Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Odds For Spurs To Join Bolton In English League Championship in 2008?

We all know how it will still end for Bolton come May 2008 (or earlier). Gary Megson is not EPL managerial material, no matter how much his new chairman Phil Gartside is going to fund his little new adventure. Who was the last good player he bought? I have my fullest sympathies with Bolton fans who must have woken up to another new nightmare last Friday.

What of Spurs and their new bright hope Juande Ramos? Can the Spanish head honcho turn the club's fortunes around now and bring success that his new chairman Daniel Levy so craves? Or will he be the subject of humiliation come the end of the season ala Martin Jol?

We all know the real reason why Jol was cut from the Lane - he failed to deliver Champions League football and more importantly, any trophies. Levy's treatment of the big man was certainly uncondonable, but if you have spent your own fortunes without any results, you are certainly entitled to some discretion in how you wish to handle club matters.

Ramos arrives at Spurs on the back on an impressive CV with Sevilla. But will he be given enough time to arrest the slide currently at the club before putting his own spin for future improvement and success? How long will Levy wait this time?

Both men also have strong personalities, with Ramos constantly embroiled in feuds with his ex-Sevilla boss, and Levy not shy of heavy-handed tactics to bring his point across. I rub my hands in eager anticipation for the first flash point these two men will have.

And given the mediocre squad that Ramos stands to inherit, it will take more investment from his chairman to fix any imbalance the team currently faces. Granted many of the players are suffering from distinct lack of confidence, but that midfield is not top 4 quality. Berbatov is developing into another Thierry Henry and his head continues to swell. To have publicly rebelled against his under-pressure ex-manager was about as unprofessional as a player could get, given the situation the club was in. Nobody should be bigger than the club, and if Berbatov felt his interests better served at Manchester United, it would be well-advised to release him come January.

Ledley King continues to face time on the sidelines, but the defence urgently require him back. It would be interesting to see if Ramos would pry Daniel Alves away from Sevilla, but the player excels more as an attacking quantity. What Spurs needs now are stabilising influences in all areas of the field.

Ramos will need some time, but it might not be something that he will have in abundance. The season might still be young, but continental managers, especially someone still unproven as Ramos, often need time to settle in. Just like players. Can anyone remember what happened at Portsmouth and to a certain extent, Rangers in Scotland last season?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gerrard Rescues Liverpool

On a night when the last 2 remaining unbeaten records in the English Premier League locked horns, it was the Anfield side Liverpool which came away slightly fortunate with a share of the spoils with Arsenal.

The home side's captain Steven Gerrard put them ahead with a thundering free kick in the 7th minute, and then suffered several scares before finally conceding a late equaliser when Arsenal's Spanish wunderkind Cesc Fabregas sneaked in. While the draw reflected a generally fair result, I would say that Liverpool should count their blessings to come away with a point.

Arsenal exposed all the weaknesses in the home team. The most glaring was the terrible lack of pace in the whole Liverpool side. Arsene Wenger has always stuck with his successful blueprint of using fast, athletic players with a generous sprinkling of skill and talent. At Anfield, these players tore into the Merseyside team time and again, often catching the midfield and defence back-pedalling in desperate attempts to cut out the danger. Sami Hyypia was an obvious target, while Jamie Carragher has looked worryingly out of his depth this season. Make no mistake about it, Carragher is still a key player in Liverpool's defence, and has continued rescuing the team with many last ditch tackles. But to be a real contender, you do not wish to see yourself being in those situations at all. Daniel Agger has better pace, but again, he also suffers from the same malaise that Liverpool defenders seem to have in abundance - the lack of pace.

While the Reds created their fair share of chances and came close on a number of occasions, they never looked like the home team. Javier Mascherano is starting to revert to his West Ham form - again he seems to look slow against other teams. Perhaps this is the result of playing in a team full of joggers and having to cope with cleaning up after them. Xabi Alonso certainly has the touch of class so often lacking in Liverpool's midfield in present times, and suffering the recurrence of his metatarsal injury definitely did not help the cause. Steven Gerrard prompted and ran his heart out as usual - but despite his constant urging, his team often lack the mental aptitude for a fight. Sure, they try, but always with a distinct lack of conviction.

Voronin appears to have lost any early promise he showed and Dirk Kuyt, for all his enthusiasm and hard work, is just another forward water carrier, no matter how much quality he might have over the average Joe. The strange thing was if Rafael Benitez intended to play with wide players, why did he not start Ryan Babel? If the strategy was to pump continuous long balls into the opponent's penalty area, why not put Peter Crouch into the fray earlier? Dirk Kuyt would never be favourite aerially against someone like Kolo Toure. Then again, he is getting paid bucketloads to make the decisions, not us.

Arsenal on the other hand, continues to show promise. I have certainly grown to enjoy watching this young side play, no matter how much I might diss them. They are tough, and add to that quicksilver attacking verve, I would love to see them grab the English Premier League title race by the scruff of its neck and pummel Manchester United into oblivion. I never expected them to leave Anfield with anything less than a point - it was a question of when before the equaliser would come. In fact, I was about to say they shaded the contest, but looking at it again, I would have to admit they came to a formidable football fortress and bossed the proceedings on more than one occasion.

That is why to say Steven Gerrard rescued a point for Liverpool would be the truer reflection of an exciting and often edgy game that hovered on the brink of explosive action.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Allardyce Learns What It's Like To Be At Big Club

Sam Allardyce has made his managerial career with a small club like Bolton. His teams have been the model of 'anti-football' as Lionel Messi would claim - tight defensive units with long balls pumped forward to unsettle any defence with terrier-like strikers that aim more to irritate than to entertain.

When he was dismissed from England reckoning due to his link with transfer dealing scandals, the big Englishman was indignant on his treatment. In truth, he realised that being at an unfancied club like Bolton would never look good on his resume. When the chance at Newcastle came, he jumped on it, hoping that it'd bring him more recognition of his abilities.

Little did he realise that choosing the right 'big club' to be at would matter more than just going to any, especially one that is clearly riding on past glories. And with results not going his way, he now faces an uphill task to build on his achievements at Bolton. He has also realised that decisions do not often go the way of bigger clubs just because they are... well, bigger.

Allardyce would complain no end at Bolton - cursing their lack of luck at big decisions. Bolton was a small unfancied club that no one liked, he said. Who would give them a penalty? Instead, they often get penalised for fouls that big clubs get away with, according to him.

So moving to Newcastle should help with that. Those thousands of decisions that went against him should disappear right now.

Well, Newcastle went down to Reading last night in the EPL, and Allardyce bemoaned his club's luckless attempt to get a penalty when Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann collided with Michael Owen.

Unfortunately, being at a club like Newcastle, big while it might be (in a certain part of England), it is also mighty unpopular.

How about joining Manchester United's backroom staff, Allardyce?

Juventus Bribery Scandal? Get Real - They Don't Get All The Calls

I cannot remember how long it has been since teams, players and fans all over the world have attributed Juventus' success to bribing referees and the like for results. Every penalty they receive would be the act of corrupted men in black on the take. With money from the Juventus petty cash kitty. Scandalous revelations and a legal punishment in recent years have also set the club backward and tarnished their name further.

However, this should be changed with last night's game against Napoli. Not only did they end up the wrong end of penalty decisions, those decisions made were downright controversial.

So should we start to say Napoli had done a Juventus?

So Juventus have been proven to have paid referees for decisions to go their way during crucial games. But to label them cheats each time they receive a contentious decision in their favour would be scandalous in itself. Referees make mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes lead to teams losing when they cannot afford to.

The fact is that soccer still is filled with boys playing a man's game. They lose, they cry.

Can Asia Add Another EPL Scalp in Birmingham?

It has been interesting to note the boardroom going-ons at Birmingham City. The Blues have been the subject of a takeover bid from Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung for months now. However, there has been little development to note except for the mass freeze on new staff contracts, especially that of manager Steve Bruce.

Now, Birmingham co-chairman David Sullivan has come out with comments that have surely driven daggers through Yeung's bid. He has claimed that despite contacting the Asian businessman on the issue, he has heard no reply for over 3 weeks. What was most damaging to the takeover bid was him explaining the content of the email - he elaborated on how the delayed bid negotiations and freeze on staff contracts was putting the progress of the club at risk.

Imagine the wrath of the fans when they hear this. While not everyone would be behind Steve Bruce, he has done his job decently and brought the club results with their resources. If he was forced out by Yeung, there would be some backlash if and when the Hong Kong tycoon comes on board. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be just arriving at the club, with fans staging mass demonstrations.

That could of course change, if Yeung brings in a quality manager and results. But that won't come overnight, especially a club like Birmingham that has no brand to its name anymore. The better players won't come freely and it'd take years of concerted effort at least to bring it to anywhere near the level of even Spurs (before Martin Jol showed his true colours and got fired).

So it looks like Yeung has forced himself into a dead end. If he was a smart businessman, he'd pull out now. Seriously, how needs another unglamourous boring club like Birmingham to be in the Big 4?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Martin Jol Gets The Boot - Finally

Since the beginning of the season, I have been telling you so - it won't be long before Martin Jol got the boot at Spurs. The guy doesn't get any results relative to the investment handed him, and spins a whole load of bollocks about how he has done much for the club.

For that kind of money spent - what has he won? Nothing.

If he were at the other 4 clubs, he'd be gone in a whisper.

There was a last ditch attempt to save face - earlier media reports stated that he had resigned (surely a product of his own media staff). The club have since then released a statement to clarify that they had sacked him instead:

"We can confirm that the Board has this evening asked Martin Jol, Club Manager and Chris Hughton, First Team Coach to stand down from their positions with immediate effect..."

Hopefully they do find a more capable coach who gives value for money, and comfort to the board and fans.

Next stop - Benitez.

When Does Keeping A Core of Local Players Make Any Difference?

Over the years, there have been many pro and anti discussions on how a soccer team should keep its core localised, to:

1) Maintain a local spirit to the team
2) Encourage growth and continuity of the national game despite introduction of players from other countries

Many have used the decline of the English national team as proof that keeping such a core is essential to the national team's standard of play. The EPL is now flooded with 'foreigners', and despite the success enjoyed by the English teams, the English national team time and again disappoints, and show no signs of improved standards of play. Most have attributed this to the EPL top teams (where most English internationals play) being filled with foreigners and the English players on the periphery. Arsenal and Liverpool come to mind.

Others have argued that this was not the case. They claim that this was in line with the falling standards of English players themselves - many are getting lazy and lack the basic fundamentals of soccer skills to survive at the top level. Another group have noted that English players are pound for pound, over-priced compared to their more talented peers from foreign lands. Why use expensive and less skilful English players when you can get cheaper but more quality Europeans?

Derek Rae at Soccernet came up with a short piece on how Scotland's Rangers have been grinding out results on 'Anti-football' (negative and defensive football for all those that have no clue), and key to that were the return to the club of top Scottish manager Walter Smith and his use of 7 Scottish players as his backbone of the team. Something which Rangers lacked in the past few seasons (when they went cosmopolitan) and resultant results on the domestic and European stage nosedived. Walter Smith attributed the renaissance of his team to reverting to a local imprint, and implied that the side's play resulted in more pride and passion.

Honestly, I don't have a final piece on this whole issue. However, my personal take is that as long as you can find players who truly want to play for the club, are passionate, and appreciative of the chance given to them, it isn't necessary to go for local lads. Ferguson has shown this time and again with Manchester United when his fledglings started to disband. Arsenal has also disproved it on more than one occasion - remember his unbeaten team a few seasons ago? How many Englishmen were there?

The only downside is that of a decreasing standard of play for the national team. Again, you could pick players from the lesser clubs - surely some of them deserve a chance - and Scotland has proven that you do not need bountiful talent to get results. Tactics can play a big part. Less recognised players may also put in more effort for the cause. And of course, choosing a good manager. McClaren? Give me a break.

Is Lehmann The Only Snake In The Grass?

There have been a few reports recently, and especially after Tuesday's Champions League encounter with Slavia Prague, of Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann's spiteful words towards his manager Arsene Wenger. Most have discussed on the fact that Arsenal would be better off without the German keeper.

Except that Arsenal's recent sparkling form and future might in fact be facing a greater disruption in the next couple of months if not handled well. Not only is Jens Lehmann selling himself now to other clubs with his comments, Gilberto Silva and Lassana Diarra might also be leaving. While all 3 players are not currently in the first team, but the season is long and if they leave, without any sufficient cover, Arsenal might struggle if injuries or loss of form set in.

It is hard to see Wenger allowing himself to be held for ransom, so Lehmann would certainly go come the mid-season transfer window. I am still of the belief that the young players of Arsenal are more likely to lose form and be at a loss compared to the older but more experienced ones. It might be good to convince Silva and Gallas to stay on, at least until the season is over.

However, now with Liverpool's only hope of silverware this season to be the Champions League (not considering the FA Cup - it has totally lost its lustre), I wouldn't exactly be crestfallen if all 3 Arsenal players left.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liverpool Look To EPL Title

After yet another disastrous European showing on Wednesday night, Liverpool (or at least the ones who are realistic) now look to concentrate on winning their first ever EPL title.

Rafael Benitez, Liverpool manager (although not for very long at the rate results are going for the club), has remained defiant despite defeat to Besiktas and rallied his team for a final dash down the stretch. Win the next 3 games and they might still have a chance, he claimed.

However, that is exactly the problem with Liverpool, and in particular, Benitez. Apart from their great Euro run 2 years ago when they came back several times from the dead, this season, as with many other seasons, they have floundered when chips are down.

I have mentioned previously how Benitez, despite all his tactical genius, is not a great motivator. Tactics can only get you so far. If your players are not performing to their best, these don't get you anywhere. You need to be able to inspire your team to dig deep and play above their levels, grinding out results without any class. Benitez has never been able to display that side in his managerial abilities. It was the same again last night.

So much for winning the EPL title, if this continues. I wonder what the American owners are thinking now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Greg Ryan Booted Out After Losing Hope

Player power is on the rise, my friends. First, Steven Gerrard whines again like a spoilt brat after being substituted (all because he is a local lad and wants to stay on the pitch). Now, after outbursts by USA Women's keeper Hope Solo and a damning result in the Women's World Cup Finals, USA Women's team coach Greg Ryan has been fired.

All this despite losing only ONCE in over 50 games in charge.

And Martin Jol still gets to keep his job.

Champions League 23/10 - Young Theo Walcott Shines As Arsenal Run Riot

With growing maturity that shows no sign of abating, Theo Walcott inspired rampant Arsenal to an astounding record 7-0 win over Slavia Prague. The young and vibrant Arsenal team overpowered Slavia, who had no answer to players like Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb. The victory marked a joint-record for the best ever scoreline in the Champions League, with Juventus' 2003 win over Olympiakos.

To say I've been impressed with this flowing Arsenal team is an understatement. I have always had a healthy respect for the Gunners, especially with their attitudes towards winning in soccer, even during George Graham's days when they were known more for dour piddy paddy instead of that breathtaking gourmet being served now in stadiums all over the world. But the way Wenger has time and again rebuilt the side from the brink of ruin whenever previous star players either left or retired inspires a lot of respect, even if he continues to be blind to certain on-field dismeanours.

I even like that arrogant brat Robin Van Persie, because he walks the talk. If he can remain injury-free, I see them as the other main contender for the English Premier League title, other than Liverpool. And maybe Manchester United. He's the only Arsenal player now who doesn't try as hard to walk the ball into the net, which is really the weakness of this young team.

Correct that, and you might see more record scorelines to come this season.

Champions League 23/10 - Powerful Manchester United Saunters To Away Win

The bratty bullies of Manchester have won again, this time away at Ukraine vs Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Tuesday. Wayne "Bulldog" Rooney, Rio "Junkie" Ferdinand and Cristiano "Diver" Ronaldo all scored as they made light work of their mediocre opponents.

At the end of the game, that old hag Ferguson was once again waxing lyrical over his young Devils and how their growing maturity ensured the team was never in trouble and another victory in the return match would seal their passage to the next round.

It's great to see a flowing United side in fine fettle so early in the season and dispatching opponents with ease. It only raises hope that they might run out of steam later in the season and limp to an end with tears.

Bullies shouldn't be allowed in the Beautiful Game, and that should start with the United Bullies of Manchester.

Champions League 23/10 - Rangers Dominates Spanish Giants Barcelona To Earn Draw

Scottish giants Rangers put up a massive rearguard action to thwart Barcelona's much vaunted strikeforce to earn a creditable 0-0 draw during the Champions League round played last night. It stretched their unbeaten run in this season's contest to 3 runs, on the back of 2 successive victories over Stuttgart and Lyon.

Despite a brilliant show put up by those magical feet of Lionel Messi's, Rangers held off strikers like Thierry Henry (although admittedly over the hill now - why else would Wenger have let him go?) and Messi himself, and nearly snatched victory themselves on a few occassions late in the game. They were only centimetres away each time from putting the ball into the net, which no doubt would have sparked wild celebrations akin to Celtic's victory over AC Milan in the previous round.

It appears now that Walter Smith's stature as a manager is growing, if not solidified. He turned Scotland from a laughing stock on the world stage to a team that more illustrious opponents have found difficult to get past. Now he is weaving his magic over an under-achieving Rangers team that lost its way last season with the pretender Le Guen.

It would be interesting to see if Rangers can continue the fine run and progress to the next round of the Champions League. At this rate, their chances are more than optimistic. It would have signalled that Scottish teams are an emerging force on the European stage, if not for the dreadful Celtic away showings.

But there's an easy solution to that - get rid of Gordon Strachan. If you've read his book on his time with Coventry, you'd know what I mean.

Why Jose Mourinho Will Never Be Spurs Manager

I would have thought this was most obvious to all soccer fans and critics, but to my surprise, everyone talks about how Mourinho is tied up by contractual obligations not to take up another job within the year in England.

Think about this - if you were a Spurs fan, would you really want Mourinho to be your team's manager? Afterall the hate and venom spewed towards most of the previous managers in the London club's history, I would imagine Mourinho to be the LEAST welcomed candidate.


I mean, have you seen Chelsea play when Mourinho was still Special?

Can you imagine a player like Michael Essien in Spurs' jerseys? Or an otherwise physical juggernaut like Drogba to be a Spurs legend?

Hell no! Neither of them are exactly good at trapping the ball with their first touch, much less string more than a couple of passes together. One is a destroyer, the other goes for long range rockets that miraculously creep in the net and gets hailed as a striker extraordinaire as a result.

What Spurs fans really want aren't results. It's beautiful flowing soccer. If they win, good for it. If they lose, be thankful you get to watch games with 4-4 scorelines - what soccer should truly be like.

If they lose AND play like crap, sack the manager. I don't see Jol lasting much longer, to be honest. When a player like Berbatov starts thinking he's bigger than the team and club, then it shows just how much the manager has lost the plot.

Of course, the chairman or club owner gets the ultimate say in who is to be manager. But woe be the person who hires Mourinho and subjects the White Hart Lane faithful to dreary (but winning) soccer. He'll be the first to be forced out of the club even before they turn on that teary-eyed Portugese with a talent for well-timed dramatics.

Come to think of it, maybe Jose CAN be Spurs manager. He'll be primetime entertainment on the sidelines!

Soccer Rag's Long Awaited Return

It's been a long 3 weeks since I last posted, and I apologise for the absence. I know most of you have missed me and my insightful and entertaining posts, but despair no more for I am BACK!

I'll still try to post everyday from now, but if not, it'd still be at least once every 2 days. The soccer season in almost every part of the world is now starting to kick into gear and lots of interesting tidbits are starting to develop. Leave it to me to pick up the crumbs and provide REAL soccer commentary on the world today!

That's all, folks! Thanks for visiting as always, and stay around tell your friends and families about Soccer Rag!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Weird Olsen Continues The Iraq Dream

I just came across this news bit, and was surprised that Egil Olsen, the Norwegian soccer coach who was known for his eccentricities and also certain success in soccer management, was now the coach of the Iraq national team.

It would be interesting to see how Olsen fares with a team that captured the imagination of Asia and the world when they captured the Asian Cup in July. Make no mistake about it - this team has a lot of potential and sometimes they are a joy to watch, almost like the Brazilian teams of old.

The Ugly Demise Of The Rafavolution

What was vividly clear on Wednesday night at Anfield was not how bad the team played, but how helpless Rafael Benitez looked on the sidelines - utterly incapable of lifting his players, and not a hint of his tactical genius in sight.

The case of his rotation policy should no longer be a point of debate, as he has shown time and again that it brings results (and to a certain extent, silverware) in the long run. However, what has been slowly unfolding in the past few games has been a gradual decline in the standard of play, as well as players who look short of motivation and confidence all of a sudden.

Over-confidence after the Derby game, or shell-shocked when they escaped with a lucky draw in Porto? Whatever it is, a good manager should be able to bring his players over any transition. It appears that Benitez no longer has the ability to do that.

Sure enough, the team will probably pick up the pace again after another 10-20 games, but as has been the case the past few seasons, by then the title would have been long gone, and any long unbeaten streak would be useless.

The Champions League win a couple of seasons back was also a fluke, make no mistake about it. The team displayed great courage and mental strength to fight back from 3-0 down to win it. But these things happen only once every 100 years.

Just as well, the players we bring in are not good enough either. They are skilful, no doubt, and some of them are world-class by virtue of being internationals, but what we need are winners. When the chips are down, the team tries, but are not able to take the games by the scruff of their necks unlike Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United. The effort is always there, but there is never belief in their eyes.

We need Mourinho. Pay off Chelsea, find Benitez a job as the youth team coach, and bring in The Special One to instill the winning mentality back in the team that once ruled not just England, but Europe as well.

The Case For Theatrics For Soccer Players

No doubt the explosive end seen in the Celtic vs AC Milan game was a delight to watch but a grim reminder to the ever-present dangers that footballers face on the field from over zealous fans.

However, Celtic Chairman Brian Quinn has come out to demand an inquiry by UEFA into the behaviour of AC Milan goalkeeper Dida, who appeared to be assaulted by the fan and tumbled to the ground. He then had to be stretchered off.

In a veiled accusation that Dida made a meal of it and feigned injury, Quinn has requested that the incident be looked into and if there had been any play-acting, relevant action should be taken.

Unfortunately this wouldn't be the first time in soccer. The most famous in my memory would be that of a certain Chilean goalkeeper who even appeared to be stretchered off the field all bloodied after apparently hurt by flares thrown onto the pitch by fans. This happened in a World Cup qualifier.

I believe FIFA should step in and review the safety standards in soccer stadiums again, and determine how such standards can be improved for both players and fans. In the meantime, I have not seen any videos of the incident, but if Dida did take advantage of the situation, he should rightly be banned for cheating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Highlights Of Lyon Vs Rangers (Champions League, 2 October)

Here's how the Light Blues gave a pasting to the French outfit:

How long are the odds for Perrin to still be at Lyon come end of the season?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Champions Luck Roundup

Remember when you used to hate Liverpool for all her luck back in the days when they ruled the roost in the English League? Despite all the pretty passing football that they displayed, everyone agreed that Liverpool had more than their fair share of luck for years. That was what was known as Champion's Luck.

So now, Manchester United obviously has all the luck in the world in the Champions League (and English Premier League).

They were awful against Roma, and Roma more than deserved at least a point. One lucky pass and a lucky half-missed shot from that bully Rooney, and the critics are once again singing the praises of Manchester United.

The game was evenly balanced, and had Totti been more composed in front of goal, he might have demolished the Mancunians single-handedly. Unfortunately (there - luck again), Ferguson can now continue to iterate his belief that his young brave guns can go on to win everything this season.

Now, if you wanted 'young brave guns', head straight to London, where it is no longer about the billion rubles that a fantasy football fan has, but what a French ex-teacher has once again created. Arsenal has again caused the loss of someone's job as Steaua Bucharesti's owner Gigi Becali had vowed to dismiss caretaker manager Massimo Pedrazzini in the wake of another defeat. But it should be a consolation to the latter to go out under a blaze of beautiful football glory from the young Gunners.

Another masterful performance coupled with patient grittiness grounded out a win away from home - something which the team would have struggled to achieve in past seasons. But these joyful times now see a mature and talented side brimming with confidence, especially through their on-field expression of such flowing football.

Despite my belief that Arsene Wenger only smiles when he wins, and is no real gentleman when he loses, he continues to produce teams that truly creates fantasy football, rather than kick the ball down field and use lightning quick athletes to get behind defences - something which Alex Ferguson does but cunningly hides behind youthful endeavour.

Not Portsmouth, But Rangers Could Win the French Ligue 1

After an outstanding night for the British teams in the Champions League, it appears that the Scottish Premier League team, Rangers, could possibly unseat Lyon (and Portsmouth, whom we predicted could win it if they decided to cross the Channel) as the new French Ligue 1 champions.

A masterful performance on Tuesday night saw Walter Smith's team dismantle the proud French outfit, who is now evidently on the decline after (horror of horrors!) recruiting Alain Perrin as their new manager. One wonders what criteria the management had in their selection process, as Perrin had been exposed for a tactically limited and incapable of going beyond average teams in the English Premier League. Hell, he didn't even go anywhere with an average team like Portsmouth!

Despite Lyon having an admittedly off-night in terms of hitting the woodwork thrice and playmaker Juninho going close with free kicks on a number of occasions, Rangers more than dealt with the home team's onslaught. Sneaking in 3 goals away from home is always an achievement, much less against a reputed European opposition. Rangers defence also shone especially with Carlos Cuellar and handled everything thrown at them comfortably.

Better things ahead for the Light Blues? I would hope so. Walter Smith has always been a steadying influence and has more than proved his managerial ability in previous seasons with Rangers, as well as with Scotland on the international stage. Now, only if they could unseat those pesky little green Hoops.