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Simon Rice

Simon Rice has worked at The Independent since the summer of 2007 and takes care of all things sport for online.

Stags' testicles all round at the FA

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Monday, 20 April 2009 at 05:33 pm
Just when it seemed like the years of parading world superstars like Michael Jackson in front of the Fulham faithful and leaving the high court in stitches with his comments about ex-MPs were behind him, Mohammed al-Fayed has proved that he's still got a Harrods hamper's full of entertainment still in him.

A very official looking statement appeared on the Fulham Football Club website today, following various stories that the Egyptian was planning on selling the club. I was expecting to read a dour statement that the stories were unfounded and that the Harrods owner was fully committed to the club. What I got was a statement that would have left Christine Hamilton lost for words.

Fayed begins by claiming Fulham are the best club in the world (possibly), have the best team in the world (Fulham are eighth at the moment) and that they have the best fans (I'm one of them so I won't comment on that). He then goes on to address the "naughty" rumours. This is where it gets interesting.

The Fulham chairman calls the people who run the Premier League and FA "donkeys", explains that Premier League clubs are being robbed by Rupert Murdoch and co and then goes on to offer the most bizarre invitation I've ever heard: "I speak my mind, and other chairmen should too. They need to wake up from their coma and join me in this fight with the Premier League and the FA. In fact, they can come and have lunch with me at Harrods, where I can serve them stags' testicles from my Scottish estate, Balnagown. We all need big balls in this business."

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by his comments. This is the man who called Prince Philip a Nazi, Camilla a crocodile and the Royals "That Dracula Family".

Richard Scudamore, the chairman of the Premier League, was once asked about allegations of selfishness. He said: "Whose lunch have we stolen? Greed to me is if there are four cakes on the table and one person scoffs the lot. How can that allegation be made about the Premier League?" If I was Richard Scudamore I wouldn't be stealing al-Fayed's lunch that's for sure - especially when you look at what's on the menu.

Picture: Michael Jackson pictured at the division two match between Fulham and Wigan in 1999 (Getty Images)

Football back to it's predictable best

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Thursday, 16 April 2009 at 03:25 pm
This week's Champions League has produced the unexpected. Who would have guessed that the Liverpool v Chelsea tie would produce so many goals, that United would control Porto in the second leg or that Arsenal would triumph over Villarreal without the slightest hint of a scare?

The week has left me lost. While I'm no Mark Lawrenson, I like to think I've got a decent grasp when it comes to forecasting what's likely to happen in upcoming matched. What a fool I looked as I left work on Tuesday, explaining to a colleague that the game at Stamford Bridge would be a damp squib!

Despite all this, while watching this week's games, there were some nuggets of predictability - a few morsels that suggest I haven't completely lost my bearings in this fabulous week of football.

As always, Cristiano Ronaldo spent much of United's victory over Porto on the floor. But have you ever noticed he will always pull his socks up after being fouled? Is it possible that the poor lad has taken the advice after some recent poor performances a bit too literally?

Arsene Wenger continues to produce the lamest of celebrations among the managerial world. His double fist pumping is really quite poor. Although I do like the way you can gage his satisfaction by watching how high his fists come up. Here's a prediction: If you see Wenger's arms a full 90 degrees from the side of his body, pumping at approximately 110mph, Arsenal have just won the European Cup.

Then there's Benitez's note-taking reaction to a goal. Torres will ping one into the back of net and rather than the Ferguson-esque moshing among the back room staff, Benitez takes off the lid to his biro and scribbles a couple of notes. What's he writing? 'Nice goal'? Hit ball harder'? Come on Rafa, lighten up.

The final moment of predictability on show during the week was Frank Lampard's Pat tribute. The old pointing to the skies celebration. Really it's quite touching, but as a Fulham fan, I'd rather read Mark Lawrenson's prediction column on the BBC.

Spits, spats and spectacles at the Emirates

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 04:01 pm
So Arsene Wenger's yet to make an appointment with the optician it would seem.

Speaking about last night's 'spitting' incident the Professor claimed to know nothing: "There was no incident," Wenger said. "I haven't seen anything. You ask me what I have seen and I have seen nothing." Like the time you didn't spot Bergkamp stamp on Blackburn defender Nils-Eric Johansson or various other times you happened to have been looking the wrong way?

Yet Wenger remains a mystery because he's able to see some things that no-one else can. He was quite sure that Arsenal's clearly off-side goal deserved to stand. In fact, he even thought Arsenal should have been awarded two goals! "It is not offside because the ball was deflected by the fist of the goalkeeper," Wenger said. "(Johan) Djourou first, the goalkeeper after, then a foul on Gallas. Penalty. We should have got two goals."

It really was a fiery night at the Emirates. Phil 'The Tan' Brown was furious, particularly by Wenger's refusal to shake his hand after the match. How dare you Mr Wenger! If you're new to football, the refusal to shake another manager's hand at the final whistle is comparable to stealing an Irishman's Guinness on St Patricks Day - a definite no no.

One thing that Wenger did get right was his complaint that Hull were wasting time. I watched Hull a couple of weeks ago down at Craven Cottage and they were dreadful. From the first minute they looked to nonchalantly kick the ball away or 'accidentally' give it to the wrong person in order to eat up any time that they could. It made for a dreadful match and based on this (and the fact Hull stole Jimmy Bullard from us), I just wish it had been 'The Tan' that was on the end of that Fabregas special!

The boo-boys are a threat to rival climate change

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Friday, 6 March 2009 at 02:43 pm
There is a plague crossing our shores, threatening the good nature of our national game and spoiling Saturday afternoons up and down the country. The threat I speak of is that of the boo-boys.

Whenever I watch football at the weekend I hear the pure sound of negativity ringing around me. It seems that whenever I pick up the paper I read about this player upset with getting booed or that manager tearing his hair out at the expectations of supporters. Just what's going on?

There was once a time when the boo-boys were happy taking their anger out on the judging panels of cheap ITV talent shows. But then they wanted more. They are now regularly found at the Emirates stadium, particularly when Emmanuel Eboué is in the starting line-up. There is no doubt that the problem is spreading.

One of the worst things about this expansion of the boo-boy movement is the sheer negativity of it all, what with all the booing. Aren't things crap enough in this country without one of our few remaining escapes being dragged down to this level?

The fear we must all share is the unwillingness of the boo-boys to yield to reason. Once upon a time the boos were saved for genuine reasons, like Ashley Cole, but this season we have seen Liverpool booed for going top of the league! Even pleas to resist from the likes of Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello have either been ignored or quickly forgotten.

While it's not exactly the ice-caps melting, the confidence of this good nation's footballers is evaporating faster than Dwain Chambers after being let loose in a pharmacy, and that is a travesty we all have to bear.

Some say going nuclear is a step too far but I say, for the good of the national game, we must do what we must if we want rid of the boo-boys.

Manchester United declare: In iPod we trust

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Monday, 2 March 2009 at 03:24 pm
Yes, I'm well aware that headline is dreadful but looking around today's papers it could be worse. Here's some of the best (or worst depending on how you look at it) headlines today:

The Sun went with, 'The King and i-Pod'. The Guardian meanwhile wrote, 'United keep their iPod on the ball' while The Age went with a lazy 'Cup hero Ben is the apple of United's iPod'. All pretty useless, but Ben Foster's idea of watching previous penalties taken by Tottenham players on his iPod was nothing short of brilliant.

We in England have a tendency to think of penalties as a 50/50 contest, the winners pre-destined by the football gods before a kick has even been taken. When are we going to wake up to the facts?

Foster's study of previous Tottenham shoot-outs undoubtedly gave him an advantage. It proved that penalties are not 'a lottery', something which was stated by Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt just this morning, even in hindsight of Manchester United's victory.

In past international tournaments, England have not even bothered to practice penalty kicks - the argument being that you can't recreate the pressure of the moment. It's not a bad argument but surely it can't do any harm. England's woeful record in the spot-kicks department is evidence enough that if you don't practice, you can be quite sure it won't help your cause.

Fabio Capello seems like a man of reason; let us hope that he has the sense to put his faith in i-pods, rather than the gods.


Roy Keane gets the F-word treatment

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 02:12 pm
Step aside Delia, Manchester United have entered the world of cookery.

A new series on MUTV, Red Devil's Kitchen, pits United's star players against one another in a Masterchef style format.

Patrice Evra was first up in the kitchen, preparing lobster ravioli. 'It wasn't easy but I'm very happy' the Frenchman said.

But what culinary delights can we expect to see on a football based cookery programme?

Here's a couple of idea:

Roy Keane's Prawn Sandwich - Serves 1
Recipe: Take two pieces of bread, put some prawns in between and then f**k off.

Sir Alex's Red Wine Gravy - Intoxicates 2
Recipe: Stir gravy granules into boiling water until thick. Add entire bottle of Jose Mourinho's £300 wine.

Arsene Wenger's Pizza Pie - embarrasses 1
Recipe: Buy ready made pizza and cook for appropriate time. Take aim and throw at Alex Ferguson.

Watching Man Utd is like playing Fifa. It gets boring.

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 03:28 pm
So just what is it Manchester United are 'chasing' this year?

Is it a quadrology, quadrilogy or simply a quad? Or if we choose to count their World Champions crown as part of this season, we're entering the frightening realm of the quints.

No-one seems to quite know. I have a suspicion that us in the media are just making up words.

But on a more serious note, if United are to win the quintopulet - is it time to change the playing field?

Watching Manchester United this season is like playing Fifa or Pro Evolution Soccer.

It's great when you get the latest version of the game. You master the new tricks, see if the makers have judged your team's star player fairly (just for the record - Danny Murphy should be way better on Pro Evo) and steadily learn to play in a style that can only be described as Arsene Wenger's lurid fantasy.

After a while you have to up the game to the highest level - but over time - even that just isn't hard enough. You begin to give yourself ridiculous tasks, like score 50 goals in a season with your left back or, like United in the real world, try to win every single trophy in a season.

Before you know it, it gets a bit boring - you need a new challenge. Now, that's not a problem in the virtual world. You simply busy yourself with rebuilding your social life after spending far too long with your Xbox until the new version comes out - but in the real world, where do you go?

I think the 39th game idea sounds daft - but if United really can win the quadcepleplet, it might just be time for some sort of a change.

Goal shocker shows Liverpool lack strength in reserve

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Friday, 20 February 2009 at 02:38 pm
Some people are getting a bit excited by the prospect of Manchester United winning an unprecedented quadruple. At the moment, I must admit they look capable of anything. When they've needed to call on their youngsters or their ageing stars they've delivered, what United have is strength in reserve.

Sadly the same can't be said of their closest title rivals. The clip below shows Liverpool reserves taking on Everton earlier this week.

Does anyone remain in doubt about where the title is going this season?


My dying wish is to meet Jose Mourinho

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Friday, 6 February 2009 at 02:43 pm
If you could meet anyone before you die, who would it be? Well, Jose Mourinho of course!

This is the dying wish of a man from Sarajevo. He's been campaigning through Youtube and his blog in a bid to meet The Special One before he dies.

So far the Inter Milan manager has ignored the requests, and mirsoooo2009 (as he's known on YouTube) is getting desperate. He's already said he will commit suicide if he doesn't meet The Special One, but he has now taken things even further, as this video proves.

It does at least seem that mirsoooo2009 might share some things in common with Jose. He lists his occupation on YouTube as 'football tactics' and his interests and hobbies as, er, 'football tactics'. Where their conversation might go from there is unclear - mirsoooo2009 does not state whether he has any knowledge on the subjects of fine wine, or animal quarantine standards for that matter.

Solved: Merseyside sock mystery

Posted by Simon Rice
  • Thursday, 5 February 2009 at 12:25 pm
In the words (nearly) of Austin Powers, "Who throws a sock?". Well, Liverpool supporters apparently.

This was the strange goings-on at Goodison Park last night, as the traditional missiles such as coins and bottles were substituted for rolled up socks.

I just couldn't figure it out as I watched ITV bugger up their coverage. Why throw a sock?

Were certain sections of the crowd attempting to accelerate Rafa Benitez's decline into insanity? Were supporters stripping their clothes off in order to handle the 'simmering' action before their eyes? Well no - it turns out that some scousers were abusing their bitter enemies - er, scousers.

Apparently, the socks were thrown to taunt Everton 'sock robbers'. These are Kirkby residents who steal socks from clothes lines to keep their fingerprints off of the cars they steal. Kirkby, of course, is the proposed location of Everton's new stadium.

I'm not sure what's more ironic - Liverpool supporters abusing people from Liverpool, or that Everton's goal was interrupted by a car advertisement.


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