Twitter #cleaveropinion – Premier League Week 4

Back after the international break (or as I call it a football entertainment nap) the Premier League is in full swing. And as my predictive powers are in full fail mode over at, I’m sure this will be fairly obvious punditry. Or Alan Shearer in 140 or less characters.

ARS 6 – 1 SOT. No luck for Saints. But much better play from Gunners. Finding some confidence and more importantly, goals. #cleaveropinion

MNU 4 – 0 WIG. Sloppy Wigan suitably punished. Hernandez’s runs perfect. Good Buttner debut. Soft penalty though. #cleaveropinion

Side note: This must be Man U’s Capital One Cup/Early round FA Cup team. Looked good. #cleaveropinion

FUL 3 – 0 WBA. Definite red card. More like Odemwingie was trying to punt the guy. Baggies leaving too much room for Berba. #cleaveropinion

AVL 2 – 0 SWA.Villa looked something else. Much promise and great goals. Hoping Swansea don’t suffer an away form slump. #cleaveropinion

STO 1 – 1 MCY. Crouch showing his best accidental prowess. Garcia with an easy header. But great Begovic/Shawcross save #cleaveropinion

Side note: I can’t decide what Balotelli would do if he wasn’t a footballer. MMA Fighter? Body builder? Royal Bodyguard? #cleaveropinion

SUN 1 – 1 LIV. L’pool had the run of the game really but lacking the goals/will to score. Sunderland, good squad but wins? #cleaveropinion

Side note: I mean that I can’t see the, winning games, despite their squad. Talent on paper, yes but in games, not sure. #cleaveropinion

QPR 0 – 0 CHE. Handshake gets headlines but Cesar the real story. Great debut. Chelsea good start goes on, keep Hazard fit. #cleaveropinion

Side note: QPR!!! CESAR??? Seriously? How do they afford this? Also, their shirt numbers are ridiculous. Who decides this? #cleaveropinion

NOR 0 – 0 WHU. Vaz Te was pretty good. Norwich couldn’t score despite trying hard. Mad jaaskelainen saves though. #cleaveropinion

REA 1 – 3 TOT. Spurs deserved win really. Great goals from Defoe, good to see him on form. Not too sure on Spurs away kit. #cleaveropinion

EVE 2 – 2 NEW. What a game. Bad ref decisions, goals, emotion & some great passes & play from both. Classic football match. #cleaveropinion

Final Note: On a week where football was secondary to justice and apologies were made, the truth has proved the 96 will never walk alone.


Want more? Read my history of Liverpool’s poor January Transfer record or catch up with the previous weeks below:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

The Highs and Lows of Liverpool’s January Transfer History

Liverpool are no strangers to January transfers and in their current situation they’ll save enough money in goal bonuses to spend during the New Year window. Such names as Scott Carson, Muricio Pellegrino and Jan Kromkamp have come via January transfers. Even God himself, Robbie Fowler, came back at the end of the window in 2006. But Liverpool has had some great signings and bad signings during this window and as we enter the “striker-less” era at Liverpool, this doesn’t bode well for buying. Here are some of the high, and lowlights of Liverpool’s history during January:

The Highs

Daniel Agger – With the exception of Jamie Carragher, he is Liverpool’s longest serving defender. Although he has been blighted by injury during the early stage of his Liverpool career his dedication to the club has cemented him in folklore. Liverpool remembers great defenders. Which is why they still love Riise. But Agger moved from Brøndby for a mere £6m in January 2006 and hasn’t looked back. Much like Riise, he destructive left foot as rattled a few nets.

Martin Škrtel – A year later, in a deal worth £6.5million, Liverpool acquired “The Terminator’s” services from Zenit Saint Petersburg. Again there was injury worries during the first couple of seasons. But since then, Škrtel has been a fixture in the Liverpool side. What he has brought is goals, unexpectedly. A force in the box for set pieces, his head always makes me check his odds for first goal scorer. All in all, the two defenders are two of the shrewdest buys Benietz made at the club. How many clubs can boast that they only paid £12m for two world-class centre backs? Not many.

Maxi Rodriguez – Liverpool seemed to like raiding Athletico Madrid in the last decade and Maxi was seen and used as a great back up player in a squad continually blighted by injury. As a winger he scored 15 goals in 57 competitive games, but that doesn’t show his movement and work rate when he was on the pitch. The best thing about this was that he was a free transfer. He perfectly filled a hole, like January transfers should. All in all it was good business.

The Lows

Fernando Morientes – The year Liverpool won the Champions League, their strike force consisted mainly of Steven Gerrard. Actually it was Milan Baros, but the fact that you only remember the goals Gerrard scored shows how much Baros contributed. So Morientes was brought in to shore up a league campaign (as he was cup-tied). Problem, at 28 after a great spell at Real Madrid, his form dropped. Dramatically. 12 goals in 61 appearances over a year and a half. Brought for €9.3million and sold for £3m. A loss, for everyone – fan, player and club alike. To see Morientes struggle in a team that should have been prefect for him was hard but like others before and after him, it just wasn’t right.

Andy Carroll – What do I need to say about a last minute £35m “oh no we just sold our star striker what do we do” purchase? Is Carroll’s failure to deliver due to lack of games? Is it due to injury? Is it due to the fact that Liverpool have yet again tried to shoehorn a good player into an unsure and failing tactical system? (I point to Robbie Keane as testament to this). Who knows? But 8 months into his career as a record signing, Carroll is on loan, injured and has scored only 6 goals. I think everyone can agree that this will only end bad financially for Liverpool. So far then, bad buy.

The Middle

Some of you are probably wondering why I’ve omitted Luis Suarez. Well, he is worth his weight in footballing gold when it comes to creating chances, ghosting defenders and getting goals. No one has ever denied that. But Suarez came with more than £22.6m worth of football. He came with baggage. Much popularised even before Liverpool brought him and then heavily in the spotlight for racism last year with a hefty ban. The problem is that we are unable to tell if he is more trouble than he’s worth yet. Generally he’s despised by almost everyone in England except Liverpool (as the booing at the Olympics showed). If he can deliver this season in a squad light on finishing quality, then he’ll be a high. If he doesn’t and gets frustrated, he could be a rather large headache for Liverpool’s now overworked PR department.

So when January approaches and Liverpool dip their toes in the cold winter market pool (they’re already looking), what can we expect to see? The money is not there for Rodgers. That much is certain. Also their Europa League results will determine if being cup-tied is an obstacle or not for potential buys or loan moves. One thing is for sure; Liverpool will be gagging for goals and will be taken advantage of for their desperation.

Twitter #cleaveropinion – Premier League W/C 1/9/12

Another week gone by and my Liverpool side are looking flatter in football than Holland does geographically. See what I thought of the rest of the games and keep up with me on twitter: @cleaverslips.

SWA 2 – 2 SUN. Good game, Fletcher with a good goal & uncharacteristic lapse for the second from Swans. Right result here. #cleaveropinion

Side Note: Sunderland look to have brought well, Chico needed to go. But gutted for Taylor. An unlucky injury. #cleaveropinion

WBA 2 – 0 EVE. Great attacking game from 2 in form teams. Nice goals Howard couldn’t do much about. Fellani didn’t turn up.#cleaveropinion
Side Note: Agree with Redknapp on Clarke. Looks to be brining the best out of his team and it’s good to see. #cleaveropinion

WHU 3 – 0 FUL. Carroll centre of everything, hope not injured as this was a West Ham side possessed. Nolan – class finish.#cleaveropinion

MCY 3 – 1 QPR. Result never in question, but commanding game for City. Nice for QPR to get a goal though. Fear for them.#cleaveropinion

Side Note: I still don’t understand QPR’s transfers. They need defence. Big players, high wages, typical rich club syndrome.#cleaveropinion

TOT 1 – 1 NOR. Friedel still great. Heard a. Lot about uncreative Spurs yesterday, have to agree. Harsh red card maybe.#cleaveropinion

WIG 2 – 2 STO. 2 easily avoidable pens. But Wigan can counter attack well. Great Al-Habsi save though. Wigan will survive.#cleaveropinion

Side Note: Pulis at one point lifted his baseball cap to comb his hair back with his hand. HE DOESN’T HAVE ANY HAIR!!! #cleaveropinion

LIV 0 – 2 ARS. Woeful Liverpool. No goal scorer will ruin their season. Giroud should have buried his chance though.#cleaveropinion

STON 2 – 3 MNU. Harsh on Saints. Deserved the point. Lambert great, RVP slightly better… Slightly. Still a bit ropey, MU.#cleaveropinion

Side Note: I’ve never seen a penalty where the striker thinks they’ve already sent the GK the wrong way before they kick it.#cleaveropinion

NEW 1 – 1 AST. To follow.

Twitter #cleaveropinion – Premier League W/C 25/08/12

So here is week two of the premier league results and the collated Cleaver Opinion from twitter this weekend. Agree or disagree? Want to follow? Just use #cleaveropinion on twitter.

MNU 3 – 2 FUL. RVP great finish, but too much space. Big teams will punish that. De Gea still occasional comedy gold. #cleaveropinion

AVL 1 – 3 EVE. Everton look good. Will be in Europe, full of goals. Villa? Bad… Very bad. Picking up where they left off. #cleaveropinion

SWA 3 – 0 WHU. Swansea took goals from nothing. Essential for PL. Be interesting to see how they do against top 3. #cleaveropinion

Side note: West Ham. If your offside trap hasn’t worked, just keep using it against a good team with pace, yeah? #cleaveropinion

CHE 2 – 0 NEW. Quality Chelsea. Newcastle didn’t turn up and the Torres we love and fear did. Hazard and him, telepathic.#cleaveropinion

TOT 1 – 1 WBA. Tough for Spurs but they need goals and decisive play. Or else 90 min equalisers will occur. Frustrating.#cleaveropinion

SOT 0 – 2 WIG. Just didn’t happen for Saints. Defensive errors quickly exposed. But good play & Wigan have goals for once.#cleaveropinion

NOR 1 – 1 QPR. Unlucky for Norwich. Should have won, created chances, Green handling outside box. Not convinced by QPR.#cleaveropinion

Side note: Football & goals = good. MOTD lineup though is worryingly bland. But better Lawro there than the commentary box.#cleaveropinion

STO 0 -0 ARS. Bogey team but Arsenal need goals. Although in honesty, I think they need service more. Playmakers needed.#cleaveropinion

LIV 2 – 2 MCY. Liverpool threw it away, frustrating. But hope for fortress Anfield. Allen: Immense. Borini: Found wanting.#cleaveropinion

Side note: Another impressive run out for Sterling. Reminds me of a young McManaman. Maybe LIV’s Walcott… But with goals.#cleaveropinion

Bonus Side Note: Some cracking goals. McGugan for Forest. Tiago for Athletico Madrid. Torres for Chelsea & Suarez for LIV.#cleaveropinion

Twitter #cleaveropinion – Premier League W/C 18/08/12

So here is week one of the premier league results and the collated Cleaver Opinion from twitter this weekend. Agree or disagree? Want to follow? Just use #cleaveropinion on twitter.

WBA 3 – 0 LIV. Deserved win, arguably Reina had no chance with goals. Liv missed 2 easy shots. Red card made the difference. #cleaveropinion

QPR 0 – 5 SWA. Very poor defending. Irresistible attacking. Michu looks great. Fear for QPR, they’ll need goals. #cleaveropinion

NEW 2 – 1 TOT. Good attack from both. Ba-great finish. Silly Pardew push. Both will be tough to beat. NEW at home even more. #cleaveropinion

Side note, if Newcastle can get both Ba and Cisse firing, god help everyone. #cleaveropinion

FUL 5 – 0 NOR. Clint who? What’s a Prog? NOR showed no attack & bad def. Exhibition for an interesting FUL side. Happy Jol!#cleaveropinion

Side note, Happy Jol is subjective. His face is like a stone with features painted on. #cleaveropinion

WHU 1 – 0 AST. Physical Villa, Cole falls over… And over. Goal on technicality. Will be a long season for both clubs. #cleaveropinion

Side note, two constants in PL. Big Sam will chew and at least one team will have a flourescent away kit. #cleaveropinion

REA 1 – 1 STO. Stoke becoming the new Bolton in physicality. Hilarious keeping. You have to feed the Prog. Balls = goals.#cleaveropinion

Side note, nods to @FootballRamble for “Feed the Prog.” enjoy some of their many great T Shirts here:

ARS 0 – 0 SUN. Frustrating for ARS. Good team, played ok. SUN had an invisible bus. No RVP hangover yet but goals needed.#cleaveropinion

Side note, following from friends comments yesterday, Giroud. He’s a handsome lad isn’t he? #cleaveropinion

WIG 0 – 2 CHE. Good outing for the Euro champs. Wigan also did well, possibly deserved consolation. More to come from both.#cleaveropinion

MC 3 – 2 S’TON. Best game so far. Ricky Lambert (YES) & great goals all round. Saints will be good, City machine goes on.#cleaveropinion

EVE 1 – 0 MNU. Fellaini something else. Utd looked patchy under pressure & De Gea kept them in the game in 1st half. AFRO! #cleaveropinion

Cheerleaders, Tebowing and Superbowls – It’s nearly Madden Time. (Madden 13 Preview)

In the next few weeks, Madden 13 will grace our lives. When I say “our” lives, I of course mean the fans of American Football. The rest of you will obviously be waiting for FIFA and drooling over how well Rooney’s plugs are rendered.

Now every year, unlike it’s rounded balled cousin, Madden curses whoever they choose to be on the cover with a terrible season/injury/crime. This year, the honour befalls one of the standout players of the past year. The man known only as ”Megatron.” Ok his real name is Calvin Johnson, but Megatron is his utterly deserved nickname.


What’s with the death stare on the left?

The Detroit Lions wide receiver had a career best season last year with 96 receptions for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. But before you Lions fans get the hump with EA for hexing your star boy, the fans in a round robin based system voted for this. So basically, Detroit, no one wants you to be happy. Sorry.

One thing Madden does very well (although NBA 2K12 has risen its game mightily) is emulating the presentation of the game on TV. For years we’ve enjoyed the dulcet tones of John Madden’s replacement, Cris Collingsworth, calling the action. NO MORE! Now the job falls to the CBS pairing of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms (hopefully without his trademark magic pen).


Did you hear that? He just farted!

The new kits by Nike are fully represented also and the QB’s have recorded audio to give the game a completely authentic feel when at the line of scrimmage. This also goes along with the standard promised visual improvements (new engine, sun shading, motion blur). It also promises to be as interactive as ever with a new “Connected Careers” mode which lets you share your coaching/playing triumphs, failures, creations and plays via twitter to the real world, NFL insiders, etc.

Where Madden could strike big is by following in the success of the Ultimate Team game mode. This has been in Madden for a while, even before FIFA had it. But it is FIFA’s success that could really make it grow. Already you can take your team out with you on mobile and there is a lot of emphasis on this, especially seeming as 96% of fans (completely made up statistic) are obsessed with fantasy games.


Already the curse of Madden strikes as “Megatron” is now a reserve.

But this could make the difference of when you get bored after 7 seasons as your created character or running a franchise. The online play in Madden has always been extremely fun (much more fun that FIFA and less annoying). So hopefully the MUT as it’s known will add that great dimension to it.

Hopefully, when I get my hand on a copy, I’ll let you know how well it plays and how bad the Dolphins suck. In the meantime, dust off last year’s copy to trade it in, and download a few podcasts to get you ready. Or if you fancy a read, have some suggestions below for both:

Americarnage – (iTunes)

NFL Inside The Huddle – (iTunes)

Tailgate to Heaven – (Amazon)

ESPN’s Mike & Mike – (iTunes)

NFL Rants & Raves – (iTunes)

Evra & Suarez: Let’s Move On

So here’s a bit of work I did today, covering the Manchester United vs Liverpool game for UK TV channel Sports Tonight Live.

But the reason I’m writing this post, especially now is that it’ll be impossible to comment on this with any fairness or impartiality by the end of the weekend, if not before. I’m not here, speaking as both a Liverpool fan who is incredibly unbiased and a sports journalist, to cast any aspersions on the characters involved. The actions of all parties will be commented upon, remonstrated, demonised and made examples of.

Firstly, neither Evra or Suarez are in the wrong with their reactions towards each other. Regardless of thoughts towards the professionalism of the game, it is understandable that they both hate each other for what ever reason they have. Secondly Dalglish and Ferguson are not wrong in their remarks in their post match interviews. It is both their beliefs that are being asked and questioned and therefore formed in their replies. Thirdly, both teams are fully aware and respectful of the rivalry they share and the implications such actions will bear upon their football clubs.

Let’s pretend and postulate that all three of these situations are presented in a Primary School classroom, at least one that I attended in any case. In each respect both parties (Evra & Suarez, Dalglish & Ferguson, Manchester United & Liverpool) would be brought in together to see the teacher. Not a damn in the world would be given as to what occurred and the repercussions or who started it or why. It would be made very clear that behaviour like this is unacceptable. It would be then that they would be forced to make up, fully understanding what they did wrong. Yes there would be dodgy looks and a long period of silence between the parties but it would eventually clear.

The clubs will survive this recent development without too much tarnish upon their characters, that is for certain. The managers themselves will be equally untarnished. In fact, I’ll be surprised if cult elements of the football community don’t put Dalglish in a frame for his response to Sky’s Geoff Shreeves. The players, however, will be vilified beyond recognition. They already have been. Suarez is wrong for not shaking hands after being proved guilty and not making this water under the bridge. The man believes himself to be innocent, who are we to dictate what he should believe and how he acts that out? He’s an adult human being. Evra jumped about post match and flaunted the win for his team at his home ground. Something unbecoming of the defender as far as I am aware. Not until he crossed paths with Suarez (who to his credit completely ignored his machinations) was this then a problem and an obvious retort against the current scandal. Some would consider this the action of a relieved man who’s overcome an archaic adversity. Others would say he’s baited the player and acted like an impudent child. Who are we to dictate what he should believe and how he acts that out? He’s an adult human being.

It may be a cliche that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But in the world of sport, cliches are almost literal. I must point out that while people will take sides, it’s not always correct. I cannot condone the actions of an individual who has been proven to have been racist (and admittedly has a dubious track record). Regardless of whether he believes he is or not, he has been proven guilty of the offence. Neither can I condone the actions of a man who has proven himself to wear his heart on his sleeve and yet show no decorum or professionalism in the global media spotlight, in order to selfishly celebrate a victory of vendetta (I don’t recall Evra using this as a platform to help oust racism from the sport). What I can condone is that these people really dislike each other, and that if the media spotlight focuses on this mutual disliking between two peoples then it becomes no better than a soap opera or a professional wrestling storyline. The news here isn’t that Suarez refused to shake hands or that Fergie is giving Liverpool transfer advice. It’s that two people dislike each other. Our wall to wall over embellishment of the coverage and a subject that, outside of revulsion and a moral point to prove that intolerance and racism is wrong, has no bearing on either sports or reality within most of the real thinking UK.

Put simply, something happened, people have been punished and its time to move on. Let the players and the clubs get on with it. If there is continued problems pertaining to the original offence then of course we should be mindful and utterly resolute in our approach. That is completely right if that is the case. Speaking as a fan of a club who never expected this scandal to ever be discussed in this country ever again however, not a shit is given this day if two people dislike each other. Let the sport do the talking.

We Must Acknowledge Depression In Sports

Words cannot echo the surprise and shock at the news of Gary Speed’s death. It was only yesterday, the day before his death that I saw him on BBC television being praised for how well he’s done with the Welsh national team. My thoughts are of course with his family and friends.

It is surprising how little we know about the human mind and how it is afflicted by illnesses like depression. In fact one of the last resort cures, what is currently known as ECT or Electroconvulsive Therapy, would be considered a barbaric medieval torture if it wasn’t applied by Doctors. We understand hardly anything when it comes to the brain but we can all relate to how people may feel when they are down or low. It’s something we all go through albeit not to the degree that someone suffering from depression would.

Imagine then if you will, piled on with the pressures of life and living and relationships, when you have further weight on your shoulders. That being the weight of the hopes and dreams of sports fans. Over the past year, we have only just begun to recognise and realise the effect that depression has on athletes and sporting competitors. There is such a high charged emotional atmosphere and connection to winning and losing at the highest levels of sport that we can’t even begin to wonder what strain the mind must go through psychologically. How many people before this have taken their life and we haven’t understood why?

Since the year 2000, I’ve lost count at the amount of professional wrestlers who have taken their lives, albeit also connected with substance abuse. People like Chris Benoit and Chris Kanyon who took their own lives. This year alone, we have lost so many sportsmen. NHL player Derek Boogaard (28), US Olympic Skier Jeret Peterson (29), NY Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu (42) Austrian Olympic Judo competitor Claudia Heill (29) have all committed suicide this year brought on by depression. German goalkeeper Robert Enke took his life last year. Cricket stars Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy both suffer from depression and Boxing’s Frank Bruno was famously committed at one stage. Former Tennis champion Monica Seles also suffered from depression.

Whether we should acknowledge that depression in sports is a problem is obvious. Of course we should. Not enough is done to prepare people for the rigours of professional sport from a psychological point of view. You get trained how to act, how to say things and how to act professionally but do you get enough to cope with the pressure of rising fame and increased responsibilities. For some, the money is enough, for others they can naturally adjust to the drastic changes their life can go through.

But what we forget and overlook is that all these athletes, former athletes and sportsman are normal people. They are the same as you, me, your neighbour, that kid in primary school that you might have picked on because of his glasses. They have the same blood, feelings, emotions and problems. There are no fingers to be pointed, no accusations to claim and no scandal to be had. This is truly a shocking event that no one saw coming or had the slightest inkling that it could happen. But if there was more open support for sportsmen and people with depression or symptoms like that, if the regulators and professional bodies of sport did more to reach out and offer help, like the Samaritans and Mind charities do, then maybe, just maybe, we might save a few more lives that have given so much to our own.

The Problems With a London NFL Franchise

The possibility of a London Franchise has been toyed with for quite some time, even before the success of the International Series. It’s something that will always be suggested as long as the NFL keep promoting themselves internationally and look to expand the game. London itself is no stranger to the game, having long had an affinity before the past five years of new Wembley Stadium. I personally am a great advocator of having this franchise possibility. But I can appreciate that it’s not without its problems as well as the positives.

Firstly, where would a franchise play? The obvious answer is London. It’s the most accessible for everyone in the country and also has one, pre built, ready made stadium. That’s right, the Olympic Stadium. Think about it this way. The NFL season will leave the summer completely free for athletics in the stadium and it won’t annoy the local football clubs, the FA or the RFU. And the NFL pitch layout does lend itself to being slightly separated from the crowd due to the team sizes and technical areas.

One of the big problems that has been noted recently is if the fans will abandon their teams that they’ve loved and adored for so long in favour of a local team. British sports fans, compared to America, don’t like to change their allegiances in this way. We either share a sense of local community in a team or sentimentality to a memory of youth, happier times or family. So on the face of it, it is unlikely that a London Franchise will be immediately supported. But eventually, it will become a part of the London sporting landscape. The trick is whether or not the NFL should just single out London. Regardless of our club allegiances, we English very easily drop our colours to put on the white and blue or the national kit. If the team was marketed as an English team and a national team for everyone, we may well be more willing to hang up our American jerseys.

This is turn would then alleviate some pressure on existing British American Football teams such as the London Blitz. For this development could either raise the popularity of the game in the country and step up the attendances and participants for the game, or it could completely crush it. What it would do though is raise our university leagues and give people who play the game a chance at glory as well as a different outlet for potential Rugby players. This also raises another point that no one has really noted yet, that I’ve seen anyway. One of the key successes for a franchise will be it’s Britishness. There needs to be a British element to it. Players, coaches, back office, whatever it may be. If there isn’t British people involved that our public can relate to then there won’t be that connection between team and fans and that can only end badly.

If it ever happens, it will be a big risk. To be honest I’m happy with the International Series and the possible expansion to two games. But I am very aware that the fans of the teams in America won’t take to kindly for us taking games away from them, unless they all fancy a London holiday (there’s a huge money making scheme in there somewhere). In this day and age, the logistics of travelling to London and back for either the home or away team isn’t as much of a talking point. These people are sportsmen at the peak of their fitness and if unfit middle aged business men can hack the travel then why can’t they.

This debate will continue until it either does or doesn’t happen. Would I drop my Dolphins jersey for a London one? I might, but the terms need to be right. Until then, I will continue to suffer.