Rangers fans’ behaviour following UEFA Cup final

I may be a Liverpool fan, but when it comes to the game north of the border, despite Liverpool’s close ties to Celtic, I am partial towards the blue half of Glasgow. What occurred last night following the 2-0 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final in Manchester was unacceptable.

Some Rangers fans — it is important to stress that a majority of Rangers fans were not involved — behaved rowdily, drunkenly, and unprofessionally, dragging the club’s name into mud. A pack of 200 fans allegedly chased police officers — who needed to call in police dogs — and one officer was badly injured in the violence.

Rangers, credit to them, have come out and condemned the behaviour of these fans — who cannot be called that. UEFA has praised the city of Manchester’s handling of the event and subsequent trouble. I cannot beg to disagree. A number of MSPs — from both Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservatives — have called for an inquiry into the use of police force.

It seems as though this was necessary for the officers to protect themselves.

Rangers will go back to Glasgow defeated. They will also go back to Glasgow with shame on their name thanks to these idiotic people who rampaged through Manchester. If Rangers can identify any of these fans it would be in the club’s best interest to ban them from Ibrox Park to serve as a warning to the rest of their travelling support not to misbehave at such a big event.

On a related note, Celtic legend Tommy Burns passed away today at 51 after losing a battle to cancer. Condolences to his family and Celtic during this difficult period.

Cardiff approved for UEFA Cup

The Football Association have approved Welsh Championship side Cardiff City to represent England in the UEFA Cup next season should they win the FA Cup (or lose it, assuming Portsmouth finish sixth or worse in the league).

Furthermore, the FA have announced that the Welsh national anthem, Land of My Fathers (Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau), will be played prior to the match.

What absolute tosh.

It’s the ENGLISH FA Cup final, not the WELSH. Play only the English anthem and let only English clubs in. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cardiff KNEW this situation might arise when they chose to stay within the English league system with regards to European qualification, and should suck it up and accept it.

As for the anthem, even a supporters’ club has voiced its opinion that the Welsh antehm should not be played. It’s ridiculous to hear an anthem of a different country at a cup final for England. Next thing you know they’ll be saying play the anthems of the countries of all the players taking part in the final.

Justice for the 96

Nineteen years.

Justice for the 96.

When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be
Tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart, and
You’ll Never Walk Alone
You’ll Never Walk Alone

Justice for the 96

Today, at 3:06 pm BST (10:06 pm SST), please pause for a moment’s silence to mark 19 years since the tragedy.

FA Cup Final: Cardiff’s UEFA Cup hopes

With Cardiff City’s big 1-0 win on Sunday over Barnsley in the second FA Cup semi-final, the Football Association, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) find themselves stuck in a right old quandry.

As Cardiff City — an FAW member (and only an associate member of the English FA) face Portsmouth (a team who could easily qualify for the UEFA Cup through league participation) in the final, it means they stand a real chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup, as the winner (or, if the winner’s already through by other means, the runner-up) of the FA Cup.

The catch? Well, they’re a Welsh club. Which means they can’t be entered into the UEFA Cup for winning the English domestic cup. Or, rather, they can’t be entered into the UEFA Cup by the English FA. And, of course, the FAW are unwilling to enter Cardiff City into the UEFA Cup as their entrant over the Welsh Cup victors.

While the FA has said it will review its rules, it maintains that Cardiff City play in England (along with Swansea in the league system and Merthyr Tydfil, among other teams, in the non-league system) as a “guest” team, and thus cannot qualify for Europe through its competitions. Manager Dave Jones has already said he will not take it lying down if Cardiff are barred from playing in the UEFA Cup should they make it.

A slight lifeline for Cardiff: UEFA are set to discuss giving Cardiff ‘wildcard’ status in next season’s UEFA Cup should they make it. I see a number of issues here, not least who Cardiff would replace? Would UEFA take a spot away from England? Or from Wales? Or from some poor low-coefficient country with only one UEFA Cup spot?

My personal view: Rules are rules and Cardiff know full well that if they want to have the privilege of playing in Europe they will have to do it through Wales. They could’ve chosen to go to the League of Wales, but they’ve stayed and are paying the price. The best way to settle it would be for Portsmouth to win, and still miss out via the league.

Bit harsh, but fair, imo.

Liverpool 1-0 Everton — live as it happened

Live text commentary as it happened: Liverpool 1-0 Everton

1754 BST: Full-time. Liverpool 1 Everton 0 and Liverpool win the Merseyside derby and do the double over their great city rivals. Torres’ 27th goal of the season seals the deal, and Liverpool jump five points clear of Everton in fourth.

Stoppage time: Gerrard clears the ball with a great clearance. Kuyt is troubling the Everton defence with some sneaky play, staying up and forcing Howard to clear. One minute left.

Liverpool win a free-kick. It would now appear to be game over. Liverpool make one final change — Peter Crouch is on for Steven Gerrard.

90th minute: That results in Torres being replaced for safety by Jermaine Pennant. Torres’ goal in the 7th minute could turn out to be the winner here… Gerrard drives a rasping shot at Howard who tips it out for the corner. Three minutes of stoppage time. Arteta does well at the corner to win the goal kick.

89th minute – YELLOW: Fernando Torres earns a totally needless booking for kicking the ball away to time-waste.

88th minute: Corner taken short. Jagielka heads clear.

87th minute: Hyypia heads away the corner. Carsley wants to shoot but doesn’t get it right and Liverpool clear easily. Down the other end, Kuyt appears to have scored but just missed wide after a deflection.

86th minute: Everton keen to keep a hold of the ball to maximise their chances. Cross from Osman. Reina can’t deal with the cross — scary thoughts of last week’s Man Utd match come to mind — and Skrtel concedes the corner.

84th minute: Arteta squares the free-kick to Fernandes, whose shot from distance is blocked. Liverpool break quickly and Torres plays a brilliant ball in, saved well by Howard.

83rd minute: Carragher gets a cross in but it flies over the goal on the other end and out for a goal kick. Everton win a free-kick in a good position up the other end.

82nd minute: Hibbert takes an attacking throw short. The ball is lost for a goal kick, although Hibbert wants a corner. Ref Webb has to talk to Hibbert about dissent. Replays show it should have been a corner. Babel is taken off for Benayoun.

80th minute: Everton have an attack going. Liverpool’s defence holds strong, however. Liverpool counter. Torres down the left, but can’t get past two defenders in the box. Osman finds Yakubu but Skrtel makes a good challenge.

78th minute: Liverpool keeping possession but appear to be content to hang on to the ball. You cannot help but feel that Everton will somehow get a point from somewhere. Torres caught offside. The ball goes missing for a while and Howard only takes the kick a minute later.

76th minute: The Everton defence switches off and Tim Howard has to rescue his colleagues by clearing the ball outside his box before Ryan Babel can get to it. Liverpool looking for a killer blow here.

75th minute: Torres caught offside. Liverpool should have buried this game a while ago.

74th minute: Everton win a corner. Reina deals with it by punching it away. Goal kick as it comes off Yakubu.

71st minute – YELLOW CARD: Phil Jagielka is booked for a high challenge on Gerrard. Phil Neville is off for Leighton Baines.

69th minute: Yobo loses the ball a bit too easily. Gerrard breaks down the left but his cross is blocked and out for a corner. Eventually cleared short and Everton play upfield quickly. Skrtel reads the situation well and challenges successfully to clear.

66th–68th minutes: Liverpool make a number of good passes but it comes to nothing as Babel’s cross is cleared. Everton break down the other end and win a throw. Taken quickly by Arteta. The cross is headed away and it’s Liverpool’s turn to break. Early ball in from Kuyt is not cleared properly and Alonso has a shot, blocked by Yobo. The resulting corner comes to nothing.

65th minute: Everton have an attacking throw. Taken long by Neville, but headed away. Liverpool win the ball. Gerrard tries to play it early but Jagielka is aware and puts it out into touch.

62nd minute: More from the stats department: Everton have had 60-40 of possession this half. Rafa Benítez is seen discussing something with fourth official Rob Styles.

61st minute: Everton want a penalty. Not given. Replays show Yakubu dived. Fernandes is finally on, he replaces Steven Pienaar.

60th minute: Everton want to bring Manuel Fernandes on, but Osman’s struggling a little and Moyes has to halt the change to consider Osman’s situation.

59th minute: Everton win another free-kick, in a less promising position but still upfield. Arteta’s cross is headed by Osman but it’s wide. Osman has gone down.

58th minute: Everton win a free-kick in an ever-so-promising position.

57th minute: The game’s gone ever so slightly dull right now. Gerrard plays a one-two with Alonso, but the ball is lost further up the field. Rather dull right now.

54th minute: Yakubu’s cross is easily cut out. Liverpool now with possession in midfield, playing well. A loose ball finds its way to Osman, but he wastes the chance. Lee Carsley has gone down hurt after a challenge on Gerrard saw the Liverpool skipper accidentally injure him. He’s back up now though.

53rd minute: Everton have had more possession this half than they had last but need to make something happen soon. Osman finds Pienaar in an offside position.

50th minute: Another little bit from the random stats department: Everton are statistically the ‘cleanest’ team in the Premier League this season, with the lowest number of yellow and red cards. This despite having two men sent off last time they played their Merseyside rivals.

48th minute – YELLOW CARD: Yakubu does well to latch on to a through ball and wins a corner for his team. Taken by Arteta. Reina punches it clear and Babel takes the ball down the left. Brought down by Pienaar who is booked.

46th minute: Right from the get-go, Liverpool threaten again. Everton manage to deal with it, but this surely isn’t a good sign for David Moyes’ men. Torres attempts a little chip from 20 yards which is easily saved.

1705 BST: Everton get us underway in the second half. Will Liverpool be made to pay for failing to take a number of their chances? We’re about to find out.

1704 BST: The teams re-appear for the start of the second half.

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Harry’s deployment in Helmand – over

BBC NEWS | UK | Army considers Harry deployment

Let’s see. First off, the Drudge Report must be severely censured for leaking this information, even if it was not part of the agreement. If people get hurt because of the leak, the editor in charge when the leak occurred SHOULD be charged with criminal negligence, both in the UK and the US.

Second, Prince Harry’s safety and the safety of his unit has to be paramount. Since this has now been leaked there is little doubt that insurgents will step up attacks on his unit. I just cannot see how it will be possible for His Royal Highness to continue operating in Helmand, a volatile region in itself, safely following this disgusting and highly unpardonable utter disregard for human safety by the Drudge Report. It won’t be long before HRH is pulled out of Afghanistan, no thanks at all to the idiots who published the information.

By the way – any idea if Harry could sue the Report if he gets withdrawn from Afghanistan for loss of employment? He certainly should consider it in my opinion.

UPDATE:
BBC World News editor Jon Williams has blogged about the BBC’s decision to go along with the agreement to not report on the Prince’s deployment. Couple of things he emphasises, including that the blackout was not compulsory and was a voluntary agreement. However, he does – rightly – point out that the decision had to be taken not just with Harry in mind but also the security of the people around him.

“No editor wants to be responsible for increasing the risk they already face from the Taleban. Nor do I think our audiences would have thanked us for doing so.”

Well said, Mr Williams. The BBC and the rest of the British media (for once) have used their heads. A shame Drudge Report couldn’t do the same.

UPDATE (1030 GMT Feb 29):
BBC Radio Five Live’s Victoria Derbyshire show is now reporting that the MOD has decided to withdraw Prince Harry from Afghanistan, according to the BBC’s Royal correspondent Peter Hunt.

IOC to allow athlete blogs

The IOC has decided to let athletes at this year’s Olympic Games blog. They’ve laid out obvious requirements, but interestingly enough they have said blogs should be “confined solely to their own personal Olympic-related experience” – meaning no political posts.

Well, if you’re going to let athletes blog, surely they can blog about anything they like? It’s just an extension of what the British Olympic Association tried to do in my opinion. At least they can still use their mouths.