Early Doors

  • Different tournament, same England

    At least Sunday's performance against Japan helped dampen the frenzy that always seems to accompany England's departure to a major tournament.

    Now, even the most optimistic England fan must know that Fabio Capello's side have absolutely no chance of winning the World Cup.

    Victory over their fellow qualifiers in Graz could not mask a poor display that, like the game against Mexico last week, posed more questions than found answers, and exposed yet more frailties.

    And, unfortunately, it also served to reopen the great Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard debate once again.

    With just 10 days to the start

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  • How Dirty Leeds saved the Cup

    It was one of the greatest shocks in recent football history, an event that proved you should never write anyone off, and that the Magic of the FA CupTM is still well and truly alive.

    No, not Leeds' win at Old Trafford, but the moment during Alex Ferguson's post-match interview when it looked like he was going to be gracious in defeat.

    Breaking the habit of a lifetime, Fergie paid tribute to Leeds and admitted his side were not good enough.

    He said: "Leeds had far bigger appetite than us. Human beings can always surprise you but we didn't expect that today.

    "I am shocked by the performance

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  • Did Giggs deserve award?

    So rooted in the culture of Manchester United is Ryan Giggs
    that, when he took to the stage to collect the BBC Sports Personality award
    last night, Early Doors expected the following speech:

    "I would have preferred three points against
    Villa."

    At the very least, wanted an explanation of who
    exactly the bloke with the mutton chops sitting next to him was.

    Instead we had an unprepared but not embarrassing recitation
    of platitudes, with Giggs claiming it was "up there" with the many
    other pieces of silverware he has won.

    However, ED suspects it will not have pride of place in the Giggs
    trophy

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  • Why can’t they all go down?

    Franz
    Beckenbauer once said of the Germany
    team: "You could take all of them, put them in a bag and hit them with a stick.
    Whoever got hit
    would deserve it."

    Early Doors
    feels similarly about the Premier League relegation battle, albeit in a less
    ruthlessly Teutonic way.

    Over the
    last two months, we have waited for teams to put together a run of results and
    get out of trouble. With the possible exception of Blackburn,
    nobody has.

    Teams have
    shown themselves to be mentally fragile, physically weak and technically
    substandard as they have proceeded to lose a succession of 'must-win'
    games.

    When

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  • Won’t someone think of the Chilean?

    In all the excitement of a big event, it's easy to overlook certain key details.

    As you run around looking for your passport and double checking your plane tickets before leaving to go on holiday, it's easy to to leave your toothbrush, phone charger and Macaulay Culkin at home.

    In the rush to get the turkey in the oven and presents opened on Christmas Day, you might neglect to go and pick up grandma from the home.

    Or, in your wild scramble to recruit a new manager for your club, how easily can you forget to sack your current one first?

    Fortunately for Real Madrid, the world's media happened

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  • 36 minutes

    36 minutes - That is exactly how long it took some England fans to turn on Fabio Capello.

    Just after the half-hour mark, with the game scoreless and England looking less than fluent, a section of the crowd decided they had had enough of this Italian character.

    Their ire was raised by a patient passing move that saw the ball moved back to halfway and switched to the left, resulting in a shot on target by Joe Cole.

    Where were the centre-backs lumping long balls in the general direction of the opposition box? It was all too much for some people.

    Four minutes later, just as the malcontents put the

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  • Eyes down

    All eyes across the continent will be on UEFA HQ in Nyon later this morning for the Champions League draw, which you can watch streamed live at 11:00.

    There is, of course, also the Europa League draw, but by the time that starts the assembled press pack will already be rushing to the phones.

    The snow that has fallen recently has divided opinion as much as the prospect of seeing a UEFA suit methodically unrolling scraps of paper. Either you'll be filled to the brim with childish glee as the white balls are hurled around, or you'll be keeping a safe distance, cynically remarking on how overblown

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  • United win with kids

    Alex Ferguson had dubious cause to be smug last night after his young Manchester United side beat Tottenham 2-0 in the Carling Cup quarter-final.

    It may have been the night of the Eurosport Christmas party, but ED eschewed the chance to see if an entire coach really could make it down a Burger King drive-through in order to watch a repeat of last season's final that absolutely screamed prestige.

    What more could you want than two of the most successful clubs in English football history battling it out on the road to Wembley exactly nine months after meeting there in one of the great finals of

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  • Early Doors, bloody hell

    Paul Gascoigne once uttered the immortal words: "I never make predictions and I never will." It is a mantra ED would be well advised to follow. 

    Having seen its assertion that Spurs would never beat Arsenal fall flatter than a Dutch spirit level, Early Doors had another go at predicting the future on Friday.

    "Put simply, the title race will be done and dusted come teatime on Saturday."

    Er, yeah... about that...

    As Alex Ferguson so eloquently put it after his team won the Champions League in 1999: "Football, bloody hell."

    On a more positive note, ED did correctly foretell on January 27 that a

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  • Give Brown a chance

    When Phil Brown took over as Hull City's caretaker manager in December 2006, they were languishing
    in the Championship relegation zone. Against the odds, he kept them up.

    The following season he orchestrated a late-season surge
    into the play-offs, which the Tigers only proceeded to win, securing top-flight
    football for the first time.

    Considered massive favourites to drop straight back down,
    Brown presided over a remarkable early-season run of form to escape relegation.

    Yet, five games into the season, with Hull on equal points
    to West Ham and one win away from a comfortable mid-table

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