The news branch of the Back of the Net wiki.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Growing frustration at Nou Camp as Barcelona again fail to attract commercial sponsor

European champions Barcelona started the 2009-10 La Liga season with a comfortable 3-0 win over Sporting Gijon, but president Joan Laporta admitted any joy was overshadowed by failing to find a lucrative sponsorship deal in pre-season.

Member-owned Catalan giants Barcelona have been wearing the Unicef logo since 2006 and offer the charity free advertising space on their shirts.

"We'd love a proper sponsor," Laporta lamented. "I just can't understand why we can't seem to get one, it's embarrassing.

"We thought we had a deal with Staybrite Windows but that fell through and then we were sat by the phone all summer - nothing else came up, so it's bloody Unicef again. "

Barcelona aren't the only giants of the football world without a sponsorship deal, even West Brom are currently without a deal.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Pleat's record tumbles as ESPN delivers devastating deluge of mispronunciation

It's been an exciting opening to the Serie A season but a tough one for fans of names being said correctly after ESPN's commentators delivered a terrifying statement of intent with a dizzying display of mispronunciation.

Feeding on the rotting carcass of kamikaze channel Setanta, ESPN has scrounged the rights to a significant number of European Leagues, including Serie A.

While UK-based calcio lovers were delighted by the news, the enthusiasm has faded somewhat after ESPN's far from convincing start to the campaign.

Italians across the country winced during Roma-Juventus when the hapless commentary team butchered the names of 20 of the 22 starting players, running up a fearsome total of 128 mispronunciations - shattering the previous record of 115 set by verbose ITV boob David Pleat.

ESPN will be red-faced at their lack of research, but their representatives will surely claim that Pleat's total was more embarrassing as he chalked it up during an all-English Champions League clash between Chelsea and Liverpool.

Pleat, who famously once took 75 minutes to pronounce Bixente Lizarazu's name, was fortunately unavailable for comment.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Squirming Moyes 'pretty certain he remembers Bilyaletdinov at Euro 2008'

While most of the blue half of Merseyside has given Diniyar Bilyaletdinov a muted reception, Everton boss David Moyes is over the moon at signing a man he is "pretty sure" was part of Russia's Euro 2008 limited success story.

Everton have suffered a less than ideal start to the season and are rueing the loss of money-loving, best-of-a-bad-bunch defender Jolean Lescott.

The Toffees have invested a chunk of the £22.5m Manchester City paid for Lescott in Russian midfielder
Bilyaletdinov, who arrived in Liverpool with very little fanfare, possibly due to his unpronouncable name, unremarkable career to date and indistinct face.

But while the supporters may take some convincing, Moyes was full of praise for the new boy, who played a small part for a Russia side that made an impact on the international stage for the first time since the Cold War.

"I think I saw him playing for Russia in Euro 2008," the Scottish boss stammered.

"Yes, I'm pretty sure it was him. They did all look alike mind, they were all in red with young, boyish, slightly flushed faces and floppy, ungroomed hair. But I'm confident he's one of them, yeah..."

Speaking through a translator, Bilyaletdinov declared that he was 'honoured' to have signed for Everton.

However, the mood changed when Diniyar was asked whether he feared people would have trouble with his name, as the new recruit would only mutter: "I have a lot of people who will take care of me here. They will see that my enemies will disappear into the shadows."

Thursday, 27 August 2009

List of players who will never play under Keane grows to almost all players ever

Terrifying psychopath and Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane is facing a selection crisis for this weekend's fixture against Preston after adding still more names to the list of players he will never consider for selection.

Keane, whose playing career was punctuated by acts of savage brutality, has fairly unsurprisingly taken a pugnacious approach to management.

Reduced to a growling wreck by a miserable start to the season at Ipswich, the ferocious Irishman opted wield the axe (thankfully, figuratively rather than literally, as he frequently did during his time at Sunderland) after a Carling Cup exit at the hands of Peterborough.

While there were mercifully few casualties, Keane has told almost good striker John Stead and midfielders Owen Garvan and Alan Quinn that they won't be considered for selection from now on.

Including the latest outcasts, 23 of Keane's 25 players have now been frozen out, leaving the fiery tactician with a numbers problem. Cowering goalkeeper Richard Wright is expected to take to the field with just Alex Bruce for company at Portman Road on Saturday but Keane himself has promised to bring some boots.

Reports suggest that Keane is planning to enter the market for new recruits, but this could be a tough process given his well-documented grudges against over 2,000 Premier League and Football League players, most other managers, agents and mascots.

Ipswich chairman Marcus Evans has stressed his complete support for Keane, but was heard mumbling: "Who would have thought a borderline maniac with a notoriously short fuse would fall out with so many players?"

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Brain-dead scum attack brain-dead scum after expected victory in pointless Cup

For the first time in memory, the Carling Cup captured the nation's attention last night as London's human vermin used the tie between West Ham and Millwall as a chance to trash large parts of East London.

The news that the two sides had been paired together in the second round draw brought about a mass exodus of the area surrounding Upton Park earlier in the month as thousands of homeowners sold up, bringing property prices crashing to a record low.

And the pessimists were proved right as hundreds of dickheads, who could barely name a player in either side, fought running battles around the stadium.

On the pitch, Premier League outfit West Ham made hard work of seeing off an industrious Millwall side but won the game in extra-time, sentencing chimpish tactician Gianfranco Zola and Co. to another mid-week fixture with the possibility of several more draining mid-week dates and the outside chance of losing to Chelsea or Manchester United's reserves at Wembley in February.

Last night's events have cast yet another shadow on a grim, old tournament, but sponsors Carling were determined to take a positive view.

"It's nice to see that people really care about the Carling Cup," a spokesman insisted. "Of course tempers will flare when you have this much at stake.

"But in many ways what we saw was the perfect advert for the Carling Cup. A huge number of repugnant examples of humanity drinking Carling, watching mediocre football and behaving like animals."

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Birmingham-Stoke victims to receive commemorative plaque

Birmingham City Council have given the green light to plans to honour the 21,000 fans who witnessed last weekend's Birmingham City-Stoke City encounter at St Andrew's with a statue and plaque.

Experts had warned spectators to expect a drab battle between no-thrills yo-yo club Birmingham and long-throw dependent dirge peddlers Stoke, but Saturday's insipid contest exceeded all expectations.

As both sides demonstrated their terrifying lack of midfield creativity, fans at both ends began to find entertainment elsewhere. Some supporters fashioned a Monopoly board, one wrote an impressive series of gritty short stories and a few desperate souls even read Alex McLeish's programme notes.

It has now been confirmed that Birmingham will pay tribute to the fans, who endured the most miserable of Saturday afternoons, with a statute of two bored Brummies [pictured above] and a plaque containing the names of everyone present.

The FA have assured the football world that they have "no intention of making the clubs meet again" at the Britannia Stadium on December 28.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Redknapp tells Spurs players: Let's get carried away

Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp has taken an unusual approach to Spurs' baffling 100 percent start to the season, urging his players to "go out and let their hair down."

Perennial mid-table outfit Tottenham have opted for an unorthodox route to their standard 50 points this term with nine already clocked up in the first three outings.

While a number of senior players in N17 have stressed the need to keep their feet on the ground, seasoned campaigner and unlicensed Hackey Wick Market trader Redknapp seems to have adopted a different strategy.

The former Portsmouth, Southampton and Portsmouth manager was carried into training this morning on a sedan chair wearing shoes made of 24-carat gold accompanied by a gospel choir singing Queen classic "We Are The Champions."

After a 4-hour session that mostly consisted of drinking games using a magnum of 1990 Cristal Brut champagne, Redknapp left Spurs Lodge after instructing his troops to "go fucking mental, we got this in the bag."

Friday, 21 August 2009

Reo-Coker "will not shut up" about The Time Traveler's Wife

Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker has become fixated on The Time Traveler’s Wife, the 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger, sources close to the club reported last night.

With last week’s release of the film version starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, Reo-Coker’s enthusiasm for the bestselling romance novel, a present from his sister last Christmas, has reached an all-time high.

"Nigel asked me again if I’d finished it", team-mate Nicky Shorey told reporters. “I think he was a bit disappointed I hadn’t. He lent it to me about six months ago. I’ve read the first twenty pages two or three times, but to be honest I don’t get what he sees in it.”

"I actually think the one he lent me was brand new", added Shorey, fuelling speculation that the hard-running Reo-Coker may possess multiple copies of the escapist fantasy. "I know he’s lent it to Luke [Young] and Brad [Guzan], and I think Zat Knight still had a copy when he went to Bolton."

New signing Habib Beye shared a room with Reo-Coker as Villa travelled to Austria for a Europa League play-off against Rapid Vienna.

"The other lads seemed very keen to avoid Nigel", said the ex-Newcastle full-back. "He kept talking about how amazing it would be if during a match you travelled back in time and arrived in another match, like, ten years ago. I didn’t want to be rude so I let him talk and talk. I agreed to go and see the film with him tomorrow evening just so he'd shut up about it."

This is not the first time Reo-Coker has become obsessed with an emotionally-charged potboiler about life, love and human relationships. When he left West Ham in 2007 it was widely reported that his incessant praise for The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn had contributed significantly to the breakdown of his relationship with manager Alan Curbishley.

SERIE A WATCH: Siena fan throws tomato at chairman, sees it as springboard for bigger targets

An angry fan who hit Siena President Giovanni Lombardi Stronati with a tomato during the presentation of the Robur's new squad has admitted that he dreams of throwing vegetables at more prestigious targets.

Aggrieved at his club selling their two best players for the 85th consecutive season, Siena supporter Michele Di Santo stunned observers watching festivities on Piazza Salimbeni by hurling a tomato from long range, hitting Stronati on the shoulder.

Speaking to Sky Italia hours after his wonder throw, Di Santo confessed his hope that his exploits in sleepy Siena have put him in the shop window.

"I love Siena - this is a very special place," the Tuscan talent stressed. "But, like anyone else, I dream of pitching mushrooms at Milan players or aubergines at Inter stars.

"It's only natural that I should think about my future and I feel I am ready to get angry about a much bigger club."

Siena begin their Serie A campaign by hosting Milan tomorrow evening. As ever, they will finish around 14th.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Blake overshadows Burnley's historic win with accidental 12th man revelation

Burnley secured a magical win over Manchester United last night courtesy of a Robbie Blake volley, but the goal hero's dedication to the '12th man' at Turf Moor last night has shed light on the shady side of the Clarets' recent success.

The FA's highly popular 'Season of Crazy Shit' has so far seen the unrealistic appointment of former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson at Notts County, teams regularly scoring between five and seven goals and now the humbling of a global superpower by the ninth biggest team in Lancashire.

But Burnley's celebrations may be short-lived as match-winner Blake's declaration that "at home we have an extra man on the pitch," has sparked an FA investigation.

"Obviously Blake's just tried to make a heartfelt, albeit cliched, dedication to the supporters, but we decided it would be highly unprofessional if we didn't check this out," an FA insider told us.

"So we stayed up through the night watching every Burnley game from last season. What we found surprised us all - they did seem to have 12 men on the pitch.

"I'm not entirely sure where we go from here, but it certainly sheds some light on how such an unremarkable side were able to earn promotion and beat the second best team in Europe."

Manchester United maestro Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to sympathise with Burnley although the economical Scot has been known to field just 10 men instead of 11 by treating Rafael and Fabio as separate players when they are clearly the same man.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Rochdale have no answer to 140-year-old strike partnership

Newly relegated League Two outfit Cheltenham Town recorded a last-gasp 1-0 win at Rochdale last night thanks to the efforts of two septuagenarian strikers.

As ever, all eyes were on the titanic tussle at Spotlands and a 90th-minute goal from Julian Alsop from a Barry Hayles assist proved decisive.

It was a moment of vindication for lively pensioner Alsop, who was beginning his second spell at the club. The gangly marksman's transfer had been greeted with suspicion by Robins fans, partly because he had been playing in a glorified pub team last season (Bishop's Cleeve) and partly because he once allegedly raped a youth player with a banana while at Oxford United.

But Alsop's aim was straight and true, just as his banana hand had been on that fateful day in 2004, and he moved within two goals of the club's all-time record league tally.

It was a tactical masterstroke from Town manager Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen, who knew the Rochdale defence would have no answer to the snail's pace of Hayles and Alsop.

"I don't know what any defender can do against them," Dale stopper Craig Dawson lamented.

"You try and keep focused but eventually Mr. Hayles' rambling war stories and Mr. Alsop moaning about his dentures got the better of me. I just dozed off and then he very slowly got past me and let fly. I have to admit I refused to repeat what the PA announcer was saying after the game for him because I was so frustrated."

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Football was invented to anger volatile Sheffield man, FA confirms

Hot on the heels of an apology from referee Rob Shoebridge, a statement from the FA has confirmed that the sole purpose of football is to persecute Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock.

Cynical, defensive manager and narcissistic pantomime villain Warnock was livid after his Palace side were denied a goal against Bristol City last weekend because referee Shoebridge failed to see the ball hit the net.

The seething former Sheffield United tactician was typically outspoken in his post-match press conference and declared that Bristol City and the official had made his grudge list - a vast tome which also includes West Ham, Gary Megson, Joe Kinnear, Stephen Hunt, Stephane Henchoz, Gareth Southgate, Rafa Benitez, Graham Poll, Sean Bean, Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Kevin Blackwell and two of the Tweenies (Jake and Fizz).

But Warnock's mood must be improving after an apology from official Shoebridge, who admitted he had been 'trying to work out the quickest way home' and now the FA have issued their own statement.

"The Football Association would like to offer a full apology to Mr Warnock for everything that has happened to him over the last 40 years," the memo reads.

"The truth is that this great sport was invented with the express aim of one day annoying a pugnacious Yorkshireman as much as possible.

"Neil is correct in claiming he has been discriminated against because football is nothing more than a huge anti-Warnock conspiracy and we are all players in it."

Sociologists from the University of Bristol have published research findings proving that Warnock was as angry as it is possible for a human to be during Crystal Palace's 1-0 defeat at Ashton Gate.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pioneering doctors use Redknapp punditry as alternative to anaesthetic

Doctors at London's St Bartholomew's Hospital have hailed 'an enormous medical breakthrough' after successfully using clips of Jamie Redknapp punditry as an anaesthetic in the operating theatre.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Redknapp spent the vast majority of his career on the treatment table.

The Hampshire halfwit placed an unmanageable strain on the overstretched NHS during the 1990s undergoing a glut of procedures only rivalled by Darren Anderton, but it seems he is finally giving something back.

In a radical trial at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, a patient underwent open heart surgery anesthetised only by speakers pumping in Redknapp's summary of Manchester United's 1-0 win over Birmingham City.

"This is a huge moment for us," doctor Peter Richmond enthused. "This could be a massive step forward in our efforts to find safer ways to anesthetise older patients.

"We just piped in Redknapp's babble for 5 minutes and it seemed to rapidly induce a trance-like state.

"By the time he had said his bit about Michael Owen being disappointed to miss a chance to score on his debut because strikers like goals, the patient was under and we were able to proceed."

Jamie Redknapp was unavailable for comment, but dad Harry took time out from tilting a vending machine at East Ham service station to express his pride.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Robben: Of course I'm 40

Last night's draw with England may have been Arjen Robben's last game in a Holland shirt after the balding wide man finally confessed his real age in a candid post-match interview.

Robben is officially listed as a 25-year-old, but his steady hair loss, middle-aged face and fondness for Classic Gold FM have raised suspicions that he may have forged documents.

After last night's 2-2 friendly against England, Robben came off the pitch struggling for breath and adopted a grave expression as he talked to Dutch TV presenter Joop De Groopstrap.

"I think the time has come to admit that I'm 40 if I'm a day," Robben panted. "This whole thing started from an administrative error when I was put in the Under-21 squad at the age of 39 and I just ran with it.

"But my body is starting to complain and I can't keep playing for ever, so I decided it was time to come clean.

"I hope people don't judge me too harshly but I don't think they will because everyone loved '17 Again' didn't they? Didn't they?"

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Buoyant Ling: Second Cambridge reign will be even better

Martin Ling has made a triumphant return to Cambridge United after the resignation of nutjob chairman George Rolls and has boldly pledged to 'last at least a fortnight.'

Pint-sized Cockney Ling replaced Gary Brabin on the Cambridge bench at the end of last term after the outgoing manager had fallen out with Nick Griffin lookalike Rolls.

The fiery Rolls had been widely criticised by fans for driving a World War II tank through Brabin's back garden after United's Conference play-off final defeat against Torquay.

Ling quashed concerns that his pugnacious personality would clash with the megalomaniacal Rolls asserting: "I've got a three-year contract and we see this as a long-term agreement."

Nine days later, after a friendly defeat against precocious local rivals Histon, Ling quit when Rolls put a deadly redback spider in each of his shoes.

However, the departure of Rolls has opened the door for the return of the ex-Leyton Orient man.

"It's obviously an emotional moment for me coming back to a place I have come to see as home," Ling told journalists.

"I can promise the fans that I have even more to offer. I'm not one to make promises I can't keep, but I expect to be here long into September."

Monday, 10 August 2009

Football to finally step out of badminton's shadow?

The news that England's players have pulled out of the World Badminton Championships in India has left the general public reeling, but analysts suggest the tragedy could allow football to finally establish a fan base in Britain.

A small group of football fanatics have been championing the sport in the British Isles for over 100 years but it has always played second fiddle to the nation's obsession - badminton.

However, after a terrorist threat, England's greatest sporting idols have been held back from the World Championships, leaving a gaping void in the summer's sporting schedule.

It has been suggested by sports analysts that football could take advantage of the vacuum created by the enforced no-show.

"This is the chance we have been waiting for," FA chairman Baron Triesman admitted to England's top sporting publication 'Badminton and Other Sports Weekly'.

"For as long as I can remember we have been waiting for a chink in badminton's formidable armour and this may be it. We just feel that a badminton-starved nation could embrace football."

However, with newfound popularity comes the risk that football may witness the scenes of hooliganism that have blighted British badminton arenas during the last 20 years.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

In cold light of day, Norwich fan regrets throwing season ticket during first game

A Norwich City fan who angrily hurled his season ticket at Bryan Gunn during yesterday's 7-1 humiliation against Colchester United has today admitted he may have overreacted to the Canaries' opening day demolition and hopes the ticket 'may be in lost property.'

Having been relegated from the Championship last term, Norwich started the season amongst the favourites for the League One title but the East Anglian outfit were undoubtedly second best against Colchester.

The indignity of trailing 4-0 after just 22 minutes was too much for livid fan Matthew Carroll, who invaded the pitch and threw £400 worth of season ticket at hapless manager Gunn - a move he concedes may have been folly.

"I won't lie to you, I was really angry," a sheepish Carroll revealed in a statement this morning. "But I can see that perhaps I didn't think things through.

"What I didn't really consider is that ticket would have enabled me to watch another 22 matches of football and I really like football. I was thinking of going down the ground and seeing whether the ticket was still there or if maybe someone handed it in to lost property..."

Carroll wasn't the only disgruntled supporter at Carrow Road, a steady stream of fans exited the stands from the 19th minute when Clive Platt put the visitors 3-0 ahead. Many had already left after the first two goals and a few fatalistic souls headed for the car park after the teams were announced.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Celtic: An Apology

It has come to the attention of the Back Of The Net editors that our story 'Brave Celtic's Champions League Run Almost Over' contained a number of inaccuracies, which we would now like to rectify.

It was alleged in that article - among other things - that Celtic's track record in European competition is poor, that they come from a farcically uncompetitive league, that Scottish football is primitive to the point of all-out unwatchability, and that Bhoys manager Tony Mowbray is cursed with one of the most dour faces in the country.

Following Celtic's 2-0 win in Dinamo Moscow - which, again, Back Of The Net wrongly suggested was impossible, because of the Hoops' piss-poor form in away European ties - we would like to make a full and unreserved apology to Celtic and to all their fans, who handled the slurs in the offending article with their usual sense of humour. We accept the evidence that Celtic are a solid side, that Scottish football is in rude health, and that Mr Mowbray is quite capable of smiling and saying interesting things.

We wish them all the best for the remainder of their Champions League campaign, and then from September onwards, their UEFA Cup campaign.

FA continues war against weak by laying waste to Chester

The Football Association today continued its baffling assault on the nation's most needy clubs by dealing punch-drunk Chester City a 25-point penalty and a raft of other cruel punishments.

As demanded by FA Guideline 29b:
'at all times we will try and make the rich clubs richer and the poor clubs poorer', English football's governing body has made concerted efforts to cripple any team suffering from financial problems.

Last season, Luton Town and AFC Bournemouth were dealt heavy points penalties. While Luton dropped out of League Two, the Cherries heroically amassed the 105 points needed to survive, much to the chagrin of stony-faced grey-suited FA officials, who packed into the away end of the Fitness First Stadium for every Bournemouth home game.

Chester are the latest side to anger the FA with their poverty and the newly-relegated outfit will start their Football Conference campaign on -25 points.

Furthermore, the Deva Stadium side will be forced to wear
a brown and pink kit, they will have to travel to away games by horse and cart and manager Mick Wadsworth must field at least one member of the Hollyoaks cast per game.

"We got 'em good!" FA chief executive Ian Watmore whooped. "I wanted to make it 100 points but let's see how they do with 10 professionals and a vacuous simpleton from a second-rate soap.

"It's so important that we show clubs you can't get away with being poor. I can't understand the charity culture these days, a few meaty fines would sort the developing world out in no time."

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Completion of Alonso deal 'will cost average journalist 500 words per day'

A spokesman from the National Union of Journalists has bemoaned 'a dark day for the profession' as Liverpool finally agree to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

When Alonso made it clear at the end of last season that he intended to join defence-phobic underachievers Real, it unleashed a devastating torrent of formulaic transfer stories.

However, reports this morning suggest that the deal is finally complete - news that will bring relief to a public still reeling from an Alonso overdose but which has plunged the nation's journalists into crisis.

"If Alonso has joined Real then it is a black day for all sports journalists," National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear lamented. "We all feared this day would arrive.

"Over the last two months, lazy hack journalists have been assured of filling their 500-word quotas with an Alonso-related headline and a few paragraphs of unsubstantiated, rehashed dirge.

"But these wonderful days are over and I genuinely don't know how the column inches will be filled."

The nation's papers are yet to officially respond to the situation, but an insider at The Sun informed us that "we'll throw something together involving tits."

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Portsmouth Season Preview: Lack of footballers may prove a problem

With 11 days remaining until the Premier League kick-off, Fratton Park is a hive of activity as ground staff prepare for the mouth-watering 2009-10 curtain-raiser against Fulham. Sadly, however, Portsmouth's season could be ruined by the absence of any qualified footballers.

Still awaiting a faceless Arab backer, Pompey were forced to hold an 'Everything Must Go' sale this summer. Despite pocketing huge sums for all-mouth-no-trousers England nearlyman Glen Johnson and goal-scoring fountain pen Peter Crouch, the only arrivals were Aaron Makoena and Steve Finnan.

While the club have banned the word 'crisis', dour manager Paul Hart's face was nearly 80 per cent wrinkles as he found a squad of three men waiting for him at his first pre-season training session.

"It wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Hart admitted. "But the new lads had a decent game of headers and volleys with David (James). They seemed to get on pretty well before David (James) realised he was late for his hair appointment.

"Of course I'd welcome some new recruits, but there's no problem finding a parking space these days. And besides everybody knows it's harder to play against nine men, so just imagine how tough we'll be with three."

Monday, 3 August 2009

Panicked by lack of signings, Arsenal plan invasion of Ivory Coast

Frustrated at being priced out of the summer transfer market, Arsenal have outlined controversial plans to launch a military coup in West Africa in order to flesh out their squad.

There has been a unique feel to the 2009-10 pre-season as cash-rich, prestige-poor mid-table mainstays Manchester City have embarked on an insane signing bender at the expense of every other Premier League side.

While City boss Mark Hughes is struggling to accomodate a squad of nearly 6,000 players and has complained about having to conduct team meetings in the Manchester Evening News Arena, Wenger has a very different problem after a lean summer in the market.

Arsenal's sole new recruit of the summer is forgettably faced left-back Thomas Vermaelen, signed as part of the EU's 'Interesting Jobs for Belgians Initiative', so the departures of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor have left fans fearing another trophyless campaign.

And with time running out before the transfer window snaps shut, Arsenal boss Wenger has taken the unorthodox step of launching a campaign of ruthless colonisation.

"Arsenal Football Club have used every effort to add to their squad using peaceful means this summer, but these attempts have proven unsuccessful," a club statement reads.

"In these times of great hardship, difficult decisions must be made and that is why we will be leading an expedition of conquest to the Ivory Coast. May God protect our men and allow us to pick up at least a couple of squad players."

Wenger has named a strong squad for the away day in Abidjan but Jack Wilshere (thigh) and Alexandre Song (objection to the brutal subjegation of his fellow Africans) are doubts.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

SEASON COUNTDOWN: Fergie Rages At Fixture Congestion As United Are Forced To Play Other Teams In League

Sir Alex Ferguson today opened this season's war of words with other managers before the first ball had been kicked, alleging that defending champions Manchester United were being discriminated against by the fixture list, which obliges them to play every other team in the Premier League, home and away, as well as participating in cup competitions and travelling to various parts of Europe.

'It's just unbelievable,' fumed the permanently aggrieved boss, whose career-long opposition to 'fixture congestion' is so fierce that he famously withdrew United from all competitions in 2003-4, and attempted to pull his team out of a Champions League Quarter-Final with Bayern Munich twenty minutes before the end. 'We have to play Fulham, Wigan, Stoke... you name it. We are literally playing teams almost every week. There are some weeks we have a game on Tuesday, then again on Saturday. That's two football matches in five days. I mean, how do you expect players, on what we pay them, to find time for that?'

The enormous burden on United's squad, Ferguson alleges, is in stark contrast to that faced by their main rivals for the title. 'Arsenal only played twelve games last season. And I know for a fact that Liverpool haven't played Portsmouth for eight years. But this is what you expect at Manchester United. Everyone hates us. Everyone wants us dead.'

Ferguson, who was speaking out against the fixture pile-up from United's hotel in Singapore, where they are playing eleven matches for £100 million a time to 'help promote football in this part of the world', remained bullish about United's prospects for yet another league title, despite the immense, ongoing conspiracy against his club. 'I'm sure we can cope with it, but it might mean having to expand our squad a bit more than I'd anticipated. Luckily we're very good at stealing teenage players from poorer clubs who've spent years nurturing their talent.'