Clubs

The SPL relegation battles are rarely without incident, writes Neil Forsyth

Nothing marks the Scottish Premier League’s character more than the manner of its departing. For three years now the nation’s uppermost collection of professional football clubs have ended their season in squabbling and intrigue that has left most fans watching events through their fingers in embarrassment.

Chelsea’s conduct during the Ashley Cole affair has raised questions about the extent to which rich clubs can now push at the game’s rules. Mike Ticher wonders how much further they can go – and whether anyone will be able to stop them

To say that Roman Abramovich does not play by the rules is not necessarily an insult. Most men who describe themselves as “self-made” are happy to put their success down to a certain amount of, shall we say, unorthodox behaviour. But since taking over at Stamford Bridge Abramovich, ably assisted by Peter Kenyon and Jose Mourinho, has managed the difficult task of making Chelsea even more unpopular, not just by winning the Premiership but also by riding roughshod over the codes and practices of the football authorities.

The defection of Spurs’ sporting director was merely the latest example of money trumping loyalty, says Adam Powley

The world’s greatest finder of football talent or a glorified scout? Opinions on the merits of Frank Arnesen have tended toward either extreme, depending on which club you support and which newspaper you read, but for Tottenham fans at least, the Dane has joined Sol Campbell in White Hart Lane’s hall of infamy.

John Williams was down and his team were out in Istanbul. What happened next hasn’t solved all Liverpool’s problems, but certainly eased the pain

Six minutes. Think about it. What, exactly, can you do in six minutes? Run a bath, perhaps. Take that welcome half-time pee break – or, if you’re watching at home, make a nice cuppa. Or else cruise eBay for that oh-so-difficult-to-find special gift? It will probably take about six minutes for you to read this article – though you might consider doing it just a little more carefully than that. Six short minutes. They can easily disappear, even while you think. Or else while you dream.

Being league runners-up and FA Cup winners doesn’t sound too bad, but, as Arsenal prepare for a last close season at Highbury, Jon Spurling reports on a growing sense of unease

After Arsenal remained unbeaten during the 2003-04 season, Arsène Wenger commented: “I enjoy a feeling of fulfilment when I feel the team has deserved its success.” Judging by his beatific grin at the end of the FA Cup final, undeserved success is a more than acceptable alternative. Dogged defending, a packed midfield, goalkeeping heroics, “lucky” and/or “boring” prefixes in tabloid reports, and the Millennium Stadium sound system belting out a tinny version of One Nil To The Arsenal; the “windfall final” was reminiscent of the club’s cup triumphs a decade ago. Short of John Jensen joining the midfield fray at some point in the second half, or Paul Merson indulging in a spot of mock lager swigging after Patrick Vieira dispatched his winning penalty, this was as close to a George Graham-style win as you could get. Yet only the most blinkered Arsenal fan would suggest that Wenger’s tactical genius (playing Bergkamp as a lone striker was never likely to bear fruit) was behind Arsenal’s unlikely victory. He got lucky.

Was Everton’s success was all down to David Moyes’s singing skills? Mark O'Brien explains how a warble in an American bar last summer became a song for Europe

Everton fans can be forgive a wry smile when the supporters of teams obsessed with playing in Europe use participation in the UEFA Cup or the Champions League as an explanation for their club’s poor performance in the Premiership. Or, to be more precise, why their club finished below Everton at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Winning the European Cup twice is all very well, but just makes it worse when you slip to your country’s third division, as Al Needham testifies

It’s great when you support a heritage team such as Forest, usually. You can always win arguments with fans from London clubs by merely saying “So how many European Cups have you won again?” You can travel anywhere in the world and get a response from the most undereducated cabbies by mentioning Archie Gemmill’s goal in the 1978 World Cup (note to Irvine Welsh; that was a Forest goal, not a Scottish one, so shut up about it). And even if they do nothing of worth ever again, everyone knows about them.

Peterborough may have been relegated under chairman-manager Barry Fry but, as Graham Dunbar reports, they have arranged a lucrative testimonial

Amid all the fake outrage about Ashley Cole’s companions for afternoon tea in a swanky hotel and Rio Ferdinand’s chance partners for a plate-smashing session in a Greek restaurant, one potential tapping-up scandal has largely escaped attention.

Life has, as ever, been stranger than fiction on Tyneside this season, to the dismay of the fans, but Harry Pearson wonders if their loyalty is part of the problem

“Patrick Kluivert was in the other night,” an employee at one of Newcastle’s most salubrious bars told me a few months ago. “By the time he’d walked from the door to the table he had the Jesmond wives stuck all over him like Elastoplast.”

Yes, Delia Smith committed quite the faux-pas with her half-time rantings, says Caroline Bailey, but perhaps it's been taken a bit too far

There was a time when “doing a Delia” meant investing in a non-stick omelette pan. But since that infamous night in February when the Norwich City director, eyes rolling like a colicky mare, tottered on to the Carrow Road turf with a microphone, it has come to mean something slightly different.

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