams managed to rebound and finish in a respectable position, many finished the season near the bottom of the table. First, let's look at those clubs that had an incredibly poor season they wish they could forget.

The most notable club that had a poor season is of course Schalke in Germany. They made it to the Champions League semi-finals and won the German Cup - that doesn't sound like a poor season, does it? Well they also finished the Bundesliga in 14th place, only two places above relegation. They were 2nd last year, 8th the year before, 3rd before that, and 2nd before that. Their average finish in the four seasons before this one is 4th. A drop of twelve places is huge and will signal big changes for the club - in fact, star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has already announced that he will not be back at Schalke next season.

Schalke weren't alone in Germany as a big club having a poor season. Wolfsburg finished one place behind Schalke - one place above the drop. Wolfsburg were Bundesliga Champions two years ago. They were 8th last season, 5th in the season before they were Champions, and 15th the year before that. Wolfsburg have taken their fans on quite the roller coaster ride from 15th to 15th in 5 years. The back to back seasons of dropping seven places doesn't bode well for these former champions.

In Italy, Sampdoria started this season in the Champions League and will start the next one in Serie B after being relegated. They dropped 14 places this season, from 4th last year to 18th this year. Their average finish in the league for the four years prior to this campaign is 8th, ten places higher than their finish. We will need to watch through the summer to see what happens to Sampdoria's squad to know if they will be able to make a quick return to Serie A.

In Spain, Julian de Guzman's old club Deportivo la Coruna were relegated from La Liga. They finished in 18th place after finishing 10th last year. They were 7th the year before. Depor hadn't been competing in Europe for a while but they were certainly an established La Liga side. Their average finish in the four years leading up to this campaign was 10th. If JDG left the club because of some financial issues there, then those are only going to get worse in the Segunda and it could be awhile before Depor are back in the top flight.

Moving north to France, it has been a bad year for AS Monaco. Granted it has been a while since they were in the Champions League final, but after an 8th place finish in Ligue 1 last year, their fans certainly expected more from them than to be in 18th place with one match left. They need at least a point to have a chance at survival, but are home to 3rd place Lyon who need one point to secure 3rd place and Champions League football. In my mind Monaco are going down. Like Depor their four prior seasons average was 10th.

There were a few other clubs I wouldn't consider to be big clubs, but certainly established clubs in the top flight, that were relegated as well. In England, both Birmingham and West Ham were relegated. Birmingham finished 9th last season and won the League Cup this season, but were only able to finish in 18th this year. The club has been a bit of a yo-yo side with two promotions and two relegations in the last five years; however they looked to put that behind them with a 9th place finish and a League Cup victory. In the end they couldn't avoid the drop. I don't expect them to get promoted back to the Premier League next season unless they invest in a number of new players. West Ham had a dismal season, and after a poor campaign last year as well they aren't in the same category as the other teams. Even with their poor year last year, their prior four years average finish was 13th, seven places higher than the 20th of this year. This club is in a lot of trouble; they need to do a huge rebuild and a number of their star players are leaving. West Ham's main focus should be on avoiding back to back relegations.

A similar story played out in Portugal. Naval 1 Maio were relegated for their last place finish. While not achieving any huge heights, they had an average finish of 11th in the four years before this season. They would have expected to do better this year, especially after they managed an 8th place finish last year.

Let's switch over to some of the big clubs that managed to salvage a poor season. Returning to Germany, Bayern Munich spent a much larger portion of the season away from the top than anyone at the club is used to; consequently, head coach van Gaal was sacked. That said, they did manage to salvage 3rd place and qualify for the Champions League. With German keeper Neuer rumoured to be joining from Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen's coach joining the club, next season should be better for the Bundesliga giants.

In England, Liverpool got off to a horrible start and sacked their manager, too. However King Kenny came in and got Liverpool into 6th place. Also in England, 9th place Aston Villa were involved in the relegation battle until the last month of the season. Their manager left the club at the start and then replacement boss Gerard Houllier was hospitalised and his assistant took over for the last few matches of the season. After the way this season has gone, I imagine most Villa fans are pleasantly surprised with a finish in the top ten.

Moving to Turkey, Galatasaray managed an 8th place finish this year. They spent a large portion of the campaign just above the relegation zone. In fact, they only finished six points out of 14th. This was a huge disaster for the Istanbul club whose last four league finishes were 3rd, 5th, 1st, and 3rd. They had a few injuries this season, brought back Fatih Terim for a 3rd time as manager, and have moved to a new stadium. They have also been linked with Didier Drogba -safe to say that they will likely improve on their 8th place finish next season.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Barcelona what happened?

Barcelona, mes que un club. (More than a club) This phrase is emblazoned upon the Camp Nou and ties together the players, fans, executive, city, and Catalonia. Barcelona have represented what a football club should be. They play attractive winning football and have an excellent youth academy programme. Until 5 years ago they had nothing on their uniforms except for their logo until they reached a deal to pay Unicef to put the Unicef logo on their kits. In my mind this was a big snub to the millions of dollars of potential sponsorship dollars and a challenge to other clubs to do the same. There were a few other clubs that adopted charities on their kit, but there was no revolution. Barcelona were alone amongst the big clubs again giving the feeling that they truly were more than a club.

Last month there were four match ups between Real Madrid & Barcelona across 3 competitions. As you know by in large the football public was disappointed in what we received. There were a few moments of brilliance that delighted us, but largely overshadowed by general nastiness (on and off the field) and a lot more play acting than we are used to seeing. I am well aware that there is a lot of fake injuries in football today, and I am not going to pretend that this is limited to one club, country, or league. However when you are being mentioned as potentially one of the greatest sides in the history of the game, then you should be able to get past your arch rivals without resorting to faking head injuries in the hopes of getting an opponent sent off. I know that there are worse offenders etc etc, all I am saying is that with the eyes of the football world all on Barcelona they didn't impress, in fact they embarrassed.

The champions league final is still to come, with Barcelona getting a chance to redeem itself with a beautiful performance at Wembley, but another aspect of the club is gone forever. Barcelona unveiled their uniform for next season, no longer is Unicef across the front. It has been replaced by the Qatar Foundation. The Qatar Foundation paid 125M pounds to have their name on Barcelona's shirts for the next 5 seasons. So now they are just like every other club in football. To me it seems that football as well as Barcelona have lost something. I know that in the new financial world money is scarce and the money will no doubt ensure that they can continue to pay inflated transfer fees and wages to remain competitive at the highest level. With a sponsor on their kit, they have joined the rest of the football world as a club. They are still a great club, but they are mes que un club no more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on United's 19th title

This morning on the Score, Kristian Jack wrote a great article about Manchester United winning their 19th title, and it got me thinking. Here in the land where hockey rules, the mark of quality is the performance in the playoffs and the winning of the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. However, what would it look like if we re-examined the NHL standings and forgot about the cups and focused on the league crowns. There have been 93 NHL league titles awarded and 112 league titles in England. In the NHL 20 different teams have won the title, in England there have been 23 different winners. Only one of the NHL champions no longer exists, which are the 1925 Champions the Hamilton Tigers. All 23 English Champions are still playing football, with most at the highest level. Of the 20 Hockey Champs 13 have won more than once, with the 23 English Champs 19 have won multiple times. I think we have waited about long enough, lets have a look at the combined list of champions, (number of times won in brackets) and the year of the last league title.

1. Montreal Canadiens (23) - 1978
2. Manchester United (19) - 2011
3. Liverpool (18) - 1990
3. Detroit Red Wings (18) - 2008
5. Arsenal (13) - 2004
6. Boston Bruins (12) - 1990
7. Everton (9) - 1987
8. Ottawa Senators (8) - 2003
9. Aston Villa (7) - 1981
10. Sunderland (6) - 1936
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (5) - 1963
12. Newcastle United (4) - 1927
12. Sheffield Wednesday (4) - 1930
12. Chelsea (4) - 2010
15. Huddersfield Town (3) - 1926
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers (3) - 1959
15. New York Islanders (3) - 1982
15. Edmonton Oilers (3) - 1987
15. Chicago Blackhawks (3) - 1991
15. Leeds United (3) - 1992
15. New York Rangers (3) - 1994
15. Blackburn Rovers (3) - 1995
23. Preston North End (2) - 1890
23. Portsmouth (2) - 1950
23. Burnley (2) - 1960
23. Tottenham Hotspur (2) - 1961
23. Manchester City (2) - 1968
23. Derby County (2) - 1975
23. Philadelphia Flyers (2) - 1985
23. Calgary Flames (2) - 1989
23. Dallas Stars (2) - 1999
23. Colorado Avalanche (2) - 2001
33. Sheffield United (1) - 1898
33. West Bromwich Albion (1) - 1920
33. Hamilton Tigers (1) - 1925
33. Ipswich Town (1) - 1962
33. Nottingham Forest - 1978
33. Pittsburgh Penguins (1) - 1993
33. St. Louis Blues (1) - 2000
33. Buffalo Sabres (1) - 2007
33. San Jose Sharks (1) - 2009
33. Washington Capitals (1) - 2010
33. Vancouver Canucks (1) - 2011

There are a number of interesting stats that I noticed while looking at the lists of champions. First the NHL has had 4 first time champs in the last 5 years, that is remarkable. To give you an idea the last 4 first time champs in England were Nottingham Forest (1978), Derby County (1972), Leeds United (1969) and Ipswich Town (1962). Something else that amazed me were that the great teams of Gretzky & Lemieux won so few titles. Another thing that I noticed when looking at England is that 3 sides won all of their titles in back to back seasons. Portsmouth winning in 1949 & 1950. Huddersfield town winning in 1924, 1925, and 1926. Far away the most painful would be Preston North End winning in 1889 & 1890. The first ever seasons of league football. So North End fans who celebrated back to back titles have endured a wait of 121 seasons for their next title. When you factor in the fact that PNE were just relegated to League One it will be at least 2014 before they can even have a chance to compete for the title again, where they will look to erase a 123 year drought. So Leafs fans who have wondered how bad can things get, you can thank your lucky stars you don't support Preston. Speaking of Leafs fans, the league crowns have done you no favours either with your last title now coming in 1963.
What I found interesting as well was that of the 23 English Champions 13 played this season in the Premier League. 8 Champions were playing in the Championship and 2 were playing in League One. Of course former champions Preston North End & Sheffield were both relegated to League One. Huddersfield are competing in the League One playoffs and could be promoted, while Nottingham Forest are in the Championship playoffs and could be promoted as well. That said it could be former champions Blackburn Rovers or Wolverhampton Wanderers that make room for them in the Premier League. Also if you are curious and think that the Premier League should be for the 20 biggest clubs and do away with relegation. Then using league titles as the criteria those 20 are the 19 teams with more than one title and depending on your tie breaker of choice one of Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion, Ipswich Town, or Nottingham Forest.

In the NHL some of the more hapless franchises are the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks both of which have played in most of the 93 NHL seasons but have only 3 titles each. Another interesting stat is that all 6 current Canadian NHL teams have one at least one title.

I hope that you found this interesting. Especially as I have another post coming up looking at football in Europe since the 1954 campaign (the first one where you qualified for European competition) to determine what the most successful football club in Europe is. That article will be posted on The Subs Bench.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Relegation Battles - Update

As you know we have been watching the relegation battles across England, Italy, & Germany. Here is an update on what has changed in those battles.

In English Premier League both Bolton & Fulham are now safe from the drop. In the Championship Sheffield United & Doncaster Rovers were both relegated, so the relegation battle in the English 2nd tier is over. In League One Plymouth were relegated. In League Two Stockport were relegated, leaving the battle for the last relegation place between Lincoln City & Barnet.

In Italy Fiorentina & Genoa are safe from the drop in Serie A. There were no changes in Serie B. Though Reggina could achieve safety if they win their suspended match against Albinoleffe. Albinoleffe were leading 1-0 in the 1st half when the match was suspended.

In die Bundesliga Freiburg are safe from the drop. FC Inglostadt 04 & SC Paderborn 07 are also safe from the drop in die 2 Bundesliga.

Lots of big matches remaining, especially in the football leagues in England with only one match left in their season. This weekend is also the big match between Cologne & Frankfurt in die Bundesliga.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Podcast

Listen to Matt & I discuss a wide range of topics including the Voyageurs Cup, Champions League, & the born again EPL title race.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Relegation Battles - Germany

As Sunday signals the arrival of May and the last month of club football in most European leagues, lets focus in on the relegation battles raging all over the place. I am putting up one post for each country. This post is about Germany.

First up the Bundesliga.

In the Bundesliga the bottom two sides are relegated to the 2 Bundesliga. The team 3rd from the bottom enters into a playoff against the 3rd place team from the 2 Bundesliga.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
* - indicates a team can only be involved in the playoff and are safe from outright relegation.

Freiburg* 41p, -8: @Hamburger, @Borussia M'gladbach, Leverkusen
Hoffenheim* 40p, +2: Stuttgart, @Nürnberg, Wolfsburg
Schalke* 40p, 0: @Bayern Munich, Mainz, @Köln
Werder Bremen 38p, -14: Wolfsburg, Dortmund, @Kaiserslautern
Kaiserslautern 37p, -7: St. Pauli, @Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen
Stuttgart 36p, 0: @Hoffenheim, Hannover, @Bayern Munich
Köln 35p -20: Leverkusen, @Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke
Eintracht Frankfurt 34p, -11: @Mainz, Köln, @Dortmund
Wolfsburg 32p, -7: @Werder Bremen, Kaiserslautern, @Hoffenheim
Borussia M'gladbach 29p, -20: @Hannover, Freiburg, @Hamburger
St. Pauli 29p, -23: @Kaiserslautern, Bayern Munich, @Mainz

I don't think either of the two teams at the bottom of the table have much hope of escaping the drop. St. Pauli & Borussia M'gladbach will be playing football in 2 Bundesliga next year. The real battle is to avoid the playoff, for me this comes down to one match in round 33. Eintracht Frankfurt - Köln. I think that Wolfsburg will be able to get more points than at least one of these teams. For both Köln & Eintracht Frankfurt this is really there only winnable match down the stretch. As I need to pick someone I think it will be Köln that end up in the playoff against the 3rd place team from 2 Bundesliga.

2 Bundesliga.

In the Bundesliga the bottom two sides are relegated to the 3rd Liga. The team 3rd from the bottom enters into a playoff against the 3rd place team from the 3rd Liga.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
* - indicates a team can only be involved in the playoff and are safe from outright relegation.

Arminia Bielefeld are already relegated to the 3rd Liga

FC Ingolstadt 04 35p, -5: FC Erzgebirge Aue, @TSV München von 1860, VfL Osnabrück
SC Paderborn 07 33p, -15: VfL Osnabrück, @MSV Duisburg, TSV München von 1860
Karlsruher SC 29p, -26: Fortuna Düsseldorf, @Arminia Bielefeld, 1. FC Union Berlin
VfL Osnabrück 28p -20: @SC Paderborn 07, VfL Bochum 1848, @FC Ingolstadt 04
Rot-Weiß Oberhausen 28p, -26: @Alemannia Aachen, SpVgg Greuther Fürth, @FC Energie Cottbus

It is quite tight, but I think that VfL Osnabrück will not get the points they need away to Paderborn 07. That means that they will take the drop down to the 3rd. Liga. I think that Rot-Weiß Oberhausen will end up in the playoff against the 3rd place side in the 3rd Liga.

Relegation Battles - Italy

As Sunday signals the arrival of May and the last month of club football in most European leagues, lets focus in on the relegation battles raging all over the place. I am putting up one post for each country. This post is about Italy.

First up the Serie A.

In the Serie A the bottom three sides are relegated to the Serie B.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.

Bari are already relegated to Serie B.

Fiorentina 46, 4: Udinese, @Inter, Bologna, @Brescia
Genoa 45, -1: @Napoli, Sampdoria, @Lazio, Cesena
Cagliari 44, 0: @Catania, Cesena, @Milan, Parma
Bologna 40p, -12: @Milan, Parma, @Fiorentina, Bari
Chievo Verona 39p, -3: Lecce, @Juventus, Udinese, @Palermo
Parma 38p, -11: Palermo, @Bologna, Juventus, @Cagliari
Cesena 37p, -13: Inter, @Cagliari, Brescia, @Genoa
Catania 37p, -14: Cagliari, @Brescia, Roma, @Inter
Sampdoria 35p, -12: Brescia, @Genoa, Palermo, @Roma
Lecce 35p, -20: @Chievo, Napoli, @Bari, @Lazio
Brescia 30p, -16: @Sampdoria, Catania, @Cesena, Fiorentina

Brescia have an excellent opportunity to climb out the bottom with all of their six pointers. Of Course the biggest one is next against Sampdoria. I think that Brescia will just edge Sampdoria and that away win will give them the confidence to find the points and escape the drop. I think that Lecce will join Bari in Serie B next season. Also making the drop out of the top flight I have Ottawa's Sister City club Catania.

Serie B.

In the Serie B the bottom three sides are relegated to the Lega Pro Prima Divisione. The 18th & 19th place sides play a playoff to determine who is the fourth team relegated. Note the playoff doesn't occur if the 18th place team is 5 or more points above the 19th place team.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.

Reggina 53p, +4: @Albinoleffe, Varese, @Grosseto, Ascoli, @Sassuolo
Torino 52p, +1: Piacenza, @Siena, Triestina, @Empoli, Padova
Padova 49p, +9: @Varese, Ascoli, @Sassuolo, Livorno, @Torino
Empoli 49p, +5: @Sassuolo, Albinoleffe, @Portosummaga, Torino, @Vicenza
US Pescara 49p, -2: @Portosummaga, Livorno, @Vicenza, Novara, @Cittadella
Vicenza 49p, -6: Crotone, @Frosinone, US Pescara, @Triestina, Empoli
Livorno 47p, 0: Atalanta, @US Pescara, Piacenza, @Padova, Frosinone
Crotone 47p, -3: @Vicenza, Novara, @Cittadella, Grosseto, @Portosummaga
Modena 47p, -5: @Cittadella, Grosseto, @Varese, Portosummaga, @Novara
Grosseto 45p, -8: Triestina, @Modena, Reggina, @Crotone, Atalanta
Cittadella 43p, -5: Modena, @Triestina, Crotone, @Atalanta, US Pescara
Albinoleffe 43p, -9: Reggina, @Empoli, Atalanta, @Piacenza, Siena
Sassuolo 42p, -5: Empoli, @Piacenza, Padova, @Frosinone, Reggina
Piacenza 42p, -10: @Torino, Sassuolo, @Livorno, Albinoleffe, @Varese
Ascoli 40p, -8: Frosinone, @Padova, Siena, @Reggina, Triestina
Portosummaga 40p, -16: US Pescara, @Atalanta, Empoli, @Modena, Crotone
Triestina 37p, -16: @Grosseto, Cittadella, @Torino, Vicenza, @Ascoli
Frosinone 35p, -17: @Ascoli, Vicenza, @Novara, Sassuolo, @Livorno

With so many games left & teams involved anything could happen here. That said I am clearly wading into the unknown, but armed with the information available, here are my four teams that make the drop: Portosummaga, Triestina, Frosinone, & Albinoleffe

Relegation Battles - England

As Sunday signals the arrival of May and the last month of club football in most European leagues, lets focus in on the relegation battles raging all over the place. I am putting up one post for each country. This post is about England.

First up the Premier League.

In the Premier League the bottom three sides are relegated to the Championship.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
Bolton 46p +1 @Blackburn, Sunderland, @Blackpool, City
Fulham 42p +4 @Sunderland, Liverpool, @Birmingham, Arsenal
Stoke 42p 0 @Blackpool, Arsenal, @City, Wigan
Newcastle 41p +1 @Liverpool, Birmingham, @Chelsea, WBA
Sunderland 41p -10 Fulham, @Bolton, Wolves, @West Ham
Aston Villa 41p -12 @WBA, Wigan, @Arsenal, Liverpool
West Brom 40p -15 Aston Villa, @Wolves, Everton, @Newcastle
Birmingham 38p -17 Wolves, @Newcastle, Fulham, @Spurs
Blackburn 35p -15 Bolton, @West Ham, United, @Wolves
Blackpool 34p - 22 Stoke, @Tottenham, Bolton, @United
Wigan 34p - 23 Everton, @Aston Villa, West Ham, @Stoke
Wolves 33p - 23 @Birmingham, WBA, @Sunderland, Blackburn
West Ham 32p -22 @City, Blackburn, @Wigan, Sunderland

As you can see there a bevy of important matches down the stretch. The three teams I have dropping down to the Championship are: Wolves, Wigan, & West Ham. Obviously with there still being 4 matches remaining there are a number of different situations. I am certain that West Ham will be relegated. I kept flopping over which teams would join them in going down, in the end I went with Wolves and Wigan.

Now to the Championship.

In the Championship the bottom three teams are relegated to League One.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
Preston North End are already relegated.
Crystal Palace 47p -22 @Hull, Forest
Doncaster 47p - 23 Leicester, @Boro
Sheffield United 41p - 31 Barnsley, @Swansea
Scunthorpe 41p - 40 @Forest, @Pompey

The chances of either Sheffield United or Scunthorpe escaping the drop are very small. I think it could come down to the last day of the season for Sheffield United & Doncaster. Crystal Palace are safe and Scunthorpe are going down. I would love to see Sheffield United pull off one of the all time great escapes, but I think they left it a little to late. So they take the drop with PNE & Scunthorpe.

League One

In League One the bottom four teams are relegated to League Two.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
Swindon are already relegated.
Notts County 49p - 13 @MK Dons, Brighton
Walsall 45p - 15 Charlton, @Southampton
Dag & Red 44p - 16 Carlisle, @Peterborough
Bristol Rovers 44p - 33 Wednesday, @Colchester
Plymouth 42p - 17 @Exeter, Southampton, Leyton Orient

I think that Walsall will take the drop along with Bristol Rovers & Plymouth. I just can't see Walsall getting any more points and they run the risk of being lit up by Southampton.

League Two.

In League Two the bottom two teams are relegated to Conference.
Teams involved in the relegation battle (I am using any team that is not mathematically safe)
Bold indicates a Six Point match against a fellow relegation candidate.
Italics indicate a local derby.
Morecambe 51p - 13 @Port Vale, Northampton
Macclesfield 51p - 16 @Gillingham, Hereford
Cheltenham 51p - 20 Shrewsbury, @Stockport
Bradford 51p - 21 @Hereford, Crewe
Burton 49p - 14 @Southend, Accrington
Hereford 48p - 16 Bradford, @Macclesfield
Lincoln 47p - 32 @Oxford Utd, Aldershot
Northampton 46p - 11 Stevenage, @Morecambe
Barnet 45p - 18 @Accrington, Port Vale
Stockport 40p - 46 @Crewe, Cheltenham

Stockport are going down. There is no way that they will make up the massive goal difference. They had a golden opportunity to survive on the weekend when they hosted Northampton, but only managed a draw. Coincidentally, I think it will be Northampton that join them in the drop out of League football.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Podcast

Happy Tuesday Everyone,

There is a new podcast up at The Subs Bench We discuss all of the action of the weekend, also including a random new bit about Belgium.


Monday, April 18, 2011

New Podcast Up

Good morning Everyone,

To help you make it through day 1 of a four day week. There is a new podcast up.

Make sure you listen to the song at the end.

The Podcast

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Combining the Cups

Combining the Copas?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to combine the Copa America (the CONMEBOL championship) and the Gold Cup (the CONCACAF championship)? Just think about it for a minute.

Did you have visions of Canada’s excellent performance against Brazil in Seattle? Or our Victory over Colombia in the Gold Cup final? Or our defeat in Buenos Aires? It is not that absurd a question given that CONMEBOL invites teams from other regions to participate in the Copa America anyway. In fact Mexico is a regular attendee. Canada was invited after we won the Gold Cup, however we declined the invitation due to security concerns in Colombia. As well the Gold Cup has invited CONMEBOL teams in the past too, as I mentioned above we beat Colombia in the Gold Cup final.

What would a combined tournament look like?

I imagine that the tournament would feature 16 teams in four groups. With the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Based on the current FIFA rankings the top 16 teams in the regions are: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, USA, Paraguay, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Panama, and Canada. So the groups would likely be something like this:

Group 1 – Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Canada

Group 2 – Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Panama

Group 3 – Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Venezuela

Group 4 – Chile, USA, Ecuador, Jamaica

Looks like a good tournament to me. What do you think? One issue that the new tournament would face, is how often to play. Currently the Gold Cup is every two years, while the Copa America is every four years. I think it is more likely that the combined tournament would take place every four years. That said it would be fantastic if it was played every two years. Each tournament could rotate between North and South America, so it would be four years between tournaments on each continent.

What would qualifying look like?

Currently there is no qualifying for the Copa America. All ten CONMEBOL sides are included and two other sides (usually Mexico and another nation) are invited. At the Gold Cup, Canada, USA, and Mexico are given automatic berths while other nations must qualify. There is no chance of a combined qualifying involving all 45 of the teams. There is no way that Brazil etc would go for it. Brazil make millions playing friendlies around the globe, they certainly wouldn’t want to use an international break to play away to St. Vincent. I think that the most likely scenario is either that the eight highest ranked sides are given automatic berths. The rest of the sides would then compete for the remaining 8 places. That would mean that Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia and Canada would all have to go through a qualification process to make the Cup. Also the 13 lowest ranked sides would compete in pre qualifying for 8 places. Pre-qualifying is already a feature of the Gold Cup Qualification process. That would give 8 groups of 4 with the group winner advancing to the Cup.

This would be a good thing for Canada. Qualification gives us more opportunities to cap-tie players, and also a chance to accrue more ranking points. Qualification matches are worth two and half times a friendly match. I am not sure how Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia would feel about it though. I think that they may go for it, for similar reasons as it appeals to Canada. However if they don’t like it there is another option. All the CONMEBOL teams qualify and CONCACAF sides qualify against each other for the six remaining places. I really can’t see CONCACAF going for this one. It doesn’t really provide the incentive to combine the two tournaments, especially since a number of CONCACAF sides have been invited to the tournament anyway. That would mean giving up their regional tournament for four more places in CONMEBOL’s doesn’t strike me as likely.

Could it happen?

I really don’t know. I think that it would be a good thing for football in the Americas. One side effect that could come from this would be talk of combining the federations entirely. That would mean that there are 8 World Cup places for the Americas. If you are curious the current top 8 from the Americas includes 5 South American sides and 3 North American sides. I think that this combining the tournament would have a positive impact on football in Canada. We would play more competitive matches and a few of them would be against some of the top sides in the World. It would also help to change the perception that Canada is not a footballing country if we are regularly competing with South American sides. Not to mention we may get a chance to host the Cup. That would be a fantastic opportunity for football fans around the country and a definite boost to our football infrastructure.

This article is also published at The Subs Bench

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Podcast!

Listen as I join @AussieVillain on The Subs Bench podcast. We discuss the Premier League, Champions League, Championship, Serie A, MLS, and Bundesliga.


Friday, April 8, 2011

What will happen in the last 7 games of the Championship

Who will be the Champion?

Queens Park Rangers.
Why they are 9 points clear at the top presently. There next three matches are away to last place Scunthorpe and Barnsley, plus home to Derby. I expect them to win all three of these matches which will in essence lock up the title for them. I think they will lift the trophy at Loftus Road when they host Hull on April 25th.

Who will grab the second promotion place?

It will be a very tight race and could easily go the other way depending on a few results. The team that I see pushing them to the end is Cardiff. Norwich's next match is away to Swansea if they lose that then it becomes a 3 team race for second. I think Norwich will do enough to get at least a draw.

Who will be in the Playoffs?

Cardiff, Swansea, Reading, and Leeds.
The two Welsh sides are locks for playoff spots. But the other two playoff places are part of a wide open race involving heaps of teams. I think that Reading will get on a bit of a winning streak and force themselves into the playoffs. While the fight between Leeds and Nottingham Forest will be for the final spot. Unfortunately for Forest fans, I think they will fall just short. No doubt a disappointing end to what looked like a promising campaign.

So... what about Pompey?

I think that though Pompey are mathematically amongst the heap of teams with a chance at a playoff place, their schedule is too tough for them to win out. That said they will move up a few places and finish with a solid tenth. This will give us a strong foundation to build on for next year. I will be happy with this finish given how much of the season we spent worried about ending up in the relegation battle.

Who will be dropping down to League One?

Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, and Doncaster
Scunthorpe are a lost cause and will finish in last. Sheffield United seem to have lost the belief. They have an absolutely huge game away to Preston in a few weeks. Which you may have guessed I think PNE will win. Preston seem to have found some belief and have been grabbing a lot more points. That said it will be a stiff task to catch any of the teams above them. To do this they need to continue playing with the same belief they discovered in the past few weeks. With Doncaster, they have been far from fantastic and I don't see them getting many points in their final 7 matches. In reality if they get it together and get 4 or 5 points they will survive. However I didn't see them getting that many. When I worked it out, I actually had them taking the drop on goal difference. If you are wondering why I didn't mention Crystal Palace, it is because of their phenomenal home record (36 of 42 points at home). They are a top 10 team at home, so with there 3 remaining home matches they are as good as safe.

Disagree? Agree? Let me know your predictions in the comments.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cricket Canada statement on ICC Decision

Cricket Canada statement on ICC Decision

Toronto, Ontario April 6, 2011 - Cricket Canada is disheartened to learn the International Cricket Council has elected to not allow Associate cricket nations such as Canada into the 2015 Cricket World Cup. While it is apparent that the push for a 10 team tournament supports the needs of the sponsors and broadcasters who ultimately fund much of our programs, we were very disappointed to learn that there would be no qualification process for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

From the results of the recently completed 2011 Cricket World Cup in the subcontinent, it is apparent that Associate nations are able to compete at the international level and need more encouragement to develop their high performance teams against the full member nations. Canadian players turned out strong performances in this world cup and the decision will surely mark the end of world cup careers for several of our players in the prime of their careers.

An additional disappointment will be players who gained experience at this world cup like 20 year old Hiral Patel. Hiral, who hit a blistering half century against defending champions Australia, will be closer to the end of his career by the time he gets a chance to compete in the games marquee event again. We have had significant interest and profile generated in Canadian cricket as a result of our participation in the world cup, and this increase in our sport would surely wane if we are not allowed to participate in the world cup for at eight years or more.

The ICC has pointed to the fact that the Twenty20 world cup has been expanded to include more associate and affiliate teams but as many of us know, while Twenty20 is a way to develop the commercial enterprise of the game it is not a way forward to develop the game itself in all its forms. This short-sighted decision also has far reaching effects as it will become more difficult to raise money from governments and corporate partners, both of who strive to be associated with the game at its highest level.

Cricket Canada proposes a conference of all stake holders be called to discuss the path forward for the associates and affiliates. It is important that representatives from all major groups including Full members, Associate Members and Affiliate Members attend this session and put forward their positions in an open and objective manner to arrive at a solution that is fair to all. Only by consulting all stakeholders can we arrive at an amicable solution.

Cricket Canada is very grateful for the overwhelming support that has been received from around the world regarding this decision and we are working with our associate and affiliate partners to bring about a satisfactory compromise. We encourage all followers of the game around the world to continue to lobby your local administrators as well as the ICC to reverse this tragic decision.