Tag Archive | "FA Cup"

Gunning For A Title

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Can Captain Cesc lead Arsenal to glory?

Can Captain Cesc lead Arsenal to glory?

After Stoke City’s Ricardo Fuller nodded in two goals last weekend to send the Britannia into euphoria, Arsenal are now in contention for only two major trophies this season and that could be a blessing for them. The distraction of the FA Cup would certainly be a pleasurable one to have, but I’m curious to see them go at the English title with everything they’ve got. If they can remain injury free and manage to stay clear of letdowns against underdog opposition, this fiery bunch of lads could challenge at least for second place and give the favorites something to think about.

The next two weeks will go a long way in determining the Gunner’s BPL fate. Starting with Manchester United this morning, Arsenal go on to face Chelsea and Liverpool in their next two league matches—a daunting task indeed. United present the challenge of stopping Wayne Rooney (he of the 13 goals in his last 13 matches), while Chelsea welcome back their African Nations Cup stars, and Liverpool is always a tough match—regardless of their league position.

Today’s match against United should be a humdinger and if Arsenal doesn’t want their title aspirations dashed, they need to continue the fine defensive form they have recently displayed against Sir Alex’s squad. William Gallas and his merry men have only conceded ONE natural goal in open play to United in their last THREE league meetings. That should prove to be a little more difficult with Gallas’ running mate Thomas Vermaelen out injured, leaving the ancient Sol Campbell to fill his boots. And those who saw Campbell’s performance against Stoke should not be filled with confidence.

And it isn’t just in defense that the Gunner’s have suffered injury. Robin Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, and Samir Nasri have all missed extensive time this season. But it doesn’t matter. Arsenal has one thing no other team in the league has—Cesc Fabregas. Believe me when I tell you that I’m about as partial to this kid as Michael Vick is to French poodles, but it’s near impossible not to admit his improvement since the summer break. Last season, I thought the Spaniard was just another overzealous youngster with nothing more than an occasional eye for the crossbar. But this season, he seems to have come out from underneath his big brother’s ball box to play Geppetto in the Arsenal midfield. His goals have been crucial and his pinpoint passes have provided his non-injured teammates excellent chances on goal.

There’s a lot of good to be said for this talented bunch of lads. In fact, I’d go as far as to wager a second place bet in favor of the Arsenal. I believe they’re going to continue to score goals and as long as the rocky back four that played against Stoke City in the FA Cup are never again assembled on a football pitch until the day an Avatar is President, they should be fine defensively. So going into this very difficult couple of weeks, every Gunner should be excited, but they should also be aware that a loss to United tomorrow could lead to another trophy-less year at the Emirates.

M. Junia Stainbank

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Farewell To Carlsberg

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Bring back Candy?

Bring back Candy?

It’s appears that the BPL’s longest shirt sponsorship is coming to an end. Danish brewer Carlsberg has been on the front of Liverpool’s shirt since 1992, but with the brewer reaching an agreement with the English FA to bankroll the FA Cup (4 years for £50m), it appears the relationship has come to an end. While sponsorship deals are hard to find in today’s economy, Liverpool shouldn’t have trouble finding a new one. And besides, it might be a good change for the Reds—they haven’t won the Premier League since they had Candy as a backer.

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Blah, Blah, Blah

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Sorry that we’ve been away for a few days. An illness crept over the Natural Hat Trick offices and we were forced to take a few days off. But we’re back to discuss the news of the football world. And boy is there a lot of talking going on. The usual suspects are involved, as well as some surprising newcomers. And we hoped that you missed us a little bit.

No stranger to the headlines, Alex Ferguson has some things on his mind and he’s going to share them with everyone. Most of the explaining has to do with Manchester United’s dreadful showing in the FA Cup. The supporters are holding Dimitar Berbatov responsible, but Fergie says not so fast. He’s feels the Wembley pitch was more to blame for United’s inept play, and old foe Arsene Wenger agrees with him. What is the world coming to?

The Professor doesn’t agree with Sir Alex’s war of words with Rafa Benitez. The Frenchman believes it should stop and they both need to be quiet. Isn’t that ironic? The pot never seems to tire of calling the kettle black.

Speaking of things that remind me of pots, ‘Facts’ Benitez made headlines this week for not going to a press conference. They truly have become must-see-TV. Luckily for quote starved reporters, assistant Sammy Lee was able to fill in most ably.

If one is to believe The Sun, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has called out Alan Shearer. I’ve read the quote, and it seems as if The Sun has made something out of nothing. Shocking I know.

It appears that Fulham’s strong season has gone to Chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed’s head. It seems the only thing keeping the Cottagers from becoming the ‘Manchester United of the South’ has been the ‘donkeys’ running the FA. He does invite them to Harrods for lunch so he can serve them for some homegrown stag’s testicles. Now who could refuse that offer?

Joey Barton’s in trouble? Nobody’s favorite bad boy was ticketed recently for not paying his train fare. What a donkey.

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Only Fools and Horses

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It’s Thursday, that cruelest of days. My brain is completely frazzled from the work week and I can almost taste the weekend and all the whiskey that comes with it. Unfortunately, there’s still that matter of making it through Friday. Thankfully today’s news from the world of football is a wonderful cornucopia of animal therapy, questionable fashion choices and dodgy decision making. It’s the perfect antidote for my end of the week blues.

Paul Gascoigne should have been a veterinarian. Yesterday, we reported that when the Gazza was at his worst he spoke to and drank with fake parrots. Today, the Crying One tells how talking to horses helped him get over booze. He didn’t mention if the horse helped the parrots.

Nicklas Bendtner isn’t the only one pretty in pink at the Emirates. Keeper Manuel Almunia, he of the bleached blond locks, was spotted yesterday walking his dog with a pink leash. The pup was also kept warm by a little pink jacket. I just hope that it was his girlfriend who dressed the dog. And for that matter, I hope she’s the one that talked him into that stupid haircut.

Meanwhile, Blackburn striker Jason Roberts has been accused of hitting a teenage Coventry fan after their FA Cup loss to the Sky Blues. There hasn’t been any comment from Big Sam yet, but I’m sure he’s wondering where that fighting spirit was on the pitch.

Don’t get me wrong, going after a fan is unacceptable, but it’s less detrimental to the team than battling your teammate. North London’s favorite defensive duo is at it again. Reports have been circulating that William Gallas and Kolo Toure have never and will never enjoy each other’s company. Maybe Gallas doesn’t understand why Toure wants to be the last one on the pitch when it’s obviously better to be the last one to leave.

Chelsea’s other Ivory Coast striker, Salomon Kalou, has expressed his desire to join the Gunners. Not only does he enjoy the way they play, he also has many friends on the squad–including Kolo Toure. Maybe he can bring some of that Chelsea team spirit with him.

Sparky Hughes sees team bonding differently. He’s actually encouraging his Manchester City team to shout at each other. He claims the team is too quiet and needs to be more like Craig Bellamy. Next on the City training regimen is golf club duels at dawn.

While we’re on the subject of fighting, what would a Manchester United trip to Italy be without their fans being attacked by a group of angry Italians? Rome and Milan might not see eye-to-eye on many things, but they both agree on the best way to shank a Manc.

From the it’s-as-obvious-as-an-elephant-in-your-kitchen department, Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias told a fan forum that they’re building for the future. Considering that their recent past and present have been pretty much shit, that’s probably the best way to go.

If they need a player to jump-start the Toon revolution, it’s safe to say that Julien Faubert might be available soon. The winger, who moved from West Ham to Real Madrid, hasn’t been able to get any game action since his move to Spain and doesn’t understand why. If I must be the one to say it, I will. IT’S BECAUSE YOU SUCK. Thanks for listening Julien.

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Ronaldo’s Spitting Mad

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Did he or didn't he?

Did he or didn't he?

While Manchester United’s easy 4-1 victory over Derby in the 5th round of the FA Cup left little doubt as to who the best team was, there’s was some controversy as to whether or not Christiano Ronaldo spat at Robbie Savage. After an altercation which saw Ronaldo end up on the ground, Robbie seems to take a swipe at Ronaldo. Christiano responds by appearing to spit at Savage. After the match, Savage said, “Nothing happened.” Watch this slide show and let me know if you think something went down.

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Three Cheers for David James

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Congrats David. You've earned it.

Congrats David. You've earned it.

David James isn’t your ordinary English footballer. He’s been Calamity James. He’s also been England’s number one goalkeeper. He’s concerned about the environment, as evidenced by his recent conversion of his Chrysler 300C diesel Estate so that it can run on rapeseed oil. He doesn’t eat cheese. Hairdressers love him as he’s had more hairstyles than Cher. And let’s not forget this photo from Cosmo magazine. Now he’s added something else to his eclectic resume. Yesterday, he passed Gary Speed for most appearances in the Premier League. James also broke the record in style, keeping a clean sheet as Portsmouth defeated Manchester City 2-0.

It’s a pretty amazing feat for a man whose Liverpool career began with him conceding twenty goals in eleven matches. And who knows how many more Premier League appearances he would have had, had he not stayed with West Ham when they were relegated in 2003. He ended up playing a total of 102 matches in the Championship with the Hammers. After a brief and unsuccessful run with Manchester City, a move to Portsmouth revitalized his career, culminating in an FA Cup victory last season. His career has had more ups and downs than me staggering home from the bar on a Saturday night.

I’m not saying David James is the greatest English goalkeeper of all time. He’ll never be put in the same class as Peter Shilton or David Seaman, and he probably shouldn’t be. But he should be admired for persevering long enough to set this record, and I want to be the first to congratulate him. I also hope that Portsmouth stay up this season so that James can continue to add to his record next season and beyond. I also hope that his recent run of conservative hairstyles comes to an end and something like the Clark Kent can make an appearance again.

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Buy That Man a Drink

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At long last, the Drunk thinks he may have found a drinking buddy. A real man’s man. A man who looks like he can handle his drink and throw a blow. Actually, I know he can do the latter. After knocking cross-town rivals Liverpool out of the FA Cup, the “other” Scot managing in the BPL, David Moyes, had this to say, “”What are you lot going to do now? All those Liverpool fans, especially in the local press. The way you build that side up. I bet you’re all stunned tonight.” That sounds like a challenge to the Red side of town to me. And any man who is willing fight a bunch of granny stabbers and hubcap thieves is more than OK in my book. And that’s not all. The day before the match, he kicked his only healthy striker, Victor Anichebe, out of training for dropping an F-Bomb in his direction. Do you think that fat jelly bean with a goatee on the other side of town would have done that? He also had this to say about Liverpool before the match, “We are whole-hearted but when you get players lying on the floor and waving their hands suggesting cards and the referee is missing challenges, it’s very hard.” Are your ears ringing Jamie Carragher? The man must have solid steal balls. I would drink in a biker bar with him. It’s such a refreshing change from crybaby Wenger and “fact” Benitez. If I lived in Liverpool, I would leave a bottle of whisky on his doorstep every Saturday with a note that read, “Thanks for not being a pussy.”

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