Early Doors

  • Thank you for smoking

    Roberto Donadoni should have known better than to arrive at his post-Euro 2008 debrief at the Italian FA hopeful of convincing them to keep him on.

    For, unless the Azzurri thrashed out a deal with Marcello Lippi in about 20 minutes flat after Donadoni left the building, his successor had already been installed and he was manager in title only.

    Without wishing to pander to national stereotypes, ED is surprised to see such a level of organisation from Italy, a country where the managerial merry-go-round is more like a centrifuge.

    Take Messina, a fair example of life in Serie A. The Sicilians

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  • The saviour of English football

    Behind the strangely fake-looking facial hair that Early Doors can't get used to after more than a year perched precariously on Rafa Benitez's face (the facial hair, not ED), lies the saviour of English football.

    The Liverpool gaffer might just have saved the nation's bacon with his brazenly self-serving decision to send Steven Gerrard for groin surgery.

    As a result, Fabio Capello will not get the opportunity to "kill" Stevie G in the World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia.

    (Indicentally - before Scouseland goes off half-cocked - ED has no problem with Liverpool sending Gerrard for

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  • Kiss and make up

    If last night's game in Berlin proved anything, it is that Germans are capable of caring just as little about international friendlies as England.

    Most of the friendly faces we got to know and love at the World Cup and Euro 2008 were missing.

    There was no Philipp Lahm, bombing forward from left-back and getting caught woefully out of position.

    No Torsten Frings prowling around kicking people and smashing in 30-yard screamers like some latter-day Paul Breitner.

    No Jens Lehmann, whose public barneys with team-mates and inimitable clowning are now a thing of the past.

    And no Michael Ballack,

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  • Watch out for the fallout

    In the wake of Chelsea's unsavoury Champions League exit, the hits just keep on coming.

    Following yesterday's dissection of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, which reached the inevitable conclusion of death threats and the Norwegian official going into hiding, the media has now fully rounded on Didier Drogba, claiming that Chelsea will now renege on their offer of a new contract for the potty-mouthed striker.

    A piece by Steven Howard of The Sun is entitled "Chelsea reputation has got worse and worse... and that's all down to Drogba*".

    Oh, the asterisk. Well, that relates to the afterthought "And

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  • Pre-season perfection

    Real Madrid might be the biggest, brashest, self-promotingest club on planet
    football, but they seem to be the only major team capable of conducting a sensible
    pre-season.

    This weekend, while Manchester United take on a Malaysian
    XI, City are in South Africa
    and Chelsea in Seattle, Real will be training at their Irish
    hotel retreat ahead of a kickabout against Shamrock Rovers on Monday.

    It might not have the glamour of a trip to the Far East, but
    the Carton House Hotel in County Kildare has offered Real the chance to erect
    some blue screens to keep out prying eyes and get down to some serious

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  • Journeyman’s end

    Desperate for its daily dose of Sky Sports News lovely Georgie Thompson - who is currently, inexplicably being overlooked in favour of the decidedly less comely Vicky Gomersall - Early Doors turned to Sky's 'Premiership Years' programme yesterday and quickly found itself caught up in the thrills and spills of the 1997/98 season.

    'Was it really 10 years ago that Darren Huckerby sliced through the Manchester United defence while playing for Coventry or that Derby were an exciting top-flight team featuring the myriad attacking talents of Paolo Wanchope, Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano?'

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  • Why it’s OK to cheat

    Tim Cahill lost his appeal against a red card in the Merseyside derby, which means it is official - it's OK to cheat, but it's not OK to fractionally mistime a tackle.

    John Terry got off the hook last week after rugby tackling Manchester City's Jo as he ran towards goal.

    It can only be because it was a textbook challenge around the waist - the kind of which any public schoolmaster would heartily approve.

    Either that or a different set of rules apply to the England captain. Let us not forget that Terry was actually sent off, before the punishment was overturned and the referee responsible -

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  • Classic injury quiz

    Stoke midfielder Liam Lawrence's knacked ankle, sustained tripping over his dog, is the latest in a grand tradition of freak injuries.

    Today's Early Doors is the latest in a not-so-grand tradition of list features masquerading as quizzes. Eyes down...

    FOOTBALL

    1- In a parallel that says everything you need to know about the difference between English and continental goalkeepers, Dave Beasant and Santiago Canizares both injured themselves after dropping glass bottles and attempting to 'control' them as they fell.

    What was in each player's bottle?

    2- What, apart from dodgy haircuts, do Rio

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  • Crafty Cockney

    Beleaguered Newcastle fans can rest easy following the news that Terry Venables has been in talks over becoming manager of the club.

    This being El Tel - and, for that matter, Newcastle - there is a catch. That catch being that he's only been approached to take over as 'interim' boss until the club's future is certain, meaning he could be there for some time, the way things are going.

    Venables said: "I can confirm I met Newcastle representatives.

    "Those talks will continue in the morning when, hopefully, I can give them a final decision."

    If there is one thing Toon fans need now, it's another

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  • The kids are alright

    Arsenal have revealed their youth policy for the future - education, education, education.

    Prime Minister Gordon Brown droned on at the Labour Party conference about his plans to open new and improved academies for the nation's children, and he need only look at Gunners boss Arsene Wenger for the way to give kids a Sure Start.

    For Wenger's own little rainbow family look to have ushered in a new era at the Emirates with their 6-0 demolition of Sheffield United in the Carling Cup.

    It's been a good week for Wenger, what with Michel Platini's irrational comments giving him the chance to take the

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