Friday, November 18, 2016

Some of the Most Bizarre Red Cards in Football

After Edin Dzeko received one of the most bizarre red cards in the history of football last Sunday night, during Bosnia Herzegovina's World Cup qualifier against Greece, I decided to take a look back in time at some other 'unusual' dismissals over the years!

Edin Dzeko - Bosnia Herzegovina v. Greece (November 2016)

Firstly to last Sunday!
Edin Dzeko, formerly of Manchester City and now at Roma, was unhappy after an innocuous challenge in the corner.

Bosnia were leading 1-0 at the time, but Dzeko took exception to Kyriakos Papadopoulos stepping over him as he fell to the ground. The defender tried to grab the ball and Dzeko reacted by grabbing his legs, then pulling his shorts down. As Dzeko stood up, he tripped the Greek over, sparking a melee between both sets of players.

Referee Jonas Eriksson decided to send off both players. The incident was a key turning point as it sparked Greece into life, and Bosnia conceded in the dying seconds to draw 1-1.

Adam Lindin Ljungkvist - Järna SK v. Pershagen SK (June 2016)

Swedish footballer Adam Lindin Ljungkvist, 25 was sent off for breaking wind during a match – with the referee Dany Kako, accusing him of 'deliberate provocation' and 'unsportsmanlike behaviour.'

The player told a Swedish newspaper: "I had a bad stomach, so I simply let go! Then I received two yellow cards and then red. Yes, I was shocked, it’s the strangest thing I have ever experienced in football.

I asked the referee: "What, am I not allowed to break wind a little?" "No" he replied - "I don’t get it, but maybe he thought I farted in my hand and threw the fart at him. But I did not.”

Opposition striker Kristoffer Linde told the paper: “I was standing a good distance away but I heard the fart loud and clear. It’s the strangest thing I’ve seen on a pitch, and I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old.”

Hakan Unsal - Turkey v. Brazil (June 2002)

One of the most skillful and creative players of his generation, Rivaldo was once World Player of the Year, an icon for the Brazilian national team and a deadly forward for the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan and Olympiakos. But, there is one thing he will always be remembered for.

During the World Cup group phase match with Turkey at the 2002 World Cup, Rivaldo went over to take a corner kick – right under the linesman’s nose.
Turkey’s Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at the Brazilian’s legs, but bizarrely, Unsal, who had already been booked, was sent off for kicking the ball at Rivaldo, who was down on the ground clutching his face.

Rivaldo was actually fined by FIFA afterwards for his play-acting, becoming the first player to be punished under the crackdown on players pretending to have been fouled in order to get an opponent into trouble. Rivaldo, ahead of his time.

Ashley Vickers - Dorchester Town v. Havant and Waterlooville (March 2011)

Dorchester Town striker and player-boss Ashley Vickers was sent off in 2011 for rugby-tackling a streaker on the pitch.

The turf intruder - wearing nothing but a Borat mankini and curly wig picked his moment during a Blue Square Bet South clash at Havant and Waterlooville, but Vickers took mattered into own hands, grabbing him by the shoulders and wrestling him to the floor.

The stewards intervened - to the delight of a crowd of just 458 - but cheers turned to boos as Vickers was dismissed just moments afterwards, 'violent disorder' the verdict.

Havant and Waterlooville went on to win the match 3-1.

Pepe - Real Madrid v. Getafe (April 2009)

Real Madrid centre-back Pepe is renowned for his fiery temper, but he has done well in recent seasons to slightly curb that ill-side to him.

However, back in 2009 the Portuguese defender displayed one of the most erratic and ridiculous pieces of defending ever during a game against Getafe.

Running through on goal to deny Francisco Casquero a shot on goal, not only did he concede a penalty, but he actually started to kick at Casquero, twice, as he lay on the ground. It didn’t actually end there and after grabbing the opponent’s head, he then stamped on him, twice, as Getafe players did their best to pull him away.

After a couple of punches thrown at Getafe players, Pepe eventually walked off and was given a hefty 10-match ban.

Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer - Newcastle United v. Aston Villa (April 2005)

You don't expect to see a fight break out between two ‘team-mates’ on the pitch.

But that's exactly what happened on 2 April, 2005 as Newcastle midfield duo Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer got involved in a bust-up on the pitch.

Newcastle were 3-0 down at home to Aston Villa and already down to 10 men with just eight minutes of the game remaining, when Villa player Gareth Barry had to pull Bowyer away from the scrap before the pair were both sent off.

Dyer and Bowyer were forced to shake hands and publicly apologise after the incident under the instructions of Graeme Souness, Newcastle manager at the time.

Bowyer insisted the incident was a "moment of madness" sparked by a shared desire to win.

Eden Hazard - Swansea v. Chelsea (January 2013)

The Chelsea forward he made a fool of himself in South Wales as the Blues took on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium in the Capital One Cup semi-final. Hazard took exception to the actions of local ballboy Charlie Morgan, 17, who put his whole body on the ball when Hazard tried to retrieve it, earning a kick in the ribs from the player, with Morgan still rolling around in apparent pain.

Referee Chris Foy sent off the Belgian star.

The ball boy, who was uninjured, was interviewed by officers in the presence of his father and made no complaint about what happened.
Hazard later apologised for his behaviour saying: "The boy put his whole body on to the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball. I think I kicked the ball and not the boy. I apologise."

But Morgan, it later emerged, had tweeted before the game boasting about his timewasting skills.
One pre-match tweet on his account reads: "The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting."

Matt McClure - Tranmere v. Wycombe (March 2015)

Make an impact! That's what substitutes are told in those precious seconds before they enter the field of play. Wycombe's Matt McClure certainly took that to heart at Tranmere on 4 March 2015, when he was sent off just 3.7 seconds after coming on.

Following an aerial challenge with Tranmere’s Adam Dugdale he was shown an instant red for throwing an elbow into Dugdale's face.

Keith Gillespie - Reading v. Sheffield United (January 2007)

Within 10 seconds of coming on as substitute Sheffield United's Keith Gillespie was heading back down the tunnel after being shown a red card by referee Mark Halsey, for throwing an elbow in the direction of Stephen Hunt.

As Gillespie headed down the tunnel he threw another punch at Hunt, and as tempers rose, backroom staff from both sides became involved.

Reading coach Wally Downes was sent from the touchline for shoving Blades' boss Neil Warnock, who followed him to the stands.

Walter Boyd - Swansea v Darlington (August 2000)

The Jamaican star was red-carded by referee Clive Wilkes for elbowing Darlington's Martin Gray. Boyd came on as a substitute seven minutes from time after Swansea were awarded a free-kick, but referee Wilkes dismissed him for his attack on Gray before it was taken.

Wilkes had stopped the game to send off Darlington's Steve Tutill for a foul on Steve Watkin.
By the time the official turned around, Gray was lying face down on the ground clutching his head.

Wilkes, who was alerted to what happened by the assistant referee, confirmed he had not restarted his watch before sending off Boyd. FA statistician Ray Spiller confirmed: "This will go in the record books as nought seconds as the match had not been restarted."

Neymar - Santos v. Colo Colo (March 2011)

Before Neymar’s fame, glory and goals at Barcelona, he was a young teenager at Brazilian side Santos attracting plenty of attention for his fantastic ability.
However, an incident back in 2011 failed to get many people smiling and instead raising eyebrows, after he was sent off after scoring a brilliant solo effort for Santos in a Copa Libertadores match.

Celebrating his fine strike, Neymar ran over to the touchline and put a mask on his face, albeit upside down, but the referee was not impressed and gave the young starlet his second yellow. If it was any consolation to Neymar, his red card sparked fury and eventually the game ended with four more sending offs.

Kieran Gibbs - Arsenal v Chelsea (March 2014)

When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stuck out a hand to help Eden Hazard's apparent goal-bound shot miss the mark he could have fully expected to see a flash of red from referee Andre Marriner.

The card was produced, but was shown instead to his bemused team-mate Gibbs, who protested his innocence to the referee before accepting his fate and trudging off the pitch.

Arsenal went on to lose the match 6-0 but avoided a further setback as both Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain were cleared of wrongdoing, while Marriner issued a sincere apology to Kieran Gibbs.

Joey Barton - Manchester City v. Queens Park Rangers (May 2012)

Barton has never been one to shy away from trouble and like Pepe’s one, he really should have stopped when he had the chance.

With Queens Park Rangers looking to stay up on the final day of the 2011/12 season, the QPR man clashed with Carlos Tevez off the ball. Referee Mike Dean spotted it and sent him off, but the damage was not finished.
Barton then walked over to Sergio Aguero following the red card and kneed him in the leg, before attempting to headbutt captain Vincent Kompany.

Eventually after trudging off and leaving his side with a big task, he was given a 12-game ban which went stayed with him as he joined Marseille on loan,

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Football Freestyler Indi Cowie

Indi Armstrong Cowie was born on 24th September 1994 in Boca Raton, Florida, United States to Scottish parents, and is a global superstar in the world of freestyle football, and is famous around the globe for her amazing videos and incredible talent.

As well as being an official Nike Athlete and a USWNT ambassador, Indi is also a social media phenomenon, with a current reach of 3,000,000 followers across her platforms.

In 2012 footballer Lionel Messi selected indi as the EA Games "Street v Street" world freestyle champion, and she has appeared on Ellen DeGeneres, ESPN, Good Morning America, The Today Show and was featured in the New York Times "Talented Youth of America" edition.

Cowie’s impressive resumé has also seen her travel across the world, performing at high-profile sporting and corporate events for clients such as Microsoft, SAS and Lenovo.

Indi's talents have also given her the opportunity to meet and connect with the biggest names in sport, performing a half-time show in front of 76,000 Manchester United and Chelsea fans at Old Trafford and staring in a Sony PlayStation commercial made for the UEFA Champions League which was played in 58 countries worldwide. Indi got to see it on the jumbotron in at the 2010 Champions League Final in Madrid. It was never aired in the USA.

She also took part Mia Hamm’s Celebrity Soccer Challenge with former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant and former FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich and current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Oh, and she has skills on the pitch as well, playing for Celtic Ladies and the U17 Scottish women's national team during 2010/11, and for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2012.

However in Spring 2013 Indi tore her anterior cruciate ligament during an exhibition match and her chance to play football professionally was delt a huge blow.
As she was getting back from her knee injury, she made the decision to continue with freestyle and go pro with that, although she also works as an assistant football coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

From the age of 12 Indi's biggest goal was to become a Nike Athlete. After eight years of hard work and dedication her dream came true!

She was inspired to take up freestyle football after observing a demonstration by John Farnworth. Cowie practices her skills up to three hours per day.

In 2015 Indi travelled to Brazil where she competed in The Red Bull Street Style Championships, to China to compete in a national TV Game Show and to Canada for The Women's World Cup.

In 2015, Cowie became the first woman to do a octuple revolution - eight full circles around the soccer ball with the foot while it is still in the air.

You can follow Indi on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and on her YouTube channel

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Incandescent with Rage - Walking and Talking while on the phone!

My eyes have been opened up more and more of late than at any other time, to what is truly one of the banes of my life. My exasperation at the obsession of walking and talking whilst on a mobile phone has raised my blood pressure to an unhealthy level!

It is fast becoming the norm rather than exception and to the detriment of society. Oblivious to others and on a totally different planet those that are guilty of indulging in this unacceptable 'crime' has lead to a fundamental breakdown in the the very basics of what I would describe as acceptable human behaviour.

Manners, consideration for others and spacial awareness are not recently discovered forms of human behaviour!

Yesterday as I was forced (not for the first time) to hastily sidestep a walking talking robot, my thoughts drew to the halcyon days when mobile devices the size of a household bricks were fixed in cars or only belonged to those in the higher echelons of society.

Having to listen to someone talking at an inordinately and unnecessary volume on a mobile phone in itself is often infuriating, and although it is regrettably a common occurrence nowadays, it is in my world anyway incredibly discourteous to those in the immediate vicinity.

I wrote an article nearly ten years ago entitled 'Mobile Diarrhoea' on the subject of commuters on trains engaging in loud and mind numbingly tedious mobile calls, and it was published in a London evening newspaper, and it can be read here.

Incredibly 76% of the UK population has a smartphone (up from 52% in 2012), with that figure increasing to 90% for those people between the ages of 16 and 34, so you can be sure a lot of those people are not even walking and talking, more likely walking and gawking as they stick their faces into their brightly lit gadgets to entertain themselves. Whether they are playing FIFA 17, checking emails, placing an online bet, looking up the latest football scores, participating in sexting, poking someone on facebook, posting a tweet or whatever - the underlying point is that nothing they are doing is a matter of life or death, such that it cannot wait a few minutes. No thought is given to those around them, and as a result in their world the word 'respect' only relates to an Aretha Franklin mantra. In fact only one in four UK smartphone owners uses their phone to actually make a call in any given week!

The days of looking out for your fellow being and human interaction are seemingly over. Giving up your seat, letting a lady take her place in front of you, a gesture of good will, a simple acknowledgement, the muttering of those immortal words please and thank you, seem all but a distant memory when your eyes are steely fixated on your screen as you text your partner because you may be five minutes late home, therefore dispelling any possible accusations that you might be having an affair with Gladice who refills the office vending machines.

The 'walking talking' brigade amble along blindly in their self-absorbed world, get in your way, knock into you without even an ounce of apology, and all this while their obsession with their mobile device leaves them floundering in a world where time is money, but more importantly where time is precious!

Nowhere is this more commonplace than on public transport. Every morning and evening people from all walks of life are busy negotiating their way to or from their place of work.
We all have the same goal, to get from A to B as quickly as possible, as safely as possible. The extremely fast pace of life we all subjected to in this modern age means that in order to do this requires a good deal of concentration.

One does not need a slow paced, erratic walking persona in a robotic trance to hinder your journey, anymore than a delayed mode of transport to get the blood boiling, because those people that do not engage in such behaviour are fighting back!

I have witnessed people deliberately barging into, shouting at and gesturing at these narcissistic, self-absorbed characters as they carry on beavering away on their phones, electing to choose to take up a pretence that would have you believe they are oblivious to everyone around them. Perhaps one may deem this type of behaviour somewhat inappropriate, even condemn it, but is it not largely understandable?

But tell me; why should we obligingly make way for or take responsibility for navigating around people who have no thought for those that are around them!

So I ask you 'phone addicts,' why not think about your milieu from time to time, and at least step to one side and complete the life saving triple bypass heart operation on your touch screen, so others can pass without fear of being bumped, barged, tripped or worse!

Phone addicts........mind the GAP!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Fitness Cover Model Laura Michelle Prestin

Laura Michelle Prestin (better known as ‘Miss Prestin’) was born 29th January 1985 in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. The 5'7" blonde beauty is one of the leading internationally published fitness models in the world. Laura Michelle has graced the covers of numerous magazines, being voted #1 in Canada by Inside Fitness Magazine, as well as gracing the ‘most talked about’ American Curves Magazine cover worldwide.

Laura Michelle holds a degree as a Registered Practical Nurse specializing in health, fitness and anti-aging. She is a Bikini Pro Champion with 10 years of fitness and health expertise, and has shared her insights as a writer for 'Inside Fitness Magazine' and 'Oxygenfit for Women.'

Miss Prestin is also the creator of PrestinFit, a complete and unique training program that synergistically combines high intensity circuits that shift between strength and speed exercises, with a highly effective intermittent fasting diet plan, to build a powerful physique in the gym or in the comfort of your own home.

Laura Michelle Prestin is known for her edgy photos and videos, and has inspired thousands of people to live a healthier lifestyle, and she is also a personal trainer. Laura is virtually an internet sensation, known for towing the boundaries of risqué and overtly sexual, making her followers go nuts. Her body is one of the most memorable ones out there, and she is not afraid to show it off!

Laura has always been active, and played sports while growing up, playing competitive soccer, running cross country and track. She started actually training in the gym in high school but took it more seriously when she was about 21 years old. She became a model in her early twenties, and started diving into the hardcore fitness world after people were inundating her with mail asking her fitness related questions, and if she had ever considered becoming a fitness model.

So she started blogging and becoming more involved with helping other people achieve their goals. I am a personal trainer and constantly read health and fitness articles one after another.
I still do this and that is why I am developing programs to get the body that people want. Recently working alongside with Gaspari Nutrition has made me more involved with the fitness industry more than ever now and I love it.

Laura Michelle feels just being in this business is very motivating because you always need to look your best and this motivates me not to slack. I get a complete high off training, competing, and playing sports. For me life without training on a daily basis would become disorganized with no structure. Having a scheduled workout allows me to balance my own business, student-life, modeling and travel. I love planning out my days incorporating physical activity into them.

I not only do it for myself because it is a lifestyle, but my fans really keep me on top of my game too. She currently has over 130,000 followers on Instagram with new followers being added each day.

A true Canadian superstar, when asked how she stays motivated Miss Prestin said: “You develop a relationship with your fans where you become their motivator and in turn they become yours."

One of Miss Prestin's professional goals is to own a spa or a beauty clinic.

A true Canadian superstar, when asked how she stays motivated Miss Prestin said: “You develop a relationship with your fans where you become their motivator and in turn they become yours."

Laura Michelle in one sentence – "Miss Prestin is the intelligent and a strong woman in every sense of the word with a perfect body and a highly charged magnetism."

Laura Michelle's Conventional Training Schedule:

Workout Split:

Monday: Legs
Tuesday: Back/Abs/Arms
Wednesday: Chest/Shoulders
Thursday: Legs
Friday: Back/Abs/Arms
Saturday: Yoga
Sunday: Rest

"On a leg day I love super setting. For example, Barbell Squats combo with One Legged Hip Bridges, Deadlifts with Hamstring Curl combos on the stability ball and Lunges with Jump Squats etc."

Typical Diet Plan:

Meal 1: Oatmeal or Egg Whites, Banana and Juice
Meal 2: Almonds or a Sandwich
Meal 3: Tuna Salad
Meal 4: Apple, Orange and Yogurt
Meal 5: Protein Shake
Meal 6: Chicken or Fish, Vegetables, Salad and Spinach or Rice
Meal 7: Cereal or Protein Shake

"I don’t measure my food. I usually try to stick to a handful of each type of food. I eat every 2-3 hours and about 7 meals a day if not more. I make sure I have plenty of fiber, protein, veggies/fruits and water etc."

"People tend to cut a lot of types of foods (the so called fattening foods) ignoring the fact that there may be other benefits that can actually contribute to your overall health and staying fit."

Laura Michelles' top 10 tips for people who want to get in shape!

1. Set goals
2. Commit to seeing them through to the end
3. Think positive
4. Don’t obsess about every single thing you eat
5. Don’t over-train (don’t go 7 days a week 3 hours a day)
6. Try to train with a partner so you keep each other motivated
7. If you get off track, don’t worry tomorrow is a new day. Wake up and start again
8. When you partied hard the night before and wake up still feeling tipsy, go straight to the gym for some cardio and you will feel much better!
9. If you don’t feel like training, train anyway, you will be glad you did
10. Consistency is key!

You can follow Laura Michelle Prestin on: Facebook, InstagramTwitter and via her Personal Website

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Statistically, the ICT index score of the best performing players in the English Premier League so far this season!

The ICT Index (Influence, Creativity, Threat) is a new feature for the 2016/17 Premier League campaign.

A football statistical index, it has been developed specifically to give a verdict on a player as a Football Premier League asset.

It condenses more than 40 match event statistics for three key areas – Influence, Creativity and Threat, to generate the data into a single score.

This score is what is known as an individual’s ICT Index score, and via this data is able to offer an accurate summary on player performance.

Season 2016/17 - Last update: 20/09/16 at 9am

For those of you currently playing 'Fantasy Premier League Football' you may want to take note!


1. Eldin Jakupovic (Hull) 16.3  ICT Index
2. Tom Heaton (Burnley) 16.0
3. Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea) 15.2
4. Ben Foster (West Brom) 14.5
5. Shay Given (Stoke) 14.0
6. Artur Boruc (Bournemouth) 14.0
7. Jordan Pickford (Sunderland) 12.8 (right)
8. Adrian (West Ham) 11.9
9. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester) 11.2
10. Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) 10.8


1. Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) 33.6  ICT Index
2. Curtis Davies (Hull) 29.2
3. Kyle Naughton (Swansea) 27.0
4. Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) 26.4
5. Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool) 26.2
6. James Collins (West Ham) 25.0
7. Christian Fuchs (Leicester) 24.5
8. Cédric Soares (Southampton) 23.5
9. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) 23.0
10. Adam Smith (Bournemouth) 22.9


1. Michail Antonio (West Ham) 60.8  ICT Index (right)
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) 50.9
3. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) 55.4
4. Raheem Sterling (Man City) 52.8
5. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 51.2
6. Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 50.4
7. Adam Lallana (Liverpool) 47.0
8. Dusan Tadic (Southampton) 46.8
9. Robert Snodgrass (Hull) 45.9
10. Willian Borges Da Silva (Chelsea) 45.0


1. Diego Costa (Chelsea) 62.9  ICT Index
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd) 56.7
3. Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 56.5
4. Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 47.2
5. Harry Kane (Watford) 44.1
6. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) 37.8
7. Kelechi Iheanacho (Man City) 37.1 (right)
8. Sergio Agüero (Man City) 36.2
9. Salomón Rondón (West Brom) 36.2
10. Fernando Llorente (Swansea) 33.4

1. Influence

Influence is the first measurement. This evaluates the degree to which that player has made an impact on a single match or throughout the season.

It takes into account events and actions that could directly or indirectly effect the outcome of the fixture.

At the top level these are decisive actions like goals and assists. But the Influence score also processes significant defensive actions to analyse the effectiveness of defenders and goalkeepers.

2. Creativity

Creativity assesses player performance in terms of producing goalscoring opportunities for others. It can be used as a guide to identify the players most likely to supply assists.

While this analyses frequency of passing and crossing, it also considers pitch location and quality of the final ball.

3. Threat

This is the third measure, producing a value that examines a player's threat on goal. It gauges individuals most likely to score goals.

While attempts are the key action, the Index looks at pitch location, giving greater weight to actions that are regarded as the best chances to score.

All three of these scores are combined to create an overall ICT Index score. That then offers a single figure that presents a view on that player as a Football Premier League asset.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Football Fans' Pre-Match Rituals

During the international football break I thought I would take the time out to do some research on the subject of football fans and their pre-match rituals.

Rituals of various kinds are a common feature of every known human society, past or present, and they may be performed on specific occasions by a single individual or by an entire community.

It is a well known fact that many football players have some unusual and often bizarre pre-match rituals.

In fact I wrote an article on the subject back in 2010.
Click on the link to read about 'The weird and wacky world of footballer's pre-match rituals' which includes entries about some of the biggest names in football, past and present, including: John Terry, Gary Lineker, Shay Given and Bobby Moore.

As for us fans of the game.........well we are not immune to some rather eccentric pre-match behaviour in an effort to bring our team good fortune. In fact almost two million adult football fans have pre-match rituals designed to bring their teams luck.

There are however, some generalised commonalities among the habits of most fans.

Many fans feel guilty if they don't carry out their ritual and their side goes on to lose the match.

Kissing the badge on the shirt, sitting in the same seat, or wearing your lucky pants are all classic examples of superstitious behaviour, that help football fans feel they've done a little to influence the outcome of the game.

Football is an unpredictable game, but performing a ritual or superstition can give supporters a feeling of control in what is essentially an uncontrollable situation.

Carrying out their ritual gives fans peace of mind or confidence that they are helping their team towards victory.

Across European countries and clubs there is a wide variety of rituals in which football fans engage, consciously or unconsciously, prior, during and after matches.

Once a match has kicked-off it is rife with ritualised behaviour, such as chanting and flag-waving, but the period immediately before and sometimes after the game – what we term 'playing football outside of the match' – also provide numerous examples of symbolic ways in which fans demonstrate their passion for the team.

Here are some of the most common pre-match rituals/superstitions performed by football fans across the globe:

a) Drinking in the same pub before a game.

b) Wearing lucky clothing, from scarves, shirts, hats to pants.
c) Eating a particular meal or visiting a lucky burger van.
d) Taking the same route to every game.
e) Watching the game from the same seat.
f) Placing a bet before kick-off.
g) Having sex before the game.
h) Using the same parking spot on match day.
i) Using a lucky toilet before the game starts.
j) Praying.
k) Watching the match with the same group of friends.
l) Kissing the badge on your shirt.
m) Listening to a particular piece of music before a game.

From John a Leeds fan:
"When Leeds were in the Champions League I spilt some spaghetti bolognese down my Leeds top during the first televised game, which we won. I did exactly the same for the second game and after that I didn't wash the top and deliberately spilt spaghetti on it every game. It nearly worked, we got to the semi-finals!"

From Dave an England fan:

"It is sod's law a team always scores when I go to the toilet. So if England are 1-0 ahead I stay right where I am. We could be the team that scores the second goal, making it 2-0, but I'm not willing to take the chance."

From Roddy an England fan:
"Praying to St.Jude often helps. The patron saint of desperate causes."

From Ian a Sunderland fan:
"If Sunderland are losing by one goal, I always take off my watch and put it into my pocket. When they equalise I put it back on. I have done this in nearly every game for about 10 years."

The title for the most superstitious football fans goes to the Spanish teams Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their fans don’t keep their superstitions to themselves but pass them onto family members. Tony, a F.C Barcelona fan currently residing in Tampa, Florida, requests his wife cook garlic-filled meals throughout game week. His entire family must sing the F.C Barcelona anthem at exactly midnight on the eve of game day, and just before he leaves for the game, he sleeps with his wife.

Some fans believe if they don’t show up to a game, their team will lose. This is the case with Real Madrid fanatic Diego. He confesses that he visits his grandmother on game day, asking her to pray over him as he wears his Real Madrid replica shirt. It’s not uncommon to see Real Madrid fans stop at local cathedrals in between bar-hopping for a moment of prayer.

Examples such as these further support the notion of the fan as being 'the twelfth man' – as an entity whose presence and actions off the field can help alter the course of events on it.

For newcomers, the frenzy-like culture of football initially may seem chaotic, irrational and overwhelming. The many rituals and traditions of football fans cannot be easily summarized. However, catching onto the wave is easier than you may think.

Here’s your newcomers starter kit.

The Ten Commandments of Football:

1. Thou shall not support another team. Choose one team and stick with them till the end.
2. Thou shall wear the proper regalia. A replica is a good start, but you could at least paint one side of your face.
3. Thou shall disrespect thy neighbor’s team. You must make your neighbor feel as uncomfortable and unwelcome as legally possible.
4. Thou shall respect thy neighbor’s bounds. Know your territory. If you’re the only one wearing blue in a sea of red, don’t choose that moment to announce your pride. This advice is not to hurt your ego, but to enhance your physical well being.
5. Thou shall rally. It’s imperative to congregate wherever you can. Rally on the train, in the pub, in the town square, in the ally, at the game and after the game.
6. Thou shall expect your team to win. Bad jujube starts in your mind. You must believe your team will win and expect your opponents to be utterly destroyed.
7. Thou shall sing at all times, pausing only to drink.
8. Thou shall freak out for every goal your team makes.
9. Thou shall begin a tradition. Take a drink for every corner kick, eat a meat pie at half time, or sleep with your significant other before the game.
10. Thou shall sober up in the morning, go back to work and become an integral part of society.

It shall surely come to pass, if you obey the commandments that I have given you this day, you will immediately feel a sense of belonging and an overwhelming desire to countdown to the next game. You will receive the promise of triumph. Welcome to the feeling of victory. Welcome to the religion of football.

Whilst coming to the end of this piece I remembered an article I read in 2009 about Matt 'Shaggy'
 Lawrence, a professional footballer with Crystal Palace at the time. To those people who think as fans that they have a very obsessive pre-match ritual, or to their long suffering spouses who think their fanatical partners are 'barking mad' when it comes to their superstitious behaviour come matchday, then when it comes to how a modern day football player prepares for a match..........Matt is in a league of his own!

I cannot divulge any further details, but if you ever bump into the former Wycombe, Fulham, Millwall, Crystal Palace and Gillingham defender (above), make sure you ask him about how this modern day football player prepared for a match!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - It's Skelton hot in here!

Helen Elizabeth Skelton was born was born on 19 July 1983 in Carlisle, Cumbria and is an English television presenter, who recently hosted coverage for the BBC of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with Rebecca Adlington, Adrian Moorhouse, Andy Jameson and Mark Foster. 
She became an 'internet sensation' whilst hosting the swimming events during the Olympics by appearing on screen in a number of 'sexy and revealing' outfits!

      'Hell's Bells' - The Cumbrian born babe caused quite a stir at Rio with her outfits!

Helen was brought up on a dairy farm in the village of Kirkby Thore. She graduated from Cumbria Institute of the Arts, where she gained a BA degree in journalism. During her time at college, she worked as an extra on Coronation Street and Cutting It.

She is probably best known for co-presenting the BBC children's programme Blue Peter from 2008 until 2013 and as an occasional presenter on Countryfile. Skelton worked on other projects during her time on Blue Peter, mainly correspondent-based. These included reporting from the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

After her departure from Blue Peter, she became a presenter of live FA Women's Super League football matches for the BT Sport channel, as well as retaining her BBC reporter roles, including presenting the London Marathon Highlights show on the BBC.

Helen is also well known from her incredible charity achievements and is a self confessed "adrenaline junkie."

In April 2009, Skelton became only the second woman ever to finish the 78-mile (126 km) Namibian Ultra Marathon. Skelton completed the run in 23 hours and 45 minutes – just 15 minutes under the time limit of one day. "It was a gruelling experience, but one I'll never forget. There were tough times but also amazing times," she told Newsround. Just weeks later, she completed the 2009 London Marathon.

In early 2010, Skelton kayaked the entire length of the River Amazon for Sport Relief 2010. She kayaked 2,010 miles (3,230 km) on a solo journey from Nauta in Peru on 20 January, to Almeirim, Brazil on 28 February. She achieved two Guinness World Records: the longest solo journey by kayak, and the longest distance in a kayak in 24 hours by a woman.

On 28 February 2011 Skelton walked a 150-metre tightrope between chimneys at Battersea Power Station, 66 metres above the ground, to raise money for Comic Relief. Blue Peter created two specials about her walk.

In 2012, Skelton raised more money for Sport Relief by becoming the first person to reach the South Pole using a bicycle. The bike was custom built for her trip, with eight inch-wide tyres. She also used skis and a kite to help her pull a sled containing 82 kg of supplies.

In April 2013, wanting to inspire the young Blue Peter viewers to do something to support Comic Relief, she took on seven challenges set by Comic Relief while breaking one world record. She called this series of challenges her "Magnificent 7," a reference to the 1960 Western 'The Magnificent Seven.'

Performing In 2 Shows On One Night – Succeeded
Rugby Kick – Failed
Flying With the Red Arrows – Succeeded
Photo Shoot – Succeeded
Rope Bridge – Succeeded
Longest Line of Bunting – Succeeded (at the time, a World Record)
Coin Toss – Failed

In December 2013, Skelton married England national rugby league team player Richie Myler. Skelton ran the London Marathon again in 2014 (below), and gave birth to her first child, a boy named Ernie, on 19 June 2015. After Myler joined the Catalan Dragons rugby club, the couple moved to France in September 2015.

You can follow Helen on Twitter and Instagram

Monday, August 22, 2016

All the very latest football news and gossip across Europe!

With the new season well underway and the summer transfer window slamming shut in just 10 days' time, many clubs across Europe are frantically trying to tie-down players to new deals or are looking to bring in new players to fill any voids in their squads!

Here is a round up of all the latest football news/gossip across Europe today, which includes the likes of: Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Zinedine Zidane, Arsene Wenger, Sam Allardyce, Liverpool, Tottenham, Valencia, Danny Drinkwater, Andriy Yarmolenko, Giorgio Chiellini, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Ajax to name but a few!

Sam Allardyce has told Sky Sports News HQ that Joe Hart will be named in his first England squad on Monday. The Manchester City man has been dropped by manager Pep Guardiola, and is set to leave the Etihad before the end of the window -

Chelsea are set to make a £25m bid for Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini - The Sun

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insists James Rodriguez is happy at the club, despite links in the British press with a move to Chelsea and Arsenal -

Santos striker Gabriel Barbosa could be set to link up with Brazilian team-mate Neymar at Barcelona, with Manchester United and Leicester also interested - The Sun

Arsene Wenger has admitted he hopes Arsenal's signing of Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi "will be done" before the transfer deadline - SFR Sport (French TV station)

Valencia say defender Shkodran Mustafi won't be sold in this transfer window. Mustafi has already agreed in principle to move to Arsenal. The defender has a £43m buyout clause and is in the Valencia's squad for their first La Liga game of the season against Las Palmas tonight -

Arsenal may have to spend £50m on acquiring defender Shkodran Mustafi - Daily Mirror

Tottenham are keen on signing Barcelona forward Munir. The 20-year-old has also reportedly gathered interest from Everton and Stoke, and is rated at around £13m - Sport (Spanish daily sports newspaper)

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is weighing up a move for Dynamo Kiev winger Andriy Yarmolenko - The Sun

England midfielder Danny Drinkwater, 26, will become the latest Leicester City player to sign a new contract this week, thought to be worth £90,000-a-week - Daily Telegraph and

There have been plenty of reports over the weekend linking Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes with a move to the Championship, with Wolves at the front of the queue to sign him. 'Boro paid £12million to sign him from Blackburn last January but he was left out of the squad for the win at Sunderland yesterday -

Tottenham have made a number of offers for Espanyol's 21 year-old Spanish goalkeeper Pau Lopez -

Sunderland have bid £3m for Barnsley defender Alfie Mawson as they prepare to lose Lamine Kone - Daily Mail

Newcastle forward Siem De Jong has joined PSV Eindhoven on a season-long loan -

Tim Krul is set to sign a new one-year contract with Newcastle, but will leave the club on loan to join Ajax. The goalkeeper is reportedly wanted as a replacement for Jasper Cillessen, who is close to joining Barcelona - Daily Mail

West Brom are keen on signing Southampton's forgotten man Jay Rodriguez on loan. Hull City are also interested - Daily Telegraph and

West Brom have signed Everton defender Brendan Galloway on a season-long loan deal -

Hull City have offered Abel Hernandez a new bumper deal in an effort to keep the striker at the club. The 26-year-old has been linked with a move to Newcastle and Aston Villa - Hull Daily Mail

Nottingham Forest face a battle to keep hold of teenage midfielder Oliver Burke before the transfer window closes, with Arsenal, Sunderland and West Ham all circling the Scotland winger - Daily Mirror

Hull City caretaker-manager Mike Phelan has urged the club to allow him to beef up the squad after their fine opening to the Premier League campaign - Daily Mail

Arsenal are interested in signing Porto midfielder Yacine Brahimi, after failing to sign Leicester City star Mahrez. The Dragoes value him around £35milliom - Daily Mirror

Phil Jones could be sold to free up enough space for Southampton defender Jose Fonte to join Manchester United - Daily Express

Championship side Wolves have signed Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on a season-long loan from Manchester United, as well as Ola John from Benfica -

Fiorentina want to sign West Ham's 24 year-old Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang - Gazzetta dello Sport (Italian newspaper)

Liverpool are poised to sell 23 year-old defender Tiago Ilori to Olympiakos for £5milliom. The defender has made just three appearances since joining from Sporting Lisbon in 2013 - The Sun.

Atletico Madrid are interested in 22 year-old Portuguese born Monaco midfielder Bernardo Silva - AS (Spanish daily sports newspaper)

Antoine Griezmann admits he would be tempted by a move to the Premier League if he left Atletico Madrid - The Guardian

Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado, 28, is expected to complete a permanent move from Chelsea to Juventus in the next few days - ESPN

Los Angeles Galaxy have ruled out a move for Joleon Lescott, with the 34-year-old defender seeking a way out of Championship club Aston Villa - Daily Mirror

Leon Britton has signed a one-year extension to his Swansea contract, keeping him at the club until 2018 -

Former QPR and Spurs midfielder Adel Taarabt wants to move to Marseille. The 27-year-old, currently at Benfica, is desperate to leave the club and "return home" - France Football (French football news website)

FC Porto have convinced Portugal Under-21 striker Andre Silva, 20, to sign to a new five-year contract - ESPN

Reading manager Jaap Stam is hoping to sign defender Tyler Blackett from Manchester United

Liverpool set the highest possession rating for a losing team in the Premier League with 80.6 per cent against Burnley at the weekend - Daily Mail

Cheltenham Town are set to sign free agent forward Jeffery Monakana -

Friday, August 05, 2016

My Predictions for the 2016/17 Football Season and the Betting Odds

National League:

Winners: Tranmere Rovers 6/1

Promotion by winning the Play-offs: Lincoln City 14/1

# Sky Bet odds correct at time of writing.


Sky Bet League Two:

Winners: Plymouth Argyle 3/1

Runners-up: Portsmouth (4/1 to win League Two and Evens to win promotion)

Promotion by winning the Play-offs: Doncaster Rovers 10/1, Luton Town 11/1, Leyton Orient 11/1 or Carlisle 14/1

Dark Horses: Cheltenham, Colchester and Mansfield

Relegation: Newport 3/1 and Crawley 3/1

Top Scorers: John Akinde (Barnet) 11/1, Andy Williams (Doncaster) 11/1 or Pádraig Amond 20/1 e/w (Hartlepool)

Players to Watch: Dan Holman (Cheltenham), Joe Pigott (Cambridge), Ben Davies (Grimsby), Carl Baker (Portsmouth), Tommy Rowe (Doncaster), Jake Gray (Luton) and Jay Simpson (Leyton Orient)

# Sky Bet odds correct at time of writing.
* Each Way: 1/4 for first 4 places


Sky Bet League One:

Winners: Sheffield United 5/1

Runners-up: Millwall (10/1 to win League One, 3/1 to win promotion)

Promotion by winning the Play-offs: Charlton 12/1, MK Dons 12/1, Bradford 12/1 or Scunthorpe 14/1

Dark Horses: Chesterfield, AFC Wimbledon and Port Vale

Relegation: Oldham 6/4, Bury 9/4 and Southend 11/4

Top Scorers: Billy Sharp (Sheffield Utd) 6/1, Lee Gregory (Millwall) 8/1, Nicky Ajose (Charlton) 8/1, Matt Taylor (Bristol Rovers) 12/1, Paddy Madden (Scunthorpe) 12/1 or Kane Hemmings (Oxford Utd) 16/1 e/w

Players to Watch: Che Adams (Sheffield Utd), Gregg Wylde (Millwall), Lyle Taylor (AFC Wimbledon), Jerome Binnom-Williams (Peterborough) and Harry Beautyman (Northampton)

# Sky Bet odds correct at time of writing.
* Each Way: 1/4 for first 4 place


Sky Bet Championship:

Winners: Norwich City 9/1

Runner-up: Newcastle Utd (7/4 to win the Championship, 4/7 for promotion)

Promotion by winning the Play-offs: Derby 9/1, Brighton 11/1, Sheffield Wednesday 11/1 or Reading 22/1

Dark Horses: Bristol City and Birmingham

Relegation: Rotherham 13/8, Barnsley 11/4 and Blackburn 4/1

Top Scorers: Ross McCormack (Aston Villa) 10/1, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle) 12/1, Glenn Murray (Brighton) 16/1 e/w, Britt Assombalonga (Nottingham Forest) 20/1 e/w, Gary Hooper (Sheffield Wed), 25/1 e/w or Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wed) 25/1 e/w

Players to Watch: Kieran Agard and Jonathan Kodjia (Bristol City), Scott Hogan (Brentford), Sam Mantom (Scunthorpe), Will Hughes (Derby County), Tom Bradshaw (Barnsley) and Kemar Roofe (Leeds Utd)

# Sky Bet odds correct at time of writing.
* Each Way: 1/4 for first 4 places


Barclays Premier League:

Winners: Chelsea 5/1

Runners-up: Manchester City

Europe (Champions League qualification): Manchester United and Liverpool

Premier League Top 4 Exact Order: Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool 200/1

Premier League Top 4 Any Order: Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool 9/1

Premier League Winner and Top Goalscorer: Chelsea and Aguero 28/1

Dark Horses: Watford and Bournemouth

Relegation: Hull City 4/6, West Brom 9/4 and Sunderland 5/2

Premier League Relegation Treble: Hull, West Brom and Sunderland all to be relegated 40/1

Top scorers: Sergio Aguero 7/2, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 9/1, Jamie Vardy 14/1 e/w, Michy Batshuayi 14/1 e/w and Daniel Sturridge 20/1 e/w

Players to Watch: Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (Stoke), Andre Gray (Burnley), Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Calum Wilson and Nathan Aké (Bournemouth), Viktor Fischer (Middlesbrough), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Southampton)

1st Manager to Leave: Francesco Guidolin (Swansea) 5/1

LMA Manager of the Year: Antonio Conte (Chelsea) 7/1 or Slaven Billic (West Ham) 16/1

# Sky Bet odds correct at time of writing.
* Each Way: 1/4 for first 4 places