Wednesday has become blogging day for me, although it would be nice if more people read it, so please get retweeting, sharing and commenting!
Last weekend saw us beating Peterhead 4-0 away from home, which was a fantastic performance. They had already won the league, so it wasn't the same fighting performance they usually give, but it was a good win nonetheless. Fair play to them this year, they have had a great season and been so consistent at home in particular(this was their first defeat). They have the best player in the league in Rory McAllister(pictured) who just won the PFA player of the year award after his 30 league goals.
We have given ourselves a great chance of playoffs now and need to get at least a point at home to Clyde on Saturday. It's 5 goals in 5 games for me now which has coincided with the team picking up 13 points in those games. Berwick keep on winning behind us, so it is up to us to make sure we don't slip up and miss out on the playoffs. We are in good form at the moment just at the right time in the season, so we are confident going into the last week.
Unfortunately racism has reared its ugly head again in football this week, but the response from the public and other footballers has perhaps shown that views are beginning to change in Spain. When Dani Alves got a banana thrown at him on Sunday night his action to pick it up and eat it became an instant hit on social media. However the big story for me this week has been over in the NBA, where LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life, fined $2.5m and will be forced to sell his franchise after he was recorded making racist remarks. This stance from the NBA commissioner is noticeably stronger than anything FIFA or UEFA has ever done, and must surely be used as an example to Sepp Blatter or Michele Platini. Maybe a life ban is a little bit strong, but it certainly leaves everyone else in no doubt, racism is completely not tolerated in the NBA.
The difference in football could not be more noticeable when you look at punishments handed out for racist behaviour. One that stands out is when former Spanish manager Luis Aragones was found guilty of racist remarks relating to Thierry Henry. He was fined 87,000 US$(1 week wage) and warned about future misconduct. This article from the telegraph shows the extent of fines handed out for racist behaviour, and none of them will even put a dent in the finances of the countries or clubs. It shows you how racism is viewed by UEFA, when the biggest fines are for Nicklas Bendtner wearing Paddy Power boxer shorts, and Chelsea not controlling their players properly in the Champions League Semi final versus Barcelona.
Hopefully this latest incident with Alves will help to improve what is still a problem in football and maybe the example from the NBA will make FIFA and UEFA think twice about the sanctions they are handing out.
The Weatherston World Cup Preview - Group D
Group D(FIFA Rankings)
This group looks like a real tough one for England to qualify from with 3 teams vying for the top 2 places. Costa Rica are not the worst team in the tournament, but it would be a surprise if they managed to get any points from the group.
Italy - The 4 time winners are always contenders at the World Cup, and this year should be no different. However, one big problem they have is venues of games and kick off times. They have the opening game in the amazon jungle at Manaus, then two 13:00 kick offs in Recife and Natal, both boasting tropical temperatures and unbearable heat at that time of day. If Italy make it through the group they could be physically drained by the latter stages. One advantage is they do have a strong squad, with all their players playing in Serie A, the exceptions being 3 at PSG(Sirigu, Verratti, Motta), Giaccherini at Sunderland and maybe Criscito at Zenit. They are always well organised and strong in defense, with Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci all playing together at Juventus as well as Italy. Balotelli is the main man upfront, although he might be frustrating he can produce in the big games, and did so at the Euro 2012's. He can score in big games, and with Guiseppe Rossi getting back to fitness they could both be important players upfront. Danielle De Rossi has always been a strong midfielder for them and will be again, and with the skill of Marchisio and Montolivo the Italians will be a big threat.
Key Man - Andrea Pirlo might be 34 now but he is still an unbelievable footballer. He hardly ever gives the ball away, is cool under pressure and a great set piece taker. His passing range will be a great asset, and in this heat when he might not be closed down as quickly he can be so dangerous.
England - England will go into this World Cup apparently with little chance and with expectations seemingly at an all time low. However, their squad is not any worse than other tournaments, and I'm sure if they get a result in their first game against Italy the media will go crazy. No doubt they have good players, but it will be interesting to see how they perform on the big stage. Steven Gerrard has been excellent for Liverpool all season(forget about his slip on Sunday), but will he have the energy to play all games for England after a tough season? Sturridge has scored plenty goals, but his form has dipped recently with Raheem Sterling looking like England's best player at the moment. Adam Lallana has been a star for Southampton, same goes for his teammate Ricky Lambert. Walcotts pace and energy will be a big miss, so they need to get that from elsewhere, maybe from Chamberlain. Cahill and Jagielka will be important players at the back, but maybe they lack a bit of pace at the highest level. Joe Hart will need to be on form and not make mistakes that have crept into his game at club level.
Key Man - Wayne Rooney has failed to perform at a major tournament so far in his career but surely this year, if he goes in fit, that won't happen again. There is no doubting Rooney has quality, but he needs to show he is world class on this stage. His goals record for England(38 in 89) and United is excellent, so they need him to be at his best.
Here is the squad that if I was Roy Hodgson, I would pick.
GK - Hart, Forster, Foster
Def - Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Shaw, Flanagan, Jones, Smalling,
Mid - Gerrard, Wilshere, Henderson, Sterling, Chamberlain, Milner, Lallana, Barkley,
Att - Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lambert
There is a good mix of youth and experience in there, plenty energy and hopefully for their sake, some goals. It will also help with future tournaments that players like Shaw, Barkley and Sterling get World Cup experience.
Uruguay - The Uruguay team looks fantastic going forward and have some good defenders, so they should be a threat this Summer. Being South American they have the advantage of the conditions(No team from Europe has won a WC in South America). They qualified virtue of a comfortable playoff win against Jordan, after they had finished 5th in the South American qualifying table. Player of World Cup 2010, Diego Forlan, is 34 now but can still be a goal threat and will be required this year in the heat. Edinson Cavani(PSG) is a top player and adds pace and strength to the attacking line. Walter Gargano(Parma) will be an important holding midfielder in front of the defense, with Diego Lugano(West Brom) still playing at 33 and the excellent Diego Godin(Athletico Madrid). They have good strong fullbacks as well in Caceres(Juventus) and Pereira(Benfica) both good defensively.
Key Man - Luis Suarez might not be the most liked footballer in the world, but he has certainly turned his game up a notch this season. His quick turns, good finishing and great link up play means he is one of the best players in the world. He is so sharp and nutmegs defenders more than anyone I have ever seen play football, so if he plays well, Uruguay will be a huge threat.
Costa Rica - The Costa Ricans qualified by finishing second behind USA in the North American qualifiers. This is their 5th World Cup, but with this group they won't be expecting much. The squad doesn't boast many recognisable names, but one is Bryan Oviedo, who unfortunately broke his leg in January this year, and could well miss out on his place in the squad. Cristian Gamboa the right full back is someone I have seen live playing for Rosenborg, and he is a very attacking full back and someone who I was very impressed with, hopefully he can have a good tournament. Striker Joel Campbell became a household name after his goal against Man United for Olympiakos, and the on loan Arsenal Striker looks quick and could cause opposition troubles, but at 21 it is a big ask for him to take his team in the knockout stages.
Key Man - Bryan Ruiz is the main man for this team, and although he only showed glimpses of his talents at Fulham there is no doubt that he is someone with great ability. He isn't a regular goalscorer, but he does score spectacular goals, and he can produce a bit of magic to create chances for his teammates.
Teams to Progress - Italy and Uruguay
This weeks edition of World Cuts takes us back to the 1998 World Cup in France and to one of Championship Managers finest players, Taribo West. He was well known for sporting some form of dreadlocks, or other noticeable hair styles, but in the World cup of 98, he produced a spectacular green effort that is difficult to describe and is best shown in picture.