Friday, 10 September 2010

The debacle has landed.

Just when you though that boxing had no further depths to plummet, when the nadir appeared to have been found, when the barrel had been scraped so much that there was next to nothing left of it: Audley Harrison has a shot at the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Could this be the same man who got battered by an Irish taxi driver just a couple of years ago? The same man who has never won domestic honours, losing in the worst British title fight I have ever seen against Danny Williams? The same man who was soundly out-boxed by the mediocre Dominick Guinn? Surely not the same man who was stapled to the canvas by a Michael Sprott left hook? Unfortunately, it is the very same. I don't know who will read this but whoever you are, you are at least as deserving of a title shot. He is quite comfortably ranked outside of the top 10 in all of the major sanctioning bodies - although expect him to be suddenly parachuted in to the WBA list in attempt to justify this pathetic occurrence. It is also a major personal blow to the credibility of David Haye.

I have been a fan of Haye's since his amateur days and was convinced then that he would be a world champion. I travelled to Paris to watch him clinch the Cruiserwight title in epic fashion against the menacing Jean Marc-Mormeck but now I have to say that I have lost a great deal of respect for the man. It is as if he has had an attitude transplant: Haye was willing to face people like Arthur Williams and Carl Thompson very early on in his career. He moved to European level swiftly with the destruction of Alexander Gurov and appeared to be a throwback fighter who wished to excite the fans rather than his manager or accountant. However, there is no excuse for the Harrison fight other than a man who is happy to beat people up for cash.

Apparently it would seem that, if you stand in front of a camera long enough – as Harrison has - saying that being a world champion is your destiny, you become deserving of a title shot. I've wasted my time. I could have apprehended every news interview of the last ten years saying that, 'This is my destiny' much in the same vein as a 16 year old reject from X-Factor, maybe I would have been given a go. Harrison has spent the last 10 years saying, to anyone who would listen, 'They don't give Olympic medals away'. No they don't but then professional boxing is another sport and when you do absolutely horseshit in a 10 year career - after achieving such an Olympic feat - you do not deserve to be given a puncher's chance of winning a world title. I imagine that Harrison's defence on a murder charge would be, 'they don't give gold medals away' or if his girlfriend sulked after a poor bedroom performance he would rebuke her ignorance with, 'but my dear, they don't give gold medals away'.

Harrison has a lot of natural gifts but sadly everything else is lacking. He paws with his jab rather than throwing it, leaving himself open to fast counters, he plods around the ring in straight lines, he has the amateur habit of leaning back to avoid all punches and is notoriously gun-shy which in itself raises questions about his fighting heart.

The newspapers are lauding it as the biggest British fight since Lewis Vs Bruno. That is more an indictment of the poor coverage boxing now receives in the UK than anything else. I can not think of a fight more pantomime than this shambles since Butterbean fought Ray Mercer, or for that matter, Les Dennis Vs Bob Mortimer – at least that was fought with men of comparable ability. I implore people not to watch this fight.

Couture Vs Toney; The Aftermath

So, in the end, everyone had read their scripts: Toney wound up staring at the ceiling within seconds and Couture had less of a challenge then he does teaching his 11-15 year olds wrestling class. He feinted with his hands from the outset before shooting a very low single leg, moved to full mount and retained the position. From there he executed some ground and pound whilst steering Toney towards the cage. From there he found the opening to establish an arm triangle close to the cage. The debacle came to an end in just over three minutes.

Toney talked afterwards of having mistimed Couture’s shoot, it simply would not have mattered. Couture was an alternate in the US Olympic wrestling team and has been in MMA for over a decade, Toney had trained to stuff shoots for a matter of months: he never saw it coming. The difference between a grappler being put on his back and a man off the street was highlighted in embarrassing fashion for Toney. He looked like Stephen Hawking would if he had fallen out of bed in the middle of the night: his arms flailed around hopelessly whilst his legs remained motionless and uninvolved.

The fight will not enhance Randy’s standings and he is still waiting in line for a return to title contention, an interesting fight with Cro-cop has been touted although a return to the light-heavy scene is more in keeping with the statements that he has made about the heavyweights since losing to Lesnar. For Toney it may have raised his profile somewhat as he has been out of the ring since 2009 and has not fought in a top level fight since losing to Sam Peter in 2007. The media coverage alone could steer him towards bigger fights.

In the main event on the card BJ Penn was soundly beaten by Frankie Edgar. It was an even more convincing performance than the first time around with Edgar taking Penn down early and mixing his attacks up very effectively. He changed his levels and proved to be an elusive target whilst keeping up a high offensive tempo. It was clear that Penn was out of his comfort zone fighting a smaller, faster opponent having spent many of his fights taking on bigger, stronger foes. Edgar won a wide decision, taking every round.

Penn has said that he is looking to return to action sooner rather than later and only time will tell if Penn has seen better days or whether Edgar is just his stylistic bogeyman.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Natural vs Lights Out

I thought that the retarded debate between boxing and MMA had drifted into the ether as more boxing fans became aware of what MMA actually consisted of, but alas, the beast has reared its ugly head once more. The ugly head specifically being that of James Toney who has signed a 3 fight deal (3 fights!) with the UFC. He makes his debut on the 28th August against the former UFC light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture. Talk about being thrown in at the deep-end, this is reminiscent of Eric ‘the Eel’ floundering in an Olympic swimming pool some years back.

Just to put the initial premise to bed, a good boxer does not necessarily make a good MMA fighter and vice versa. Why? For the same reason that Roger Federer is not the World Badminton Champion, that is why. Although at first sight there are similarities between the sports, the skill set required to be a champion of either differs vastly and on a multitude of levels and that is why the debate is retarded. Katie Price is apparently pretty good at looking after a horse but don’t expect her to enter the Derby any day soon. Anyone who thinks that a pure boxer will win the UFC title on the grounds that they are a world class striker is an ignoramus.

I personally love boxing, and for that matter James Toney, or ‘Lights-Out’ as he’s known (that’s all my mum ever used to say when I was a kid). His defensive prowess in the ring is unrivalled in modern times and he’s been in there with the best of his generation but I’ve never had a boxing lesson where they teach you how to fight off your back and that would be the undoing of any boxer. Marcus Davis was a pro-boxer but then he isn’t an idiot so he backed it up with a rounded MMA game, training with Pat Miletich’s team. Vitor Belfort has also fought as a pro-boxer before but then he also has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Apparently Toney’s been in training and the rumours are that he even scored a tap whilst sparring with ‘King’ Mo Lawal although that smells somewhat of bullshit to me. However, I genuinely do hope that he has been hiding some wrestling history and perhaps an active interest in MMA for some time but still, going in against Randy Couture in a debut? It unfortunately is set up to be a freak show. Randy will either choose to ‘dirty box’ him against the cage or take him to the floor and pummel him.

My guess is that the fight is happening because it is a great opportunity for the UFC to pick up some more fans as it creeps further into the mainstream and, for that matter, Randy Couture himself - who has Rambo/Rocky/Predator/Terminator 17 to promote. I would hate to see Toney, a legend of his own sport, embarrassed but then, as I’ve tried to point out, just because he has a fat belly does not mean that he has Phil Taylor’s number at the oche and, therefore, just because he can out-strike Evander Hoylfield does not mean he can out-wrestle Randy Couture. David Haye has labelled Toney’s attempt ‘delusional’ but then anyone who has listened to any of his post-fight interviews knows that he’s not the most cerebral man in the world.

It is exciting though, I’m just holding out hope of Frankie Dettori giving it a go next or maybe one of those Loose Women, I’d pay to view that.


Saturday, 14 August 2010

Top 4, Bottom 3

This is going to be real brief as I’ve given myself no time to rant and rave in between writing my MA dissertation and being an excited little girl about the release of The Expendables. It was awesome, by the way, and you should all go if you want see a proper ‘throwback’ action movie. Anyway…

Top 4

1. Manchester United – so my thought process is a bit different this year as Everton are being genuinely tipped to seriously push for a Top 4 finish, and if we can keep injuries to a minimum, I’m hopeful we can. But as I never like to bet or predict anything involving us, I’ve taken us out of the running for the purposes of this. When it’s a tight title race, and all indications are this will be the tightest, I’m probably always going to opt for Utd. I think this season’s decision is based on thinking Berbatov is still world class and has to come good at some point, and hopefully it’ll be this year. World Cup aside, we know what we’ll get from Rooney; Valencia proved to be a big, albeit different, success replacing Ronaldo; Scholesy has looked imperious in pre-season; and then there’s young ‘Chicharito’, who is their, not so, surprise package. Obviously, the worry is the defence and whether Smalling is good enough to replace Rio when he has to. Stupid as it sounds, but I think having O’Shea will be an added bonus for Fergie. So, on that bombshell, I say Utd will win the league because of the returning John O’Shea.

2. Chelsea – honestly, for me the next three places could be a toss up but I’m going for Chelsea because, essentially, I’m well boring. It’ll be difficult to predict how Man City will do as they’ve clearly got the individuals, but unlike Chelsea in years past (well Mourinho and Ancelotti), they haven’t got the manager to make it all work. Chelsea’s pre-season hasn’t been great, and I didn’t think they looked particularly good winning it last year. Terry’s kind of been found out (in more ways than one) and they seem to rely way too much on Lamps and The Drog. That being said, Malouda stepped up last season and having Essien back is massive, as I assume he’ll be the one driving their Champions League/title challenge. I also hope Ancelotti sticks to his word and gives Daniel Sturridge more minutes as that boy looks like he could be special.

3. Manchester City – my favourite thing about Man City’s buying power is not that they’re a new team in the title mix-up or that they’re bringing in all these new players into English football but that they’ve already replaced Joleon Lescott. The prick. Sorry, that’s a holdover from last season’s opening day. As I said before, I’m dubious whether Mancini is a good enough manager and tactician to get all ducks in order to mount a sustained push for the Premier League title. They’ll no doubt Mancini will add about four more before the end of August, so it might get so ridiculous it’ll be impossible for them not to win it. I’m looking forward to watching Balotelli because I haven’t seen much of him but the amount of coverage his pursuit and purchase has go I feel like I should know who the fuck he really is.

4. Arsenal – got to go with the Arse because since they stopped winning I’ve wanted to see them get back to winning. They still need a good goalkeeper and holding midfielder (one of Real’s Diarra’s should do that job) but they’ll be as good as ever going forward. Nasri showed last year that he’s got it while Arshavin and Van Persie are guaranteed goals and entertainment. Chamakh looks like an awkward bastard but there are high hopes; we’d all like to see Wilshere playing games at the Emirates than the Reebok; and there’s always Nicklas Bendtner.

Bottom 3

18. Newcastle Utd; 19. West Bromwich Albion; 20. Blackpool – right, I’ve been boring again and gone for the three who go promoted to back down. I think Newcastle have the best chance of surviving just because they’ll probably have the best home form of the three. Neither of these three has really strengthened, although Holloway got in some token signings this past week, and none of them possess one real game-changing player. Like everyone, I’d love Holloway to keep Blackpool up, but I’m almost intrigued to see how much they’ll lose by every week because I’m pretty confident they’ll have the lowest points total by the season’s end. I haven’t really got an opinion of West Brom, I like Di Matteo and Dorrans is supposed to have it, but they’re just a bit meh. However, I do think Di Matteo is astute enough to not make the mistakes Mowbray did and he’ll set up to survive rather than look good and come second. I also see Wigan and Blackburn struggling but would be surprised if any of the Premier League’s newest teams had enough to stay up.


So last season I went quite conservative with the top 3 and predicted someone else would break into the top 4. Admittedly it wasn’t Everton but having got the make up of the bottom 3 correct I’m arguing 6 out of 7 isn't bad.

The reason for pointing that out is that this season I think I’ve gone mental. I’m predicting like a few others a much more competitive at the top, I think the gap has been closed on United and Chelsea. The bottom 3 are not so easy to predict this year with the exception of Blackpool who look pretty nailed on.


1. Man City

The argument is that it’s too soon for them to become only the fifth club to take the Premier League title. They might fire Mancini after a few bad results or they might use that horrifically bloated Championship Manager style squad to great affect. Fifth one season and the title the next? It’ll be a close run thing if they do.

2. Man United

Everyone’s excited by Hernandez probably just about as much as they are frustrated by Berbatov. I think United will be the most entertaining team to watch in the league this season but how long can Giggs and Scholes carry them over the line to triumph and will Smalling or Evans provide decent enough assistance to Vidic in the absence of Ferdinand.

3. Liverpool

Yeah I know. The team I hate. Despise, even. But its OK to like them again now cause they’ve got Woy and Joe. Hodgson should be able to motivate a more balanced looking attack (thanks to Benitez last signing?!). There is genuinely quality and competition in midfield (if Mascherano goes or not) and if he can something out of Babel, keeps Torres fit, a top three finish is just about possible.

4. Chelsea

Originally I included Arsenal here but with Essien back and Ramires on the way Chelsea’s midfield seems well stocked. Ancelloti has predicted a big season for Daniel Sturridge and if he gets in ahead Drogba, Anelka and Kalou it will have been. If Lampard continues to knock in the goals like last season they’ll certainly be up there.

The reason I’ve put them here is because I genuinely believe they are going to prioritise the Champions League this season and at times that’s going to cost them league points.

Bottom 3

18. Stoke

Maybe a heart ruling the head again but even before they bought Kenwyne in I thought Stoke might struggle. They’ll keep a mean defence but I still don’t see the goals coming in. To clarify I love Kenwyne but as the back up support striker, he’s not the man to get the goals. They might not be here but I think they’ll struggle.

19. Wolves

OK so maybe I should just say who I want to go down. They’ve spunked £6.5m on Stephen Fletcher who was OK for Burnley last year. They still have George Elokobi. That’s enough for me.

20. Blackpool

Last year I predicted that Burnley would go down but that it was because they played football too much. Blackpool’s amazing run and play off victory will not be sustained at this level. I think they’ll really, really struggle.


1st – Man U
As much as it pains me to put these scum bags on top of the pile and as much as they’ve not revamped their squad as much as others that champagne socialist Scotch cunt of a manager (and the revenge mentality he’ll instil after last season’s just-second-best) is too good to ignore. Add to this the fact they now have the best four forward options in the league – Rooney + a sharp looking Berbatov + a best signing of the summer Hernandez + Owen – and I can’t but think they’ll do it. Bastards

2nd – Chelsea
Good. Very goodÖ But not quite good enough this time around. They’ve got the best squad in the league but, I think, the sheer it’s-our-turn-this-time-ness of Man U will win the day. And Drogba’s getting a little too old for his diving self to save the day.

3rd – Liverpool
I support them. I have to believe.
So shut up, right. Just shut up.
Cole will be the deciding factor in a player-of-the-season role, alongside a close-second Gerrard.

4th – Arsenal
A bit of a risk of a prediction, and one I’m not all that comfortable with, but I think their bad luck with injuries can’t keep on decimating them as much as it has. With a fit for even most of the season Fabregas/van Persie they’ll fly this high at the very least.

Man City? Tottenham?
Yep, but no, but maybe; but no.
I just can’t see Man City’s new army of overpaid-but-unschooled-in-the-Premiership stars getting it together. A mostly terrible pre-season hints at the fact that while they might occasionally work things out enough to beat their fellow top guns (they’ll do Man U at home, and maybe Arsenal), those cold Monday nights in Stoke / Wigan / [insert post-industrially-depressed-town-here] will be their downfall.

And Tottenham’s attempts to stake a claim in Europe will be too much for a squad that’s as shallow as a statement from Harry Redknapp on his intentions in the transfer market.

Bottom – Wolves
Terrible last season, and second season syndrome is going to hit them like a bad case of Syphilis.

Second bottom – Blackpool
Sad, but inevitable. They’ve signed enough players and have a daunting enough home ground to keep them off the bottom, but they're to premiership football what Blackpool women are to humanity: ugly, pointless and, thanks to that whole 'survival of the fittest' thing, ultimately doomed.

Third bottom – Newcastle
This could (very) easily be West Brom but Newcastle lack any kind of depth in their squad. I like Hughton as a manager but the whole infrastructure is as circus-like as it’s been for years. Andy Carroll as their number 9 enough said.


1. Man United
2. Chelsea
3. Liverpool
4. Man City

MH (via text)

Friday, 28 May 2010

World Cup Dreaming

Friday afternoon at work. Day dreaming about the World Cup. Who would I take (I ask myself)? Well:


Joe Hart
David James
Robert Green


Leighton Baines
Jamie Carragher (RB)
Ashley Cole
Rio Ferdinand
Glen Johnson
Ledley King (DM)
John Terry


Gareth Barry
Joe Cole
Steven Gerrard (LM)
Tom Huddlestone (CB)
Adam Johnson
Frank Lampard
Aaron Lennon
James Milner (RB, CM)
Theo Walcott (CF)


Peter Crouch
Jermain Defoe
Emile Heskey
Wayne Rooney


Stephen Warnock
Michael Dawson
Matthew Upson
Scott Parker
Michael Carrick
Shaun Wright-Phillips
Darren Bent

I cut one more defender than likely (Upson or Dawson) so I could accomodate Huddlestone, who can cover at CB anyway.

Yep I'm a dreamer. The brackets aren't preferred positions, only showing why I think it's possible.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sing of Old Djurgården, Now, Sing.

I recently caught up with Tom Ogden who explained how he spent the last day of the Swedish football season.

Monday morning conversations with my neighbour Niklas over breakfast have been downcast these past few weeks. ‘How did Djurgården get on this weekend?’, I’ll ask tentatively, over the ever-gurgling kitchen coffee-machine.‘Not good. We lost again.’ comes the familiar reply, as I stir my tea. ‘How about Liverpool?’.

‘Ah, don’t ask.’

Finding a Stockholm football team to follow has been a task I’ve put off since my move to Sweden, with plenty else to keep me occupied. Hammarby were the team I’d considered beforehand, but Djurgården turned out to be the local team when I found a place to live. ‘The Blue Stripes’ play at the beautiful old Olympic stadium, built for the 1912 summer games. It sits between my new home in the north of the city and the campus of KTH (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan) where I study, so I pass it on my daily walk.

I often slow down to admire the beautiful brickwork, the clock tower with its battlements and the old telephone boxes outside. You can even see the pitch from the pavement on Valhallavägen, through the main arch of the structure. And it’s close enough to hear the cheers and boos on match days, as a weekly reminder for me to investigate. This season, apparently, there’s been few cheers. At the end of a decade of success for Djurgården — winning Allsvenskan in2002, 2003 and 2005, along with a bunch of domestic cups — this season has been awful. Not only has their poor form driven them down into the relegation zone, but they’ve had to watch as bitter Stockholm rivals AIK have enjoyed a strong campaign at the top.

Seventeen losses seemed to have sealed Djurgården’s fate, but a late turn of form and a couple of wins have brought some hope. A vital 2-1 win over the other team facing relegation, Örgryte, was backed up with a surprise 0-2 win at Helsingborg. The match will be remembered as Henrik Larsson’s professional bow, but the importance of the result for the future of Djurgården could be huge. Örgryte have slipped below them into the automatic relegation spot, two points behind with just one game to go.

Still, Örgryte only have to beat tenth-placed Gefle in their final game, their team probably planning their skiing holidays; Djurgården’s final hurdle is a tough match against fourth-placed Kalmar, who have a Europa League spot to fight for, and against whom they’ve lost their last three home games. There is still a tough job to do.

Meanwhile, those rivals I mentioned, AIK, sit on top of the league, one point above Göteborg. Remarkably, the fixture list has drawn the old clubs against each other in the final game, with Göteborg holding home advantage. The newspapers, Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter, are calling it the Gold Medal Match. This is the kind of excitement I need to distract me from what looks to be a season already over on Merseyside. I jump at Niklas’ offer to grab me a ticket for Djurgården’s final match.

So this Sunday afternoon in November, I meet Niklas and a couple of his friends, and our Turkish neighbour Hamsa. ‘Aren’t you worried about hooliganism, bringing a Turkish and an English to your nice Swedish football?’, he teases. The match is a sellout: all 13,000 tickets. The news from Gothenburg is that AIK fans are already causing trouble, smashing every window on the SJ train that brought them west. I’ve been on one of those fine old locomotives —I’m building a healthy dislike of AIK already.

Arriving at the stadium, we find our space on the wooden benches. The stands are low, though the running track keeps us a little distant from the action. The club anthem ‘Sing of Old Djurgården’ comes over the speakers and gets a loud recital, which I am actually able to join in as Hamsa has dutifully written down the words after finding them on the internet. I’m mostly chortling through it as he surprises me with these carefully copied notes, and I have no idea what I’m singing about, but it is an enjoyable and rousing tune nonetheless. Kick off! Djurgården start brightly. The full backs get forward, overlapping and flinging some decent crosses in, though the Kalmar ‘keeper has little trouble plucking them out of the air'. Though the home team are bossing possession, the importance of the game is clearly causing some tension with a few wayward touches in midfield.

Relief comes after 27 minutes. A Djurgården corner is headed clear of the box, only for midfielder Patrick Haginge to fire it back goal wards with a sweet half volley low into the bottom right corner of the net. Celebration and hugs all round , on the pitch and in the stands.

Soon after the goal, a quiet cheer spreads around the ground suggesting good news elsewhere. Örgryte are losing at Gefle. And another, much louder, cheer. Göteborg are 1-0 up against AIK. Niklas confirms my suspicion, ‘AIK losing is probably as important to us as Djurgården winning.’
Half time arrives, and the crowds descend through brick arches to queue for warm Kanelbullar and more coffee, as we hop around to defrost toes. The faces around us are happy — all the important results are going the right way.

Settling back in for the second half, a little tension seeps back in to the crowd. Örgryte have equalised in their match, and Kalmar have woken up a bit. A few high balls leave the centre-halves looking uncomfortable, and only a well placed shin blocks a dangerous run into the box from the left wing. Mercifully, on 56 minutes, Djurgården pick up a second goal. Again, it’s from a corner. This time an attacker gets his head to the ball first on the back post, though without sufficient power to score. A messy goalmouth scramble ends with a decisive touch from veteran defender Markus Johannesson — a nice way to end his final season at the club.

Relief in Stockholm is tempered by bad news from Gothenburg. AIK have equalised, putting them back on top of the pile. Göteborg need a win to take the title.

I try, through the match, to pick up terrace songs. The tunes are easy enough, as even these seem to be a part of the globalised game. We sing ‘Na, na, na, (adtedium) Djurgården’ to the tune of Hey Jude, and an amusing ‘Steve Galloways Jarnkaminerna’ to the ‘Barmy Army’ tune — Steve Galloway being their English assistant manager (he played at St. Mirren and Crystal Palace, apparently) and ‘Jarnkaminerna’ (‘The Iron Stoves’) the fan club. If I close my eyes, I could easily be at Rochdale or York City, but for the lack of dietary advice directed at the away goalkeeper. I find the chants a little disappointing in their politeness, to be honest. One promisingly aggressive call-and-response from the left stand to the right turns out to be ‘Let’s move forward!’, ‘But keep the defence tight!’, ‘Let’s move forward!’, ‘But keep the defence tight!’. That’s just practical. Can’t we at least discuss their striker’s parentage briefly? After the second goal, Kalmar lose some of their fight and the game goes a bit quiet. Apart from trying to follow songs, the best entertainment arrives when the Djurgården goalkeeper slices four goal kicks in a row high into the left stand. Only one goes further than the half way line. Four in a row! I hope he has somewhere to practice over the winter when the snow sets deep.

The relief of getting their win is clear in the players’ celebrations at the final whistle, lapping the pitch to thank their support. Still waiting for results around the country, the disappointing news arrives: AIK have scored a late winner to confirm they’ll be bringing the Allsvenskan trophy back to parade around Stockholm. And there’ll likely be more riots in Gothenburg for Jens Lekman to sing about.

So then, Göteborg didn’t manage to stop AIK but Djurgården did what they needed to do. Most importantly, I care about a club here. I’m looking forward to next season already.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fantasy Football Update

I thought it might be time to give an update on our Fantasy Football progress. Kevin is dominating our league so far;

He took an early lead and although I've managed to close the gap he keeps edging away. It's fair to say that we are all not doing particularly well.

Here's my current team with some additional ponderings;

Ben Foster Manchester United £3.0m (20 points - for my team)

The Foster experiment hasn't gone particularly well. Especially for Ben Foster. His reputation as the great hope of English goalkeeping has nose dived considerably after some high profile howlers. Van Der Sar's return to fitness will probably result in another one year contract extent ion and Foster will be kicking his heels and playing understudy to both the Dutchman, and at international level, to David James.

Alternatives - Foster provided excellent value for the period he was in the first team and only Petr Cech scored more points from 'the big 4' teams. Still I need to use some of those precious transfers and looking at who is doing well elsewhere, discounting Thomas Sorensen (Stoke City) as top points scorer an extra £500,000 gets me the reliable Brad Friedel (Aston Villa) from a team who should do better until the end of the season.

Glenn Johnson Liverpool £4.0m (20 points)

The Liverpool right back is a safe choice for any FF manager. His attacking instincts have provided 30 points for those who have stuck with him all season and he'll only add more. If only he could be more consistent. Still doesn't look worth £18m though.

Thomas Vermaelen Arsenal £3.7m (6 points)

Those who registered Vermaelen's uncanny knack for popping up with a goal early on have been rewarded with a mammoth 36 points. I said in my season preview that Vermaelen settling down quickly at the Emirates would be integral to any success that Arsenal might achieve this season. So far so good.

Stephen Warnock Aston Villa £3.5m (14 points)

Warnock's transfer from Blackburn to Aston Villa didn't surprise anyone who has followed the talented full back. It did mean missing a couple of games and settling down into a new team. Still I think he's one worth persevering with.

Graham Alexander Burnley £3.0m (6 points)

I don't think anyone outside Burnley celebrated when they got their first penalty more than me. But Bunley are shipping goals at an alarming rate away from home. I need to stop being stubborn and change this one.

Alternatives - It looks like Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), on 37 points, is this seasons must have defender, although that's going to mean a lot of changes if I'm to stick to my 2 players per team rule. Abdoulaye Faye (Stoke City) is scoring well and offers good value at £3.5m. And on Merseyside Leighton Baines (Everton) and Emiliano Insua (Liverpool) are on 28 and 27 points respectively, a note of caution though, Everton aren't getting the results lately and officially have 128 players on the injury list. Aquilani may mean Aurellio being accomadated at left back, it shouldn't happen but it's Benitez, so who knows?

Wild Card - Might be Roger Johnson (Birmingham City) who although he has only scored 16 points is a bargain at £2.8m and has popped up with a few goals in past seasons.

Frank Lampard Chelsea £7.0m (42 points)

Expensive yes but reliable always, the news that Fat Frank is back amongst the goals and Gerrard's injury means most FF players are scrambling to get him in.

Cesc Fabregas Arsenal £5.0m (46 points)

I read some nonsense questioning the Arsenal captain's form this season. His assists alone stand at 9. His value to points ratio is 0.5 ahead of anyone else. I guess that's why he's in 42% of people's teams.

James Milner Aston Villa £4.0m (4 points)

Milner is a classy midfielder and has been getting some people very excited (see Number 4). I've not long moved him into my team and so I'm hoping his excellent delivery, occasional goals and push for berth in the World Cup squad reap rewards for me!

Marouane Fellaini Everton £3.7m (17 points)

Despite playing 6 times for Everton this season Fellaini has only picked up 17 points and I might be carrying a player here. No doubt his actual real performances have been good in a poor Everton team but this is Fantasy.

Alternatives - There are a couple of Bolton midfielders who are doing well, Tamir Cohen's 3 goals have propelled him up the points to £ ratio but I'd plump for the perennially underrated Matt Taylor, 9 league starts and 3 goals. Another favourite of mine is Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham Hotspur) although Modric has been the catalyst for Spurs' successful start to the season and Lennon has provided the sparkle, Huddlestone's unexpected rediscovery of the form that got us so excited when he burst onto the scene at 16 as has been the highlight for me.

Wild Card - Kevin Prince-Boateng's (Portsmouth) 26 points for £2.5m looks outstanding value.

Didier Drogba Chelsea £6.4m (14 points)

Despite being a goal behind Torres in the race for the golden boot his extra start has yielded 7 more points than the Spaniard. Drogba can be a conundrum at times but when he's motivated he's unplayable.

Craig Bellamy Manchester City £5.2m (9 points)

I shoe horned Bellamy in to the team, not to complete the most odious front line you could imagine, but due to a Monday night game to bag some extra points. He duly delivered that night and has 4 goals for the season. As a Coventry fan it's impossible not to hate our former player with the rap sheet as long as your arm - but on the pitch he's doing the business.

Alternatives - From Fernando Torres (Liverpool) I've bagged 66 points of his total of 73 this season and I'll try and get him back in my team soon. Darren Bent (Sunderland) is enjoying his partnership with Kenwyne Jones and provides the best points to £ ratio currently (will he hit a drought).

Wild Card -This year's biggest surprise for me has to be Hugo Rodellega (Wigan) he has 5 goals, a couple of spectacular ones too, but I'm getting a touch of the Zaki's about him, maybe.