Top 10 Deadline Day Deals

It only comes round twice a year and it’s always far more exciting than Christmas. Christians have Easter, children have birthdays, but for us football fans, the most important dates on our calendars are August 31 and January 31. Yes, it’s transfer deadline day. Prepare yourselves for a day of endless rumours of who goes where. Has Michael Owen been spotted in a Brighton supermarket? Did Fernando Torres really check into that Liverpool estate agent? And surely that wasn’t Lionel Messi in the dark sunglasses making his way through Leeds/Bradford Airport with a load of LUFC officials in tow. Either way, put your work on hold, pop on Sky Sports News and settle down for the day. But not before you’ve enjoyed The Coin Toss’s Top 10 Deadline Day moves.

  1. Rafael van der Vaart, August 2010 – This one had everything. Tottenham transfer activity on the final day of the window. A close call as to whether the paperwork had been completed in time to seal the move. And it was a star player brought to the Premier League for a bargain price as well. Spurs sealed a last gasp £8 million move for the Dutch international midfielder, a move that was left late as Rafa’s proposed switch to Bayern Munich fell through the day before. Still, Tottenham and Real Madrid thrashed out a deal with two hours to spare and Spurs made a world class acquisition to aid their Champions League campaign.
  1. Robinho, August 2008 – The deal that announced Manchester City as real contenders on the European stage. Following the Abu Dhabi United Group’s takeover earlier that day, manager Mark Hughes was given an infinite amount of cash to spend on deadline day. He gave a perfect demonstration of City’s new found wealth, snapping up Brazilian superstar Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5 million. Although rumour has it Robinho thought he was signing for Chelsea, a deal was completed just before midnight and City had their marquee man. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be a match made in heaven as Robinho struggled to adapt to the Premier League, but it could have been worse as City were also chasing the man below…
  1. Dimitar Berbatov, August 2008 – This was an ongoing transfer saga throughout the summer, as Tottenham reported Manchester United for breaking league rules by unsettling the player after admitting their interest. A deal looked unlikely and when Manchester City had a bid accepted for the Bulgarian hitman, the striker headed north for contract talks. However, Sir Alex craftily whisked him away in a taxi from the airport and swooped with a late move, breaking the club’s transfer record with a bid of £30.75 million. If only he’d known…
  1. Carlos Tevez/Javier Mascherano, August 2006 – One of the more bizarre moves to be completed on deadline day, but West Ham fans couldn’t believe their luck when two Argentinean internationals landed at Upton Park in 2006. Neither could Alan Pardew, who had been offered the players as a result of third party ownership, a move that ended up with the Hammers lucky to avoid a points deduction after irregularities were found in the transfer. Mascherano had little effect and soon left for Liverpool, but Carlos Tevez’s goals proved priceless in their fight against relegation, keeping the club up on the final day with a goal against Manchester United.
  1. Andrei Arshavin, January 2009 – Whatever Arsenal fans think of the Russian now, they cannot escape the excitement that surrounded his deadline day move from Zenit Saint Petersburg. The deal was on/off for most of the window and Arshavin in fact departed his London hotel on deadline day morning with the intention of going home. However, Arsene Wenger finally met Zenit’s asking price with two hours of the window left and after complications due to compensation payments from the player himself and poor weather conditions in England, the move wasn’t actually completed until 24 hours later. It was all worth it though, as the midfield maestro soon marked his arrival in the Premier League with a four goal salvo against Liverpool.
  1. Robbie Keane, January 2009, January 2010 – Keane has to be included in this list for two moves on deadline day, although this isn’t difficult as the Irish striker has had more clubs than Tiger Woods. Firstly, Keane rejoined Spurs for £12 million after a disappointing spell at Liverpool, but his second spell at White Hart Lane didn’t last that long either, as the next January, Keane joined Celtic on loan after falling down the pecking order in manager Harry Redknapp’s plans. The forward in fact almost made it onto this list on four occasions, indeed his move from Leeds United to Spurs in 2002 was two days before deadline day and his move last year on loan to West Ham was also completed just a day before the window shut. Shame he went to Villa early this season.
  1. Ashley Cole/William Gallas, August 2006 – Another deadline day move that sent shockwaves around the country. Cole publicly fell out with the Arsenal board after Chelsea tapped up the England international the previous season. The left back made it quite clear he wanted to make the switch across London, especially given the size of the contract on the table. The two clubs couldn’t agree a few however, and with directors still locked in a bitter dispute, a deal looked unlikely. However, William Gallas’s falling out with Mourinho over playing out of position at left-back at Chelsea paved the way for a deal, as a figure of £5 million plus the Frenchman was agreed for Cole’s services. And so the legend of ‘Cashley’ Cole was born into existence.
  1. Marouane Fellaini – It’s not often Everton spend big, so this deal for the Belgian midfielder is well worth including in the list. David Moyes is never allowed a free reign on the chequebook, but he somehow persuaded Chairman Bill Kenwright to part with £15 million to sign the man with the giant afro. The record signing from Standard Liege had been attracting interest from Europe’s biggest teams and therefore the Toffees pulled off a massive coup bringing him to Goodison Park. Fellaini hasn’t disappointed either, displaying a level of tenacity and skill in the middle of the park that has seen the big boys sniffing around him again.
  1. Fernando Torres/Luis Suarez/Andy Carroll, January 2011 – How could you forget the striker switch-around that occurred on the last day on January the previous year? The Suarez deal had been in the pipeline for some time, but wasn’t officially completed until Liverpool freed up some funds, funds that eventually came from the sale of Fernando Torres. Having handed in a transfer request two days before, following an earlier bid rejection from Chelsea, the Spaniard completed his move early in the day for £50 million. This then prompted Kenny Dalglish to go and find a new striker, which unfortunately led him to Andy Carroll. He made the Newcastle centre-forward the most expensive British player of all time at £35 million, swooping on deadline day to the astonishment of the footballing world. Anger on Tyneside soon turned to amazement as they made a ridiculous profit on a man who had scored just 11 Premier League goals in his entire career. It is unlikely the Premiership will ever see another deadline day like this one.
  1. Wayne Rooney, August 2004 – It’s easy to forget that Manchester United brought Rooney in from Everton way back in 2004 now the striker has been at the club so long. In fact, they completed the deal on deadline day for a fee of £27 million after the young forward produced some sensational performances at Euro 2004. United only revealed their interest after Newcastle had a bid accepted for Rooney, but England’s talisman chose to head to Old Trafford instead of joining the Toon Army. The rest, they say, is history.

Top Four Reign Supreme: Men's Tennis at it's Very Best

For those who lasted the entire 5 hours and 53 minutes, it was a quarter of a day well spent. To see Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal battle out the longest Grand Slam final in the history of men’s tennis was rather astonishing, and those who were courtside realised they’d been witness to something truly remarkable. It wasn’t just the sheer endurance of the Number One and Two in the world that was remarkable, but the same level of skill and intensity that they kept up for the duration of the contest, ended as Djokovic guided a forehand winner past his opponent. He collapsed to the floor in triumph, celebrating his third Australian Open title and fifth Grand Slam title. The question remains though, where does men’s tennis go from here?

There is no doubt Djokovic is the game’s supreme player, he proved that both in the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night and the whole of last season, losing just the six matches all year, whilst collecting ten tournaments, ranking 2011 for Djokovic as one of the best seasons of sport ever seen. The thing is, this triumph can only serve to strengthen the Serb even further, and having dug so very down at 4-2 in the fifth decider, he now knows there is no match he cannot come back in. The French Open is the title missing from his collection, indeed win that and he holds all four major trophies, something not seen since Laver himself did it in 1969. Djokovic will now feel he could beat Nadal on clay, a surface where the Spaniard has previously seemed invincible. However, there is no doubt that Novak holds the mental edge over his rival, having beaten him in three successive Grand Slam finals, even Nadal has admitted as much. If Djokovic triumphs at Roland Garros, who can stop him winning the Grand Slam in 2012 given the consistency of his game. Given the world number one is still only 24, he could well go onto dominate men’s tennis, much in the way Federer did before Nadal ended his run of superiority at the top. The rest of the world should watch out.

For Nadal himself, well losing in such a manner must have been galling. Having fought back valiantly to take the fourth set tie-breaker, he must have thought the title was his, especially being a break of serve up in the decider. Although it wasn’t to be, Nadal can still take heart from the defeat, Djokovic’s hoodoo over him isn’t quite as strong as it may seem and Nadal will fancy his chances in the clay court season of getting his own back. The Spaniard’s warrior-like style will ensure he is a threat in whatever match he plays and Rafa will undoubtedly add to his ten Grand Slam titles, especially given his tender age of 25. It remains to be seen what impact Nadal’s style of play will have later in his career, indeed it could be injuries that derail this man’s fabulous career given the immense strain he puts on his body. In the past year, Nadal’s troublesome knee has showed signs of deteriorating even further and the heavy strapping has become part of his uniform on the court. It would be a devastating blow to the sport if this robs tennis of one of its finest.

What about tennis’s finest ever player (arguably)? Federer is now without a Slam in two years, since his victory in Melbourne over Andy Murray in 2010. This is an extremely barren patch for the 16-time Grand Slam Champion, who on his day plays sublime tennis that you can only simply dream of. But future success is looking unlikely for the Swiss legend; indeed it is difficult to see Federer reclaiming his crown from either Nadal or Djokovic. Victory won’t come at the French, Roger has always struggled on clay, whilst his seemingly invincible presence at Wimbledon has long been diminished, after suffering defeats to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych in the last two years. His best chance of victory lies on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, but Federer is 30 now and a long, hard season could see one the greatest ever to grace the court considering his future long before then. Everyone involved in the game will hope this is not the case, indeed Roger is still the premier crowd drawer for major tournaments as people turn out en masse to see his seemingly effortless performances, but it is hard to see the man, so modest in character, carrying on without the taste of victory at the end of each tournament.

As for Murray, the British dream still hangs by a thread. Once again, the gallant Scot reached his traditional Grand Slam semi-final before falling at the death. He has given the public a little more to cling onto this time round in the manner of his defeat to Djokovic though, as their five set thriller was far more competitive than Murray has ever managed during the latter stages of a Major before. Had he taken one of those break points at 5-5 in the final set, victory could well have been his and who knows, a potential chance finally deposing Fred Perry of his position as Britain’s last Major winner. The match will have done wonders for his mentality though, as he managed to stay in touch throughout and not throw away crucial points that the Murray of yesteryear has done in big games. Working alongside Ivan Lendl could prove to be a masterstroke, as his new coach has been there, done that and can now show Murray the way to win on the big occasion. People shouldn’t get too excited though, especially having seen the quality that Djokovic and Nadal produced in their epic encounter, as although Murray produced one of the performances of his life during the semi-final, he still didn’t have enough for Djokovic, who then raised his game to actually lift the trophy. But at least hope still remains.

It could be a remarkable year for men’s tennis then, if this tournament is anything to go by. There is also the added bonus of having the Olympics, which is rather like the fifth major, therefore offering the fans another chance to watch the high quality tennis we have seen over the last two weeks. The players will now size each other up on resumption of the ATP tour, before clashing again in Paris in the Springtime in what promises to be an intriguing tournament.

The Woes of David De Gea

Sir Alex Ferguson must be wondering if he persuaded the wrong star to come out of retirement this January. While Paul Scholes filled a hole in midfield left by Darren Fletcher’s illness, the Manchester United boss will have been wondering what Edwin Van Der Sar is up to these days after Saturday’s game with Liverpool.

The Dutchman’s calming presence between the sticks at Old Trafford was one of the main explanations of the recent success United have enjoyed, indeed the veteran stopper marshalled the meanest defence in the Premier League, whilst looking unflappable himself under every cross, shot and other flying ball that came his way. The same cannot be said for the man who was earmarked as his long-term successor at Manchester United. No-one expected David De Gea to slot into Edwin’s shoes with consummate ease, but something tells me even the Spaniard’s worst nightmares couldn’t have conjured up this scenario.

The latest criticism levelled at the goalkeeper came after he hesitated following a Steven Gerrard corner, allowing Daniel Agger to guide the ball into an empty net, setting Liverpool on their way to a 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals. It is just the latest of a string of errors following an erratic start to his time at Old Trafford. He started badly in the Charity Shield win over Manchester City, being caught out again from a cross that allowed Joleon Lescott a free header, before letting an Edin Dzeko strike from range slip through his fingers. Not too many eyebrows were raised, indeed this was still pre-season essentially, but his mistake from Shane Long’s shot during the opening game of the season against West Brom had a few people muttering behind their hands. A few shaky performances later and people were openly questioning the decision to pay Atlético Madrid£18.9 million for his services. To De Gea’s credit, he has produced a few performances out of the top drawer, displaying his superb shot-stopping ability, in particular from Ramires during the 3-1 win over Chelsea in Septmeber, not to mention a couple of spectacular saves that won his side a point against Stoke City. His inability to command the penalty area is worrying everyone concerned with the club however, and after a dreadful display against Blackburn on New Year’s Eve, Fergie finally dropped De Gea for Anders Lindegaard. Now, De Gea has failed to grasp his second chance with the blunder against Liverpool, where do United go from here?

Obviously the club has made the effort to defend their under fire signing. Fergie told BBC Sport that other players were to blame for Agger’s goal, stating “Our own players created a problem for the first goal. They didn’t give him [De Gea] enough room to deal with it.” One would expect Ferguson to back his player publicly, any manager who openly criticises their own players is in deep trouble, but the problem is, we’ve heard it all before. After that mistake against Blackburn, the manager chose not to focus on the mistake, but more the positive character traits of the man himself, insisting “he’s been terrific, the boy. He trains very well, so it’s easy to manage that.” It doesn’t take an MI5 analyst to see Fergie’s attempts to cover up his young star, indeed De Gea probably needs that fatherly arm around him right now.

Short on confidence, the Premier League is an unforgiving place for a struggling goalkeeper. Just ask many of those former England contenders. Paul Robinson, Rob Green, Scott Carson. Just three examples of decent keepers whose careers were sent spiralling down the pan after certain high profile mistakes. The way sides like Stoke or Blackburn approach the game makes life difficult for a goalkeeper without the command of his penalty area. This is where De Gea struggles. He lacks the communication skills that say Joe Hart, for example, has in abundance, or the ability to claim a hanging ball that all top keepers need. This isn’t a problem faced by the leading La Liga keepers, as the Spanish league doesn’t feature sides with the so-called ‘rugby’ tactics. If De Gea is to achieve his potential with the Red Devils, he needs tutelage in this area and fast. He also seems to lack the physical presence to deal with the Premier League’s more aggressive forwards. Good job Duncan Ferguson has long gone.

Too many people rated De Gea as a top prospect for him to fail completely. Many scouts round Europe had their eyes on the Spaniard, indeed Fergie and his scouting had picked him out well before Van Der Sar retired. To write off one of the game’s brightest stars would be premature, but it’s difficult to know what United can do for the time being. His demeanour after the cup tie was almost depressing, the man seemed to be suffering on a personal level, hoping for the turf to open and swallow him up. To discard the man at this stage could prove a fatal blow to his confidence and ruin him forever. Lindegaard is a capable understudy and has made it clear he isn’t at Old Trafford to hold hands with Michael Owen on the substitutes bench. To keep picking the underperforming Spaniard would be an insult to the Dane and in fact to Fergie’s selection policy. But De Gea needs further acclimatisation time that will allow him to adjust to the demands of his new country. Food for thought for Sir Alex.

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Should QPR have asked Anton Ferdinand to shake John Terry's hand?

QPR announced this week that they have asked Anton Ferdinand to shake John Terry’s hand before the FA Cup clash against Chelsea. Whilst it is wholly understandable, and indeed responsible, that the club should want to defuse the tension surrounding the fixture, the significance of a handshake in such circumstances has been heightened in the wake of Sepp Blatter’s comments about racism in football last November. This begs the question – should QPR have asked Ferdinand to shake Terry’s hand?

For those who have been living in a cave, or just can’t remember, Sepp Blatter said in an interview with CNN that “There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct” and that “the one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.” There was widespread condemnation of his comments here in the UK, even after Blatter issued a statement claiming that his comments had been misunderstood. The comment has to rank as Blatter’s worst gaffe ever, and the flippancy with which he demeaned the problem of racism in football furthers the argument against him as FIFA president.

Furthermore, his ‘clarification’ of what he actually meant did little to convince anyone that he was actually committed to the fight against racism, given that he essentially just reworded his original statement in a slightly more careful manner. Blatter stated: “My comments have been misunderstood. What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have battles with your opponents and sometimes things are done which are wrong. But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologise to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over.” How this is substantively different to his original comment is extremely difficult to see. Changing “maybe there is a word or gesture” to “some things” fools no-one, and it is an insult to every person that has ever suffered racial abuse in any form for Blatter to trivialise the issue in this manner.

Clearly QPR are not asking Ferdinand to shake hands and forget about Terry’s allegedly racist comment, as Sepp Blatter would no doubt suggest, but if Ferdinand does shake Terry’s hand on Saturday there will inevitably be some that feel it demeans the gravity of the situation, especially if Terry goes on to be found guilty of the charges against him. Consequently, it will be very interesting to see what Ferdinand decides to do.

Obviously it is entirely Ferdinand’s choice, given that he is the one who has been offended. However, that is precisely why it is problematic that QPR have asked him to shake hands with Terry. For one, the gesture of a handshake and ‘being the bigger man’ will be undermined to some extent by the fact that Ferdinand has been asked to by his club. The main issue, though, is that Ferdinand may well shake Terry’s hand despite not wanting to, due to QPR’s influence. Whilst that is something only Ferdinand could answer, it is irrelevant with regards to the question of whether QPR should ask this of Ferdinand.

The importance of how clubs deal with racism was thrown into stark relief by Liverpool’s handling of the Luis Suarez racism saga. Liverpool’s decision to send out their players in t-shirts bearing a graphic of Suarez was denounced by many within the footballing community and their approach has damaged their reputation. While there is an argument that it was worse because Suarez never denied what he had said, instead maintaining that it wasn’t meant as a racial slur, there is potential for a backlash if John Terry ends up being convicted of the racially aggravated public order offence with which he is charged. Moreover, it places Anton Ferdinand in the same situation that Glen Johnson was in when the Liverpool team warmed up in the Suarez t-shirts insomuch that some members of the black footballing community (forgive me please, Diane Abbott) will see it as a tacit forgiving of John Terry. It is unlikely that the outcry will be as strong as Paul McGrath’s denouncement of Johnson as “shameful”, but the problem exists nevertheless. Johnson defended his actions, stating on Twitter that he would defend who he wished, but it would have been far better for Liverpool to have avoided this fiasco by sticking to their written statement and allowing Johnson to show his support independently, thereby reducing the negative impact upon the club.

Accordingly, it would be far better for QPR to leave the decision of whether Ferdinand should shake the hand of the man accused of racially abusing him entirely in the hands of the only man whose opinion matters here – Anton Ferdinand.

Top 10 FA Cup Shocks

With the FA Cup 4th round rapidly approaching, everyone hopes the minnows left in the competition can provide an upset, with Crawley Town away at Hull City offering a neutral the most hope for lower league representation in the 5th round. It is part of the magic of the FA Cup and why everybody loves the tournament so much, but here is a list of the Top 10 FA Cup shocks:

  1. Colchester 3-2 Leeds United, 1971, 5th Round – Think back to the 70’s when Leeds had the best team in the land under the great Don Revie. The side reached the final the year before and fancied a return trip to Wembley, the chances of which were boosted when unfancied Colchester of the 4th Division came out of the hat. However, the Layer Road faithful saw their side race into a dream 3-0 lead with two goals from Ray Crawford. Stunned, Leeds did manage a mini revival, scoring twice to leave the game in the balance but Colchester hung on for one of the greatest Cup shocks of all time.
  1. Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal, 1992, 3rd Round – Arsenal, the Champions, went to the Racecourse Ground for a seemingly easy fixture against the side who were bottom of the Football League at the time, occupying 24th position in the 4th Division. When Alan Smith gave the Gunners the lead, there didn’t appear to be much hope for the Welsh team, but former Manchester United trainee Micky Thomas rifled home an equalising free-kick before Steve Watkin’s late winner gave Wrexham the greatest result in their club’s history.
  1. Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United, 1972, 3rd Round – Having already held the Toon Army to a draw, nobody fancied non-league Hereford to repeat their heroics again in the replay. The game went according to plan as Malcolm McDonald snatched a late goal for the visitors after a hard fought game, but Ronnie Radford scored one of the more famous goals in this grand old competition, finding the net from 30 yards to take the game into extra-time. Ricky George’s winner then ensured Hereford became the first non-league side to defeat a first division club since 1949.
  1. Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, 3rd Round, 1989 – Top flight Coventry expected an easy ride when they drew non-league Sutton out of the hat in the 3rd round. Things didn’t go according to plan for the 1987 winners, after goals from Tony Rains and Matthew Hanlan fired Sutton into the next round. Where they promptly lost 8-0 to Norwich. Still, they had their moment in the sun.
  1. Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley, Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea, 5th Round, Quarter-Final, 2008 – In the era of global football and cash-rich big clubs, FA Cup shocks get harder to find by the year, especially against the Premier League big boys. So for lowly Championship outfit Barnsley, beating not one, but TWO of the Top 4, represented a remarkable run. Manager Simon Davey first masterminded a win at Anfield, where Bryan Howard scored a late winner, before seeing off Chelsea at Oakwell thanks to striker Kayode Odejayi, who grabbed just his second goal of the season. It sent the Tykes to Wembley for the semi-final, but they couldn’t repeat the performances against fellow Championship side Cardiff.
  1. Sunderland 1-0 Leeds, FA Cup Final, 1973 – There has been greater shocks in the history of the FA Cup, but not in terms of the context of the match. 2nd Division Sunderland were given no hope in the final against the mighty Leeds (anyone see a pattern developing here?), especially as the Whites already held the trophy. Ian Porterfield gave the Mackems an early lead though and they somehow hung on thanks to Jim Montgomery’s heroics in goal, including that infamous save from Peter Lorimer. Sunderland became the first 2nd Division side to win the trophy in 40 years.
  1. Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton, 3rd Round, 2003 – With the Shrews positioned 80 places below Everton in the Football League, no-one expected anything less than a routine victory for the Toffees. However, former Everton legend and skipper Kevin Ratcliffe, now Shrewsbury manager, had other ideas. Nigel Jemson’s double, including a winner two minutes from time, gave his side a famous win and left new Everton boss David Moyes fuming.
  1. Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United, 3rd Round, 1984 – Ron Atkinson’s side were not the all-conquering version that Fergie created a few years later, but no-one expected them to lose to lowly Bournemouth. However the home side set Dean Court alight, winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Milton Graham and Ian Thompson. The winning manager that day? A certain Mr H. Redknapp.
  1. Chasetown 1-0 Port Vale, 2nd Round, 2007 – The first and second rounds often see non-league outfits pick up wins over bigger clubs, but Chasetown competed in the British Gas Business Southern League Midland Division side, in the fourth tier of non-league football. They duly became the lowest ranked side ever to reach the FA Cup third round, as Danny Smith scored a late winner to set up a clash with Cardiff City. The non-league outfit battled through 7 rounds to get to the third round, but their dream was unfortunately ended by the Bluebirds.
  1. Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United, 3rd Round, 2010 – The Premier League champions don’t usually fall at the first hurdle under Sir Alex Ferguson, especially not to lower league opposition. But bitter rivals Leeds turned up at Old Trafford on the back of good form under Simon Grayson in League One. To the delight of the travelling masses of Leeds fans, Jermaine Beckford rolled in a Jonny Howson through ball to give their side the lead. The Whites hung on as well, giving them a famous win over the Red Devils and handing Fergie his first 3rd round defeat in his entire time in charge.