Bobby’s Bets

Canaries on the Murphys!
PLUS Those Other Famous Footballing Twins

by Rob Shepherd.

Norwich twins Josh and Jacob Murphy are so identical that manager Chris Hughton has asked them to wear different colour boots so he can identify them!
Both wingers, the Murphy’s, 18, have become known as the Downham Market doppelgangers, having been raised in the Norfolk town.


Jacob comes on for Josh in the FA Cup

The pair are poised to start in Norwich’s FA Cup Third Round replay at Fulham.
It’s hard one to call given the attitude of two relegation threatened sides. Some suggest it’s a game either team would prefer to lose.

But the impact the exciting and eager to impress Murphy’s could make may swing it Norwich’s way.

So 5/2 with Stan James for the Canaries to be on song (same odds for the draw by the way) could be worth a tickle. Fulham are 5/4.

The emergence of the Murphy twins reminds BOBBY of some of football’s other twins.


The De Boers; clearly big fans of Ronnie & Reggie…

Rafael and Fabio da Silva who joined Manchester United from Brazilian side Fluminese in 2007. Arsenal were also keen to sign the brothers but their Mother advised them against the move apparently.
Frank and Ronald de Boer; Former Dutch internationals, Frank is now manager of Ajax where Ronald also does some coaching.

David and Dean Holdsworth: Both began at Watford before going their separate ways, Dean having the bigger career (most notably with Wimbledon), both ended their careers together at Bolton.

Rene and Willy van der Kerkhof: Another Dutch duo who played for Holland at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.

van der kerkhof bros

Can you tell your Willy from your Rene…???

Rene is well remembered due to the incident before the 1978 World Cup final, when the Argentinians objected to the cast he wore on his injured forearm on the basis it could have injured an Argentinian player. Despite the bandage having been passed by FIFA and worn in previous matches, the referee, Italian Sergio Gonella agreed, and the Dutch players threatened to walk off the field. Finally an extra layer of padding was applied to the bandage as a solution, and the match could start.


MNF: Aston Villa v Arsenal
PLUS Action From Two Great Games from 1991

Ahead of their meeting in the Premier League on Monday Night Football, BOBBY remembers two great games between The Villa and The Arsenal from 23 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, 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


 Aston Villa  11/2   Draw   10/3   Arsenal  1/2

Selected Bets:

Arsenal to come from behind to win: 15/2

Villa to score first and fail to win: 5/2

Aston Villa  1-3  Arsenal: 11/1

Aston Villa  2-2  Arsenal:  14/1

Agbonlahor to score first goal: 10/1


Odds courtesy of PaddyPower





Newcastle v Man City Preview
We Recall the League Cup Final of 1976

by Rob Shepherd.

Peter Barnes, Dave Watson, and Dennis Tueart celebrate Manchester City's 1976 League Cup win

Peter Barnes, Dave Watson, and Dennis Tueart celebrate City’s 1976 League Cup win

Until the New Manchester City won the FA Cup in 2011, matches against Newcastle had for the past three decades always a carried a special emotional attachment.

After the oil money rolled in and under the management of Roberto Mancini, the trophy cabinet was finally re–opened when City beat Stoke at Wembley three and half years ago.

It brought to an end 35 barren years.

Even young City fans knew off by heart that their last previous major silverware – the League Cup – had been won in 1976 when City beat Newcastle when a bloke called Dennis Tueart scored the winner with a brilliant overhead kick, Peter Barnes having scored the other in a 2-1 win (see below).

It was folklore, even to the post Madchester Oasis inspired generation, and Newcastle United were part of it.

It is perhaps surprising Liam Gallagher or Noel Gallagher never wrote a song about it. Or maybe they did and it was part of their thinking when they wrote Live Forever.

Now that League Cup win is just a distant part of City’s history like the great Joe Marcer side of Lee, Bell and Sumerbee.

Having won the title for the first since 1968 two seasons ago, City are now part of the Champions League elite and a new wave of history unfolds even though last weeks trouncing of West Ham means they are primed to win the League Cup (now the Capital One Cup) again at last.

City though is a club which now looks ahead with conviction rather than back in anger, it’s now about the excitement of taking on Barcelona not reflecting on what they once did to Newcastle.

That said Sunday’s match at Newcastle is crucial to City in their quest to win the Premier League.

Although their away form has improved this match is a significant test of City’s title credentials against a Newcastle side who are nudging towards Europa League football next season.

Oh on that point, as if Toon Army fans need reminding, their last major trophy was won back in 1969 in European competiton…the now defunct Inter City Fairs Cup.

A 2-2 draw could be a decent shout.


Newcastle United  v  Manchester City, Premier League, Sunday Jan 12th, 2pm (Live on SkySports 1)

Newcastle: 15/4   Draw: 3/1    Man City: 4/6


Gouffran is a good shout to score first at 12/1

Head to Head Record

Newcastle wins: 61   Drawn: 38   Man City wins: 70

Selected Bets;

Newcastle to win 1-0: 18/1, 2-1: 14/1, 3-2: 33/1

Draw –  0-0: 14/1  1-1: 7/1  2-2: 12/1  3-3: 40/1

City to win 0-1: 8/1, 1-3: 11/1, 2-4: 35/1

To score first goal;

Remy: 8/1, Ben Arfa: 12/1, Gouffran: 12/1, Cabaye: 16/1

Negredo: 4/1, Dzeko: 5/1, Toure: 7/1, Navas: 10/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Gouffran to score first, 2-2 final score: 100/1


Odds courtesy of PaddyPower.



Manchester City v West Ham
PLUS Greaves scores twice in Hammers romp at Maine Road


Allardyce – feeling the pressure

By Rob Shepherd.

For West Ham their trip to Manchester City in the semi-final first leg of the Capital One Cup is akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire in the wake of their FA Cup Third Round humiliation at Nottingham Forest.

Having fielded so many young inexperienced players at the City Ground Sam Allardyce was always likely to gamble away The Hammers interest in the FA Cup.

But even if from a financial point of view Premiership survival is a priority for West Ham – which makes their next league against Cardiff a “must win” -Allardyce surely can’t surrender any interest in keeping the tie alive for the second leg at Upton Park and so having the chance of reaching Wembley and maybe even winning the League Cup.

Such an achievement could easily inspire a revival in the league. The manager then must surely recall the bulk and the best (not that there are too many in that category at the moment) for the City game.

More to the point it would give suffering Hammers fans a taste of honey.

It could also save Allardyce’s increasingly precarious position as manager from the sack.

Survival AND silverware? That is the definition of success for a club like West Ham.



Jimmy Greaves being tackled by City’s Mike Doyle at a muddy Maine Road in 1970

In that sense he has a duty to the club, its fans, the players and himself to field a team strong enough and experienced enough to at least compete with a City side who have been unstoppable at the Ethiad Stadium this season, where they are unbeaten and average nearly four goals a game.

On the face of it the tie looks a shoo-in for the City.

But strange things do happen in the Cup as a weakened West Ham won at Tottenham in the quarter final.

At the very least West Ham should aim for damage limitation so they would still be in with a chance of overcoming City in the second leg.

Hammers Romp

Older Hammers fans will also cling to a fond memory of a day they went up to City and thrashed them in the mud of Maine Road.

It was way back in 1970; the day Jimmy Greaves made his debut for the Hammers after he had been part of the deal which had seen Martin Peters sign for Tottenham.

Greaves, as he did on all his debuts, scored. Twice in fact. The Hammers romped on to win 5-1 in a total mud-bath against what was at the time a very strong City side.

The game is also remembered for Hammers midfield Ronnie Boyce scoring a wonder volley from 40 yards (see below).

Yet the following year, to highlight the Jekyll and Hyde nature of The Hammers back then, they lost 4-0 at Blackpool in the FA Cup Third Round, just to remind younger Hammers fans that Sunday’s collapse at Nottingham did not shock older West Ham fans!

That debacle was compounded by the fact that England skipper Bobby Moore, Greaves, Clyde Best and Brian Dear had all been dropped for the game and would later be suspended and or fined by the club having spent the Friday night before the game at a Blackpool night club.

There is more chance of the Hammers being thrashed similarly by City, not a cats chance of them putting five past City. But if The Hammers can avoid a trouncing at the Ethiad, scrape a draw, even a shock win then suddenly there atrocious season won’t seem quite so bad.


Man City:  1/5    Draw:  6/1    West Ham:    12/1

Selected Bets:

City to win –  1-0: 10/1,  2-0: 7/1,  3-1: 10/1,  4-0:  10/1

West Ham to win – 0-1: 28/1, 1-2: 33/1

Draw – 0-0: 20/1, 1-1: 12/1, 2-2: 25/1, 3-3: 100/1

First Scorer:

Negredo: 3/1  Dzeko: 4/1  Toure: 6/1  Nasri:  8/1

C Cole: 12/1  Maiga: 12/1  Morrison: 16/1  J Cole: 18/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Dzeko to score first and City to win 3-0:  22/1


Odds courtesy of Ladbrokes.




Cup Half Full..? + 2014 Odds
Will the Country Ever Rekindle it’s Love for the FA Cup..?

by Karl Hofer.

It has had it’s issues of late, but the FA Cup is still the world’s oldest football knockout competition,  and its role in the history of the beautiful game is unprecedented.

The FA Cup Final has been an indelible part of English national consciousness for over a century. Since the dawn of the television era the entire nation (and many other countries around the world) have been transfixed by the great spectacle from North London.

The whole of FA Cup Final Saturday would build up to 3 pm. Both ITV and the BBC would begin their coverage earlier and earlier each year to milk the viewers, sometimes as early as 8am!

The final itself generated so much excitement; we can all recall the TV crew on the bus to the stadium from the hotel, the players walking round the pitch in their specially tailored suits for the day, the crowd singing ‘abide with me’ – and teams would always release a single during the build up.

Not anymore though. With the incredible amount of live football on TV nowadays such romance and sentiment is unlikely to ever return, which is a shame. Be careful what you wish for as they say…

Regardless, the FA Cup has also produced some amazing memories and some fantastic games over the years, too many to reminisce about here. But before we look at the odds to win the 2014 competition lets remember three finals whose anniversaries are this year;

25 Years Ago: Everton 2-3 Liverpool

What a final, a Merseyside derby no less. The final was played only five weeks after the Hillsborough disaster and before kick-off there was an impeccably observed minute’s silence while the teams wore black armbands as a sign of respect. Gerry Marsden, lead singer of Gerry & the Pacemakers, led the crowd in an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before the sides served up a match fitting for the occasion.

Liverpool went ahead after four minutes through John Aldridge, and held onto that lead until the final minute, when Everton substitute Stuart McCall equalised, and a pitch invasion by Everton fans ensued.

McCall’s goal was the last kick of the 90 minutes and the match went into extra time. On 95 minutes, Liverpool substitute Ian Rush scored with a half-volley on the turn to give Liverpool a 2–1 lead. Everton again equalised five minutes later when McCall again scored, chesting and volleying past Bruce Grobbelaar into the corner of the net. However, Rush – who had scored twice in Liverpool’s 3–1 win in the first Merseyside derby Final three years earlier – scored his second goal in the 104th minute with a header from a John Barnes cross and Liverpool would triumph once more.

30 Years Ago: Watford 0-2 Everton

The final of 1984 is remembered for Everton’s controversial second goal. After Graeme Sharp had put the Toffees ahead with a clinical finish late in the first half, Andy Gray seemed to head the ball out of the grasp of Watford keeper Steve Sherwood when he put Everton two up, but referee John Hunting allowed it to stand.

This victory ended a 14 year wait for silverware at Goodison Park and was the first trophy of the very successful Howard Kendall era. This was Watford’s only cup final appearance and Gray ensured that Elton John’s team left with the blues. 

 35 Years Ago: Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United

Terry Neill’s Arsenal held on to edge past Manchester United in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest-ever finishes to an FA Cup final. For over 85 minutes the game had been largely unremarkable, Arsenal having taken control with a 2–0 half time lead through goals from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton. In the 86th minute, however, Gordon McQueen scored following a set-piece, and two minutes later Sammy McIlroy dribbled past two Arsenal players to score a dramatic equaliser.

United’s celebrations proved short-lived however, as with the game poised for extra time Alan Sunderland scored a last-minute winner, making the final result Arsenal 3–2 Manchester United. This match is often referred to as the “Five-minute Final”.

THE ODDS – (Updated Jan 6th)

Man City  4/1,  Chelsea  9/2, Arsenal  9/2, Liverpool  11/2, Everton  8/1, Southampton  12/1, Swansea 25/1,  Sunderland  40/1, Stoke  40/1, Hull  40/1, Fulham  50/1, Palace  50/1, Forest 66/1, Norwich 66/1, Brighton  80/1, Bolton 80/1, Wigan  100/1, Ipswich  100/1

Odds courtesy of PaddyPower.


United v Spurs: 3 Great Games
We preview the New Years Day encounter at Old Trafford


A rare win at Old Trafford for Spurs would be a tonic for Tim

by Karl Hofer.

Nothing cures a New Years hangover like a decent game of football and we look set for a good one in 2014 as the live match on the box sees Tim Sherwood’s Spurs (sounds weird…) travel to Old Trafford to face David Moyes’ United (still sounds weird…).

These two usually serve up entertaining matches, and the team at BOBBY have searched through the archives to pick out three of the best from down the years to prove the point. Before we give you the odds and our prediction have a look back at these classic encounters:

Oct 16th 1965  Tottenham Hotspur  5-1  Manchester United

A match graced with legends all over the pitch including Mackay, Greaves and Gilzean for Spurs who took on the league champions with Law, Best and Charlton in their ranks – and ran riot with a 5-1 win at the Lane in front of 58,000.

Many people will tell you that Glenn Hoddle scored the greatest goal ever between the two sides when he volleyed home in a league cup tie in 1979, but in my opinion Jimmy Greaves takes the accolade for his goal in this match as he waltzed through the United defence and slotted home in the relaxed manner that was typical of the man (see link below).

It was a tremendous win for Bill Nicholson’s side, but The Red Devils would get their revenge with a 5-1 win at Old Trafford just a couple of months later.

Sept 29th 2001  Tottenham Hotspur  3-5  Manchester United

This was one of the most extraordinary matches in Premier League history, and it helped create an aura of invincibility around Fergie’s Manchester United team. It is also a result that has ensured that Spurs fans will never be able to relax against United, whatever the score may be.

Spurs were enjoying one of their finest performances in recent memory after blasting into a 3-0 lead at the interval. Spurs were coasting through goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege.

The problem was the job was only half done, and in the second half United launched an astonishing comeback. After the restart Andy Cole grabbed the all important early goal to instill belief. Spurs were then blown away by the visitors as United fought back and then took the lead with goals from Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron. David Beckham completed the comeback in a match Sir Alex described as his most memorable during his long tenure at Old Trafford (highlights below).

It would be fair to say that this result had a bit of an affect on Spurs, who wouldn’t beat United for another 11 years.

Dec 7th 1986 – Manchester United  3-3  Tottenham Hotspur

One of the greatest clashes between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur came in a league encounter 27 years ago that really had it all. A topsy-turvy thriller that saw both sides wrestle control from each other at one stage or another before having to settle for a draw. United stormed into an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Norman Whiteside and Peter Davenport, before Spurs hit back with a diving header from Gary Mabbut in the second half.

Shortly afterwards Kevin Moran inadvertently turned a Glenn Hoddle shot into his own net and then Clive Allen put Spurs 3-2 ahead.

There was to be one final twist, though, as Davenport held his nerve to equalise with a last minute penalty. You can enjoy the highlights (and the wonderful commentary from John Motson) below.

(By the way, that match was played on December 7th despite what the graphic at the start says…)


Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday January 1st 2014, 5.30pm, Live on BT Sport

The head-to-head record between the two very much favours United who have 85 wins against Spurs over the years. Spurs have won only 47 and there have also been 47 draws.

United in fact had an astonishing 33 match unbeaten run (which included 28 wins) against Spurs in all competitions from 2001 to 2012.



Van Persie 3/1, Rooney 7/2, Welbeck 9/2, Januzaj 7/1

Defoe 7/1, Soldado 7/1, Adebayor 8/1


United to win: 1-0 13/2, 2-0 7/1,  2-1 7/1, 3-0 11/1, 3-1 12/1, 3-2 25/1, 4-1 22/1

Draw: 0-0 11/1, 1-1 7/1, 2-2 16/1, 3-3 66/1, 4-4 200/1

Spurs to win: 1-0 14/1, 2-0 28/1, 2-1 16/1, 3-0 66/1, 3-1 40/1, 3-2 50/1


Rooney to score first @ 7/2

United to win 3-2 @ 25/1


Odds courtesy of William Hill


World Cup: England Third Favourites!
To Win Their Group That is…

by Rob Shepherd.

At the draw for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa England looked a shoo-in to win their group at a canter and have a decent pathway to the semi finals or beyond.

Drawn against Slovenia, USA and Algeria it appeared a passport to top the group with ease and have a chance of going all the way.

The bookies thus installed England as third favourites at 6-1.

How over optimistic it proved. England staggered over the line to qualify but then hit the rocky road at the knockout stage and were eliminated with ease by Germany in a 4-1 drubbing.

The draw for Brazil has put England in a tough but by no means the toughest group.

But as soon as the draw was made SkyBet only had England third favourites at 18/5 to even emerge from Group D, with Italy 1-3 favs ahead of Luis Suarez’s Uruguay at 4/7, with Costa Rica (who shouldn’t be underestimated given they are on their own continent by the way) cast as also rans.

And as a consequence of the draw England’s price to win the World Cup drifted from 25-1 to 28-1.

But if England can draw with Italy in the opening game then another draw with Uruguay could then set England on their way if they beat Costa Rica well in the final game.

The pivotal match may well be against Uruguay. Intriguingly it is to be played at Belo Horizonte, famously the scene of one of England’s worst ever World Cup defeats where in 1950 England – who had gone into the tournament billed the “Kings of Football” with players such as Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright and Tom Finney and according to some predictions would win 10-1 – were beaten 1-0 by then no-hopers USA, whose goal was scored by a guy called Joe Gatejens (see below).

Even if England progress from the group it’s highly unlikely they can go on to win the whole thing but a shrewd bet on one of the exchanges could be to lump some money on England at 28-1 then sell the bet if they do progress to the qualifying stages as one of the top two, where they would then avoid the biggest teams and face one of Columbia, Greece, Ivory Coast or Japan.

In that scenario England’s price would start to plummet and profit could be turned. It’s certainly worth having a decent punt at England getting out of the group at 18/5.

Former England manager Glenn Hoddle thinks the draw means England can reach the quarter finals at least.

“I think it’s better that it is a bit tough. Expectations won’t be too high and that can help. Yes, I think England can qualify from the group then get past the last 16. Then anything can happen…” said Hoddle after the draw.

It may also be the time to back Spain.

The World Cup holders no longer have an invincible air about them. But that could be to do with the lack of competitive games they have had since they qualified automatically as winners and injures.

Yes, they have a tough draw in a group with Holland, Chile and Australia. But Spain at 7/1 ? That is tempting…



Can Spain become the first European nation to lift the World Cup on a different continent…?

Brazil    100/30
Argentina  9/2
Germany   11-2
Spain     7-2
Belgium    14-1
Columbia    20-1
France    20-1
England    28-1

Odds courtesy of SKYBET.


Zero to Hero!
Suarez Could Follow Gerrard, Barnes, Rush, McDermott & Dalglish


Suarez – Will never have to buy a drink in Ipswich for the rest of his life!

by Rob Shepherd.

Luis Suarez’s four goals for Liverpool in the 5-1 win over Norwich emphasized the Uruguayan’s redemption this season.

It ended in disgrace last campaign in the wake of his ugly clash with Branislav Ivanovic.

But despite missing the first five games at the star of this season as a consequence the striker has shaken of the villain stigma that had surrounded him.

He is now on course to be voted by his fellow professional as PFA player of the year in the spring.


It’s not just his goals, but his all round level of performance, that has persuaded even those who would shake their head in a disbelief into nods of approval – fellow pros included.

The last Liverpool player to win the PFA award was Steven Gerrard in 2006.
But before that you have to go back to the day when Liverpool dominated title races to recall former winners.

Prior to Gerrard the last Liverpool player to win it was to John Barnes in 1988.
During the Eighties Liverpool players dominated the award as they did the title (last won in 1991) when Ian Rush, Terry McDermott and Kenny Dalglish were all recipients.

As it stands the bookies rank Aaron Ramsey, who has made such a phenomenal start to the season, as favourite alongside Suarez.

But assuming Suarez doesn’t leave Liverpool in the January transfer window (you never know what Real Madrid might do next…) then now would seem a good time to back the Uruguay international striker – who is bound to be a contender for the golden boot at the World Cup next summer.


Ramsey – 9/4
Suarez – 9/4
Rooney – 6/1
Aguero – 7/1
Ozil – 10/1

Good value outsiders include Yaya Toure, best-priced at 16/1 and Eden Hazard at 33/1.  You can also get as much as 66/1 for Chelsea’s best player so far this season, Oscar, or as much as 500/1 for Phillipe Coutinho who could be a good each way option at that price.

View the latest odds from



Ronnie’s Swedish Heart-Break Makes Him Ballon Bound


Swedish heart-breaker: Ronaldo is now odds-on to win the Ballon d’Or

by Rob Shepherd.

Cristiano Ronaldo is now the firm favourite to win the Ballon d ‘Or – the World Player of the Year Award – after FIFA moved the goal posts in only a way FIFA can.

The original voting deadline was before the play off matches for the World Cup finals.

But according to FIFA because there had been a “low turn out” from national team coaches captains and selected media representatives the deadline was extended to the end of November.

Moreover, those who had already cast votes could vote again and change their nominations.

Such “Zimbabwean” practice offered an insight into the shady world of the FIFA voting system that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 in Qatar.

When the nominations were first announced last month “inside information” installed France and Bayern Munich Franck Ribery as the clear favourite.

Despite Ribery’s superb year helping Munich win the Champions League on top of domestic domination to clinch a Treble, to most it still seemed as though it should have been a straight fight again between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

After all in the calendar year Messi (who has recently suffered a dip in fitness and form) amassed 91 goals – 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina.

Ronaldo has scored less 62 – 52 for Real Madrid and 10 for Portugal.

But based on continued form this season, Ronaldo was seen by many as having the more consistent year of these two current day all-time giants of the global game.

More to the point, wasn’t it time for Ronaldo – who has won the award once in 2008 when at Manchester United – to be given the nod over Messi who has won the award for the last four seasons..?

New Face

But there was a feeling that FIFA wanted a completely new face, hence Ribery’s emergence as favourite.

It all stank as a free vote of course, especially when FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter had a dig at Ronaldo’s playboy image recently.

Also how could voting for such an award be closed just before the World Cup play-off games..?

Ronaldo, convinced there is a FIFA conspiracy against him, then said he would snub the awards.


Naked Ambition: After the epic play-off the mutual respect between Cristiano and Zlaten was clear for all to see

Now it would seem he will have the last laugh – but will he do a U-turn and turn up for the ceremony in January..?

Ronaldo’s stunning displays in the play-off matches against Sweden surely justify him winning the Ballon d’ Or this year.

His late winner in the 1-0 win in Lisbon followed by a hat-trick in the 3-2 win in Sweden wasn’t just the icing on the cake; it was the marzipan and the cherry on top too!

In the shoot-out between Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has had a pretty decent season too, Ronaldo won hands down.

The official aggregate score was Portugal 4 Sweden 2 – But really it was Ronaldo 4 Zlatan 2.

It should be noted Ribery played a big part in France’s comeback over the Ukraine to reach the finals in Brazil.


It would though undermine the credibility of the award if Ronaldo was not crowned king of 2013 given that stunning finale to the year.

The winner will be announced at a gala ceremony in Zurich on January 13.

The odds (courtesy of Betaway) are now:

Ronaldo:  4/11  Ribery:  9/4   Messi:  8/1  Ibrahimovic:  25/4

It could be worthwhile having a quadcast in that order…

Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie did make the long list by the way, but (sign of the times) there is not one English player in the 23 man roll call.

The first winner of the award in 1956 was though.

Stanley Matthews won the inaugural prize after the Ballon d’ Or was dreamt up by the French football magazine France Football.

Since then there have only been five more British winners.

Scot Denis Law in 1964, Bobby Charlton 1966, Belfast’s George Best in 1968 (all when with Manchester United, although Charlton’s was as much to do with his display at 1966 World Cup), Kevin Keegan in 1978 and 1979 while with SV Hamburg in Germany and Michael Owen for his Liverpool and England displays in 2001.

The only winner from the Premier League was Cristiano Ronaldo when at Manchester United in 2008.


The first Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or was the Brazilian version

Originally the award, which commonly used to be known as the European Player of the Year award, was just for Europeans.

That is the reason Diego Maradona never won it when at the height of his club career with Napoli.

After it was thrown “open” Liberian striker George Weah won it 1995 when with AC Milan and in 1997 the old Ronaldo was the first Brazilian to win when at Barcelona.

And Argentine Messi has dominated it in recent seasons.

No that it will ever resolve who is the best between Messi and Ronaldo – But if such rivalry drives these two special players on then let’s keep having the debate.


England’s Triumph in Munich was a Disaster for English Football!

by Rob Shepherd.

Don’t Mention Ze Score!

It was an intro I couldn’t resist when I reflected on England’s 5-1 win over Germany on September 1 2001.

It was an incredible night in Munich. The adrenalin was pumping. It was pay back time for Italia 90, Euro 96 and the last night at the old Wembley when Germany demolished the Twin Towers and Kevin Keegan.

A touch of Fawlty Towers-style jingoism didn’t feel out of place.

To trounce Germany in Bavaria by such a margin was almost surreal.

I think that is why that game more than any other England match is captured best by a picture of an electronic scoreboard.

Soccer - World Cup 2002 Qualifier - Group Nine - Germany v England

Deutschland 1 England 5.

Later some of the players admitted they kept looking up at the neon lights after the final whistle to make sure they weren’t dreaming.

In terms of the record books it will go down as one of England’s all-time great wins. Yet on reflection I suggest it was one of the WORST results in England’s history. And one of Germany’s BEST.

The outcome convinced everyone that Sven Goran Eriksson, in his seventh match in charge of England, was a tactical genius.

And that a crop of very good young-ish players were a ‘Golden Generation’.

But a brave new world proved to be false dawn for England, while at the same time it was a wake-up call for Germany, convincing them they had to change things after their demise at Euro 2000, to erm, Keegan’s England.

Given hindsight it would be churlish to say England just got lucky that night in Munich. It was a tour de force of counter-attacking football.

But it was also one of those games where every time England pressed a button green lights flashed.

It meant that even when, and not long after, Eriksson was prepared to jump ship and go to Manchester United, or when other frequent flirtations seemed to get in the way of his job as England manager, he was fire proof.

Even when Eriksson’s affair with England had outlasted its stay, it was a bit like Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca who always had Paris; Eriksson always had Munich.


England’s smashing of Germany gave Sven Goran Eriksson (left) breathing room

And while the result did put England back on track to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals after the Keegan regime had lost its way – and it was a night always to remember as well – looking back it proved how one-off, stunning results can be misleading.

So in the wake of defeat against Chile and looking ahead to Tuesday’s tough meeting with Germany, whatever ze score, a sense of perspective is needed.
It’s not what a team does ahead of a tournament, it’s what they actually do when they get there.

And in terms of expectation, another potential bloody nose for England at Wembley on Tuesday against Germany, a decade on, would not necessarily be a bad thing.

England often do best when expectations are low. In the wake of that seismic night in Munich expectations for that era became far too high.

More to the point, the powers that be at the FA might look into what measures the Germans took after they were caught with their lederhosen down on that mad night in Munich.


The odds on England beating Germany 5-1 again are understandably long at 200/1, with the German’s priced at 100/1 to turn the tables to that extent.

More likely, if you think Germany will win, is a repeat of notable success in 1972 when they effectively knocked England out of the European Championships with a 3-1 win at Wembley.

It was a night when Germany wore green shirts and England were left green with envy of a German midfield maestro called Gunter Netzer who ran the game in the rain.

3-1 again is 16/1, a German win 5/4.

England to win? That is 2/1.

The draw? That’s priced at 5/2

1-1 is 11/2 and 2-2, which could be worth a tickle, is 12-1.


Odds from Bet 365