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Friday, February 03, 2006

Silvestre turned down Lyon in Jan

"I had an opportunity to go to Lyon which I refused. I spoke to Gerard Houllier but I am cup-tied for the Champions League and we both know he is not going to play one person in the league and another in Europe. I wasn't going to have much opportunity, so I knew it wasn't a good move. Manchester United is still my priority and I am ready to work twice as hard to prove I can still play for the club. I can understand the speculation. It is normal when you sign two defenders. You do not buy players to put them on the bench and you need room for them in the team. But I have to accept the challenge and I will work hard until the end of the season and do my best when the manager needs me."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

When Keane signed for Celtic

"I was contracted to Manchester United and I was convinced, up to last year, I would end my career there - but things change. It was a fantastic relationship with Alex Ferguson, for me to work with him for 12 years was just fantastic. He is a great manager and I wouldn't change a thing. I was very lucky to play for that club - a great, great club and I would recommend any player who gets the chance to play for that club. There are great people in the background - he's got good staff and some good players there. But we'd come to the end and that happens in football. We shook hands and we move on. It was all very amicable. But I was expecting it. We shook hands and we wished each other well. That's it, life goes on, Manchester United will go on, Roy Keane will go on - and I wish everyone well at United. It's a fantastic club."

David Conn writing in today's Guardian

'In the week or so since Manchester United published the final accounts of their plc era, the Old Trafford PR people have made manful efforts to persuade fans into some greater acceptance of last June's takeover, which saw United into the ownership of the Florida-registered Malcolm Glazer Revocable Trust and loaded with debt.
The Glazers are unlikely to speak publicly again, with Joel, one of Malcolm's three sons, having subjected himself shortly after the takeover to the white heat of an interview with the club's in-house television channel, MUTV. Having bought what the Glazers describe approvingly as one of the world's most high-profile sporting names, they are, it is said, private people. They do, though, employ City of London PR representatives, who do not want to be identified for fear of a backlash from fans but are trying to tackle the ingrained Old Trafford hostility to the takeover and United's new, multimillion-pound, debts where previously there was cash in the bank.

Most directly United and the Glazers are mounting the argument that in the grown-up commercial world the debt is nothing to worry about. Only last April David Gill, United's chief executive, was saying the opposite, the then board stating that the Glazers' financing plans proposed "more leverage [debt] than the board would consider prudent" and were liable to put "significant financial strain on the business".
Last week Gill, now an employee of the Glazers - no doubt earning a similar package to the £1.009m he was paid in the 11 months to June 2005 covered by the accounts - said publicly he is, after all, satisfied that the Glazers' financing plan is "sensible" and "serviceable". That rationale, however, tends to crumble when you push the PRs for a bit of detail. Gill began by explaining that the three US hedge funds, who lent £275m of the £810m total price paid for United, at punishing interest rates of 14 and 20%, do not threaten the club's financial ballast. The Glazers, he said, not the club, would be repaying the hedge funds "from their own resources or refinancing plans".

United, Gill continued, are paying off only the other chunk of debt, the £265m the Glazers borrowed from the merchant bank, JP Morgan. Then Gill said something intriguing: "The cost of servicing the interest on that debt is not in excess of what we were previously paying in dividends and corporation tax as a publicly quoted company."

So, after all these years as a plc chief executive, during which all supporter opposition to stock market status was waved away, Gill is now saying, after all, that it was an expensive structure which leaked money out in dividends.

But aside from this irony, his suggestion that it was as costly as paying Glazer-scale interest, even on just the £265m, does not seem to add up. According to the Glazer bid documents lodged with the lawyers, Allen & Overy, last June, the interest on that JP Morgan debt varies between 7.35% and 11.10% annually, adding up, in this first year of the takeover, to £23.8m in interest alone. That is way above United's payments last year in corporation tax, £4.2m, and dividends, £3.4m, £7.6m in total.

As for the hedge funds not burdening United, Gill's reassurances may not be as straightforward as they appear. Currently, true enough, the interest on the hedge funds' £275m is not being paid out of United's income. In fact, it does not have to be paid at all until the whole hedge-fund debt is repaid. Meanwhile the interest is accumulating frighteningly quickly, up to £38m already. As Gill said, the full repayment will indeed be done "from the Glazers' own resources or refinancing plans", but that hides a devil of detail.

When the Glazers refinance, which will be relatively soon, they will seek to replace the hedge funds' borrowings and eye-watering interest rates with money from elsewhere. The Glazers spokesperson said they cannot yet tell supporters how the refinancing might be structured. The family may find more cash, adding to the £270m they have paid already, they may sell and lease back Old Trafford or find some other device to lever in a different kind of finance. However they do it, though, it is difficult to believe they will take care of repaying all the hedge funds' £275m, plus interest, with straight cash. Some, at least, is almost certain to be replaced with new debt, which will be added to what United owe directly already. What Gill said applies only to the very short term; the hedge funds are not being repaid just yet, so do not burden United. After the refinancing, however, United are very likely to be servicing a much higher debt than just the £265m.

But the Glazer PR was clear about one thing: United is "a stand-alone business", the interest on its debts, however large they grow, will not be subsidised from the family's other wealth. In other words, United's income must pay all the interest burden produced by the takeover. When you worry at the scale of debt, the City PR people sigh. "This is normal," the spokesman told me, "for any leveraged [debt incurring] buy-out".

That, again, is true, agrees Nick Towle, the chair of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, himself a corporate lawyer, who maintains his total opposition to the takeover. "Leveraged deals do happen in industry. Buyers have the debts to service and they cut costs, lay off staff. In United, in a football club, the main costs are players' wages but you can't get rid of your best players or the club's performance irreparably suffers. And we don't believe they will make the extra money they need to service the interest. We're genuinely worried about what this level of debt will do to our club."

Glazer spokespeople are at pains to soothe: "The family is comfortable with its acquisition of Manchester United. They take a long-term view. They turned round the fortunes of [the NFL franchise] the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so have a pedigree for running sports businesses. If you look at Premier League football's popularity, at how the world is developing and how much leisure spend is increasing, the family believes that long term they will make a success of Manchester United and get something out of it."

They promise that the Glazers' United will achieve a better sponsorship deal than the current one recently terminated by Vodafone and secure more profit in a range of activities. They can make the future seem bright. But one of the stubborn Premier League ironies has been that, although the clubs have indeed become huge global names, for all the Far East tie-ups and US tours clubs have found it difficult to turn this worldwide interest in football into cash. Of United's £157m total income last year, just £383,000, 0.24%, was made commercially overseas.

Around a third of United's income, £48.4m, came from media rights and £42.4m from commercial activities. The largest earner by far, £66.3m, was made in one nondescript corner of the globe, Stretford, from an old-fashioned activity colloquially known as "going to the match". For all the talk of world markets, as the stadium expands to 75,000 capacity the Glazers' plans rely hugely on demand holding up at Old Trafford.

There, as at other clubs, fans' loyalty appears to be finally weakening after years of price increases, shuffled kick-off times and commercial overkill. There were 7,000 empty seats for the Carling Cup semi-final against Blackburn and, for the first time in years, there is an underlying rumble among fans about not renewing their season tickets and instead taking their chance game by game from next season.

For all the efforts of Gill and the City PRs there is still a sullen sense at Old Trafford that one of football's great clubs has, for no reason other than financial speculation, been plunged into an uncertain future.'

Fergie doesn't understand emotion over Glazer takeover

"Prior to the club going plc, that is when the fans should have complained, but they didn't. They maybe thought it was going into the hands of the fans, but you know fine well, when you put a club into a plc anybody can buy it. I don't understand why there is so much emotion now."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Just a massive set of fans

Some massive Siddy crowds for you to take in

8,053  17/3/64 Middlesbrough Div 2
1970 European Cup Winners Cup Final (held in Austria) - 10,000.
 8,551  22/9/87 Wolves Littlewoods Cup
 9,454  18/9/88 Plymouth Littlewoods Cup
9,280  9/9/83 Reading Coca Cola Cup
8,595  15/12/98 Darlington FA Cup
11,074  11/8/99 Burnley Worthington Cup
4,914  4/11/86 Wimbledon Full Members Cup
 6,383  26/11/86 Watford Full Members Cup
 5,051  10/11/87 Plymouth Full Members Cup
 6,402  16/12/87 Chelsea Full Members Cup
 6,406  9/12/90 Middlesbrough  Full Members Cup
 3,007  8/12/98 Mansfield Auto Windshields Cup (658 were away fans)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Arsenal release new kit

origin unknown

Ted Beckham interview part 2

RN: You must be pleased seeing how well David’s doing for Real?
TB: Yeah I am, obviously. He had to move on and unfortunately that was the situation. But I would still love him back at United doing them sort of things. I came up when we played Bolton two years ago at OT, the first game of the season, we won 4-0. I was sitting there, and after the 2nd and 3rd goals went in 4 mates that I was with were all standing up waving and shouting and I just sat there and I thought ‘what am I doing here?’. I saw Ronaldo with the Number 7 shirt on. No disrespect to him but when you’ve seen your son in a Number 7 shirt and he’s not there, I just thought ‘what I am doing here?’. And I didn’t go for about 6 games after that because I just felt so low. I enjoyed the whole thing with United. It has affected me, and it did affect me at the start. And I do miss it. I really do miss it.
RN: Fair play that you kept going though...
TB: The only thing now is this song (‘That boy Ronaldo...’) they’ve made up. I’m really disappointed with it all. With all the teams that I’ve been to watch and all the other United games I've seen, I’ve never heard other supporters make a song up like that.
RN: It’s praising Ronaldo, but it is a dig. For me it’s taking the piss...
TB: Especially when they say it ‘makes Beckham look shite’. At the end of the day they’ve only got to look at his trophies, what he’s won for them. He’s part of a cog that’s been at United. He wouldn’t have been like that if the other players hadn’t have been there but maybe the other players might not have been like that if David hadn’t have been there with them as well. He’s complimented all the players and the players have to him so it’s a shame.
RN: Because of the circumstances of his departure some people forgot what David did. You just remember 1999, without him chasing for those 2 corners, we wouldn’t have won the European Cup Final...
TB: That’s right. There’s been a lot of players that helped get them to win that trophy but also the other two competitions as well. In that particular year David had an absolutely unbelievable season, and all fair due; it was after the World Cup. He had an absolutely super season but so did other players. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, the Neville lads. There are so many games where all the players, not just David, contributed a great deal. Look at Roy Keane, nobody has done more than Roy Keane. He missed out on the final, so did Scholsey. Scholsey scored the goal against Milan. David was part of a great team. It seems such a shame that they’ve got this song. I mean I hate it. That’s why I haven’t been going to a lot of games recently to be quite honest because I’m really upset.
RN: A few United fans feel that way.
TB: Yeah it’s only a small minority but when you go to away games they are all singing it now. I mean there are people who supported David when he was there, singing it now. It’s such a shame.
RN: Out of the people you went to games with, are you still in contact with Neville Neville?
TB: We’re great friends anyway. I mean, alright, not so much now, but I’ve got season tickets right next door to him you see. I’ve got another mate who drives up, a bloke called Sam, he has corporate seats so I normally sit with him. 9 times out of 10 I do speak to Nev a lot. We’re still good friends.
RN: Has he said what it’s like, has it been hard for him with Phil Nev moving on?
TB: He’s a Manchester United supporter like me. To be quite honest I can’t believe they let him go. If you look at the three players that he’s let go. David, the start of it. Ole Gunnar came on, did really well, played on the wing, two weeks later he was out for 2 years. Then you get rid of Nicky Butt. Nicky Butt went, a week later we had no midfield players. Now he’s got rid of Phil, we’ve got no defenders. Three lads that have come through the ranks and he’s kept players that I think...some of them aren’t worthy of playing for United.
RN: And the worry is you lose part of the soul of the team...
TB: Yeah, you do. I mean Scholsey. I tell you now, Scholsey is a great lad. All these lads that came through are, but Scholsey is a great lad. I’ve got so much respect for Scholsey, same as Butty, same as all the lads that came through. But Scholsey is struggling because of the other lads not being there. Because they are all great mates, all good friends. That’s the shame of it.
RN: Who would you say was the biggest influence on David’s career that he played with?
TB: I think it’s got to be Cantona. The thing he said to me a few years ago was that he wanted to play with Mark Hughes and Bryan Robson. So he’s done that. He’s got so much respect for those two. Bryan Robson was his hero but the most influential player was Eric Cantona. Because he didn’t have to say anything. If he looked at you or winked at you, you knew that was it, that was enough.
RN: Who was your - David apart - favourite?
TB: Roy Keane’s my favourite. The guy is a winner. You look at him. He just doesn’t want to give up. That’s what I tried to install in David when he was younger. I went to Old Trafford when Roy Keane made his debut, right from the start you knew he was going to be a great player and he is. Without him...I get annoyed with a lot of the United supporters that said ‘get rid off Roy Keane we need someone else’. It’s just his presence, his mannerisms that got us through a lot of games.
RN: Who was your childhood hero?
TB: Bobby Charlton. He’s always been my favourite. I’ve watched a lot of players. Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law, Paddy Crerand, Nobby Stiles. They were all the ones that I supported when I was younger. It was all Man United players.
RN: Kiddo had an influence on Becks coming through didn’t he?
TB. Yeah, Kiddo’s coaching is brilliant. David used to come home and say: “I was training with Brian Kidd today and he’s brilliant. He does this and he does that”. When David was younger I always instilled in him, to get a ball. “Look, I’m not bothered about your running, because you’re fit enough as it is, you’ll run all day long. But get a ball, up against the wall”. And that’s what Kiddo used to do. He’s brilliant. I still see him at games because his season ticket is just along by me. 4
RN: He bears no grudges as well which is fantastic.
TB: When Kiddo left... He had the opportunity of going to Blackburn which he took but unfortunately it never worked out. He’s still a great coach and hopefully he’ll get back into football.
RN: In your book I saw you mention how hard the Spanish press are on David, and I know you’ve been doorstepped before by the English press at your home. Do you think that’s the downside to it all, the treatment?
TB. The thing is David’s a high profile player and to be fair David has handled it from day one when he was at United absolutely brilliantly. He might be my son...I’m a fan of David. I’m a fan of United and Real Madrid as he's there. I’ve got so much admiration for the way he’s handled a lot of things because at the end of the day, 80% of what’s in the papers is not true. For a lad to go out and have the sort of pressure on him, not only him but you look at Gascoigne, you look at the others, they’ve all had pressure and all had aggravation. For David to go out and play out in front of 67,000 people and perform the way he did and the way he had with all that pressure on him, was just a credit to him.
RN: Did it depress you sometimes opening the papers?
TB: Of course, you don’t like your son getting hammered, you don’t like your son being abused. The worst game I went to was when we played Nottingham Forest but we shut them up because we hammered them. But they were horrible. But that’s the way it goes. But sitting there as parents, and listening to it, it’s horrible. You can’t let it affect you.
RN: What was it like at the England games because he used to get stick there didn’t he?
TB: To be fair, he turned it around completely in 1998. That was the start of it. The biggest thing for me was when he went back to Manchester. Ferguson said: “Come on son, come home, we’ll look after you”. I mean, they did. They were absolutely brilliant. And then he started going to a couple of England games and the supporters started giving him a bit of stick. All in all, I think it’s United that turned it around for him. I’ve been to England games. And there were supporters there having a go at the United players. Purely and simply because they play for United. And David was no different and they slagged him off and had a go at him because he played for United. And that’s a shame.
RN: Being a cockney Red you’ve had ABUs on your case for years, why apart from because we’re the biggest and best?
TB: I think it’s because when United come out they look awesome in Red shirts. Because of the team we had, the start of it was 1996, because they were going out and playing great football and they were beating sides and they were winning trophies and they did Doubles and they did the Treble. I think other teams were jealous. And now, you look it’s funny really, when you look at the papers when United won all these trophies through the years it was unbelievable. But you look at Chelsea when they won the Premiership last year and there was hardly anything in there. And people were having a dig at them. And this year I think they’ll win it and people will still dig them but they won’t dig them like they have done United because United are totally different. United are a one off. We are the best.
RN: What was your pinnacle, as a fan and Dad, Nou Camp 99?
TB: There’s been lots. Obviously the Semi Final against Chelsea when David scored the winner to get us through to the final. That sticks in my memory. Signing for United obviously. Making his debut. There are loads. Making his debut against Leeds. Playing for United against Galatasary, his first European Cup game. Obviously Barcelona. That was probably the most unbelievable last 3 minutes of football that I’ve ever seen. But he’s scored some absolutely unbelievable goals. I still sit and watch them now. It’s just part of my life now.
RN: How often do you get Madrid to see him?
TB: I get over as much as I can. I mean I’m self employed so it’s bit difficult sometimes. All in all it’s a different way of life over there. It is lovely. When you watch the different sort of football, if he could have gone to anybody, Real Madrid is probably the 2nd biggest club in the world. It’s proved it with the shirt sales and what he’s done, David. It’s been incredible how they’ve accepted him.
RN: The staggering thing, say it was bad that he was leaving, but we didn’t get a good price for him. Never understood it...
TB: I can’t. You look at what Steven Gerrard was going to go to Chelsea for. £40m. David was a snip at £25m. Look at Rio Ferdinand. £30m. Look at Rooney. They are great players but David is amongst them and he only went for £25m. He’s just enjoying it over there now.
RN: What are your hopes for the future?
TB: I just want him to carry on playing. He’s still a fit lad, I think he’s got another five years and I just want him to enjoy it and carry on being Captain for England as well. My first love will always be United. I wish he was back there. But you’ve got to move on.
RN: You don’t think there’s any chance of a return?
TB: No, I don’t think so. You never know but I really don’t think so. I think he’ll finish it at Madrid. Because it’s a lovely lifestyle. He’s got his family over there who absolutely love it as well. His son’s started speaking Spanish. Victoria is happy. I mean all this crap about her not being happy in Manchester. It was a load of lies. It’s just stirring trouble. I think he’ll finish there.
RN: What about you, you’ve done Richard & Judy, can we expect your own tv show?!
TB: I don’t think so! That was bad enough. Laughs I wasn’t even going to do that! Unfortunately I was press ganged into. No way!
RN: How have you found the publicity for the book?
TB I don’t like it to be honest. I’d sooner stick in the background. It’s nice that I’ve done a book because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s inspirational for kids that’s what I wanted it for, for kids and dads. So they could read it and say ‘Oh, I want you to do that’. I want it to be for the kids. Basically it was something I wanted to do about my son. He’s been a massive part of my life. For any dad to have a son like him and I’ve done a book, just proves how proud I am of him.
RN: What advice would you give any Dad out there whose son may have a chance of making it?
TB: All I’d say is keep working with him, keep pushing him but don’t push him to the extent where he is nasty or horrible to him. Push him and help him and do all the things with him and he’ll get spotted because at the end of the day David was in London and he was spotted by a Man United scout. I was very, very fortunate that my son was picked up by United and I’m a very lucky man in that respect. Because I’ve seen things, done things, been with people that I’ve respected and it’s been the most amazing journey of any dads life really.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Fergie on missing midfield

"Wayne could play in central midfield and I have thought about it - but not for long. I am reluctant to do it because his best position is when he drops deep. But it is an option to play Wayne, Louis and Ruud in the same side in some form and I do not dismiss it in the future. It is an option in an emergency. I am reluctant to do it because his best position is when he drops deep. I've thought about it, but not for long. I would be reluctant to do that. I don't know about Rio, either. He's a natural centre-half. We have been trying to bring someone in but it is very difficult.. Ideally, we wanted to get someone on loan but we have exhausted that avenue and it is looking very unlikely anything will happen now. We are recalling Ritchie Jones from Antwerp to give us some back-up, but he is only young and we would have preferred someone with more experience."