Cry ‘God for Roy, England and St George…’

Obviously a headline that would have worked better had Harry Redknapp rather than Roy Hodgson been appointed England manager, but apt nonetheless for the official opening of England’s new centre of excellence at St George’s Park.

The new facility is aimed at raising standards of play at all levels, and it will also provide a venue for training coaches and for sports medicine, sports science and psychology.

In short, St George’s will cater for all the requirements of the modern day professional footballer. Of course, the absence of a golf course, a VIP bar and a night club populated by reality TV stars, means it will come as a culture shock to the current generation of England players.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein described the opening of the new centre as an “historic” day for the English game.

“This is the pinnacle clearly – and we hope that this will be an inspiration in a number of ways,” he said.

“One of the main objects of this, possibly almost the main object, is to produce thousands of more highly-qualified coaches.

“There’s a lot more happening in English football at the moment in terms of youth development. We’re trying to move young players away from this physical side, of wanting to win too much when they’re too young.

“We want more skill-based football, kids to enjoy their football more. There’s a great deal aimed at that.”

A laudable aim, and one that the rest of the word recognised decades ago.

Former England international Sir Trevor Brooking, who is now employed as the FA director of football development, admits that Spain and Barcelona are the templates.

“The key to the long term at the elite level is to make sure the grass-roots level comes up, because then our choice, the club’s choice in the academies, is going to be so much better and they’ll be able to deal with the game of football that we see (from) Barcelona and Spain. We’ve got to get them playing the same game,” he said.

“What we need to get is instead of 35% (of English players) playing every week in the Premier League, it’s got to be 45, 55, 65, on merit, and then 75%, because that’s what Spain are at the moment, I think the senior coach of England then has got every right to be challenging and that’s what we would expect at that stage.”

Goal of the day

Jesus Martinez produced an unstoppable curling free-kick for Rosario Central vs Independiente Rivadavia.

Top of the table

Manchester United and Real Madrid top the charts for the global sale of replica shirts with both clubs selling an average of 1.4m official kits each year in the past five years, according to Sportingintelligence.

The pair English and Spanish clubs wear kits made by Nike and adidas respectively and those figures represent sales from the 2007-08 season to the 2011-12 season inclusive.

Barcelona are at No3 on the sales list (average 1.15m sales a year) followed by Chelsea in fourth place ( 910,000).

The top 10 also includes Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter and Milan. One can assume that the latter pair will come under pressure from the likes of Manchester City and PSG in the coming years.

Chelsea are the most significant climbers since detailed market statistics were last published two years ago. They were adidas’s joint-second best sellers with Liverpool and Bayern Munich two years ago but have moved clear into second place for adidas – and fourth overall – now.

In terms of the value of the shirt deals, Manchester United and Liverpool have the most lucrative kit supplier deals in the Premier League this season, earning a guaranteed £25.4m and £25m respectively from Nike and Warrior – but still trail the sums earned by Spanish duo Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Real’s deal, which lasts until 2020, is worth a guaranteed £31m per year while Barcelona’s deal is worth £27m per year.

The defence rests

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has launched a spirited defence of Luis Suarez following fresh accusations he dives to win penalties.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has called for the striker to be given a 3-match ban for his laughable attempt to secure a penalty during Sunday’s Premier League game between the two sides.

But Rodgers believes that Suarez is being harshly singled out for criticism and is more saint than sinner.

“At this moment, there seems to be one set of rules for Luis and another set for everyone else.

“I believe some people need to develop a sense of perspective and I also believe in this moment the vilification of Luis is both wrong and unfair.”

“As manager of this football club, I find it incredible that in nearly all the coverage about Luis Suarez this weekend, very little focus has been placed on the fact that he was actually the victim of a stamping incident within the first five minutes of the game,” he told liverpoolfc.com.

“Diving and simulation is obviously a wider issue in football and one that we all agree has to be eradicated from our game but there were other incidents this weekend that didn’t seem to generate the same coverage.”

This is the problem for Suarez. He is indeed the boy who cried wolf. Kicked from pillar to post on Sunday, and on one occasion stamped on by Robert Huth, yet it was the farcical attempt to earn a penalty that attracted the headlines.

Meanwhile, new footage of the controversial incidents from Sunday’s game, including Huth’s stamp and Suarez’s dive have emerged.

Political football

FIFA has postponed its verdict into Park Jong-Woo, the South Korean footballer who was banned from receiving his Olympic bronze medal for displaying a political message at London 2012.

The case was heard by a FIFA disciplinary panel last Friday but failed to reach a conclusion – with no date set for a final ruling.

“We can confirm that no decision has been reached at the occasion of the Disciplinary Committee meeting of 5 October 2012,” said an emailed statement released by FIFA to insideworldfootball.

“However, due to the fact that the case is still on-going, we cannot confirm when a decision will be passed.

“Further information will be provided in due course.”

The midfielder was barred from the Olympic podium ceremony at Wembley Stadium following South Korea’s 2-0 bronze medal win over Japan a few days earlier when he displayed a sign saying “Dokdo is our territory”, referring to a territorial dispute between the Asian neighbours.

The disputed Dokdo islets (also known as Liancourt Rocks), controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan, lie between the two countries and although essentially deserted rocks in the Sea of Japan at present, are believed to contain natural gas deposits potentially worth billions.

The good news for those of you who don’t like your sport to become too politicised is that due to the rapid erosion, there will come a time when the islets cease to exist. Doubtless, by then, the two countries will have found something else to argue about.

Dangerous challenge

Terek Grozny midfielder Jonathan Legear is due in court and set to be banned from driving for at least two weeks after crashing his Porsche through a petrol station in the Belgian town of Tongerenat.

The incident occurred at 5:30 in the morning and despite the time and the reckless manner of his driving, Legear denies he was drunk.

Damage costs to the Esso garage are estimated to be just over £200,000 by the owner and Legear is set to be charged of involuntary assault.

Quote of the day

“Everything is written in Cyrillic, and it’s difficult to read and to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.I always need a translator, and it makes it a bit more difficult to say what I want to say. Sometimes the right expression, the right word, helps you a lot. So I would say it’s really difficult. But as with all difficult challenges, I like to take them on.”

Given his travails trying to master the English language, no one will be surprised to learn that recently-appointed Russia coach, Fabio Capello, is having similar struggles with the Russian language.

Money for nothing

Germany players will earn €20,000 for every World Cup qualifier they have played in if they reach the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the country’s football association (DFB) has confirmed.

Each player will earn the same amount they received for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers but only if they secure a place in the 2014 showcase.

“I am happy with the speed and problem-free procedure that this agreement was reached,” DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach said in a statement. “This shows the trust between the federation and the senior national team.”

Germany have won both their Group C qualifiers so far and are favorites to add another six points when they take on Ireland and Sweden on Friday and next Tuesday respectively.

By Georgia!

Former Milan defender Kakha Kaladze has been confirmed as the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia.

Twice winner of the Champions League with Milan, Kaladze has been nominated as vice-premier and minister of regional development and infrastructure in the next government after the Georgian Dream coalition’s shock victory in last week’s parliamentary polls.

“When I announced that my football career had ended, I said that the most important match in my life was starting now,” the 34-year-old retired defender told AFP during the election campaign.

The campaign turned nasty when pro-government television stations broadcast secretly recorded tapes that they claimed proved that some Georgian Dream politicians, including Kaladze, had links with organised crime bosses – claims that the former player described as “absurd”.

“I have nothing in common with the mafia, neither in the past nor now,” said Kaladze.

Kaladze said he was looking forward to becoming involved in the nitty gritty of his new role.

“There still are many places where roads and water supply need to be improved. We will do this,” he said .

Finally…

The battle for the soul of Egyptian top flight club Al Ahly, and without wishing to sound too melodramatic, the soul of the entire country, remains ongoing.

Ahly chairman Hassan Hamdy has been released on a £200,000 million bail after being questioned by Egypt’s Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) over the source of his wealth.

According to state-run news agency MENA, Hamdy has failed to explain how he had accumulated around £50 million during his time as the chairman of Al-Ahram’s advertising agency.

He had his assets frozen by the IGA, MENA added.

Hamdy, who has been the club’s chairman since president Saleh Selim died in 2002, has recently come in for criticism from Ahly’s Ultras.

They called on him to resign from his post, saying he had not done enough to pressure Egyptian authorities into punishing the perpetrators of February’s Port Said tragedy, which left 74 fans dead.

They also deem him as “part of the dismantled regime”, accusing him of fraud.

“We said before that Hamdy should leave because he conspired with the Egyptian Football Association over the Port Said case,” Ultras Ahlawy said in a statement on their Facebook page.

“And now that things have become clear for many people, we will not allow Hamdy to tarnish the image of our club. You have run out of credit, you have no option but to depart.”

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