Weekender: Snooty, stocks and kids going south
1) Ivor Lott 1-2 Tony Broke
It's the haves vs the have-nots at Stamford Bridge this weekend as Chelsea host Everton. However, as in the Ivor Lott & Tony Broke comic strips of yore, the well-heeled don't always get their own way. Roman's rich kids haven't taken three points against Everton since April 2008, and haven't beaten them in a home league game since April 2006. In fact, David Moyes's ragtag bunch Ã¢ÂÂ hard-up Everton haven't paid a transfer fee in the last four transfer windows Ã¢ÂÂ have the best record of any Premier League team in the Abramovich era. Eat that, Lord Snooty!
STATS ZONE Zonal Marking's Michael Cox on how Everton face the big guns Ã¢ÂÂ plus Liverpool v Man U
2) Fergie chases six (thousand) of the best
Man United are scoring a goal every 26 minutes in the league, but the next one will set a benchmark: it will be their 6,000th in the top flight. The champions still lag behind Everton, who have scored 6,600 Ã¢ÂÂ but the Toffees have played more top-flight games than any other team, 4,220 of them (1.56 goals per game), compared to Man U's 3,481 (1.72 goals per game). Besides, the corollary of having 108 top-flight seasons is that nobody has conceded more goals than Everton's 5,891 (1.39 per game) Ã¢ÂÂ miles clear of Man U's 4,507 (1.29 per game). Oh well: you win some, you lose some.
3) From Faroe defeat to glory
If Estonia beat the Republic of Ireland to reach Euro 2012 they'll create football history. Not only will it be their major-tournament debut - and help them become famous for something other than that whole "not turning up to play Scotland" thing Ã¢ÂÂ but they will become the first team to qualify after losing to the Faroe Islands, who beat them 2-0 in June. Indeed, the Faroes almost opened their group campaign by beating Estonia in Tallinn, but the hosts' two injury-time goals snatched victory from the public laughing-stocks of defeatÃ¢ÂÂ¦ temporarily.
4) Points mean prizes (or at least not relegation)
This weekendÃ¢ÂÂs meeting between Bolton and Wigan brings together two managers fighting to get away from the bottom Ã¢ÂÂ of the top flight's points-per-game table. Owen Coyle has gained 1.08ppg at Bolton, while Roberto 'Bob Martin' Martinez has averaged exactly a point per game at Wigan. Both fare better than Blackburn's Steve Kean (0.93ppg) but if we include previous top-flight adventures, there are two other relegation candidates. Neil Warnock (currently 1.14ppg at QPR) is dragged down to 0.99ppg by previous top-flight relegations at Notts County and Sheffield United, while Mick McCarthy (1.02ppg at Wolves) falls to 0.87ppg if you include his time at Sunderland. We're sure he'd rather not.
5) Goals galore at the Pirelli
There'll be more than the usual buzz at Burton Albion tonight as the home side welcome Cheltenham Ã¢ÂÂ and few will risk leaving early. In March 2010 the sides fought out an astonishing game at the Pirelli, in which Burton led by two goals on three occasions Ã¢ÂÂ at 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3. However, the Robins kept bobbing and after Michael Pook's 87th-minute winner halved the deficit, an injury-time leveller from Justin Richards was followed by Pook completing his hat-trick to seal a 6-5 win.
6) Forest hoping Frank Clark helps history repeat
It's 12th October 1993 [No it's not Ã¢ÂÂ Ed.]. In Frank Clark's first season as manager, Nottingham Forest are positioned one point and one place above the relegation zone. That season, after a remarkable charge up the table, the club finish second to seal automatic promotion to the Premier League. The following season they finish third in the top flight and qualify for the UEFA Cup. Fast forward to 12th October 2011. In Frank Clark's first season as chairman, Forest are positioned one point and one place above the relegation zone...
Mixed results for these islands' nations as the Euro groups ended. England qualified top despite Montenegro's late leveller and Wayne Rooney's red card, which will rule him out of all three group games in Poland/Ukraine, while the Republic of Ireland beat Andorra anxiously and Armenia amusingly to reach a play-off against Estonia.
The other three home nations will stay at home next summer. Scotland squeaked past Liechtenstein 1-0 but were doggedly beaten 3-1 by a supreme Spain while the Czechs' win in Lithuania ruled Craig Levein's side out of the play-offs. Wales beat Switzerland and Bulgaria to finish fourth with three wins in four games, a smile on the face and hope in the heart.
By contrast, Nigel Worthington granted most Northern Ireland fans their wish by stepping down after closing losses to Estonia and Italy left the team fifth. Worthington's parting shot was that his players were not committed to international friendlies, claiming those games Ã¢ÂÂwere like trying to push water up a hill.Ã¢ÂÂ
Back in the ever-glorious Premier League, Carlos Tevez returned from his two-week club suspension just in time to discover that an internal Manchester City investigation had found the bench-bound bull of Buenos Aires guilty of breaches of contract. Disciplinary proceedings await.
Meanwhile on famously socialist Merseyside, Liverpool ignored David Cameron's "we're in this together" schtick by announcing that they wanted to break away and negotiate individual overseas TV deals in the manner of Barcelona and Real Madrid Ã¢ÂÂ and heaven knows we wouldn't want a two-team league like that.
The club's MD Ian Ayre claims that the current collective-bargaining deals leave British clubs at risk of being left behind by their European counterparts by sharing money equally among the 20 Premier League clubs. You can imagine how quickly Wigan chairman Dave Whelan was on the phone to the media.
The Olympic Stadium farrago continued with the owners deciding they weren't going to hand the keys to West Ham after all, but seek tenants. The Hammers immediately suggested themselves.
Down in the Championship, Nottingham Forest have begun their rebuilding after the resignations of Steve McClaren and chairman Nigel Doughty by appointing former Forest player and manager Frank Clark as chairman. ClarkÃ¢ÂÂs first job was to appoint Steve Cotterill as new manager, but there'll be a few who'd like to have Clark back in the dugout Ã¢ÂÂ or for that matter at left-back.
And finally, in Northern Ireland's Irn Bru League Cup, the game between Glentoran and Portadown was marred by Glens goalkeeping coach David McClelland getting his contact lens blown out by a firework.
Jon Champion: Premier League returns with beef, steak & puffed chests
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Where next after Nigel for Northern Ireland?
So Nigel Worthington has finally jumped before he was pushed. Cue the rumours for the lucky person who will try to lead Northern Ireland to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Worthington has been hard done by, especially with some of the abuse he was getting towards the end by the supposed best fans in the world. OK, we've only won two out of 23, but the qualifying defeats to Serbia and Estonia came down to individual mistakes by players, which was hardly WorthingtonÃ¢ÂÂs fault. And 11 of the 23 have been friendlies, which our best players love to pull out of. As Maik Taylor said, Ã¢ÂÂThere's a sense of resentment among the lads who do turn up and put their necks on the line for the country.Ã¢ÂÂ
The first XI is definitely capable of finishing more than one place above the Faroe Islands. Steve Davis is by far RangersÃ¢ÂÂ best player. Chris Baird, Chris Brunt and Jonny Evans play every week in the English Premier League. Craig Cathcart has a season in the top flight under his belt with Blackpool and Kyle Lafferty is finally starting to look like a half-decent striker. The young players coming through look positive. Josh Carson and Ryan McLaughlin were fantastic last week in the Under-19 tournament. And at the highest level, despite losing 3-0 to Italy, the kids who actually bothered to turn up for the senior squad did well.
But young players switching their allegiance to the Republic is killing us. Under the Good Friday Agreement (which FIFA says makes them powerless to intervene), those born in the north can choose their sporting allegiance. Having come through the Northern Ireland youth teams, Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs Darron Gibson, StokeÃ¢ÂÂs Marc Wilson, Everton's Shane Duffy and most recently SunderlandÃ¢ÂÂs James McClean have all gone south. In a bid to stop this, Worthington spent an amazing amount of time Ã¢ÂÂ especially compared to Lawrie Sanchez Ã¢ÂÂ working with the under-age squads. Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong was even appointed the IFAÃ¢ÂÂs elite player mentor to try and stem the flow of players switching to the other side.
The IFA have said they will wait until after December to make their decision on who will take over. A friend asked at the weekend if I thought Nigel Worthington could lead us to Brazil. I replied that I thought not Ã¢ÂÂ but I donÃ¢ÂÂt think anyone else can either. Hopefully the new manager will prove a few people wrong.
Ã¢ÂÂ Ralph Hewitt, FourFourTwo.com writer
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