Chris Cutmore

Sir Alex Ferguson’s canny squad rotation means Manchester United will win the Premier League
May 2, 2009, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Sports Media

Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to ring the changes against Middlesbrough today risked incurring the wrath of Boro’s relegation rivals, so the theory goes.

Using squad players against a side near the bottom of the Premier League, in order to keep his main stars fresh for Tuesday’s somewhat tougher assignment at the Emirates, not only disrespects Gareth Southgate’s men, but also jeopardises United’s chances of winning the game, some say. Not only that but it could potentially distort the final league table and end up costing a club relegated ahead of Boro a hefty £20 million – all because of Ferguson’s decision to rest a few players. Codswallop.

Sir Alex Ferguson can introduce players such as Ryan Giggs to keep his team fresh

Sir Alex Ferguson can introduce players such as Ryan Giggs to keep his team fresh

Any club that finds themselves near the foot of the Premier League at this stage of the season is there because of their own poor performances throughout the entire season, and can blame no-one else for their relegation. Not that this argument did West Ham any good when fighting the Carlos Tevez case, of course.

But the more important point is that whoever levels these accusations against Ferguson is entirely ignorant of the facts. United are not weakened by changing their starting line up; they are stronger for squad rotation and their comfort in doing so has all but won them yet another Premier League title.

When making changes to their starting line up, United not only have an impressive win rate, but their record is markedly better when compared with their fellow big four clubs. This season Ferguson has changed three or more players in his starting XI (compared with the previous league match) on 25 occasions. These ‘weakened’ sides have won 22 of these games. Not only that, they have dropped just seven points out of a possible 75.

Liverpool, United’s main title rivals, have made three or more changes 22 times. They have won only 12 of these matches, and have dropped 22 points out of 66. This sets the difference in points lost when making three or more changes at 15 in United’s favour. Going into tomorrow’s game against Newcastle, how many points are Liverpool behind their rivals from Old Trafford? Six. It doesnt take a genius to work out that if Liverpool could have matched United’s record when making team changes, they would be top of the league themselves.

Chelsea, meanwhile, present a slightly more complex picture. The first thing to notice is that the Blues rotate their starting team far less than their rivals. Overall, Chelsea have won 10 games out of 14 when making three or more changes, and have dropped ten points out of 42. While Luiz Felipe Scolari was manager he made three or more changes only seven times. His side dropped eight points out of 21 in these games.

Under Guus Hiddink, this record improves significantly. The Dutchman has made the changes on seven occasions in 13 games, and has dropped just two points. This could reflect Hiddink’s greater trust in his squad, or that he understands the need to make careful and considered changes in order to maintain his players’ physical and mental fitness – something Scolari did not seem to grasp.

Liverpool do not have the quality in the rest of their squad to match that of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres

Liverpool do not have the quality in the rest of their squad to match that of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres

Arsene Wenger appears to realise the need for prudent squad rotation, having made three or more changes 17 times. Arsenal have a good record when making three changes to their side, winning eight out of 10 of these games. But when making four or more swaps, they have dropped eight points out of a possible 21.

United, then, not only make more changes to their starting line up than their rivals, but also take more points per game when they do so. At Middlesbrough today, it is not hard to see why. Ferguson made seven changes from the team that beat Tottenham at Old Trafford. Out went Edwin Van Der Sar, Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo. In came Ben Foster, Jonny Evans, John O’Shea, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Federico Macheda and Ji-Sung Park.

When you rotate your squad and introduce six internationals, four Champions League winners, a wonderkid and the PFA player of the year, it’s hardly a cause to suspect you might lose at Middlesbrough. More importantly, over the course of a long and demanding season, such strength in depth is the reason why United will be champions once again.

Islington Now Sports Podcast
March 24, 2009, 5:36 pm
Filed under: Sports Media

William Gallas was the subject of a verbal barb from Toure

All the news and views from the Islington Now sports desk, with special guest the Times’ deputy football correspondent Matt Hughes. This week’s topics are reaction to Arsenal’s penalty win in Rome, Kolo Toure’s revealing dress-room comments, and Dwain Chambers.

Follow this link for the Podcast:

Inconsistent Redknapp slams booze boys but praises captain King
March 4, 2009, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Sports Media
Spurs captain Ledley King letting his hair down

Spurs captain Ledley King letting his hair down

Harry Redknapp has set tongues wagging after revealing he has banned his players from drinking any alcohol whatsoever.

Speaking about the aftermath of Tottenham’s defeat to Manchester United in Sunday’s Carling Cup final, Redknapp said:

“Nobody, but nobody, was allowed to even look at a glass of wine or any kind of alcohol.

“I’ve got no time really for drinking in football. I don’t see any reason why footballers should have a drink. The rewards are so fantastic now they have to look after themselves. It’s a great career, they have to dedicate themselves. I’m not into seeing footballers get drunk.”

The outburst leads to the obvious question: why did Redknapp feel the need to make such statements? Are some of his squad enjoying the post-match hospitality a little too much?

Meanwhile, Redknapp praised club captain Ledley King, saying the defender was so good that if he could play 20 games per season he’d be “worth a fortune”.

I thought you didn’t have any time for players that drink, Harry?

Wales rugby winger Shane Williams scores a pie
February 9, 2009, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Sports Media
A sculpture of Shane Williams made from pie

A sculpture of Shane Williams made from pie

Flying Wales winger Shane Williams has been afforded the ultimate honour to mark his success – a sculpture of himself made out of pie.

Williams’ ankle may be a little flaky but the sculpture is entirely made from pastry. It will be sold after the Six Nations tournament in aid of the cancer charity, the Toby Lloyd Cockbain Foundation.

Surely it’ll be stale by then?

Baffled UK watches as Steelers win Superbowl and Phelps is caught acting dopey
Eight time Olympic swimming gold medallist Michael Phelps caught with a bong

Beijing Olympics swimming hero Michael Phelps caught with a bong

Most of the UK audience probably watched with a mixture of confusion, repulsion and awe  as Pittsburgh Steelers won America’s sporting showpiece, the Superbowl. But also last night the USA was preparing to say bye bye Mr American Pie after Michael Phelps was exposed smoking what appeared to be marijuana.

In the usual display of flag waving and outrageous patriotism that conflicts so much with the British stiff upper-lip, Superbowl XLIII was won by the Steelers 27-23 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Santonio Holmes caught a touchdown pass just 35 seconds from full time to thwart the Cardinals, who had launched an incredible fourth-quarter comeback from 20-7 down. Kurt Warner, the quarterback, scored 16 points in just five minutes to give the Cardinals a shock lead, before the dramatic intervention by Holmes, who was named most valuable player.

Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate at the Superbowl

Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate at the Superbowl

The traditional half-time show was provided by Bruce Springsteen. ‘The Boss’ roused the rabble with old favourites such as Glory Days and Born to Run. Pittsburgh’s James Harrison proved he was born to do just that when, on the stroke of half time he intercepted a pass on his own line before sprinting the entire length of the field to score – the longest play in Superbowl history.

Meanwhile Phelps, the winner of eight Olympic swimming gold medals in Beijing last year, was left facing a lengthy ban after the News of the World published photos of him smoking a glass pipe.

Although Phelps has not tested positive for any banned substance, the US Olympic Committee may be forced to make an example of the swimmer and could issue a ban of two years.

Phelps is one of the most high profile sportsmen in America, and is estimated to earn around £5 million a year from sponsorship and endorsements, portrayed on cereal boxes as an all-American hero.

Phelps was forced to issue an apology over the photos. He said: “I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this I am sorry.”

Block on negative employment news after newspaper adverts hit by decline in job market

Newspaper job adverts have been hit by the recession

Newspapers are being forced to omit negative stories about the employment market in the recession due to job advertisers pulling adverts for vacancies.

One newspaper’s news editor admitted to me that all stories involving the job market and decline in vacancies had to be run past the paper’s editor. The reason given was that stories emphasising the paucity of available jobs were encouraging people to remain in their present employment and employers to stop spending on job adverts.

The lack of competition for space on newspapers’ job pages could lead to a decline in value of advertising space, leading to further cuts in revenue for newspapers.

The industry has already been hit by a decline in advertising, with the problem accelerated by companies losing money in the economic downturn that has seen Britain enter recession.

A director of a recruitment consultancy told me that the job market is “very tough” at the moment, as “clients either are not recruiting at all, or if they are the process is taking a long period of time, mainly due to clients being reluctant to make a wrong decision, looking for more comparisons than before and also thinking they can get more talent for less money – which they can.”

“We are also finding that good candidates are reluctant to leave their jobs. The old adage of ‘last in first out’ is frightening off many. There are still vacancies out there, however they are harder to come by. As always though, if you have a great candidate, chances are you will find them a job.”

World first as footballer signed after fans’ vote
Ebbsfleet Uniteds new signing Darius Charles

Ebbsfleet United's new signing Darius Charles

Kaka’s failed transfer to Manchester City may be the biggest story of the January transfer window, but Darius Charles’ switch to Ebbsfleet United is surely the most unusual.

Charles has become the first footballer bought after a vote by a club’s fans after he was signed on Thursday by non-league Ebbsfleet. The Brentford defender was recruited by the Blue Square Premier club for a fee of £25,000.

Ebbsfleet is owned by MyFootballClub, whose 32,000 members voted online to sign Charles.

The fans also decided online that the club should sell striker John Akinde to Bristol City for £150,000 last August. But 21 year-old Charles is the first player to be bought following a fans’ ballot.

Ebbsfleet are bidding to enter the Football League for the first time in its history but are currently in 16th place in the league and battling against relegation.

The Kent club was taken over by MyFootballClub in February 2008 for £600,000. Members pay £35 per year for the privilege of making key decisions such as team selection and financial budgeting.

New members are encouraged so if you decide to join you could be voting on signings during the next transfer window in the summer. Kaka, however, may just prove a little too pricey.

Kaka remains at Milan, Berlusconi remains in charge

Football news, Italian style. Silvio Berlusconi, President of Italy and owner of AC Milan, appears on an Italian talk show to announce that Kaka has rejected a move to Manchester City for £100 million and is to stay at Milan. Only in Italy.

Watch for the reaction after Berlusconi announces: “Kaka rimane al Milan”. Watching that was the highlight of yesterday’s lecture with Chris Brauer at City University.

Berlusconi’s announcement appears to have been made on a channel he does not own – 7 Gold. Small comfort in a country where the President enjoys a near monopoly on commercial television broadcasting.

Indeed Reporters Without Borders, the organisation that champions press freedom, now ranks Italy only 44th in the worldwide press freedom index. Ghana, Mali and Costa Rica rank higher. 

Still, those studio guests don’t seem to mind, so long as “Kaka rimane al Milan”. Again, only in Italy.

Today’s Paper of Record? The London Lite

Jason Bennetto, my esteemed tutor at City University and sometimes known as Mr Broadsheet, mentioned that the paper most journalists used to read was the Daily Telegraph.

the paper all journalists should read?

The Lite: the paper all journalists should read?

The reason? The Telegraph used to contain a large amount of News In Brief, so you can check one source to keep up to date with the news agenda, while digesting a lot of stories in a short time.

The Telegraph no longer runs so many NIBS, so the question begged: what is today’s paper of choice for journalists?

To my surprise, Mr Bennetto – who worked at the Independent, man and boy – didn’t even choose a newspaper, but the BBC’s website, due to its huge coverage of global events.

Only one thing is missing from the BBC’s coverage, according to Jason: celebrity.

Therefore, to keep up with breaking news and to get our celebrity fix, we are left with two bizarre choices for today’s papers of record: and The London Lite. What does this tell us about the future of the newspaper industry?

The Guardian – A Strange Choice of Secretary

Below is a correction from the Guardian that has to be seen to be believed. Genius. 

Bill Gates, not the US Defence Secretary

"I'm supposed to be who?": Bill Gates, not the US Defence Secretary


“We mistakenly appointed Bill Gates to the post of US defence secretary in an article with the headline: Obama’s education secretary is Chicago schools chief, 17 December, page 21. Robert Gates is currently secretary of defence in the US. Bill Gates is the founder and chairman of Microsoft and a philanthropist.”