World Football

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Colin Suffers a Concussion.

The latest from the Colin Vint experience....

some bad luck...
It has been a while since my last update. The week after our match against St. Patrick's, we were originally slated to play Dublin City, but with their bankruptcy and subsequent removal from existence in the league, we were without a fixture for the weekend. In lieu of training we had the night off and we out on the town together, a team building function of sorts. We trained on Sunday, and then on Monday we played host to the Glenmore Celtic of Dublin in a friendly match. They play in the Dublin City League, which isn't part of the FAI premier or first division table, but we knew they would relish the chance to upset a premier league team, especially one so close on the map. We jumped out to an early lead on a goal from new signing Chris Dean's (the former Waterford centre back captain), the first since I have been here, but Glenmore quickly capitalized on a string of defensive errors and leveled the score at one all. We clearly had the better part of the possession, but we blew chance after chance on misguided shots and selfish play. In all I think 7 or 8 legitimate opportunities were wasted in the first half because of a missed shot or someone chosing to go solo instead of serving the ball to an open player. I think since it has been so long since we have had a good half like this, with successful combinations and keeping the ball more on the turf than in the air, we let it get to our heads and each wanted to impress instead of worrying about tying a team that isn't on our level. In the second half we came out gunning and were able to net another 2 goals in the first 15 minutes, and while I didn't score I finally helped set up a goal. On our third of the evening, I flicked a bouncing ball on to Robbie Doyle, who on his first touch slotted Franco through for a 1v1 opportunity with the keeper, which he tucked away after an effective stepover. Cramping got the better of me again in the 60th minute, although I wasn't tired like in my St. Pat's fiasco, and I came off after 65. The match finished with that 3-1 scoreline, and we garnered some much needed confidence after having only taken 1 point from the fixtures in the month of July. Friday (Aug 4th) saw us matched up against Derry City who sit top of the table, not to mention having what is nationally regarded as the loudest and most loyal fans. We had a good crowd out on the cool night, but it seemed a little less like a home match and more like an away contest in Bray because of the noise coming from the Derry fans. While our fans outnumbered theirs, the rhythm coming from their huge drums and chants was deafening to the point that it was almost impossible to communicate on the field without yelling at full tilt. Derry, one of the few full time clubs (we only train a few times a week, Derry train every day) had a much higher level of fitness, which showed, and they netted goal after goal. Before we knew it, it was 3-0 in their favor. Granted, we were playing much better football than we have been in recent matches, each of their goals was the result of capitalizing on a defensive error, and our tempers began to get the better of us as the shouting began; none of us could hear the others over the Derry drums, but it couldn't have been anything other than harsh words. In the dying minutes of the first half I tracked the centre back into the box on a defensive corner, and as I rose to head a ball clear I felt a baseball bat hit me in the side of the face, a strike which levelled me. I didn't see it, but apparently I won the header and the Derry player headed me just a second later. I tried to get up immediately but couldn't, and after the trainer helped me to my feet and walked me to the sideline, I re-entered. This was a mistake, as I couldn't feel the left half of my mouth, teeth included, and I was having double vision from my left eye. It didn't serve me well to see two balls in the air, or to have such an immense pressure on my face and eye, and I quickly asked Tony to pull me off. After a quick assessment in the back of the ambulance I was told I had a concussion, but the doctor told me I needed to have my face x-rayed as there was a chance I had done damage to my eye socket. My wait in the ER was miserable, as the bright lights induced a painful feeling of nausea, and 3 hours later I was finally seen and x-rayed. As was suspected, I had slightly fractured my cheekbone, an important part of the eye socket, so I was prescribed some light painkillers and was told that I would have to go to the maxillofacial unit at
St.James's Hospital in Dublin the following Tuesday. This morning I arose early and headed into town for my appointment, and after another wait I was finally seen. I was told basically the same thing by this doctor, but after pushing on both cheeks and testing the bones he said I would have to return on Friday after the swelling has subsided in order to see if there were any depressions left on my face. The fracture isn't that bad and should heal quickly, but if there is any sort of difference in my face after the swelling is gone then there is a good chance I will need to undergo a procedure to fix that. I know I will be missing the match on Friday against Bohemians anyway, another top notch squad, but I am more focused on my injury, and praying that there is no significant issues aside from waiting for the fracture to mend itself.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Work is piling up again. No new posts until the weekend most likely. I'll most likely update with a preview on Manchester United's season and a premiership preview before looking at La Liga and Serie A next week. Stay tuned. Thanks for checking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Arsenal Preview

In a couple weeks Arsenal will start their season in their shiny new Emirates Stadium. I've earmarked a couple hundred greenbacks for travel to London to see a few games in the new stadium. Although a new season and a new stadium will no doubt bring excitement, hope and expectations, I can't help but feel that this season will be as uninspiring as the last one for Arsenal. Their improbable run in the Champions League notwithstanding, Arsenal underachieved domestically. They lack the financial muscle to compete with Chelsea. They haven't defeated Man Utd. in the league in over three years now. Liverpool, under Rafa Benitez, now have a manager with the tactical awareness to get the most out of his players. Tottenham's resurgence, despite the loss of Michael Carrick, will no doubt continue this year. Arsenal, with Thierry Henry, will always be able to score goals to see off weaker foes but against stronger teams their defensive weaknesses will be revealed. Philippe Senderos will likely be out at the start of the season. Sol Cambell, a defensive stallwart, has been released by the club and left back Ashley Cole is almost certainly on his way to Chelsea for a cool 25 million pounds. The phrase "Arsene knows" has been repeated at Highbury many times in the past years. Wenger tends to make some of the most astute moves in the transfer market. He sold Overmars to FC Barcelona for 21 million pounds and Overmars never played up to the level he played at Arsenal. Ditto for the likes of Von Bronckhorst and Anelka. His purchases have been equally shrewd. Thierry Henry was bought from Juventus for 10 million pounds. Drogba, at 24 million pounds, certainly is not 2.5 times as good as Henry although that's what he cost. However, with the departure of Patrick Vieira to Juventus last season, Wenger has chosen to paper over the cracks Vieira left in midfield instead of replacing him with a player with similar qualities. For all his talent, young Spaniard Cesc Fabregas doesn't have the necessary steel to command a premiership midfield and Gilberto Silva isn't so much a tough tackling, lung busting midfielder in the mold of Vieira.

Last year without Vieira Arsenal were overrun in midfield and woefully underperformed whenever they played on the road. This season will find Arsenal without another member of the golden era with Robert Pires' departure to Villareal. One only hopes that much like Overmars and Anelka,

If Rosicky brings his fire to Emirates Stadium all will be well.

Wenger let Pires go when it was clear he had nothing left in the tank because for a good three years, 2002-2005, Pires was probably the best goalscoring midfielder in the Premiership. He could score anywhere from 20 yards in. It's not clear how the team will replace Pires, but the addition of Tomas Rosicky should ease the loss. Rosicky's two goals against the U.S. in the World Cup are an indicator of what he can do, but player's tend to struggle in their first year in England as they get used to the physicality of the league.

Even if Rosicky performs up to the standard many expect, the slow development of Spanish forward Jose Antonio Reyes has been frustrating. A player of his supposed quality should be scoring between 12-15 goals a season in the Premiership, especially with the wide open style of play Arsenal has. His return from starting 22 games last season was 5 goals, that's simply not good enough at this level. Arsenal will need a big season out of Reyes if they are going to make a serious challenge for any domestic honors. There are no assurances that Reyes will even be with the club after he expressed his desire over the weekend to join Real Madrid because of the difficult he has had in adapting to England and the English game.

Jose Reyes, chronic underachiever.

And what of the supposed 17 year old phenom Theo Walcott? No one has seen him play yet Arsenal splashed out 12 million pounds for his services. Walcott has to be the luckiest kid alive. He hasn't played a top level professional game yet he can say he's an England international and was on the 2006 World Cup squad. All I can say about this one is "Arsene knows."

It all can't be doom and gloom for Arsenal, though, as long as Thierry Henry is playing. If he is healthy this season you can pencil him in for 30-35 goals this season. In his second year as captain, Henry is expected to be more influential on the field. I expect him to exert greater influence over his teammates and he started doing that later in the season as he began to grow into the role. Kolo Toure will be commanding the defense and his athleticism and excellence can't be denied. I only wonder if it's not asking too much of a converted midfielder to command a defense that, at the start of the season, will probably look nothing like the one he played with over the past two years. Only time will tell.

My prediction for Arsenal is that they will finish fourth and only because I don't think Tottenham are ready yet to make the leap to be a top four team and they haven't beaten Arsenal in over a decade, I think. A fourth place finish is not good enough for a team of Arsenal's aspirations, especially since they had done no worse than second place prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival in England.