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Paying a heavy penalty

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Dan Walker | 17:30 UK time, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Seasonal greetings, blog comrades! I am amongst the pressies at Chateau Walker, my wife is wrapping furiously and I am offering occasional pathetic advice and stealing Chocolate Buttons.

This week, I thought I would try to answer a question I get asked quite regularly and give you another glance behind the Football Focus scenes as well. Consider it my little Christmas present to you all.

People often ask me how much of a say I have in what ends up on the programme. The answer is quite a lot, but it does vary week to week.

Regular editor Mark Cole is something of a control freak when it comes to scripts for Focus, so he tends to write them all on a Thursday. I then have a good old re-write, he has a secondary fiddle and then - when he's not looking - I have another go at them. He does write in quite a similar style to me, but he has a worrying habit of starting every cue with a "Well". I have to limit him to two per programme.

Here's an example of one of the cues from a fortnight ago. It's always nice for the show to flow and we were linking into the 'Alan Shearer meets Dimitar Berbatov' piece, having just talked about Dean Ashton's retirement. See if you can guess who had the last fiddle...

"Well, Manchester United are only two points off Chelsea at the top of the table after beating Ashton's club last week. It seems the champions are doing all right without Ronaldo and Tevez. Of course, THEIR absence puts extra pressure... on the likes of Dimitar Berbatov who has been seeking inspiration from his boyhood hero. Fergie couldn't persuade Alan Shearer to go to Old Trafford... but thankfully... we could."

That is exactly how the link would have looked on the autocue machine. You can tell I am a big fan of the '...' just to help me keep the pace right. This cue had probably been fiddled with about 10 times before settling on the final version.

When it comes to other parts of the show, Mark is very much the chief but is always open to suggestions and ideas. By the time we get to the Focus meeting on a Tuesday, somewhere between 50% and 80% of the pieces in the programme are already sorted. The rest is up for discussion.

Two weeks ago, I came up with what I thought was a winning idea. It was the week after both Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe had missed crucial penalties. I dug out some stats on penalty conversion rates for England internationals. To my surprise, Defoe had missed five of the 12 penalties he had taken in the Premier League, while Darren Bent had only missed one of his - and that was against his old club.

I suggested it to Matt Roberts, the editor that week, and director Phil Sibson on the Tuesday and persuaded them it was worth looking at. We had all the stats double-checked and then had a graphic made up for the programme.

I have to admit that Roberts and Sibson had their reservations, but I convinced them that, at the very least, it was a talking point. On the morning of the show, I told Lee Dixon that we were going to be discussing penalty conversion rates but he wasn't that interested... to put it mildly. His exact quote was: "What are we doing that for? It sounds pretty pointless." And then, with a Dracula-like cackle, he announced: "If you mention it, I will be forced to put you away."

As you can see, he was true to his word. Lawro joined in as well.

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Although I got panned for it, I still reckon it was an interesting talking point. It was never my intention to suggest that England manager Fabio Capello should pick his strikers on the strength of their penalty powers, but, if you're selecting five lads for a quarter-final shoot-out and the choice is Bent or Defoe, who are you going to go with? That is the sort of thing that could keep a group of mates entertained for a few hours - as long as Dixon and Lawrenson weren't on the next table!

The good thing about Focus is - without sounding like I'm about to launch into a High School Musical number - there are a great team of creative people working on the programme. You are never really left alone to cover a story without a producer, whilethe editor will always look at the final item before it goes to air.

On last week's Christmas show, producer John Nicholson was down to put the opening together. He went on the festive theme and sent over a guide script to me and the editor, who was Mark Demuth this week, on the Wednesday. Mark said he was happy for me to make the script a bit more Christmassy, so I got to work and sent it back.

We decided we needed a terrible Christmas jumper for me to wear and a nice festive pub with a fireplace to film in. John booked the cameraman and took care of the pub, while I rang around about the pullover. We settled on the Park Tavern in Wandsworth, while the jumper came from a vintage second-hand place just off Brick Lane in London. Judging by the tightness of the sleeves, I assumed it was a ladies jumper, but it certainly did the job. Have a look.

Even though it all looks relatively simple, it took a long time to set up. This little film will show you how it all came together.

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Right, that's it for this week. I hope you've enjoyed Focus so far this season. It's been a fantastic programme to work on and I've loved a bit of blog based banter as well. Have a great Christmas and eat as many cashew nuts as you can.

You can follow me on Twitter at


  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog Dan, very entertaining as usual. Merry christmas!

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Dan

    Any chance footie focus could do a comparison on net transfer spend and what the results were i.e. points won, league position etc. It does my head in to hear Rafa Benitez being referred to again and again as having spent £250 million when his net spend is not much more than a third of that i.e. income from players sold is completely disregarded. He made money on Sissoko, Bellamy, Crouch and above all Alonso. Mascherano, Torres, Agger and Insua are worth a lot more than he paid for them. The worst offenders are over on the commercial channels but Steve Claridge has been known to repeat it. Are these people really so "mathematically challenged" or did Rafa miss them off his Christmas card list one year and they don't actually care what the truth is?

  • Comment number 3.

    Good blog Dan, Lawro and Lee were a bit harsh on you there.

    Incidentally, what was going on in your interview with Martin Laursen? I don't think he understood you at all because you kept asking him about defending and all he talked about was scoring goals!

  • Comment number 4.


    I'm quite bored of people defending Liverpool's useless transfer policy. If you did even an iota of research you'd realise the figures you've quoted are completely ridiculous. If you would visit you would see Liverpool have spent on average a net £18.9million per season on transfers - third to just Chelsea and Manchester City since Rafa was in charge.

    How you've got to "a net of a third of £250 million" is completely beyond me! The net is £247 million subtracted £134 million... A loss of £113 million!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Dan,

    As I write this my wife is also wrapping flat out and I am on your blog enjoying my 3 and 1 year olds chocolate buttons from their advert calendar!!

    Great blog. Behind the scenes stuff is very interesting and just lets us see a glimpse of the work that goes on for FF.

    You got slatted, but you still had a point. You should bring this up again when the final squad is on paper - and maybe then you can show the two clampits (only jokning of course) on the sofa that Capello took your advice. I've no doubt he watches the show!!

    Have a great Christmas. Looking forward to the boxing day show.


  • Comment number 6.

    'I'm quite bored of people defending Liverpool's useless transfer policy. If you did even an iota of research you'd realise the figures you've quoted are completely ridiculous. If you would visit you would see Liverpool have spent on average a net £18.9million per season on transfers - third to just Chelsea and Manchester City since Rafa was in charge.'

    That website isnt the high authority on transfers. I would love to see its numbers. It also doesnt take into account that chelsea, man u and arsenal all had far stronger squads then Liverpool when Rafa arrived. Man U had just spent plenty of money on Rooney among others, Chelsea had just added yet more players to their dream team, Arsenal were the invincibles. We had to spend money, yet we rarely did more then Man u and Chelsea.

    It also doesnt factor in the selling of Alonso and Ronaldo, which puts Liverpool and Man U's spending about equal. When Man U already had alot of the players they have used to win their titles.

    You might also cast your eye to the fact that in the past two seasons, we have spent all of 2.5 mill net.
    So there you go.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello everyone.

    lcfcruletheworld (#1) and to you fine sir.

    cheeseisthedevilswork (#2) you've reached into the cupboard and pulled out an immense can of worms there brother! There was talk of doing something on net transfer spend but - as Glenn Jenson Barden (#4) and crash (#6) point out - it all gets a little messy and everyone's numbers and questionable. There is a touch of lies, damn lies and statistics going on and it's also very hard to explain.

    Thommo_Blade (#3) I think the interview with Martin Laursen allowed us all to see that he spent his career as a frustrated centre-forward. It's a pity really because he was quality at the back and a top bloke. You're right though. In the end I gave up asking him questions about defending.

    welfare4wobblers (#5) Why do other people's chocolate buttons taste so much better than your own? Glad to see that someone out there feels I had a point on the penalties. When we had a chat after the show I told them to wait until April / May when everyone else was on conversion rates.

    See you soon. Just off for a late night jam and cheese sandwich. I live life on the edge.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hope u enjoyed your sandwich, not sure i would with a combination of jam and cheese. I think footballers especially english ones just dont like talking about penalties, we have a terrible track record and it never seems to be something we talk about. I think there are a few players in the world who can truely place the ball in the corner with power no matter what the conditions but i think with most its mentality, all these players could do it behind closed doors but put them in the pressure cooker of a world cup and its a different story. Difficult to practice that unless you get all the english players to stay behind after premiership matches and have penalty competitions infront of a jeering crowd!

    On the die hard benitez fan this seems to be the final straw to clutch at the net transfer spend but even that is laughable. What good is a player sold for a club at profit if that money is going to be wasted on players who, dont play, are worse then the players they replaced, or are permanently injured. Liverpool have had over 120 first team players in and out since benitez took over, hardly a cornerstone of stability. He's a good coach but a terrible football manager, he clearly cant control off field but seems to be a control freak who demands to be in charge of everything

  • Comment number 9.


    That site may not be perfect, but it is certainly a good guide. Everyone apart from those involved with Liverpool can see the ridiculous nature of Rafa's complaints about the lack of funding he receives. The fact of the matter is, just look at Liverpool's transfers the past few seasons. Piles and piles of terrible transfers. Not to say other clubs have not made mistakes, but Liverpool's just have to be seen to be believed!
    I have no issue or link with Liverpool as a club, I am a Hastings United fan, so why would I?! I do though feel obliged to answer the following parts of your post:

    "That website isnt the high authority on transfers. I would love to see its numbers."
    Click on the clubs on the left hand side.

    "It also doesnt factor in the selling of Alonso and Ronaldo,"
    Yes, it clearly does. Look on the list of clubs on the left hand side...

    "which puts Liverpool and Man U's spending about equal."
    Oh no it doesn't ;) £75million spent for Liverpool in the last two seasons to Manchester United's £59million.

    "You might also cast your eye to the fact that in the past two seasons, we have spent all of 2.5 mill net."
    Accourding to the site, it's actually £7.5million net. It may not be 100% accurate, but the figures are certainly more reliable than just throwing out £2.5million from nowhere!

    The statistics are there in black and white.

  • Comment number 10.


    I'd quite happily do you a feature on transfer spending, it'd be awesome... can I use star wipes? =P

    Or... being a track athlete I'm sure I could use that somehow ;)

  • Comment number 11.

    'That site may not be perfect, but it is certainly a good guide. Everyone apart from those involved with Liverpool can see the ridiculous nature of Rafa's complaints about the lack of funding he receives.'

    'Not to say other clubs have not made mistakes, but Liverpool's just have to be seen to be believed!'

    I could say the same about ferguson (tosic, hargeaves, berbatov, nani) and those come to a hell of alot more. Mourinho (Shevchenko, Pizarro, Sidwell, Ben Haim, Wright Phillips) and those sets of players cost a hell of alot more.

    Compared to Degen, Voronin (both free) Babel, Keane, Dossenna, thats 5 million more combined then...shevchenko on his own. and 5 million more then nani and hargreaves.

    '"That website isnt the high authority on transfers. I would love to see its numbers."
    Click on the clubs on the left hand side.'

    found that, my mistake. thank you for pointing this out.

    'Yes, it clearly does. Look on the list of clubs on the left hand side...'

    i meant if they dont get sold. that jacks up man u's net hugely if real madrid dont pay massive amounts of money. well add alonso because we got a good deal as well, and suddenly man u's net spend is alot higher...

    '"You might also cast your eye to the fact that in the past two seasons, we have spent all of 2.5 mill net."
    Accourding to the site, it's actually £7.5million net. It may not be 100% accurate, but the figures are certainly more reliable than just throwing out £2.5million from nowhere!'

    ok. well for one i could argue against the sites transfer stats. it says riera was 8 mill, when it was closer to 6 mill. portsmouth payed 12 mill for crouch, not 10 mill. and hammil did infact cost a transfer fee for barnsley to purchase.

    we could debate this all day, but this transferspend site isnt THE site on transfers. especially considering torres cost 20 mill plus garcia, not 26 million and garcia 4. meanwhile insua didnt cost money - he was a swap for paletta.
    there are errors on that site. it isnt the be all end all.
    The statistics are there in black and white.

  • Comment number 12.

    'Liverpool have had over 120 first team players in and out since benitez took over'

    so so so wrong...

  • Comment number 13.

    8. At 00:32am on 23 Dec 2009, sssspurssss wrote:

    Hey up mate, I feel you may be onto something with your penalty comments there! Why couldn't a football club pay it's fans to stay behind after a premier league match at for example, Liverpool with the Kop or some other stadium capable of creating a hostile atmosphere, then proceeding to put the entire England squad plus another 15 or so fringe players though a penalty shootout?

    Just think...It could go on for a limitless or set space of time, the crowd could be encouraged(or paid accordingly) to make the tension as gruelling as possible for the players to see if either:

    a) They get used to the noise, (is noise really what affects the players as well as the obvious pressures of the situation).

    b) Treat it as a weekly situation for the sake of the players, I'm thinking over time, if every week a player is getting jeered by fans whilst taking a penalty he'll get used to it somewhat and be more thick skinned for the eventuality of the real thing.

    Have there been any longditudinal psychological studies into why a penalty is scored/missed? I'd be interested to know. Clearly it's a psychological thing as the Germans usually remind us in a somewhat cruel fashion B-)

  • Comment number 14.


    I don't think the crowd are the problem, its the players heads in such a huge moment with their own expectations. Look at Lampard having to take 3 penalties, against Green who would know all his tricks in England training (and is good at stopping pens anyway). With the West Ham fans baying for his blood with absolute hatred of him, probably saying all kinds of things. He was able to tune it out and calmly stick away all three of them with the result potentially huge for the title if they had lost. Yet in the world cup his head clearly wasn't right, along with most of the team and the occassion got to him because of all the English pressure and the media especially. Although to be fair he stuck away his pen against Portugal in the euro's, but the world cup is completely different. They all know if they won a world cup they would be living legends, and if they fail the media will crucify them and create a hate campaign for a random player.

    There is no way to replicate that kind of self-pressure, no angry crowd should matter as I am sure all of them have experienced it before. Also, its a bit weird mentioning strikers taking pens anyway, very few of them actually have the bottle to take one come the crunch. Not sure why Lampard, Gerrard, Cole, Barry etc. aren't listed with the strikers as they're more likely to take one.

    The goalkeepers play a bigger role in a shootout in my opinion anyway as it piles pressure on with a save. James hasn't saved a single one in all his England career as far as I recall, and there must have been 20 pens or so to have tried to save. I don't remember him even coming close either, always gone the wrong way. Green is far better suited to a shootout which can take us that extra step, also far better at organising his defence and doesn't have a moment of madness every 10 minutes like James. Who apparently gets bored after a bit so decides to liven things up. Yet I have a feeling he may get his spot back as Capello seems to like him for some reason. :(

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Dan, I believe '...' is known as an elipsis.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great blog as per usual Dan....

    I have to say I had a little chuckle to myself at Lawro and Dixon hammering you for bringing up Penalty Coversion Rates, it is an interesting point that you are trying to make though.

    PS, your Christmas jumper offended my eyes

  • Comment number 17.

    Dan, you say of your editor that 'he has a worrying habit of starting every cue with a "Well". I have to limit him to two per programme.' On the same theme, could you possibly have a word with your counterparts on Sky Sports News about the excessive use of the word "Now" at the start of every link?
    It's now irritating me even beyond the level of Australian cricketers' compulsion to preface every answer to every question with the word "look".
    If you could just sort that for me it would make my Christmas. Thanks.

  • Comment number 18.

    "I could say the same about ferguson (tosic, hargeaves, berbatov, nani) and those come to a hell of alot more. Mourinho (Shevchenko, Pizarro, Sidwell, Ben Haim, Wright Phillips) and those sets of players cost a hell of alot more.

    Compared to Degen, Voronin (both free) Babel, Keane, Dossenna, thats 5 million more combined then...shevchenko on his own. and 5 million more then nani and hargreaves.

    Hold on unless im completely misenterpreting you didnt Babel cost around 11? Keane was what 20? Dossenna, Pennant, Insua etc... all cost a few mil each. Noones sayign Rafa spends more than anyone else but his buys on the whole are atrocious barring the huge buys that are guareenteed to do well. Hes had more than enough money and brought in more than enough players to be able to turn you into a force and he hasnt. The guys just useless in the transfer market and i dont blame the board for not giving him any more money, hell only waste it on half decent players anyway

  • Comment number 19.

    "'Liverpool have had over 120 first team players in and out since benitez took over'

    so so so wrong..."

    No its really really not. You have something ridiculous like 50 first team players in your squad at the moment. Dont get me wrong this is including youngsters but still your squad and wage bill is huge.

    Its not his big buys that are really the problem, more the tons of small buys like 2 mil for josemi, 2 mil for some argentine keeper who never gets played and countless others. They add up to a massive amount of wasted cash

  • Comment number 20.

    #2 - Try looking at the website below...

    And also below the tables, scroll across to 'Liverpool' and see the in depth stats. Since he's been in charge, Liverpool have been the 3rd biggest net spenders.

    Now obviously this doesn't compare spend with results - but all you need to look at is Man United having spent less NET and have been consistent in their championship challenges.

  • Comment number 21.

    Greetings. I am going to avoid the Liverpool net transfer debate because it's Christmas and I don't want my brain to hurt.

    Very impressed with the penalty wisdom from PositiveOptimist (#13) and Marc (#14). I like the idea of practicing in front of a crowd but, as Marc says, a penalty shoot-out brings with it a unique pressure. I remember a documentary that said when the nerves kick in it can make some players even forget how to kick a ball! Madness.

    Sorry about the offensive jumper OptimumDJ (#16) and you are dead right
    85truemans (#17). Is there anything more annoying than Aussie cricketers starting every answer with 'Ahh look...'. STOP IT! The Sky 'now' hasn't bothered me yet but I bet it does from this point on.

  • Comment number 22.

    The comments re you can't recreate the pressure situation of penalty taking in the World Cup are misplaced.

    It can be compared to golfers and 4 foot putts to win the Open etc. Yet many many golfers spend 20 minutes a day trying to hole 4 foot putts over and over again. This helps create the links in the brain etc necessary so that when the pressure is on they are much more likely to be able to reproduce the goods.

    The one big difference in football is that it is not just down to the quality of the penalty but also what the goalie does however I think if we reviewed all England's penalty shootout losses we would find that most penalty failures were as a result of a poorly taken penalty rather than a great save.

    Have a great Christmas all.

  • Comment number 23.


    "I'm quite bored of people defending Liverpool's useless transfer policy."

    I'm quite bored of people attacking it, people (pundits and the like) still misquote the spending on Aquilani (which is staggered across three financial years) and the debate has been used as a stick to beat Liverpool with all season. It's dull and both sides have juked the stats in their favour, comparisons between clubs are moot as every clubs is different, with different revenue projections and ambitions etc.

    Everything you have said seems to be fair enough and I won't even try to argue over the main point, however, but Rafa's ridiculous complaints, were regarding Lee Cattermole if I remember correctly.

    Having emerged from a decent (combative, but fairly unremarkable) season he really came into his own at the u21 championships (I watched them and thought he was by far our best player), which is when Rafa started to voice an interest. At that point we had already spent on Johnson (so that was most of the initial transfer kitty), then (afterwards) we lost a central midfielder for 30 million and arranged an outlay of 9 million this season for Aquilani and reportedly had a 12-16 million deal lined up for Cattermole (a 25 million outlay this season - 5 million profit, on the top, and two players seems good business to me), which the owners withdrew funding for. So post-Xabi sale they didn't reinvest in the team in a way they should have - and I'd have to question the acumen behind not wanting the asset of a promising u21 international at the club. The reason? They have gotten the club into a lot of debt and ultimately screwed us on that deal. My backing of Rafa has wavered severely since he picked Dossena last weekend, and this one issue cannot be held as the root cause of our poor season, but H&G didn't back the club as they should have.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Dan

    Great blog as always!!! I love to see what happens behind the scenes and your blog always serves up a beautiful dish of transparency which is rarely seen elsewhere.

    Keep up the good work!


  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Dan,

    I was really annoyed by Dixon and Lawrenson's dismissive nature of the penalty stats.

    It's these luddites that slow down England's footballing progress by denying science, instead relying on their "expert judgement".

    If Defoe can't perform under moderate pressure then he'll surely bottle it in a high-pressure situation. This is why we always lose penalty shootouts, ill-prepared by "experts".

    Love the column.

  • Comment number 26.

    Dixon and Lawro have the typically British view that penalties are a lottery and it's all down to luck. Perhaps that's why we tend to lose more often than not.

    If you side foot your penalty either side of the keeper and hope they go the wrong way then yes, you're trusting to luck. If you aim toward one of the top corners, it's unsaveable and you take luck out of the equation.

    You also hear managers saying ridiculous things like 'there's no point in practicing as you can't practice for that sort of pressure'.

    You don't hear Tiger Woods, Phil Taylor or Stephen Hendry saying - 'I don't bother practicing as practicing is totally different to playing in a tournament. They practice for up to 6 hours a day and when the pressure comes, they're better placed to deal with it as they've perfected their techniques.

    Dan, it's not just Aussie cricketers. I've seen some interviews in SA recently and Paul Collingwood and Graeme Smith (amongst others) like to start every sentence with 'Aawww listen...'. Very annoying.

  • Comment number 27.

    "huge buys that are guareenteed to do well"

    surely there's no such thing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good Blog - BUT when did Lee or Mark Whatshisname ever take a penalty. They were the wrong people to ask they have little or no experience. Ask Alan Shearer if you want a common sense answer.
    AND Mark Whatshisname should think carefully - would a penalty in his old local derby be as stressful as a penalty in The World Cup. If he missed at Liverpool he would not get out of the ground - In the World Cup you can hide in the crowds.

  • Comment number 29.

    Not a bad point to bring up, I don't really rate Dixon as a pundit anyway so suprised Lawrenson got a bit involved, but with their experience I guess they think they know better.

    As for the Rafa critics! Are these people ignorant or just dumb, the fact is if you actually bother to do the math which you never do, you'll relaise people defend Rafa due to the fact he has ALWAYS had to sell to buy since day 1, even Torres was bought with the sales of Crouch, Bellamy, Sissoko, Zenden, Kewell I could go on forever. The point is you can't construct a squad with strength in depth with this method, you need non-conditional funds directly from the board/owners which City/Chelsea have. If Rafa got 100 mil a season and got to keep each player he owns the squad and depth would be a hell of a lot better and challenge on 2 or 3 fronts with releatively few problems, and if injuries occur other players step in!

  • Comment number 30.

    A few hours, and several bags of crisps later, the Liverpool spending debate continues to rumble. I think I will continue to stay out of it because the rest of you seem to know what you are talking about.

    Glad some of you are enjoying the blog... thanks for your kind words shammyowens (#24) and thegeek (#25).

    I think el_nino_81 (#26) makes a very interesting point about Dixon and Lawrenson having a very English view of penalty takers... I half wish I had mentioned it while I was getting pummelled in the studio. GRIMUPNORTH77 (#22) adds the point about golfers who practice their putts time and time again - something I was hoping to do tomorrow before the cold snap prevented the traditional Christmas Eve game of golf between me and my diminutive brother-in-law.

    Right, just off to watch my mum make a complete fool of herself of Wii baseball.

  • Comment number 31.

    I know little of the details of Raffa's transfer account, not being a Liverpool fan, but what you say makes sense; you make a good point though it might be wasted on Mancunian footie fans of either colour or on Chelsea boys. Having said that, how come Arsene Wenger has managed to pull off a balanced transfer budget and buy quality- and young quality at that-which he has some times sold at a big profit?

    GPARSMITH (#28),
    Lee Dixon took plenty of pens for the gunners. He knows what he is talking about even if the youngest guy on the sofa did not.

    The FF sofa footage was funny. You deserved everything Lawro and Dixon fired at you! Just for old times sake it made me LOL, the kids even came running. UNFORTUNATELY THE BEEB DO NOT ALLOW OVER SEAS WEB VIEWERS TO WATCH YOU IN THE LADIES' CLOTHES IN THE PUB.

    I was a little bothered that PEPIXABIBARNES (#15) stole my thunder about the "..." elipsis but that is my fault for not logging on soon enough.
    I spent yesterday clearing my desk before a week's vacation, then spent this morning playing with the sprogs in the snow. DAN, WE HAD 12 INCHES last weekend. Too dry for snow men, but good for sledges. BACK TO FOOTIE:
    I'm sure you will agree it was good to see the Gunners win on Sat. Any thoughts on the manner of their victory. Shame about CCFC, bit embarrassing that they did not have their under soil heating on line. Any thoughts about this-what is their injury list looking like?

  • Comment number 32.

    @ shanklygates5

    Didn't Crouch leave a couple seasons after Torres cam shankly? Surely he did not fund Torres' arrival; however, point taken.

  • Comment number 33.

    If your gonna talk to anybody about penalties its gotta be Matt Le Tissier. Whatever he did, Capello has got to do the same thing with his squad.

    Nobody can practise for World Cup pens. Think about it, there are several domestic competitions using pens for top teams so missing a penalty wouldn't make that much of a difference, but international competitions using pens only happen every 2 years, and players wouldn't know if they would be picked for the next international competition

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Dan,
    I'm a bit late to the blog, are there any chocolate buttons left?

    Once again a nice glimpse behind the scenes, interesting stuff.

    I'm afraid I have to agree with OptimumDJ, that was truly a gawd awful jumper you wore on FF, I honestly thought you'd lost a bet and had no choice. ;)

    To all the L'pool fans defending RB's transfer dealings;
    Well..(thanks Mark the editor)... You're right, RB's record in the transfer market is "perfect".
    I for one am a big fan of RB, I hope he stays at your club for years.

    Dan, here's wishing you and yours all the best for the holidays, and a Merry Christmas to all the posters and readers of your blog.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Dan,

    Great blog, just to reiterate the previous posts by saying it's nice to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

    Definitely agree with you on the penalty stats, it makes for a great debate. I did my dissertation on the reasons why professional footballers miss penalty kicks and the psychological factors behind the missed kicks. It was actually quite interesting!

    Anyways, keep up the good work and have a Merry Christmas!

  • Comment number 36.

    Great news! Traditional Christmas Eve golf is on... somehow!

    I shall return later. Thanks for all the comments so far and apologies for the lack of viewage blaenorynyclwyd. We can't allow you americans to see everything.

  • Comment number 37.

    quick comment on the transfers,ive researched as was suggested and there are SO many holes in that sites stats its unbelievable. As someone has already pointed out , torres fee is inflated by £6m, cisse wasnt signed by rafa, so theres 20m just from scanning the transfers in, leto was sold for 3m, Hammill went for 1m, crouch was 11m , kromkamp was sold for 2.5, Nunez for 1.5 all in all ( from scanning ) the transfers in are 20m heavy, and the transfers out are 6m light, taking rafas net average spend per season down to around 14m. Considering he has completely overhauled a squad, torres or baros? reina or dudek ? masch or biscan? agger or henchoz? and so on, i think hes done a great job and to say his only good signings are the big, didnt he get criticised for signing fernando and hes been ok for us!! Reina was 6m? id say hes half decent, insua 1.5m ..argentinian international, agger for 5.5m, not a bad signing...the list goes on. Shopping at that level, 1-10m, is always going to be difficult, for example, rafa asked for cash for simao, was given half that, and had to sign pennant as a premiership ready replacement, so granted, theres always failures, even wenger makes mistakes ( rarely ). Finally, to say lfc are 'huge wage payers' is just factually incorrect, LFCs wage bill between 07 and 09 was £90.438m, Chelseas was £172.096m...almost double, as they say...u get what u pay for....

  • Comment number 38.

    Another genius blog, Dan. Fast becoming my favourite, but I can't help finding myself appalled at most of your choices of feed! Cashews? Fig rolls? Jam and cheese?

    I think I'm the culinary anti-Dan. I'd take dry-roasted peanuts, veggie sausage rolls and butter and marmite.

    And that jumper is blinking hilarious. I bet whoever found that in the second-hand shop's eyes lit up when they saw that and decided to send you oput on national television wearing it!

  • Comment number 39.

    Holloway2Holland (#34),
    I completely agree with you that Rafa should stay at Anfield for ever and a day, and I too am more than happy with his transfer system. ANY VILLA FANS OUT THERE WHO WANT TO COME IN ON THIS? RAFA HAS BEEN A GOD SEND TO YOU THIS SEASON.

    (#36) When a MAN (emphasis on word man) apologises for something, he commits himself to rectifying the situation. I am sure it is within your influence to get the BEEb to stream all their broadcasts on the web- see to it man. ALSO (#30) The less we know about your mom making a fool of herself the better all round. Were you excessively beaten as a child and now feel the need to vent on your blog? Next Christmas tell us something flattering about your poor mom. Praise her up for her Christmas cooking or something. After all it is the season of peace and goodwill to all (Mum's included) and a reference to her cooking ability would fit in with this half-food-half-footie blog.
    Now I have to have a good hearty breakfast before I go sledging with the guys. The slope is in my back garden.

  • Comment number 40.

    Just having a little break from the madness next door. Our 2 little girls are in there plus another 5 cousins... it's carnage!

    Holloway2Holland (#34) the choc buttons went along time ago brother. Thanks for the Christmas greetings though.

    VillasTommyJohnson (#35) your academic knowledge makes you the 'go-to' man (american phrase I think) for all penalty / psychological stuff although I am equally impressed with AndrewHarris (#37) and his grasp of mathematical issues... you almost made Liverpool's net transfer spend interesting!

    EricDantona (#38) I used to admire you but then I spotted you mentioned the evil item... veggie sausage rolls! What's going on with that? If you want to be a vegetarian that's fine... but don't encroach on the sausage roll. You won it back with butter and marmite but I can't help thinking a little layer of honey would take that bad-boy to a whole new level.

    On the jumper... when I explained what was happening to the woman in the vintage place she said "you want to wear THIS on television? It's horrible". Just what we want shop lady!

    blaenorynyclwyd (#39) Mumma Walker's culinary Christmas skills are legendary. Her stuffing is from another planet but it doesn't stop her being muffed up on the Wii. This morning she announced her retirement.

    Buenos aires.

  • Comment number 41.

    #37 Andrew Harris

    I am in total agreement with you there mate, the owners did'nt fork out for Torres Rafa sold several players for the deal of the centuary! The entire City bench I think almost earns over £100,000 a week each!

    Why everyone on 606 claims their sick of people defending Rafa is beyond me as I never see anyone defend him what's so ever, which is very harsh and incredibly ignorant to the true facts and situation, even Torres defends him which is all the doubters need to know. I saw Fernando Torres' interview the other day sticking up for Rafa, I have a lot of respect for Torres to do that because the truth is if Rafa gets sacked, Liverpool will be in 'true meltdown' trust me things could get truly way out of hand in this event (What would fans prefer, 1 bad season or several consecutive bad seasons?)Torres and Reina will certianly leave and a replacement (even dare I say it Jose) will never do any better as the situation will remain the same 'To buy you must sell multiple players'.

    It is absolutely CRITICAL for Liverpool F.C. and all those attached to it, for Christian Purslow to bring in bags after bags of cash/investment! He's done a cracking job so far with the Standard Chartered sponsorship deal (extra £20m a season hopefully for Rafa), I believe this is the 'true' step forward!

  • Comment number 42.

    Dan Got a traditionally crap but still laughably christmas joke for you.

    What do you get when you eat christmas decorations?



  • Comment number 43.

    You are right Greenst (#42) that is shambolic.

    Right... time for Taggart. My mums absolute favourite. She is normally quite mild mannered but loves a gruesome Scottish murder.

  • Comment number 44.

    How about giving this a quick mention on Saturday. Good to see the big boys taking time to recognise grass roots soccer. PS Ben Foster played for Tivvy for half a season

    MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will help Tiverton Town boss Martyn Rogers celebrate his 1,000th game in charge of the Yellows next month.

    The legendary Red Devils chief has invited his long-serving Ladysmead counterpart to spend the day with him at the Premier League champions' Carrington training ground on January 8, after discovering Rogers was about to reach the landmark.

    The meeting was arranged to take place the day before the Tivvy boss was due to take charge of the milestone match at home to Nuneaton Town.

    But the postponement of the Boxing Day clash with Truro City due to a frozen Ladysmead pitch means Rogers is now scheduled to oversee his 1,000 game three days later at Yate Town in the Southern League Cup.

    But Rogers says that has not taken the gloss off the invitation to meet with Ferguson, which he says will be a huge honour.

    "It is fantastic news. Sir Alex is the only current manager to have reached the same milestone in the professional game, so it will be nice to meet him and celebrate my 1,000th game," Rogers said.

    "I will probably take a bottle of red wine with me, but it will have to be a good one.

    "I'm meeting him at 9am and I don't know what is in store, but whatever it is it would be nice to watch the first team in training."

  • Comment number 45.

    hi guys im struggling witha question... when was the last time all english and scottish clubs kicked off at 3 oclock on a saturday

  • Comment number 46.

    Great tale CJ (#44) and I will try and get the stats warriors on the case for that one tot (#45). Might take a while though!

  • Comment number 47.

    It's New Year's Day and the wife has dragged me around the (95% shut)shops this morning - but, while she was buying reduced Christmas cards in W H Smith, I was able to grab a quick look at tomorrow's Radio Times (other listings magazines are available). Da da! They've got the spelling correct to start 2010. Dan Walker. Not Don. Perhaps this year will go OK after all.
    Now, being in a post-prandial state, I've turned my attention to composing this missive and to considering the famous footballers called Don. It must be the headache but I haven't got very far:
    Don Revie
    Don Rogers - the famous moonshiner
    Don Hutchinson - a scot that englishmen remember
    Don Goodman - late of Sanfreece Hiroshima amongst others
    Don Cortez - the best uncapped Spaniard of all time
    Don Johnson - last seen performing at Miami Hippodrome
    Don Quay - in and out of the English attack for the last how many years
    Perhaps this could be a question in next year's Football Focus Christmas Special Quiz?

  • Comment number 48.

    ... and I've remembered there was Don Mason - one-time player/manager of Kettering Town and winner of 17 Scottish caps.

    That could be question 2 for next year's Football Focus Christmas Quiz - naming famous Kettering Town managers

  • Comment number 49.

    the admiral (#47 & #48)
    I enjoyed your Don fun. Someone told me about the Radio Times saying that Football Focus was going to be presented by Don Walker.

    Not too many complaints because 2 out of 3 isn't bad. Never heard of Don Mason but I like the idea of Kettering Town managers for the Christmas meal. Maybe before pudding and those rank little chocolates they bring round with coffee.

  • Comment number 50.

    Just eaten a cashew nut from under the sofa. Left over from Christmas but still very tasty.

  • Comment number 51.

    You are of course dead right about the penalties. I simply cannot understand the lack of analysis in the England setup regarding the penalty issue. You've brought some perfectly clear & obvious thinking to it that was easily discernible from as far back as 1998 (perhaps earlier but that's when i started watching) but will the powers that be listen? Well, you saw from the response of those two chaps in the interview (Lawron & Dixon). All that means is that England football will find themselves in a similar situation regarding penalties & will lose again. It's as simple as that.
    Also, the England goalkeepers in penalties - WHY DO THEY GUESS??? Goal-keeping is not a lottery, it's not luck, it's a science & that includes penalties. Again they've been guessing for years & guessing wrongly & as long as they continue to guess they'll continue to get it more wrong than right. What mad rush of blood allows a multi-millionaire salary England goal-keeper to forget the science of goal-keeping in the easiest part of the game? For a focused keeper, the pressure is on the striker not the keeper because if you defend correctly, the striker has to hit the penalty perfectly for it to go in & for some reason, these multi-millionaire penalty takers more often than not they DO NOT hit it perfectly, therefore the penalty is saveable for a good/high proportion of the time. Look i'm wasting my time, all that money & they can't see the obvious. They're paid to do this (megabucks i might add) & don't even think about their jobs.

  • Comment number 52.

    Just read this for the first time, and as i read it, defoe fluffed a pen against leeds!


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