Jim White

  • A sorry week for some

    If you are a glass half full type of person, then this week would have appeared a pretty good one for English football.

    Three of our sides saw action at the highest level of the European game, playing to packed and passionate houses and huge television audiences. And all three remembered the primary rule of show business: leave 'em wanting more.

    In both Champions League semi-finals, the drama remains perfectly poised: it would be a brave man indeed who could predict with confidence how either of the ties will pan out next week. Plus, there were English players intimately involved. John

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  • Don’t drop the pilot

    There is an odd contradiction at the heart of our attitude to the longevity of football managers in England.

    On the one hand, when a chairman starts to meddle in the dressing room, undermining a manager before dispensing with his services, we tut and shake our heads and say, well you'll never achieve anything without continuity. Look at Arsenal and Manchester United: what do they have in common? Yes, it's length of service in the manager's office. There is no coincidence that they have been two of England's finest teams over the past decade: while other clubs have gone through managers like

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  • It’s Spain’s to lose now…

    There was much relief round our way when Spain refused to succumb to the omens. The coverage on the BBC of their quarter final against Italy made much of the fact that the Spaniards had lost three penalty shoot-outs - in the World Cup of 1986, Euro '96 and the 2002 World Cup - all on June 22.

    The certainty was that Sunday would be the fourth nightmare on the 22nd. The Beeb had even prepared a little filmed package, full of foreboding and doom-laden mood music. If anyone thought it a little extravagant to spend the time editing up a package only useable in the event of penalties, then clearly

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  • Not exactly short for Sunday

    Roy Keane was on typically entertaining form ahead of Sunderland's game with Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup.

    He was talking about Brian Clough, his first manager in the game and suggested that, despite some of the modern obsessions with what he referred to as "prozone, fitness coaches and pasta", Clough would have excelled in the modern game.

    He is probably right. At least in this way: Clough was one of the few people on the planet who could put the fear of God into Roy Keane, which is a talent not to be sneezed at. Keane went on to reveal some of Clough's more eccentric ways. Despite

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  • Mourinho and Drogba: the truth

    More than a year after he left Chelsea, Jose Mourinho remains a major story in the British press. This weekend, the news that he had lost his temper with his Internazionale team after their limp goalless home draw with Genoa made all the papers.

    So too did the denial from sources at Manchester United that the club had entered into negotiations with him to replace Sir Alex Ferguson when - or rather if - the great man retires. What the Portuguese does and says makes news. Although sometimes it is what he hasn't said that generates the headlines. Last week he was widely quoted in the tabloid

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  • Some teams get all the luck

    Well, what a game that was. Any fears we might have had that the adventurous spirit at Euro 2008 would be dissipated the closer we got to the final were blown away in Basle. Germany and Turkey produced a semi-final of such endeavour, such excitement, such sustained drama it will live long in the memory. Whether the right team won it in the end, however, is a different matter.

    Claire Young, the runner up in the recent television series The Apprentice has just landed a job at Birmingham City. It is better paid, more interesting and promises a much higher profile than the job with Suralan that

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  • Changing of the guard. Again

    In the whirligig of transfers this week, one really caught the eye. Not Ronaldinho's move to Milan. That was so obviously going to happen only a die-hard Manchester City fan living in sky-blue cuckoo land could have believed otherwise.

    No, this one concerned Gilberto who has left Arsenal and joined Panathanaikos in Athens. In many ways it was not that surprising. Now 31, the Brazilian was reaching the end of his effectiveness at a club where youthful vigour is highly prized. He was a big earner and £1 million is not a bad fee for a man of his vintage. But for Arsenal fans it was significant.

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  • All on the length of a stud

    Unlike Manchester United's last appearance in the Champions League final, this time round there was to be no last minute intervention by the substitutes, no wholly unexpected conclusion of business in normal time. Instead, at the end of a sinew-sapping season, as the two super powers of the Premier League pushed each other to the very edge of exhaustion in magnificent, determined pursuit of the prize they craved, it all came down to penalties.

    What a twist: the first all-English Champions League final decided by the one footballing skill at which the English have never found much renown. And

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  • This is the one

    For a season or two after Manchester United won the treble in 1999, as the teams ran out on the pitch at Old Trafford, the stadium DJ played the Stone Roses song "This Is The One". It was the tune the United fans had adopted as their anthem for the Champions League final in Barcelona, its title a reflection of the tournament's meaning in United history.

    This is, indeed the one. Moscow 21 May 2008 represents the biggest of all possible ones. But there is a line in the song's second verse that seems particularly apposite to this week's event: "immerse me," it says, "in your splendour."


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  • How are your fingernails?

    After that there is only one question: do you have any nails left? Manchester United and Chelsea emerged this week from the most gut-wrenchingly tense Champions League semi finals to meet each other in Moscow on 21 May. And if anyone does have anything remaining at the end of their fingers after watching them progress then Nasa would like to hear from you: your body is clearly made of tough stuff.

    Following the cagey, give-nothing-away first legs, the two second legs burst into pulsating life. At Old Trafford, Manchester United staged the finest exhibition of defensive play in the club's long

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