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Over the past weekend (7/8/9th July) (( In case you are reading this in the future!)), I have been taking a self-imposed break from the majority of my social interacting. That me be a slight mistruth, as my wife was the protagonist for the ban – but seeing as it was our first wedding anniversary, I dully done the right thing and gave in to her request.

It may well have been required anyway – human interaction and face to face time is something seldom seen as you wander aimlessly through carbon copy cities where everyone is glued to either their smartphones or earphones, or just sometimes glue sniffing (I stuck a black marker pen up my nose when I was around about ten, half-fainted and tripped over my bike – I also ended up with an ink spot under my right nostril that resembled half a Hitler mustache – not a good look!). And recently, not just due to my phone’s inability to undertake the most routine task without having a vibrating fit & turning itself off for a well-earned kip, I have been shamed with my excessive usage of social networks by people I really should have been having a conversation with at the time.

For many couples, at home or out and about, it is not uncommon at all to see both people tweeting, texting and basically just ignoring one another. And now, especially with the rise of the 140 character generation, it is even more ludicrous that this same couple may well be conversing or bonding over something with a complete stranger. But – therein also lies the beauty of the thing – the ability to find someone on the same wavelength, supporting the same team, reading the same book or having just watched the same film or television show and talking about it. The worrying aspect is that many people lose their own identity for a new online persona, which can mean not only be diluting relationships in real life – but you can end up being a droid from one of these metropolitan base units I was talking about earlier.

So what problems can an unhealthy obsession with constantly checking and refreshing your feeds bring about? Well apart from the aforementioned – studies show that social media is a major distraction during working hours and education classes, and trying to keep a constant handle on your online network well have a detrimental effect on your performance. Try telling me that on transfer deadline day though!

Another thing you need to take into consideration is the real life effect something you say, or show online could have on the person at the other side of the computer screen. Psychological effects on youngsters especially caused by the overuse of this social medium, has been shown to increase rates in anxiety and been linked to cases of depression. So next time you are about to tell a fenian/hun/fat person etc, to die or do something equally ridiculous – take a step back and think about what you will gain, and how you will make that other person feel. It might be a throwaway comment in your book, but these thoughts and words have the ability to lodge themselves deep in the psyche.

So coming back to my weekend, I was able to interact personally with family and friends without discussing or mundanely checking in where I was, and I felt better for it. Having a real conversation not just with your wife, but with neighbours, waiters and other forms of customer-based providers takes us back to a time when the art of conversation of banter was king! The monotonous usage of automated tellers, barriers and self-checkouts is further diluting real-time interaction as well, people feel safer and can relate to a situation more if they are faced with human interface – you can already see attitudes and personas becoming more robotic & bereft of any positive emotion.

In conclusion – take a break, read a book (It was actually the basic interaction methods of the late 80’s/early 90’s featured in Paul Larkin’s recent book “Poles ‘N’ Goals and Hesselink” which helped highlight the recent transformation), go for a walk, talk to someone, use the basket queue – however slow the old biddy is taking in front of you to locate her Clubcard! Don’t overdose online, as you may end up abusing the actual splendour and intricacies within & not reap its many benefits.

 

I now look forward to receiving your comments via post, telegram, or in person. Alternatively you can respond below.

Mark


& The Evil Superpowers out to curtail its mission.

That’s one way to stop him – Iniesta takes on Croatia

 

I am amazed at the current crop of journalists and fans who have now become ‘bored’ & disillusioned with the pure, passing game of the Spanish national side and the most-widely associated protagonists of  ‘tiki-taka’ football,  FC Barcelona. They say these sides are killing games with their passing, putting teams and viewers to sleep with their monotonous, robotic combinations.

But I believe the reason behind this sudden negativity aimed at the beautiful game, is the negative anti-football set-up which is becoming a regular theme in the new battle for silverware. How ever many times the pundits at the European Championships compared a team with a defensive mindset to doing “a Chelsea”, and no matter how annoying it was, part of the annoyance was that they had a point.

I was publicly slated on the evening of the Champions League final for my purist beliefs about how the game should be played, & how the Blues had now ruined what could have been potentially, three great games in the lead up to, & including the Allianz arena showpiece.

Roman Abramovich has bankrolled an impressive cast list at Stamford Bridge during his tenure as owner, and no way is every purchase aimed at a negative or defensive footballing mindset. They have great players, they have firepower, and they should utilise this. You are playing in UEFA’s elite club competition and representing English football in the most prestigious final of the calendar. For that reason alone, you should give your opponents and fans the respect they deserve by at least attempting a foray upfield before the eighty minute mark.

The historical beacon of bigotry, cheating and evasion that was Rangers FC, I think deserve a slither of credit for the shocking lack of attacking intent they portrayed at Ibrox against Messi and his beautiful Barcelona bandwagon in the Champions League in 2007. Under Rijkaard, the monopolisation of possession was starting to take shape prior to the leadership of Pep Guardiola through 2008-2012, who highlighted the style & introduced it to the masses.

Bayern captain Lahm aims to breakdown Chelsea

Walter Smith’s side were not able (that particular year anyway) to financially match the wages or go toe to toe on any level of talent or class with the Catalan giants – therefore their only option was to allow the football to be played out in front of them and for an embarrassment of possession to be forsaken in the hope their goal was not breached.

Lionel Messi was very aggressive in his post-match comments about anti-football, but we have witnessed Celtic ride their luck in the Camp Nou on occasion in a similar vein and not complained about the outcome when it was a positive one for the Hoops. What we require, is a new direction in the ongoing struggle against pure, beautiful, inventive football – and I think actually attempting to play football may, to a certain extent, work.

France were a massive disappointment  during these Championships – they came into the tournament on a great run competitively, with Laurent Blanc installing a belief in the players and the country, that they could replicate the past glories of World Cup ’98 and the 2000 European Championship in Belgium & Holland. Looking through their squad list, there was an abundance of great  flair players who could light up any game – and I’d lost count at the number of punters who had wagered Karim Benzema adding to his Real Madrid club total of thirty-two goals last season, by becoming the tournament’s top scorer.

Watching the quarter-final on Saturday against Spain was not only upsetting for the neutral, like myself, but bewildering for the French team it seemed who looked stuck between a rock and a hard place at times. At points during the match they looked threatening going forward, and when they put Spain under pressure, del Bosque’s side made mistakes.  Then they would remember the game plan outlined at the outset of the match to contain their opponents, and have to fight the natural urge instilled in themselves to exert their fluency and offensive charms.

On the domestic front, Real Madrid managed to stop Barcelona from a fourth consecutive league win last season aided by a glut of goals from a certain Portuguese superstar. When the El Clasico came about though – the tactics shifted slightly, and it seemed their main ploy was to dismantle Barca rather than go toe to toe.  Last season even though the possession statistics were heavily stacked in the Catalan sides favour, Los Blancos attacking prowess was almost identical and their daring was rewarded with a two one victory in the Camp Nou which all but finished off Guardiola’s side in the title race.

So are those now rebelling against their former love, bored with the actual tactic or frustrated with the antidote which has spawn in an aid to curb the success? The problem surfaces when teams are too scared to lose, rather than wanting to win. This in turn has produced an agenda focusing on the incessant and somehow, robotic, pass and move style modelled by Xavi & Iniesta et al, rather than further criticism which should be heaped on the men trying to eradicate the beauty of it.  If more managers and teams broke the shackles of their destructive strategy, and stood toe to toe with the tiki-taka culture – the positivity could return, and the winners would be two-fold. I expect Portugal to rise to the challenge on Wednesday – I hope the magnitude of the evening does not cause them to retreat into their defensive shells.


It is a year since I left Cologne after a long weekend spent, in the main, testing kolsch and integrating into the city and culture with my fellow travellers. A city which has never left me since, and for which my psyche harks at me to return at my earliest convenience. In the month’s leading up to that trip, we took the obvious choice of adopting FC Koln and keeping abreast of their present status – unfortunately, our trip was arranged the week following the final game of season 2010/11 and the Billy Goats had safely navigated their way to tenth place aided by the 30-goal haul of Milivoje Novakovic and Lukas Podolski.

A year on, black smoke engulfs the stands and the air of the North Rhine-Westphalia – through the smog “Poldi” attempts a somber farewell to the fans who have never doubted his love and endeavours during his two spells, while we await the white puff which will signal a new dawn.
The Billy Goats are so readily open house for negative press – some of which is brought upon itself – but it seems too easy to stand from afar and take pot shots at the wounded animal. In an attempt to readdress the balance, here is the remnants of the season from the heart of the club – the fans, the loyal inhabitants of the RheinEnergie stadion and the cities brauhaus’.

At times, they admit the responsibility of being a supporter, more akin to a soldier being drafted for war rather than a fruitful experience.  Stormy Cologne – storms in the sky, in the stand and within the squad and boardroom. The atmosphere seemed toxic during some games. A number of fans grew restless and rebelled early on – fighting, behaving unlike followers of the club at away games and attacking opposition buses. What were they trying to achieve or furthermore, prove? They preempted the decline and reacted with an unnatural and uncharacteristic showing of hatred – they were not taking the “decline” well – Andy (45) noted the behaviour as outrageous. Köln need a fresh injection of life and spirit – they are forever being publicly dragged through the mud, the tyre tracks leave behind a debris of self-destruction and bad blood sifting through the very core. “Oda” – the fan who was the inspiration behind the story – doesn’t care about returning straight back to the top league if it’s not going to be progressive for the long-term ambition of the club.
Early November & in a break from my domestic blogging duties from the East End of Glasgow – the strong reverberations of departure surrounding the prodigal son of a German city not long visited, captures my immediate attentions. I dissect the players’ past, present & future and focus on the impact in Cologne and further afield, should this talk become a reality. To my amazement, the article is received well in many corners, including in Germany, where natives, fluent in both their own and English tongue, thankfully and graciously took the time to engage and review. Oda, became a regular crux during the season and her friends, now included, give their version of an eventful and eventually, exasperating campaign.
21.11.2011 Currently with sixteen points from a possible thirty-six – Köln are performing admirably if not inspirationally, as Jörn (41) reflects on a team spirit visible then, but totally defunct in 2012. The club is due to play at home to Mainz – when all other games have kicked off in the afternoon, I check the updates and am dumbstruck to find the match was postponed. The referee, Babak Rafatti, was found in his hotel room prior to the match, alive but in a desperate state due to an earlier suicide attempt. Even though it was such a heartbreaking and horrendous event, it seemed almost coincidental that it would happen to this team – Oda noted Rafatti is one of the more constant and favoured referees of the Köln faithful after the dust had settled.

Earlier that week, club legend and former West German international, Wolfgang Overath, bewildered the FC Faithful by standing down as club president along with his two vice-chairs. Not only was the scenario described to me as “haywire” – in the aftermath of the board meeting in which Overath had resigned, he described the “close working relationship” of Volker Finke & head coach Stale Solbakken, and his prediction of “future successes with this partnership.” At the time it didn’t add up, and reading the reflections of the fans, many of whom brandished the Norwegian as “stupid”, & “stubborn”, it seems to add weight to the rumours of internal disruptions which were crippling the infrastructure. Next up, Derby time against Gladbach!
25.11.2011 The fans are in mood for revenge – previous meetings do not bode well, and Köln are looking for retribution for last season’s 4-0 & 5-1 nightmares. But there is a strong sense of confidence and excitement in the Cathedral city air – despite the off-field disruptions, the Billy Goats must be due some good luck on it.
25.11.2011 (A few hours later) “Oh my f***ing goodness!” I received this e-mail halfway through watching a film starring Gina Carrano & Michael Fassbender in which the tagline read “They left her no choice” – much akin to what Oda was doing as she watched on in the stands. The title of the film has already been utilised in this article to describe the club’s season – its hard to disagree. The rest of the week was spent licking wounds – old ones not yet healed, but brutally opened again and doused in acidity as Monchengladbach inflicted their rivals to three of their best with little or no resistance.
She later describes “Micha” the goalkeeper, as again, “the poorest Bugger on the pitch” – I take this as double-edged, as he not only deals with the heavy burden when picking the ball from the net on many occasions, but also of playing behind a desperate defence, light on protection for their number one. The keeper himself comes out publicly, in hope of a reaction, to condemn the side and insist they have “no balls for the fight!” – it seems to have an adverse reaction.
From this period on there is a worrying lack of communication, with a heavy calendar in December before the winter break, it seems the virus working its way through the team has hit Oda. She doesn’t have the fight or reserves to maintain an outlook for outsiders never mind her own. The team itself musters up a recovery of sorts fearing an all out backlash from the fans with two score draws sandwiched between an impressive and out of character four nil resounding win at home to Freiburg – although few & far between, for a side with the history and reputation of FC, victories like these against teams newer to this environment should have been a necessity.
One last tie on the 16th of December & it was a seasonal gift come prematurely for Bayern Munich – who also received the crown of winter champion. Even with an early red card for Franck Ribery reducing Der FCB to ten, FC Köln refused to spoil their hosts finery and left the Allianz virtually untouched, keeping their paws away from the silver and leaving their advisories to sign off with a resounding three nil victory. The game never seemed in doubt & the psychological and physical edge an extra pair of legs gives a side seemed lost on a disjointed Köln side. Their fans left in small numbers, deflated and with no sense of pride left for their team. Things would need to change in the rueckrunde, attitudes especially had to be looked at, and the lacklustre performances had to be addressed.
This was the turning point for the article, if there was no further communication between now and the end of the campaign, this would be nothing more than an outsiders perspective on the season. I sent an e-mail with just under a week until the Bundesliga was underway again asking for the fans expectations for the remaining matches. Thankfully a response was forthcoming – the fans are now excited despite the start of the slump in form recently and hopeful of acquiring a mid-table berth come May. The faithful were also looking to next season, the development and introduction of a youthful set-up would be key to the long-term goals of the club. In May, the outlook although bleaker was of a similar belief – the short-term future of the team would be bedding in younger players with the drive and sheer determination to resurrect FC, also to fill in the positional gaps left through the departures of more senior and experienced players.


The narrow loss away to Wolfsburg barely seemed to register as the rumours surrounding the cities’ most famous son resurfaced again – this time from a far more unlikely source than previous stories had emerged. The frictions which remained between Russia & Poland – with Podolski being of Polish decent himself – seemed to suggest a move to the former USSR and the emerging oil wealth country, was a remote one. Poldi stayed in the news that week but unfortunately, Köln’s wall was now ready to crumble.

Despite opening the scoring for the team at the RheinEnergie stadion, the clubs number ten fought through the pain barrier for the majority of the Schalke match which neither aided the side in the short or long-term. The ’04 eased their way into the game & eventually ran out comfortable winners by four goals to one. The ramifications of this match shook the clubs foundations to breaking point as news of Podolski’s injury reverberated around the city – a month without their talisman beckoned.

Oda tried to remain positive, hopeful that the German internationals absence would be an opportunity for others to stake their claim for a start and for the rest of the team to begin taking more responsibility. Andy was fully aware and worried about the lack of responsible aptitude which was displayed throughout the campaign, with none of the players accepting their tasks – which was borne of a culture throughout the team where no punishments were forthcoming no matter the crime.
Again an away win against a truly desperate Kaiserslautern side did little to convince fans or onlookers of Köln’s resolve or ambition to remain in the top-tier. Oda admitted the three points were an almighty struggle to obtain, but she was still hopeful the team were willing to fight – perhaps the confidence which a win brings would carry some momentum.
18.2.2012 Fingers, toes and whatever else can be crossed, are, in the hope of back to back wins for the first time since late September as the Billy Goats travel to Nurnberg. In the cities’ squares, brahaus’ and beer gardens there is a sense of joviality as the carnival is in full swing. The previous evening, pictures circulated with Poldi and Köln native Michael Schumacher enjoying themselves with what seemed like, no troubles in the world. Under the surface, for many like them the festivities added only as a temporary distraction from what was becoming a fairly tumultuous period. On the bench for the Lautern tie was Jong Tae-Se – a Korean forward from Bochum – ,who was brought in not by the coach, but general manager Finke without even a consultation with the man seemingly in charge of footballing affairs. Georg (41 ) summed up Solbakken as a stubborn man, who acted like a child when he did not get his way – the manner in which this transaction was carried out would do little to suppress this.

In retrospect Oda and the gang were confident going into this match, the two one defeat although not entirely surprising, dampened the carnival atmosphere in the city. A group of the players perhaps also still in a state of bemusement, choose to unwind at a nightclub at the tail end of the weekends celebrations. The trouble which flared at this juncture was one brought on by underlying tensions not just with the players but the fans as well. At any other time this may have blown over harmlessly, the professionals would have acted in a manner which was apposite – the intoxicated supporter eventually seeing sense through a peacekeeping associate. As Andy (45 ) pointed out – the attitude which ran through the side was one of nonchalant disregard for the consequences – this was now becoming an off-field issue as well as a footballing one.
25.2.2012 The outlook of the regular FC fan for matches was now of the negative variety – there was no hope, no rituals or prayers which could turn things round. Positive thoughts & energies can breed positivity – the flip side, well, that doesn’t instill much confidence let’s say. The e-mail is titled – “In my head – defeated again” as Oda prepared to head to the stands for conscription No 12.
26.2.2012 Another defeat – truly devastated is all that is mustered, further review would only bring to the surface any rage or heartbreak which was locked away. The unrelenting ties which bind you to your football club are as strong as the padlocks which adorn the cities’ main bridge over the Rhein. The only three certain truths in life are your mother, father and football team Frank points out, no matter how bad they feel – they will live or die by their side, the red and white will always run through them.
1.3.2012 One of the first notable anxieties facing a fan worried about the drop, is despairingly waiting and hoping on other results going your way. It is already red alert in Köln before the one all draw in Hoffenheim, as Freiburg and Hertha Berlin record wins and with their extra two points, move FC closer to the lower seats. The subject line prior to the match was amended from “defeat” to “win” and despite the results elsewhere, the avoidance of a loss was good for morale within the fans, if not the team itself.
10.3.2012 The energy coming from the latest mail obviously reverberated to the pitch – the excitement hard to contain, perhaps nerves also played a part in the jovial pre-match notes. Back in front of their own fans, Köln faced their faced real six-pointer of the season against fellow relegation candidates, Hertha Berlin. The one nil victory was succeeded with a quite uncharacteristic outpouring of emotion from Solbakken as he ran onto the pitch, arms raised defiantly, congratulating his players and soaking up the adulation of the vehement support.

What followed that evening was a great surprise to the fans, but perhaps not to the manager as the man who brought him to the club, Volker Finke was sacked as sporting director. At the time I wrote an article in the aftermath of the events which dominated Köln’s weekend, noting the removal of Finke as a message from the board that they had nailed the colours truly to the mast for Germany to see, firmly putting their weight behind the Norwegian boss for the foreseeable future. No love was lost between the two since the normally friendly, calm & collected Stale Solbakken, arrived in the summer – he complained to the board about the amount of influence Finke was trying to have on his decisions, and also his eagerness to openly discuss in-house discussions with the all too involved press hounds. Later on I was commended for my piece with Oda adding about the change in attitude and direction that those recent 90 minutes had positively had on the fate of the club.
17.3.2012 One of the toughest trips of the Bundesliga season came with what would have previously been the not so daunting trip to Hannover 96 – Mirko Slomka and his Reds – up until the end of the campaign, recorded the only unbeaten home record in the German top division. FC kept with their coat tails for the first forty-five but ended up on the end of a four one demolition in the second half. Hopefully the players weren’t beginning to wave the white flag. Next up though, BVB, who were playing like an unstoppable bullet train, only stopping momentarily to discard the remnants of their most recent victim’s – and the next approaching stadium was the RheinEnergie Stadion. Hope you’re sitting comfortably…..

26.3.2012 Oda is living in a nightmare, which is being played out horribly by a cast of amateur actors – the last act was a train wreck, Dortmund weren’t in any mood to stay behind and clear up. They had done irreparable damage. She was lost, and still is, lost for words – a royal horror show, where we know who ends up with the crown and who is living off precious little scraps. Again, frustratingly, Köln make a more than decent showing for the first half – holding the league leaders a goal apiece going into the break. Now is the time for manager’s to make their impact – the half-time team-talk – forcing their displeasures, rules, admiration, crockery, and whatever else on their troops who are soaking up the instructions, gearing up and focusing on the 2nd part of the battle. The rearguard held out for not very long at all, as holes behind the defence were probed and prodded with little resistance as five Borrusia attacks were comfortably converted to leave the home fans dumbfounded and dejected.

In the last six home matchdays, the Billy Goats had went into the break either in an advantageous position or held the other side and only taken four points from a possible eighteen – nowhere near good enough for a side looking to maintain their Bundesliga status. As Andy described the season as a rollercoaster – the unpredictability and ups and downs the fans were even experiencing during matches themselves must have left them feeling like they were going through an emotional wringer.

Things on the home front in Paradise were not making my German friend feel much better – she wishes she had my worries, which were at the time coming to terms with a domestic treble dream ending in a League Cup final defeat to Kilmarnock, and losing out on the chance to clinch the league title on your greatest rivals backyard – not the greatest week in my own 2011-12 diary, but certainly not as desperate as facing possible impending demotion. Next Saturday she now bills as the most important of the whole season – to watch or stay below cover?

31.3.2012 FC Augsburg were not mathematically safe, but they had put themselves on a good footing with a series of impressive outings since their promotion last season. Would the pressure of a surely fired-up and desperate Köln eleven, be a bridge too far for the new recruits of the Bundesliga? Unfortunately for our FC faithful, Augsburg again performed admirably and without fear, winning two one and sending Koln to a third straight defeat. Our group of fans sit in disbelief – as they nurse their Kölsch’s – the thick air of despondency is broken with a rallying call, – “A New Game means New Luck!” – hopefully they were not running on empty.

07.4.2012 The fighting spirit which had been evident in the earlier part of the season, showed some resurgence at home to Werder Bremen. This was one of the things Jörn was proud of then, and a break from the listlessness he had endured in the rueckrunde was a nice change in this one all draw. The business end of the season is not referred to as such for no reason, the players need to roll their sleeves up and buckle down to ensure every blade of grass is disturbed and the paying public are assured the determination they put in is reciprocated.

10.4.2012 Pathetic. Lost for words. Sick. Disgusted. Disarray. Lack of discipline. Do these players want to stay here? Playing the big matches, paid handsomely, and enjoy life? Mainz – the carnival club – make a mockery of their visitors racing into a three goal lead before taking it easy in the second period and inflicting only one more dagger to the heart of this side – then again, perhaps that organ was not beating through the team? The fans have had their share and want out, but there is no early escape clause – we can’t fast forward to the summer and find out the result. As I said to Oda, whatever performances are produced, in these final stages of the season the next four games are vital – and the fans have to stay strong.
15.4.2012 The illness is spreading, we are in a critical state and Borussia Monchengladbach turn up to play, Marco Reus dazzling the tired and weary FC players with some succulent skills. Solbakken is gone – too little, too late? A new coach is brought in, but he is an old head and had been in charge before. I feel like saying that perhaps this decision should have already been taken, or left till the end of May – but what use is this, like teaching a fish how to swim.

21.4.2012 The new man in charge issues a defiant and strong call to arms – the club, the fans and the players need to stick together – a siege mentality has to be implemented. Oda admits her responsibility and heads to her seat for the penultimate home fixture of a tumultuous season. She would rather stay in bed, hear and see nothing. My fingers are crossed – Regards from – in every respect – stormy Cologne….

22.4.12 Home to Stuttgart – the team, the fans fought back positively. Gave place a lift and looked as though performance could kick-start a revival scene – the point was well deserved and the energies from the stands and players were relentless from the first whistle – the excitement is building for the trip to Freiburg with Köln sitting out of the bottom two but in the play-off position. A draw, I feel would be good as SC have a good record in front of their own fans – with Gladbach playing Augsburg, it is not impossible that FC could drag themselves out from the desperate situation they have played themselves into.

28.4.2012 The final whistle has just gone – all I get in my inbox : I AM FED UP! (There were more exclamations than that but it looked untidy.) It was a tough one to take, Podolski dragged his team back into the match in the second half but again, the defence was unable to absorb any penetration and they capitulated again. A win next week and FC avoid immediate relegation and have the saving grace of two matches against the third placed side from Bundesliga.2 who will be foaming at the mouth for the wins. As the carrot dangles for them, Köln have their own next week, at home to the runners-up in the league – FC Bayern Munich. They are due to star in the Champions League final and DFB Pokal showpiece finale after this last league game and have already been resting.some star players. These preparations stand Köln in good stead, but already on numerous occasions this season – the team have been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot.

05.5.2012 Not since matchday three, have Köln been occupying either of the automatic relegation spots – even now, in the thirty-fourth and final week, they are still in sixteenth position and two points ahead of Hertha. It’s them or FC, Kaiserslautern are long gone and awaiting their companion to ease the journey into the tough world of 2.Bundesliga. Wishing the day away, Oda has been contemplating life out of the top-tier all through the night – the many connotations and permutations causing her brain to not even allow the contemplation of sleep. The weather is in the home teams favour, Rain – which will make for an unpredictable surface and hopefully curtail the more gifted Bayern players and assist in evening out the playing field. But could the extra weight drown the already weary souls in white & red who have not at all points looked worthy of wearing the prestigious jersey?

A week later 11.5.2012 “……deeply upset. Devastated.”

As the fans dejectedly sift through the rubble, looking for any hope or salvation, they can be satisfied that they will still be in the stands however long it takes to return to the Bundesliga. Although a banner unveiled at the Bayern Munich game read – “Bye Poldi! We would leave too – if only we could!” – Oda, Jorn, Andy, Georg, Henrik, Frank and the thousands of other fans will all return next season and beyond, and travel to cities that previously they may never have heard of or knew existed. The reconstruction of Koln from board room level all the way through to the pitch, was already underway by the time I had begun this commentary, but hopefully the recovery is tread on a less treacherous path for all involved.


Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas has become another victim of Roman Abramovich’s crazy lust for instant success as he exits nine months into the Stamford Bridge hot seat. Seven have been axed by the owner during his tenure and with former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez, installed as the bookies favourite to be the next Chelsea manager, you can’t see him lasting much longer.

AVB as he became known, emerged on Abramovich’s radar following his domestic and Europa League treble winning feat of 2011 with FC Porto –any comparisons becoming clear yet? (He also was part of The Special Ones’ backroom team at Internazionale & Porto). Onlookers predicted he may follow Jose Mourinho’s European success by taking his Europa League winning graduates one step further to the Champions League –but Chelsea came calling for the new boy on the block, possibly too soon, and the crazy goldfish bowl of the English Premiership beckoned. He inherited a squad which was in a quandary and disorderly in its age and abilities. Something he also took on was some rather meddlesome experienced first-team stars and an owner with ideas above his station on how “his team” and “his players” should be playing.

Villas-Boas required a clear-out and if he had any hope of succeeding, John Terry and Frank Lampard had to go –their constant actions and undermining of the ex-bosses has hamstrung the club from the undoubted potential they have to contend for major honours in England & Europe. This combined with the Russian tycoon appearing at training and interfering in the dressing room would drive anyone to the brink, and the young Portuguese man has been on the back foot since last June. A season in the Premiership is hard enough to get to grips with –never mind doing so with the harsh media spotlight and criticisms which are lurking behind every dropped point or defeat. The ex-Porto boss required time to stamp his authority and footballing beliefs within the Blues team –to clear out the deadwood and the players which didn’t fit, and incorporate his own cast list on the Chelsea starting IX.

Out of the previous six bosses, only three delivered major trophies whilst Claudio Ranieri, Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink all made reasonable inroads in the Champions League without providing Abramovich with the holy grail of European elite success. Power struggles at a club are one thing – but in-fighting between coaching staff, lack of respect and resent for your first-team coach and colonial groups of squad players is a situation of unmanageable proportions of which the club dictator needs to shoulder the burden of responsibility for. I am certain that within the next few years, Andre Villas-Boas will emerge again as one of the most wanted men in European football –where Chelsea go next, is not as clear-cut.

Posted: February 22, 2012 by thebhoymcclay in Uncategorized

JL

Ayesha Siddiqui is 7 years old and she has leukaemia. She urgently needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life. Ayesha is from Glasgow and was diagnosed with leukaemia in April 2011. The family are working with Anthony Nolan to try and find a donor, Ayesha’s ethnic background will make it particularly hard to find a match.

9 out of 10 patients in northern Europe will usually find a match but only 40% of people from an ethnic minority background will be matched with a suitable donor. Donors from an ethnic background are under-represented on the donor register and that’s why it’s so vital that word gets out and people can be encouraged to come forward. It costs £100 for Anthony Nolan to register a new donor to the register therefore funds are essential to allow the register to grow.

Someone out there could save this little girls life…

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Posted: February 21, 2012 by thebhoymcclay in Uncategorized

Thebhoymcclay's Blog

Celtic cannot allow media outlets, pundits and commentators to overshadow this seasons’ achievements, in what is turning out to be a league campaign which will be secured through sporting integrity, diligence and hard work.

Notwithstanding the 10 point deduction, Celtic were four points ahead of the game and powering home like a thoroughbred. Neil Lennon’s’ warriors galvanized, confident and with the momentum of a runaway train – are on an unbeaten run which has not been emulated since a decade past when Martin O’Neill’s inspiration guided his own Celtic team – captained by the current manager – to a domestic treble. A swing in the Bhoys favour of seventeen points had already been overturned in a whirlwind period of fifty-three winter days and had left Ally McCoist and his Rangers team on the ropes. The knockout blow was to come, and everyone in green & white and across the city…

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As you may have noticed, another man by the name of Ken has started writing on here – & you would be correct in thinking he is not me, as I am me. But he hasn’t hacked on and just started rambling away at my behest. As part of an ongoing development within thebhoymcclay blog I have taken Kenny on as a wingman of sorts and his clever, witty and thought-provoking articles will be a great asset to the site. Hopefully with articles and previews such as this, we can also continue to explore new and fresher pieces which will hopefully benefit not only the blogger, but also the reader. Enjoy

This is my second matchday preview for Bundesliga Football and as I’m a reasonable lad,  I thought rather than you doing the research on one of the most exciting leagues in Europe – I would deliver the facts, figures and key players in the German top-tier directly to you.

Last week I managed to correctly predict Mainz 1-1 Hannover in Matchday 21, let’s see if we can make it two out of two!

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Augsburg (18.02.2012 – 1430 GMT)

Bayer Leverkusen’s poor run of domestic form extended beyond the Bundesliga on Tuesday night, as a ruthless Barcelona side ran out three one victors at the BayArena in the Champions League – Matchday 22 however, throws up an altogether different prospect with the visit of relegation threatened Augsburg.

A battling display saw Bayer respond with a second-half equaliser through Michal Kadlec, but class eventually prevailed and the Catalan giants emerged with a two goal advantage to take to the Camp Nou in three weeks time. The visitors will be hoping these European exploits will enhance their slim hopes of taking anything back to Bavaria – but the signs are encouraging as Bayer were only victorious once in the league directly following their group stage encounters last year.

Augsburg played out a goalless draw last week at home to Nürnberg in the Swabian – Franconian derby and have shared the spoils in their last three encounters following the rückrunde, picking up vital points in their battle against the drop.  Their problem though has been finding the net – with only 19 goals in the for column in their previous 21 encounters this is in stark contrast to games involving Leverkusen, where goals are seldom in short supply.

Kadlec - a player once on Celtic's radar, swaps match shirts with Messi

 

Robin Dutt’s men routed Augsburg four one earlier in the season in their first ever Bundesliga encounter, and despite sitting sixth in the league, Leverkusen are struggling to capture any semblance of form which could see them claw back the ten points currently sitting between them and a Champions League spot. Matchday 21 saw them travel to the league leaders Borussia Dortmund and BVB found it tough against a well organised and stifling Bayer side. Die Werkself invited pressure and had Dortmund switching from their normal free-flowing style to a more direct route in order to make any headway, and in the end only a Shinji Kagawa gave the home side the 3 points.

Left-back Marcel De Jong and midfielder Tobias Werner are out for Augsburg after picking up injuries in the Nürnberg game and it appears both could be sidelined for up to ten weeks, whilst long-term absentees Nando Rafael, Moravek, & Dawda Ba are still unavailable. Creative spark Sidney Sam is still on the Leverkusen treatment table but Michael Ballack and Eren Derdiyok should make the squad. German midfielder Daniel Baier sits out a one match suspension for Augsburg for crossing the disciplinary threshold whilst Czech international Michal Kadlec returns to Bundesliga action for the home side.

Michal Kadlec vs Axel Bellinghausen

Bellinghausen will be hoping to impress on his return to the BayArena after departing at youth level in 1998. Returning from injury to replace Tobias Werner in the second half against Nuremberg last week, the German midfielder will looking for a starting berth in order to prove his fitness. If this does transpire, he could be facing Kadlec on his league return for Leverkusen following suspension, and he will be keen to showcase his own attacking prowess in the Augsburg defensive third. The tall left-back has been with Bayer now since 2008 and is now only five appearances short of his one hundredth game for the club.

Stefan Reinartz v Sascha Mölders

If Augsburg have any chance of staying in the top flight for any longer than one solitary season, Mölders has to add to his five goals so far this campaign. Having been an ever-present in his sides previous twenty-one encounters, his ratio of a goal for every nine attempted shots will have to improve. From the small & mesmeric Messi, to the tall and boisterous Molders – twenty-three year old Reinartz will enjoy a break from the Argentine superstar, but will have to endure a quite different test when up against the physicality of his compatriot.

Bundesliga Football Prediction: 3-1

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Danke Schon