Soccer

Butler: If not the best, the BPL is certain to entertain

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Noel Butler
2/28/2014 4:48:35 PM
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As Manchester United, like Arsenal and Manchester City before them were humbled on the European stage in midweek, the infernal debate about what the best league in Europe rages on.

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt the urge to discuss the matter during his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow's visit to Stoke. Anointing the BPL the best, Wenger trotted out the top to bottom competiveness theory. 

What can't be denied though is that English football is never too far away from grabbing the football headlines.

This week's offering began with a slip of the Mourinho lips. Then we had the national manager waxing lyrical about the possibility of adding a Penalty Psychologist to his Brazil bound backroom staff and how about this morning's revelation Sir Alex Ferguson attributes 'six of the best' as a school boy influenced his managerial ways.

Mourinho was clearly agitated and embarrassed when he faced the media Tuesday following the publication less than 24 hours earlier of disparaging remarks he made about Torres, Eto'o and Demba Ba to a senior executive of a club partner.

Unbeknown to Mourinho, what he thought was a private conversation ahead of a scheduled interview, was in fact been taped by a French TV channel. Who in turn published it for the world to see on their website.

Using the old adage the best form of defense is attack, The Happy One launched into the media labeling them a disgrace for publishing extracts of that conversation - which included mocking Eto'o and wondering out loud if he was actually older than his stated age. 

Torres had the last laugh though by responding to his manager's harsh words in the most effective way possible by putting Chelsea up early in Wednesday's first leg against Galatasaray.

It was no laughing matter not long after the final whistle in Istanbul when Chelsea revealed the club would be immortalized on the small screen in an upcoming edition of the Simpsons. In which a number of players, including Torres will feature in an episode where Bart Simpson plays referee.

The week for Torres though didn't end on a happy note. We learnt earlier today and long with Manchester United's Juan Mata both players had been omitted from Spain's squad for next week's prestigious friendly match against the 2006 World Cup winners, Italy.

Roy Hodgson who named Toronto FC's Jermaine Defoe in his squad for the March 5 friendly at Wembley versus Denmark yesterday, made news earlier in the week when addressing England penalty woes at tournaments.

The England manager, along with all other managers of the 32 nations going to this summer's World Cup Finals, has just returned from visiting Brazil let it be known earlier in the week he is giving serious thought to having a psychologist at his disposal as ways to improve on England's inability to win penalty shootouts.

Hodgson experienced penalty misery first hand at Euro 2012 when Italy eliminated England in the quarter finals but certainly does not want to suffer that same fate for a team that has bowed out on penalties in six of the last 10 major tournaments they have qualified for.

One of world football's most dubious of records only once over this period have England progressed from the Achilles Heel of a penalty shootout. This occurring when they edged out Spain at EURO 96 - only then to fail at the next hurdle, Germany beating England on penalties in the semifinal.

Hodgson isn't the first England World Cup manager to make the headlines for matters of the mind. As part of final preparations for the 1998 Finals the-then England manager Glen Hoddle arranged for a faith healer to visit the England camp before their departure to France.

Such were part of Hoddle's unorthodox methods, the ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville revealed in his 2011 autobiography Hoddle had requested his staff walk around the pitch anti-clockwise as ways to create positive energy before their round of 16 match against Argentina.

A match won, by you guessed it, Argentina on penalties. 
 
Paired in a group this summer with Uruguay and Italy my how the legions of England fans who will journey to Brazil would dearly love to face the possibility of a penalty shootout. At least this would signify England had successfully made it out of a difficult group.

Sir Alex Ferguson who tasted penalty glory himself in the 2008 Champions League Final made it on to the back pages today when it was revealed in the London Times that as a school boy he often found himself in trouble.

Not only that, but Ferguson disclosed he felt the corporal punishment he received because of his bad boy ways went a long way to helping shape his hair dryer ways. He also revealed the belt which was used now hangs proudly on the wall of his study at home.

With Manchester United not in action this weekend as their scheduled opponent, Manchester City play Sunderland in Sunday's League Cup Final, perhaps it might be an idea if Ferguson invites David Moyes over for a cup of tea.

In a BPL season which continues to shock, and will do so until mid May, tomorrow's action throws up potential banana skins for each of the clubs who currently sit in the Champions League slots.

The West London derby sees the current leaders Chelsea, paying a visit to the worst club, Fulham who are desperate for a win. Especially so after coughing up an 86th minute equalizer away to West Brom last Saturday, welcome to the BPL Felix Magath.

Arsenal, with a well-rested Mezut Ozil expected to return following his own penalty demons, are sure to be weary of Stoke's direct approach. While Liverpool won't need reminding of their early season 0-1 reversal at home to Southampton -  result which knocked them off the top spot.

Even though his club aren't playing, what's the odds occasional Manchester United bad boy Wayne Rooney does not feature prominently come Sunday's tabloid headlines?

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

TSN & TEAM Radio is your exclusive BPL radio home this season. Saturday's double header action features, Fulham v Chelsea with kickoff at 10am et/7am pt and Southampton v Liverpool with kickoff 12:30pm et/9:30am pt

Jose Mourinho (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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