Friday, January 30, 2009

Insomnia not the only cause of sleepless nights in Newcastle

Oh, you just can't make up what goes on at St. James' Park. The whole sorry Newcastle United saga has more twists and turns than the plot of 24, and appears about as fantastical as the notion that George W. Bush could put together a coherent sentence. Already for months (or years) they have lurched from one farce to another, but surely the most ridiculous plotline ever to come out of the North East was played out on Wednesday night, as Joe Kinnear managed to insult Charlie N'Zogbia by mis-pronouncing his surname as "insomnia" in an interview.

Let's face it, it was quite obviously nothing more than a slip of the tongue which left the normally shameless Kinnear, the only man who could go a full twelve rounds in a bareknuckle swearing match with Gordon Ramsay, looking quite embarassed. Yet N'Zogbia has chosen to react as if his manager had made an obscene comment about his mother's sexual orientation. In truth, the Frenchman has been moaning for months about wanting out, and having discovered that his announced ambitions to play for Arsenal were not coming to fruition (we all want to play for Arsenal, Charlie, just because you ask for it won't make it happen, not least because Arsene Wenger wouldn't sign you even if you arrived covered head to foot in caramel while brandishing the original Mona Lisa in one hand and the Holy Grail in the other as gifts) has decided to throw multiple tantrums to try and ellicit a move, starting with a training ground punch-up with young striker Andy Carroll last week, and now having realised the transfer window is practically done, he now refuses to play for Newcastle ever again after Kinnear misspoke.

It's a pathetic attempt to try and force his way out, and I for one hope that his immaturity and obnoxiousness doesn't pay off. In truth, despite his ability to play in defence or midfield, and his undoubted pace and skill, N'Zogbia is unreliable and inconsistent, and he has enough top division experience to have overcome it. The name "insomnia" is used by Newcastle fans and others alike as a pretty reasonable reference to the uncertainty that surrounds him on the pitch. Newcastle can probably afford to boot him into the reserves if they choose to do so, and good luck to them.

It's rare that Joe Kinnear commands sympathy; he has won few friends with his obnoxious rants in the press as Newcastle boss and after an initial bounce following his appointment, his side have slipped steadily back towards a relegation struggle that looks even more daunting than this time last season. But no doubt Wednesday was the worst day of the Irishman's stint in the North East, with Joey Barton injured again, and now Michael Owen following him onto the treatment table. Consequently, Newcastle now have all the firepower of a Poundstretchers water pistol. Considering the injuries that have inflicted the club this season, and the lack of depth in the squad or money to strengthen (though they appear to have found enough in the back of Mike Ashely's sofa to buy Kevin Nolan), he has not done a bad job. But by the time Owen returns to provide a goal threat, he may find his side in the bottom three and in dire straits; whether it is because of Kinnear or despite him, this could yet be the year that the Toon Army crash out of the top flight.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TB spreads to Inverness

I apologise in advance for the rubbish headline; I couldn't think of any good ones which involved puns on "Butcher", "El Tel" or "Terry", and settled for the tuberculosis reference instead. Any suggestions for alternative headings are welcomed. Equally, I know the picture is cliched, but let's face it, it's so flipping brilliant that we really do have to use it!

Anyway, I'm utterly delighted that Terry Butcher is Caley's new supremo. He has experience and commands respect, and what he did at Motherwell was absolutely magnificent. I know he has had his dodgy moments in management, not least in his more recent jobs at Sydney and Brentford, but it's worth remembering that Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Fabio Capello, for example, have all been sacked from managerial posts in the past. Not that I'm comparing Butcher to any of them, mind, I'm not that daft...

Fair play to him, too, for giving up his megabucks punditry role with Setanta, where he was paid a six figure sum for sitting on a cheap Argos chair in a makeshift studio on a gantry so fragile-looking that a gust of wind could result in mass casualties, while blandly describing in mundane language exactly what is being shown on the TV screen and what anyone with any knowledge of football knows already. In short, it's the dream job that most of us would kill for, and it shows Tel has some real commitment to throw that away.

And I don't give a fig about him staying with the Scotland set up. He'll be doing it on international weeks, when Caley don't even have a game, so I think we can cope without him there. And it's an opportunity for him to gain more experience at a higher level. So I can see the positives of it.

Best of luck then, boss, I reckon you can save us. Certainly, you can't do any worse than that muppet who preceded you in the manager's chair.


PS My Latvia flag better turn up in time for the Celtic game on Sunday, I love our new centre-half Mihadjuks...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Viva Barcelona

Question of the day: if you had the choice between either making love to your dream woman, or watching Barcelona every week, which would you choose?

If your answer is not "put your clothes on, love, and make me a cup of tea", then you obviously haven't seen Barca in action this season. For they have broken the La Liga record for most points at the halfway stage of the season, they have scored 62 goals in 20 matches so far (the most in the league by a distance) and conceded only 14 (the least in the league by a difference), and best of all they have done it with a swagger and an aesthetic beauty which is utterly astounding. The build-up play is simply the footballing equivalent of composing a beautiful symphony. Remember when Man Utd's performance a couple of years back when they did Roma 8-1? The Catalans are doing it every week.

Compare Barca's current record - 53 points from 20 games, goal difference of +48 - to other league leaders this season: Manchester United top the Premier League with 47 points from 21 games and a GD of +24, while Inter head Serie A with 43 points from 19 games and Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich share the lead of the Bundesliga with 35 points from 17 games. In short, no-one else from Europe's best leagues is as dominant domestically. And while La Liga is admittedly inferior to the Premier League, the difference is as between Coke and Pepsi - it's clear one is bigger, better and more valuable, but the other is still pretty damn good and there are plenty folk who still prefer it to its rival.

And on the face of it, the Barcelona team which has steamrollered through the first half of the season is not all that different to the one that has coughed and spluttered during the previous two campaigns. But there are three important differences between this Barcelona team and the last. One is on the touchline, where it was clear things had gone stale under Frank Rijkaard. Pep Guardiola has his side playing to Rijkaard's philosophy, but with more pace and the forwards ordered to press the play when not in possession. These changes have given Barcelona more cut and thrust in the final third, and make sure they get the ball back more quickly.

The other two alterations are on the pitch. Dani Alves was signed from Sevilla for megabucks despite an indifferent season. However he has rediscovered his form of 2006/07 and is a Brazilian full-back in the best tradition, irresistable on the attack, yet somehow capable of getting back in time to defend as well. The only flaw in his game, currently, is his insistence of also being a Brazilian full-back in the worst tradition, and constantly blasting long range free kicks at the wall. Is it just me or did Roberto Carlos provide nothing from set pieces after his goal at Le Tournoi in 1997?

Just as important, though, is the man who is no longer there. Ronaldinho's departure has improved Barcelona immeasurably. No longer is play held up while he does a bunch of step overs, and no longer is there the feeling that the team are being let down by an overweight, unfit prima donna.

Add to this the fact that Xavi, star of Euro 2008, continues to spray passes around like an NFL quarterback, and has also now become a goal threat with late runs into the box, and that Thierry Henry has gelled into his role out on the left hand side of the pitch and once more resembles the danger that he was at Arsenal. Meanwhile, Samuel Eto'o, whom the club did their best to offload in the summer, has finally regained the explosive pace that made him arguably the world's best striker before a series of knee injuries, and is flying towards the Golden Shoe title. And they even look solid at the back. But best of all, they have Messi,

And Messi has been extraordinary. I guess we knew already that he was a wonderful player, but he has managed to improve even further. Everything Cristiano Ronaldo was last season, Messi is this season. He looks stronger, more confident. And he continues to dribble past opponents as if the ball was glued to the toe of his boot, more than ever resembling a leaner version of Diego Maradona. With Alves' overlapping preventing sides from doubling up on him, the little Argentinian is running amock through Spanish defences. It is, frankly, utterly joyous. Barcelona's front three have already scored 59 goals in all competitions this season between them. If little Leo's hamstrings hold together (for that is always the fear), then I swear Barcelona will, or at least should, win absolutely everything.

I stand by my answer to the opening question of this post. For this is not the perfect football team, but over the last few months they have been so close to such an accolade that, frankly, it is a bit scary.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Ardiles is not the man

I was going to blog today on the ridiculous notion that Ossie Ardiles could be a viable candidate for the Caley job, not least because he has been fired more often than the cannon Edinburgh use at Hogmanay, but Graham Spiers has already done it for me in today's Times, which is fine by me. I'm worried that he might be right about the likelihood of TB taking the post as well. Still, if Archie Knox ends up being the man, I can sleep easy.

It has been daft, though, the number of names being touted. Journalists wil do anything to fill column inches. It's not just Ardiles whose name has come out of nowhere - I'm hearing those of Alex Rae, Duncan Shearer and Neale Cooper put forward, none of whom have SPL experience and all of whom have failed in their highest profile managerial posts, but because they live slightly to the North of Glasgow and Edinburgh they are all considered by the press to be candidates! Ditto Derek McInnes, despite the fact that we have not approached St. J and we couldn't afford to pay some compo, they have said they would not let him go, and there is no realistic reason why he would leave a side homing in on promotion already. It would be like a U-boat captain leaving his submarine to join the crew of a ship that has been torpedoed and is sinking fast.

Anyway, the current goss is that Butcher, Robbo and Knox, plus A.N. other, will be on the shortlist. And the lucky winner will get a nice easy introduction - Celtic at home a week on Sunday. And then the Great Escape is off and running - though I wish Steve McQueen was on our side as well.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

White Hart Lame

I have recently speculated that, back in 1991, some African witch doctor discovered that Spurs' win in the 1991 FA Cup final ruined his pools coupon and was so incensed that he cursed Tottenham Hotspur football club, decreeing that they would never be successful again for the rest of time (except for the League Cup, which doesn't count). I like this hypothesis, particular because it's not hard to imagine a voodoo doll of Alan Sugar being involved.

But it's as good a reason as any for the wonderful mediocrity that Spurs have found themselves in for the vast majority of their recent history.

Managerial reputations have gone down the drain quicker than it takes Prince Philip to come up with an offensive remark on meeting an aborigine. Believe it or not, Christian Gross did rather well before he became Spurs coach, and also did rather well afterward. And so now the man known a couple of months ago as Harry Houdini after a great start to his tenure, is now in danger of becoming Harry Redcrapp.

Looking from the outside, it is difficult to fathom how this side cannot be doing well. I agree with Redknapp's constant moans about past transfer policy (step forward Damien Comolli, the Neville Chamberlain of DoFs) and the imbalanced nature of the squad, but the best eleven out there should be able to beat just about anyone but the big four and Aston Villa. I saw them scrape a draw at home to Pompey on Sunday, a side who are hardly on a flying run since Redknapp was replaced by Jimmy Nail (we're told it's Tony Adams, but he looks like Jimmy Nail and appears to have the tactical knowledge of Jimmy Nail). And my bravura and confidence from October-time that Tottenham would absolutely positively definitely end up well clear of a relegation battle is evaporating away.

Besides, considering his current wheelings and dealings, the words "pot", "kettle" and "black" can be aimed at Redknapp, who is badly in need of a goalkeeper (since when Gomes comes for a cross he looks like a penguin trying to achieve flight), a left back (since Gareth Bale is weighed down by the metric tonne of hair gel plastered on his head), a right back (so Corluka can play in the centre and Redknapp can chuck calamity Dawson and the lesser spotted one-legged Ledley King) and a left sided midfielder (because there isn't actually one) and instead is spending £14million on Wilson Palacios when he already has Zokora and Huddlestone at his disposal. Jermain Defoe's arrival at least makes some sense, but if Spurs play two up (they seem keen to partner Defoe with Pavlyuchenko) then I don't know how you can afford to have Luka Modric, blatantly the most talented player in the squad for me and completely wasted since his arrival, plus two offensive wide midfielders like Bentley or Lennon, in the team as well.

The other question with Spurs regards just how deep their pockets are. They have forked out so much lolly on players - with Palacios I count 13 squad members whose transfer fees were greater than £5m, with Bent, Pavlyuchenko, Modric, Bentley and now the Honduran all into eight figures. Even the mountains of cash wheelbarrowed across from Old Trafford for Dimitar Berbatov can't compensate for that. And it's not as if they've been in the Champions' League. And all those inflated fees seem to have led to inflated egos as well; it's not difficult to think of a few players who are clearly not as world-beating as they think they are...

It would take a brave man to predict the future for Spurs, and I'm not a brave man. But I don't think there would be even a raised eyebrow if, twelve months down the line, they are in about the same predicament as they are now, unless a few players get a right royal kick up the behind and Redknapp signs a goalkeeper who can actually catch a flipping cross...


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Looking forward

Okay, so now the dust is settled, rumour is rife about who will become the new supremo at ICT.

The Press & Journal, which doesn't qualify as a local rag because it's better than the two local papers that really are rags, claims that the stage is set for Barry Wilson to make a return as manager, only a few weeks after Brew shunted him to Queen of the South. This would apparently be in tandem with former boss Robbo (that's John Robertson to those who don't know anything about Scottish football) as his assistant. I don't buy that for a second - Wilson was not even a player-coach at Caley, and this is surely not the time for a novice. Granted, I think that Brew's original appointment in December 2005 came when we were bottom of the SPL, but lets face it, he was a much more prestigious player than Barry was, as well as having experience abroad.

The Times and The Telegraph, meanwhile, have firmly jumped on the Terry Butcher bandwagon, though the former notes that Butcher is still based in the south of England, despite his involvement with the Scotland set up. The Telegraph, taking some rare time out from talking about cricket and, erm, more cricket, also describes Butcher as the favourite.

However, as regards the bookies, Robbo in fact stands out at the moment, not least because he lives and works in the Highlands, and hs talked us up so much on Radio Scotland recently that it actually looked like an unsubtle attempt to jockey for the post. Trouble for him is that it's well known that he fell out with our majority shareholder during his first spell as manager, with the words "over", "dead" and "body" likely to encompass the board's response to the idea of taking him back.

Another names in the frame is that of Charlie Christie, Brew's predecessor, who did a great job but quit because he was fed up with the exposure to him and his family. 10CC (his initials, and the number he wore playing for Caley - get it? Sigh...) is back on the coaching staff these days but I doubt he'd put himself through the mix once more. Archie Knox has also been touted, but one feels that he would be more likely to pursue more prestigious(and lucrative) coaching posts in England.

We shall see. I, personally, would take Butcher faster than you can say"hand of god", but the important thing now is that we get in someone with a bit of experience and nous, because that is what we have been lacking most this season.

And at least Jim Duffy and Bobby Williamson aren't candidates. Thank heavens for small mercies.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Brew shoe-d out the door

I do like the front page of The Sun's sport section today. Apparently Caley fans at the Hamilton game started singing "Shoe off if you hate Brewster", which is a novel way of showing discontent without being verbally abusive.

And so I discovered at lunchtime today that I had my wish, and Mr. Brewster is now unemployed.

Please don't think that I am taking some sort of perverse joy in a man losing his job. After all, this isn't the English Premiership, where a coach can expect megabucks if his contract is terminated. With his contract up at the end of the campaign, Brew will not get much of a payoff. Nor will he be a prime candidate for any top division job in Scotland any time soon, having preceded this with a period at Dundee United best described as a fiasco. I have no doubt that everything that he did for us was what he considered to be the best for the club.

But his best was not good enough.

If he had stayed we would have gone down. We might still yet, but this gives us a fighting chance. And it also means the possibility of entertaining football again gracing the Caledonian Stadium. So he had to go. Simple as.

The identity of his replacement? That's a debate for another day. Today's actions are a big enough deal for the club, as we have never sacked a manager before. Dealing with the aftermath can wait till later.


PS Chick Young's blog on the BBC website today really is quite bizarre - seems to criticize the fans for demanding Brew's head on a plate, then labels him as "a dead man walking" later on. Talk about having your cake and eating it...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Trouble a-Brewing

At the moment I feel like a kidnapped maiden in a cheesy Hollywood movie, sending a desperate plea for help, by letter or by voice, to some improbably handsome suitor, seeking rescue.

At the moment, my message would read something along the lines of "Please, anyone, save my football club before it's too late!"

Having spent countless hours sitting through the dross on show from my side this season, I can now state categorically that, unless there is some dramatic change, we will be relegated. Period.

It's not just that we won only four home games in 2008, two of them against Gretna. It's not just the series of defeats, the rumours of infighting, the way the players' heads go down as soon as we concede a goal or the fact that our highest paid player by a distance, Andy Barrowman, couldn't find his way to goal if he had sat-nav.

It's mostly that our matches have been appalling to watch this season. Entertainment value has been nil. Imagine sitting for ninety minutes in the cold, the wind and the rain, watching paint drying on a wall, with James Blunt's latest CD playing in the background. And not only that, but someone keeps telling you that there is reason behind it all, that in the end the mindless tedium will somehow all come to a glorious fruition.

In fact, what happens, invariably, is we start with one up front (not our top scorer, or our second top scorer), then we pack the midfield, then we create no chances, then the opposition pile a few players forward, the opposition score a goal, we collapse, they usually score another, and eventually we chuck on another striker with barely enough time left for them to break sweat.

The defeat to Aberdeen last month, for example, saw three clear cut chances in the entire match. Aberdeen scored three goals. We still played 4-5-1 until the third goal went in, by which point the players decided they weren't interested in making an effort in scoring a goal.

So we are awful, and we are also boring. Football is supposed to be a form of entertainment, isn't it? I can't remember a time where it has brought me less joy than this.

I mentioned a massive change that needs to happen. Well, our manager continues to persist with tactics that never work, forwards that can't score and defenders who can't defend, while I have had countless second hand reports that the players hate him and his methods, and they are completely lacking in motivation.

Any idea what sort of change I might be thinking of?

Craig Brewster is by no means the only thing wrong with this football club. But the most likely realistic action that will give us a chance of remaining in this league is his removal, no question.

We have Hearts at Tynecastle next, followed by Celtic at home - both matches where defeats are realistic propositions anyway. So get a new man in now with a bit of the window left, with two free games to see what he has, and then try and perform a Great Escape.

And, just like the outgoing US president, I think just about anybody could do a better job.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

City moolah will only get a no-no from Kaka'

No wonder Manchester City feel they need to fork out £91 million to land Kaka' (note the apostrophe, I'm being pedantic), even in the midst of an economic crisis which means you could probably buy the entire British Isles as your personal fiefdom for that sort of money (of course, Wales would be thrown in for free, and we would pay them to take the Outer Hebrides).

But if £10 million is the going rate for Wayne Bridge, a guy who has seen so little first team action over the last few years at Stamford Bridge that I'd begun to think his full name was Substitute Wayne Bridge, and who puts the "left-back" in "left back in the dressing room", then the quoted sum for Milan's Brazilian maestro is peanuts. But however it pans out, it's all going to end up a bit of a shambles for Man City.

For one thing, I will be somewhat shocked and appalled if he does go. He might not be the number one player in the world right now (even if Ronaldo's form has dipped, check out what Messi has been doing this season for a start) but he's top three, and a damn site more useful than Robinho. He is also the darling of Milan, universally loved, well-paid and looked after (and unlike Berlusconi, who is also all of these things, these traits are well earned), and constantly states how happy he is. And ultimately, he is a devout Christian, which makes it fairly likely that, unlike so many prima donnas in this day and age, he has ambitions in life beyond increasing the number of zeroes on his bank balance. If you can think of any likely reason why on earth this young man would up sticks from one of the fashion capitals of the world and its mediterranean climate, for flipping Manchester, possibly the coldest city in the country (at least it was when I was there in November) and about as heart-warming as attending a dinner party with Margaret Thatcher, Robert Mugabe and Ron Atkinson, to play for a team more likely to be relegated than reach the Champions' League, feel free to write in on a postcard.

For another thing, where the heck would City play him? You have to assume that Mark Hughes would be obliged to deploy him alongside Robinho, yet both are at their best playing that traditional number ten role, just off a striker. City have tended to use Robinho coming in off the left flank in a front three this season with some success, but Kaka' has never been used in a similar role off the other side before. And surely most coaches would baulk at the idea of Robinho and Kaka', plus a right winger, plus a centre forward, all on the pitch together, particularly with a defence that includes Michael Ball, who did about as much good for the Rangers defence as syphilis-infected blankets did for American Indians. So the question of where the heck you would play this boy wonder is a heck of a tough one to answer.

Of course, it's all about marketing and publicity, the idea that people will buy City merchandise and pay to watch City on TV in far flung places such as Thailand, South America and Dingwall. But whereas Real Madrid made a bucket out of David Beckham, we're talking huger sums here. And let's face it, even Kaka' cannot turn this team into Champions' League contenders. Better splashing the cash on six or seven £10 million players (ones who are actually worth that money, by which I don't mean Wayne Bridge) and Roque Santa Cruz. And maybe giving it a couple of years so the side can gel.

Experience tells us that money never buys a short term solution in football - even Abramovich's Chelsea took two years to win the league. And they had John Terry and Frank Lampard to begin with. All City have is Stephen Ireland...


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Boyd or Bust for Rangers?

It seems the most bizarre piece of logic since George Bush, against all evidence, felt the need to plunge huge amounts of money into abstinence-promoting contraception programmes. But as soon as Kris Boyd has upped his game, (I note he has started doing all the things that many moons ago, I said on this blog that he had to do to make himself a better player, such as tracking back, holding the ball up etc) Rangers have apparently decided to flog him. And the going rate for the SPL's most potent striker by a distance - it's what, a goal a game? That's just unbelievable, even if Dame Edna Everage could score against Caley's defence - is sufficiently low that an English second tier team looked like they were going to sign him, until it turned out that doubling Boyd's wages is not enough to convince him to live in Brummy.

Boyd, by all accounts, is a Rangers fan, keen to stay at the club despite the lack of faith in his ability that Wattie Smith has shown in the past. So it's not as if he's attempting to force a move. So what does it say when Rangers are attempting to sell their top striker and (possibly excepting Pedro Mendes) potentially most important player?

In today's Times, Graham Spiers (who never did eat his hat after Caley stayed up in 04-05) interestingly notes that Rangers' bank is none other than HBOS, who in these help-ma-boab times may well be putting pressure on the Huns to reduce their debt. This is despite the fact that Rangers have already got rid of Carlos Cuellar and Alan Hutton for fantastic prices.

What does this mean for Scottish football? Well, for a start, the best players in the league are now clearly fair game for the English Championship, let alone the Premier League. Celtic's financial situation is not all that phenomenal either - while the likes of Scott Brown are happy to dismiss moves south at the moment, would this be the case if Celtic were trailing in the league? And what if Celtic continue to have the financial upper edge (helped by annual Champs League qualifications) and we end up with a repeat of the nineties, only with the green-and-white half of Glasgow overwhelmingly dominant? And then the boredom of winning every year leads them to bugger off (a la Stilian Petrov and, for a while, Barry Ferguson)?

And if wages down south continue to increase, there is potential for the Old Firm to become even more dependent on other SPL teams for talent, as their wages would be cheaper. We have already seen Mark Brown, Gary Caldwell, Mark Wilson, Scott Brown, Paul Hartley, Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Scott McDonald at Celtic, and Graeme Smith, Kirk Broadfoot, Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thomson, Boyd, Steven Naismith and Nacho Novo at Rangers. These guys in a lot of cases were not as good as those they replaced, so if this trend continues not only do the Old Firm's standards drop, but so do the standards of other SPL teams. And it's not very good already.

I have no idea what the solution to this is. It's clearly a complex problem, with an obvious solution - more cash. But where on earth is the cash going to come from? Your guess is as good as mine. But the SPL is not the greatest product as it is - the days of Laudrup and Larsson are long gone - so if it becomes less attractive how do you sell it?

I'm also fairly sure that nine of the SPL's twelve clubs (Celtic, ICT and Hearts the exceptions) are with HBOS. This can't be good.

Anyway, going back to Rangers, if Boyd leaves, lets see just how good Kyle Lafferty's strike rate is in comparison.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Eat my goal

The greatest goal ever scored - now that's a full night's pub conversation guaranteed, because everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a truly wonderful goal. What makes a goal great in your eyes? Is it a type of shot, in terms of distance, power, or swerve? Is it about technique, such as a volley or a bicycle kick? Is it all about the build-up rather than the finish? Is a great team goal better than a great individual goal? And how much is about the occasion? Or the emotional response it produces in the fan who is watching it?

For my own favourites, I think it;s only fair to rule out all goals before 1990, which was when I was old enough to take an interest in football. So that already knocks out two of the strikes that tend to be near the top of these lists - Maradona versus England in '86 (no, not the Hand of God, the chip on my shoulder isn't that big) and Carlos Alberto's finish for the great team goal Brazil scored in the 1970 World Cup Final.

In retrospect, the efforts that I've tended to throw myself about like a lunatic in celebration for (whether I was at the game or watching it on TV) are, for the most part, certainly not candidates for this debate. There are two exceptions. One is James McFadden's goal in Paris last year. The other was by Inverness midfielder John Rankin against Rangers in December 2006.

But both these goals are long range screamers. And you just know, deep down, that nine times out of ten(in Rankin's case, far more often than that) the ball ends up so far in the back of the stand that you'd think Bobby Zamora had hit it. (If you sit in row Z and the ball hits your head,, that's Zamora...) Ultimately, these goals can be scored by anyone, from Premier League superstars to lower league journeyman to Sunday Leaguers who just hammered the ball because the couldn't be a**ed to run. And for me anyway, that makes them worth about us much as the pound sterling just now.

So as far as I'm concerned, the ultimate goals have to be the ones that, at the specific moment and time of their execution, you couldn't possibly imagine being replicated by any other player in the world in the same situation, playing for the same team, against the same opposition, in the same circumstances. Have I used "same" enough to emphasise my point? I'm sure I was taught that as a writing method in Standard Grade English...

Anyway, the three which still make me goosebump are these. The Zidane volley is definitely third in my book, but it is surely the perfect volley, technically difficult in so many ways yet he looks so relaxed as he hits it that his leg moves almost lazily through the air. And to get swerve on it too! In a bloody great Champions League final!

The other two I can't separate for love nor money. It's interesting to think that neither of these guys will be mentioned along with Maradona or Zidane at the top of lists of greatest players, though it's likely that they will end up somewhere in the lower echelons of the top 100. But these are what make them truly shine with greatness. The first is by Barcelona's Rivaldo; bear in mind that this was the final match of that La Liga season, where Barca had to win to nick the final Champions' League spot from their opponents Valencia. It was the last minute of the match, with the score 2-2, after the Brazilian's first two efforts had been equalized. And he did this for his hat trick, the win, and the 25million jackpot that came with it. Clucking bell.

The other I remember watching live on TV in 1999 as treble-chasing Man Utd held on for dear life in extra time of the FA Cup semi final replay against Arsenal. At 1-1, Man U were a man down after Roy Keane's sending off, and were only still alive after Peter Schmeichel saved a Dennis Bergkamp penalty at the end of normal time. And Ryan Giggs only goes and bloody does this. Unbe-flipping-lievable. Love it.

I dare you to watch any of these videos without having a stupid, inane grin on your face. Go on. I dare you.