May 29th, 2013

England v Ireland

‘It’s only a friendly’

Last time these two teams met in a ‘friendly’ in 1995 the match ended after 27 minutes in what was a dark day for football. 18 years on and a lot of water has passed under the bridge, but it’s easy to see why there is always an intensity between these two countries.

Tonight’s match is almost guaranteed to be a memorable one, and as such we have guaranteed minimum payouts across our pools.

Click here to bet on tonight’s match!

Daily Onion Bags

While you’re there, make sure you check out our Daily Onion Bag.



With the English season over with we’re doing everything we can to give you a football fix. Every day we scour the world of football to bring you a smorgasbord of fixtures that will test your footballing knowledge.

We also have markets ready for what should be a action packed Euro U21′s Tournament starting next week. Check them out!


May 25th, 2013

As some of you may have noticed, we have recently forces with one of the most exciting new bookmakers to hit the scene.


For those who are yet to try out Poolpit, they are a bookies with a difference. Instead of offering odds, you and other players play for a Pool, where the winner takes the lion’s share, and there are also prizes for runners up.


In the Horse Racing markets you are given true value for money. You place your bet before the meeting starts. Pick your stake (Starting at £2) and pick your horses for the whole meeting. Then you sit back and watch!


Every horse that wins will earn you 10 points, with 5 for second, 3 for third and 1 point for fourth. You also have a ‘Ripple’, which will earn you double points for that race. At the end of the meeting, all the points are added up, and if you find yourself at the top of the tree you’ll pick up the lions share of the kitty! There are also consolation prizes for 2nd and 3rd places.


With the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas featured this weekend from The Curragh, now is a great time to get involved with Poolpit. If you’re still unsure, new players receive a free £10 to start off their account, no deposit or credit card details required.


So get over there and try them out now, start putting the fun back into betting!



Happy Pooling!

May 1st, 2013

Now seen on the Irishbettingtips forum boards is a new advertiser called Poolpit. A brand new online betting concept Poolpit promises to provide its “poolers” with true value and to put the fun back into betting. Poolpit is offering without matching deposit a free £10 to use on the site and get used to the concept.


Its most popular bet is the horse racing , in which you choose which cash value you wish to gamble in, then make one selection from each race on the card and gain 10pts for winnings, 5 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd and a point for 4th.  You then choose a ripple which has to be played carefully as this is your star bet and gains you double points. The player with the most points wins the pool with a dividend for 2nd and 3rd. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get placed in every race, it doesn’t matter if you don’t even win – it’s all about how many points you get against your fellow competitors.


The whole concept is to break down football matches, cricket, rugby etc and so we’re told “ soon to come GAA “ into events, and that so many occur within a game. Your job is to estimate how many will occur; how many goals, how many cards, time of the last goal. Each time you are right you gain points and as above the player with the most points wins the pool. You gain 2nd, 3rd, 4th for being nearest to the actual result once your event has occurred. For example if you choose 10 corners in a game, and there were 9 – you would get zero points as your event did not occur. However the person who choose 8 would get 5 points as they were the closest to the actual result and their event occurred – its that simple.


Poolpit will set up 6 interesting and challenging market questions for each game and you have to make your selections from the options available.


Poolpit does not charge any commissions on returns, and Poolers play for 95% of the pot, so in todays world this is pretty good value. Why not visit the site and give them a go, as a brand new start up it would be refreshing to see the big boys given a different challenge.



The Grand National 2013

February 21st, 2013


The 2013 John Smith’s Aintree Grand National on the Saturday of the Liverpool meeting is without doubt the most well known horse race in the world.

The stands are sure to be abuzz with excitement and anticipation as the three day Aintree festival welcomes home a new hero.

The Grand National fences, Foinavon, Bechers Brook and the Canal Turn to name but three, have created drama that simply can not be matched by any other race.

Don’t miss out on all the Grand National 2013 Betting opportunities. The best odds for all the Aintree events are on now at William Hill

Which horse, jockey, trainer and owner will have their names carved into legend on Saturday 6th April 2013?

Plus, bet with William Hill and you’ll be able to watch every race live streamed direct from Aintree to your PC or laptop and ourWilliam Hill Radio service includes live commentaries, previews, reviews, tips and pointers to keep you up to date with the latest information from our cast of racing experts.

Make William Hill your destination for Grand National betting online.




World Hurdle: the odds are out now!

January 23rd, 2013

In the world of horse racing, there are some races that get fans giddy with excitement. One such race is this year’s World Hurdle, where some of the biggest names in racing from all four corners of the world meet at the Cheltenham Festival to find out who can be called the champion of champions.

On 14th March this year, 13 of the finest racehorses in the business will enter the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in the hope that they can pick up the big prize, but with such a star-studded field, it’s hard to pick a winner. The early favourite to win is Quevega at 3/1, who has achieved plenty of success on the track of late.

Interestinly, Quevega is the favourite for the upcoming David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle with many experts, meaning she could feature twice at Cheltenham. However, with the likes of Big Buck’s withdrawing from the race due to injury, some of the less-fancied entrants may fancy their chances of upsetting the odds.

Tidal Bay and Oscar Whisky are also among those expected to fare well. The former has some form behind him, winning the Lexus Chase in Leopardstown, while Oscar Whisky has had his fair share of injury problems too.

Another recent winner in the field for the World Hurdle is Monksland, who was also successful in Leopardstown, winning the Christmas Hurdle. However, injury doubts early on this year may hinder his chances of finishing first, but the form is there for him to provide a serious challenge.

Among the outsiders worth a look is Thousand Stars, the 16/1 shot who won earlier this year in France. Part of the successful Willie Mullins stable, he has a chance of maybe sneaking into the places, but his form has dipped in recent months. However, a lot can change in a couple of months in horse racing, and the big occasion may help to spur him on.

James Lawton: The miracle, Steven Gerrard, would be if young English players were not just left to rot

September 8th, 2012

If you are Steven Gerrard, captain of England, dumped in the middle of Moldova, and required to speak about the prospects of your team in the World Cup in Brazil in two years, what do you do? If you’re not keen on being carried away by men in white coats, you do pretty much what Gerrard did on the eve of last night’s qualifier.

You um and aah to the effect that notwithstanding a No 2 Fifa world ranking – a fable beyond the power of Aesop, surely – England winning the tournament and becoming the first European team to triumph in South America is probably something of a long shot but that the team have “every chance” of improving under the new manager, Roy Hodgson, and that one reason to keep the faith is that “in football miracles do happen”.

Unfortunately, if this one occurs, the fishes and the loaves and the fountain of wine at the Marriage of Cana are likely to take their place as merely superior examples of meeting the challenge of supply and demand.

Yet if Gerrard was simply doing his forlorn duty, this should hardly dissipate the anger of all those still capable of being exercised by one of the most appalling examples of waste and collective ineptitude in the history of our national sport.

You know England’s international game is up when even Sir Bobby Charlton, hero of 1966 and a lifelong optimist, agrees that the future has never looked so bleak.

For years Charlton has searched for the kind of glimmer which first appeared when the crusty loner Alf Ramsey took charge of the national team and opened with the arresting declaration, “Gentleman, most certainly we can win the World Cup.”

Now, Hodgson knows a similar statement on his lips would be greeted with decades of heaped-up scorn.

Instead, the new manager merely whispers his apprehension, as he did the other day when saying, “There will be quite a number of times I have to select players this year who will not be in their teams. That’s a risk but it is the nature of the Premier League.”

Indeed, it is the reality of a disconnection between the rulers of England’s major league and the FA organisers of the national team which has now reached quite scandalous dimensions.

One mind-bending example was the continued meek willingness to stage a friendly international three days before the start of a new domestic season, bowing to Fifa pressure. The deeper malaise, the reason why Hodgson is required to talk up his near superannuated and chronically ineffective midfield of Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and why the team’s chances of seeing new, excellent blood coursing through its veins ran into a brick-wall with the injury to Jack Wilshere, is that the idea of significant young English players emerging in the Premier League is becoming increasingly remote.

Where does Hodgson look? Danny Welbeck has promise, Tom Cleverley might be a real one, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is combative and promising, and if and when Wilshere returns brimming with fitness there might be genuine hopes for a quorum of young players fit for the highest international purpose.

Hodgson can only choke on a series of statistics which explain why England have run so far behind such European rivals as Spain, Italy, Germany and France at the highest level of the international game.

It is not that young talent is dying on the vine. It is that it is simply not making it far enough for the merest hint of ripening in the football sun.

Charlton, whose hopes were raised from time to time during the regimes of Terry Venables and Sven Goran Eriksson and, briefly, in the early days of Fabio Capello, long argued that there was sufficient depth of ability and character in the land which, if properly exploited in a flexible 4-3-3 system with which his old boss was able to beat the world, might just muster another run at the major prizes.

Now, though, it appears a belief which once seemed so inexhaustible has faded to the point of oblivion.

He said this week: “England have not got a lot of top-quality players to choose from so you must feel it is difficult to win things. You can’t see it happening in the World Cup in Brazil for instance. Perhaps if the right group of players came together it might happen but I have to say it is way off. Since the influx of so many foreign players there is a definite shortage of talent from which the England manager can select. I feel sorry for whoever is England manager.”

Certainly, the growing image of Hodgson, for all the dignified competence he displayed while tackling the near impossible challenge handed to him before the Euros, is not of a man in charge of his destiny but someone required to put out a series of slow-burning fires.

His persistent defence of Wayne Rooney, his insistence that he was “fine” in his delayed and futile involvement in the Euros, that he was fully fit and productive, is adding up to a major escape from reality.

It is, you have to say, the great indictment against English football, this refusal to face the reasons why the nation has been so marginalised in the international game.

The details of decline are stark enough but at various stages of the slide there is surely an overwhelming need to review them once again.

Since England’s only taste of international glory, the Germans have won two World Cups and reached three more finals. They have twice won the European title. The Italians have won a European title and two World Cups and reached two more finals. France has won two European titles and one World Cup. Spain has won two European titles and one World Cup on the way to conquering modern football.

There is, of course, no mystery in England’s separation from such achievement. It is the price of the most fundamental neglect of young England players, one that this week was underlined by the release of another set of nightmare figures. They tell us that of the 209 players who started in last weekend’s action for Premier League clubs – including the 11 of Chelsea in the Uefa Super Cup – only 66, or slightly more than 30 per cent, were available to Hodgson.

In Germany the issue of a proper quota of home-grown players in the domestic league is already causing alarm. However, even though the Bundesliga trails La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, it is still 19 per cent ahead of the Premier League.

Not surprisingly, the Spanish masters of world football are most fastidious about grooming the best of their young players at the highest possible level. The Spanish percentage is 64.3. Ligue 1 is at 62.7 and Serie A finds room for 52.1 per cent of the compatriots of such as Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini.

These figures speak not of seeping neglect in England but something that amounts to an astonishing abandonment. No wonder Charlton, a glory of both the English and the world game, sighs his despair and Gerrard mumbles about miracles. When the Premier League was installed – and so many eyes shone at the prospect of the TV fees – there were vague promises of more than token acknowledgement of the need to cultivate the national team.

The League would ultimately be trimmed to 18 clubs. The quality would be refined. The future brimmed with promise.

It is a story of betrayal that apparently knows no bounds and certainly it didn’t find one in Moldova this week when Gerrard, having exhausted other possibilities, found himself summoning a miracle. Let us hope that it is one which involves a few high-powered football men taking a peek in the mirror.

Manning introduced as Broncos QB

March 24th, 2012

Declaring it an opportunity he could not pass up, John Elway proudly introduced Peyton Manning Tuesday as the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

“I’m very excited to begin the next chapter of my playing career,” Manning said at a news conference after he agreed to a five-year, $96 million contract.

“I can tell this organization is committed to winning. In the end I felt the Broncos were just a good fit. This is truly a special football environment, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Manning, who will turn 36 Saturday, held up an orange No. 18 jersey, thanking former Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka for allowing the franchise to unretire the number for him.

“It’s truly an honor for me,” Manning said, adding that he believes retired numbers should stay retired but that 84-year-old Tripucka convinced him he should wear it.

The four-time MVP’s new contract will reportedly make him the highest paid NFL player, with an average annual salary of about $19 million. The deal comes less than two weeks after Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts.

Manning, who missed all of the 2011 season following a fourth neck surgery, admits he still has work to do to return to the form he showed before the operations.

“I’m not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured,” he said, adding he is encouraged by what doctors have told him about his progress to this point.

Manning said he could play this Sunday if there was a game but acknowledged he probably could not perform up to his usual standards.

“I don’t consider it much of a risk,” said Elway, who after a legendary career as Broncos quarterback is now the team’s executive vice president of football operations and led the charge to bring in Manning.

Elway said the team’s doctors “felt great” after examining Manning.

Manning’s contract will pay him $18 million guaranteed in 2012 and includes injury protections for the Broncos.

If Manning passes a physical in 2013, he will make $20 million in each of the following two seasons, and is scheduled to make $19 million in 2015 and 2016, when he would be 40.

With the future Hall of Famer as the new starter, the Broncos are reportedly looking to trade last year’s starter, Tim Tebow.

Manning praised the wildly popular 24-year-old but said he has not spoken to him yet.

“If Tim Tebow is here next year, I’m gonna be the best teammate I can to him,” said Manning, calling Tebow a “great player and a great guy.”

Tebow, a fan favorite even before he became the starter, led the Broncos on an improbable run to the AFC West title and a playoff victory over the Steelers last season.

Elway said the Broncos have not yet talked to any other teams about Tebow, but hopes the Heisman Trophy winner can remain a starting quarterback in the league.

“The toughest thing about this whole thing is Tim Tebow,” Elway said. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for him.”

Manning, who had also considered heading to the San Francisco 49ers or Tennessee Titans, made the decision to sign with Denver Monday.

Elway said when Manning called him to inform him of his choice Monday morning, he flashed a thumbs-up sign to head coach John Fox, who was so happy at the news he began quietly jumping around the office.

Manning, who already has one Super Bowl ring, spent the past 14 seasons in Indianapolis after the team selected him with the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft.

Where might Peyton Manning wind up next?

March 7th, 2012

With the Colts opting to release Peyton Manning, the entire landscape of NFL free agency has shifted for this offseason. Where Manning winds up could have a major impact on division and conference races, plus dictate what happens at the top of the 2012 draft.

There are a number of teams thought to be interested in adding Manning, provided he’s healthy — and that’s a big if at the moment, despite what Manning’s father, Archie, might tell you.

But a healthy Manning could be one of the most coveted free agents in recent memory. There already are several teams thought to be interested in the future Hall of Famer.

Who’s got the inside track? We break down the pros and cons, starting with the teams most likely to be in the Manning mix and working our way down the list to the long shots …


Arizona Cardinals

Pros: There’s one huge, very talented pro in Arizona’s corner, and that’s wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is one of the NFL’s top wide receivers. His presence alone puts Arizona near the top of the heap — no other team in the mix can offer a Fitzgerald-like star to throw to.

Two other factors to consider: Arizona plays in a dome and, despite San Francisco’s 13-3 breakthrough last year, is in a winnable division. Plus, you’ll recall that the Cardinals did not hesitate to sign Emmitt Smith late in his career, while Kurt Warner took this franchise to a Super Bowl in his next-to-last season. Arizona has a track record with this sort of thing.

Cons: Is there enough here to win a championship? The Cardinals have some promising pieces, but there are holes to fill, especially on the offensive line and at wide receiver behind Fitzgerald. A healthy Manning would immediately make the WR corps better, but even Fitzgerald called for more help at that position last season.

And not that Manning would shy away from specific opponents, but in addition to seeing all the NFC West teams twice, Arizona rolls through the NFC North, AFC East, Philadelphia and Atlanta in 2012. That’s a tough draw filled with plenty of talented pass-rushers.

Miami Dolphins

Pros: Brandon Marshall may not be Fitzgerald, but he’s a darn good wide receiver. Add in Reggie Bush, and the Dolphins have a couple of veteran pieces on offense in place for Manning to utilize. Miami also offers a sturdy defense — the Dolphins gave up the fewest points in the AFC East last season.

Oh, and new head coach Joe Philbin did a pretty decent job as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator for the past four seasons.

Cons: “Hey, Peyton, you remember Tom Brady? Yeah, he’s in your division now.”

Even with Manning, the Dolphins would face an uphill battle in the division. Add in that Manning would have to play multiple games outdoors in potentially unforgiving climates and that Miami gave up the third-most sacks of any team in the NFL last season, and there are ample reasons for Manning to keep looking.

Houston Texans

Pros: This one makes a lot of sense. The Texans might have been a Super Bowl team last season if not for — drum roll — the QB position. Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart went down with injury, leaving things to rookie T.J. Yates, but the rest of the roster had that Super Bowl feel. There’s an aggressive, attacking defense; a terrific offensive line; a running game paced by Arian Foster, who just signed a contract extension; and a passing game with the dynamic Andre Johnson running routes.

Manning knows the AFC South too — he’s dominated it for years, after all. He’d also find a similar atmosphere in Houston to the one he’s leaving in Indianapolis, with a rabid fan base desperate for a winner.

Cons: The biggest one is that Manning would stay in the Colts’ division, meaning he’d face the circus involved in playing them twice a season. Does he want to deal with that?

There’s also the issue of Houston’s current quarterback situation. Most of the other teams on this list would not think twice about kicking their current starter to the curb for Manning. The Texans might not be so quick to do so if Schaub returns to full health.

Seattle Seahawks

Pros: Miami and a couple of other teams on this list might be willing to go down the Manning-Reggie Wayne road, but Seattle has the cap space (the Seahawks were an estimated $12-$13 million under the projected number as of late February) to get it done. Heck, Seattle might throw in Manning’s long-time center, free agent Jeff Saturday, as an added bonus. Marshawn Lynch also would provide Manning the type of dynamic running back that he did not always have in Indianapolis.

Seattle’s owner, Paul Allen, probably wouldn’t hesitate to throw a ton of money Manning’s way either, which could elevate Seattle over more hesitant teams.

Cons: Where are the playmakers at wide receiver? Getting Wayne to join Manning out west would be a must, because even Manning might have trouble tossing passes to a receiving corps led last year by Doug Baldwin, as Sidney Rice lost several games to injury. Seattle’s O-line had trouble of its own, too, allowing 50 sacks in 2011.

Kansas City Chiefs

Pros: Well, Romeo Crennel already possibly put himself in line for a phone call from the NFL by saying at the combine, “With a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he was available,” a potential tampering violation.

But at least we know the Chiefs are thinking about Manning. And why wouldn’t they? Landing Manning would make Kansas City the odds-on favorite in a weak AFC West, especially since Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston would be the top overall group of receivers from the teams on this list. Kansas City’s in a decent cap situation too.

Cons: Is there room for Reggie Wayne? We’ll have to wait to see how committed Manning is to bringing his favorite receiver along. If it’s a make-or-break scenario, the Chiefs might not have the financial means to pay Wayne after franchising Bowe.

Like with Houston, there’s also a probable starting QB in Kansas City. The job is Matt Cassel’s, should Manning not hop on board.

New York Jets

Pros: We’ve reached the portion of our program where the “cons” outweigh the “pros.” That said, the Jets are committed to winning a Super Bowl, plus offer up a strong defense and at least a few weapons on offense for Manning to tinker with in 2012.

Cons: For better or worse, the Jets have Mark Sanchez in tow — they made a major move at the 2009 draft to take him, and signing Manning would be an emphatic admission of mistake.

The reasons for Manning to avoid NYC go beyond the Jets’ current QB situation, though. This move would plunge him into a complete circus, plus force him to duke it out with his brother, Eli, for headlines in the Big Apple. Boisterous head coach Rex Ryan is about as opposite from Manning’s former Indianapolis coach, Tony Dungy, as can be.

Is there talent on this roster? Sure. But that hasn’t kept the Jets from falling short of expectations and earning the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. That culture would have to change for Manning to want to join.

Washington Redskins

Pros: Money would not be an issue in any sense — the Redskins have shown a willingness to spend it, they have more cap room than about 28 or 29 other teams, and they would certainly open the checkbook to pay Manning plus Wayne and anyone else the QB wants. Fred Davis would be a major threat at tight end with Manning tossing him passes.

Cons: The stubborn Shanahan would have to open his playbook a lot more to let Manning do his thing … or Manning would have to be happy handing off 30 times a game. There are also the issues of a disappointing offensive line, overmatched defense and talent-starved RB/WR spots to address.

A lot of what falls into the “con” category for the Jets applies here too. Washington has long struggled to reclaim its glory days, often flopping in a storm of off-field issues and poor managerial decisions. Could Manning put his trust in this organization to build a winner around him?

Doing so in the NFC East, where Washington has been unable to close the gap, only makes the challenge tougher.

San Francisco 49ers

Pros: In reality, the 49ers ought to be higher on this list. This team nearly got to the Super Bowl last season and appears to have the foundation in place to stay competitive. San Francisco’s defense is as solid as they come, meaning that any semblance of offense should give the 49ers a shot to win the division and make a playoff run. Upgrading from Alex Smith to Manning could make them equally lethal on offense.

The 49ers have a hefty amount of cap space to work with too, should they choose to use it.

Cons: Well, the biggest one is that GM Trent Baalke said Tuesday that the 49ers have not even discussed bringing in Manning. San Francisco was happy with the progress Alex Smith made in 2011 and wants to do what it can to bring him back into the mix.

The biggest challenge for San Francisco in the event of a Manning addition would be figuring out how to fit the current pieces in with their new QB. Jim Harbaugh’s attack is predicated on running the ball and winning the time-of-possession battle. Manning’s skill set would require San Francisco to make significant upgrades at wide receiver and redo the entire playbook.

Arsène Wenger slams shocking Arsenal

February 16th, 2012

Arsène Wenger admitted the defeat by Milan had all but ended Arsenal’s hopes in the Champions League and they must now concentrate on the FA Cup visit to Sunderland on Saturday. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images Arsène Wenger tore into his Arsenal players for a “shocking result and a shocking performance” as he attempted to make sense of Arsenal’s heaviest European defeat. The manager cut an infuriated figure after the 4-0 defeat by Milan in the Champions League last-16 first leg, which he admitted had all but ended his club’s hopes of progress in the competition. It was difficult to remember him being more scathing of his players. “It was one of those nights you never forget,” he said. “It is our worst night in Europe. We were punished and deservedly so. I felt we were never in the game, we were very poor offensively and defensively. It was shocking to see how we were beaten everywhere. “There was not one moment in the 90 minutes where we were really in the game. What made it worse was that we had to chase the game. It was always the same problem, balls over the top and we were well beaten. It is difficult to analyse. I think it is better not to talk too much …and to analyse with a cooler head and regroup for the next game.” Arsenal visit Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, when Wenger will make changes to his team, but the deeper fear is that this display not only exposed the flaws in the squad but will undermine morale for the battle to finish fourth in the Premier League. It was not difficult to pick holes but the absence of leadership was once again highlighted. “There was a lack of leadership,” wrote the club’s former captain, Patrick Vieira, on Twitter. “You cannot only blame Arsène, the players must take some responsibility as well.” Wenger said: “There is a danger [that this will have an effect on the Premier League]. A big disappointment like that has consequences on your belief. We have a lot of work to regroup and not a lot of time to prepare for Saturday’s game. We need to show something completely difference on Saturday. “We will focus on our next games. The result is a disaster, although the season is not finished. We have a big game on Saturday and it’s an opportunity to show that we have character and mental strength, and that we can respond after such a shocking defeat.” Wenger was asked whether he felt his players had let him down. “They did not let me down, I think we let our ambitions down as a unit,” he said. “You could blame and blame. We have to stick together and win the next game. “The players were very ambitious in this Champions League. They are the first to be very sad. We felt powerless today to get into the game. “I cannot say that I got everything perfect when we lost 4-0. I don’t believe we made big tactical mistakes. We did not have any other choices. I felt we were weak in some departments. I felt we could have some problems in some departments but I didn’t think we would not score.” The condition of the relaid San Siro turf was widely condemned, although Wenger did not seek to use it as an excuse. “It would not be fair to blame the pitch, even if the pitch is a disaster,” he said. “Our performance was at the level of the pitch. It was a shocking result and a shocking performance. “Let’s be realistic. We don’t play in a dream world. Maybe we have 2% or 5% statistically [to advance]. “We have to show a completely different performance and you never know. But, you have to say, realistically, we are out of the competition.”

Daiv Hytner

The Guardian

Patience may not be a virtue this time, Roman – Andre Villas-Boas looks all at sea

February 14th, 2012

One day it might just dawn on the man who started off making plastic ducks in a Moscow apartment block. In some ways winning in football is not too dissimilar from becoming one of the richest men in the world. A lot of it has to do with timing, knowing when to hold the cards and when to toss them aside.

The least disposable of all those Roman Abramovich has strewn so impatiently across the table at Stamford Bridge was Jose Mourinho.

Carlo Ancelotti was certainly worth a second look, especially when you measured his track record and general knowledge of the game against the tyro who was being fitted for his shoes, and even the oligarch grasped the value of Guus Hiddink.

But Andre Villas-Boas, what does he do with him?

It’s getting near impossible to believe that he shouldn’t junk all the free advice he has been given down the years, all those solemn reminders that every story of significant success in football can be traced to the moment a club identified outstanding quality in their hired professional and pledged their long-term support.

However, the boy prodigy from Portugal is surely pushing this impeccable theory to breaking point.

He has now been in office at Chelsea for almost precisely the time Luiz Felipe Scolari, a World Cup-winning coach of huge experience, took to persuade Abramovich that he was an expensive mistake.

As it happened, Scolari’s record was rather better than the one Villas-Boas now boasts, 20 wins in 36 games against 18 in 36, a winning percentage of 55 per cent against 50.

Unfortunately for Scolari, the owner of vast mineral rights in Mother Russia was never going to be assuaged by such piffling data.

He wants swift evidence of a winning dynamism and, if Scolari had a slight edge over Villas-Boas in the win and loss column, he was just as quick as his young successor in turning the dressing room from a happy home of millionaire brothers-in-arms into a hot bed of rebellion.

Villas-Boas’s decision to haul in his players for Sunday training after the dispiriting weekend defeat at Everton might have made more sense if his relationship with the squad had not already appeared quite so fragile.

Abramovich’s increasingly frequent visits to the club’s training ground can only reinforce the idea of a coach feeling the pressure from both above and below his precarious position at a club which is not so much underperforming as threatening to fall through the floor.

If it is true, as the vibes increasingly suggest, that disaffection with Villas-Boas has reached a point where the resentment of some players is being replaced by something uncomfortably close to outright pity for a man out of his depth, each new visit from the owner must bring a new pang of dread.

It is a chill even such an iconic figure as Kenny Dalglish must have felt at his troubled weekend when the word came from across the Atlantic that, if Liverpool have largely absent landlords, they are still very much aware of the rise and fall of the club’s corporate image.

In this case, an editorial lecture from the New York Times on the need to clean up Liverpool’s profile to the point where it might sit more comfortably with that of their stablemates, the Boston Red Sox baseball team, was surely as threatening to Dalglish’s peace of mind as the latest evidence that the signings of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing are beginning to resemble some of the last words in football inflation.

Dalglish at least has the underpinning of the Liverpool support, a luxury that Villas-Boas can only envy as he sees – and hears – large sections of Stamford Bridge withdrawing a benefit of the doubt that was hardly overwhelming from the start.

His tendency to hit the wrong note is a weakness that leaves him a little more vulnerable with each disappointing result.

When Ancelotti suffered a reverse his touch was infinitely more relaxing. After one defeat at Wigan Athletic the man who won the Double at the first time of asking was at his most disarming. “The big secret,” he declared, “at times like this is not to make a drama of a single defeat. You have to remind the players of who they were a few hours ago … you have to remind them that even the greatest teams sometimes have to lose.” At such times Ancelotti drew the benefit of a great playing career.

Villas-Boas, of course, never played the game professionally. Nor did his mentor Mourinho, it is true, but then Mourinho is a genius who makes his own rules and creates his own experience.

Certainly, for Villas-Boas the brilliant momentum he achieved at Porto has at times appeared to be no adequate substitute for the kind of understanding an Ancelotti might have brought to the feelings of his players at some of the rougher passages of Chelsea’s season.

The idea that players should involve the coaching staff in their goal celebrations seemed like nothing so much as an invitation to rejection. Players, inevitably, live in their own closed worlds, and at certain times outsiders – even if they happen to be coaches of impressive pedigree – only intrude at their peril.

There are other and perhaps more substantial issues, the tactical confusion, the persistence with the agonised Fernando Torres, the strange exile of new signing Gary Cahill, the disconcerting level of Jose Bosingwa’s current form, and the sense of Daniel Sturridge’s growing dissatisfaction with his banishment to wide positions. None of these is a portent of any early breakthrough.

Abramovich may growl that whatever he does he is damned. He may also count up the occasions he has been urged to be patient. Better, though, to remember that mere time is never an asset if you’ve neglected to put the ducks in a nice, coherent row.

James Lawton

The Independent