A Perfect Start for Barcelona on the way to Securing the Champions League

Jesus Saves, But Suarez Gets the Rebound

Barcelona secured another trophy in Luis Enrique‘s debut season in charge, as they beat Juventus3-1 in the UEFA Champions League final in Berlin – to become the first side in history to claim two fabled trebles.

A fifth European title looked set to be a routine task when Ivan Rakitić opened the scoring in the fourth minute of the Champions League Final, with a trademark Barca goal, which saw nine of its 10 outfield players touch the ball. But Alvaro Morata cancelled out Rakitić’s early opener in the 55th minute.

Luis Suarez produced his most crucial contribution of his short career at Camp Nou when he restored Barca‘s lead 22 minutes from time, to effectively settle the game.

Not to be outdone Neymar scored two goals, before the final whistle, but one of them was disallowed, as it had ricocheted off of his arm.

Iniesta’s contribution was, as always, immense and Xavi, his midfield partner for so many years, came on to draw the curtain perfectly on his Barcelona career.

Arsenal Win Back to Back FA Cups

Arsenal Take the Record for FA Cup Victories.

In a week when the worst of football was exposed, with seven FIFA officials being arrested for bribery and corruption and the corrupt President being re-elected, practically unopposed, Arsenalshowed at Wembley why football is the world’s most popular sport and known as the Beautiful Game.

Great range of Men’s and Women’s Football World Cup Tee shirts, including Brazil, Hand of God, I’m a Keeper, England 1966, Gazza and Lineker Italia 90, Gazza Crying, Butcher and more…

Much had been made of Aston Villa’s resurgence under Tim Sherwood, who managed to avoid relegation (just) and took them all the way to the FA Cup final, beating Liverpool with a spectacular come back in the semi-final.

Some Arsenal fans were worried, despite Arsenal having beaten Villa twice in the Premier League, with an aggregate score of 8-0.

They need not have concerned themselves. Arsenal dominated from the kick off and the only surprise was, that approaching half time, no one had troubled the scoreboard. Villa goalkeeper Shay Given made a great save from a Laurent Koscielny header, and Kieran Richardson blocked crucially from a close range Theo Walcott shot, as he looked certain to score.

But just as the Villa faithful thought they could take solace at half time, in the fact that they had held out, despite the barrage of Arsenal attacks, Walcott paid off Wenger’s faith in starting him ahead of Olivier Giroud. A Nacho Monreal cross from the left was headed down by Alexis Sanchez and Theo drove it into the goal from just outside the six yard box.

Before Villa had a chance to settle into the second half, Alexis Sanchez doubled the deficit, with one of the most spectacular goals ever seen in an FA Cup final. While Sanchez dribbled in front of the Villa defence, Monreal made a break down the left that split the back four, Sanchez saw the gap open up and hit a thundering, swaying and swerving 30 yard shot that left Given flaying and went in after clipping the underside of the bar.

As good as Sanchez and Monreal had been, there was not one Arsenal player that was having a less than magnificent game. Ramsey, Özil, Cazorla and Coquelin totally dominated the midfield.

In the few opportunities that Villa had, Arsenal defended well all over the pitch. The perceived threat of Christian Benteke, that Aston Villa‘s Ashley Westwood said Arsenal’s players will be having “sleepless nights” over, earlier in the week, was snuffed out by Mertesacker, Koscielny and Szczesny. The Arsenal goalkeeper was full of confidence and commanded his box, showing none of the poor decision making that he sometimes lapses into.

Not to be outdone at the other end of the pitch, the Arsenal skipper got on the score sheet, heading in a cross from the right to deepen Villa’s misery.

What a year the German, Arsenal duo of Mertesacker and Özil have had! In marginally over 12 months they have won the World Cup and two FA Cups.

The attacking stars who warmed the bench, were all given a run and Jack Wilshere did everything he could to make an impact, but did not manage to add to his goal of the season that he scored on the final weekend of the Premier League.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain assisted in the final goal.

Despite being left on the bench at the start, Olivier Giroud came on to do what he does best and with almost the last kick of the game, scored his 19th goal in a season where he spent almost 3 months out with a broken leg.

The celebrations were huge and the much maligned Arsenal coach once again justified his existence, by taking Arsenal to an all time record 12th FA Cup win and the 6th of his tenure.

So the English domestic season is over and Arsenal have everything to look forward to in the next. Bring on the rumour season.

FIFA Corruption Scandal

Seven FIFA officials Arrested

As you have probably heard by now, seven FIFA officials were arrested yesterday in Zurich and have been charged with corruption, ranging from racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. They are suspected of receiving more than $150m (£100m) in bribes.

It has long been the belief of many football fans that FIFA is a thoroughly corrupt organization and it looks like that is finally going to be confirmed in court.

World Cup Finals Allocation

The allocation of the next two World Cup finals tournaments to Russia and Qatar have really tipped the scale.

Russia has been an established football stronghold for many years. But to award the second biggest sporting event in the world, to a tiny, corrupt country with an awful record on human rights and no experience of running any event of such a large scale, is just totally outrageous. Qatar has neither the stadiums nor the infrastructure to hold such a major event, not to mention the impossible heat at the time of year when the competition is normally played.

The awarding of the 2018 World Cup tournament to Russia was suspect, but there can be no doubt that the only reason for 2022 going to Qatar was the result of many officials receiving significant bribes, The only people that will benefit from such a competition are those that received the bribes and those that paid them.

I believe that FIFA should be disbanded as soon as possible and a new body created to oversee world football. That body should be a non-profit organization and should have no reason to hold the billion dollar assets that FIFA does, interestingly most of it in cash.

Former England striker and BBC football pundit, Gary Lineker, condemned FIFA in no uncertain terms.

How do you react to today’s news?

I suppose it is surprising in terms of the timing and scale of it but I don’t think any of us are particularly surprised about the allegations of corruption within Fifa.
There has already been many examples of that in previous years but I think it just shows you how deeply engrained within the corporation it is.

Fifa says it welcomes any investigations into wrongdoing, is it doing enough?

Fifa’s clearly not doing enough. It’s not done enough in terms of corruption that’s for sure. Of course it says it welcomes investigations but how many people left in Fifa have not been accused of various wrongdoings.

It is quite clear that either Fifa needs to be completely transparent, they need to pretty much start again or it needs to be taken out of their hands. The major federations need to boycott Fifa.
Is there a will out there for this to happen?

I think this will help towards getting the result we’d all like and have wanted for some time. It will be interesting because Fifa tends to find a way of wriggling out of things.
In any other corporation, if there was so many things that were found to be corrupt, then the man at the top would go – but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Fifa.

Sepp Blatter faces an election in two days’ time, where does it leave him?

It wouldn’t surprise me if the election went ahead and he walked away with it as he always seems to do. He has all the people he needs on his side, that’s how you get money into your particular area of the world.

None of them would want to vote for someone that might lose because it weakens their position in Fifa. The election should be suspended for now – common sense should prevail – but common sense doesn’t always exist in the towers of Fifa.

Should the 2018 and 2022 tournament bids be looked at again?

There are now major investigations not just concerning Fifa and corruption but also the two bids – World Cups 2018 and 2022 – so a lot will depend on how rotten it was and how corrupt the voting process was.
If it is substantial enough then I don’t think they will have any option but to rethink and revote. It is a mess, it is a huge mess, but it is something that needs to happen and the sooner the better.

How does it look on the world governance of football?

It looks awful on the world governance of football, it is a wonderful sport. It is completely nauseating to be involved in football and have to suffer this ongoing embarrassment to the game that is the governing body.

Lineker is, of course, correct on all accounts.

FIFA are going ahead with the elections and Sepp Blatter will no doubt be reinstated. The 2018 and 2022 allocations are being investigated, but FIFA have stated that they will not be moved.

When corruption is that ingrained in an organization, it will not change of its own will. For that reason FIFA needs to be closed down forthwith.

Where Real Arsenal Fans Should Watch Football

Skip the Bias and Learn More About Arsenal Than The Mass Media Reports

I’ve been watching Arsenal TV/Arsenal World on Foxsports. It is also available online at Arsenal.com

The channel is run by Arsenal and it is a great opportunity to see what a big football club is really about. Not to mention a rare chance to watch games without the north west bias and constant speculation about the clubs ‘crises’.

As well as showing games and highlights, there is plenty of behind the scenes footage. Players are shown training and competing for the highly sought-after starting places in the line up. But they are also shown having fun together and with fans. Those players who are not regularly mentioned by the press make frequent appearances and the depth of the club is far more evident than I believe that most fans understand.

Footage of youth games can be seen on Arsenal TV and the strength and talent in depth is astounding.

I wonder if more Arsenal ‘fans’ watched their football this way they would become real supporters and begin to enjoy the triumphs more than running down the boss and any player who dares to temporarily lose form.

EFL Cup Nottingham Forest

The EFL Cup game against Nottingham Forest was shown in full on Arsenal TV, when it was not available live anywhere in my region.

With eleven changes from the side that started on Saturday against Hull and many players selected not featuring in any match day squads previously, so far this season, Arsenal‘s strength in depth could not have been better highlighted.

With recent multi-million pound signings Xhaka, Elneny and Lucas included, as well as frequent first team regulars Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain, this could hardly be called a weakened Arsenal side. But Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom really staked their claims for Premier Leagueand Champions League football.

Arsenal old boys Bendtner and Lansbury struggled against their former club

Arsenal old boys Nicklas Bendtner and Henri Lansbury tried hard to demonstrate what their former club is missing and really left their mark on some Arsenal players.

It was totally refreshing to hear a commentary that was not littered with sly remarks about the threat to Arsene Wenger‘s position and digs at the perceived shortcomings of many Arsenal players. A lot of Arsenal fans could really benefit from watching games this way, without the negative influence of the regular TV commentators and pundits.

Granit Xhaka‘s second long range goal in four days could have a very positive effect for the team, beyond the value of the goals themselves. If Xhaka continues to threaten this way, opposing defences will have to come out to deal with it and this may give Alexis and Walcott the opportunity get in behind them.

Arsenal picked up their second win and scored four goals, for the second time in four days. This, coupled with the evident strength in depth, should put Arsenal fans in a positive state of mind. Lets hope that it does.

Arsenal Transfers Summer 2016

Arsenal Spend Big

Arsenal have spent big in the summer of 2016. Not only big, but they have reinforced in the areas that many people have been saying that they have needed to fix for several years.

Only time will tell if the new recruits will meet the required demands of the, never satisfied, Arsenalsupporters. So let’s take a look at who they have picked up and what their prospects are.

The first recruit of the summer, very early on, recruited even before the European Championship.

Xhaka is a 23 year old, highly rated, defensive midfielder from Switzerland, who has spent the last four seasons in the Bundesliga at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

This is no stop gap recruit, unlike Elneny, who appears to have been brought on board to give the incumbents time to recover from injuries and still have a chance of reclaiming their places. While some Arsenal fans believe that ‘all that is new is good’, I am not sure that Elneny will ever truly make the grade in the Premier League. But he will provide competition for a place in the starting line up and cover, for the less vital games.

Xhaka is a whole different prospect and in his few appearances so far, he has already proved influential. The only concern is his disciplinary record and unless that improves, could mean that he is not available for as many games as he is needed to be.

Rob Holding ₤2,000,000

A central defender, the key position where Arsenal have been lacking for some time. Gabriel was recruited, but similar to Elneny may prove not to be enough. For me, Gabriel makes far too many mistakes to ever be reliable in this key role.

Holding is a 20 year old, English lad, who was picked up from Bolton Wanderers, when several Premier League sides were interested.

With Mertesacker and Gabriel injured and Koscielny rested early in the season, Holding has already made more first team appearances than he would have been expected to. While lacking experience, he has done well so far, even maintaining his position when Koscielny was brought back into the side. Only time will tell.

A talented young striker and very much one for the future. However, Asano was refused a work permit to play in the Premier League and was immediately sent out on loan to VfB Stuttgart, for the season and possibly two.

Arsenal seem to recruit these Asian players purely to increase the club’s profile in this lucrative market. I would be surprised if he ever makes many first team appearances for Arsenal.

Highly rated Nigerian teenager Kelechi Nwakali is very much an academy recruit and is expected to go out on loan very soon. So this talented midfielder is another one for the future.

Lucas Pérez £17,100,000

The fans have been crying out for several seasons for a world class striker. At £17,100,000 and 18 goals last season, I am not sure if Lucas fits the bill. Other Premier League clubs, specifically Everton were chasing his signature, but Arsenal beat them out.

The days of Henry, Van Persie and Adebayor (for one season) as a lone striker bearing the goal scoring burden, are long gone at Arsenal. Goals have been spread around in recent years, with many chipped in by the wealth of talented midfielders. So far this season, six goals have been scored and no player has scored more than one.

We will simply have to see if Lucas‘s skills transfer to the Premier League and if he thrives at Arsenal.

Shkodran Mustafi £35,000,000

This is a huge spend for a central defender. But for me this is the key role that needed to be filled. Arsenal have lost, or drawn, so many games in recent seasons, with a single goal denying them 3 points. So anyone who can stop goals being conceded could be the difference between finishing top four and finishing first in the league.

Mustafi comes highly rated. At 24, he already has a dozen senior caps for Germany and a World Cup winners medal in his trophy cabinet.

I would expect him to walk straight into the starting line up and maintain that place, alongside Koscielny, for the foreseeable future.

With Holding, Mertesacker and Gabriel, once fit, providing back up, what has been Arsenal‘s Achilles heel could now become a position of strength.

So things are looking up on the new player front. But to balance that out, some quality players have been lost. Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky were all released at the end of last season. Calum Chambershas been loaned for a year to Middlesborough and Joel Campbell to Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Jack Wilshere has gone on a season long loan to Bournemouth and Serge Gnabry has been sold to Werder Bremen.

I appreciate that it is difficult to keep so many players happy, when only eleven are allowed on the field at a time. I also appreciate that regular first team football could be very good for the players out on loan. But, with Arsenal‘s infamous record for injuries, releasing so many players feels uncomfortable, if not outright dangerous.

From a glut of right wingers, that position feels a little light on now, with only the injury prone Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain as recognised wingers. Campbell made a huge contribution last season, when he was given the opportunities and Gnabry has just completed a sensational Olympic campaign. So I am sorry to see either of them go.

A fully fit Jack Wilshere is an asset to any team. So, if he is going to be fit, I would rather see him at Arsenal.

That said, with the squad now assembled and a bit of luck regarding injuries, this could be a big season for Arsenal and they have as much chance as anyone else of going that one step further and claiming the Premier League title this time around.

A Century at Upton Park Comes to an End

West Ham Memories

While I have always been a dyed in the wool Arsenal fan, West Ham was geographically the closest club to where I grew up. But not all Londoners pick their nearest team and far too many of them choose Manchester United for my liking. But, as a result, I visited the Boleyn ground for several matches and a huge majority of my friends and relations supported the Hammers.

The First Visit to the Boleyn Ground

My first memory of the Boleyn ground was going to a match with some primary school friends. We couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 years old and went on our own. The West Ham world cup stars Hurst, Moore and Peters were all still playing there, as well as Frank Lampard Senior and Harry Redknapp, who lived just across the road from me.

Walking down from the station to the gates of the ground was exciting, the smell of the hot dog and peanut stalls purveyed. Merchandising was in its infancy, compared to nowadays, but there were numerous stalls selling rosettes, scarves, programmes and posters and it’s these colours and the atmosphere that they created that hang in the memory.

I don’t remember what the result was, or even who West Ham played that day, but the memory of going to the ground lasts and many people mention that walk from the station to the ground, when they talk of their memories of Upton Park.

Johnny Ayris

 

My uncle Stan became a coach at West Ham and would take me, along with my brother, his own kids and some of my other cousins to the ground. He introduced Johnny Ayris, a local player from Wapping, who replaced Harry Redknapp on West Ham’s right wing.

I have a strong memory of leaving the ground with Johnny Ayris in Stan’s car and crowds of people outside peering in, to see if any of the players were inside.

Sadly Johnny suffered a career ending injury and his stay in the big time was cut tragically short.

John Lyall was the West Ham manager for 15 years and during that period my uncle Stan became his right hand, left hand and backup man.

What I mean by that, is whenever West Hamwere on TV we always looked out for Stan in the coaching box and he always made sure he was either side of the manager, or behind him, to ensure that he got in the TV shots.

The 1980 FA Cup Final

West Ham played Arsenal in the 1980 FA Cup final. My loyalties were not divided, even though both camps surrounded us. Me, my dad and my brother were firmly Arsenal fans, but West Hamfans were everywhere around us.

My dad got a ticket for Wembley and went with some friends, while we stayed home and watched on TV. One of his friends owned a prominent local business, Barney’s of Billingsgate. It included a fish stall on the corner of Goulston Street, near Aldgate East station, which became Petticoat Lane on Sundays. The stall was opposite an even more famous fish purveyor, Tubby Isaacs. But mainly Barney’s was a fish wholesaler, on the periphery of London’s famous fish market.

Eddie was quite a dapper man and I never forget him showing up for a drink at my dad’s pub, before going to the game, wearing a pale blue business type shirt, under a claret crew neck pullover. He had replicated the Hammers kit and colours in a very smart, but casual way.

Of course no West Ham or Arsenal fan can forget what happened that day. In a close fought, scoreless, battle Trevor Brooking bent over to tie his boot laces in the Arsenal area and the ball hit him on the head, scoring what was probably his only ever headed goal. Well, that’s the way I remember it anyway. West Ham won 1-0 and I went into mourning.

Later that night lots of the family and the locals were celebrating the West Ham win in the bar. I sulked and went upstairs to bed. I would like to have been the bigger man, my dad managed it and he had been an Arsenal fan far longer than me. But they were throwing plenty of money into his till, so maybe he consoled himself with that. My mum wasn’t happy with me; she obviously did not understand that Arsenal losses hurt and none more so than in big games like this.

The Brooking Opening

Although Trevor showed up for the Boleyn ground closing party, he never made it to dad’s pub re-opening. We had to make do with a mascot from one of the beer companies, an unknown man in a plush suit. I make no further comment on who was preferable to me.Some years later my dad had the pub renovated and planned a grand reopening. The brewery promised him a celebrity to perform the launch. He said that he had booked Trevor Brooking. I asked, why him and not an Arsenal player? He said that he was probably a better known local name, but I suspect that he was only offered the choice of a few.

The Arsenal Connection

There has been plenty of traffic between Arsenal and West Ham. Lots of ex-Arsenal players chose Upton Park to play out the twilight of their careers.

Liam Brady, John Hartson, Ian Wright, Nigel Winterburn, Freddie Ljungberg, John Radford,and Stewart Robson are amongst a slew of ex-Arsenal stars who had their final tip at the big time at the Boleyn Ground.

I hope that this will not prove to be the case for Carl Jenkinson, who spent the last two seasons on loan at West Ham, but they sent him back crocked at the beginning of 2016.

West Ham have had a good record for producing solid central defenders and that is really what Arsenal need right now, to go that step further. They could do a lot worse than to put in a bid for Winston Reid.

I will miss the old Boleyn ground, even from afar. We wish West Ham luck in their new stadium… just not too much luck.

I Have to Get a New TV Set

Of course there is a limit to how long these new LCD sets last. You can only use them for so many hours, before the screen burns out. I am not sure that this is what has happened with this set, but it is not worth what it would cost to figure it out. As a stopgap I have the small screen that was in the bedroom, but I figure that I may as well wait until the TV deals for Cyber Monday come out in a couple of weeks. It is not like I am going to be looking to spend a huge sum on this though. Continue reading

Contract for Regular HVAC Maintenance

Due to some unfortunate events, my company had to end its relationship with the contractor who we used to go through to service out HVAC systems, and so we are going to have to find a replacement in short order. I don’t want to get into the particulars about why we had to stop using our previous HVAC contractor, but it will suffice to say we were not completely satisfied with the service we were getting. I am looking for pricing info on HVAC service contracts in Manhattan NY and hopefully I can try to get some bids from a few contractors to see what the lowest bid will be.

We were with the previous contractor for close to 10 years, so I am probably in for a bit of a surprise for the costs of a new contract, since it has been so long since the company has explored hiring someone for regular HVAC maintenance and servicing. But given that we have a large number of HVAC systems, it is vital that we have maintenance performed on them on a regular basis, to keep them up and running. Further, a couple of our buildings are climate controlled, and it is even more imperative that the HVAC systems for those buildings are kept in good working condition, as we could stand to lose a lot of money if they were to break down for any significant period of time.

I am going to maybe give this process a couple of days, to try to decide on a contractor to hire for the job, but I do not want to wait any longer than that. Actually, if things go to plan, then it will not take that long to make a decision, but I want to give myself more time to allow for any complications.

Reliant Energy Goes the Extra Mile

I can’t imagine living in a world without electricity. I know we are extremely spoiled compared to our ancestors from the 1800s and earlier, and that just makes me all the more happier to have been born when I was. When I moved to Texas and started looking at a site that has a lot of information on it for different energy companies, it made me really appreciate what we have in today’s times. I looked at quite a few of the different companies like Green Mountain Energy, Centerpoint Energy and CPL Energy, but the one that I liked the best was Reliant Energy.

When I read that they were one of the first companies to provide energy to Texas customers, it sparked something in me. Continue reading

Looking for a House Near Galveston

I have just started looking for a new place to live, obviously since I am going to be working in Galveston that is where I need to find a house. I have managed to sell my house in Houston rather easily and I got a good price for it, so for now I am staying in one of those extended stay hotels., I have just been trying to figure out which power companies you choose from in the area I was looking at. It seems as though Reliant energy in Texas is the only one that I am familiar with, but of course you can not really expect to judge them by name recognition and get the best deal. Continue reading