Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Andy Gray sacked over sexist comments to female official

Top football analyst Andy Gray has been sacked by Sky Sports over the sexism scandal that has rocked English football.
The television pundit lost his £1.7million-a-year job for comments aimed at assistant referee Sian Massey, one of three female Premier League officials.
Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, said in a statement last night: “Andy Gray’s contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour. After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today.”
Sky News have suspended reporter Andy Burton for his role in the second batch of leaked footage which emerged yesterday.
Analyst Gray and anchorman Richard Keys were suspended for Monday night’s coverage of Chelsea’s win at Bolton after off-the-air comments made on Sky Sports emerged.
Burton has now been stood down from his duties at tomorrow’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg between Birmingham and West Ham. The new footage, also recorded on Saturday before Wolves played Liverpool, shows Gray in conversation with Burton.
A crew member refers to Massey and Gray is heard saying: “I can see her from here. What do women know about the offside rule?”
Keys and Gray were already fighting to keep their jobs before sister channel Sky News provided more damning evidence yesterday.
Earlier footage showed Keys and Gray, a former Scotland international striker, speaking before the kick off. Keys said: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her”.
Gray replied: “I know, can you believe that? A female linesman.”
Keys later added: “The game’s gone mad.”
Later he said: “Did you hear charming Karren Brady [the West Ham vice-chairman] this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”
Donna Cullen, a director of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, said Massey was officiating a Premier League match “on merit”.
“She would have come up through the system and her superiors would have thought she was the right person for the job. Why would they doubt her?” Cullen said.
“In a male-dominated sport you are always going to get the odd remark, but in more than 20 years of working in football, I cannot say sexist remarks like that have ever been an issue for me.
“I believe I am treated as an honorary male in football, and I don’t believe being female has anything to do with my work.”
Although Massey is one of only three female officials at the top level, over 20,000 women have successfully attained FA coaching qualifications, according to the English Football Association.
According to FA statistics, the number of women playing organised football in England stands at 150,000.
Didn't use the picture above to illustrate the story when I wrote it for The National in Abu Dhabi tonight. But thought it kind of works. If you're Andy Gray. Today's sacking is a major victory for women in sport.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Benni McCarthy Scores For QPR But Will They Take Him Off West Ham's Hands as the new loan ranger?

Benni McCarthy’s canny knack of scoring goals may have secured a loan move to Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers this week.

The 33-year-old, frustrated at current club West Ham where Avram Grant refuses to even grant him a place on the bench, was allowed to play in a reserve friendly for QPR against Spurs on Tuesday.

And South Africa’s all-time top-scorer promptly scored despite a heavy 9-2 defeat against a tough Spurs second string side that included Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate and young Jamie O’Hara.

Ironically, cash-rich West London outfit QPR – backed by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and Formula One moguls Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briattore – could replace EastEnd strugglers West Ham in the Premier League in May.

McCarthy’s agent Rob Moore is believed to be “in talks” with QPR boss Neil Warnock. The deal appears to involve McCarthy moving on loan, with QPR paying most of his £50,000-a-week salary until May.

If he scores the goals to help QPR gain promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 1996, he will be signed on a full-term basis.

Warnock, a shrewd, experienced boss who gave up his day job as a chiropodist when he took non-League minnows Scarborough into the Football League way back in 1986, is urgently seeking a goal-getter for the second half of the season, having lost two strikers - Jamie Mackie and Patrick Agyemangboth – with broken legs before the New Year.

McCarthy was signed from Blackburn Rovers by Gian Franco Zola for £2.5m last January but a knee injury suffered on his debut wrecked his Upton Park career. By the time he had battled back to fitness, he had been fined for putting on weight by new club owner David Sullivan, missed the World Cup in his own country, and dour Israeli Grant had replaced the flamboyant Zola.

Despite assurances from his agent Moore that the Capetonian “has been at the right weight since October”, Grant rarely even gives McCarthy a glimpse of the bench. If he leaves this week, he will go without a single goal for West Ham’s first team. In a year, he has made just 13 appearances for West Ham, with 10 of those as a substitute.

Meanwhile Steven Pienaar’s transfer to Tottenham, first predicted by this writer three months ago, was confirmed on the club’s official website yesterday.

Pienaar, who will wear the No40 shirt at Spurs when Spurs play Newcastle on Saturday, twittered yesterday: “Saying final goodbyes at Everton tomorrow. It’s not easy after many great years. Thanks to all the fans, you have been brilliant.”

Pienaar said of his first appearance at Tottenham’s Chigwell training facility yesterday: “Friendly reception from players yesterday. Michael Dawson first to say hello then Rafa (van der Vaart, his former team-mate at Ajax in Amsterdam). Great to team up with him, he's been great this season.”

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Come in No40... Steven Pienaar Confirms His Move To Spurs Personally. You read it here first, two months ago

Steven Pienaar is all set to play for new club Tottenham against Newcastle on Saturday – and will wear No40 on the famous white jersey at St James’s Park

Twittering frantically, the wizard from Westbury near Johannesburg said: “To end speculation I am going to Spurs. I've had brilliant years at Everton and it will always be a special place in my heart.

“And I can also confirm I will be jersey No40.”

A relieved Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who has pursued Pienaar ruthlessly through his unsettled months at Everton, admits he nearly lost out to Chelsea at the final hurdle when the January transfer window opened.

Both clubs were eager to swoop despite the fact that Pienaar would have been available on a free transfer at the end of the season. Pienaar and astute agent Rob Moore is believed to have agreed a deal of around £70,000-a-week with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

With the 28-year-old only a medical away from signing after Spurs upped their bid to match Chelsea’s £3m price tag, Redknapp told Sky Sports News: "I think we've done it - I think it's done. I think everything's agreed and he's going to join us, we're pretty sure.

"He's a good signing. He's a good footballer, I think he'll fit into the way we play great and I've always liked him.

"He has a good attitude, a good trainer, a good player. I know David Moyes loved him at Everton and it was unfortunate he decided not to stay

"But in the end I think it is a fair deal - Everton got a decent fee in the end for him, Chelsea were in for him, and I think he spoke to Chelsea and he came and spoke to us and he's decided to come here."

Redknapp added: "He should be available to face Newcastle - hopefully we will get him sorted in time and if everything goes through, it shouldn't be a problem. I think he'll be in the squad for Saturday."

If all goes well today, Pienaar will join David Beckham and recently signed-compatriot Bongani Khumalo, 23, at Tottenham’s Chigwell training facility.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Pienaar Nearly Ready To Earn His Spurs As Everton Move To Reassure Fans

The long-running saga which has finally taken Steven Pienaar from Everton to Tottenham Hotspur is not yet over – and already the Goodison Park faithful are being assured: “He’s replaceable.”

As predicted by this writer three months ago, Pienaar finally snubbed Chelsea for Spurs last night when Everton agreed a fee with the rising North London hopefuls rather than the ailing West London champions.

Both clubs are believed to have offered £3m for South Africa’s brightest star, who would be out of contract and available free at the end of the season.

Chelsea’s initial £3m bid was accepted by Everton on Sunday night but the club failed to agree terms with Pienaar, who was believed to be seeking £75,000 a week - a pittance next to the £130,000-plus paid to John Terry and Frank Lampard.

When Spurs upped their bid to £3m from an initial £1.5m, they were granted permission to speak to their long-term target, as predicted by me on eNews in South Africa last night.

Pienaar, 29, will now join newly-signed compatriot Bongani Khumalo, 24, at White Hart Lane during the January transfer window and will presumably be in line for a Champions League debut against AC Milan, which has always been his aim, according to agent Rob Moore.

Moore told me: “This move was never motivated by money. Steven is looking to sign that final contract with a side that can offer him regular Champions League football. Everton last managed that in 2005. I think that says it all.”

Pienaar’s transfer to Spurs had barely been agreed when Everton’s US international goalkeeper Tim Howard appeared on Sky News to reassure fans: "The gaffer David Moyes is really shrewd. He found Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar.

"Steven has been our engine for the last couple of years. There is no hiding from that. He has been our star player.

"But my feeling, having been at this club for so long, is that we just get on with it. We don't dwell on things. There will be another. That's just the way it is here at Everton."

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Transfer Special: Chelsea Swoop As Tottenham's Harry Redknapp Admits: Steven Pienaar Is Looking Blue

Steve Pienaar will sign for Chelsea today after Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp admitted he can’t match the Blues’ £3m bid for the unsettled Everton midfielder.

Redknapp’s side drew 0-0 with Manchester United yesterday but he took time out to explain that his efforts to team-up Pienaar with Bafana Bafana team-mate Bongani Khumalo at White Hart Lane have failed.

Reknapp said: “We were interested in him but I see Chelsea have offered £3 million. That would make it difficult for us to compete with that money for him.

“He’s a player we like but he belongs to Everton at the moment but I think they would sell him perhaps if we agreed a fee.”

Pienaar has just six months left on his current contract and could have moved for free in June. He missed Everton’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool in the Merseyside derby yesterday.

Redknapp added: “I don’t know what will happen there. The chairman deals with it, I haven’t been involved in it at all.

“He’s a player we like but he belongs to Everton at the moment but I think they would sell him perhaps if we agreed a fee.

“They agreed a fee with Chelsea apparently for £3 million then that’s probably a bit more than we want to go to.”

Explaining Pienaar’s absence yesterday, Everton boss David Moyes said: "We've given his representatives a chance to talk to Chelsea but they've not got permission to talk to Tottenham because they've not offered the same money.

"Steven came to see me yesterday and said he didn't feel he was in the right place to play...I felt it would be better not to use him if that was the case.

"He will be in training tomorrow because at the moment we don't have a deal. If Tottenham offer the same money, that may change or maybe he will agree terms with Chelsea."

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Everton's Steven Pienaar Agrees Terms With Spurs As Chelsea Lurk... there's going to be a pair of Bafanas at White Hart Lane

The South African dream team is falling in to place at Tottenham Hotspur following the news that Steven Pienaar has “agreed in principle” to move to White Hart Lane from Everton.

With Inter Milan and Atletic Madrid also seeking the 28-year-old, who is out of contract in the summer, Spurs are believed to have made a £70,000-a-week deal with “Schillo”, who didn’t appear for Everton in their 5-1 FA Cup third round romp at Notts County on Saturday.

His unexplained absence suggests the move to north London will be made during the January transfer window, with a bargain-basement fee of around £1.5m being offered, rather than waiting until the summer when Pienaar could move for free.

That would see experienced European campaigner Pienaar teaming up later this month with rookie Bongani Khumalo, 24, who completed his move to Spurs last week and commenced training on Friday.

The former Supersports United captain kicked his first ball in anger for his new club on Monday at Spurs Lodge in Chigwell. He played in a 4-2 friendly win over Crystal Palace 4-2 with fringe players Cameron Lancaster and Ryan Mason both scoring twice for the Spurs XI.

Yesterday’s Guardian in London suggested Everton boss David Moyes is keen to keep Pienaar for the rest of the season, but he could do with a January transfer move as he attempts to build funds to sign his number one priority... a goal-getter.

Pienaar was offered £60,000-a-week to stay at Everton but according to his agent Rob Moore, money is not the priority as the 28-year-old seeks a move to a “genuine Champions League club”. Moore texted me yesterday that reports of a “done deal” at Spurs may be “premature”.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has made no secret of his admiration for Pienaar and is known to be keen to team up his pair of Bafanas with memories of Mabilelo OJ Mabizela’s awkward White Hart Lane career five years ago clearly in mind.

The arrival of Pienaar could also pave the way for Spurs to cash in on man-of-the-moment Gareth Bale, who fills the same wide role as Pienaar. Italian giants Juventus have expressed an interest in Bale after his hat-trick against European champions Inter Milan at the San Siro earlier this season.

The Daily Mail contradicted the Guardian yesterday, suggesting Redknapp’s interest in Everton captain Phil Neville had annoyed officials at Goodison and that Chelsea are now favourites to pick up Pienaar on the cheap.

Everton boss David Moyes is quoted as saying: "I spoke with Harry Redknapp briefly before the transfer window opened. Daniel Levy (Spurs chairman) and Bill Kenwright (Everton owner) had an even briefer conversation at our recent game against Spurs and mutually agreed that this would go no further. At no time was any offer made – nor would one have been welcomed. Phil Neville is our captain and is an important part of the Everton set-up."

The Mail also suggests David Beckham, currently training at Spurs, could yet be allowed to play for the club, reducing the need for Pienaar. But in this morning’s Mail, Simon Jones reckons Spurs will pay £2m for the South African to ward off Chelsea’s interest.

Who the hell is Neal Collins (nealcol on Twitter)? Google the name or see www.nealcollins.co.uk.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

David Pleat's Advice To Tottenham's Bongani Khumalo... and The Man Himself's First Impressions

David Pleat, the 65-year-old footballing icon responsible for taking Bongani Khumalo from Supersports United to Tottenham Hotspur this month, has a word of warning for South Africa’s latest export.

Pleat, who picked out Khumalo’s unruffled defending while working for the BBC during the World Cup and recommended a £1.5m move after a trial period at Spurs in August, said: “Bongani must not try and chase the elusive dream too quickly. He needs to be patient and to take his time settling in.”

With the fate of Spurs’ last South African Mabilelo OJ Mabizela clear in his mind, Pleat told BBC Radio Five Live: “The change in environment and culture is going to massive for him and it is so important that he embraces the club and fellow players fully.”

OJ famously scored on his debut for Spurs in 2004 when Pleat was involved as a caretaker manager at White Hart Lane - but 14 months and just seven games later, he returned home with addiction problems.

Pleat knows Khumalo, who arrived in London on his 24th birthday last week, will be under pressure. Particularly as he will be training at Tottenham’s Chigwell training facility with a certain David Beckham, who passed a medical yesterday and remains keen to play while he is with Harry Redknapp’s squad.

Khumalo started training with the bevy of top coaches, including former Leeds legend Joe Jordan, Kevin Bond, Tim Sherwood and goal-getter Clive Allen, last Friday. His agent Glyn Binkin, who joined Khumalo on the flight to Heathrow, said his man is settling in well and is dealing with one of the coldest winter’s on record in Britain.

With William Gallas, Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong standing in his way, Khumalo may have similar problems. Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate are injured while Younes Kaboul is returning from a three match suspension, making a central-defensive platoon of seven since Khumalo’s arrival on the training ground.

The player himself said on the club’s official website: "All the players are very professional and very good, genuine guys and quality players. I've been very fortunate to just be a part of that and take in the experience so far.

"They've done so well this season and there are quality players all around. I just want to be part of the success.

"I want to win games here, I want to win titles - that's what the game's about. I've been fortunate to experience some success in my career back home lifting trophies and I would like to do the same here. The feeling is addictive.

"It's a higher level, it's not easy but I'm going to give it my best and contribute as best as I can to the team's success."

"I'm looking to learn as fast as I can and do all I can to contribute to this wonderful team.

Pleat, the former Spurs Director of Football famous for his on-field jig when Luton Town avoided relegation in 1983, advises only child Khumalo: “A lot will depend on finding the right kind of friends. He has to do the right things both on and off the field. As you know, there were one or two problems with OJ Mabizela. In the end were too much for us to cope with.

“Football will not take up all your time. In your spare time you must take up an interest, it’s very important

“Whether it’s spending time around London, going to the theatre or whatever, players need to make sure that their mind is motivated and that they’re not bored.”

Pleat has his regrets over the OJ saga. He remembers well the debut goal against Leicester and admits: “We like OJ. He was outstanding in the air. A very forceful play. I think in his case we could have done better for him.

“But we didn’t know enough about his background. If we had then perhaps we could have helped him more. He came over and did well but it was hard for him to get into the first team."

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Picture That Proves Ryan Babel Is a Twit. But I Can't Say I Blame Him

There's nothing quite like the FA Cup. Historical, timeless. And there's nothing quite like Twitter. Hysterical, timely. For Ryan Babel, a combination of these two great social forces has served to create quite a stir this weekend.

Babel, infuriated by the actions of World Cup final referee Howard Webb, a shy, self-effacing official, chose to post the picture you see here on his Twitter site, @ryanbabbel.

Only the sharp eyed would have seen his response to Liverpool's desperate 1-0 defeat at Manchester United in an action-packed FA Cup third round. It was only up for a few minutes, but the Football Association reckon that's enough, and are set to "investigate" the Dutchman's itchy twitter finger.

Babel couldn't resist having a dig at Webb, posting the picture of him mocked up in a United shirt and complaining: "And they call him one of the best referees. That's a joke."

After removing the offending image and twitter, Babel realised what an erm... twit he'd been. He said soon afterwards: "My apology if they take my posted picture seriously. This is just a emotional reaction after losing an important game. Sorry Howard Webb."

Very convincing Ryan, thanks. It was his namesake Giggs who scored from the penalty Webb controversially gave when Daniel Agger's challenged Dimitar Berbatov. I said at the time (as @nealcol on twitter, where else?) that it was dodgy. No mastermind required to see that.

To rub salt in the wounds for Anfield fans witnessing Kenny Dalglish's first game in charge following the departure of Roy "Woy" Hodgson, Webb then sent the legend that is Steven Gerrard off after 32 minutes for a challenge on Michael Carrick.

The game over signs immediately began to flash. Dalgish said afterwards the penalty decision was "a joke" and, predictably also bemoaned his captain's red card.

Dalglish himself, who sometimes needs subtitles to help with his raw Glaswegian, could be in hot water for his comments.

In full, he said: "The two decisions are important factors in the game, but if you went into detail about them it would take away from the commitment of the players.

"It's difficult to come here, they are top of the league and when you are down to 10 men and lose a goal in the first minute you need to show commitment, and the players did that and they had great support here today as well.

"If we can restrict the team at the top of the league to that, that bodes well for us.

"We also brought three young lads on to try and freshen it up as our guys had put in so much effort.

"I did not think the penalty was a penalty kick. The sending off....Is anyone who leaves the ground to get sent off now? The thing was that Howard Webb stepped away from the incident and then blew his whistle after one of our lads kicked the ball."

Despite an opening defeat and a far from impressive performance, Dalglish insisted: "For me it's a fantastic journey this next six months. And if they put as much effort and commitment into the cause as they did today, then they should be alright."

Though Babel was only used as a sub for the final half-hour, failing to ignite storming comeback, it's not hard to feel his pain. Personally, I think the FA probably need to fine the bloke a couple of week's wages.

But to be honest, on a weekend of great football, I suspect some Liverpool fans will be quite happy to see Babel show some passion after a pedestrian display from their side, even if it is only on Twitter.

Before his apology last night, the FA had already announced that they will "definitely look into this matter". No problem. With the 24-year-old currently being linked with Hoffenheim as the January transfer window creaks open, this may be his final act before departing our shores.

And his most memorable one. Good on yer, Ryan Guno Babel. After impressing everyone during Holland's Under 21 Euro triumph five years ago, he's hardly made a splash in a difficult period on Merseyside. Just 12 goals and 91 appearances. But at least you've left a mark. Twit.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Graeme Smith: cricketing coward or cautious hero? It's got to be discussed!

Sadly we have to turn to a bloke called Lokendra Pratap Sahi and the Calcutta Telegraph in India to reveal the truth of South Africa’s ultimately disappointing drawn series against India, the world’s No1 Test side.

Mr Sahi wrote on Friday: “An otherwise intense contest came to a rather insipid end, at Newlands, on Thursday. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni went to the extent of saying it became “rather boring.” Frankly, both India and South Africa appeared content to be finishing 1-1.

“The hunger and desperation just wasn’t there and Graeme Smith slipped up by not effecting a declaration, on Wednesday, and challenging India to go for the kill.”

And he quotes Dhoni as saying: “To chase more than 300 is very difficult... If we’d got that, then we could have done something special.”

Not a word about Smith’s desperate lack of a declaration in the South African newspapers on Friday, as far as I could see. The Citizen had a gentle dig. Biff, as the local scribes like to call him, goes unpunished for ruining a great series. All that talk of “brave cricket” and the grim-faced 29-year-old didn’t even get asked the question: Why didn’t you declare when Dale Steyn got out at 287-8 on Wednesday night? You could have had ten big overs from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at the end of day four – winkled a couple out and gone for the throat.

Instead he batted right through to the close, offering India an unappetising target of 340 runs, which would have been a record fourth innings score.

India, quite rightly, never considered chasing that kind of target on the final day, especially when they lost the whirlwind that is Virender Sehwag early on. Instead, the potential game of the century dwindled into a bore draw with India still the world’s best Test side when they dawdled off with 166-3 on the board, still a mammoth 174 short of a victory which would have seen them clinch the series 2-1.

Instead of the finest finish to this fascinating clash between the world’s top two, we were treated to a negative stalemate, leaving cricket-speaking fans around the world to dwell on the tastier morsel of England’s epic 3-1 Ashes win over Australia.

The annoying thing is, I was tweeting the South African cricket writers like a demented twit on Wednesday night, as Biff chose to bat on. And again the next day, I begged: You’ve got to ask the question. But no, not a word could I find on Friday about Smith’s negativity... except in the blogs and articles coming out of India.

Apologists, and there are many, suggest batting hero Jacques Kallis’s injury and spinner Paul Harris’s lack of spin put Smith in a corner. That he couldn’t risk defeat by gambling on a target of less than 300. The captain himself said: “I really did expect more from the wicket than what it gave us. We didn’t have much swing or anything like the first three days. It gets pretty hard work out there.”

It was pretty hard work watching it, knowing that the dead hand of Biff hadn’t taken the life out of a great contest. I’ve contacted Smith through his website and on his twitter link trying to ask the question nobody else dared to ask.

I’ve looked at South Africa’s record at Newlands. Perhaps Smith was influenced by highest run chase ever recorded in Cape Town: Australia’s 334-6 in March, 2002. Captain Ricky Ponting reached his ton with the winning four, Matthew Hayden cracked 96 and Smith could only look on as the Aussies, then a formidable force, cruised to victory in just 79.1 overs... but South Africa opened with Makhaya Ntini and Dewald Pretorius then, not Steyn and Morkel. Paul Adams was their spinner, not Harris. Kallis was fit to bowl. And Australia started the final day on 131-1.

Perhaps haunted by that historic chase, the tenth biggest in Test history, Smith stubbornly refused to declare on Wednesday night. Herschelle Gibbs, who played for South Africa then, twittered on Friday: “Sorry bud, not my duty to comment.”

But he did tweet again to say: "That's why nobody wants to be captain bru,too many decisions to make! Lol."

And the there was the infamous New Year Test at Sydney in 2006. Smith declared and set Australia a target of 287 in 76 overs – and was hammered in the media for losing a drawable Test by eight wickets with Ponting the villain once more, hitting 143 not out off nearly a run a ball. That day, Andre Nel and Johan Botha could do nothing to halt the inevitable.

Steyn, the world’s best bowler, summed up the Proteas’ current attitude after day three: “We must get ourselves first into a position where we can’t lose before we try to win.”

Ironically, the Proteas’ team psychologist Dr Henning Gericke said before the Newlands Test that South Africa had to learn to "take more risks and not be afraid to try things." Sadly, the call for "brave cricket" went unheeded. Remember Hansie Cronje in 1995? He set NZ a target of 275 in 63 overs when a draw looked the most likely result and South Africa won. And remember, South Africa have only failed to defend a target over 250 at home under Smith once and India are historically poor chasers.

And here I sit, waiting to ask the big question, expecting a big Biff from @graemesmith49, who is very quiet. I've emailed him at his official site, tried the number I was given for the South African captain. It doesn't work. I even went on eNews on Friday night with the excellent Stacey Holland (see picture above) to debate the issue. In a nutshell: A great series, ruined by caution and conservatism? Or a great fighting draw for the Proteas and Jacques Kallis? I thought it went well. I wasn't too harsh.

I asked this: Does Smith consider the future of Test cricket when he makes decisions? Does he not feel he owed it to the game to provide a great finish to a great series? I guess it’s just history now. We may never know.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

FA Move Quickly To Deny Beckham and Redknapp Are Line Up As England's Dream Team

The FA moved quickly yesterday to deny reports that they are lining up a “dream team” of Spurs boss Harry Redknapp and England’s most capped outfield player David Beckham to replace international manager Fabio Capello.

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror suggested the pair, who could be working together at White Hart Lane for the next two months if a loan agreement can be hammered out today, would take over from Italian Capello when his contract ends after Euro 2012. The FA are apparently keen to install a homegrown successor.

Beneath the screaming headline BOSS IT LIKE BECKHAM, the Mirror’s respected former Daily Mail correspondent Martin “Laptop” Lipton claimed: “FA chiefs have held informal discussions with the pair about taking over from Capello.

“Spurs boss Redknapp, 63, will be manager and Becks, 35, his assistant manager, with the long-term strategy that the soccer superstar will ultimately succeed Redknapp in the job.”

And he goes on to quote a “source involved in the negotiations” as saying: “This is not pie in the sky. This is absolutely real.”

But in a hurried statement after the Mirror front pages hit the streets in London, an FA spokesman insisted: “There are no such talks and we have not discussed any potential succession plan with anyone at this point.”

Beckham is available to Spurs until March but he has the right to buy an MLS franchise in the US – probably New York Cosmos for a knockdown £16m – if he fulfils his LA Galaxy contract which expires in November this year.

Speaking after the shock Wednesday night defeat at Everton, Redknapp admitted he is keen to seal the loan deal which will see Beckham team up with new South African signing Bongani Khumalo, who landed at Heathrow yesterday morning.

Redknapp said: “I will speak to the chairman Daniel Levy and see where we are at. It is definitely not done - one million percent not. I don’t know what has happened.

“I have left it to the chairman to deal with. I think we could do with David’s know-how, I think he has something to offer but it is out of my hands. I’ve said I’d like him but it is up to others now whether there is a deal to be done.”

If all goes smoothly, Beckham will be unveiled in front of the fans at Sunday’s FA Cup third round clash against Charlton at White Hart Lane with a potential debut against his former club Manchester United on January 16 a mouth-watering prospect.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Beckham gets okay to be the Loan Ranger... With a Possible Debut For Spurs Against Manchester United

David Beckham was finally given the green light to return to England’s Premier League last night – and he could make his debut against former club Manchester United at Spurs on January 19.

LA Galaxy took their time over granting permission for their best-paid player to spend two months on loan with Harry Redknapp’s side, worried lest he repeat the Achilles injury he sustain when playing for Milan last season.

But they have risked the ire of their considerable support by allowing him to play for the North London club Beckham, now 35, supported as a boy growing up in Leytonstone. His grandfather was also a mad Lilywhites fan.

Galaxy are believed to have agreed the move because both clubs are linked to AEG, the entertainment company which is helping Spurs in their bid to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after London 2012.

England’s most capped outfield player is expected agree the loan deal tomorrow and will be presented to the White Hart Lane faithful on Sunday before the FA Cup third round clash against Charlton Athletic.

Redknapp’s master plan of buying Beckham and grooming a successor is likely to fail, given news that Beckham will be entitled to buy an MLS franchise “at 2007 prices” if he fulfils his contract with Galaxy, which ends in November. He is believed to be planning to buy New York Cosmos for £16m.

The first clue to his future came yesterday morning with the news that his three sons, Brooklyn, 11, Romeo, eight, and Cruz, 5, had been enrolled at an expensive private school near his London home north of London.

Spurs will pay a loan fee of around £500,000 to LA Galaxy and offer a weekly wage of around £120,000 to Beckham, though there may be hard bargaining during today’s meeting with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. Depending on his fitness – and that of rival right-sided midfielder Aaron Lennon – he could play a maximum of ten games for Spurs, including the two Champions League clashes against AC Milan, where he spent his last two winters.

Beckham, linked to Spurs since a lunch at Harrods with Harry’s son Jamie two weeks ago, hopes playing for Spurs will enhance his chances of adding to his 115 England caps.

Boss Redknapp feels the positives of signing Beckham – which will include significant shirt sales – amount to more than the negatives of having the megastar on board for two months before the MLS kicks off on March 15.

Redknapp, also linked with a £30m bid for Newcastle striker Andy Carroll yesterday, said: "It will be great to have David around. He'll be a great role model for the young players.”

One of those youngsters is Bongani Khumalo, the 23-year-old South African who arrived in London this morning to begin his Tottenham career after a £1.5m move from SuperSports United.

Khumalo could also find himself training with Bafana Bafana team-mate Steven Pienaar before the January transfer window closes. Boss Redknapp repeated his interest in the unsettled Everton ace yesterday, telling Sky News: "If Pienaar doesn't sign a contract he'll be a great free transfer for someone at the end of the year, if he doesn't stay at Everton.

"He still belongs to Everton, so it's a difficult one. They are still trying to keep him. We'll wait and see what happens."

Khumalo, the 23-year-old Supersports United captain finally sorted out the delays caused by England’s bitter winter to catch his Heathrow flight last night - and he remains a possibility to play against Charlton.

But with William Gallas fit again to slot in next to Michael Dawson, Khumalo may find himself dropping down the central defensive pecking order. Younes Kaboul is serving a Premier League ban after his red card against Newcastle and Sebastien Bassong is returning to fitness while Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate remain on the long-term casualty list.

After a farewell party with his Matsatsantsa team-mates at Zwartkop near Pretoria, Khumalo’s manager Glyn Binkin confirmed: "Bongani has flown out to Heathrow. Everything is sorted out, he’s got his visa.”

Khumalo’s deputy at Supersports, Thabo September said: " We really enjoyed our football with Bongani as our captain We spent three fruitful seasons together. The team-work was amazing, he showed great leadership - and he will continue working hard in Europe.”

Who on earth is this Neal Collins bloke (nealcol on twitter)? Google me or see www.nealcollins.co.ukand buy the book!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Lalas Shoots Down The Loan Ranger: Beckham May Have To Stay on Holiday

Harry Redknapp’s loan ranger master-plan was in tatters last night after former LA Galaxy manager Alexi Lalas poured cold water on David Beckham’s chances of appearing in a Tottenham shirt later this month.

Lalas, in charge of Beckham’s MLS club from 2006-2008, said: "The reason David went on loan to Milan for the last two years was to prepare, in theory, for the World Cup.

"I think that was commendable and understandable to a certain extent - but now it is happening again I'm not sure."

Redknapp has been most vocal in his interest in taking Becks – England’s most capped outfield player – on loan, though Newcastle and Blackburn have also expressed an interest this week.

But Lalas told BBC Radio 5 live: "Soccer fans in the US say David Beckham has given a lot, but he's also taken a tremendous amount out of Major League Soccer."

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy’s second most famous player, has already rejected the chance to go out on loan as he did so successfully with Everton before the World Cup. And American fans remain furious over the six-month Achilles tendon injury 35-year-old Beckham suffered playing on loan for AC Milan against Chievo in March.

That put him out of the World Cup and saw him appear only as a bit-part player in the regular season last year, playing just five games. The MLS’s best paid player was booed by Galaxy fans when he came back from his loan spell at the San Siro in 2009 and Lalas admits: "When Landon Donovan comes out and says he won’t go on loan this year, it certainly puts pressure on David."

Redknapp has toned down his need for Beckham, whose MLS season kicks-off on March 15, admitting: "Weeks fly by and this month will have come and gone before we know where we are. It's a difficult one. But let's wait and see, it's not in my hands.

"He'd be great to have around the place and I'm sure he's got a lot to offer as a player and a person. As a professional, he's top class."

Blackburn’s new owners – India’s chickens-to-chemicals Venky Group - have said their club are "open whenever David is ready to come". They have also confirmed a £6.2m bid for Brazilian Ronaldinho.

Beckham remains keen to gain some playing time in the Premier League to enhance his chances of adding to his record 115 England caps. Under pressure Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, in charge of Milan when Beckham was his loan ranger, said: “Beckham could be good support for Tottenham if he comes back. But we are not interested. In that position we have good players."

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Harry Redknapp Ends The Great Debate: David Beckham's on His Way To Spurs for three months

THE great David Beckham debate appears to be over. The world’s best known footballer WILL come back to the English Premier League and spend three months on loan at Tottenham Hotspur.

Here it is from the horse’s mouth. Harry Redknapp, the man who has transformed the north London club in two short years, said: "David wants to come over here to the freezing cold and play football. Doesn't that tell you something about the boy that he lives in Los Angeles and might be a billionaire?

"It’s not about money. We’re not great payers here and in the short term, he's not going to sell a load of shirts. He is a local boy isn't he? Leytonstone?

"We'll contact LA Galaxy to see if they will let him go and if David is up for a three-month deal, we are definitely interested.”

So there it is. Bongani Khumalo, currently en route to North London after his £1.5m transfer from South African champions Supersports United, will welcome the news. Imagine playing behind the great Becks himself in the FA Cup clash against Charlton on 9 January!

That might be a bit early for Becks but with the Major League Soccer season starting on 15 March, Beckham, 35, will get to feature in the Champions League knock-out clashes on 15 February and 9 March against AC Milan, the club he had a similar loan spell with in 2009 and 2010.

And of course he gets to be a thorn in the side of his old boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, the club where he made his name, playing 394 games and winning the Premier League title six times. In the past he has said he would not play for a club England because of his love for United. But all that changed when he was picking up the BBC’s lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony this month. He told a stunned audience in Birmingham: “I won’t be going back to AC Milan this time because it is not possible to go onto the roster for such a short length of time.

“But I will be going back somewhere, as I want to keep myself fit and keep myself in with a chance of getting called up for England again. To do that, I have to be somewhere, so fingers crossed I can sort something out.”

Though LA Galaxy could yet refuse permission for Beckham to go on loan, Redknapp grinned: “He isn't going to come here and get big money ... but he wants to come over here to the freezing cold and play football.

"I'm sure he can still do a great job at the top level, otherwise I wouldn't bother. And it’s not about cash. We aren't massive payers at this club.”

Courted by Everton, West Ham, his old United pal Steve Bruce at Sunderland and Sven Goran Eriksson’s Championship club Leicester, Stoke were the last club to express an interest. But Spurs, Beckham’s boyhood club when he was growing up in Leytonsone, near Tottenham, in London, will do the trick as he continues to rehabilitate after the six-month Achilles injury which forced him out of World Cup contention.

The stated aim? To play for England again, to add to his record 115 caps, the last won under Fabio Capello in the 3-0 win over Belarus in October, 2009.

Redknapp knows the deal isn’t done but admits: "I'm not saying he's going to come in and take Aaron Lennon's place wide on the right but he would be a good option.

"I am sure Aaron would love to work with him, on his crossing and everything, and on his final ball. He would be a good influence around the place."

Certainly his knowledge, after acting as an England coach in Phokeng during the World Cup, would also benefit Bafana Bafana’s 23-year-old new arrival Khumalo. The question is, with Beckham there on loan, will Redknapp persevere with the £2m move for fellow South African Steve Pienaar, out of contract at Everton in the summer? He may well now wait until he is available for free in June.

And as for the overwhelming media scrum, Redknapp laughs: "I don't think it would be a distraction. Once you're in here, the gates are shut.

“He could sit in his fantastic house with a pool and enjoy his life for a few months before he starts with LA Galaxy again. I've heard stories about how much he earns, it is just incredible, mind-blowing.

“He could buy any football club in this country if he wanted to. He is not going to do it for the money is he? But he wants to come. He’s still got real passion for the game. He’ll give the whole place a real lift.”