Italian stallions held by the Super Eagles


Being the city that London is, and with its wide variety of nationalities contained therein, it’s not much of a surprise any more that more internationals are being played here and you can be guaranteed that when one of these takes place, the Daggers Diary team will be there.

Last month, Dagenham Dan and I traipsed across London to watch Australia v Canada at Craven Cottage. While others were watching England beat Poland at Wembley, we were getting cold down by the Thames watching the green and gold easily defeat a spirited but inferior Canadian team.

IMAG1125This month, the good people at Fulham have attracted Italy to the Cottage, for a friendly international against Nigeria. While Italy qualified for the World Cup in September (winning their group by six points), Nigeria secured their place at the weekend, becoming the first African team to qualify for Brazil by beating Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate. For both, the start of the World Cup on June 12th starts to loom large on the horizon, although the draw on December 6th will be the most immediate thing to worry about.

For both (and indeed, all) teams taking part next summer, this will be one of the last opportunities to have a look at their team before the month of wall to wall football kicks off. With one international date in March, and then probably two just before the tournament, any player wanting to make an impression on the coach of their national team doesn’t have that long left. It may even be that players will be going to the World Cup with no international experience at all. While that may not be a bad thing, a quick look at England’s defeat to Chile last Friday shows that it isn’t always desirable. Continue reading

Champions League Nights: Part 2 – Sofa United


Manchester United vs. Real Sociedad – Champions League – Venue: my couch by Luge Pravda
A7cShDyCQAArcV3Anyone who knows me well enough will know I am able to watch more live football on the weekend than I was ever able to back in the UK (thanks to no Saturday 3pm embargo; and now new US rights owner, NBC, showing every one of those 3pm game on what Americans like to call TV ‘real estate’). One casualty though has often been the Champions League ties, being as they are in midweek and in slap bang in an Eastern seaboard afternoon. Of course, for many ties there was a purely coincidental increase in ‘business meetings’ in my calendar at around 3pm Eastern Standard time, 8pm back at home: meetings between myself, a pint or two and a TV screen at the local soccer showing bar in Lower Manhattan. The best kind of business meetings if you ask me. However, as I am currently on a sabbatical I have no such worries about work inconveniently getting in the way of an afternoon European tie. At least not for the time being. Perhaps in the knowledge I would be watching the match in full, Stuart asked me if I would like to write a review of the match and who was I to turn down another slice of The Ball is Round.

First things first, I liked the look of the team the team: Jones getting a chance at center back; a chance for Kagawa, and to a lesser extent Hernandez to show what they are capable of (Chicharito could well score a hat trick but he ain’t going to usurp RVP when the latter is fit, let’s face it); and Giggs in midfield. Moyes must have expected less of an emphasis on protecting the back four – and for periods of the match this was the case – but Fellaini, who has looked off the pace and prone to wayward passes in recent weeks, must have been a tad disappointed. On the subject of Kagawa, there appears to be a ‘movement’, a body of fans railing against the club, or more accurately Moyes, for his exclusion. To those people I say this: do you see him every day in training? Moyes clearly sees something; or maybe he is simply not fully fit. And you know what Klopp, you can keep your opinion on you ex player to yourself too. Thanks.

United flew out of the traps: the first move of the match results in a goal: a wonderful snaky wriggly run from my favorite player – Rooney (despite everything that has happened or not depending on who you believe) – before the pinball confusion in the box results in an own goal from Martinez. And while I am on the subject, can we all refrain from referring to Rooney as ‘rejuvenated’ now please? I think it is fair to say that Moyes’ greatest achievement to date (sorry Community Shield apologists) is the form of the Utd number 10. Headband or no headband. But rejuvenated? Come on he never became a bad player, he just seemed disinterested at the fag-end of Sir Alex’s reign.

The atmosphere in the early minutes seemed a world away from that which descended over Old Trafford for the Southampton draw. This has something to do with the ‘singing section’ so I am told on Twitter. I would be keen to know exactly what constitutes this section and how it differs from the rest of the ground, because I genuinely don’t know. And, perhaps as a result, Sociedad seemed genuinely shaken. This bodes well for a good performance from the home team I say to myself. Continue reading

The beg, steal or borrow Premier League XI


The summer transfer window is the busiest time for managers and football clubs in general, as the big money transfer deals dominate the sporting headlines. Many of the loan deals, though, go under the radar amid all this hype. Here is the best starting XI compiled of players currently loaned out by Premier League clubs.

GK- Thibaut Courtois
The Belgian shot-stopper is currently on his third loan-spell at Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. The Chelsea ‘keeper is turning plenty of heads with his match winning performances at Atletico and is also attracting attention from Barcelona, one of the favourites on http://betway.com/sports-betting/ for European glory this season.

DF- Jack Robinson
The Liverpool right-back is currently on-loan at Blackpool in an attempt to further his development. This is a great opportunity for him to grow as a player as he will play regularly at the Tangerines.

DF- Johan Djourou
The 26-year-old Arsenal defender is currently with German club Hamburg. He has made 81 appearances for the Gunners and has 41 caps for Switzerland, bringing vital experience to the back-row.

DF- Karim Rekik
The 18-year-old has been at Man City since 2011. He is currently back in his native Holland with PSV. With 13 under-19 caps for his country Rekik undoubtedly has potential and looks like an astute deal for PSV as they strengthen their squad for the Europa League campaign.

DF- Benoit Assou-Ekotto
The Tottenham man followed his ex-manager Harry Redknapp to QPR in the summer. A left-back with bags of experience, he has been playing Premier League football since 2006, racking up a total 155 games for Spurs. His experience will be vital in QPR’s promotion push.

MF- Victor Moses
The Nigerian winger is on-loan at Liverpool from parent club Chelsea. The pacey midfielder has bags of top flight experience and is a quality player. His pace and power will be vital in helping Liverpool achieve a top-four place this season.

MF- Gareth Barry
The most experienced player in the team, the 32-year-old has racked up an incredible 500 top-flight games. Deemed surplus to requirements by Man City he joined Everton as they attempted to fill the void left by Fellaini who had joined United. Barry has so far been a rock in the Everton midfield and some fans are calling for him to be reinstated in the England squad.

MF- Stephen Ireland
Like Barry he is an experienced central midfielder. After falling out of favour with Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert he has ended up at Stoke, where the tireless midfielder is starting to recapture the form that once made him a Republic of Ireland international.

MF- Nick Powell
The Man United youngster is currently at Wigan. One of the last Alex Ferguson signings this boy has plenty of potential and you can expect to see him terrorising Championship defences for the Latics.

ST- Darren Bent
Another player who has fallen out of favour at Villa, Bent has now wound up at Fulham. With 13 caps for England and 103 top-flight goals Bent is an astute capture for the West London side.

ST- Romelu Lukaku
The Belgian spent last year with West Brom and scored an impressive 17 league goals. Many were surprised to see him join Everton on loan from Chelsea and he is now the key ingredient that could fire Everton into the Euro places.

The combined value of this starting XI comes in at £93.4million – who says we are still in a credit squeeze!

Popping my Cherry…again


9283753010_e72eb97b42_bHow much is too much to watch a football game?  I know people who have paid hundreds of pounds to watch Cup Finals and World Cup matches, but would you pay four times the average ticket price just to watch a friendly?  This was certainly the question being asked on the South Coast a few weeks ago when AFC Bournemouth shocked the footballing world by announcing they had secured a friendly against the mighty Real Madrid.  Shock soon turned to disbelief when it was announced tickets would cost £60 for General Admission.  £60 to watch a friendly???  Even Chelsea wouldn’t have the cheek to charge this!

But it seems the Cherries had done their Economics homework in terms of supply and demand as this week the final tickets went on sale and were snapped up within hours.  Every one of the 10,783 tickets had been sold.  Instead of running out against Woking next weekend, Eddie Howe’s first XI will be lining up against Ronaldo and Kaka at Dean Court whilst the Directors will be counting their £600-odd thousand pounds of takings.  Who has egg on their face now?

But first up they had a small matter of a visit from West Ham.  I’m sure if tickets for this game were £60 each then it too would have been a sell out, but a £10 price tag obviously put your discerning Hammers fan off who only buy high price tag items now such as Andy Carroll and the Olympic Stadium.  But I wasn’t complaining.  After all I was getting a chance to take the Fuller family to the English sea-side as well as see the game.

Football fever has gripped Bournemouth ever since they won promotion back in April.  In one short season they would be going from taking a few dozen to Hartlepool United and Tranmere Rovers, to welcoming the likes of FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic, Reading and Leeds United.  And of course there would be the return of Bournemouth’s favourite loveable East End rogue, ‘Appy ‘Arry as he brings his QPR team down the A27, stopping off no doubt for tea and biscuits at one of his Sandbanks residences. Continue reading

What does this season have in store for the Premiership?


The Premiership in England has long been considered one of the best, and richest, leagues and attracts world-class players from around the world. Recent signings such as Manchester City’s £30 million for midfielder Fernandinho, Liverpool’s capture of Luis Alberto and the potential transfer of Napoli striker Edinson Cavani to the Premiership, mean footie fans are in for a treat in the upcoming 2013-14 season. But could this be a vintage season due more in part to the continuing carousel of changing managers?

David+MoyesBoth Manchester teams now sport new managers with arguably the toughest test of taking over a new club falling to David Moyes at champions United. Manuel Pellegrini succeeded Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, with the former Malaga boss hoping to improve City’s challenge on the title. FA Cup winning Roberto Martinez may have also seen his club Wigan relegated but his move to Everton promises much. And the ever entertaining Ian Holloway is now back in the league with promoted Crystal Palace.

However all eyes will be on the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho, after his move from Real Madrid back to Chelsea. This was a move that was a slow train coming, with the departure of Rafa Benitez as interim manager a foregone conclusion. The Chelsea faithful have clamoured for the return of Mourinho almost as soon as he was sacked in 2007 and his at times controversial remarks and actions mean there will never be a dull moment. With an enviable track record, he could bring the title back to London from Manchester. Indeed, given the history between former Manchester United icon Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho, it will be interesting to see how United and Chelsea square up to each other. No-one would envy David Moyes given the huge shoes he has to fill.

Mourinho has the arguably easier start to the campaign with a home game against newly promoted Hull while United face Michael Laudrup’s skillful Swansea away. The new Chelsea manager must fancy his chances as United adjust to their first new manager in 27 years. The change of managers mean that of the top six teams of last season, only Arsene Wenger of Arsenal and Tottenham’s Andre-Villas Boas, himself a former Chelsea manager, remain in post. Tottenham’s boss admitted Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge will be a challenge to other clubs hoping to land the title.

Due to the global nature of the Premiership, sponsorship for the league is in fine form with campaigns such as cider company Strongbow’s Earn It providing competitions with added excitement and buzz. This Strongbow football challenge dares fans to win a chance to step up and shoot a penalty against a top goalkeeper, a task which seemingly appears infinitely easier when watching a game. However, given the woeful performance of past England penalty takers, this competition would rightly provide bragging rights to anyone skillful enough to score. Fans who reckon they can do better than hapless duo Gareth Southgate or Chris Waddle are encouraged to enter.