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My role in England's Ashes success

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Dan Walker | 10:39 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

I am writing this week's blog in deepest Birmingham preparing for our live show from Villa Park. I am struggling with tiredness at the moment but it has nothing to do with a seven-week-old baby in the house and everything to do with the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.

My 'one more wicket' policy was similar to the 'one more game' policy I used to employ on Championship Manager as a student... it was utterly useless and usually ended with me falling asleep about 4am waiting for my team to win the Champions League.

On Monday night, I decided to stay up to the bitter end, fuelled by a supply of mince pies and wine gums. As the wickets began to tumble, I noticed a correlation. Each time I took a bite of a mince pie, England made a breakthrough!

Steve Finn, Graeme Swann and James Anderson all seemed to be corresponding to my worryingly unhealthy late night snacks. The editor of Football Focus texted me at about 1245am asking if we could take any credit for their success.

Graeme Swann celebrates victory in the second Ashes TestGraeme Swann celebrates victory in the second Ashes Test. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Cole is normally a relatively interesting human but once he starts wittering about the vagaries of cricket, the tactics of an off-spinner or his own semi-pro career, he becomes incredibly dull.

Given that both Swann and Anderson have appeared on Focus in the last few months, he thinks that - rather than endless hours of preparation and training - it is us who have inspired them to do great things against the Aussies.

The good thing about Swann and Anderson is that, since they have been on the programme, both keep in touch and are passionate about their football - as you will know if you have been following the former's tweets about Newcastle.

The whole Chris Hughton situation has brought the role of a manager very much into focus. Here is a bloke who got the club promoted, won at Arsenal, held the champions, beat Sunderland 5-1 but still was not good enough for Magpies owner Mike Ashley.

A quick glance at the table will tell you that Newcastle are 12th - and from listening to the club's fans in recent days, there are many who would have taken that back in August.

This week on Focus, we will be hearing from the man in charge of an Aston Villa side two points and four places worse off than Newcastle.

Gerard Houllier has not exactly enjoyed a fairytale start to life at Villa Park. The club could drop into the relegation zone for the first time in seven years this weekend.

Could that test the commitment of Randy Lerner? We think of him as a patient owner - far more patient than Ashley - but is that just because Martin O'Neill was pretty successful as Villa manager?

As well as Houllier, you can also hear from West Brom's Peter Odemwingie and Samir Nasri, although we have a slightly different interview with the Arsenal midfielder. You will have to watch to find out why.

We are also trying something new this week as well - Football Focus meets Question Time with a live audience of supporters for the last 10 minutes of the show. Dion Dublin and Cyrille Regis will be joining us for that.

I have a little behind-the-scenes video for you this week as well. People often ask what we do on a Saturday before the show, so here is the Saturday Story for you. Even if you have no interest in football, you can have a good nose around BBC TV centre.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Don't forget if you want to follow the build-up to the live show from Villa Park you can find me at and if you have any comments or questions then feel free stick them below.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm still tired after staying up to all hours watching the cricket! Enjoying catching up on sleep a bit while wondering what schedule to set with the next match in Perth, and coverage starting at 2am. Too late to stay up to, but painfully early to get up for.

    Decisions, decisions... might have to set the Sky + box.

    Nawab of Pataudi

  • Comment number 2.

    PS Shameful dismissal of Hughton - I bet the fan's are delighted with the high profile appointment of Pardew. No offence to him, but has he really proven himself to be any better? He doesn't have extensive experience in the Premiership/Premier League, although he does in the Championship. Perhaps Ashley is planning for failure and a second half season collapse, and so wants a more experienced manager at the lower level.

    Terrible move by Newcastle, and can only see them heading one way now. Pre-sacking, you'd rather be a Newcastle supporter than an Aston Villa one in terms of league position and performance levels overall.

    Ned Kelly

  • Comment number 3.

    this was a really quality article. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a interesting article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get it done
    screen scraping

  • Comment number 4.

    Cyrille Regis,there's a blast from the past.

    I'm sure that there are many variations of this,but the sign outside a church in Birmingham with "Jesus Saves" having "But Regis scores on the rebound" scrawled underneath it is a childhood memory.

    Careful with those mince pies Dan,you could end up as a wee fat person by the end of the Ashes series.

    Heston Blumenthal

  • Comment number 5.

    I wish I was in Australia... apart from the warmer weather, actually being there, and all the other benefits, it would eliminate the need to stay up to all hours watching it, and working out how much sleep you can manage on for work the next day!

    Newcastle never cease to amaze with the stupidity of their decision-making. There has to be another reason for them sacking him - they would have to be ridiculously greedy to be unhappy with thrashing their bitter rivals, beating Arsenal, and sitting comfortably in mid-table with a striker scoring regularly in Andy Carroll. At a stroke, Mike Ashley has destroyed the morale of the supporters and players, thereby threatening to ruin their season. Back to being a laughing stock.

    I'd be fairly confident that Hughton will secure himself a job somewhere else before too long. The man has shown himself to be pretty capable, able to build team spirit and get them motivated, and apparently be an honest person at the same time.

    Sir Len Hutton

  • Comment number 6.

    Newcastle are in danger of becoming a laughing stock. As a Liverpool fan it takes the heat off our recent antics in the courts but I wouldn't wish that embarrassment on any fan (except maybe Man Utd....joking). I have listened to phone in's and read the forums and one stand out word has been stability. CH took Newcastle back into the Prem with the same squad that previous managers took down. He then steadied the ship with that very same squad taking them to 12th which is more that was managed 2 years ago. Appalling treatment of managers once again and proof that whilst owners use a club as their toy they will continue to wreck this beautiful game.
    Surely CH has a case for unfair dismissal? If I got sacked for achieving something I would be straight on to ACAS!

    Mrs Mangle, Ramsay Street, Erinsborourgh

  • Comment number 7.

    as a villa fan for 35 years you kind of get use to 'the situation villa are in' thats what makes supporting villa intolerable. over the years expect the unexpected should be our motto. as for your panel dion and cyrille 2 cult hero's and i should know i've followed a few. love villa always a pleasure always a chore.

    paul birch

  • Comment number 8.

    Suffering this week from the same problem up til all hours watching the brilliant England performance. On Chris Hughton he is the only one who has come out of this with any credit. Although Pardew seems a good and honest man his record is not something that you can jump up and down for. Took West Ham back to the premier league but was then sacked a year later. Joined Charlton and managed to get them relegated then left after failing to get promotion the following season and then had a short spell at Southampton. If I was Newcastle fan I would very angry a) because of Pardews record and the fact it is no better than Hughton's and b) that they have given him a 5 1/2 year deal. What happens if he takes them down your not telling me Ashely will stick with him. So when Pardew fails the Toon will be made to pay out anorther managers contract which could have been invested in new players or the youth system.

    Fit and proper person running a football club ?

  • Comment number 9.

    I loved that video, really interesting, quality, you're a legend

  • Comment number 10.

    No themed XI this week Dan, you're slacking. The obvious one would have been a cricket XI. I can however sympathise with 'one more game' syndrome but my favuorite time of the season is when the transfer market is open. It's interestingly familiar how you always end up trying to get an extra player at the last minute.

    On the ever continuing Newcastle saga, it would be interesting (and maybe a bit scary) to see what goes on in Mike Ashley's head at times.

    Interesting and entertaining blog as always.


    Chris Hughton.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Great article, great to see how the Ashes has really caught peoples imagination. It may seem a little odd that an Irishman like me has such an interest in the Ashes, but as we don't have a test side, I've long supported yours.(One dayers is a different matter, and don't get me started about Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan) but I really do enjoy it.

    I find myself staying up late to watch a lot of sport these days, G-mac's remarkable win against Tiger, NFL every Sunday night( Big Patriots fan), and now the Ashes. Quality viewing all. Which leads me to my next point. I wonder how many of us would stay up that late to watch football these days. Football is an addiction, (all sport is, really) but the sport at the moment does nothing to make you like it any more than you already do, and I find these days I almost feel a little more disdain for it every day. Case in point, Hughton's sacking. No offence to Pardew, but I really can't see how it improves the situation so much that it warranted doing before the season is even halfway. It once again leaves a slight bitter taste in the mouth.

    What with FIFA's, shall we say, blasé attitude to honesty and integrity, and takeover saga's at clubs too many to mention, Man City's stockpiling of players, great European teams like Aberdeen, Notts Forest et al falling from the top of the game, it is a game hard to love. And yet love it we do. There's no point in even questioning why we always come back for more, but my question is do you feel that more and more fans could become disillusioned and turn away altogether?

    There are so many sports that are options for people these days. English Rugby seems to be on the up, English cricket is thriving and appears to be able to continue to for a while yet. There will be a swell of good feeling towards Athletics leading into your Olympiad in just over 18 months. 4 Englishmen in Golfs top ten, along with Norn Iron's G-mac, and then Rory Mac in the top 20.Over here in Ireland, we have our own Gaelic Sports, and Rugby has a huge following also. Scottish Rugby is on an up-swell as well. Welsh Rugby is always there or there abouts.

    Am I way off? I can honestly say that I've almost felt a relief when the football season has finished come May in recent years. And while I enjoyed the World Cup last year, I still feel that European Championships is an infinitely more interesting and competitive tournament. While I am aware that I will never fall out of love with Football(big F), everyday I drift away from football (little f) a little more.

    Any way, my rambling and disjointed post over, I'd be interested in hearing other peoples thoughts.

    Fr. Ted Crilly PP

  • Comment number 13.

    #11 Your best yet. You should publish a book with your different stories each week.

    Possible time... "Mad, mad world of Andy"

    Andy McNab

  • Comment number 14.

    Title, not time... doh!

    Homer Simpson

  • Comment number 15.

    I too claim influence over the result. As I got up to turn the tv off and go to bed the first wicket of the fifth day fell. I repeated the process until we had one. Obviously I spaced the wickets so not to draw attention to myself..... I am available for a sum of cash for the next test if someone would like to set up the website on my behalf. Once it reaches a suitable amount the series is ours.....

    Ernest Wise

  • Comment number 16.

    or even won...... nearly got caught typing my fiendish exploits at work.......

    Eric Morecambe

  • Comment number 17.

    I will also lay claim to some credit in the second test, every time I looked up from reading the paper, we took another wicket; it got ridiculous in the end, don't think I managed to absorb a single article (although I did successfully absorb a few glasses of medicinal whisky).

  • Comment number 18.


    The days of Championship Manager.
    What I wouldn't give to have a spare 13 hours a day to indulge.

    94/95 add on was the best, featuring two cheat players, Mark Collis, and Ferah Orosco. If only these guys existed in real life and my team could snap them up for a 100k fee.

    97/98 was good for a bargain spot. Bring in Tommy Svindal Larsen for 500k, sell him for 10m. Did walter smith really use this version of the game to sign Ibrahima Bakayoko?

    It's good to see professional sportsmen supporting their team, its just a shame so many players in football fail to do this. I wonder if becoming a pro inhibits your ability to support a club. Lots seem to change. You'd never believe Carragher was a boyhood blue until the age of 19/20.

    Lee Dixon always states his allegance to Man City and I like that. I have heard Jamie Redknapp refer to Liverpool, Tottenham and Portsmouth as "us". Make your mind up son.

    #10 - lets have a themed 11 "ICE CREAM/LOLLY"

    FABrizio Ravanelli
    Matt GIO GINelliott
    MAXI BON Rodriguez
    ARCTIC ROLLand Edge

    Rip Taylor

  • Comment number 19.

    On Football Manager 09 you could pick up Javier Hernandez for £100k - bargain.

    Ice cream top European goalscorer would win the Carte BALLON D'or.

    Napoleon Solo

  • Comment number 20.

    Love the reference to Champ Manager this week Dan. Was it Champ Manager 97? I used to do that all the time. "Just one more game." Then you'd hit some bad form and keeping going till you turned it around. Then the transfer window would be open and you'd be scouring the market for hours looking for the best free transfers.

    Worst one I did was come in drunk and offered a 36 year old Rivaldo while at Lille £50k a week on a 3 year deal. Bad times.

    Tomefccam, Tommy Svindal Larsson indeed. Marc Emmers was another beauty on a freebie right at the start. Niclas Alexandersson too. Didn't he end up at Everton too? Best player that you could never sign...Floran Maurice?!

    Luis Enrique Martinez (Def/Mid/Str - Left/Right/Centre) The boy could play anywhere.

    Sergio Conceicao

  • Comment number 21.

    ah Dan, your wine gum/mince pie - cricket correlation reminds me of a certain cold pizza cust - super mario world wii experience. say no more.

    I'd never make the ice cream team, i'd make a messi of all the CORNEttos, thats bad

    princess toadstool

  • Comment number 22.

    #19 - Lovely stuff. Including an award is taking it to another level

    #20 - Emmers, remember him well. I was always proud at getting him back in the Belgium squad. Maurice, what a player - PSG were a force on that version.

    #21 - Commendable effort.

    All Bristol City fans, do you remember Ivan TWISTERmetanu?

    Del Preston

  • Comment number 23.

    Afternoon everyone.

    I’m glad you are enjoying this week’s blog. Let’s have a look at some of these comments then.

    Graeme Swann is a top spinner #1 It’s a huge decision. My plan is to get up with the kids at 6 and enjoy the last few hours of play. Obviously they won’t get any breakfast until stumps!

    SEO King #3 thanks for the kind words top gun - get it done.

    Azy.Ninja #6 Good point – even better sign off.

    Sturge999 #7 keep on keeping on chief.

    Desmar #8 That’s the big issue isn’t it. Huge length of contract, smallish salary in football terms because it’s all about the bonuses.

    Chesney Francis #9 I love you too

    rob_of_the_rovers - the real one not the imposter #10 All that stuff is being done on twitter now pal. Check out i’ll post the Tuesday team there on a Friday morning.

    Andy Connor #11 What have you done here Connor? I want you to come back because I enjoyed reading that last time... just watch out for the moderators.

    Wexford14 #12 Great ramble there big man. I know what you mean though – saturation point has definitely been reached. Time for everyone to ease off a little me thinks.

    Stewz1970 #15 I think someone might take you up on that chief. What a record and similar to that of spurs1961 #17. Ribena for me though.

    Tomefccam #18 It did rob you of time didn’t it? Good memory of Tommy Svindal Larsen. Bargain.

    Onside_Ian_Rush_Goal #20 Niclas Alexandersson was a jaffa as was Akinori Nishizawa. He was the key man in my 6 nil demolition of Barcelona in the CL group stages.

    Don_eamo #21 really poor there son.

    Well done everyone. Keep them coming and thanks for everything so far. Where are all the angry people this week?

    See you soon.

    Plain Jane Super-Brain

  • Comment number 24.

    #20 - Did you ever buy Sergen Yalcin? He was quite cheap, as was Teddy Lucic. Plus you could tempt Bjorn Heidenstrom away from Leyton Orient for a small fee

  • Comment number 25.

    And of course if you're playing in the Spanish Ice Cream League, the top match between Barcelona and Real Madrid is the Wall's El Classico.

    I bet Newcastle would like to have someone of the level of Nolberto Solero playing for them again. At least England don't have to worry about Beckham's Funny Foot again before another major Championship finals tournament. By the way, did anyone used to buy FAB Ravenelli on Championship Manager?

    Harold Bishop

  • Comment number 26.

    after my terrible attempts (see #21), i hall try to redeem myself with...........................................................................

    Brian 'Choc ice' mcclair..................................



    Mr. Whippy

  • Comment number 27.

    Being a West Brom fan I'm looking forward to seeing Cyrille and the interview with Odemwingie, who seems like an interesting character. Big week ahead for the Midlands! Villa v Albion on Saturday followed by Wolves v Blues, then next Sunday..Albion v Wolves!

  • Comment number 28.

    Leroy Rosenior was always a good signing if you started in the lower division as he always scored goals plus he was a free transfer.
    I have just bought the 97/98 edition again as hadn't played for years but it doesnt seem compatible for my windows 7!

    George Weah

  • Comment number 29.

    Great blog as ever.

    I was watching the ashes and it seemed whenever sky had an advert there was a wicket. I almost missed half of them cos i still thought the adverts were still on!

    Mads Jorgenson was my favourite championship manager player. Sign him for £1m and within a week he was worth £11m+

    Also, cherno samba of millwall and kerrera gilbert from arsenal were nice cheap players!

  • Comment number 30.

    Great blog as ever Dan,

    I'd be interested on your thoughts on a story that came out this week regarding training and players being overworked and becoming injured as a result. As a villa fan I am aware that our great record under O'Neill was partly due to the same starting XI every week (our best players), though we got slated for not being fit enough. This season, Houllier comes in and brings in a fitness coach to double the teams workout intensity, all of a sudden we're swamped in injured players and I do not think this a coincidence at all. Maybe a topic for a future focus?

    Duke Nukem

  • Comment number 31.

    I feel as though i was doing a public service, well I apologise for any offence,

    Ill be back with a new story that is well within house rules!!

    Hey Moderators,

    This one is for you

    "Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too.
    Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you"

    Christmas, is nearly here!!!

    Anyway two sheep walk into a bar....

    Bernard Manning

  • Comment number 32.

    Current England Boss: Fabio CALIPPO

  • Comment number 33.

    MAGNUM Hedman

  • Comment number 34.

    Champ Manager bargains. Cant remember which version it was but there was one where you could sign teenaged Danny Murphy and Neil Lennon from Crewe and they would score 20+ goals per season each from central midfield. You could also sign Kanu and Ronaldo as striplings from Ajax and they were silly. Basically signing those 4 player made the game pointless as you obliterated everyone.

    I did it almost every time, no matter how much I promised myself I wouldn't.

    Best Champ manager memory ever was signing Leo Messi on a free transfer for Spurs. I actually have that saved game stored on a memory card thing in case my hard drive ever packs up.

    Edward Elgar

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ Tomefccam Don't remember Sergen Yalcin. Must have been one I missed. Remember Teddy Lucic though, IFK Gothenberg defensive midfielder if memory serves. I'm sure he wound up at Atletico for real a few years ago.

    Proud moment once was being at Anfield when we played Olympiakos in Uefa cup run in 2000/2001. Who did they bring older Peter (cant remember his surname) but sounded a bit like Odemwingie but not him! He was about 16 in the game but a good one to bring through...the following link should bring back some good memories!

    Would love another stab at that game...

  • Comment number 37.

    #35 yawn at the spammer.

    Why oh why do you people bother?

    Adam Antonio Federici - no I've never heard of it either, but it does exist.
    Ben Foster & Jerry Francis

    I wonder whether Mike Ashley will turn up for the Newcastle match at the weekend... can't help thinking he'll be in for a rather poor reception if he does. You'd have to think he would though in order to show support to his new manager? Could be too big a distraction for the players as well - can see another defeat coming for them.

    I remember the Lennon/Murphy combination very well - you could make an absolute fortune on them. Another one that was a sure fire hit for scoring lots of goals was a Brazilian called Edmundo.

    Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Comment number 38.

    #36 - Do you mean Peter oforiquaye?

    If so, this man was a hitman if you could get your hands on him. Always work permit trouble on some games though.

  • Comment number 39.

    I've got some anger for you although that's probably too strong a word. It's more mild disappointment really. Let's not talk about cricket in a football blog.

    Having said that, I do genuinely enjoy reading these blogs.

    Many thanks
    Jack Russell

  • Comment number 40.

    Robbie '99 Flake for me please ... never checked but imagine he was overpriced in CM97..

    Sandra Bullock

  • Comment number 41.

    I'll be at The WACA from next Thursday onwards, keeping cool with endless midi's of the local brew....then off to Melbourne to do it all again! It's a tough life!

    Onside-Ian-Rush.....Niclas Alexandersson was bought by Everton from Sheffield Wednesday!

    Dame Edna Everage

  • Comment number 42.

    Got to love the FM! Love it when it says on the loading / home screen "have you tried turning your pants inside out yet?" along with the 100 plus hours of game time!! I too am very tired due to a lack of sleep for cricketing reasons, get in there england!! I would like to reinforce the view that Hughtons sacking was shameful. Always a good read Dan!

  • Comment number 43.

    Great blog Dan! Throughly enjoy reading every week.

    Less on the Cricket though since it's not a real sport.

    Good look inside the BBC though! Having witnessed the BBC first hand operating at The Open this summer, they do appear to have 10 times as much stuff as everyone else put together, despite doing a similar job! Maybe that's how to cut cost as opposed to cutting off electricity supplies in dressing rooms? Anyway, i merely jest...sort of.

    Great blog, keep it up

    Alain Robidoux

  • Comment number 44.

    Forgot to mention actually...Championship Manager!! What a game. The days of playing (Fat) Ronaldo, Graham Weir and Stefan Iversen upfront with Robinho as back up for Dunfermline. Just one more game.....

    The Preying Mantis

  • Comment number 45.

    Great blog, week in week out and I love all the posters on here, seriously!! (ok, enough backside licking)!

    Championship Manager, I love(d) it! I used to play for hours on end! I'm a lifelong arsenal supporter but always picked the "smaller" teams and see if I could turn them into a successfull club! I remember taking QPR to the champions league final and losing to AS Roma. Trust me, CM is not just a game, I didn't sleep for 2 days after that!

    The big revelation is that at 29 years of age I still play the game and still love it! It's just a pity I don't have the time I used to have!

    Anyway, sad to see Hughton go. Seems to be a decent and honest bloke and was doing really well. As you have been able to read, I'm no Newcastle fan but I truly believe that with Hughton at the helm and a fully fit squad Newcastle could even push for a european spot!
    anyway, football fans are fickly! If Pardew does really well all the Geordies will be saying Chris Who-ton!

    Cheerio folks,

    Leopold "Butters" Stotch

  • Comment number 46.

    ..........................MEMO TO MR HOULILER...........................

    You have transformed one of the best defences in the last 2 years to one of the worst; this needs urgently needs addressing.

    (1) Restore Carlos Cuelier in any of the back 4 positions.
    (2) Under no circumstances sell Curtis Davis in January, in fact try and bring him back to Villa Park before Saturday. We made a crass mistake in selling Gary Cahill, please do not make the same mistake this time.
    (3) Under no circumstances think of bringing any of your former Liverpool has-beens in January (unless it is Steven Gerard of course).
    (4) If you would like to gain favour with the Aston Villa faithful stop banging-on on how great Liverpool are/were and how you single handedly guided them to victory in the Champions League. You may think it is a joke to lose 3-0 to the most average Liverpolol team in 40 years but us, true Aston Villa fans do not share in your humour. Mr Houlilier, it is not just this incident but ecery single interview you have given since becoming manager where you have put Aston Villa down (quote: "let's be an honest, Aston Villa are an average team and not in the same league as Liverpool" etc). It may work well in Toxteth but it does nothing for you in Aston, Witton, Birchfield, Lozells, Handsworth and of course Erdington.
    (5) Never play Robert Pires and Stephen Ireland together as there are only so many passengers Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan and Ciarn Clark can cover for.
    (6) If you disagree with any of the above, there is a coach waiting for you at Digbeth Coach Station with a one-way ticket to Anfield Road.

    Time is running out Mr Houliler, you need to arrest the downturn as the "trajectory of results" is unaaceptable.

    ......END OF MEMO....

  • Comment number 47.

    P.S.: #6 MRS MANGLE! Oh sweet memories! What was her son's name?!

  • Comment number 48.

    Crikey, just looked at the video - I didn't realise the BBC offices look just like an NHS hospital.

    Still, you have some things in common - long hours, dogdy prognoses, and a selection of guests who look like they're in need of a bed-pan.

    Plus that indefinable way of saying things in a cheery manner as though there's nothing really wrong ..... well, we'll talk about it next time, shall we? (and hope someone else is on duty).

  • Comment number 49.

    PreetyBoyC: I sincerely doubt Houlier ever stated guiding liverpool to Champions League victory! He won the UEFA cup with L'pool

  • Comment number 50.


    Who did the sheep meet? Was it the crafty weasel? Or the inebriated stoat?

    Toad of Toad Hall

  • Comment number 51.


    1) He's been injured... he's hardly fit enough to start the next game after such a lenghty injury now, is he?
    2) If he was that good would another team not have snapped him up? He's plying his trade in the Championship at the moment.
    3) I'm sure you wouldn't mind if Torres arrived
    4) As stated previously, Houlier never won the CL. Aston Villa's players are overrated. Agbonlahor, Reo-Coker, Clark, L. Young, Warnock, Heskey, Bannan, Hogg, et al. won't win you anything.
    5) Why would Albrighton as a winger have to cover for Pires and Ireland? Ireland is probably one of your most talented players, definitely nobody with more technical ability in the current Villa squad.
    6) Give Houlier a chance!

  • Comment number 52.



    You are quite correct as Rafa Benetiz was the manager at the time. However, in recent interviews he was quoted as saying 10 of the players that played were his team and his legacy allowed Liverpool to win in Istanbul. While I think he is partally correct, I think there was to be a lot of credit to Steve Heighway for developing a youth team that produced the likes of Steven Gerard, Jamie Carragher and earlier, Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. The same cannot be said of the Liverpool youth system over the last 10 years.

    The one ray of light we have at Villa Park is the fantastic job Kevin McDonald has done in producing youngsters who have stepped up to the First Team. If there is any criticism of Martin O'Neil (and I am a big fan of O'Neil and wish he was still there) it is that he did not blood the youngsters earlier in the PL.

    I am very very concerned in what is happening at Aston Villa and hope that Dan Walker can reflect mine and very many ASton Villa fans concerns on Footbal Focus.

  • Comment number 53.

    Thanks for all the comments comrades.

    I shall pop back tomorrow morning to address any pressing concerns because tonight I am treating the good lady walker to a meal.

    See you soon.

    Lee Harvey Oswald

  • Comment number 54.


    Oh what a menagerie this bar is!

    keep it quiet but sheep are unbelievably anti social, if you aint a sheep you get no speak!

    But given how you refer to the weasel I see you have been stung by the crafty devil as well!!


  • Comment number 55.

    Although I may not remember the old old Championship managers, the absolute classic was CM 03/04, Diego and Robinho for Aston Villa were literally unstoppable. As a Sunderland fan I am in two minds about the sacking, 1) over the moon that 'Agent Ashley' has managed to destroy the consistancy Hughton brought. And 2) He was a genuinely good manager and seemed an alright bloke as well didn't deserve it. Kudos on another great blog Dan. (Instead of having wine gums and mince pies try having pasta at 2am. It works).

    Ricky Bobby

  • Comment number 56.

    #53 Steak dinner and a black forest gateaux Dan?

    Del Boy

  • Comment number 57.

    You play Champo manager? Legend! I hope you are a fan of the Football Manager series too? I once took Dorchester Town to the glory of Champions League football.

    Great blog as always, but where is the 'special XI' ? Nice to see the behind the scenes job at the beeb.

    Keep up the good work.

    The Witch King Of Minas Morgul

  • Comment number 58.

    #23 Dan wrote: "Where are all the angry people this week?".....plenty on the streets of London it appears!

    I'd love a full hour every single week of FF Question Time - sounds great. You could have the 'BBC blog moderator' on as your special guest each show (your own Stig) and he could tell everyone who mentions Fifa to keep their mouth stum.

    point of order regarding Houghton: Clubs should be forced to keep whoever they appoint as manager in the Summer for their entire league campaign (barring medical exception) or face heavy points deduction.

    As for the's not you who's winning the Ashes, it's me. I can't do a 'number two' until all the Aussies are bowled out :(

    Max Payne

  • Comment number 59.

    i wonder if the cricketers can kick a football if so get them in the england side they have penetration then the current lot.

    dont ask fifa or mike ashley to organise the teddy bears pinic.

    the blogs are coming the blogs are coming always dan walker.

    The Jackal
    John Wilkes Booth

  • Comment number 60.

    Greetings from a freezing CT.
    It has not got above freezing for days here, temp tonight is expected to be - 9C, pleasant compared to -13 last night. So watching the guys in Oz has been .... mixed. I like the cricket, and long for the warmth. A good log fire blazing in the hearth is the answer, and I split enough wood to stoke it right up.
    Fascinating week in sports for many reasons.
    There has to be more to the Hughton sacking than just performance. And Pardew must have a magic wand or a massive ego; I never had him down as "I'm the Special One" either. Time will tell.
    Chelsea are having a fine time aren't they. Arsenal (best club after CCFC) are not firing on all cylinders either, though Nasri is having an amazing game.

    Also a food question for you... what are you having for Xmas dinner? I did the turkey mularky in November for Thanksgiving (& wife's so we are going with venison for Xmas. How about getting a Xmas foods theme in next weeks blog?

  • Comment number 61.

    #57 would you be able to take Manchester United down to the Blue Square Premier League through sheer mediocrity though? That would be some achievement.

    With regards to Houllier at Villa, it would be madness to ditch him after having been with them for such a short time. If they think he will lead them to relegation, then it says nothing for their judgement, but if they think he's the right man for the job, then a knee-jerk reaction would be completely wrong.

    It wouldn't be surprising if they do get rid of him though... that's how football is isn't it?

    Tommy Cooper

  • Comment number 62.

    Hello again.

    Meal was very nice – now just watching students throwing things at police types on the 10 o’clock news.

    Your comments are bringing the Championship Manager memories flooding back.

    Surreybloke123 #25 Never bought Ravenelli... was he any good?

    Odemwingiiie #27 I’m hearing good things about the Odemwingie interview. Should be well worth a watch.

    Binksy #29 Good knowledge.

    Silver_lining #30 It is an interesting debate. It was also O’Neill’s same XI that alienated those who didn’t get in the side. Surely players can’t be too fit but if half of them are injured it must be too much.

    Andy Connor #31 There it is... he’s back.

    AlicePulley #34 I was with you until the final paragraph when it all became a little weird. Isn’t it strange that Danny Murphy, Neil Lennon, Kanu and Ronaldo were the secret to success? Only on Championship Manager.
    Onside_Ian_Rush_Goal #36 Never go back – it can’t be as good. I remember playing Lunar Rescue on my Acorn Electron 10 years after I thought it was the best game ever.... shattered dreams.

    Surreybloke123 #37 I missed #35 boss – what was it all about?

    Custodian #39 If that’s as bad as it gets I’ll take it. Glad you enjoy the blogs anyway.

    1867_waddle #41 I have deep envy reading your entry. Pain.

    Paulo_1990 #42 I forgot about that.... legendary.

    TabletTamTheMacaroonMan #44 You see that is the magic of the game... Ronaldo, Graham Weir and Stefan Iversen – triumvirate.

    PreetiBoyC #46 Top class rant sir. 10 out of 10. Actually only 9 out of 10 for the champions league / UEFA cup confusion. Accuracy is king. Hold on, just read #52... back up to 10.

    Chris Wilby #47 That would be Joe Mangle and good fight back on #51.

    Lancer01 #48 You’re correct... very much like the NHS.

    SAFCJimbo #55 I shall remember the pasta based advice boss man.

    Garth Crooks Is Admiral Ackbar sufc #57 The special XI’s have been parked up because they were dominating debate and comments. Happy to bring them back if the demand is out there.

    blaenorynyclwyd #60 always turkey big man... and stuffing. Without those there ain’t no Christmas dinner!

    Right. I’m off.

    Gordon Cowans

  • Comment number 63.

    Chief - What an awesome behind the scenes ! The thing that struck me was how messy the BBC offices are :) Desk/Clutter seems to drive all of you eh?

  • Comment number 64.

    Ravenelli was a bit average as I recall... never seemed to do very much. I think I only bought him once, and never repeated the mistake.

    #35 was offering a not so tempting offer to gamble... he's very generous in that he makes the offer all the time after checking his history.

    Andy Connor

  • Comment number 65.

    Enjoyed the behind the scenes tour Dan, some trek you got to make every saturday morning! Championship manager 93/94 was the one I remember playing the most, back in the days when you could only have 3 foreign players in your team. Time to bring that rule back in I reckon.

    Juninho Paulista

  • Comment number 66.

    i used 2 study in bristol uni... im laughing @ the i more game ploicy.. it used 2 keep me up till 6am most mornings... maybe dat the reason i got a 2-2 uni.... loving ur blog.. priceless.. p.s. best player on there was on the 00-01 season.. basituta the argentina

  • Comment number 67.

    Playing FM11 at the mo, but Championship Manager 03/04 was the classic. Chester winning the Prem, winning the Champions League with Telford, glory days, and it was always down to Supat Rungratsamee.

    Penny Crayon

  • Comment number 68.


    93/4 - remember it well. One of your foreigners had to be Nii Lamptey. Bring him in and the league was your oyster.

    Tommy Johnson was also pretty amazing too. But you were loathed for them to do well in case you got the dreaded "Moving abroad at the end of the season" with absolutely nothing you could do to keep them.

    Baz Luhrman

  • Comment number 69.

    Another top CM memory, first ever version of CM Italia (on the Amiga no less!), playing with Juve and my friend having Inter, he signed Eric Cantona and played him in the (at the time new) "support" roll. He scored 5 goals a game every game until I whinged so much he agreed to only play him against AC.

  • Comment number 70.

    Morning all.

    For those asking... Here is this week's placenameXI from twitter. Some real beauties in here.

    Edwin Van Der Sahara, Llandudno Donovan, Belfastino Asprilla, Steven Gerrards Cross, Jack Wiltshire, Gareth Barry Island, Hyde Park Ji Siung, Costa Del Sol Campbell, Japandy Cole, Peter Crouch-End, Habib Whitley Beye, Wensleydale Sneijder, Zinedine Iran, Peter Shilton-Keynes, Cyrille Bognor-Regis, Florent Bermuda, Nani-a, Kevin Philippines, Ruud Van Bristolrooy, Timbuktu Cahill, Venice Bergkamp, Gary Palestine, Eric Denver Denver, Frankfurt Lampard, Robin Van Purfleet, George Weahmouth, Samir Nazareth, Steve McManamansfield, Ian Ashbee De La Zouch, Andres Ini-Leicester & Richard Llanfairpwylgywngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogo-Gough.

    Well done.

    Audley Harrison.

  • Comment number 71.

    Hey Dan,
    What's this big man stuff? We both know you do not know big in terms or height. I hope the meal last night with Mrs. W (Lord have mercy on her) was pleasant for all concerned.
    And b4 you dis the venison, have you ever tasted it?
    List of random fabricated names.

  • Comment number 72.

    @ tomefccam #36

    Do you mean Peter oforiquaye? Oh yeah, thats the fella. You've a good memory my friend.

    I think he was hit and miss in terms of the different games you started but the work permit issue was a pain with a lot of players. Remember Robert Jarni too? He was a belter of a left full back/midfielder.

    Used to love it when you played that many seasons that they used to make players up. Best one I got was a Ciro Maldini (cross between Ciro Ferrara and Paolo Maldini I'm guessing) He was quite literally the best defender in the world. Always remember a very young Samuel Eto'o at Real too. He was 16/17 but really cr@p.

    Anyone care to discuss the magic that was SWOS? I'll start us off...

    Carlos Moreno STR (Independiente £1.6m)

    Circa 1994 I was the best in the world at this game.

  • Comment number 73.

    Has anybody got any bad CM/FM memories like me?

    Back in around the year 2000, all my friends and brothers were playing it but I wasn't, despite being mad on football. So I decided to give it a whirl and picked Blackpool. I think they were in Division 2 at the time. My task was to get them into the playoffs.

    Around the beginning of December I had them in 10th and only a point from 7th, but got sacked!? I was furious and never ever played the game again.

    Richard Blackwood

  • Comment number 74.

    @ 73

    England lost in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup so they sacked Sven and gave me the job.

    Brazil then beat Australia in the final. After which I was sacked for not winning the Confederations Cup. I reapplied for the job but they gave it to John Carver. I will never forgive them.

  • Comment number 75.

    Yours, etc

    Detective Constable 'Tosh' Lines

  • Comment number 76.

    on fm 2009 handheld for psp england appointed steve mclaren and i won just about every comp going with liverpool upto 2010. then had owen coyle

  • Comment number 77.

    Loving the Champ Man memories. Me and my cousin used to play that from dusk 'til dawn, then a quick nosh of cereal before heading back for a full day's stint. happy days. i remember in CM 96/97 being wigan (they were awesome - 'berto martinez and isidrio diaz kicking all kinds of @ss) and after a few seasons a guy called mutiu foe was invented. that guy cost me about 250k, scored over 50 goals a season and was worth £20mill come the end. Anyone else seen/experienced him? in fact, i still got that game saved. forget it, im takin flexi to go play. yeah!!!

  • Comment number 78.

    forgot my sign off...

    Texas Pete

  • Comment number 79.

    Did anyone ever play Football Masters on the Amiga? It wasn't Champ but for its simplicity it was the greatest managerial game of the early 90s. I remember bunking off school and a winter exam with my mates to go and play this. John Ebbrell was awesome.

    John Ebbrell

  • Comment number 80.


    Unfortunately when the system threw in some new players, they were always different. So for your Mutiu Foe, I had my Roe Vidar Ssempasa. I alwyas had a great eye for a bargain though.

    I'd say my weaknesses lay in Youth development, I preferred to buy in talent cheap rather than develop it. I remember releasing Richard Flash on a free transfer only to sign him back 2 seasons later for 5 million.

    You live and learn.

    Benjamin Buford Blue

  • Comment number 81.

    excellent blog again dan. i look forward to it every week. behind the scenes videos are probably my fav bbc content. so well done!

  • Comment number 82.

    So who remembers the original Kevin Toms' Football Manager, which started off on the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum? Spent so many hours playing that game as a child, with all those old player names. There were 64 teams in the whole league, so you didn't even have 92 teams in that game. Classic with the players moving gradually across the screen hoping that when your player shot, that the angle was okay for it to sneak in.

    Monty Mole

  • Comment number 83.

    Anyone remember Striker on the original Playstation? Nigeria were awesome but pick Bulgaria, and in Stoichkov would had a fella who could score from pretty much anywhere on the pitch!

  • Comment number 84.

    Trevor Brookings World Cup Glory was also pretty addictive on the Spectrum +3

  • Comment number 85.

    Or World cup italia 90 which would unleash some demonic noise whenever a goal was scored.

    Dan, quick puzzler for you,

    If you were to walk from john O groats to lands end and stop at every pub that had a royal title in its name, walking 50 miles a day,

    who would do football focus whilst you were doing it?

    The riddler

  • Comment number 86.

    Í almost didn't make it past the srecond paragraph of the blog as cricket holds absolutly no interest to me, glad I trudged on though cos I did enjoy your behind the scenes scenes vid.
    A small suggestion, if you please. Next time you do some "speed up" bits, add the theme "Yakety Sax" to it.

    Benny Hill.

  • Comment number 87.

    Did anyone see ITV News' helpful guide to Qatar after they won the vote to host World Cup 2022? I was relieved they said its not a guitar, or a gutter. Classic.

    If they host the World Cup in January of that year, can you imagine how much complaining there will be from the Premier League (or whatever it will be called by then) about it interrupting their fixtures?

    Moira Stuart

    PS for Andy, #85 What keeps coming back no matter how many times you throw it away?

  • Comment number 88.

    #80 - thanks for clearing that up, I always wondered why people looked so perplexed when i told them to buy big mutiu!

    while we're on classic games, anyone recall Premier Manager on the mega drive? awesome addictiveness at the time. john filan was a rock between the sticks

  • Comment number 89.

    87. surreybloke

    If you are Mr Brown then its that damn cat isnt it!!

    hmmmm, I was wondering what to do with the rest my day now I have a purpose!!!

    Thankyou, when I have decifered your riddle I will return!!

    But Ill leave you with an easy one to ponder, what gets larger the more you take away?

  • Comment number 90.


    A hole or your bill at a Chinese Restaurant.

    Fu Manchu.

  • Comment number 91.


    I was gonna say my belly but yeah you got it!!

  • Comment number 92.

    hong kong phooey

  • Comment number 93.

    #89 Andy Connor

    A bank overdraft dear boy.

    James Worthington Gordon

  • Comment number 94.

    Great blog, Dan. And thanks for inadvertently facilitating a Champ Manager debate, it's been a pleasure to read.

    Like most football loving blokes around age of 30 I too had an unhealthy addiction to Champ Manager, and some of the names and stories have brought the memories flooding back. Mark Collis and Ferah Orosco! I'd forgotten all about them! And the dreaded "expected to move abroad at the end of the season" you'd never get a fair price for them either.

    Does anyone recall that on one early version Tranmere had a ridiculous amount of money to spend - more than Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool combined. I went through a phase of managing a third division club (usually Barnet), taking over at Tranmere concurrently, send them a couple of my rubbish players (usually Kelly Haag and Paul Showler) for £9,999,000 each, sign John Aldridge on the cheap (but never Pat Nevin - he was never interested in the two division drop), install the almost unbeatable 4-3-1-2 formation (with no wingers, which made Nevin’s rejection easier to deal with) and sit back and watch the good times roll.

    And how annoying was it when after seeing your well-presented Champ Manager folder with your printouts and managers thoughts on the season your Mum would say 'If only you spent as much time on your school work as you do on that game you’d be doing better at school.' It wouldn't have bothered me so much had she not been right.

    Every Sep/Oct when the latest version of the game is released I do tend to get nostalgic and have brief thoughts of buying it but Dan's right, you should never go back… plus I think I'd be single within hours.

    First post so had better make it a good sign off...

    Richard Gough
    (he could always do a job for a middle-of-the-road premier division club when signed from 'abroad')

  • Comment number 95.

    What a smooth operator you are, Dan - how many takes did you need for that? Just the one I bet!

  • Comment number 96.

    #93 surrey bloke


    A repair bill after some ill advised DIY!

    What else.

    By the way was it a boomerang?

  • Comment number 97.

    #96 you got it Andy Connor.

    Who reckons Arsenal will still be leading the table after this weekend's round of matches?

    Ted Drake

  • Comment number 98.

    I'd love it if they were still leading! It would be one in the eye for P.Evra, his folly in S.A. has not taught him the wisdom of zipping his mouth.

    I had hoped CCFC would beat QPR in the Championship too, but alas that did not happen. Still there is another half of the season (plus a few games) yet to come. Arsenal so need a decent keeper, and CCFC need more right down the middle of the park.

  • Comment number 99.

    Evening all. The CM debate continues.

    Just in Birmingham getting ready for Villa tomorrow.

    SAF#81 good lad.

    Andy Connor #85 my dream would be Terry Nutkins.

    Holloway2Holland #86 all over yakety yak. Wait til next time.

    Finchy1 #94 I think we might have stumbled on something here!

    Vedran etc #95 one take warrior. Plenty of mistakes in there though. Glad you liked it chief.

    See you all tomorrow. 1215 BBC 1.

    Marty McFly

  • Comment number 100.

    Great Scott!

    Dr Emmett Brown


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