Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: March 2005

let the rich stay rich (acc. to Man U)

One of the general gripes about the current premiership and European club system is that only a handful of clubs are able to win it, and it will always stay that way. It is almost impossible for a club without a billionaire benefactor to break the dominance of a select group, and this is true for most European leagues. <br />
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However, the nature of the Champions League has clearly ruffled a few feathers. The recent round of 16 threw up ManU vs Milan, Juve vs Real and Arsenal vs Bayern. And the big boys aren’t happy. Too many major clubs out early. Well, that’s their fault for not winning their groups, you might have thought.<br />
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So United chief executive <a href=””>David Gill thinks teams should be rated</a> so that more big teams get to the latter stages. Erm, doesn’t this sound like fixing the system? Why are Lyon and PSV within a shout of the semis? They won their groups, have played the games. Why should “smaller” clubs be penalised? This is a terrible idea.<br />
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Remember Leeds? They were in the Champions League semis not that long ago. Bayer Leverkeusen? Finalists in 2002. Forget that kind of club getting anywhere. These teams will seeded lower, thereby giving them the toughest draw possible. If Gill is serious, we should forget qualification, and just have a Euro league with the obvious big names, and admit that the two-tier system is not just a function of the virtious circle of best players / big stadia / trophies / more money but is enshrined in football law.

Greek farce

I hate to get too serious, but drugs in sport is one of those issues you can’t ignore, and can’t really joke about.<br />
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The <a href=””>Greek authorities have cleared Kenteris and Thanou</a> of doping offences, but their coach given a four year ban. Now, I might be naive, but aren’t there are few unanswered questions here? Such as:…<br />
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– Who the hell are they kidding? These two sprinters have dodged tests before. One test missed and I (although not most authoritires) might think it’s an honest mistake. But several skipped tests? That’s two people on the run.<br />
– Can someone explain the supposed motorbike incident? What actually took place? Why were the sprinters in hostpital for four days and then walked out with barely a scratch? <br />
– If <a href=””>WADA are going to appeal against the the decision</a>, doesn’t that imply that the Greek authorities are guilty of a whitewash? In which case, shouldn’t they also be investigated and possibly fined / kicked out of athletics?<br />
– Why are WADA taking the issue up and not the IAAF? Everyone knows this is a joke decision. If the IAAF have any credibility they will appeal. But they shouldn’t need WADA to show them the way. <br />
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A sport in decline due to a dilemma of it’s own making. Catch all the dirty athletes and you have almost no-one left – and the resulting audience share (nill). Let all the cheats swing by for old-time’s sake, and everyone thinks your sport is dirty – which it is.

Wales grand slam

I loved seeing Wales win the grand slam. They played rubgy as it should be played, attackng with flair and defending with guts. Fabulous stuff, and I’m no Welshman.<br />
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Now to pee in the cereal. <br />
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I still don’t think Wales have all the best players to take on the lions tour. They will have a good representation, and rightly so. But I can’t see too many certainties for the XV – Michael Owen will push for #8, and Peel and Jones are in a good shout for the half backs. Yet Clive Woodward might pull a surpsise and pick Wilkinson and Dawson. Elsewhere there is tons of competition for positions. At this rate, the centres could be O’Driscoll and D’Arcy, leaving Henson out. And there are stacks of good cases for non-Welsh players in the back 3. Robinson and Lewsey will be hard to leave out. <br />
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Back in the pack, and Ireland should provide the locks. Corry looks a good bet to start, and the front row is anyone’s guess. That could leave the grand slam champions with perhaps only 3 or 4 players in the team – a strange scenario, but that’s the lions for you.<br />
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And as for talk of Wales getting a slam next year, I just don’t see it. Why? a) Slams just don’t come around that often. b) backing it up is too improbable, given form and fitness c) France, England and Ireland will all be back stronger next year, in all liklihood.

Champions league draw

Uncanny. Liverpool vs Juventus is a fixture with so much history and tragedy, it felt inevitable that they were the first two clubs out of the hat. Chelsea and Bayern is the other big tie. A Milan derby will be dull. Lyon or PSV? Semifinal-fodder for whoever they face next.<br />
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In full:<br />
Liverpool v Juventus <br />
AC Milan v Inter Milan <br />
Lyon v PSV <br />
Chelsea v Bayern Munich<br />
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And of course, all eyes of football fans in Spain will be on… err, no-one. The best league in Europe has not a single representative in the biggest club competition in the world. Why?<br />
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Partly due to the cyclical nature of the game. Real Madrid are in a state of flux, changing managers, losing shape in the team. Other teams have faded, such as Valencia and Deportivo. Luck has played a large part with Barca being knocked out by Chelsea.<br />
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But it was only a few years ago that there were 3 Spanish semifinalists, and no Italian clubs in the quarter finals. Was Italian football in decline? Hardly. AC Milan won it two seasons later.

British winners

My friend Leo once said, “A two-set lead? That’s nothing to a pair of chokers like Tim and Greg”. Weirdly, he was dead wrong. Henman and Rusedski had an 8 wins out of 9 Davis Cup doubles record. But it told a truth about British tennis. We never won a match at the top level, the World Group, with the two best players we have had for generations.<br />
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So It was good to see a <a href=””>proper, nerveless performance by Andrew Murray</a>, who should go on to be a big player. Alex Bodganovic? Get him out of there. He looks like a loser. Again, I refer you to Leo: “Gareth Southgate? Don’t let him take a penalty. You know he’s going to miss.”. Some players just don’t inspire any confidence. Murray has the look of a winner. Bogdanovic has the look of a kid who played tennis because the rugby team looked a bit rough.<br />
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Which leads me to, well, rugby. The English rugby team has gone downhill so fast you wonder if the brakes are working at all. They are on their 3rd choice captain, who wasn’t even in the frame a year ago. No offence to Martin Corry, who I think is a terrific player, but hang on. How the hell did we get here? The team could even lose to Scotland at this rate. ‘Building for the world cup’ is the mantra we always hear, but is anyone else thinking 2011 rather than 2007?

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