Bobby’s Bets

Why FIFA Should Turn to Romario
The Brazil legend is now a respected politician who fights corruption

by Rob Shepherd.

Brazil legend Romario is the man to become the new FIFA president and force real root and branch reform of football’s shamed world governing body.

Deluded Sepp Blatter, who announced he would stand down after serious allegations of corruption, racketeering and bribery emerged just days after he was ridiculously re-elected, somehow thinks he can start the process of reform himself.

Really..? Or has he just been clinging to power in his office these last few days to operate the paper shredder and bury the bodies..?

That so many officials and delegates stayed loyal to Blatter indicates that the corruption is a cancer that has spread across much of FIFA’s body.

Romario is respected for his anti-corruption stance

Romario is respected for his anti-corruption stance

Only a completely new man can come in and revolutionize the regime.

Why Romario..?

Well he knows the game as one of the all time great players. And since retiring he has become a power figure in Brazilian politics, constantly battling against corruption.

Indeed he is part of a congressional probe into whether Nike and other sponsors influenced the selection of Brazil players since 1998.

A World Cup winner in 1994 and Brazil’s third highest all time scorer behind Ronaldo and Pele, Romario would command instant respect of the decent football community around the world and he can handle the politics too.

In Brazil he is known as a man of the people even after moving into politics.

And if he wanted a solid citizen experienced football administrator alongside him then there would be no one better than former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, who demonstrated his principles by resigning from his role at FIFA’s top table as soon as Blatter was re-elected.

Gill is undoubtedly untarnished by the allegations so many FIFA officials face and would help guide Romario through the tangled web of FIFA’s structure and also be a conduit with the powerful brokers in European club football and UEFA.

Interestingly Romario was strong enough to say exactly what he thought about FIFA under Blatter when he wrote the forward to a book called “Omerta:Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organized Crime Family” written by the journalist Andrew Jennings who helped the FBI and the Swiss Authorities make the moves which have exposed FIFA and brought Blatter down.

It’s time football was run by a real football man interested in the good of the game and its fans not the greed of beaurocrats. Indeed, it would be apt if it was a Brazilian who restored faith in the “beautiful game” rather than the bribery game it became under the Blatter regime.

@Shep_62

Odds For The FIFA Presidency

Prince Ali Al-Hussein       5/4

Michel Platini                     5/4

Sheik Ahmad Al-Sabah    9/2

David Gill                           10/1

Michael van Praag            10/1

Chung Mong Joon            12/1

Luis Figo                             14/1

Arsenal v Villa Classics
FA Cup Final odds PLUS two crackers from 1991

Tim Sherwood is bidding the become only the second English manager since 1995 to lift the FA Cup.

In that year it was Joe Royle’s “Dogs of War” who were cast as underdogs but beat Manchester United who had just begun their era of dominance with a 1-0 win the goal scored by Paul Rideout.

Since then only Harry Redknapp has got his hands on the grand old trophy when his Portsmouth side beat Cardiff 1-0 in 2008.

John Gregory had a chance in 2000 but by his own admission the then Villa boss was too cautious in his approach and was beaten 1-0 by Chelsea with Roberto di Matteo getting the only goal.

Given his character Sherwood is likely to “give it a go” but would settle for a dour 1-0 win as he sets out to make his mark in management, Villa having last won the trophy way back in 1957 when they beat Manchester United 2-1.

William Hill offer a generous looking 6/1 for an Aston Villa win with Arsenal 4/7 with 1-0 to the Villa 20/1.

First goalscorer..?

Christian Benteke – who could end up as a Gunner next season if as seems likely he is sold by Villa this summer – is 8-1 with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud favourite at 6/1.

(More odds below)

Ahead of their meeting in the FA Cup Final, BOBBY remembers two great games between The Villa and The Arsenal from the same year, 24 years ago;

Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa, April 3rd 1991, FL Division One

Arsenal were two points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the First Division table and with a game in hand on the Reds as they welcomed struggling Aston Villa to Highbury in April 1991. Villa’s task was daunting – the Gunners had only lost two games all season in all competitions (to United in the League Cup and to Chelsea in the League) although a defeat to Spurs int he FA Cup would soon follow. Action is below (lookout for a cameo between the sticks from Dave Platt) Brian Moore is the commentator.

ARSENAL: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, David Hillier, Paul Davis, Paul Merson, Anders Limpar, Kevin Campbell, Alan Smith – Subs; Perry Groves for Merson, Michael Thomas for Hillier

ASTON VILLA: Nigel Spink, Chris Price, Andy Comyn, Derek Mountfield, Paul McGrath, Kevin Gage, Gordon Cowans, David Platt, Gary Penrice, Ian Ormondroyd, Tony Cascarino – Sub; Mark Blake for Nigel Spink

 

Aston Villa 3-1 Arsenal, August 24th, 1991, FL Division One

THIS was a sweet victory for Ron Atkinson’s team – and it came against the reigning League Champions, who had lost only once during the whole 1990-91 campaign.

Villa had won one and drawn one of their opening two League matches under Ron Atkinson – and were keen to make amends for a midweek home defeat at the hands of Big Ron’s old club, Manchester United – this after having won away against Atkinson’s previous side, Sheffield Wednesday, on the first Saturday of the League season.

Atkinson sprang a surprise before the kick-off against the Gunners by including 18-year-old former West Bromwich Albion defender Ugo Ehiogu for his first full game of his career, and also in the side a fit-again Tony Daley, who had figured in only three games since February.

In front of a near-30,000 crowd, the match was played at a cracking pace in a cup-tie atmosphere.

ASTON VILLA: Nigel Spink, Steve Staunton, Ugo Ehiogu, Shaun Teale, Paul McGrath, Gordon Cowans, Paul Mortimer, Kevin Richardson, Cyrille Regis, Tony Daley – Subs; Chris Price for Staunton, Dwight Yorke for Penrice

ARSENAL: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Andy Linighan, David O’Leary, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, Paul Merson, David Rocastle, Anders Limpar, Alan Smith – Subs; Michael Thomas for Rocastle, Perry Groves for O’Leary

THE CUP FINAL ODDS

Arsenal     4/17   Draw   3/1   Aston Villa   6/1

Selected Bets:

Arsenal to come from behind to win: 7/1, Villa 18/1.

Villa to lead at half-time and fail to win: 10/1

Arsenal   3-1  Aston Villa: 12/1

Arsenal   2-2  Aston Villa:  18/1

Arsenal  1-2  Aston Villa: 18/1

Alexis Sanchez to score first goal: 4/1

Agbonlahor to score first goal: 9/1

Match to go to penalties: 11/2

Odds courtesy of William Hill

 

 

 

Who Next For City…?
Pelligrini on the way out of Manchester

Rumours that Manchester City are lining up Pep Guardiola to take over from Manuel Pelligrini have intensified following a report from the well sourced Middle East sports station BeIn sport that a “deal has been done”. But both City and Guardiola’s current employers Bayern Munich both issued hasty denials.

Up until his announcement to the contrary on Monday lunchtime the bookies were convinced Guardiola would be City’s next permanent manager, Sky Bet offering the hugely short odds of 1/5.

Next in the frame is Jurgen Klopp at at 7/1, then Carlo Ancelotti at 10/1, Patrick Viera 10/1 and Diego Simeone at 20/1.

If nothing else the odds highlight how Guardiola is currently revered as the world’s best coach – some naively salivating at the extent of the man’s powers.

Yes he is obviously a top coach but as Lionel Messi proved last week it’s magic players that ultimately make the difference now know matter how clever the boss is with his coaching wand.

After all it helped Guardiola no end to have magic man Messi to build his reputation as a coach when he took up his first senior managerial role at Barcelona.

To be fair to Guardiola – and this is one of his strengths – he is not sucked in by the all froth and hype that see some assert he has mystical powers of some sort. Indeed before last week’s Champions League first leg clash between Bayern and Barca at his old Nou Camp stomping ground Guardiola warned that it was virtually impossible to stop Messi.

On that front Guardiola was proved correct as Messi triggered Bayern’s late collapse with two superbly executed goals then set up Neymar to make it 3-0 and seemingly put the tie beyond Bayern and take Barca to the final.

But as brilliant as Messi was again Bayern were authors of their own demise and that was partly down to Guardiola.

He conceded he had got his tactics wrong at the start by switching from a back three to a back four after just 15 minutes with Bayern all over the shop.

It seemed strange that a man with such intimate knowledge of the Barca way could have got his strategy so wrong from the outset.

Guardiola was quick to re-group which displayed his ability to act decisively from the touchline. Another of his many attributes.

But his insistence on playing such a high line defensively against forwards such as Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar seemed destined to be punished. So it proved. And savagely . It caused Gary Lineker to slam the strategy as naïve.

tevez_0

Juve take a small lead with them to Madrid

There would seem no way back for Bayern but for those who believe in Guardiola the Guru then Bet 365 are offering 25/1 for them to win 3-0 and take the game into extra time.

The other semi final is obviously more finely balanced with Juventus taking a 2-1 lead to Real Madrid.

It’s bound to be tense and Madrid showed signs of feeling the strain when they only drew 2-2 with Valencia to put Barca in command of La Liga.

Juve know how to defend in the grand Italian tradition of Catanacio, so 0-0 at 12/1 is worth considering.

A 2-1 Bayern win taking the game into extra time is 9/1.

 

Arsenal v Chelsea
Latest Odds PLUS Fantastic Four: Classic Past encounters

Selected Match Odds

ARSENAL   29/20   DRAW   9/4   CHELSEA  19/10

First Goalscorer: Sanchez 5/1, Welbeck 11/2, Hazard 6/1, Drogba 7/1, Fabregas 11/1

Correct Score: Ars 1-0 Che: 7/1, Ars 1-1 Che: 6/1, Ars 1-2 Che: 10/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Anytime Drawcast – Alexis Sanchez to score anytime & match ends in a draw at 10/1

odds courtesy of William Hill.

 

FANTASTIC FOUR – CLASSIC ARSENAL v CHELSEA PAST ENCOUNTERS

Arsenal 2-4 Chelsea – March 1964

There was turmoil at The Bridge when Tommy Docherty took charge of Chelsea after Ted Drake was dismissed following a series of mid-table finishes and a woeful start to the 61-62 campaign, but he was unable to turn things around and at the end of the season Chelsea were relegated. But they bounced straight back with a side built around Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Terry Venables, and their young captain Bobby Tambling.

Their first season back with the big guns was magnificent for such a young team – the standout result being a 4-2 win at Highbury.

The Arsenal team was built around the attacking talents of George Eastham, Joe Baker and George Armstrong, and they still held faint hopes of maintaining a title challenge. But they were found wanting as Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals on a mudbath, capitalising on three mistakes by Ian Ure, the other a delightful lob.

Chelsea finished in fifth, three places ahead of Arsenal. Docherty’s side were anointed as one of the teams of the decade and went on to capture the League Cup a year later. Arsenal on the other hand descended into a dark period under Billy Wright, not only losing their way but also their white sleeves in the process.

Highbury1964

Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals in the mud of Highbury

 

Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea – April 1979

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Both teams began the 70’s in fine style; Arsenal won the league and Cup Double in 1971, only to drift. Chelsea followed up their 1970 FA Cup win with the Cup Winners’ Cup a year later – and then decided to expand Stamford Bridge with a massive East Stand. Up went the stand, and down went Chelsea.

One of their stars of the 1960s Eddie McCreadie led Chelsea back up with a team built around Ray Wilkins. Boardroom unrest meant McCreadie was replaced by another star of the previous decade, Ken Shellito, before Danny Blanchflower was tasked with keeping the Blues in the top flight.

But in 1978-79, Chelsea won only five league games all season, the knockout blow being landed with a spectacular flourish by Arsenal. David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton (2), Alan Sunderland and David Price sent Chelsea down – with the west Londoners’ only relief coming from terrace favourites Clive Walker and Tommy Langley.

 

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – February 1991

Dixon scored the winner

Dixon scored the winner

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went unbeaten in their title triumph of 2003/04 of course. But that achievement could have been old news had Chelsea not beaten George Graham’s Gunners in February of 1991, 23 years earlier, which proved to be their only league defeat of the season as they clinched the title by seven points.

In a tight match, Chelsea seized control in the second half thanks to Graham Stuart’s header into an almost unguarded net after Winterburn’s mistake, and late on the Arsenal defence was in tatters as Kerry Dixon tapped in after being set up by Damien Matthew to send The Shed into raptures.

Alan Smith’s smart finish pulled one back, but it came so late the away fans could barely muster a cheer. Invincibility would have to wait…

 

Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal – October 1999

Nwankwo Kanu is a curious character, the embodiment of unfulfilled possibilities some would say. Despite his frustrating, languid style and unspectacular goal scoring record he is a cult figure to Arsenal fans everywhere – thanks largely to this game.

Chelsea seemed to have the game all sewn up shortly after half time when Dan Petrescu added to Tore Andre Flo’s 39th minute strike. But Arsenal’s lanky Nigerian striker had other ideas, scoring an exquisite 15 minute hat-trick. His first two goals were all about his control and delicate touch, but it’s his 90th-minute winner that will really live long in the memory.

It looked like the chance had gone after he’d chased down Albert Ferrer’s stray clearance, but dribbling past a stranded Ed de Goey, Kanu whipped the ball over an array of Chelsea defenders into the far top corner from an impossible angle, sending Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler into a fits, screeching the famous line: “Can you believe it?!”

KanuHT

Kanu believe it?!? Chelsea couldn’t…

@KGHof

Chelsea v United Preview
PLUS 2 CLASSIC GAMES: Dixon ends title hopes & Violett the hat-trick hero

by Karl Hofer.

CHELSEA v UNITED: TWO CLASSICS

80’s Away Day

Kerry-Dixon-1

Dixon netted a brace to end United’s title hopes

Perhaps one of the most painful defeats for United at the hands of Chelsea was The Blues 2-1 win at Old Trafford in April of 1986. Despite Everton and Liverpool breaking away from the chasing pack, both clubs were still grimly hanging on in the title race but neither side were in any kind of form going into this meeting. Chelsea were squandering away the games they had in hand on the leaders, having just been slapped 4-0 at home by fellow contenders West Ham and (even more disastrously) 6-0 away to neighbours QPR.

United meanwhile were starting to resemble that depressed drunk guy at the end of a night out, now rambling to themselves in the corner with bottle in hand having initially arrived as the life and soul of the party. They had seen a 10 point lead at Christmas dissolve into nothing and now Ron Atkinson’s side knew their long wait for the title would continue for sure unless they won this one. This was make-or-break for both clubs.

After a goalless first half, Kerry Dixon beat the offside trap to score his first goal for four months. United then equalised through a Jesper Olsen penalty, big Doug Rougvie doing what he did best; this time sending Hughes crashing to the floor in the area. But Dixon had the final say in the dying moments to knock United out of the title race and send the many thousands of travelling fans into delirium and the home fans into despair. The future looked bright momentarily for John Neal’s team but Chelsea would subsequently win only one of their last seven games to finish in sixth spot.

United’s poor form continued through the beginning of the following season, and with the club languishing at the foot of the table in November manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed – with Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox taking over that same day.

One to Eleven!

Without question the greatest match between the sides was an 11 goal thriller at Stamford Bridge back in October 1954. Ted Drake had taken over Chelsea in 1952 and had been busy trying to rid them of their image, one that saw them as the butt of many a comedian’s jokes in the music-halls up and down the land. Out went the nickname ‘The Pensioners’, replaced with the more respectable ‘Blues’. Also dispatched was the affable septuagenarian on the clubs crest. This was a new Chelsea, one that Drake was instilling with a winning mentality.

To that end Drake drafted in solid defenders Peter Sillett and future England boss Ron Greenwood, plus striker Roy Bentley. As a consequence the team established itself in the top flight and were no longer involved in relegation battles, but nobody expected more than a safe mid-table position when the 1954-55 season came round.

The favourites for the title were reigning champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Matt Busby’s upcoming Manchester United side.

DennisViolett

Dennis Violett was a hat-trick hero

The game on October 16th was a glowing confirmation of the emergence of the attacking prowess of the ‘Busby’s Babes’. The visitors went 1-0 up with Dennis Viollet opening the scoring but a pair of unknown amateurs making their debuts returned fire as Seamus O’Connell equalized before the Thermos-flask seller Jim Lewis put the home side 2-1 up. Tommy Taylor and then Viollet put United back in front 2-3, a lead they held at half-time.

The same pair in the same order, Taylor and then Viollet (completing his hat-trick) seemed to have put Matt Busby’s side out of sight at 2-5 but then Ken Armstrong pulled one back for Chelsea. Jackie Blanchflower looked to have sealed the points when he made it 3-6, but cattle-farmer O’Connell then scored twice to record a famous debut hat-trick and set up a grandstand finish, but United’s shaky defence clung on for an extraordinary 5-6 triumph.

Chelsea lost their next two games – completing a run of six games without a win – to end October in 12th place, Wolves having taken over from United at the top. But then Drake’s Ducklings got their act together losing only four more games all season as they stormed up the table and, beating Wolves home and away, shocked the nation to win the title. Their last defeat of the season was at Old Trafford – but by then the title, Chelsea’s first trophy in their 50 year history, had been won.

The Busby Babes would have to wait to make their mark on English football’s roll of honour.

The Odds

CHELSEA  v  MANCHESTER UNITED, Saturday April 18th, 5.30pm

If you fancy a repeat of that 5-6 scoreline then you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that William Hill are offering a handsome 500-1 on it. Realistically the game is set to be a much tighter affair. A confident United (3/1) will be keen to unnerve Chelsea (10/11) early on, imposing their own game on the blues. The first goal of the game could prove critical.

EdenHazard

Hazard: Game changer

There will be a lot of mutual respect, both managers know each other extremely well having worked together previously at Barcelona and Mourinho will be keen not to concede an inch to LVG – So Bobby’s Bets recommends a draw at 5/2, with a 1-1 final scoreline at 6/1.

Diego Costa is missing from Chelsea’s starting line-up and Loic Remy is fighting to be fit – he’s 4/1 to open the scoring if he makes it. You could opt for Oscar (13/2) or Fabregas (9/1)  but the 9/2 on offer for the penalty-taking and in-form Eden Hazard looks the better value.

If you think one of the visiting team will strike first than Wayne Rooney is the favourite at  13/2 with van Persie at 15/2 and Radamel Falcao at 9/1. But the man in form is the big Belgian Marouane Fellaini who is 9/1 to be the first scorer. If you fancy Juan Mata to do a ‘Frank Lampard’ then you can get 10/3 for the Spaniard as ‘anytime goalscorer’ against his old club.

Bobby’s Bet of the Day: 11/1 for Eden Hazard to score at anytime and the game to end a draw (Anytime Drawcast).

Odds courtesy of William Hill.

@KGHof

Manchester Derby Preview
PLUS: The Magnificent Seven – Classic Matches Over The Years

By Rob Shepherd.

Manchester United v Manchester City, Old Trafford, Sunday April 12th 4pm

united-cityThis Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford will be the 169th competitive meeting between City and United, and so far The Reds have secured 69 victories while The Blues have 49 and there have been 50 draws.

City are in desperate need of a win having seemingly fallen too far behind Chelsea in the title race, they now need to focus on holding United and Arsenal off to claim second spot.

It would certainly enhance LVG’s standing around Old Trafford if he could guide them to runners-up in his first year, regaining Champions League status without the need of a qualifier.

United are 6/4 to win with Paddy Power who have a City win at 9/5.

The draw is 23/10. On that front Bobby’s Bets likes the look of a 2-2 draw at 12/1.

We also like the look of United to come from behind to win at 10/1.

For further inspiration here is a trawl back at seven magnificent encounters between the Manchester rivals over the years.

1. Manchester United 4 Manchester City 1, August 1957
Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, David Pegg, Liam Whelan, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor would all feature for United – five months later all of them perished in the Munich air disaster. Goals from Edwards, Taylor, Johnny Berry and Dennis Viollet maintained United’s perfect start to the season in what was the last Manchester derby before the tragedy in Germany.

2. Manchester City 3-3 Manchester United, November 1971
Sheikh Mansour’s deep pockets have led to a return to the days of the early 70’s when the blues and the reds met as equals. United were top and City third when the latter came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down in front of over 63,000 and even won bragging rights at the end of the season, finishing four points ahead of the Old Trafford side .

3. Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City, April 1974
If the 5-1 derby victory 15 years later was City’s zenith – until 2011, anyway – then this was United’s nadir. This result, after an ill-tempered affair, led to them to being ingloriously relegated at Old Trafford and their doom was confirmed when Denis Law – the former darling of the Stretford End – famously back-heeled them into the second tier. Law, utterly heartbroken at what he had done, was substituted immediately after and never kicked a ball in league football again.

C_71_article_1370799_image_list_image_list_item_0_image-5988384. Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United, September 1989
This was the first time in three years the great foes had met, and newly promoted City’s fans were at boiling point. After an enforced break due to crowd trouble the hosts ran riot, with David Oldfield scoring a brace and further goals from Trevor Morley and Ian Bishop, and City fan Andy Hinchcliffe capping a day still spoken of in hushed tones with a lovely fifth.

Sir Alex Ferguson used the pain of this defeat to best their nearest rivals for the next decade and more. The Maine Road Massacre, as it came to be known, would be the last time in 13 years City managed to win against United (their next was in 2002 when Nicolas Anelka and a Shaun Goater double won the game 3-1). Later that season Fergie won his first trophy.

5. Manchester United 5-0 Manchester City, November 1994
In the 1990s City failed to chalk up a single win against United, and this thrashing perfectly illustrated the gulf in class between the pair. Andrei Kanchelskis and the magnificent Eric Cantona starred on this occasion, with the Frenchman opening the scoring and the Ukrainian winger delivering the coup de grâce by scoring a hat-trick, which he completed in the final minute. Mark Hughes, who would go on to manage City eight years later, also found the target.

"Sorry pal, are you OK..?"

6. Manchester United 1 Manchester City 1, April 2001
This game is remembered not for the goals but for the culmination of a long-standing feud between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland. It started in 1998 when the United captain suffered a cruciate ligament injury when chasing a through ball against Leeds, who the Norwegian Haaland was with at the time. Three years later Keane made an x-rated knee-high tackle on Haaland that would have made Graeme Souness blush. He was sent-off and later admitted in his autobiography that it was a premeditated attempt to injure. He eventually received a £150,000 fine and a five-match ban as punishment.

7. Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United, 2004
It was almost 1989 relived again as United were convincingly humbled once more. A struggling City side somehow lifted themselves to rout the old enemy. United were not at their best but City had Jon Macken, veterans Trevor Sinclair and Robbie Fowler and the erratic Shaun Wright-Phillips – all of whom found the net – meaning this is still one of the most unlikely derby results on record.

@robshepherd5

FIFA Presidency: Figo’s Challenge to Blatter is a Serious One

by Rob Shepherd.

David_Ginola_PRStunt

Ginola’s suspected PR stunt seems to have failed

Luis Figo is serious about challenging Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

Unlike David Ginola’s PR stunt – backed and paid for by a bookie – Figo has serious people around him.

Despite only announcing his intention to stand at the start of the week, within two days he met the FIFA criteria of getting the five nominations required to canvas ahead of the vote at the end of May.

Indeed, Figo claims he has six executives in member countries standing. But Figo and other candidates still await approval to stand against Blatter who is seeking fifth term in charge. The deadline for FIFA presidency nominations has passed and the wait is on to see if Blatter will serve a fifth term in the role.

FIFA’s three-man Ad Hoc Electoral Committee, chaired by Domenico Scala, now has the task of sifting through the nominations and deciding who will appear on the ballot paper.

The FA has formally nominated Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein as a candidate to stand against Blatter. Former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne is also hoping to gain the five nominations required to be in contention. Dutchman Michael van Praag is another.

It remains to be seen when Champagne or Van Praag may join forces with Figo who has powerful support from the football world.

I met Figo in Madrid just before Christmas in his capacity as an ambassador of the Network 90 – a new global football social media and networking platform. One of the issues that most concerns Figo is that FIFA has become a byword for corruption and the negative effect that has had on football. He also told me about his concerns about the World Cup being staged in Qatar in 2022.

luisfigo2106201305

Luis Figo has announced his intention to stand against Sepp Blatter to become FIFA president

The 42-year-old former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan star is not oblivious to politics within football. After he ended his playing days he spent four years working as Inter’s international ambassador.

Figo has immediately gained the support of powerful football voices such as Chelsea boss and fellow Portuguese Jose Mourinho: ‘Luis Figo’s candidacy is a great step forward for football. His career over many years guarantees a better future for FIFA.

‘I believe in his character and determination as well as his passion for the game. He will be a president focussed on football and its general improvement, acting closely with all.’

The FIFA committee will now assess each candidate to make sure they meet all the criteria, including whether they have five association nominations and have participated in the game for two of the last five years.

They must also ensure each candidate has not broken any FIFA ethics rules. FIFA will announce the new president at their Zurich headquarters on May 29.

ODDS

Luis Figo declaration to stand for election as the next FIFA president has injected life and colour into the process.

But William Hills are convinced Sepp Blatter will be re-elected for a fifth term. So much so his currently odds on at 1/6.
Hill’s doubt Figo’s chances offering 16/1 behind Jerome Champagne who is 12/1. Michael van Praag is 25/1.

@iLShep

BOBBY’s Top Ten Classic Old Firm Encounters
PLUS: Selected Match Odds

After a long absence the Old Firm re-engage this weekend in what is sure to be a lively affair at Hampden Park as they contest the Scottish League Cup semi-final.

To whet the appetite BOBBY recalls ten classic Old Firm derbies from living memory;

CELTIC 6-2 RANGERS, 2000/01

It didn’t take long for new boss Martin O’Neill to ingratiate himself with the Celtic support when, in August of his first season in charge, he patrolled the touchline for this hammering of Rangers. Even by the standards of Old Firm matches, this one got off to an astonishing start as after only 11 minutes The Bhoys were 3-0 up, with Chris Sutton grabbing the first after just 51 seconds. For Celtic fans the joy was unbridled as their side kept up their 100% league record.

This game marked the start of a Parkhead revival that brought the hoops treble glory in 2000/01 and an end to the near total dominance by Rangers that had lasted a decade.

CELTIC 0-3 RANGERS, 1998/99

This was an historic win for Rangers as they clinched the league title at Parkhead for the first and so far only time ever, winning back the SPL trophy they’d relinquished the previous season (when they were stopped from winning ten in a row). Neil McCann bagged a brace and Jorg Albertz converted a penalty as the Gers also recorded a 100th league win over their great rivals.

Sadly, the game was marred when referee Hugh Dallas was left bleeding after being hit on the head by a coin thrown from the crowd. Another Celtic supporter attempted to attack the official – who in a predictably feisty encounter had ordered off Celtic’s Stephane Mahe and Vidar Riseth plus Rangers’ Rod Wallace – but he was restrained by stewards and policemen.

Dick Advocaat’s team went on to rub salt into Celtic wounds at Hampden with a 1-0 Scottish Cup final win that sealed a treble of trophies in the Dutchman’s first season.

CELTIC 5-1 RANGERS, 1998/99

Celtic had won the previous season’s SPL to end Rangers’ run of nine-in-a-row, but title-winning boss Wim Jansen had moved on and now the side managed by Jozef Vengloš were trailing Rangers by 10 points going into this November fixture.

One of the last Old Firm games to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday, Celtic romped to victory with a brace each from Henrik Larsson and the outstanding Lubo Moravcik, before young Mark Burchill put the icing on a very sweet cake in the last minute.

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Ray Wilkins celebrates his great strike

RANGERS 5-1 CELTIC, 1988/89

Graeme Souness’ Rangers side served notice that they were Scottish football’s new top dogs as the Gers recorded their biggest Old Firm win for 28 years when they thrashed Celtic in late August 1988. Celtic had won the double just three months earlier, but two goals from Ally McCoist, plus strikes from Kevin Drinkell, Mark Walters and a wonder-strike from Ray Wilkins knocked The Bhoys from their perch.

Rangers went on to win the title, the first of a record-equaling nine consecutive championships in an era of near total domination.  

RANGERS 2-2 CELTIC, 1987/88

The Great Storm of 1987 – the Michael Fish Storm – had just caused incredible damage across England but it would be nothing compared to what would tear through Ibrox just over 24 hours later.

Rangers’ defence of the championship hadn’t started well. After 12 matches, Graeme Souness’s side were trailing in fourth place, six points behind Hearts and  four behind Celtic. Both sides were desperate for the win and this led to a particularly high-octane opening, even by the standards of Old Firm battles.

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Tensions are about to boil over at Ibrox…

After 16 minutes the Celtic striker Frank McAvennie clattered into the Rangers keeper Chris Woods. The two men went nose to nose and light slaps were exchanged. Woods took McAvennie by the throat and all hell broke loose. The keeper’s teammates Terry Butcher and Graham Roberts got involved and in the ensuing melee, Roberts crept behind Woods and punched McAvennie before scuttling off. Only Woods and McAvennie were given the red card.

The match was almost an afterthought, yet brilliant for all that. Roberts went in goal to replace Woods, and soon found himself picking the ball out twice, once from Andy Walker, a second from his own man Butcher. Ally McCoist pulled a goal back and then Butcher, who had been booked in the original fracas, picked up a second yellow of the match for a crude lunge on the Celtic keeper, Allen McKnight. In the last minute, Richard Gough scrambled an equaliser.

The match is also remembered for the crowd-baiting by both sides. Peter Grant – who had harried Butcher into his own goal – celebrated by blessing himself with glee in front of the Ibrox faithful whilst Roberts conducted a sectarian sing-song from between the sticks.

It was all too much. A fortnight later, the Procurator Fiscal charged Woods, Roberts and McAvennie with “behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace” and Butcher’s name was soon added to the list. McAvennie was found not guilty and Roberts not proven, while Butcher and Woods were fined.

RANGERS 4-4 CELTIC, 1985/86

What a match this was as the two rivals served up a classic. Mo Johnston netted the opener for Celtic before Brian McClair quickly prodded home a second. The brakes were then applied as Celtic’s Willie McStay was then sent off after half an hour for two bookings. With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Ian Durrant and Ally McCoist set up Cammy Fraser to head Rangers back into the game. Johnston burst through for his second to make it 3-1 after the restart, but Rangers wouldn’t lay down. McCoist smashed a shot into the bottom-left corner, and Robert Fleck fired home an equaliser just before the hour. Fraser then poked home a Dave McKinnon looping header to give Rangers a 4-3 lead.

But the 10 men were not to be denied, Murdo MacLeod curling a beauty into the top-right corner from distance. It would prove a priceless point for Celtic, who at the time were in a desperate pursuit of Hearts at the top of the Premier Division table.

RANGERS 3-2 CELTIC, 1973 SCOTTISH CUP FINAL

Celtic had won their eighth title in a row in 1973 and would win the Scottish Cup four times in five seasons from 1971, but on this occasion the Gers emerged victorious thanks to a winner from defender Tom Forsyth. Celtic failed to capitalise after taking the lead with a goal from Kenny Dalglish, Parlane equalising before half time.

The turning point came 30 seconds into the second half when the Celtic defence were caught napping, allowing Alfie Conn (who would later play for Celtic) to race through the centre to score. Celtic equalised through a Connelly penalty after Greig had dived full length to punch a Dixie Deans shot on the goal line with McCloy stranded, but Forsyth won the cup for Rangers in their centenary year nine minutes later.

A crowd of 122,714 witnessed Rangers upset the odds and take the trophy back to Ibrox. After their European Cup Winners’ Cup success a year earlier, this win was a first domestic trophy at Ibrox for seven years.

CELTIC 4-0 RANGERS, 1969 SCOTTISH CUP FINAL

An incredible Hampden crowd of 132,870 watched Celtic clinch the Scottish treble in style. Rangers had beaten Aberdeen 6-1 in the semi finals, but were no match for a Celtic team that would go on to reach their second European Cup final a year later.

Billy McNeill’s early header set the tone and two goals on the stroke of half time killed the game. 19 year old George Connelly’s goal was memorable, dispossessing John Greig and rounding Norrie Martin easily to tap home and soon after Bobby Lennnox raced clear to finish emphatically. Stevie Chalmers scored the fourth on the break in the second half.

There was no joy for a certain Alex Ferguson, yet to be knighted and playing up front for the Gers in this final. In later years Bertie Auld was to comment that he had seen this game twice. The first was on the Celtic tactics board at Parkhead as Jock Stein explained to the team in advance what would happen and the second was on the pitch at Hampden on the day.

CELTIC 5-1 RANGERS, 1965/66

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Stevie Chalmers

Played in gloomy fog, this thrashing of Rangers helped Celtic clinch the first of nine successive titles under the great Jock Stein. It all started well for the light blues when Davie Wilson put them a goal up after only 2 minutes, a lead they still held at the break.

Jock Stein’s halftime talk seemed to do the trick however; A hat-trick by Stevie Chalmers, a fine shot by Charlie Gallagher from the edge of the box and an even better one by Bobby Murdoch from all of 30 yards, made the final score 5-1, pushing Celtic two points clear of Rangers with a game in hand.

Just over 12 months later Chalmers would score an even more important goal when he grabbed the European Cup final winner against Inter.

CELTIC 7-1 RANGERS, 1957 LEAGUE CUP FINAL

Celtic enjoyed their biggest ever win over Rangers in the 1957 League Cup final. Incredibly, it was the first time that Celtic and Rangers had met in a major cup final for 30 years. Rangers were champions and clear favourites to lift the cup, but didn’t play like it as the Hoops ran riot on a memorably sunny day at Hampden Park.

It was only 2-0 at half-time, but “By the time we came out for the second half we had sensed that something was on,” said Celtic’s Bobby Collins. They even wrote a song to celebrate the occasion.

Amazingly, Celtic didn’t win another senior trophy again until the Scottish Cup win in 1965.

 @KGHof

THE ODDS

CELTIC – 1/3   DRAW – 7/2   RANGERS – 7/1

Selected Correct Score odds;

CELTIC: 1-0: 15/2, 2-0: 13/2, 3-0: 8/1, 4-0: 12/1, 5-1: 33/1

DRAW: 0-0: 14/1, 1-1: 9/1, 2-2: 20/1, 3-3: 66/1

RANGERS: 1-0: 20/1, 2-0: 50/1, 2-1: 22/1, 3-2: 66/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Kris Commons to score & Celtic to win: 6/4

Odds courtesy of Wiliam Hill.

 

 

Latest Odds For The Title After Blues Slip Up

by Rob Shepherd.

Gary Neville angered Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal when he suggested Sunday’s meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford will resemble a pub match.

In the wake of United’s laboured 2-1 win at Southampton and Liverpool’s lifeless 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland on Saturday Neville likened what traditionally is one of the great rivalries in the English game akin to the Dog & Duck playing the Red Lion.

It was, in itself, a bar room comment rather than erudite opinion from ex-professional turned Sky Sports pundit Neville, who of course was a United legend and who manages to combine multimedia work with a role as part of the England management setup – Although the damning jibe does highlight the erratic football both teams have been playing this season.

United though have moved into third place and are not viewed with quite such disdain by the bookies. After their stumbling start their odds have been cut back to 12/1 for the title.

Meanwhile, Chelsea who were 1/7 on with some bookies are now back to 1/2 with Paddy Power who basically see it as two horse race with Manchester City at 9/4.

Liverpool, who came so close last season are a massive 200/1 while Arsenal are 66/1. Tottenham are also 200/1. The two surprise teams in the mix thus far, Southampton and West Ham, are 300/1 and 750/1 respectively with Paddy Power.

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Andy Carroll believes West Ham can go all the way

But for Hammers fans who are prepared to dream and want a punt then Sportingbet offer an incredible 3000/1 for West Ham to win the title. Worth an each-way £1 maybe…?

And after West Ham’s 3-1 win over Swansea which lifted them to third – they dropped back to fourth after United’s win – target man Andy Carroll claims the Hammers can go all the way in the title race.

Carroll said: “We have a great squad and I can’t say we are going to give up now we are in the top three. We have got a great team and we can go all the way. With the team we have got, and the manager, the way he is coaching everyone, it is fantastic, and I don’t think we will be giving up at all. I think there is no limit. We can go all the way to the top.”

 

Mourinho’s “Perfect” Chelsea Could Win Treble

JosevSchalke

Jose’s Chelsea side outgunned di Matteo’s new charges

by Rob Shepherd.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho described his team’s performance in the 5-0 Champions League win at Schalke as “perfect” and one of the club’s finest ever away displays. It means The Blues to qualify for the last 16 with one Group G game remaining.

And it will have sent a message around the rest of Europe that Chelsea are serious contenders to win the trophy this season.

With Chelsea having established what many already regard as an “untouchable lead” at the top of the Premier League The Blues could well have the extra energy and focus required to go all the way in Europe.

In that respect Sky Bets odds of 6/1 for Chelsea to lift the Champions League this season looks a decent bet. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are 3/1 joint favourites, Barcelona are 11/2, then Chelsea at 6/1. PSG are 16/1.

Manchester City’s 3-2 win over Bayern means their odds have been cut to 20/1 but it’s still a task for them to qualify for the knockout stages.

The best price for Chelsea to win the Premier League is 1/6 on with Paddy Power.

William Hill offer 11/2 for Chelsea to land a Premier League and Champions League Double.

And the odds of lifting the FA Cup too and emulating Manchester United’s treble in 1999 are 25/1 – thanks to Graham Sharpe (@Sharpeangle) of William Hill  for that.

The win in Schalke matches Chelsea previous best away win in the CL which came in 1999 when they beat Galatasaray 5-0 in Istanbul.

The Chelsea boss back then was Gianluca Vialli. The goals were scored by Tore Andre Flow (2) Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise, and Gabriele Ambrossetti.

But given the quality of the opposition the win in Schalke eclipses that win.

As Mourinho said: “I don’t remember Chelsea playing this way away from home”.

“Obviously, there have been great wins away from home with me, Roberto di Matteo (former Chelsea boss and the beleaguered manager of Schalke) and other managers. But this was very impressive. Very complete.”

The Premier League leaders, are now unbeaten in 19 matches across all competitions.

Chelsea led 3-0 at half-time after goals from John Terry, Willian and Schalke defender Jan Kirchhoff, before Didier Drogba and Ramires completed the rout in the final 15 minutes.

Mourinho added: “At this moment we are a good team. Obviously we can lose and a bad result is waiting for us but the team is playing really well and we have big self-belief.”

Record win: 13-0 v Jeunesse Hautcharage (Luxembourg), European Cup Winners’ Cup, September, 1971
Record Champions League win: 6-0 v NK Maribor (Slovenia), October 2014
Record Champions League away win: 0-5 v Galatasaray (Turkey), October 1999; 0-5 v Schalke (Germany), November 2014

@robshepherd5