Fantasy Football Auction

I’d like you to participate in my Fantasy Football Game this season – it’s a little different from normal Fantasy Football and is for the more hardcore fan.

Concept: Fantasy Football but like NFL Fantasy Football each player in the League can only be owned by one manager. This avoids the end of season tedium that ensues when everybody has the same players in their team.

The game is based on the Sun Dream Team Scoring System, although none of the rules relating to number of players from a given club will apply. So if you want 16 Wigan players – feel free.

Players are allocated via an auction process



Each manager begins the evening with £120 million to spend on 16 players.

Each turn a different manager will attempt to purchase a player for £0.5 million. If another manger should want that player he must bid at least ½ million above what was previously bid. Bidding will continue until nobody is willing to increase the bid.

Key Points
• £120 Million
• 16 Players
• Minimum increment allowed to raise a bid by is ½ million
• Players must be on the list, you can’t sign Messi hoping he’ll come to the league

If after successfully bidding for a player a manager decides that he no longer wants that player he can release him for ½ what he paid for them (He is no permitted to re-bid for that player).

For example: If manager A bids £19,5 million for Ashley Young and then decides he doesn’t want him he can release him for £10 (because we can’t split half millions we round up).


Provisionally pencilled in for Sunday 6 August or Friday 11 August


In order to limit the impact of injuries on the league I have increased the number of formations that are eligible under the rules as far as is reasonable.

Valid formations

• 4-4-2
• 4-3-3
• 5-3-2
• 4-5-1
• 5-4-1

I was tempted to add in 2-3-5 but since Ozzie Ardilles isn’t turning up I didn’t think anyone would mind if I gave it a miss.

Making Changes and Updating the Table

I will be updating the league table on the 1st of every month and as such this is when you will need to submit your team to me. Even if there isn’t a game until the 3rd of that month I will still need to have received your team by the last day of the month in order for it to be eligible.


Points are awarded during the season depending on how your players perform in Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Europa League matches.
Your 11 selected players will gain or lose you points based on their appearances during the season. For full details see below:

Goal Scored 5
Scoring three or more goals per match 5
Clean Sheet (keeper/defender) 5
Clean Sheet (midfielder) 2
Conceded more than one goal (keeper/defender) -1 per goal
Penalty save (keeper) 3
Booking -1
Sent off -3 in total
Star Man in Sun Sport’s player ratings 5
Awarded seven or more in Sun Sport’s Player Ratings 3

Loan Deals

Managers are allowed to make loan deals between each other but the length of the loan must be specified on Facebook so as not to cause confusion. In the interests of sportsmanship these loan deals must be fair and if they aren’t they won’t be allowed.

Transfer Window

We will have a second auction when the transfer window closes in the winter. It is anticipated that an additional £25 million will be available to managers to make new purchases but this may be subject to change.

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FIFA’s power base shifted silently but decisively south and east this week

For many the only good to come out of this week’s train wreck of a FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland was the announcement that in future the Congress itself and not the FIFA Executive Committee would be responsible for selecting future World Cup tournament hosts.

The ExCo has been beseiged by allegations of corruption that FIFA has now displayed some interest in tackling (disclaimer: if you are standing against Sepp Blatter in a Presidential Election or a Vice President supporting someone who is doing so). But why did Blatter allow the FIFA Congress to choose the World Cup hosts rather than remove the “few bad apples” that they insist are to blame?

It’s all about geo-sporting politics.

Before the allegations against Bin Hamman and Warner broke, seasoned FIFA watchers had this race as too close to call, The Guardian even said that it felt Bin Hamman might be ahead by one vote 104-103. This is because when FIFA votes for its President each member has an equal say- the Cayman Islands FA has as much influence as the Chinese FA.

Pretty much all of Bin Hamman’s support was coming from his native Asian Football Confederation and the African Federation (CAF), these are two powerful blocs of support in a Presidential election and account for 97 of a possible 208 votes, almost enough to win if a candidate sweeps them both.

Fuelling the dissatisfaction of the AFC and CAF members is the allocation of World Cup places, in 2014 the 10 members of CONMEBOL (South America) will have 5.5 World Cup places between 10 national associations while the AFC has 4.5 places shared between its 46 members and CAF has 5 spoils to go around 53 tables.

Agreeing to select the World Cup hosts via the same system as the President is a massive win for Africa and Asia, who then dutifully swung their previously reticent support behind Herr Blatter, even to the point of blocking the FAs call for delaying the election to allow for a contest.

Currently, the ExCo has 24 members (including the provisionally suspended Bin Hammam and Warner) with 9 members coming from UEFA, 4 each from CAF and the AFC, 3 each from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF and 1 from Oceania.

The voting weight of each confederation for World Cup selection in the ExCo was consequently

AFC – 16.6%

CAF – 16.6%

CONCACAF – 12.5%

CONMEBOL – 12.5%

Oceania – 4.2%

UEFA – 37.5%

Now, the voting process for the World Cup will be weighted as such.

AFC – 22.1% (46 nations)

CAF – 25.5% (53 nations)

CONCACAF – 16.8% (35 nations)

CONMEBOL – 4.8% (10 nations)

Oceania – 5.3% (11 nations)

UEFA – 25.5% (53 nations)

Ouch, if you are European or South American – their influence has been curtailed at the expense of currying favour with emerging football powers. The epicentre of world football may still be Zurich, but it’s facing more easterly and more southerly than it has done perhaps at any stage in its history.

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Don’t Bale on Spurs

In the first of a new series of blogs on the Champions League, James Dixon takes a look at Tottenham’s chances against AC Milan.

Tottenham’s debut season in the Champions League must have been everything the White Hart Lane faithful have wished it could be. Despite the teams best efforts to fail at the qualifying stage against Young Boys in Swtizerland it has been an enjoyable odyssey for Spurs fans in Europe’s Premier Competition for the first time since Bill Nicholson was manager.

Twente, Werder Bremen and reigning champions Inter Milan were all hammered at home, as Tottenham progressed to the knock-out stages as group winners and joint top goalscorers.

Since the second group stage was abolished for the 2003-04 season 37 group winners have progressed to the quarter-finals opposed to 19 group runners-up, which should be a good omen for Tottenham.

AC Milan was on paper the toughest possible draw for Harry Redknapp’s men, who’s defensive fragility on their travels (12 goals conceded in 4 games) remains a serious cause for concern. While the Milanese are top of Serie A and historically amongst the savviest of Champions League operators, they have not won a knock-out game since defeating Liverpool in 2007 Final, and have twice in the past three seasons been defeated by English clubs at this stage of the competition (Arsenal 07/08 & Manchester United 09/10).

All Italian sides have struggled against English sides in the knock-out stages since that Athens Final. In the past three seasons there have been eight Anglo-Italian pairings and seven times the Premier League has triumphed against Serie A, only Inter’s 3-1 aggregate win against Chelsea last season en route to winning the competition prevents a clean sweep of recent seasons.

The recent superiority of England has distorted what was hitherto a close head-to-head record between the two footballing powers. In the Champions League era English clubs have won 33 matches, the Italians 22 and 18 matches have been drawn.

All bookmakers have Milan as slight favourites to qualify for the next round and Tottenham’s Champions League inexperience has been highlighted as a reason why the Rossoneri should be considered favourites, but the last three English debutants in the Champions League got at least to the quarter final stages. Chelsea (99/00), Liverpool (01/02) and Leeds memorably made the semi finals in 2000-01.

Does the absence of CL football mean that when it arrives the club has more desire for success?

The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, Elland Road and Anfield in their first campaign was electric, anyone who doubts the crowd can be worth a goal should see herehere andhere.

Prior to this the experience of English debutants in their first Group Stage was pretty horrendous with Manchester United (94/95), Blackburn Rovers (95/96), Newcastle United (97/98) and Arsenal (98/99) all failing to qualify with the exception of Newcastle, all being woeful doing so.

It was a different league in the 90s, there were far fewer star players earning their crust in England, with Serie A and La Liga above the Premier League in prestige. The high profile imports tended to be superstars assumed to be nearing the ends of their careers. Importantly, Manchester United had not yet turned their domestic dominance into continental success – and in doing so laid down a blue print for English sides to follow in Europe.

The absence of Gareth Bale from the first leg at the San Siro on Tuesday is of course a loss for Spurs, but his game relies on space to run into. Phil Neville and Rafael Da Silva have shown sides how to counter Bale’s threat, and in Niko Kranjcar they have an in form replacement.

The threat of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric has yet to be shown how to be effectively countered when working in tandem. Modric is a fitness doubt, and Redknapp will be making a last minute call on his participation. The Wheeler-Dealer may roll the dice on Modric’s fitness thinking the risk/reward ratio is heavily tilted in his favour when his other options are Steven Pienaar and Sandro.

Though ‘Arry would do well to remember that the tie is decided in 180 minutes. If all Milan have to do is come to White Hart Lane and obdurately hold on they’d relish that challenge and the space won’t be there for Bale, Modric and VDV to exploit. Personally, I’d play Palacios alongside Sandro to offer Gallas and Dawson more protection, and entrust Kranjcar, Lennon, VDV and Crouch to get the away goal.

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So you think you know Barcelona?

Barcelona have been the dominant force in La Liga for the past two seasons and their two Champions League victories in the past five seasons make them the closest thing to a European football dynasty at the moment. For the past few seasons, the team that play football the way it is meant to be played has a surprisingly poor away record in the Champions League.

In their last seven away knock-out legs Barca have a record of no wins, five draws and two defeats. Their last away victory in the latter stages of the Champions League was in 2008; a 1-0 victory away at Schalke in which Bojan scored the only goal.

Since that victory Barca have lost to Manchester United and Inter Milan; and drew with Lyon, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Stuttgart and Arsenal on their European travels – an inauspicious record for such a fêted team.

2009/10 Champions League Semi Final

It is worth comparing their away record with the next most successful Champions League team of the past few seasons – Manchester United. Over the same period that Barcelona have W0 D5 L2 away knock-out matches, United have won four games (AC Milan, Porto, Arsenal and Roma), drawn twice and lost once (to Bayern).

Barcelona were humbled in their last away knock out outing against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan (it’s worth reminding yourself of their fallibility here). Defeats against United and Inter precipitated their elimination from the competition in those seasons. However, the silver lining for Pep Guardiola’s men is that for each of those five draws, they triumphed sufficiently at the Nou Camp for to progress to the next round.

This season the Catalans have gone on a record setting run of victories in La Liga and were unbeaten in a relatively easy group, but even here they showed signs of their travel sickness drawing games in Copenhagen and Kazan. If Arsenal, can take a lead to the Nou Camp they may have enough to progress.

However, Arsene Wenger’s poor Champions League knock-out record may outweigh Barca’s European travel sickness.

Messi scores 4 to eliminate Arsenal last season

Arsenal are the only member of the Big Four in England not have beaten Barcelona in the Champions League. Famously, they lost the 2006 Champions League Final held in Paris to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti; and last year’s two-legged contest saw Arsenal recover from two goals down at home with 25 minutes left to draw the first leg, only to succumb 4-1 to four Lionel Messi goals in the Nou Camp (remind yourself here).

Previously, the clubs had met in the first group stage in 1999-2000. Arsenal held Barca to a 1-1 away from home, before being beaten 4-2 at Wembley.

The Gunners are big Champions League underachievers – only Dynamo Kiev and PSV Eindhoven have competed in as many seasons of the competition with as little to show for it. In the all time Champions League points table they are placed seventh behind United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Juventus – all of whom have won at least one title and appeared in at least three finals.

Arsenal’s record of one final and one other semi-final in 12 consecutive seasons compares poorly with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool, Monaco and Valencia, who have all achieved more with less opportunity.

Although the recent Champions League head to head record between Premier League and La Liga sides decidedly favours the English, with nine two-legged knockout contests being won to the Spaniards three since the abolition of the second group stage. If Barcelona matches are discounted the tally is six victories to nil, meaning the Barca have a record of three victories and three defeats against English clubs in the knock-out stages since 2003. When you count their final victories at neutral venues against Arsenal and Manchester United you see that they have the edge in the comparison, but not by as much as you might think.

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Ian Holloway: the Hypocrite

Holloway is up in arms about Liverpool and Aston Villa negotiating through the media for his star player Charlie Adam.

Taken from the BBC…

“I don’t talk about other teams’ players,” said Holloway. “Mr Houllier didn’t do that. He said they had made an offer and we hadn’t got back to him and Charlie is really good. What is that to do with him? How unsettling is that?”

Probably quite unsettling.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. where we find Ian Holloway on 30 August 2010 speaking about Leicester City player DJ Campbell.

‘The one I wanted to do more than anything else was DJ. I’m sorry I am not in control of that,’ Holloway said. ‘We’re not going to pay £2million or £3m for him because he is 28, but I tried my utmost and we almost did it.  

‘It was almost there, then his club turned round and said no. And the boy has now scored five goals in his last five games.’

That was sufficiently unsettling for Campbell to sign, the next day for £1.5 million.

He without sin shall cast the first stone.

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The cautionary tale of Steve Sidwell

A young midfielder with a knack for scoring goals that dragged a small unfashionable team into the Premier League for the first time in their history.

A description equally fitting for both Steve Sidwell and Charlie Adam.

Both Sidwell and Adam dropped down to the Championship from bigger clubs (Arsenal and Rangers respectively) and excelled in their smaller ponds, now that it seems Adam is destined to re-enter the “big time” – most likely at Liverpool.

However, Sidwell’s experience moving to Chelsea should be a somewhat cautionary tale for Adam. Sidwell only made 7 league starts and a further 8 substitute appearances for the Kings Road club before moving on to Villa where he only started 24 times in two and a half seasons, and his most telling contribution was as a ball boy for a James Milner goal.

Adam will not be an automatic first choice player at Liverpool. Lucas, Raul Meireles and a certain Steven Gerrard are also vying for central midfield berths. The modern tactical requirements for a holding player like Lucas mean the competition is most likely to be with Liverpool’s best player since Christmas (Meireles) and its favourite son.

Charlie Adam plays exceptionally well week in, week out for Blackpool. Not playing regularly can really affect player’s rhythm and Adam needs to demonstrate he unlike Sidwell can produce on a more ad hoc basis than he currently is required to do.

Bad luck, also befell Sidwell at Chelsea, the manager who signed him departed. Avram Grant replaced Jose Mourinho and chances were limited for the midfielder.

Although, Dalglish may rate his fellow Scot, Adam – he is not certain to remain in post beyond the summer.

Risk aversion should not ultimately be enough of a reason to not take on a new challenge, players like Tim Cahill have made the step up from Championship to Premiership with relative ease. However, a keen appreciation of all the factors behind their own recent success, especially when it has not been a constant feature of their career might help players avoid making adverse transfer decisions.

Hopefully, Charlie Adam succeeds wherever he ends up and Steve Sidwell replicates his Reading form at Fulham and reaches at least some of the heights that he alluded to whilst at Reading, but sometimes certain players have a moment in time at a club when they are on top of the world, and try as they might they cannot rediscover those halcyon days elsewhere.

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Nobody should be suprised Avram Grant still has a job

Karren and the David’s (Gold and Sullivan) are notoriously squeamish when it comes to sacking managers. In their 18 years in football they have sacked only two managers – Barry Fry and Trevor Francis.

It’s not like the past 18 years have been an unqualified success for Birmingham City and latterly West Ham, but as Chief Executive and owners Brady, Gold and Sullivan have shown more reticence towards dismissing managers than most of their professional counterparts.

The twice they have wielded the axe has been after three and five year tenures.

During that time largely spent running Birmingham they actually presided over more relegations (3) than managerial sackings – and not after a single relegation was the manager who took them down dismissed.

The loyalty they have shown to their managers has by and large been rewarded; after every relegation Birmingham bounced back the very next season.

However, the press rumours from the weekend were so ubiquitous and strong that it’s hard not to assume Martin O’Neill had been approached. Gold and Sullivan may have been willing to change horses but they do not like the uncertainty that comes from sacking a manager without having a succession plan in place. Or

Grant has been emasculated but their bundled manoeuvres to try and bring in O’Neill has made the West Ham job toxic to all but the most mercenary of managers (and he’s currently working for Newcastle anyway).

West Ham will stay the course till the end of the campaign with Grant, who now exists in the public eye as a managerial rescue pet – mistreated by every owner he ever had.

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