22 November, 2005

Is this a National Disgrace?

Man United could only manage a draw against Villareal in tonight's Champions' League action.

I'm not sure if that qualifies as a National Disgrace.

21 November, 2005

National Disgrace

This started out as a Washington Nationals blog. Despite a weekend of sporting despair on these shores (or perhaps because of it), Donutball returns to the theme.

The Yudites are fed up with the never-ending delay in the Nats' ownership saga.

So, in the true manner of teh interweb, MLB Commissioner and used car salesman Bud Selig is getting the treatment he deserves. Mr Selig you are a National Disgrace.

More here.

15 November, 2005

Going to the dogs.

One of the "benefits" of cable TV is live greyhound racing.

I've had a couple of highly enjoyable evenings at the dogs: once each at the 'Stow (Walthamstow in north-east London) and Wimbledon (south-west London, but not the posh bit near the All England Tennis Club). I think I just about broke even over the two nights, beers and fries included.

N.B. - we care about greyhound welfare at Donutball.

13 November, 2005

England - The thoughts of Chairman Mao Donutball's biased eye

So what of the England side? What did the 3-2 win over Argentina prove? What questions remain?

In goal, Tottenham’s Paul Robinson grows in stature with every international match. He is proving to be a worthy custodian. He conceded two goals, both defensive errors – by the out of form Bridge and the out of his league Konchesky. Questions remain about Robinson’s backup. Kirkland, when he isn’t injured, should be the number 2. You could pick anyone of a number of ‘keepers as number 3; none of those choices would be satisfactory.

Central defence remains a strength. John Terry is a rock. Rio Ferdinand is not my favourite player. Sol “Judas” Campbell should play despite advancing years and injuries. Ledley King is a capable stopgap.

On the flanks, England are suffering. This is a weak point in the side. Charlton’s Luke Young is reckless and lacks positional sense. He’ll get better, but we need Gary Neville back from injury. His partner on the left, Ashley Cole, is also injured. Wayne Bridge, just back from injury, had a torrid time on Saturday though will be a solid no.2 choice. Konchesky looked out of his depth.

Midfield. Ah, midfield. So much talent, yet so little certainty. The mix is not right. Lampard is a definite. Steven Gerrard is your typical good engine. He provided a brilliant whipped cross for Owen’s first. More often than not, Gerrard looks for the impossible through ball. He doesn’t impress as the holding midfielder England will need in Germany. Ledley King might be the answer. Against Poland he impressed; against Argentina he was overrun. Argentina are about 20 places above Poland so no disgrace. King, though, is a question.

Joe Cole came on as a sub and looked every inch a match-winner. He’s matured at Chelsea. He’s confident, takes on defenders and set up Owen’s winner. He can’t defend. That’s England’s question in midfield – the balance of a holding man. Play diamond or four across, or five with wing-backs. A holding midfielder will be essential in Germany.

That leaves David Beckham. So long as Eriksson is coach, Beckham will captain the side and will play. He’ll probably play on the right side, which suits him and England. When he drifts to the centre, he upsets the fragile balance and shape of the side. Shaun Wright-Phillips, for my money, is a better choice. He has pace. Pace upsets the best defenders as much as the mediocre. Just look at Rooney.

Just look at Rooney. He is the fulcrum for England. When Rooney gets the ball things happen. It’s become an expectation that he’ll score every time he runs at defenders. Without him England are good. With him England could be great. He has to play just behind the striker though I have doubts about Michael Owen’s comfort level with that system.

I doubted Owen yesterday – before he scored two superb goals. Okay, I have to admit he showed again that he can get into scoring positions. He’s brave and quick. In recent years, there have been doubts. His time at Real Madrid probably hurt more than it helped. Regular outings at Newcastle have helped.

Peter Crouch? If that’s the answer, the question is wrong. Instead, think Darren Bent – scoring hatfuls for Charlton.

All in all, it’s hard to think that England looked so awful against Northern Ireland. Talent is there. As with every England team, motivation is there. The skill level is better. There is genius in Wayne Rooney. What it lacks is a great captain.

And the coach…Eriksson can only ever win over hearts if England progress to, say, the semi-finals in Germany. Give him credit. England have qualified for the World Cup and Euro finals under him. Now, it requires stepping to the next level. England need ruthlessness, preparation and a bit of luck.

Ing-er-lund, Ing-er-lund, Ing-er-lund

Big weekend for English sport: a rare occasion of national teams in three major team sports – soccer, rugby union and cricket – involved in action on the same day. Add to that, Great Britain’s rugby league side also played on Saturday.

At the "home of Rugby", England’s XV laboured to beat an under strength and frankly quite ordinary Australia side. England are defending world champions, but have done little since their famous victory in Sydney two years ago. The build up to the next World Cup in 2007 starts here.

Another English team coming off a great win is the cricket eleven. Saturday saw the start of the First Test against Pakistan. It’s only couple of months since the Ashes triumph, but Pakistan is a tough challenge. Through two of the five days, England have shown no hangover from beating Australia this summer. England should overhaul Pakistan’s first innings score and look to set up a victory.

The big story this weekend though was the “unfriendly friendly”. On neutral soil, Geneva, England’s soccer team battled World Cup second favourites Argentina.

Remember, this is a friendly only. Rubbish. With a war and half a dozen tough matches in both World Cup and non-competitive situations, this was always going to be a no-holds barred contest.

Argentina certainly looked a fluid, dangerous and skilful attacking side. With world-class players such as Riquelme, Zanetti and Crespo England had their hands full. The same could be said for the opposition as Owen, Rooney and Lampard are some of Europe’s finest.

The match saw five goals, woodwork struck, penalty claims, half a dozen great saves and lots of hard tackling.

England had to battle back twice from 1-0 and 2-1. Goals in the 87th and 92nd minute by Michael Owen crowned a stellar performance by England. On this form, England can legitimately hold hope fo good progress in next year’s World Cup.

Yet. It was a friendly. At 2-1, Argentina noticeably slowed. Riquelme and Crespo were substituted late on before England equalised and than scored a winner. No complaints though. Beating an Argentine side that came to play and win is something to shout about. It sets things up nicely for next summer.

12 November, 2005

NattyNatNats05Nats T-shirt

Modelling a Nike Nats' T-shirt with embrodered lettering.

The cap fits

Sporting a new "Curly W" fitted cap from Twins.

08 November, 2005

Cosmopolitan Bolton

A wet and windy Monday night in Bolton is still a wet and windy Monday night in Bolton. But, last night's Bolton-Spurs Premier League clash was indicative of how cosmopolitan English football has become. Fifteen years ago, to suggest Bolton were in the top flight might raise eyebrows. That they play in a modern all-seater stadium would surprise. Mention that they fielded an Israeli, Jamaican, Senegalese, Greek, Japanese and Mexican, well you might be told that you were bonkers.

Spurs, on the other hand, are the Cosmopolitans Extraordinaire. They were the first to capitalise on the relaxation on foreign players in the late 70s: Argentines Ardiles and Villa signed in 1978 and provided heaps of entertainment. Last night, apart from a foreign contingent from such footballing Canada, Egypt and Korea, Spurs were unusual in starting 6 Englishmen (5 of them internationals).

However, as I said before. It was wet and windy night in Bolton. Despite all the cosmopolitan feel, it took a goal from Bolton's man with a good engine, Kevin Nolan, and several bad offside decisions against Spurs to settle the fixture.

Martin Jol's Spurs revolution continues. The defeat, the first on the road this season, drops them to sixth. Bolton, now third, join Wigan in the top three. Makes for an interesting looking ladder. Spurs have a good run off games after the international break to consolidate their position. But.

But, a wet and windy night in Bolton should have brought points. Draws against Manchester United and Arsenal in previous weeks brought encouragement. Spurs just cannot seem to beat Bolton and that's a worry. So two is the form of Edgar Davids, who looks short of pace and ideas. Carrick too was subdued. One cannot help think that the too cancel each other out (c) Alan Hansen 2005. Jermaine Defoe is in a scoring slump, but was denied by the assistant referee's flag.

There'll be more wet and windy nights. Next time they have to yield points.

06 November, 2005

Trade offer

hot stove
The IRBL Mariners have been offered Mark Grudzielanek for Mike Mussina.

Grud - .294/.334/.407 in 528 ABs; he's a 35 year old free-agent. I guess he's got a year or so as a starter.

Moose - 1.37 WHIP, in 179.2 innings, 142 Ks, 30 starts and a couple of CGs. Now 37, but still a solid No.2 starter.

Tempted to say no. Moose, despite his age, is likely to have more productive years. I need a second baseman, but Moose is my No.1 starter. Losing him exposes a fragile back-end rotation - Elarton, Ishii, Park and Greinke.

Advice, please.