All in the game


A Soccer Miscellany...

Merchandise of the week

A couple of weeks ago – and we’re certain you’re still grateful – we told you about the black and white striped “Adult Onesie” (aka BabyGro) for sale in the Newcastle United online store. Well, it’s always nice to see clubs specifically targeting their female followers too, so hats off to Newcastle for their lovely “NUFC Toon Totty Dress”. Be warned, though: “The mini topper hat is not included”, but you can buy it separately if you think it’s essential to complete the look.

Match of the day: Stirling manager in clash of fixtures

Greig McDonald’s wedding was on, of all days, Saturday. And while he was doing his “I do” thing, the club he manages, Stirling Albion, were beating Rangers, of all people.

When the 30-year-old was planning his big day with fiancee Jennifer Phin, Stirling were due to be playing Stranraer, which he didn’t seem to be too pushed about missing. But then after Rangers’ summer woes, the fixture list was changed and Stirling were paired with the Glasgow behemoths on the day.

“I asked Jen to put the wedding back, but she was having none of it,” he said. “Some things are more important than football, though,” he lied.

He had the team well prepared, though, so he can at least take some credit for their display. “It has been a lot easier to find out information on Rangers than it was on last week’s Scottish Cup opponents Dalbeattie Star,” he said.

You’d imagine so.

Mind games: Mancini has the perfect solution for Balotelli's problems

“Mario needs two. And then after that, another two.” – Roberto Mancini on being asked if Mario Balotelli needs a psychiatrist.

“I don’t know if it is the best performance in football history, but he did very well.” – Mancini again, this time not getting too carried away by Joe Hart’s performance against Borussia Dortmund.

“The moment I realised it was a penalty, I was so sad. I thought I was in a nightmare and asked myself: ‘What can I do? Cut my hands off?’” – Dortmund’s Neven Subotic on conceding that penalty against City.

“I have no immediate intention to relieve anybody of their duties.” – Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell giving manager Paul Groves a vote of confidence. (Two days later? Yep, Groves was clearing out his desk).

“Maybe it’s because I don’t speak English or something.” – Luis Suarez trying to figure out why Liverpool’s young players don’t ask him for advice.

“We have CVs coming in, it is not as bad a club as people make out.” – Shebby Singh, Blackburn’s “global advisor”, might just need to brush up on his selling techniques.

“Nani is not the type to dive. He has never been that type of player.” – Who said Alex Ferguson doesn’t have a sense of humour?

“Unless someone’s built him up into being Zinedine Zidane, I don’t know how he got that move. He’ll do well to play football and if he’s not playing, will Joey be happy? We’ll probably find out on Twitter.” – Chris Waddle wishing Barton bonne chance. He reckons he’ll need it.

Booked up: Mourinho sees the funny side of Inter days

Jose Mourinho reminiscing fondly about his time managing Mario Balotelli. “I could write a book of 200 pages of my two years at Inter with Mario, but the book would not be a drama – it would be a comedy.

“I remember one time when we went to play Kazan in the Champions League. In that match I had all my strikers injured . . . I was really in trouble and Mario was the only one. Mario got a yellow card in the 42nd minute, so when I got to the dressing room at half-time I spent about 14 minutes of the 15 available speaking only to Mario. I said to him: ‘Mario, I cannot change you, I have no strikers on the bench, so don’t touch anybody and play only with the ball. If we lose the ball, no reaction. If someone provokes you, no reaction. If the referee makes a mistake, no reaction.’ What happened next? The 46th minute – red card.”

Gary's gaffe: Lineker apology

It wasn’t the silkiest of moments for Gary Lineker on television last week when he was doing a round-up of Wednesday’s Champions League action. After Karim Ait-Fana had scored the opening goal for Montpellier against Schalke he and team-mate Younes Belhanda celebrated by kneeling down in prayer, Lineker saying: “A terrific effort from Karim Ait-Fana who scored from just outside the area – and then ate grass . . . as you do.”

At that point, it seems, the switchboard became a touch jammed, viewers complaining that Lineker had displayed a certain degree of ignorance about the fact that the two men concerned are Muslim and that the celebration is common among players of their faith.

He apologised – well, kind of – on Twitter (“I’m sorry but I’m not aware of every player’s religion”), but the BBC insisted the matter had nothing to do with them. Lineker wasn’t working for the BBC on the night, he was fronting Al Jazeera’s Champions League coverage, his contract with the BBC allowing him to do a little moonlighting.

Real rifts: Mourinho leaves all none the wiser

Real Madrid have been busy playing down rumours of a falling out between Jose Mourinho and Sergio Ramos, rumours that were heightened when Ramos wore Mesut Ozil’s shirt under his own in the second half of their league game against Deportivo La Coruna.

Ozil had been taken off at half-time and the gesture was seen as an act of defiance against Mourinho’s decision to substitute the German, the assumption being Ramos would whip off his own shirt to reveal Ozil’s if he scored. He didn’t, so we’ll never know for sure.

Any truth in the rumour?

“My relationship with my wife is better than my relationship with Sergio Ramos,” said Mourinho, “but my relationship with him is better than it is with people who I do not work with and who I do not share my day with everyday.”

So, we were none the wiser.

What of talk that goalkeeper Iker Casillas was the man who leaked news of the rift to the press?

“According to some article I’m a snitch. Yes, of course, I am a snitch,” he replied. “And by the way, I was also the snitch in the Watergate case.”

And you thought Deep Throat was FBI deputy director Mark Felt?


Straight talk: Deschamps tells Wenger who' boss

There was a bit of a to-do last week between Arsene Wenger and French coach Didier Deschamps over Abou Diaby, Wenger insisting that the player should not have been picked for recent internationals because of fitness concerns.

Deschamps replied forcefully enough – “I want to remind him that I am the only one to decide who will be picked and how long those who are picked will play, there is only one to decide and it’s me” – but Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin, as is his habit, was especially candid on the affair, according to yesterday’s Observer: “Wenger should mind his own arse and busy himself with running that English club of his. He talks so much rubbish, Mister ‘I’m always right’, what a pain. He should stop pissing us off in France.”

That’s Arsene told.

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