October 2008 Archives
NEW Swansea City recruit Dimitrios Konstantopoulos is ready to step into the firing line when Roberto Martinez's side tackle Wolves tonight.
The 6ft 4in goalkeeper was left on the bench as Swansea eased past Southampton on Saturday after completing a last-minute loan move from Coventry City.
But now Konstantopoulos is hoping Martinez opts for him ahead of Artur Krysiak despite the fact the teenage Pole kept a clean sheet against the Saints.
Martinez, as ever, is keeping his cards close to his chest over who will start in goal.
But he may be tempted to call on Konstantopoulos for tonight's evening's tricky trip to Molineux because of his greater experience.
"I'll be looking to play against Wolves," Konstantopoulos said.
"I have come here to try to get back in action and play a few games.
"But of course, it's up to the manager. You can understand why he went for Artur on Saturday because I hadn't even spoken to any of the other players.
"It's difficult to come in and play when that's the case, especially as a keeper because you need to have good communication with your back four.
"But I have to show the manager that I am ready and hope he puts me in."
A first-team regular and fans' favourite at Hartlepool, Konstantopoulos stepped up a division to Coventry when Iain Dowie landed him on a Bosman free transfer in the summer of 2007.
Life at the Ricoh Arena began reasonably enough for the 29-year-old Greek but, after 23 appearances, he lost his place when Chris Coleman took charge of the Sky Blues.
His chances of regaining the No. 1 jersey took another jolt when Swansea-born Coleman splashed out ÃÂ£750,000 on Carlisle stopper Keiren Westwood over the summer.
"The manager changed and I didn't get many chances," added Konstantopoulos.
"We have a new keeper this season and it's great for me to come to a really good club like Swansea."
Signed initially for a month, Konstantopoulos may well be asked to extend his temporary stay with Dorus de Vries out for around six weeks.
And given that Krysiak's loan from Birmingham comes to an end in December, it is not inconceivable that the former Greek Under-21 international could be offered the chance to stay at Swansea in the long term.
Would he be keen?
"It's too early to say," says Konstantopoulos.
"We will see how things go in the next couple of weeks.
"I haven't had any discussions about that and for the moment it's about me trying to help the team and, hopefully, benefiting at the same time.
"I would say that in the short period of time I have been here, everything has been positive.
"But we will have to think about possibly staying on later."
Konstantopoulos accepts that he is anything but a shoo-in for the Wolves game given that Krysiak marked his Swansea debut with a shut-out.
It should be pointed out, though, that the youngster did not have the busiest shift on his Championship bow against a toothless Southampton side.
Martinez's dilemma is whether to give the callow Krysiak another opportunity in what is likely to be a much more demanding fixture, or go for his more seasoned option.
Konstantopoulos was quick to pay tribute to Krysiak after watching his tidy display against the Saints, saying: "Maybe he didn't have that much to do, but what he did he did very well.
"He looked calm and the clean sheet will have done a lot of good for his confidence.
"I think Saturday was a huge experience for him."
Krysiak was not the only man in Swansea colours who impressed the latest addition to their increasingly cosmopolitan squad.
"Swansea played some very good football," reckons Konstantopoulos.
"They tried to get the ball down all the time and to play it out wide which makes them attractive to watch.
"Not only that, it's successful too, because they scored three goals.
"I saw them a few times in League One last season. The manager has his mentality and the players have obviously responded to that.
"They played good football last year and, as they are showing, that style can get you results whoever you're up against."
As proved just over three weeks ago against Wolves.
Mick McCarthy's team were outplayed in a 3-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, but they are likely to prove a different proposition with a couple of key players back in action on home soil tonight.
Still, Konstantopoulos reckons Swansea can get another positive result against one of the Championship's big guns.
"It's going to be difficult because Wolves are especially good at home," he says.
"But from what I have seen of Swansea, they have nothing to fear in this division.
"More performances like the one against Southampton and they will have no problems."
Having been invited to accompany a couple of x-pat CCFC fans, to visit the home of Malaga CF, it was with a combination of fore-bearing and intrigue that I set off on Sunday 19th October. The arrangements were to meet in Harry's bar at 14h00, for a 17h00 Kick-off with time for a quick pint before heading into deepest, darkest Malaga. We arrived at just before 3 o'clock and headed for the club shop for a look around. Feeling a little left out, the other guys all had Malaga shirts on, I plumped for a light-weight jacket with the club crest on, at least I would be ok if it peed down.
It was then time for a beer in one of the local hostelries, which I was reliably informed was home to the "Ultra's" a group of Spanish skinhead's, who dress themselves up as football fans once a week. Perhaps more re-assuring was the presence of the English Malaga supporters club, from Benalmadena, who have attached themselves to what is purported to be the biggest British supported club outside of the UK. They arrived by coach and quickly unfurled a huge George Cross flag, with Malaga CF emblazoned across the middle, and calmed the mood somewhat.
After taking in much needed liquid refreshment, we made our way to the Estadio La Rosaleda, and were presented with our "Free Programmes", before taking our seats at the very top tier, behind the goal. It was a bit like the old "Crow's Nest" at Highfield Road, in the old Spion Kop. It afforded us a great view, but was a real test of endurance if you needed the boy's room!
One of our guys had purchased a packet of, what can only be described as bird seed. The trick was to crack open the shell, before devouring the nut from within, a trick which all the locals took great delight in achieving, before spitting the shell into the gangway, or Hood of the fan seated in front in my case. A challenge indeed lay ahead, and not a footballer in sight.
The players then arrived and the chanting started almost immediately, the atmosphere throughout the game was electric, with a group of fans to our right, which including the british contingent, singing their hearts out, from start to finish.
Against the run of play, Getafe, the visitors, took the lead. Malaga's keeper Arnau (who resembled Dimi in more ways than one) made a hash of a long shot, which somehow found its way into the net. Roared on by the home support (19,761 to be exact) Malaga scored a deserved equaliser, from top scorer Baha, Before Duda scored a cracking goal to take the lead. HT 2 - 1
Having fought my way through the thousands of nut shells, I breathlessly made my way back up the steep incline, calves burning with pain, to my seat. The second half mirrored the first, with Malaga controlling play, without looking like scoring and the fans having a real ball. FT 2 - 1
And so the time had come to leave, with ÃÅž of our nuts still untouched, we attempted to make our way out through the millions of discarded shells, some of which seemed to cut out the daylight, after a long and sometimes difficult descent, we made our way back to the bar, and managed a couple more bottles of San Miguel at Ã¢ÂÂ¬1.00 per bottle, before heading back to Sunny Cabopino for something proper to eat. It wasn't quite the Ricoh Arena, there was an atmosphere for a start, but a good day was had by all!
Next-up at home: Barcelona!
Coventry City will reduce their asking price for Michael Mifsud from ÃÂ£1.5 million to ÃÂ£750,000, the News of the World reported yesterday.
The Malta striker's contract runs out at the end of the season and speculation has been rife that the Sky Blues intend to cash in on the 27-year-old in January.
The News of the World claims that Coventry's readiness to slash Mifsud's transfer fee is likely to alert Norwich and Crystal Palace. Sheffield United could also join the race after club chairman Kevin McCabe last week revealed his interest in Mifsud.
On Saturday, Mifsud set up Clinton Morrison for Coventry's late equaliser in a 1-1 home draw against Derby Country.
CHRIS COLEMAN has urged to the Sky Blue Army to pack out the Ricoh Arena for Coventry City's crucial match against Derby County.
The Sky Blues are desperate for three points after consecutive defeats saw them slide down the Championship table last week.
And the City manager wants to face Paul Jewell's resurgent team in front of a full house at the Ricoh.
"You cannot underestimate just how important a vocal and noisy crowd can be to the confidence of a team and we saw that at Wolves.
The fans were magnificent," Coleman told the club's official website.
"The fans play a very, very big part and I hope they realise that.
"Sometimes that atmosphere can get a bit lost at the Ricoh because it's such a big stadium.
"But it's another important game against Derby on Saturday and I hope the fans can be just as noisy at the Ricoh as they were on the road the weekend before."
To buy tickets for the game, click here
Last night's game felt more like a dress rehearsal for a football match than an actual game.
A hushed atmosphere, a feeling like the game didn't matter all that much (like a friendly, or a testimonial), and a horrible sense of inevitability about the scoreline.
Ward's penalty - well taken though it was - was not in the script. As if he'd ad libbed City's one-goal lead, something he'd be discouraged from refraining in the first performance.
Burnley's two-goal denouement, however, felt right on-book, applauded by the Assistant Directors behind me (or could that have been BBC Burnley, or whatever they're called...)
But one warm water bottle of comfort on a cold Ricoh night was the sight of Robbie Simpson on the pitch again.
And didn't he do well?
Simpson improves with every game, and I think he's now worthy of a starting place - either on the right, or (preferably) as a striker.
He's strong as an ox, direct as a dart, and doesn't seem as timid as the other players. Timid of making a mistake, or not playing to the system. None of that with Robbie. He was a breath of (cold) fresh air last night.
No dress rehearsals on Saturday, please, City - it's performance time.
LEON BEST insists he's loving life at Coventry City at the moment -especially with all of the competition for places.
Following his arrival from Southampton, he had an encouraging start to his Coventry career with nine goals in his first season but persistent speculation about a return to Nottingham to join Forest suggested it would only be a short stay at the Ricoh.
But there's no sign of Best going in search of the exit door just yet as he is relishing the competition from the likes of Freddy Eastwood, Clinton Morrison, Leon Mckenzie and Michael Mifsud in the Sky Blues' striking pecking order.
"I'm very happy at Coventry, the new players have definitely added a bit more to our squad and hopefully if we start winning a few more games then we'll be up there.
"It's a very good atmosphere to be around and it brings you on as a player because you know that when you've got good strikers breathing down your neck then you have to perform.
"There's no bad feeling towards whoever is playing or scoring."
CHRIS Eagles came off the bench to inspire Burnley to a deserved victory over Coventry City in their Coca-Cola Championship clash at the Ricoh Arena.
The Sky Blues had taken the lead from the penalty spot in the 40th minute through Elliott Ward after Graham Alexander had fouled Michael Mifsud before Michael Duff pulled one back six minutes after the half-time break.
Eagles then set up Robbie Blake in the 88th minute with a clever ball which the Clarets striker confidently put away and then capped off an impressive 20-minute performance with a spectacular strike moments later.
The hosts had begun brightly with Mifsud lively in attack but it was the visitors who created the first real chance of the game in the seventh minute.
Winger Wade Elliott delivered a dangerous corner from the right which was met by Chris McCann who saw his header fly just over the bar.
The Clarets continued to press and Martin Paterson brought a smart save out of goalkeeper Keiren Westwood with a firm strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 10th minute.
Coventry enjoyed a spell of possession as the game continued and Freddy Eastwood struck a shot from 25 yards out in the 31st minute but the ball was off-target.
Michael Doyle saw a similarly ambitious - albeit weaker - attempt from long range fail to test Brian Jensen four minutes later.
Chris Coleman's side though were then handed a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot five minutes before the interval when Alexander, making his 700th league start, brought down Malta international Mifsud inside the box and referee Mike Thorpe pointed to the spot.
Ward took the resulting spot-kick and he placed the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net while Duff was booked for his earlier protests.
You never see birds doing great big loop-the-loops in the sky, do you?
I'm sure if they have the capability to fly then they must be able to manage it with a bit of practice.
But you never see them even try, what a waste of talent!
I suspect, however, that they can.
I bet that as soon as my head hits the pillow, under the shroud of night, there are scores of blokey birds (y'know, the confident type) showing off to lady birds their soaring loop-the-loops; doing a bit of low-to-the-pavement flying; and maybe even some upside-down stuff.
Then, when I wake up in the morning it all stops, in case I get excited by it all and try to catch one of these winged fellows and keep him for a pet, or for my very bird circus show.
I get the same feeling when I watch Coventry play.
I suspect that a player like Jay Tabb for instance, probably has the capability to go on a mazy run past four dumbfounded defenders before thunking the ball in to the top corner.
Maybe he does in behind-closed-doors training sessions when everyone's back is turned. Because in matches these days he does so many backward passes that sometimes I wonder if he knows which way he's supposed to be shooting!
Take Marcus Hall, for example. Watch him warm up before a game and you'll catch glimpses of some deft touches and silky skills. See him in a match and he can't get rid of the ball quick enough! Like it's one of those games with a water-balloon inside that's gonna burst any second and make him all wet and embarrassed.
I don't mean to pick on Jay and Marcus. They're two of my favourite players, which is probably why I watch them - like I watch birds - with that fascination for what might be.
Here's an idea: next home game, why don't we all cover our eyes and promise not to peek. Then the players won't feel all self-conscious and nervous and might feel able to show off their skills a bit.
Who knows, Clinton might even score a goal?
We'll miss it all, of course, but it's okay, we can watch it on TV later. Just don't tell the players it's on...
MICHAEL MIFSUD can't wait to face Burnley after grabbing his first goal of the season against Wolves.
The Maltese international opened the scoring at Molineux as Chris Coleman's Sky Blues went down 2-1 to the league leaders.
And Mifsud, who has been linked with a move away from City since the summer, wants to keep his goal-scoring run going - starting against Burnley tonight (Tue).
"Obviously I'm glad to get my first goal but we lost and it's disappointing because we played very well," Mifsud told the club's official website.
"It's always nice to score, especially in such an important game, but it's the points that matter so we have to put it right against Burnley.
"It was some good work from Michael Doyle and Freddy that led to my goal and we put things like that together all game and we should have got something at the end.
"But we have to look at Burnley now and with the game coming around so quickly hopefully we can play as well against them as we did against Wolves."
THERE'S no getting away from it, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was off-side when he scored the winner for Wolves on Saturday.
Referee Steve Bennett's explanation that the striker's momentum had taken him off the pitch and therefore he didn't have to ask permission to go back on doesn't address the salient question, which was whether he was then off-side or not.
The fact is that when he re-entered the field of play, or sneaked back on to be more accurate, he was off-side, no question, and Mr Bennett and his assistant Ian Gosling, who failed to flag for the offence, got it wrong.
Even the expression on the player's face as he looked, expecting it to be ruled out, spoke volumes.