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Friday, September 26, 2008
ESPNsoccernet: October 9, 5:06 PM UK
The week that was

Dominic Raynor

This was the week in which Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger deployed his mind games upon his own team and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley opened an email from a business man in Nigeria.

Friday 19th September: Ronnie nibbles Fergie's ear
Manchester United lothario Cristiano Ronaldo was so desperate to return to the first team after his injury lay-off that he turned his seduction techniques on manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

"He is nibbling in my ear all the time," Ferguson told a press conference prior to his sides clash with Chelsea.

Given that Ronaldo still had to make do with a place on the bench against United's title rivals his ball control must still be a little rusty.

Saturday 20 September: Hammers play the numbers
Following the demise of bankrupt holiday firm XL West Ham United continued their game of "guess which botch job will draw needless attention to the fact that our sponsor is now defunct" on the front of their shirts at the weekend.

After Ethel the tea lady had got out her needle and thread, cut up a pair of old pantaloons and hurriedly stitched the mis-matched fabric to the front of the team's kit in midweek the club decided the groundsman could have a go on Saturday.

The unsightly white blocks that replicated the players' shirt numbers may have made it easier for those fans who couldn't see the sizeable numerals already printed on the backs or shorts of their heroes but surely a multi-million pound Premier League football club can come up with a better solution.

Betting has already started on what the next adornment will be. I have £20 on it being the smiling face of new manager Gianfranco Zola.

Sunday 21 September: Pot calls kettle
Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack has questioned Robinho's decision to snub a move to Stamford Bridge in favour of a higher wage at billionaire club Manchester City.

The former Bayern Munich star, who reportedly became the highest paid footballer in the world when he moved to Stamford Bridge for £121,000 per week in 2006, said: "A transfer from Real Madrid to Manchester City is hard to justify with sporting reasons."

Asked about the possible irony of his comments Ballack said: "I certainly do have a good contract here, but my career progressed."

The twice Champions League losing finalist, who also won four Bundesliga titles and the DFB-Pokal three times during his time in Germany, has scooped only the FA Cup and Carling Cup during his two years in England.

Monday 22 September: Nigerians go looney for Toon
A Nigerian businessman has offered to buy out embattled Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley as the godfather of the "Cockney Mafia" attempts to sell his ailing club for £400m.

An unsolicited email from the potential new owners read:

"Dear Sir. Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your accounts.

All we need is your banker's name, telephone, account and fax numbers."

Hang on a minute....

Tuesday 23th: Zen master Wenger spells it out
Having already cleaned up the drinking culture at Arsenal and introduced cutting-edge programmes for diet, fitness and training the normally scientific Arsene Wenger appears to have turned his hand to spiritualism.

The revelation came to light in a hotel room deep in the dark heart of Bolton when a forgetful young protégé left one of the master's pre-match motivational handouts in his bedroom. Wenger's leaked teachings preach the importance of the team, the team and... er... the team.

Wenger enlightens his pupils with such mantras as: "A team is as strong as the relationships within it."

"This attitude can be used by our team to focus on the gratitude and the vitally important benefits that the team brings to our own lives. It can be used to strengthen and deepen the relationships with it and maximise the opportunities that await a strong and united team."

As well as "team" buzz words also included "belief" and "desire", which will be all to familiar to anybody who has ever listened to the master or one of his pupils in a post match interview.

But while we may mock Wenger's bed-time psychology it appears to be reaping rewards. On Tuesday night his youngest ever first team, with an average of just 19, romped to a 6-0 victory in the Carling Cup.

Wednesday 24 September: T&T bait Keano
Sunderland boss Roy Keane and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner are set to resume their hilarious war of words after Dwight Yorke was called up by Trinidad and Tobago for another World Cup qualifier.

Yorke, who announced his retirement from international football in March 2007, played against Guatemala on September 6 but was then recalled by his club ahead of a World Cup qualifier, causing Warner to accuse Keane of "insensitivity and disrespect".

The Sunderland manager responded by calling Warner "a clown" and "a disgrace". The CONCACAF official then accused Keane of being "difficult" because he had risen to be vice-president despite coming from a small country - which, of course, Ireland also is - and then baited him with the recall of Yorke.

The media are already hounding Keano for his retort.

Thursday 25 September: City sales skyrocket
Despite Manchester City being dumped out of the League Cup by lowly Brighton this week Ebay reports that sales of blue tea towels have increased by 1,650% since the club were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group. That's plenty of new keffiyeh on the Sky Blues' bandwagon that can always be repurposed in the kitchen when the wheels come off... as they always seem to do at City.


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