Friday, February 01, 2008

Oh! Those Lovable Losers!

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the underdog, the team from a small market who competes big, or the "other" team in a large market always overshadowed by the other club.

Growing-up a sports fan in Boston, my heart goes out to fans of teams that seem always to blow-it at the last minute.

These teams usually blow things in every arena: last minute losses (remember Bill Buckner?), bad public relations (remember Tommy Harper?), losing players to trading deadlines (remember Carlton Fisk?). It's frustrating, because the incompetence seems to permeate every level of the organization.

My dear friend, Liz, grew-up in Manchester, England, where her family support the Manchester City Football Club ("City"), not the international, foreign-owned mega-power Manchester United ("ManUre").

City does to its Mancunian fans what the Red Sox did to Bostonians for decades: let them down in the end.

This season, City has performed admirably under the direction of Sven-Goran Eriksson, the Swedish manager who has a long, storied and successful career.

"The wheels have come off," Liz insists, as we watch City drop from the top six (which six spots guarantee playing in very profitable continental playoffs next season) to a tie for seventh, with no outward sign of recovery.

In English soccer (football, as it is known in the rest of the world), the month of January is a team's final opportunity to trade for players who can help bring home the silverware before the season ends in the Spring. It is called the "transfer window," which in the USA we call the "trading deadline."

Yesterday was the final day of the transfer window and the action was not as furious as it has been in years past.

The big deal was expected to be Jermain Defoe leaving Tottenham, where he has been relegated to the bench even though he is one of England's most promising home-grown young players.

City was trying to beef-up its squad and made a move for Portsmouth's Benjani Mwaruwari, who is having a remarkable season. Benjani was set to arrive in Manchester for a physical yesterday, and the paperwork for the transfer had to be filed before midnight.

Travel delays complicated Benjani's trip to Manchester, and it is unclear at this time if he ever arrived on time for his physical.

According to the Portsmouth club, City informed them that the paperwork had been filed for Benjani, which would give Portsmouth seven million pounds with which to sign a replacement. So, at 11:55 P.M., Portsmouth filed the papers to acquire Defoe from Tottenham.

The Football Association ("FA") informed Portsmouth at 12:15 A.M. that the paperwork for them to transfer Benjani to City was never completed. Portsmouth could no longer rely on receiving the seven million pounds, and they would now have an extra star striker to pay.

According to City spokesman Paul Tyrrell: "Due to the late arrival of the player [Benjani] in Manchester, we were unable to complete the transfer."

In the meantime, City signed 19-year old Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo, to a four-and-a-half year contract

It is unclear at this time who (if anyone) from City actually told Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp that the paperwork for the Benjani deal was filed with the FA, so it could be that Redknapp (not anyone's favorite guy in England) assumed the Benjani deal would go through and acted prematurely. Although, it is hard to call it premature when there are only five minuets left to complete the deal.

According to the BBC:
Redknapp was puzzled at the collapse of Benjani's move, saying: "Our chief executive Peter Storrie was told the deal was done and then obviously after midnight we got a message saying the forms hadn't gone through for some reason.

"I think Peter's on the case with the Premier League to see where we go with it."

It's possible that Redknapp is the goat here; but, City finds itself looking incompetent, and unable to file their own paperwork properly (just like my old Boston Red Sox), even if it isn't true.

One of the teams is going to have an extra striker for this weekend's matches. Benjani is a wonderful addition to any team, so I hope it's City. But, can they afford two new strikers on their payroll?

Confusion surrounds Benjani deal

Man City complete Caicedo signing

Redknapp delight at Defoe capture

I've not heard from Liz yet today, so I hope she will chime in here and let us know what is going on, and provide a Citizen's viewpoint.

In other soccer news: new England national team manager Fabio Capello has selected his next 30-man squad to represent that country in upcoming matches. He has not selected David Beckham. Pundits say that it is because Beckham plays in America, and nobody in Europe takes American soccer seriously. I find it hard to believe that Beckham is not one of the best thirty English players available to Capello, irrespective of where he plays. There are many in England who agree that he should have been selected.

Top managers give Beckham backing

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