Mails: Picking A Fantasy England Squad...

That is, picking a squad based on fantasy points. It would include Steve Sidwell and Kevin Nolan and no Ashley Cole. We also have mails on boycotts and United...

Last Updated: 06/02/14 at 16:14

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It's Fun Supporting This United
Can I just say, that while some United 'fans' go into chronic meltdown due to us losing a few matches for a change, I'm thoroughly enjoying this season. Not only has it reminded me what it's like to be a fan again, but it's taken away that almost inevitable feeling of yet another United win. For years I've turned up for a game with no notion that we might lose. Turn up, take my seat and watch us tear a team apart. This was usually before kick-off. We could be 2-0 down and I'd still expect us to win, and more often than not, we did. If we didn't, no drama. I pitied our next opponents as they were going to get it big stylee. If Fergie suggested one season that he was going to have the Premiership Trophy melted down to make ear-rings for his missus no one would have batted an eyelid, it was ours anyway. In a season we'd have four, maybe five big games, and the rest mere routine.

Not now, every game's a big one with no guarantees whatsoever. Three points are are up for grabs and we need them, it's game on every time and I'm loving it. Welcome to planet football United fans, enjoy the ride.
Lankymanc (Even Liverpool fans have become comic geniuses again)

...Am I the only United fan enjoying the season? I thought we watch football to be entertained? Manchester United have been a soap opera of a club this year. A new manager struggling, a player from the academy playing a starring role, a big money signing, an old favourite returning, records tumbling, penalty shoot-out drama, heartbreaking losses, a fight for fourth place, funny facial expressions, hilarious supporter rambling, and of course Wayne Rooney...

Bring on the next game I say!
Tim, Dubai

It's Really Sodding Not

This whole concept of 'giving a manager time' bemuses me.

Just because some fans are blindly preaching this mantra means nothing. Why should they get time? Would you get time in your job if you were doing a rubbish job?

In most jobs you do a passable job or you get kicked out. That's why there is often a three-month period at the beginning where you can be chopped if it's going badly. The higher up the tree you go, the more likely you are to be held responsible for successes and failures. I think we can agree this is pretty high up in that footballing tree, and in this kind of job, you're supposed to know what you're doing, not have to learn on the job. That's why they get paid big money.

No chief exec would get five years to settle in to an already successful team. Maybe if United had started off as a sixth-place team, rather than champions. Even if the board understood that the lack of investment had left the club with a pretty average (for a top side) squad, two years is unlikely let alone five. You want to put your mark on the team David, but so far, failure is what that mark looks like.

No, let's be entirely honest, no one inside the club really thought it would be as bad as this. Sensible fans accepted that fourth was probably realistic (and is now accepted as the target). We hoped to see some comings and goings, some mixed results, probably being dumped out of the CL early (plenty of time for that still tho) and some general displays of 'transition'. But this is catastrophic. It is the Titanic plowing on regardless into iceberg territory, without even changing direction or slowing down. This is the captain asking the trainee cocktail waitress to take over.

Fans saying 'we don't do that' are only saying that because we've not had cause to do that for a long old time. Trust me, if we have any sense, we DO do that, and we do it sooner than later. It's not that Moyes is a bad manager, but for whatever reason he's not the right fit, and this is only going to end in tears (either relief or dispair, we cannot yet know).
Guy S (we do do; we do)

...Rebuttals are rarely printed, much less rebuttals of rebuttals but since it seems like a slow news day I'll give it a shot. I'll keep it brief too since the point in my initial mail was missed (or ignored since there was no answer to it). To dismiss those who are not preaching patience for Moyes as glory hunters who are crying because we're not winning is both ignorant and blind.

I'm not slinging mud here, I'm trying to actually get a sensible response. We can all agree that thus far Moyes tenure has gone very badly. To be successful (and I don't mean as successful as Fergie) he will need to dramatically change both results and performances. What is it that makes you think he can do this? It's a simple question that I ask because I can't see it. Please, do not reply with excuses, just give one positive to his management thus far at United. Even if it is to say 'he plays Januzaj, Januzaj is good'.

What kind of sensible long-term thinking involves keeping a man in a job when he has demonstrated absolutely no aptitude for it? What sense is there in that? I'm not saying he should be sacked now, but I couldn't give an argument to keep him on for a second season if he doesn't improve results and/or performances.
AS Camden (Again - really really sorry to everyone else if this makes it in)

Shush Miller. Bring Back Terry

Oh please Nick Miller, don't be so naive.

Have you been watching Chelsea this season? did you manage to catch the game on Monday night or were you too busy watching the political debate on Panorama?

John Terry is and has been England's best defender when fit for the past 10 years. Despite what Joe Public may think of him, he's clearly our only world-class centre-half with experience and medals to back it up.

Cahill and Jagielka may have improved but there is no question that keeping the Terry/Cahill partnership would make our England side better and improve our chances of success. Was Cahill a regular England international before he started playing alongside and learning from Terry? Was Luiz a beast like he was on Monday when Terry was out injured last year?

To compete at the World Cup we'll need performances like Chelsea's on Monday; Terry was at the heart of everything. Disciplined, organised and secure. Just like in all Chelsea's other big games this year.

You may be able to argue against his inclusion on 'moral' grounds (something I don't agree with), but trying to argue anything but Terry being one of the first names on the team sheet on ability alone is just preposterous.

The only thing stopping Hodgson picking the phone up is the fear of the press finding out and undermining him. I agree with Mark Lawrenson, Hodgson will probably have one shot at winning the World Cup, he's got to make the right call and find a way to get our best centre-half back in the squad; regardless of what the press (including Nick Miller) think.
Lawrence, Manchester

The Fantasy Ladder

More of a Friday afternoon mail but as the infamous World Cup ladder was put up, it got me thinking and I've created my own based purely on the top 23 highest-scoring English players in fantasy football.

I had to stretch to get a second GK, but overall pretty balanced with two goalkeepers, six strikers, seven midfielders and eight defenders.

Lallana 124 (Top ranked English player, he really is brilliant!)
Rooney 121
Sturridge 115
Terry 115 (Really shouldn't be anywhere near the squad for obvious reasons)
Rodriguez 107
Lambert 104 (Quietly having another good season and takes a mean penalty)
Gerrard 103
Adam Johnson 95 (One of the form players in the league at the moment)
Jagielka 95
John Ruddy 93 (Yep, this threw me too, actually having a great season!)
Baines 92
Cahill 86
Walker 85
Henderson 85 (I can't believe this is the same player as last few seasons)
Steve Sidwell 82 (Yes, you are reading this correctly!)
Nolan 81

Welbeck 81, Dawson 77, Shaw 76, Caulker 74, Osman 73, Fraizer Campbell 72, Hart 58 (as second goalkeeper)

Mostly similar personnel to the expected but it's the order that's interesting as perception and form often don't match up. Should a player go and start because they have previous England experience when their are more in-form players?

Even if you argue that 'form is temporary and class permanent', due to injuries etc, then over a whole season the players with the most points are likely the best players of that year going into the summer.

So for example, should Cole go (and probably start), after an indifferent season, at the expense of Shaw going or Baines starting after both having excellent seasons?

I'll leave you with this, if Walcott came back from injury early in May would he be a shoo-in over Adam Johnson if his run of form continued? I bet he would....

Interesting to see how this list compares at the end of the season!
Tom (Anyone else have a good idea on how to rank English players? Would it be sexist to do it by most attractive WAGs)


I'm not really one for these fantasy XI lists but I guess Joe Kinnear's tragic departure has affected me more than I thought. So, in honour of Joe and the many brainless appointments that make the footballing tapestry so colourful, I give you my 'Clearly A Bad Idea, Christ Alive What Were You Thinking When You Signed That Guy XI'

GK: Mark 'Big Smile' Bosnich (to Chelsea)

RB: Jose 'On The Beach' Bosingwa (to QPR)
CB: Winston 'F*ck you, Pay me' Bogarde (to Chelsea)
CB: Jonathan 'The Paper Man' Woodgate (anywhere after Leeds)
LB: Wayne 'Think Bigger' Bridge (to City)

DMF: Lee 'Caveman' Bowyer (anywhere full stop)
CM: Adel 'Make Me' Taarabt (anywhere outside The Championship)
CM: Joey 'Hero' Barton (see Lee Bowyer)
AMF: Juan 'Sebastien' Veron (to Chelsea)

ST: Mario 'Why Always Me?' Balotelli (to City)
ST: Marlon 'Mine's a Stella' King (shame on you Coventry)

Manager: Paolo 'King Dick' Di Canio (to Sunderland)

Dir. of Football: Joe 'f*cking' Kinnear (to Newcastle...again!?)
Simon f*cking CFC (Mario was probably worth it)

Friends In High Places

Can someone please tell me why Glenn Hoddle is suddenly being linked with top jobs again?? Surely it's not just because he has made a few appearances on Sky?
Mark (RIP the Busby Babes)

Watching The New Barca

The week I have been in Barcelona for the first time since 2011 and watched FCB twice, and I was surprised by how much has changed and surprised to think City will qualify. The reasons being:

1) Messi- An English-speaking Catalan was saying that since the new coach arrived Messi tries to score the perfect goal every week rather than the 'simple goals'.

2) Style - there is much less of the high-pressing game. Pedro, Alexis and especially Messi rarely press as a unit. The tika-taka is also much slower and a well-organised defence should be able to contain it as there are rarely runs in behind.

3) Centre Back - Mascherano is a very good player, he's not a CB, on Saturday there was a time when he won the ball but it bounced to the winger, so he went out to him, ball slipped into striker who should have made it 4-2.- Kun would!

4) Midfield - great on the ball, struggles for shape without it, the amount of times a Valencia forward dropped off into midfield and caused chaos was unreal.

City require a disciplined performance in which they defend the width of the 18-yard box well as well as being more clinical than Monday. They also need Yaya, Kompany, Fernandinho, and crucially Aguero all at thier peak to win. City to win at Etihad is 6/4 and to qualify is something like 13/8.

And as Ray would say 'Get right on it !!!'
Azz (although Neymar wasn't playing so ignore all that !) MUFC

Should We Boycott?

In reply to Mike's letter this morning - an emphatic yes. Not only should we be boycotting the event itself, we should also be boycotting companies who pay to sponsor these events.

What is vital to remember is that this is practically the only route open to us. The IOC/FIFA/UEFA totalitarian regimes don't care about anything other than the pursuit of mammon and that will be the only thing they will notice.

Protests are routinely banned, taxes avoided, sponsors (McDonalds with their LGBT policy confined to places where there is equality, so none in an openly homophobic country like Russia) associate themselves with every despot available.

People may have noticed major sporting events magically finding themselves in the most unsuitable places, led there unerringly by a massive pile of cash.

The boycott is all we have left.

...I'm glad the topic of boycotting the Qatar World Cup has been raised here this morning by Mike, as it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately too.

It's a tough subject on which to come up with any definitive decisions regarding a boycott at this stage, seeing as it's still eight years away. But let's start with Sepp Blatter's tangible, said-out-loud-to-a-room-full-of-the-world's-press, comments. Responding to questions about homosexual people attending the world cup in Qatar he suggested "they refrain from homosexual activity" - this is the man in charge of the world's governing body for football.

The fact that Blatter's comments were made supposedly tongue in cheek only makes it worse - highlighting the fact that he clearly does not fully understand the gravity of this problem. There's an argument to suggest that the Qatar authorities are fully aware of this potential problem and these laws (it still blows my mind every time I think about the fact it's actually ILLEGAL) will not be as stringently enforced during the World Cup, so as to avoid the bad publicity. But this is hardly the point. FIFA has, in all its wisdom, afforded the World Cup to a country that is so backward thinking on these issues that I'm surprised that those in charge can dress themselves. What kind of message does this send out? That the governing body of a sport, the sport that we love, has in effect registered its acceptance of such laws by granting them arguably the biggest sporting event in the world.

And that all comes before the reported exploitation/deaths (see here for more details: of the Nepalese workers helping to build the infrastructure. Sepp Blatter has stated that FIFA will not turn a blind eye to these issues. I would argue that the FIFA representatives must have been practically blindfolded to grant them the World Cup in the first place.

But I also understand that there are people in that area of the world who are nothing more than victims of farcical regimes, and who am I to say they shouldn't be given the chance to enjoy a World Cup first-hand? For me, however, sitting at home in a nice free society, where I can consensually bone whomever I please, can I really justify the price thousands of people have had to pay, many with their lives, just so I can watch a bit of football? I'm not sure that I can.
Michael, Crawley (Gooner - not that it bears any relevance here)

It's Time To Change Day

A campaign being run jointly by Mind and Rethink, which encourages people to address mental health illness and change the perspective as to how we think about those affected with such a terrible, debilitating and private affliction.

It is particularly pertinent to professional footballers and other sportsmen, such as Stan Collymore, Stephen Ireland, Jonathon Trott, Marcus Trescothick, and of course the late Robert Enke and Gary Speed.

Too many times we brush off such successful and wealthy individuals with the response that they "have nothing to worry about"; why are they so depressed with their untold wealth and fame? Mental health illness affects all walks of life and it is high time to think differently and openly talk about such a hidden and taboo subject.

Before you do anything else on the internet today I would recommend you go to and think/talk/write about your own or any loved one's experiences.
Andy Smith (Scunthorpe)

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Are Villa Fans The Lowest Of Them All?

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