Well the international break is upon us once again so we can turn our thoughts away from the championship and look forward to the usual rip roaring fare of international action of the like provided by England v Macedonia, Armenia v Finland or the Faroe Isles v Lithuania. Fasten your seat belts for that action.
After our win against Sheffield Wednesday the squad are off on their “holidays” with a trip to Portugal for a few days to recharge their batteries. Well, for some reason, I don’t think this will be a holiday and as Liam Lawrence has been quoted “We’ll be doing a lot of fitness work out there I gather and I’m sure it will be tough,” There’s one thing you can guarantee when they are out in Portugal – there’ll be no staying at hotels at the end of a dual carriageways, training pitches with potholes in them or taking part in challenges at the likes of a Harry Ramsden’s. If there’s one thing can be rest assured these days, its that the players will be taken out there and given the first class treatment from the arrival at the airport to arriving back after the trip and they will be there to improve themselves as footballers and as a squad. The players on the injured list over the past few weeks should hopefully be helped with the break as well to regain their fitness and so we should have a few more players available come the trip to Deepdale a week on Saturday.
The international break provides a good excuse to have a look at what else is going on in football and the outside world in general.
It’s hard to get away from the “bungs scandal” that is the major talking point in football at the moment in this country, although if you are like Sepp Blatter and in charge of running FIFA then you will no doubt be finding it easy to get away from such issues as bungs and match rigging by concerning yourself with the major world football issue of matches being decided by penalty shootouts. Mr Blatter really does have his finger on the pulse when it comes to overseeing world football, so much so that he obviously is intent on sorting out the scandal in the summer that rocked Italian football. How they will recover from winning the World Cup via a penalty shootout I don’t know and it truly was scandalous. But let’s get back to the minor issue of the “bungs scandal”. Lord Stephens has so far concluded that around 39 transfers from the previous two years are possibly not 100% legit. Does that surprise anyone? Sadly it doesn’t surprise at all as the Premiership has been awash with money for the last 10 years plus now, and during that time we have seen wages and transfer fees go up and up, and where there is a buck to be made then there’s always going to be the duckers and divers looking for their share of the pie by whatever means necessary. In fact the only surprise is that it is only 39 that are being investigated in further detail. What I would hope though is that once the investigation is concluded we see punishments that really do fit the crime, and that stringent procedures are implemented to clean up the game, but the pessimist in me says that there’s more chance of Sepp Blatter refusing corporate hospitality at an International match this weekend in favour of standing on the terraces at Blundell Park to take in Carlisle v Millwall (home win at the rather generous 4/5 looks a good bet mind you for this encounter). In fact Richard Scudamore, the Premier League Chief Exec, has already hinted that little may be done with his comment “I cannot give an absolute commitment that we will take on Lord Stevens’ recommendations”. I can imagine him now flicking through the League Managers’ Association official excuses handbook for a suitable quote.
On the other side of the pond, the United States are concerning themselves with a few shootout problems of their own as three schools have suffered from gun killings in the last week. It’s never nice to hear about such events and thankfully they aren’t a regular occurrence in our land, but in the same week that this is happening a bill is being pushed through to make online gambling illegal in all states of the US. What a thoroughly strange place the U.S. is when they think that outlawing gambling on the internet is a priority yet owning and getting access to guns is always defended as being a choice that U.S. citizens should have. Still at least when the next major football final goes to a penalty shootout the Americans won’t be too bothered about their inability to have a bet in running on it (that of course is if they even know its taking place) as they can just have a shootout of their own Russian Roulette style in some downtown bar with the dollars being handed across the table.
Ante Post Tip of the Week: Valencia to win the Champions League at 14/1.
Six points already in their group and win at home to Shaktar Donetsk in their next match will all but guarantee them progress to the last sixteen. A solid side with class in attacking areas from the likes of David Villa, Edu, Ruben Baraja, David Albelda, and £17m summer signing Joaquin they can prove a match for anyone as shown with their recent 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp.