Sardar Azmoun: The Iranian Messi?

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Iran haven’t always been rated as one of football’s superpowers, but the nation has been on a bit of a rise recently. A very promising 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign in Brazil was followed up by an impressive Asian Cup performance this year, as they made the quarterfinal stage after topping their group with nine points. Indeed that Asian Cup performance raised many eyebrows, as a certain 20 year old stood out from the crowd.

That 20 year old is Sardar Azmoun, a talented and rather slightly built forward who has been ruffling a few feathers in the Russian Premier League. After moving into football at the age of nine he was offered his first professional contract with local side Sepahan, and although he didn’t made an appearance for the first team he did win the national title in 2012.

Despite never actually taking to the field two time Russian champions Rubin Kazan saw enough to take a punt on the 17 year old, and that’s where his rise really did begin. In his first season in Kazan head coach Kurban Berdyev opted to train him up with the youth team, and he eventually made his first team debut in July 2013 in a UEFA Europa League qualifier.

His first goal didn’t take long to come either, as in just his second game against Molde he found the net. That persuaded Rubin to give him more playing time, and he slowly became a first team mainstay scoring in the Russian league for the first time in October of the same year.

His gradual progress was already attracting attention from all around Europe, as Rubin came out and publically stated that he wasn’t for sale despite offers from the likes of Arsenal and Internazionale. Newspaper reports in Britain have been touting him as the ‘Iranian Messi’, and while that may be a bit steep, you can see the comparisons.

Just like his Argentinian counterpart Azmoun has a low sense of gravity, and is exceptional with the ball at his feet. A perfect example is his wonder goal against Qatar in the Asian Cup group stages, where he quite beautifully twisted away from his marker. His raw technical talent has pushed him to the fore of Asian talent, and just in January this year Liverpool and Tottenham were rumoured to having offered Rubin £5 million for his services.

And then something rather strange happened. In late February Rubin decided that for whatever reason he would be sent out on loan to struggling Rostov, a team that are languishing in 16th and last place of the Russian league. Why? Even I am struggling to work this one out. In Russia it made very few headlines, as few seemed bothered by the move.

The only problem in his game though, and a potential reason for the loan deal, is his lack of goals. Yes, he’s full of talent and ability, but this campaign he has hit the target only once (and that was back in August 2014). Rubin are a team that traditionally struggle for goals, and they will be hoping that Sardar can start scoring with more regularity with Rostov.

Even the fact that Rubin were prepared to loan him out shouldn’t put off potential buyers. He is still only 20 years old, and those flashes of potential which we have seen have been enough to show what he is capable of. The main question for him is when to make the move abroad.

In Russia you can progress to a certain extent, but to realise his potential to the full a move to Western Europe will be needed. Some players though go either too early and get lost somewhere along the line, or opt to go too late when nobody wants them. His technical ability would suit a team like Arsenal perfectly, however his small frame would make it difficult to compete in such a physically demanding league.

This summer will surely see more offers coming up, and if the price is right, Rubin will have no other option than to give up their hottest talent. The only issues that remain are when the right time to go is, and where is the best place to let his talent flourish. Two issues that are going to decide how big he is going to become.


Written by Shaun Nicolaides

Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93

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English Football League: A brief history of its beginnings and evolution

Tottenham’s Double-winning side of 1961

The English Football League kicked off with its first round of matches on September 8 1888. Conceived 6 months earlier in Anderton’s hotel, Fleet Street, London twelve teams from the midlands and north began their quest to be crowned the nation’s first champions.

That first season Preston North End became the original “invincibles”, winning the competition without losing a game. In addition to the league title they also added the FA Cup to their trophy cabinet that season as well, becoming the first side to record “the double” (It would be 73 years, during the 1960-61 season, before this feat would be repeated; by Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham Hotspur). Although Preston would retain the league championship the following season, the most successful 19th century team were in fact Aston Villa, who by the turn of the century had helped themselves to 5 titles.

No single side would dominate the early part of the 20th century, with 10 different teams having being crowned champions by 1923. However, that all changed when, starting with the 1923-24 season, Huddersfield Town recorded 3 successive championship victories. The first two of these were masterminded by Herbert Chapman, who then moved to Arsenal and built a team that would emulate this success in the 1930s.

Sadly Herbert never witnessed how great his team would become; dying prematurely from pneumonia in January 1934, midway through Arsenal’s hat-trick of titles that would conclude with victory in the 1934-35 season. (Incidentally, Chapman had already guided Arsenal to the top in 1930-31).

After a 7 year hiatus due to World War II the return of the competition coincided with Matt Busby taking the reins at Manchester United and building a team forever immortalised as the “Busby Babes”. However, in 1958 having won the league the two previous seasons, tragedy struck when eight team members, plus another 15 passengers and crew, were killed in the Munich air crash.

Barely surviving the disaster himself Busby eventually recovered and assembled another two-time championship winning team in the 1960s. Although, surprisingly, their 1966-67 success was to be United’s last with the league in its traditional format.

In 1970-71 Arsenal became the third “double” winning side although subsequently the 70s and 80s were to be dominated by Liverpool, who in the 15 seasons up to 1989-90, carried the trophy back to their Anfield home on ten occasions with teams guided by Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish. Dalglish’s first success, Liverpool’s own “double” winning season of 1985-86, being as player-manager. Although it should also be remembered that during this period Brian Clough, first with Derby County and then later with Nottingham Forest, became only the 2nd manager to win the league with two different clubs.

However, these decades were also the darkest times for English football. Hooliganism inside and outside the ground was rife, racism on the terraces was still prevalent and the three disasters at Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough meant that both attendances and sponsorship levels were dwindling.

It took the onset of all-seater stadia, and England’s thrilling, but ultimately heartbreaking, World Cup semi-final run in 1990 to re-ignite the public’s love for the game. The resurgence was swifter than anyone could have imagined as a nation, inspired by Gazza’s tears, regained its love for the game; so much so that by the time Leeds United became champions in 1991-92 big business was beginning to take an interest and the game in England was about to be overhauled.

Inspired by how fashionable the game was becoming, motivated by the marketing opportunities football now presented, and financed by Sky TV’s desire to sell its new satellite dishes, a fresh competition was to come into being that would turn the Football League into a second class citizen.

The Premier League was coming and it was to be “A Whole New Ball Game”….


Written by Owen Brooker

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Pre-season friendlies: Have they become a victim of football’s obsessive media scrutiny?

Pre-season friendlies are an established part of football’s close season. With the pressure of the various league competitions forcing clubs to be ready to hit the ground running, friendlies play an important role in ensuring players’ fitness and bedding in new signings.

Having spent several weeks with little to no physical exertion, footballers can be forgiven for being sluggish in their first few weeks of training. More than this, the summer transfer window sees the majority of teams face at least some upheaval in their squads, as departures need to be plugged and new faces accepted.

Additionally, coaches can play around with new formations and blood potential stars, luxuries not permitted in the ultra-competitive league format. Over recent years, however, friendlies have created more and more media interest.

Real Madrid’s pre-season match against Shamrock Rovers, featuring the debut of the one-and-only Cristiano Ronaldo, was a tepid affair, settled only by a late Benzema goal. Having spent over 180-million-pounds that summer, many expected Real to annihilate their opponents. The score, though, was not where the popular interest lay. The match was an exhibition, an opportunity for Real to showcase the attacking talent that they held, and to allow salivating fans their first chance of seeing Ronaldo in action.

More than this, the friendly served as a glorified fitness check, ensuring the Madrid players were in acceptable shape. Friendly in name only, this type of fixture does possess a serious drawback – the attitude of the opponents. Refusing to lie down and die, Shamrock attempted to match their superior foes through sheer physicality. Although an accepted part of football, a problem for managers is the risk of losing their star players to injury in an ultimately meaningless friendly.

Another footballing superpower, Manchester United, took a different approach to their pre-season preparations. Renowned for having a huge following in the Far East, United took the team to them, playing a series of fixtures in China. This not only swells their coffers in the short-term through merchandising, but also serves to raise their profile even higher.

Additionally, their friendlies against inferior opponents have allowed new summer signings acquired in previous years such as Michael Owen a chance to show his prowess by netting four goals in as many matches. This helped eases fans’ worries over his suitability for the team, and encouraged high hopes heading into that season. United’s financial gains were surely welcomed, but is this reason enough to justify the trip?

Every club must balance their accounts, but United may well have let greed choose an unsuitable pre-season. Another example of a pre-season friendly that raised the hopes of fans and players alike is provided by Villarreal’s 27-0 demolition of third-division Navata in 2009. Whilst United’s success on tour and Villarreal’s record-breaking victory can have a psychological impact on the team and the fans, that wasn’t why they were scheduled.

Results aren’t important in friendlies. An example of this: Newcastle’s 6-1 humiliation at the hands of League One side Leyton Orient. It was a result that hinted at the possibility of malaise gripping the club, but it doesn’t hide the talent still resting there. The fixture meant nothing to the players who would have shown more fight in a competitive match. Although it would have been another blow to severely weakened morale, that one result will have no effect on the club’s overall season.

Symbolic of the hyperbolic world of friendlies was the Wembley Cup, a competition featuring Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, Celtic and Egyptian Champions Al-Ahly. This served the traditional purpose of a pre-season competition by allowing players to adjust into vaguely competitive football again.

However, the marketing aspect of the competition demonstrated how serious friendlies could be, portraying a glorified training session as one of the prizes of European football. The crowds that swelled to Wembley (with a two-day ticket reaching £100) illustrated the moneymaking potential of pre-season, and football as a whole.

Friendlies should be merely opportunities for players to prepare for the upcoming campaigns. Instead, they become more victims of football’s obsessive media scrutiny. Victories and defeats should count for nothing, but are seized upon and used as evidence to praise or vilify players and teams. These stories are lapped up by fans, desperate for any indication of how their team will fare in the coming season.

The financial side of friendlies just demonstrates how commercial modern football is, with fans charged for the privilege of watching their team prepare.


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Football Betting Tips: The 85th minute bet

If you place a correct score bet in the 85th minute of a football match, you’ll typically receive odds of 1 to 2. Let’s say that Chelsea are playing Manchester United. With 85 minutes gone, the score’s still 0-0. If you bet £10 on the score remaining 0-0 and you’re right, you’ll receive your £10 stake back plus £5.

Bookies aren’t stupid and the reason that you get these odds is because you’ll typically win and lose often enough to wind up losing more than you win if you place a correct score bet in the 85th minute. However, with a little bit of nous and initiative, you can quite easily beat the odds and make this a highly profitable strategy.

Score draws are amongst the safest games to try this strategy out on. If a game is tied 2-2 in the 85th minute, chances are that both teams will be content to pick up a point and won’t bother going all out for the winner.

The Manchester United v Chelsea example is actually one of the worst to place a bet on. The English Premier League is the most watched football competition on the planet for a reason - it’s wildly exciting and unpredictable, and there’s far more likely to be a last minute winner, or even several goals in the dying minutes, in the EPL than in most football leagues. Typically the lower the prestige of a league, the less likely teams are to be gung-ho about grabbing a last gasp winner. The strategy is generally a lot more likely to succeed in, say, the Danish second division than it is in the English Premier League.

If a team’s scored early on and have been going all out to protect that lead since the early part of the game, the 85th minute correct score bet becomes an especially attractive proposition. If their opponents haven’t managed to overturn the advantage by the 85th minute, are they really likely to pull it off in the dying moments?

There are extenuating circumstances which should ward you off placing one of these bets. If a red card’s recently been issued, or if some other major event has upset the balance of the game, you’ll probably be better off leaving it. If a team scores an equalizer around the 80th minute, they’ll probably be more likely to be pushing for a winner at the tail-end of a game than if a draw had looked a likely outcome since the start.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule about not using this strategy for English Premier League games, especially when it concerns games like Manchester United v Chelsea. Top of the table teams are often happy to grind out a draw against each other rather than risk an important loss.

When Manchester City hosted their derby rivals United earlier in the 2010/11 season, Roberto Mancini never looked concerned with doing anything more than stopping United getting the full three points, while Alex Ferguson equally seemed to deem not losing to their fiercest rivals of far greater importance than going all out for a winner. In cases like this, when a game’s got draw written all over it, if nobody’s scored by the 85th minute, a 0-0 correct score bet is probably a fairly safe punt.

The key to making this strategy work is thinking it through. The most important thing is not to bet if you sense there may be more goals left in the game. The best way of using this strategy successfully is picking a low-scoring or fairly even game and then hoping that nothing dramatic occurs in the last few minutes.


Written by Tom Wilkins

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Everton and Aaron Lennon: A match in need of resurgence

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Aaron Lennon appeared glum as he posed for photographs with the Everton shirt he will be wearing for the rest of the season after his deadline day loan move. Everton sit twelfth in the table as they meander through a troubled campaign, boasting just 2 wins from their last 11 games and facing the potential loss of Kevin Mirallas, the brilliant Belgian winger who looks set to move on before entering the final year of his contract in the summer.

Lennon now has the opportunity to suggest to Roberto Martinez that he is indeed happy at Goodison Park, at fault of a lousy photographer, and can be a long-term option when the Toffees come to the hurdle of replacing Mirallas. The 4 month audition is likely to begin with Saturday evening’s Merseyside derby and it will present the 27 year old with the chance to rejuvenate his career after stagnating at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino.

Lennon has made just 3 Premier League starts from 9 appearances for Tottenham this season as Pochettino has preferred the habit of cutting-inside the full-back, prevalent in the likes of Andros Townsend, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, but not in Lennon, the throwback to the conventional style of charging at the defender on the outside and sending over crosses.

Electrifying pace has always been the most distinctive weapon in Lennon’s armoury, a trait that convinced Sven Goran Eriksson to take the winger up to the 2006 World Cup with England at the tender age of 19. 12 months earlier and Lennon had just sealed a £1 million from Leeds, with whom he became the youngest player to ever appear in a Premier League match, to Spurs and in his debut season with the London club he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, attracting even more hype to his talent. “We thought he was going to be an absolute superstar,” said Jamie Carragher on training with the teenager with England in 2006.

The early part of his career at White Hart Lane continued on that upward curve, receiving nominations for the PFA Young Player of the Year again in 2006-07 and 2008-09, the latter season also seeing him pick up Tottenham’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year gongs, as well as the supporter’s Young Player of the Year. A new five-year contract came in March alongside a recall to Fabio Capello’s England squad in the same week, with 2009 proving to be his most productive year with England as he earned 6 caps.

Lennon was then a young player in red-hot form, pushing for a regular spot with his country and was also a certified favourite with the Spurs fans, a point where he would find his career hit a zenith then betray his promise like the unforgiving nature of football so often can. It is indicative of his career’s stagnation that despite the level he was at during the latter end of the last decade, the 2008 League Cup remains his only professional honour to date.

Groin injuries would tamper his 2009-2010 campaign and though he made the cut for Capello’s squad for the 2010 World Cup, starts in the opening draws with USA and Algeria would be overshadowed by the collective destitution of England’s showing. Only 2 caps have followed since the debacle of South Africa as he has struggled with consistency for Spurs.

Rapid speed has always been a deceiving factor of Lennon’s play, over the course of his Premier League career he has developed a potent final-product and has registered 45 assists for Spurs in domestic competition, a figure only bettered by Darren Anderton’s 67. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded better crossing accuracy and more successful crosses than anybody at the club.

Last season Spurs’ interim coach Tim Sherwood would praise Lennon’s defensive contribution. “Until you’re in the job as a manager, you don’t appreciate him” he said, “what he does out of possession probably makes him the best defensive player we have got on the pitch. He is so diligent.” Those attributes will certainly appeal to Martinez at Everton, a coach that values intent in pressing and defending from the front as much as technical ability, as he requires his new player to subscribe to the club’s work-ethic as they ploy to climb from mid-table to compete for Europa League qualification.

To do that Martinez will be aware that Everton will need to be more productive going forward as all of the current top 8 have managed more than their 31 goals, and Lennon will be key in providing support to Mirallas, Ross Barkley, Steven Naismith and most importantly Romelu Lukaku, the £30 million striker who finds himself still facing the jury after managing just 7 goals since moving from Chelsea in the summer. Lennon will be required to provide solid cover to right-back Seamus Coleman as well as bomb forward to join in with attacks.

His lightning pace will allow him to do that, with the blistering run to set up Peter Crouch for Tottenham’s goal vs AC Milan in 2011 in the San Siro still fresh in the memory. That is the level that Lennon will be aiming to return to as he aims to stop being the forgotten man at Spurs. Everton will be desperately hoping he can come good on that aim.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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Harry Kane: Tottenham’s prodigy is coming of age

In previous seasons, he’s been used by Tottenham as somewhat of an impact player in the final minutes of the game or a starter in the Europa League when rotation was a necessity to improve their chances in the Premier League, but with the failure of recruitment from the upper echelons of the Tottenham hierarchy Harry Kane has now stepped up to the level that the fans at White Hart Lane have screamed desperately for after a rollercoaster of a season so far.

The 21 year old has shown how his unorthodox style of play can split defences at the most important time in games – the direct nature of his play, but still having superb technical ability throws off Premier League defenders every time and with the likes of Christian Erikson behind Harry Kane pulling the strings and always threading through the perfect pass, scoring and creating space is a perfect combination when both are performing well.

With 20 goals in all competitions this season, this is a testament to how well he developed under the right system that benefits his playing style, and most importantly, with 10 incredibly important goals in the Premier League, shows how integral he is becoming to the side at this stage at the season, with a respectable ratio of a goal every other game on average.

However, stats and statistics don’t do Harry Kane’s performances justice. His rise to first team football hasn’t just been because he can score the goals for Tottenham, but his outstanding enthusiasm for the team and ability to read the game so well for a forward is what sees him starting ahead of the likes of £28m man Roberto Soldado. It’s also because he’s willing to fight for the team, not just the narcissistic tenancies that surround the persona a goal scorer would usually have, and that is something you usually can’t buy on the transfer market.

The real coup of Harry Kane’s run in the first team is that it shows how powerful a youth academy can be when it seems like a disaster is looming and how vital these players can be with values and affection to the team that brought them into the footballing world from an early age.

It seems that value has been seen perfectly by the Tottenham boardroom with his new 5 year contract being signed recently. Let’s hope there is more impressive footballing displays to come.


Written by James Clark

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Tottenham: An infographic highlighting the club’s history and achievements

Below is an infographic highlighting Tottenham’s club history and successes since its establishment provided and designed by Reflect Digital on behalf of Aford Awards Football Trophies in conjunction with the official history team at Tottenham Hotspurs.


Tottenham Hotspur Club History

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Football/Sports Tips: How to Effectively Communicate With Your Players

Communication is key in any sport, especially team ones such as rugby and football, where the success of the club depends on effective management of large pools of talent. Keeping track of the well-being, health and fitness of each individual player is essential to manage your resources and ensure that the group on the pitch is able to get the best results. It can also help you to avoid injury, overrunning certain players in the build up to important events, and overseeing opportunities as they arise.


Face-to-Face Communication

Whether you are training or giving the team a talk during half time, it can be difficult to get your message across clearly both to the team as a whole, and individuals who need specific advice or criticism. Especially during intense situations such as games, mistakes made by players can be frustrating for the coach and manager, but a negative approach to communication can only have adverse effects. In any situation, try to build a criticism into a compliment. Tell them what they were doing well, then how they can improve their game, and you are much more likely to get a positive response.

Listening is as important for coaches and managers as it is for the players. Instead of giving them a 5-minute talk on where they have gone wrong and how they could improve, get them more actively involved in the conversation. Ask them where they think things went wrong, and talk through their situation to come to a solution. By being approachable and willing to hear what the athletes themselves have to say, you might also be surprised at how many of them are perfectly capable of self-diagnosis, and ask for advice of their own accord.


Interacting off the Pitch

However much you might try to cover every base in the time spent with your players, you inevitably can’t keep track of each player at all times. Yet understanding their feelings and physical situation is crucial to effective team management, and a passing comment during training from a player might easily get lost in the pipeline. Equipping your players and your organisation with sports performance management software allows you to interact off the pitch.

Your players can fill in surveys on their performance and fitness, whilst you can co-ordinate their training and development remotely, accessible on mobile devices to fit around the busy lives of every member of the organisation. By doing so, you can secure on-going communication with your team, and make sure that everything is professionally tracked and recorded.

In a modern world where mobile technology offers the opportunity to interact any time, anywhere, as a sporting organisation or individual, communication on the pitch is only one half of the picture today. Investment in sports performance management software and makes interaction with your players easier and more effective. Combined with an approachable and positive style of coaching and management, you can get the best out of your team to watch the success speak for itself.


Article by Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, freelance copywriter from Yorkshire. Kelly loves the great outdoors, interesting places and fine foods. You can follow her on Twitter at @KellyGGrassam. This article is written with support from The Sports Office.

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English Premier League: My Over-30 All-Star XI

Formation: 4-3-1-2


GK: Petr Čech

He may no longer be the Chelsea’s first choice, but let’s face it, there aren’t many teams in the world whose starting XI wouldn’t include Čech if they had the choice. With his height and agility, Čech has made hardly any mistakes whatsoever in his ten years in the Premier League, and there can be no complaints from fans at his service. A fantastic servant with perhaps one of the Premier League’s wisest brains to add.


RB: Branislav Ivanovic

Another blue comes in at right-back, this time in the form of Branislav Ivanovic. Now, this time last year I probably would have put Bacary Sagna in here, but the Frenchman has not yet managed to make the Manchester City right-back position his own, and so I’d view Sagna in this team as not quite fair. So, I’ve gone for Ivanovic who has been at his best so far this season. As a Centre-back for much of his career but with the power and energy to get forward, Ivanovic is perfect for Chelsea as he is great defensively but can additionally link up with the attacking trio Mourinho loves to play.


CB: Per Mertesacker 

Mertesacker only just makes this team, having turned 30 just a few weeks ago. Upon him joining Arsenal in 2011, many claimed he didn’t have the pace to be successful in the Premier League, but he’s certainly shored up and toughened up the Arsenal defence since his arrival. It wasn’t long ago that Arsenal fans used to dread every corner and throw-in, but such an issue has been reduced by the aerial presence of the man his fans call the BFG.


CB: John Terry

If I was writing a list of underrated players, I would probably include John Terry there as well. You see the quality of this 34 year-old whenever he’s not there, and I for one believe England would have done better if he was there at the World Cup. In big games, I feel there is no better centre-back, just look at how he played against Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal last season.


LB: Paul Konchesky

I’ll admit Konchesky isn’t one of the most flashy, pacy, or powerful left-backs in the League, but he’s got all the positional awareness and experience his club Leicester need to thrive. He hasn’t always been at his best over the past four to five seasons, but he has this year, and at 33 he’s proving that a player can hit his peak again, even after a disappointing spell at Liverpool.


CM: Gareth Barry

Towards the end of his time at Manchester City, Barry looked somewhat lost, as he was pushed out and unlikely to get a starting place ahead of the dynamic Fernandinho. However, the loan move to Everton which followed only added to his repertoire as he put in some marvellous midfield displays to help Everton to fifth. Technically gifted in spite of his primarily defensive role, Barry is one man to never underestimate.


CM: Frank Lampard

Many thought Lampard was past Premier League fitness when he was released by Chelsea in the summer, but since joining Manchester City on loan, he’s looked very much capable. Technical ability and his excellent timing seem never to leave Frank, and it was a typical Lampard goal which saw him level for his new club against his former club last month.


CM: Yaya Toure

I’ll admit that few of these players over 30 would get in a current best Premier League XI, but Yaya Toure would in a significant number of people’s books. Few adjectives haven’t been used to describe Yaya Toure on the playing field so I won’t bore you with those, but believe it, he is a certified game changer on his day. The goals he scored provides a great deal too, and I certainly feel he’s at his best when in the centre of an attacking trio with a double pivot behind him


AM: Tomas Rosicky

Rosicky, a Czech international, is one of those players who arguably gets better with age. Technically superb, Arsene Wenger appears to love the balance he brings in the big games, and he’s always a threat from free-kicks and corners too. Arguably one of the most underrated players in the League, he may struggle to play as much this season due to the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, but this is still one potentially decisive player.


ST: Robin Van Persie

It’s been an odd last 12 months for Robin van Persie. Idolised by almost everyone in the years of Fergie, but his injury-hit 2013/14 calmed down the fan-fare. Still, van Persie is deadly, and probably one of the most technically gifted of the Premier League era. Like Rosicky, a starting place may be harder to come by with loan signing Falcao now in the Manchester United squad, but someone with van Persie’s ability shouldn’t fear this, he should relish it.


ST: Emmanuel Adebayor

Many don’t think of Adebayor as 30, but he is and he’s still a regular starter for Tottenham. As controversial as he is a respected Premier League scorer (see Arsenal fans), Adebayor still threatens Premier League defences. He came in slightly raw and not so confident, but now his movement and reading of the game is arguably his biggest strength. Tottenham fans still owe Tim Sherwood for bringing him back in from the cold last season.



Written by Joshua Sodergren

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Football Entertainment: Soccer Saturday Bingo

Soccer Saturday is a football institution in the UK and Ireland and has been ever since its inception in 1992. Broadcast on Sky Sports, the premise of the program is simple in that there is a host and four studio guests that review the Saturday afternoon football matches that play as they happen. There are also roving reporters at many of the other matches around the country and these are visited throughout the afternoon.

While the premise would make the program sound boring, the fact that it has been on air for 22 years is down to the on screen chemistry of the host, Jeff Stelling, and the studio guests makes the program watchable each and every week. The studio guests are currently former Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, former Arsenal defender Paul Merson, ex Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and Celtic and Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas.

As a result of the on screen chemistry between the five in the Soccer Saturday studio as well as their familiarity with each other as well as the passion of these football men appearing while watching the matches we are often treated to a display of football analysis that is usually reserved for time spent in the pub with your mates, except on prime time TV!

The nature of the program, as well as the occasion faux pas from the studio guests, has led to many spin offs for people to join in at home. The most famous of this is the Soccer Saturday drinking game where shots of beer or Jagermeister are to be drunk at times of different things happening during the program.

However, for those of us that do not want to spend our Saturday afternoon’s getting heavily drunk we have come up with a bingo version of the game that allows you to play the same game without being unable to function for Saturday evening!

To play, just print off this bingo card from Butlers Bingo or write down the below situations and hand them out to all of the people playing the game. The winner is the first person to get all of their situations to appear on screen.

  • A goal is scored
  • A sending off
  •  Half time
  • Chris Kamara is talking
  • Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (i.e.”he’s hit the beans on toast”!)
  • Swindon Town appear on the vidiprinter
  • Dundee appear on the vidiprinter
  • Phil Thompson says ‘Stevie Gerrard’
  • Jeff makes an ‘A Trialist’ joke
  • Your team scores two goals
  • Jeff calls Kenny Deucher ‘The Good Doctor’
  • Hartlepool score a goal
  • A pundit shouts off camera
  • LeTiss is mentioned in connection with a takeaway
  • Chris Kamara says “it’s unbelievable Jeff”
  • Jeff mentions “dancing in the streets of TNS
  • Jeff says “its Doom and Gloom at…”
  • The team ‘Keith’ is referred to as just being one guy
  • Brighton & Hove, or Daggers & Redbridge are jokingly referred to as two different teams playing the same oppo
  • When Arbroath striker Kevin Webster scores and Stelling says “ohh, Sally will be pleased”
  • Something bad happens to Craig Bellamy (injury, og, booked, arrested for assault etc.)
  • Northampton Town appear on the vidiprinter.
  • Jeff sings “I feel good” when James Brown scores for Hartlepool

These are just a taste of the situations that occur during Soccer Saturday, and feel free to add more of your own making to spice up for your Soccer Saturday bingo session! Once you’ve played this, jump online to play free games at any bingo site. You can win big and use it to spice up your Soccer Saturday fun!

Would you prefer to just play football instead of sitting at home? So basically you want to be a professional footballer? Click here!


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