To all my precious newbies following the World Soccer stage for the 1st time, there are some things you are going to have to get used to over time; and one of them is about to smack you in the face. More on that in a bit.
1st, let's visit about Weekend #3 in the EPL, and as our 38-round event is just approaching the 10% barrier, we see that the "Next big club" Manchester City was served up a dose of reality. You see, in one of the toughest sporting competitions on our planet, you can't buy silverware (although you can come mighty close).
Manchester City has spent some $200m in summer transfer fees to a team already money-whipping the competition to death. They have the best team money can buy and after they buried Liverpool 3-0, plans were being made for placement of the new trophies.
But, as we all know about the EPL, it isn't the showdown games that cost you championships. It is traveling to weaker sides' grounds and playing a difficult road match against a team that will put 11 players behind the ball and attempt to frustrate you to death.
Can you survive and advance? Or will you implode and rue the day and the loss of 3 valuable points as you try to keep up with Chelsea and Man United?
On Sunday, Man City visited Sunderland, who in the last decade have been promoted to the EPL 3 times, and relegated twice. In fact, they set a record (that you don't want to own) last time they were in the top flight by only totaling 15 points in a season on their way to relegation. Roy Keane, yes, that Roy Keane, managed them right back up into the Premiership last season and they finished 13th in '09-10. And playing at some of these road venues has proven quite difficult for the league's heavyweights (little Birmingham City is unbeaten in 16 straight at home!) and at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, many teams have left disappointed.
And here is the moment Man City will want back - Carlos Tevez missing a goal you could have scored:
And, in games where 1 goal makes the difference, if you miss one like Tevez did, chances are that Sunderland is going to get a chance to put you to the sword late. Would they call the Penalty on a tackle in stoppage time? Yes. They. did.
I found this awesome cell-phone account of the Bent PK and thought you should see it:
So Man City drop 5 points behind Chelsea. And yes, they already start talking about that in August. Get used to it.
In other news:
- Aston Villa and Everton played a very exciting match on Sunday on Fox Soccer Channel in brilliant High Definition from Villa Park. In a battle of USA goalkeepers, Brad Friedel outlasted TIm Howard. Great action, but man, Everton sure makes things difficult on themselves by playing so poorly early in the season.
- Chelsea and Man United march on; Arsenal survive at Blackburn with more Theo Walcott heroics.
- Fernando Torres rescued a garbage Liverpool effort at home against West Brom. 1-0? Seriously. We are that bad. But, Torres is that good. Practice this effort:
OK. Now the bad news that many of you will not understand/believe. It is already time for a break. One of many "international breaks" that you will see during this 9 month season. You see, international soccer is as important or more important than club soccer all over the world. And between World Cups there are other competitions and qualifications that are also going on. The best players get no breaks, but rather are flying all over the world to represent their country and then hurrying back to their club to resume play.
Imagine this in any other sport. The NBA has their players playing for club and country - but not in the same week! Dirk doesn't play for the Mavericks on Sunday, Germany on Wed and Saturday, and then hurry back to the Mavs for a game on Tuesday. But, anyone who is anyone in the EPL does exactly that.
And you have injuries all of the time in these scenarios. Last year, Fernando Torres missed big time for Liverpool because of a knock he sustained with Spain. It is part of the fun. That is why each club needs massive depth - not massive debt. Thanks, Tom Hicks.
Anyway, this week it is all about Euro 2012 Qualification. So, if you wish, Here is England's Schedule for its national team:
Sep 3, 2010 2:00pm England vs Bulgaria FSC UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying
Sep 7, 2010 1:45pm Switzerland vs England ESPN3.com UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying
Full Schedule: (keep in mind they list day/month/year when they do dates in the UK)
England Euro 2012 qualifying fixture dates:
3/9/10 England v Bulgaria
7/9/10 Switzerland v England
12/10/10 England v Montenegro
26/3/11 Wales v England
4/6/11 England v Switzerland
2/9/11 Bulgaria v England
6/9/11 England v Wales
7/10/11 Montenegro v England
By the way, every major soccer league in the world suspends play during these international windows....except MLS. They march on without their Dirk, Kobe, and LeBron in league matches. This is beyond insane and should be stopped immediately, but I am not here to list my 100 problems with MLS right now.
The US National Team does not play until October when it has some friendlies scheduled under Bob Bradley:
Oct. 9, 2010 U.S. Men vs. Poland 7 p.m. CT Soldier Field Fox Soccer Channel & Galavision
Oct. 12, 2010 U.S. Men vs. Colombia 8 p.m. ET Chester, Pa. ESPN2 & Galavision
Because I am short on time this week, I will only allow 1 email from Craig "Junior Spank" Miller:
They have the longest current tenure in the first division—by 35 years (over second place Everton)? Wow. Pretty amazing, no?
And—Tottenham is in North London. Tottenham FC would make sense to me. But what the hell is Hotspur—just a nickname?
Yes, Craig - Arsenal is the longest-tenured EPL team by a long, long way. According to my research resource Wikipedia , here is the list for when each of the 20 teams joined the big flight:
Longest Time In the English Top Flight
Well, an unsurpassed stint in the Top Flight covering the entire Post War period, not to mention the entire time Between Wars!
1. Arsenal (1919/20)
2. Everton (1954/55)
3. Liverpool (1962/63)
Children of the 1970s, Spurs & Devils!
4. Manchester United (1974/75)
5. Tottenham Hotspurs (1978/79)
Children of Thatcher -
6. Aston Villa (1988/89)
7. Chelsea (1989/90)
8. Fulham (2001/02)
9. Blackburn Rovrs (2001/02)
10. Bolton Wanderers (2001/02)
11. Manchester City (2002/03)
12. West Ham United (2005/06)
13. Wigan Athletic (2005/06)
14. Sunderland (2007/08)
15. Stoke City (2008/09)
16. Birmingham City (2009/10)
17. Wolverhampton (2009/10)
18. West Brom (2010/11)
19. Newcastle (2010/11)
20. Blackpool (2010/11)
Isn't it amazing that only 7 teams have been in the top flight more than 10 seasons straight? It is tough to stay up here once you get here. This is why teams aren't worried about finishing 1st. They are worried about finishing at least 17th.
And, why is Tottenham Hotspur called that?
Again, from Wiki:
Since the 1901 FA Cup final the Tottenham Hotspur crest has featured a gamecock. Harry Hotspur (from whom the club is said to take its name) was famed for his riding spurs and his fighting cocks were fitted with spurs which can be seen in the crests. In 1909 a former player named William James Scott made a bronze cast of a cockerel standing on a football to be placed on top of the West Stand and since then the cockerel and ball have been the major part of the club's identity.
I leave you with this unorthodox goal celebration:
See you in 2 weeks, next time we have EPL to discuss!