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Olympics a cherished dream

David Beckham has moved one step closer to realising one of his cherished dreams, participating in the Olympics after being named in the UK’s 35-man provisional soccer squad.

David BeckamDavid BeckamManager Stuart Pearce will announce his final 18-man squad on July 6th and if Beckham is confirmed in that line up, he will be one of three permitted over-age players allowed to be part of an Olympic soccer squad.

Four other well-know names have been mooted as potential candidates – Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.

Commentators have speculated that one of the reasons Beckham's name has been constantly linked to the UK team was because of the influential role he played in helping London’s bid to host the Olympics in the first place.

At 37, he is still considered a superstar, hugely popular despite the fact that he has not played club football in England for nine years.

No date has yet been set for when the English Football Association will formally announce the 35-man squad.

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So the question on everybody’s lips is, now that Brendan Rodgers, the former Swansea City boss, has been appointed Liverpool manager, has he the vision and flair to bring back the ‘glory days’ to Anfield?

Well judging from the comments made by the Premier League club's American owners he has! Rogers, who initially turned down one of the hottest jobs in English soccer, conceded he'll have to earn respect at Anfield.

Following in the footsteps of such a high profile manager as Kenny Dalglish will be no mean feat. After all, this was a manager who stopped Liverpool’s slide out of the Premier League and who managed to deliver an eight place finish last season.

But winning the Premier League and playing in Europe are all that Liverpool’s American owners care about.

The stumbling block in securing Rogers was his insistence that he would not accept a director of football over him. When that was agreed and compensation paid to Swansea, he is quoted as saying ‘We will form a technical board that will have four or five people to decide the way forward.’

Unlike former Liverpool managers, Rogers comes from relative obscurity although he has had a successful time at Swansea who finished 11th in its first season in the Premier League since 1983. On the way he has earned many admirers because of the Welsh team's attractive, possession-based style of play.

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said the 39-year-old was "our first choice and the right choice". Werner believes that Rogers is a ‘forward thinking coach’ who will bring a new style of attacking, relentless football back to Liverpool.

So, although Dalglish did steer Liverpool to a League Cup triumph and an FA Cup final appearance last season it wasn’t enough. His second spell in charge at Anfield was terminated after the club had their worst league finish in almost 20 years.

And so it’s a new chapter at Anfield, a new manager who brings youth and passion, but owners John Henry and Tom Werner will want success quickly.

Can the new kid on the block deliver? Only time will tell.

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Two famous ex Manchester United players, David Beckham and Bobby Charlton, will be presented with a commemorative cap and medal during halftime at England’s final warm-up match against Belgium on June 2nd.

David BeckamDavid BeckamThe award is for players who have played for their country in at least 100 national team games.

Beckham who currently plays for US-based Los Angeles Galaxy made 115 appearances for his country, the last in 2009. Charlton played 106 times for England.

Although Beckham never managed to win any honours with England he was made captain at the 2002 World Cup under coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Another recipient of the award will include retired goalkeeper Peter Shilton who managed an amazing 125 appearances. The award will also be presented to the families of 1966 World Cup captain Bobby Moore and Billy Wright a defender in the 1940s and 1950s by FA chairman David Bernstein.

The ceremony was introduced by Michel Platini, the president of the Union of European Football Associations, to celebrate those who have played in at least 100 national team games.

Beckham's focus now it seems is securing a spot in Britain's soccer team at the London Olympics.

Coach Stuart Pearce has included his name on his 80-man shortlist which he will whittle down to 18 soon to form the nucleus of Britain's first Olympic squad since 1960.

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Bizarre twist to the ‘beautiful game’

In a bizarre twist of the ‘beautiful game’, Chelsea who finished sixth in the English premier league, 25 points behind the champions Manchester City, are crowned the best team in Europe after winning the UEFA Champions League Cup by defeating Bayern Munich in Munich on a penalty shoot out.

Bayern_UefaBayern_UefaJust like the climax of the English premier league last week, both teams had their hands on the trophy at different stages of the game. Bayern had by far a tighter grip on it but in the end they let it slip dramatically.

Bayern were the firm favourites with the bookies to win and win comfortably. However Chelsea seemed to have an inner belief as well as a lot of luck.

It was 0-0 at half time in a tense game and an electric atmosphere. After 54 minutes, Bayern had the ball in the net from Ribery but he was offside. Then with only 7 minutes left, Bayern scored through Muller. Chelsea then levelled it in the final minute with a goal from Drogba. 1-1 at full time. There was 30 minutes of extra time to be played.

Four minutes into extra time, there was a penalty to Bayern. Drogba committed a foul on Ribery. Would Drogba now go from hero to villain? Robben’s penalty was saved by Cech and Chelsea were still in it at 1-1.

After a frantic second half of extra time, the game finished 1-1 so there had to be a penalty shoot out. It was very tense and no player likes a penalty shoot out. It would be the best of 5 penalties each and if it was still level, it would be sudden death.

Lahm scores for Bayern. 1-0

Mata’s penalty is saved by Neuer! 1-0 Bayern

Gomez scores. 2-0 to Bayern.

Luiz scores for Chelsea. Now 2-1 Bayern

Neuer (the Bayern goal keeper) scores. 3-1 to Bayern.

Lampard scores for Chelsea. Now 3-2 Bayern.

Olic’s penalty is saved by Cech! The tension was mounting! 3-2 Bayern.

Cole scores for Chelsea. Wow! 3-3.

Schweinsteiger hits the post! Stays 3-3 with advantage to Chelsea.

Drogba hits a great penalty and scores! He has gone back to being the hero. Chelsea win 4-3.

Chelsea have done it. They are champions of Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

Was it a fair result? I think Chelsea played defensive and unattractive football. You have to admire them though as they beat the best that Europe had to offer. This included a fantastic 4-1 win at home against Napoli to go through 5-4 on aggregate. They also beat Benfica and Barcelona so they deserve the crown.

A great achievement.

By Tony Judge

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English Premier League 2011-2012

After 37 games starting back in August 2011, it all came to a climax on Sunday last. All teams in the premiership were playing so there were 10 games kicking off at 3.00pm.

Manchester City (Superbia in Proelia)Manchester City (Superbia in Proelia)Manchester City and United were level on points but with City having a superior goal difference and a home tie, they looked odds on to win the title. Added to this was the excitement of City clawing back an 8 points deficit only 5 weeks ago.

City just had to beat Queens Park Rangers, who were poor all season and were in danger of being relegated to the Championship. Easy! But QPR did not read the script. If City won the game they would be champions of the Premier League for the first time. They last won the league in 1968 when it was known as the First Division.

United also had to win to have a chance and hoped that City would slip up. After 20 minutes, United made a breakthrough as Rooney scored. If it stayed like that and City remained 0-0, the title was United’s.

After 39 minutes City scored through Zabelleta. The league was now City’s at these scores. However, in the second half QPR scored with a powerful finish by Cisse. 1-1. The title was now United’s as they were still winning 1-0.

Then, in what appeared to be only the second attack by QPR, they scored again through Mackie. The title looked to be definitely in United’s hands now as they were still 1-0 up.

Joey Barton’s (QPR) sending off 10 minutes into the second half, proved to be crucial because it meant that there could be a significant amount of added time to the 90 minutes.

At full-time, the fourth official displayed the sign showing five minutes added time!

It was still 2-1 to QPR and 1-0 to United. City looked out of it. Fans left the ground and a lot of those who stayed were in tears

The United v Sunderland game was over and United had won! Are they the champions? Then in the first minute of added time, City scored through Dzeko. 2-2! Still not enough. City had to win!

To further add to the drama Aguero, in the fourth minute of added time, scores! 3-2 to City. One minute later it was over. Manchester City are the champions! Even if you don’t like football with all its negativity, you have to admit that was an exciting finish to the season.

There were other important games for 3rd and 4th spots as this would insure a run in the Champions League. Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had to win. Spurs won comfortably 2-0 against Fulham. Arsenal did their best to lose it but came out 3-2 winners away to West Bromwich Albion. However, Spurs 4th place may not guarantee them a Champions League place because if Chelsea win next Saturday (19th), they will get the 4th place by being the holders.

At the bottom of the Premiership, Bolton could only draw 2-2 with Stoke which means that they are relegated along with Blackburn and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

What a finish to the season. It’s the first time the league has been decided on goal difference as City and United finished on 89 points each. City had the advantage of finishing with a +64 goal difference to United’s +56.

What a day! I have followed City since the 60s through their many ups and downs. Even though they won the English FA Cup in 2011, I’ve waited most of my life  to see them win the Premiership. In contrast, United were looking for their 20th League title!

Well done City and who know what dizzy heights lie in store!

“Superbia in Proelia”

(Pride in Battle)

By Tony Judge

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Well, the search is over, England has a brand new manager.  64 year old Roy Hodgson, the West Brom boss takes over from Fabio Capello on a four year contract.  The 64-year-old admitted that he did not have much time to settle into the job before Euro 2012 but said: “It’s going to be difficult of course but hopefully I’ve got time.  Obviously I’ve been working here for the last five years so the players are pretty well known to me even though I haven’t worked with them all.  I’ve done as much research and spoken to as many people as I can."


Roy HodgsonRoy HodgsonHe will continue to lead the Baggies for their last two games of the Premier League season when his contract expires on 30th June 2012.  Throughout his 36 years as a manager, he has managed 18 teams, including three national sides.

The FA brought on their first manager in 1947.  Prior to that, they were managed by the "International Selection Committee" and since then, there has been 17 managers including Roy.  Of all these managers, Kevin Keegan has the worst record in terms of game wins in the World Cup and European Championship.  He only won seven out of 18 games played – 39%.  Compare this to Fabio Capello.  He got them through 28 wins out of 42 games – 67%.The best on record.

Roy commented:  “I’m a very happy man to be given the chance to manage my country,” he said.  “I’m looking forward to the task ahead. Everyone knows it’s not an easy one.  I know everyone in the country will get behind the team because it’s the team that counts.  While I do it, I will do my very best to prepare the team as well as possible for the tasks that lie ahead.  I’m grateful for the chance to be the manager of England and I look forward to it.  The only way I can win people over is by doing the job I know I can do.  Firstly I need to do it with the players to show I can improve the team, but it’s also important that the rest of the country buys into it.”

Roy confirmed that;

-          He will speak to John Terry and Rio Ferdinand about playing together again

-          England’s Euro 2012 squad will be announced at the end of the Premier League season

-          It is his intention to include Wayne Rooney in that squad

-          He is yet to decide who will be captain

Tottenham boss, Harry Redknapp, who was the favourite for the job wished Roy the best saying:  “England football is very important for the country but I don't know if it is as important any more to the players. That is the problem.  People like Bobby Moore, when they were picked, would have walked there.  But for some of the younger players it's more about club than country, which is a shame.”

However Roy has many difficult days ahead. The job of the England manager is to win games, not win over the press. But the UK press had questions for him at his first conference as England manager which was peppered with questions about the man invariably described, accurately or otherwise, as "the people's choice". Had the two men spoken? What did Hodgson think of Redknapp not getting the job? Why did the FA not interview the Spurs manager?

This is a ‘hearts and mind’ scenario and in the eyes of many English fans as well as the press, Hodgson appointment has stunned them.

If he was unaware of the scrutiny and treatment that the England manager's job would bring then events over the past few days will have firmly hammered that point home. Playing the media game will not save him - only results can do that.

From Ireland’s perspective we wish him well. But to be honest, can he really deliver the goods in less than five weeks? Logic would dictate that it’s an impossible task to cement together a cohesive team that will or can do just that in the limited time frame he has been handed.

Ireland may have a tough group to get out of but at least they know the managers game plan. England on the other hand has no idea of the new mangers plans. And that’s the problem with five weeks to go before Euro 2012.

UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine 8th June – 1st July


*Special point of note for Irish fans

If you’re travelling to Poland and Ukraine for the matches be careful about your health.
Travellers should be aware of an ongoing measles outbreak in many countries in Europe.
Since January 2012, Ukraine has reported more than 5100 cases so far.
The Ukrainian outbreak is concentrated near the border with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia,
but it is expected that the outbreak will increase in the next few months and spread to more areas.
As measles is highly infectious and vaccine coverage in the Ukraine is low,
there is a high chance of exposure to the measles virus.
People who are unvaccinated or who are not immune to measles will at significant risk of infection. 
Travellers should also be aware of other infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.

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Robin_Van_PersieRobin_Van_PersieArsenal striker Robin van Persie has been named the Player of the Year by England's Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) at a recent ceremony held in London.

The 28-year-old Dutch international has scored 27 Premier League goals so far this season for his club Arsenal, his best so far for the north London club.

Van Persie is quoted as saying: "If other people are saying it, it’s special, but it’s even more special if your opponents are saying it."

He added that none of his success would be possible but for the contribution of his fellow team mates highlighting the fact that Theo Walcott had given him 12 assists this season which he really appreciated.

Van Persie joined Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004 as a second striker, a role made famous by a fellow Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp.

Manager Arsene Wenger later switched Persie to the central forward position in the team and since then Van Persie has relished the role.

Van Persie was also included in the PFA's Premier League Team of the Year, which featured four players from title-chasing Manchester City and only one from champions Manchester United, Wayne Rooney.


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stuart-pearcestuart-pearceAll the signs indicate that England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce expects to be in charge for Euro 2012 this summer. He has already begun speaking to certain Premier League managers about the fitness and form of players who are up for possible selection to the English team panel.

Several commentators have said that Pearce, placed in temporary charge of the team for the friendly against the Netherlands on February 29th, has operated in the belief that he might be needed to lead the team in Poland and Ukraine if the English Football Association fails to select a successor to England’s former manager, Fabio Capello.

Incredibly it appears that Harry Redknapp, the favorite for the job, has had no contact with the FA on the matter which is why Pearce is preparing himself for Euro 2012.

The FA has sent letters to every English player named in a provisional squad by Capello over the past 18 months. They explain that the player is being considered for the Euro 2012 squad and that if successful they will leave England for Krakow around June 5th.

It’s not known how many players received this coveted letter but anecdotally the figure is put at 70.

England is booked to play friendlies against Norway on May 26th and against Belgium at Wembley a week later.

The domestic season for English football ends May 13th and the Euro 2012 squad will be publicised shortly after.

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The UK's Football Association (FA) plans to appoint a permanent technical director. This will be the first time it has done so since 2002, when the last and only incumbent Howard Wilkinson left the role to manage Sunderland.

The position will be based at the new national football centre at St George's Park in Burton-upon-Trent, a 330-acre facility with 12 pitches – including one synthetic and one indoor – plus sports medicine and sports science facilities, two hotels and a conference centre.

It is widely anticipated that the FA will look for an experienced manager to run the new centre who will report directly to director of football development, Trevor Brooking.

The FA said the new position was part of its drive to improve “the technical ability and knowledge of our players and coaches”.

The £100 million St George’s Park, scheduled to open in summer, will be the training base for all England teams as well as the focal point for all the FA's future coaching and player development.

The technical director will also be responsible for working with Premier League and Football League representatives to implement the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). This will be introduced from the 2012-13 season and is a youth development scheme, proposed by the Premier League. The EPPP plans to free up movement of younger players by establishing a hierarchy of football academies in the UK, and fixing the transfer fees between academies.

It contains 25 proposals to improve the chances of domestic talent breaking through into first-team football.


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