Yoof/Ladies/Close Season Silly Season Underway

Firstly, congratulations to the youth team who secured the FA Youth Cup last night at Anfield, winning the second leg of the final 2-1 and 6-2 on aggregate. Top work chaps, and well done to manager Steve Bould too.
Whilst we’re on congratulations, let’s all big it up for Vic Akers, who’s standing down as Arsenal Ladies’ manager after an amazing run of success. This past season’s silverware was even more impressive given we lost some key players to new women’s professional league in the USA. Well played to the team and Vic. Vic will now take up the role of director of football for the ladies’ and girls set up at the club.
We’re now almost in the close season and the football media silly season re-opens with the summer transfer window. I’ve always had a low tolerance for tabloid transfer speculation. The advent of the internet, such a blessing in many ways, has just added to the virtual weight of ordure written about possible comings and goings.
I nearly went round the twist over the mid-season window with the Arshavin saga. The summer is likely to be unbearable. I shall do my best not to add to the mountain of bullshit to which we’ll all be subjected over the summer break.
Work will see me away from London for the annual Barnet friendly on 18 July which is a drag. The game itself is usually pants, but for some reason the sun always seems to shine and it’s a good day out, meeting all those Gooners I only see during the season.
Whilst we’re on about dates, here’s some for your diary:
Wed 17 June 2009            Premier League/Football League fixtures announced
Sat/Sun 15/16 August        Premier League opening weekend
Tues/Wed 18/19                UEFA Champions League play-off round, first leg
August 2009
Tues/Wed 25/26                UEFA Champions League play-off round, second leg
August 2009
Sun 7 March 2010             Carling Cup Final, Wembley
Sun 9 May 2010                Last weekend of Premier League
Sat 15 May 2010               FA Cup Final, Wembley
Wed 12 May 2010             UEFA Europa League Final, Hamburg
Sat 22 May 2010               UEFA Champions League Final, Madrid
Fri 11 June 2010               Opening match, FIFA World Cup, Soccer City, Johannesburg
Sun 11 July 2010               FIFA World Cup Final, Soccer City, Johannesburg
Wed 8-Sat 18 Dec
2010                                 FIFA World Club Cub, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The broadcasters are expected to make their first round of Premier League game selections by Friday 3 July so I’d hang on booking rail tickets until then if I were you.
Even though a lot of our players will be playing almost without a break next summer at the World Cup, a lot will also be playing World Cup qualifiers until as late as 20 June this summer too. Cesc Fàbregas is all but certain to be selected by Spain for the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa this summer too. This runs from 14-28 June. It’s also possible that Theo Walcott will be selected for the European Under 21 Championships in Sweden which run from 15-29 June, as well as for England’s forthcoming World Cup qualifiers at home to Andorra and away to Kazakhstan.
Assuming the players will report back for pre-season training on 6 July 2009, and Arsčne keeps to his normal rule of giving players four clear weeks’ holiday, that could mean some players reporting back up to three weeks late on 27 July 2009. Not ideal but we can live with it I think. That still gives them three weeks to get up to speed for the first League match of the season. It’s vital that the players get a decent break from football, for mental as much as physical health. As a very shrewd Australian rugby league coach, the late, great Jack Gibson once said, “The most important part of a player’s physique is the top twelve centimetres.”
Speaking of rugby league, if Gooners in and around London are at a loose end over the summer I can thoroughly recommend a day out at the Twickenham Stoop watching Harlequins Rugby League. Home fixtures between now and the start of the football season are:
Sat 6 June 2009      3.00pm                   v Celtic Crusaders
Sat 20 June 2009    6.00pm                   v Leeds Rhinos
Sat 25 July 2009     3.00pm                   v St Helens
Sat 8 August 2009   3.00pm                   v Bradford Bulls
Tickets are £15 or £20 for adults with pensioners and students at £15/£10 and £10/£5 for kids under 16. The ground is easy to get to by public transport from North London, just jump on the London Overground or District Line to Richmond then its one stop to Twickenham. From where the Stoop is a 7-8 minute walk. There’s also ample pay parking next to the ground if you’re driving. Why am I acting like a free commercial for another sport? Well, I happen to enjoy the game and I think a few other Gooners might too. Football will always be my first love but it is sort of refreshing to see players who don’t go down like they’ve been struck by a thunderbolt at the slightest touch. Rugby League players also have the refreshing habit of not spitting the dummy and throwing a temper tantrum every time a decision goes against them. Aside from that the game is more often than not very worth watching as well.
The last two times I’ve w atched Manchester United in the Champions League Final live on the box they’ve managed to win. I’m still traumatised by those two injury time goals in Barcelona in 1999 against Bayern Munich every time I think about them. Almost as traumatising as the memory of Ryan Giggs chest-wig after THAT goal in the FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park. I firmly believe that that’s the moment Yanited embarked on their Treble. I only hope Barcelona completes its own Treble tomorrow night, having already won La Liga and the Copa del Rey, completing the Spanish domestic Double.
In order to try and change my luck I’ve decided I shall spend this evening at Lord’s watching Middlesex play Kent under the newly installed floodlights in the Twenty20 competition. Weather permitting of course.  I shall record the final and watch it later. Last season I wanted United to win, although the choice was between shit and shite, as an Irishman once answered when asked about the difference between his country’s two main political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I simply couldn’t stand the thought of the crowing that would have been emitted from West London if Chelsea had won it.
Keep the faith!
Arsenal u akhbar!

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