Jose and Zlatan and Pep, Oh My!

Long time no read, Dear Readers! Oh, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. FC Bayern were crowned champions of Europe. Germany were crowned champions of World football shortly thereafter, while I, Your Humble Narrator, mildly saturated in beer, rejoiced.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 25: The FC Bayern München pose for a photo before showering one another with beer. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

And then, reality set in. Pep Guardiola set up shop at FC Bayern and everyone began heralding him responsible for their success while the standards and nature of that success slowly eroded. Players came, and players went. Exit our beloved Basti and Toni, launcher of the Kroos Missiles, for Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively. Enter Douglas Costa, Thiago and Javi Martinez.

Oh, the lengths to which I can regale you, Dear Readers, with the explanations as to why Guardiola’s time at Bayern must be counted as a failure. The short answer is the simplest, however; how many trebles did we win?


Hannover 96 vs FC Bayern Munich

“Oh shit, I was supposed to win that trophy, wasn’t I?”

Yeah. A few times. Asshole.

Not only that, but in his second season, Guardiola won a single, paltry trophy; the Bundesliga silverware as league’s top team (which is more of a plate than a trophy, but I digress.)  The uninitiated and fringe Bayern fan, with their lowered expectations and envious gaze might cry, “What more do you want from your manager?”

Trophies, silly. We want more trophies. Three of them a year. Every year. Please. Or you’re fired. Welcome to Bayern.


“Bro, I didn’t even get to finish one season before they fired me. And you let him coach for TWO MORE YEARS!?!? HE’S NOT EVEN GERMAN! Fuck this, I’m going to America.”

That was the deal for Pep Guardiola. At least one CL Trophy. That was the deal for Jupp Heynckes. That was expected of Ottmar Hitzfeld and Felix Magath and Jürgen Klinsmann and all the men who came before them. You win or you’re fired. Pep Guardiola was only special in that he was so expensive that he didn’t win and was NOT fired. I am sure Jürgen Klinsmann was thrilled about that.

Short story long, Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!


Don’t let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya, Guardiola. Pep is gone and has been told in no uncertain terms by Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummunigge and company that, under no circumstances is he to pillage the Bayern squad on his way across the pond to Manchester City.

He’s off to another team with high ambitions, a glut of talent and buckets of cash to attempt to prove to the football world that he can win a Champions League title without a majestic little Argentinean named Leo Messi in his squad.


“Fuck, my back hurts from carrying Guardiola for all those years….”

Then, as though by divine providence, not only have the Footy Gods delivered us from possession football, but they have delivered Bayern fans like myself who have been waiting with baited breath to see the back side of Pep Guardiola a parting gift in the form of Jose Mourinho, the “Special One”, the larger-than-his-team personalty and hated rival of Pep Guardiola, installed at the helm of Manchester City’s rival Manchester United.


Pep: “Oh no, not this fucking guy again.”


As though on cue, with Mourinho prepared to take the reins for the Red Devils, rumours surface that he has recruited an old war buddy in his siege against Guadiola and his Sir Snooze-a-lot brand of football .

Enter the Zlatan.


“Hey Pep. Remember me, asshole?”

That’s right, everyone’s favorite Swedish football player and, quite possibly, the only man in world football with an ego to rival Mourinho’s, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is rumoured to be set to sign on for a year in the trenches with “The Special One” as they look to restore relevance and prominence to a lackluster Manchester United squad.


“Dude, why would I want to play for Man United? Zlatan does not need this!”

And though neither manager has taken to the pitch with their new squad, players have yet to be signed and the make up of both squads are far from finalized, the opening salvo has been fired. And it’s advantage Mourinho.


“Wait, you’re saying I get to play against Pep Guardiola? Zlatan will do this.”

Ibrahimovic is, undeniably, a world class player and is quite openly NOT a fan of Pep Guardiola and his brand of football. In fact, he is quite possibly the only person in world football who despises Pep Guardiola as much as Jose Mourinho does. (Your Humble Narrator ranks a distant third.) Given their long-standing rivalry, and Mourinho’s desire to put his mark on Manchester United by attracting talent, who better to recruit to Man United back than Ibra?


“Hey Pep. Zlatan has a present for you.”


With so much work to be done for Mourinho given Man City are still perennial contenders in the Premiereship while Manchester United have drifted into mediocrity in the post-Fergie era, Jose has made it abundantly clear that, all other things being equal, he’s going to be on Pep Guardiola’s ass like white on rice in a glass of milk in a paper plate in a snow storm at a Donald Trump rally.


#ProPhotoShopForTehWin #Sarcasm #FuckOffImNotGettingPaidForThis #MakeUnitedGreatAgain


And so, we Bayern fans bid Farewell and Adieu to you, Spanish lady! Farewell and Adieu oh Guardiola of Spain! (For we’ve received orders we can now shoot from distance, and won’t pass to the keeper until we see you again!)

Despite his brave face, Guardiola’s time at Bayern was a failure. No Champions League trophies did he win. A paltry two DFB Pokal victories when three were expected, loyal soldiers lost in the war to stay awake through his tenure like Basti, Kroos and even more notably, Dr. Wolfhart-Müller, physician extraordinaire who includes Usain Bolt amongst his patients.

The good doctor left the club after being publicly scapegoated by Guardiola as the root cause of injuries to key players in his second season at the helm during the grueling knock-out stages of the DFB Pokal and Champions League competitions in late winter.


“Hey Javi. Your boy Pep is an asshole. I’m out bro. I’ll tell Usain you said hi.” (Please note: none of the quotes in the captions are in any way factual.)

Though there are many Bayern fans and non-Bayern fans alike who would disagree with that assessment, they are welcome to their opinions. As my high school science teacher Mr. Matusiak used to say “You have the right to fail,” and since they are excusing Guardiola’s failure to achieve his mandate of a Champions League trophy, is it much surprise that they exist in a realm of lowered expectations and consolation prizes as Guardiola does?


“Hey Blogger guy! You’re wrong!”


Of course not, Dear Readers, but that is while in Karl and Franz we trust. The likes of Guardiola can make excuses for their performance to keep the fans interested while the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge make the difficult assessments in the board room. As Pep gets paid to tell us all is well, K&F are paid to  make contingencies to limit the damage; like the “don’t steal our players” clause in Guardiola’s release to Manchester City.


“So we agree? Good. Fuck this Guardiola guy. Let’s hire an Italian next!”

Surely, Guardiola would have loved to take his prodigy Thiago Alacantara with him to Manchester City. He would likely love to bring Lewandowski with him as well (though Real Madrid are circling like vultures hoping to sign the dynamic Pole this transfer window). Given the rumours that some current City players (coughcoughYayaTourecoughcough) are loathe to adopt the Guardiola style of play, Guardiola stands to have an uphill battle ahead of him at City.


Pep: “Bro, you can play for me at Man United! Look, their shirts are red and everything.” Thiago: “Pep. Stop touching me. Please.”


Pep has mountainous expectations to satisfy playing for an ownership group with the deepest of pockets and expecting a well-stocked trophy cabinet as return on their investment. He is also trying desperately to shake his label as an underwhelming coach with only one strategy who only takes work with teams who already have overwhelming talent and the finances to monopolize world class players.


He has the challenge of bringing his possession style of football to a very fit and strategically savvy Premiere League which stands to be most apt to consistently contain and counter his stifling possession game.

And now, he gets to wake up to the voracious British media every day and read, watch and stream all the lovely things the Special One and his good buddy Zlatan have to say about him, his team and his brand of football.


“What does Pep say when Zlatan’s balls are on his chin? Nothing, Zlatan’s dick is in his mouth.”

Have a good summer, Pep! Go somewhere cool, because it’s going to get mighty hot underneath that collar of yours soon.

Dem Jays: State of the Franchise 2015

Hello, dear readers. Long time no read. I trust we’ve all been well. As the long, cold Canadian winter trudges ever onward and we, the few, the proud, the pasty Canadians watch with glee as the days grow longer and say “Oh yea, spring she’s coming soon, eh?” to our neighbours while hacking darts and sipping double doubles, rolling up our rims as we do, this means one thing.

Well, actually it means a lot of things. Valentine’s Day. Tax season is around the corner. Champions League footy. The anchor leg of the league season in the footy world. Trade Deadline day in the NHL. Besides all that, however, it also means that Pitchers and Catchers will soon be making their way down to Dunedin Florida to report for Spring Training.

That right, people. Dem Jays are going to work shortly. Let’s talk about that for a while. (Imagine that, a blog titled “Dem Jays” about well, Dem Jays. Not exactly avant-garde material here, people. We’re aiming for simple, but effective

Yesterday, on Thursday February 5th, 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays held their annual “State of the Franchise” meeting at Rogers Center with Season Ticket holders and broadcasted said meeting over their website, to the delight of Jays fans such as myself. President of the team Paul Beeston, General Manager Alex Anthopolous, coach John Gibbons and broadcaster Buck Martinez were all present to field questions about the team.

Let’s start off with 5 things we can take away from these meetings.

#1 Russell Martin will get every chance to catch R.A. Dickey

This is fairly self-evident I believe. When R.A. Dickey came to the Jays 2 off-seasons ago, Management were quickly left with a conundrum. “So who’s going to catch this guy?” The realistic answer they were left with was “No one on your current roster” so the Jays called the Mets back and grabbed Josh Thole in a second trade, who has acted as Dickey’s personal caddy ever since.

Why? Well, the knuckleball is, by it’s nature, unpredictable. Thus, catching it poses a certain challenge. That challenge, if not embraced, can be detrimental to a catcher’s confidence. This lack of confidence and frustration can creep into his hitting game and take him away from his strengths. Thus, the logic was get Thole, let him focus on catching Dickey and let the main-stay catcher be the catcher 4 games out of 5.

Martin after signing with the Blue Jays.


So, what’s the problem? Well, no disrespect to Josh Thole, but on successful franchises, the Catcher position is often a source of great leadership, strong situational hitting and a lot of “Baseball IQ”. The acquisition of Dioner Navarro last season showed us how much of a difference a solid switch-hitting catcher can make for this team.

Thole has, to this point in his Jays career, been largely uninspiring in his offensive production. He does not have an above average arm to deter runners from stealing second base. He’s a fringe player who would serve on a AAA line-up or a less ambitious team, but not the calibre of performer that the Jays require at that position to achieve their goal of returning to the playoffs this season.

If Russell Martin, a proven leader, hitter and defensive stalwart can successfully catch the knuckleball, then Dioner Navarro keeps his job as the back-up catcher and can serve as a switch-hitting DH on his days off; maybe even take a shot at first or third base on those 10 or so days off Edwin and JD will need over the course of a 162 games.

Navarro reacts while at the plate for the Blue Jays.

Given that Navarro has a good eye and hits from both sides while Thole is a sub .200 hitter with no real distinguishing offensive traits, this is a huge upgrade that will go a long way for the Jays over the long haul.

Even if Martin’s offensive numbers are not as gaudy as they were in seasons past, having Dio around to pitch in with the bat can help offset any deterioration in Martin’s production due to age while allowing Martin to groom the crop of young arms the Jays have in their system over the next three to four seasons.

I am sure the Jays keep Thole around, just in case of injury, but he can expect to find himself in AAA ball if Martin proves to be just as effective at catching the Knuckler as Thole is. Even if Martin ISN’T all that good at catching the knuckler, given what he is being paid and his importance to the franchise’s next few seasons, it’s his kitchen to cook in. The only way Martin won’t be catching Dickey is if he tells AA / Gibby he doesn’t want to.

#2 The Jays are banking that their young arms produce

Marcus Stroman established himself as MLB ready in the 2013-2014 season.

There are some circular arguments surrounding this particular development, but clearly, as the Jays rotation looks as we sit today, the Jays are not only counting on Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchinson to PROGRESS rather than REGRESS, but they expect the same out of Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez as well.

If any of the assumptions put forth in the SotF meeting should be worrying, this is the one I am most concerned about. Now, that’s not to say that I am not a fan of Stroman, Sanchez and Norris. Quite the contrary, I think all three have shown incredible promise and potential and, if properly groomed (as they should be with Martin behind the dish), they should blossom into all-star calibre pitchers.

Though Aaron Sanchez’s two-seam fastball shows great late movement, control will be king in determining his role for the Jays this season.

That being said, these things take time. To operate under the assumption that 4 of 4 blue chip arms will all flourish in the same season is one hell of a gambit. The reality is, chances dictate that one of Sanchez, Stroman, Hutchinson and Norris will experience injury troubles and another will regress and/or not progress as expected.

That not cynicism, that’s just a sprinkle of prudence into the optimism pie that every franchise sells their fans going into Spring Training. There is a certain circular argument that the Jays keep falling back on of “Well, one guy will be a starter and the rest of the guys will help from the bullpen.” Unless they get hurt, in which case….. where are the options.

We do have Marco Estrada who came to the Jays in a trade for Adam Lind, but Estrada comes with a lot of question marks himself. What great irony it would be if Estrada turns out to be the stud of the bunch; there’s nothing saying he can’t. However, Toronto is considered “Baseball purgatory” to many players, and Estrada seems (from the outside at least) to have that attitude of not being overly thrilled to be playing North of the Border.


“Mountain Man” image aside, if lefty Daniel Norris can prove he is MLB ready this season, the south paw would be a welcome addition to the Jays starting rotation on Opening Night.

Now, Estrada also has some experience as a starter in the Bigs, but he struggled with the Brewers last season and landed in the pen for a reason. If Estrada buckles down and really fights to take a spot in the starting rotation, then the Jays have the type of problem every manager dreams of; 7 potential starters and a 5  man rotation to round out.  If reality sets in, however, and we see 2 of the 4 young arms continue to progress while one of the other two contributes from the pen, then there is an awful lot hinging on what we can expect from Estrada next season; and that’s assuming he Big Dogs Dickey and Buerlhe don’t regress; which at their age is likely.

Lots of questions and not a lot of answers in the pitching situation, unfortunately.

Marco Estrada’s status will prove instrumental in determining the severity of the Jays need for help in both the starting rotation and the bullpen out of spring training.

#3 It will be Second Base by Committee

When Gibby was asked about Second Base, you could instantly tell that the truth behind his answer was “Your guess is as good as mine.” Let’s recap, shall we. MLB baseball has a drought of 2nd basemen. There are 3 or 4 really good performers and a lot of passable players with specific strengths after them. For the Jays, this reality is no different.


Maicer Izturis is caught between a rock and a hard place with the Jays; if he succeeds early on he will likely be traded. If he flounders, his career is in jeopardy.

We have Maicer Izturis, who is coming off an injury and a disappointing first two seasons with the Jays. So, realistically, 40 games of solid effort, 20 of uninspiring play, and the rest injured or under-performing are a prudent estimate. Sure, Izturis might catch fire and tear it up, but the Jays might choose ME to replace Paul Beeston because I’m a straight shooter and my name is also Paul. It’s never wise to bank on “Might” levels of probability.

Ryan Goins was serviceable but little else at second base last season for the Jays.

Then, we have Ryan Goins, who can turn a double play but sucks at the plate. He makes more sense to be a defensive sub than a starter given his skill set. Mr. Utility Steve Tolleson is back for another kick at the can. As a great situational hitter who can slot in defensively anywhere in the infield, he’ll get his fair share of starts and subs in favourable hitting circumstances.

We have the enigmatic Travis picked up in a trade with the Tigers; who know one is really sure what to make of at this point. The Jays will give him every chance to impress and steal the job, but the unspoken sentiment seems to be that he needs seasoning in the lower leagues before making the jump to the show.

Though Devon Travis shows potential to hit for power down the road, he still has a lot to prove before he can claim the Blue Jays second base job as his own.



If anything, the most intriguing tidbit Gibby gave us to suggest that Kawasaki might steal the 2nd base job. And why wouldn’t he? The fans love Kawasaki, myself included. He has shown a willingness to adapt to the needs of the team and short stop and second base aren’t exactly miles from one another. Given his immense popularity and the fact that he has a very calming effect on the clubhouse and keeps the guys loose, my money is on Kawasaki getting the most work at 2nd.

Ultimately, though, I think when 162 games are played, all of the above will see some time at 2nd base (except maybe Travis who will likely season in AAA ball.) I would expect Izturis to get traded for an arm if he shows ANY sign of being a passable second baseman another team could make use of (to elicit a bunch of WTF? reactions from Jays fans who can’t see the big picture and think managing a major league ball club is as easy as the video games make it seem.)

Who doesn’t love Munenori Kawasaki? If he wants to play second base, why not let him?


The hope of signing or trading for a second baseman are pipe dreams, people. Trades for the Robinson Cano’s of the world don’t make sense and the relative difference in production from a Tolleson / Kawasaki / whoever platoon and a marginally more established second baseman are slim. Why pay the price for Ian Kinsler, both in trade bait and in salary dollars, when the production difference is so slim?

Steve Tolleson has been a reliable utility man for the Jays and may be a part of a second base platoon this coming season as well.

As we will discuss in closing, the lineup doesn’t need an “impact player” at second base. It needs someone who can work a count, get on base and steal a few. Given Kawasaki has shown that he can work a count, get on base and steal a few, I think the Jays are right to be content with their situation at second.  The one player who might have done the Jays favours at second was Ben Zobrist, who is the latest in a long list of under-valued players scooped up by Billy Beane in Oakland.  I highly doubt Beane will cough him up any time soon, so it’s second base by committee, lads and ladies.

#4 Surprise Surprise, we need more Arms

This is news to no one; the Jays rotation looks a lot better when the top 3 reads “R.A. Dickey, Mark Buerlhe, X” where X is equal to the elusive arm we have been praying for since Josh Johnson shat the bed and turned out to be a gas can. Again, this is not a slight on Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, Hutchinson or Estrada. We would all breathe a lot easier to have an established arm in the top 3 so the younger guys could spend time in the bullpen if they struggle.

As is always the case in baseball, however, you can never have enough pitching and everyone and their dog is looking for “Another top 3 starter to round out our rotation”. The teams who DON’T have that problem (The National and the Dodgers to name a few) aren’t going to cough up their depth at the position any time soon because they recognize that people get hurt. Tommy John Surgery happens. Having a “Top 3” guy pitching fifth in your rotation is the kind of problem you dream of having as a baseball manager.

Though courted by the Jays, right-handed reliever Ronald Belisario ultimately signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Though, if all goes well, this is a problem the Jays will face soon enough when Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, Hutchinson and Hoffman all season and develop their potential, this problem is still three seasons away at best. While we can dream of James Shields until we are blue in the face, I think Jays Nation is dreaming in Technicolor on that front.

Any A-List pitcher willing to go to the AL for big cash will land with the Bo Sox or the Tigers long before they come to the Jays due to various reasons that all revolve around the money (Canadian taxes, lesser brand recognition and marketability relative to the big name American teams and general “Baseball culture” to name a few.) That being said, the Jays will either need to take a risk on a trade of a few bit pieces for a risky arm or sign a risky arm everyone else has written off.

Kyle Kendrick got more money than expected when he signed with the Rockies.

Given that Kyle Kendrick signed for $5.5 Million guaranteed and $7 Mil with incentives and that Kendrick has more or less established himself as a 4+ ERA guy who won’t win you a tonne of games and will only log big innings at the cost of big runs without much more improving to do, the Jays really don’t have the pockets to go out and sign a $20 Million pitcher without taking away from what they already have; a lot of great young arms and arguably the best top two third of a batting order in the MLB on a day-to-day basis.

Therefore, if the Jays REALLY want to make an impact on their rotation, they are going to have to get creative which I why they haven’t signed or traded for anyone. Rumours of the Jays kicking tires on Jonathon Papelbon are well-founded but how much would the Jays be willing to pay for an over-priced and deteriorating asset? Couple this with the fact that Papelbon doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy who would embrace life North of the Border, and you see the Jays conundrum.

The risks are too great because the people you CAN get will likely disappoint (Papelbon, Belasario) and the people you want are too costly (James Shields). What the Jays really need in my opinion is a left handed pitcher who can log innings and get a lot of ground balls, seeing as how you still have a gaping hole at center to fill. In a perfect world, you could finagle Jon Niese out of the Mets, but the Mets aren’t buying that deal any time soon.

James Shields has been highly coveted by fans and management alike, but the financial realities just don’t seem to line up for the Jays to make the deal work.


Niese is not exceptional, but he is young, relatively cheap and would make a serviceable addition to a rotation that could read “Dickey, Buerlhe, Stroman, Niese, X” (Sanchez, Norris, Estrada, Hutchinson….whoever) That being said, the Mets know what they have in the likes of Niese, and the price coming back would have to include one of the blue chip pitchers of tomorrow.

As it looks to me, I think the jays are going to have to roll the dice on a B list pitcher of yesteryear like Johan Santana (the lefty who wants to make a comeback after a few years out of the Major Leagues). Sure, this kind of a signing is risky, but what isn’t? You have the money and the space in your roster. Time to buy an old dog and get him to teach the young pups how to lead the pack.

If Santana came in to the Jays, started 15 games, won 5 and spent the rest of the time in the bullpen racking up holds by eating important innings in tight games, he would be $5 Million well spent in my eyes; assuming that he embraces a leadership role and is willing to act as a sort of role model and guide to the other arms on the team.

Would the Jays be willing to roll the dice on a Johan Santana comeback?



What the Jays pen and rotation really lacks is that veteran presence. Todd Redmond, Aaron Loup and Brett Cecill are a pretty solid foundation for the bullpen moving forward. Even Kyle Drabek isn’t the worst piece in the world if he is played to his strengths (IE he throws against guys who swing at everything and never has to labour through long innings or long at bats.)

Still, it is incredibly young and if the Jays wan to have a legitimate chance at making a run to the post season, they sorely need an “old dog” both in the stating rotation and in the bullpen. If they want that run to go anywhere, they probably need two of them, one lefty and one righty. They could make do with 2 vets in the bullpen, but that’s only if those vets help make the projected starters better by being lights out in their late game support.

#5 Michael Saunders is a lot more excited to be a Blue Jay than we thought

One thing that definitely stuck out to me when watching the SotF footage of the Winter Tour was the excited new face who looked genuinely enthused, looking to the camera to say “Unbelievable man.” “Who the Funk is that guy?” I asked myself. “Is that Michael Saunders?”

It was. It was Michael Saunders. Apparently, Baseball Purgatory is not baseball Purgatory to everyone, most notably, not to Michael Saunders. When you take a good long look at Saunders, it makes sense. Saunders is the type of player the Jays need to find for their bullpen. He’s a proven big leaguer with talents that others tend to take for granted.

He’s not a glamour outfielder; who won’t hit homers like Jose Bautista and he won’t steal 40 bases or bat .300 like Jose Reyes. What Saunders will give is about .250  – . 260 average, 20 stolen bases and golden glove defense over 140 games or so. Not all star numbers, but serviceable and reliable production out of a slot that the Jays don’t really need to produce.

Saunders should provide steady defense from left field while posing a threat to steal on the base pads.

One of the questions asked of Gibby during the SotF meeting was “How do you plan on improving a bottom half of the order that might not be as good as other bottom orders in the MLB?” Though Gibby very masterfully deflected the question by cracking wise to Buck Martinez and asking “Is that a shot? I know Buck and I were always in the bottom half of the batting order.” Gibby also very tactfully avoided giving the obvious and honest answer. “I’m not planning on improving it.”

The bottom half of the order IS the bottom half of the order for a reason. The top of the order get runs the Flashy way; home runs, doubles, triples, line drives and the like. The bottom three batters in your lineup really only have one job; see a lot of pitches and make the pitcher work. This is why the value of players like Kawasaki and Saunders is not readily apparent.

Kawasaki does not have overwhelming power nor is he exceptional at contact hitting. He does, however, see a lot of pitches and stretch out at bats. If a bottom third of Saunders, Pompey/Pillar and Kawasaki can see between five and six pitches per at bat, have ONE of the three get on base, either via walk, bunt or otherwise, and at least establish a THREAT to steal, if not steal a base outright, then they are doing their job.


Dalton Pompey is good, but not great at centre field.

They could conceivably put a man on second or third when the rotation rolls over and give the lead off man the chance to drive in a run. That’s doing your job when you’re the 7th, 8th or 9th guy in the batting order. If you look at guys like Saunders, Kawasaki, Tolleson and, presumably, Izturis, they are all players capable of doing those little “Small ball” things while providing sound defense at their positions.

That’s all you need. You don’t need Ryan Braun batting 8th in your lineup. From an economic perspective, it would be money well wasted to invest in “glamour” players where role players will do because it would be money better spent on pitching.

As for Michael Saunders, I think we can at the very least expect him to provide solid production from the bottom end of the lineup. If he really catches fire, he  may be able to bat second or lead off (when/if Reyes is injured) when he is hot and seeing the ball well (maybe 30 starts hitting second if JD runs cold), steal a fistful of bases and give the pitcher something to worry about when he gets on base.


Josh Donaldson provides a Jose Bautista inspired swing to the Jays batting lineup this season.

These are all the little things that the Jays have needed out of Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey, Anthony Gose and Ryan Goins that they just couldn’t deliver consistently and that’s what Saunders will really be able to provide the Jays that they sorely need. CONSISTENCY in defence, consistency at the dish, and a reliable presence who might not tear the cover off the ball or set his cleats on fire, but won’t suffer the prolonged slumps and inexplicable lack of production that has plagued otherwise highly-touted prospects in the past.

Saunders is stoked to come to Toronto and remind the baseball world that he has a lot to contribute to a ball club. Not only can he be a part of bringing the Jays back to the post season, but if he does, he will be earning himself a big pay day down the road for his efforts.

So, with all that being said, the question in Jays fans minds remains “Now what? What comes next?”

#1 Another OutFielder

Hey, Rajai Davis, remember us? You know we always loved you up here! The Jays aren’t dying for help at center Field, but a little veteran support on the cheap would be handy. Davis would be a perfect addition to this club to provide a bit of a “Small ball” feel to the club. Yes, I am aware that he is not getting any younger and yeah, I know this is Rajai “Down and Away”-vis we are talking about here.

The fact remains, the only thing better than having ONE Micheal Saunders would be two of them. Pompey is better kept as a situational player to be used in developmental situations, running the bases and playing center for an inning or two in a late game rather than for 9 innings at a time. He hasn’t been consistent enough in the field or at the plate to earn a permanent spot on the team and a little “Grey power” wouldn’t hurt.


Ra-ra, come baaaaaaccck!

Ideally, a Torii Hunter or Nick Markakis type would have been ideal, but given that a 38-year-old was worth more money to the Twins than Casey Janssen was to the Jays, the fact is the Jays just can’t pay for that kind of talent. Even though Torii could be, in my opinion, THE piece that made the Jays contenders in the AL East, he’s also 38 and a huge risk given his hefty price tag.

Ditto Nick Markakis, who isn’t exactly a standout fielder, but he’s a steady .260ish hitter who sees a lot of pitches, doesn’t strike out a tonne and can hit doubles to the gap and drive in runs. Unfortunately, there are 29 other ball clubs who know that and most of them were willing to pay more for him than the Jays were, so that leaves us with the “Down and Away”-vis’s of the world.


Torii Hunter was worth was more to the Twins than he was to the Jays in the off-season. Can you blame him for taking the money at 38-years-old?

Expect the Jays to sign or trade for a serviceable outfielder, possibly using Izturis or Valencia as bait. (Don’t laugh. Maicer Izturis is a half decent second baseman, and second base is the shallowest talent pool in the bigs. Also, Valencia can hit against lefties and plays at the corners; a very popular platoon location.)

Whether the Jays get a left fielder and ask Saunders to move into the Center of the field or just sign some old “Oh yeah, that guy” type of Center Fielder to push Dalton Pompey, both for depth purposes and immediate need, I expect Center Field/Left field to be the position player hole the Jays address via signing / trade rather than second base.

#2 Dioner Navarro is not getting dealt any time soon

I have said this all along, Navarro was far too valuable on the Jays last season to be let go this season. He’s a great switch hitter, he’s a team player and he has a great attitude. That being said, he knows his limits and he knows that 100 games caught is about as good as he can ask for while producing at a consistent level.

Though his first reaction to Martin’s signing was “Trade me out of here because I’m not catching the knuckleball”, and understandably so when an all-star catcher shows up on the team making a boatload of money for the next five years and the love fest begins, Dio impressed a lot of Jays people last season, myself in particular.

Dioner Navarro can still be effective for the Jays in a backup capacity.

Let’s be fair to all parties here. Dio is not Russell Martin; he doesn’t have Martin’s ability to call a game, he definitely doesn’t have his communication skills (which is pretty damn important when it comes to the pitcher/catcher relationship), and he’s not the pitch-framer that Martin is (even though I am known to de-value rather than over-value this “skill”).

Dio IS, however, a solid switch hitter who can spray the ball all over the park, has home run power, works counts effectively, sees the plate well and brings a very consistent approach to the plate that many Jays players are criticized for lacking. It is conceivable that Dio might have offensive numbers comparable to, if not superior to Russell Martin’s if his sample size is well controlled.

If Martin DOES establish himself as “The guy” to catch R.A. Dickey, then having Dio around to catch 40 or so games, DH from time to time and pinch hit in big games is a huge advantage for this ball club. I would even go so far as to say that the Martin / Navarro tandem has the potential to be the best 1-2 catching duo in baseball this season. (Sorry Josh Thole, but I hear Buffalo is nice this time of year.)

As a big bat with home run power who hits from both sides of the plate, it’s no surprise the Jays are in no rush to let Dioner go.

Add on to that the fact that Navarro is a good club house presence, a very likable and hard working guy who gives it all for his team and isn’t the type to complain and Alex Anthopolous is wise to play hard ball with would-be trade partners who want Dio for their broken-down Bullpen arms. Navarro can hit in the high .200s and flirt with .300 if used properly. The Martin signing put Navarro in an ideal situation; backing up a solid catcher and providing solid support from DH.

If they could find a way to miracle Navarro into a second baseman, the Jays would be laughing but given that Dio is not exactly fleet of foot, a few rounds at First base seem much more reasonable. That’s not to say that Navarro WON’T be traded, but if he is, it will be through gritted teeth for that “Top 3 rotation” guy the Jays so desperately covet. That trade is far more likely to happen near the end of the season as opposed to during spring training, so don’t throw out your Navarro jerseys yet, Jays fans. Dio’s probably not going anywhere any time soon.

#3 Got Arms?

Oh, did we mentions the Jays need bullpen help? Expect the “Shotgun” approach all through Spring Training. Ricky Romero? Sure, why not. If you have an arm, start throwing with it. The Jays need a left handed starter and at least 3 arms for their bullpen, one of them preferably a closer.  The real problem for the Jays is that the field out there is pretty weak. Lots of gas can types who are prone to giving up the long ball; not a promising trend in a homer-friendly park.

Given the financial trends out there, the Jays are likely going to have to go “Feast or famine” on this on and risk some money on guys with injury history and hope that they bounce back. They seemed to be ready to do that with Belasario, but he got cold feet and signed with the Rays instead. (Given the weather in Tampa vs. Toronto, can you blame him?)

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Serge.


Despite all the holes in the roster on paper, though, there HAS been addition via subtraction in that Sergio Santos won’t be blowing any games for the Jays this year. With the glut of young pitchers in the system, you will get some spark out of the kids because MLB hitters don’t have a book on them yet.

That being said, there is now a book on Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchinson. Expect their numbers to be a bit more humbling this season as more and more MLB hitters get to know their stuff. Again, though there is an immediate need that AA will need to make at least one signing to address, it makes more sense for the Jays to wait for 100 games to get played and scoop up a closer from a team that’s out of the running and know what they are buying rather than gamble on the unknown now.

Unless the Phillies are giving him away for free AND paying his salary, Jonathan Papelbon is a liability the Jays are better off avoiding.

Personally, I think it makes more sense to try to nickel and dime someone like Johan Santana and hope he becomes tight with Dio and catches fire than it does to give up a big prospect or a piece to take a chance on someone else. Even if he’s only good for 140 innings or so, if you can stretch those innings out and make them count, it will buy valuable time for your kids to season.

After all, it’s one thing to steal your buddy Sanchez’s job, but it’s another to take that job from Johan Santana. He’ll bring experience and a professionalism to the team that will show the young pups in the Jays bullpen what a REAL big dog looks like, even if he is a little long in the tooth. Let’s be real here, I don’t expect Johan Sanatana to be what he once was performance wise.

Gibby’s gonna have a lot to think about during Spring Training.

You can’t coach competitive spirit, though, and assuming Santana legitimately wants to make one last kick at the can, the Jays are as good a place as any to try the reboot. Otherwise, there aren’t any real big names out there who seem to be overly keen to sign with the Jays.

#4 Thole might be gone, but Dickey’s not

For Jays fans who have been praying for R.A. Dickey to find his ticket off the team bus, it looks like you’re stuck with him. Dickey is the guy, for better or for worse, at the top of the Jays lineup and we might as well just grin and bear it. f he does leave at this point it will be in a “Sell off” come the trade deadline, which would mean the Jays have under-achieved and aren’t even in contention for a spot in the post-season. Even at a prudent estimate, I see the Jays around 3rd in the AL East again this season.

R.A. Dickey will be the guy next season, and if he isn’t, it’s because the Jays are out of the running.


#5 Hurry up and wait

As much as we Jays fans are, as always, waiting with baited breath for that last little tweak to this roster so we can do what we do best and sell ourselves hope of another championship season, it’s not coming any time soon. It behooves the Jays as well as their fans to be patient at this point and wait while we evaluate the team in Spring Training.

Jays have a few valuable trade chips to deal to a team that needs them (Navarro, Izturis, Dickey and Thole, Valencia and/or Smoak), and the market for those pieces will not really ripen until the severity of the deficits in other teams becomes apparent. That won’t happen until we start playing ball, folks.

Alex Anthopoulos has to do what he does best; work the phones and find a dance partner to pull the trigger on the next deal to make the 2014-2015 Jays a post-season candidate.

So Mr. Beeston, Mr. Anthopoulos and company, keep on keeping on good sirs. You’ve done a bang up job thus far, let’s not be too hasty putting the finishing touches on this team. We’re in a better position than we have been for the past 2 years, so let’s make the most of it.

Thanks for reading folks, that’s what’s going on with Dem Jays.

Match Day 1 – Friday Fixture – Bayern vs Wolfsburg

Long time no read, dear readers. My, how time flies by when we are having fun. To summarize, we have seen a transfer window come and go. We have seen Die Mannschaft become Die Weltmeisterschaft. We have seen many faces come and many faces go. Philip Lahm and Per Mertesacker hang up their boots for the German national team. Robert Lewandowski joins FC Bayern and begins scoring goals by the fistful. All in all, just another crazy summer is drawing to a close as the genesis of another new season is upon us here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog……


Bayern vs. Wolfsburg

First off, dear readers, apologies for the lack of the usual bells, whistles, pictures and videography. At the moment, we are currently stored safely away in a Government of Canada building preparing to serve this great nation for yet another day. Aye, it is the life of the public servant for me, as even the public service requires the odd worker who believes in hard work and efficiency moreso than lazy days spent complaining about what we haven’t received while we await paycheques to cash that we haven’t earned.

That being said, Amen for access to wordpress, and to the great people of OC Transpo here in the city of Ottawa who so consistently and reliably get me to my workplace far earlier than is necessary so I can spend a few moments here with you. Now, more importantly, on to the task at hand! This season the Bundesliga kicks off with a bang with a Friday Fixture that no one should  conceivably miss, defending Bundesliga champions FC Bayern Munich face off against VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

FC Bayern will be riding the wave of a great campaign last season as well as a German national team World Cup victory. Though the celebrations are scarcely complete, the long season and international competition has taken it’s toll on the Bavarians. The entire central midfield of last season is out with injury (or, in the case of Toni Kroos, relocated to Madrid). Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alacantra and Javi Martinez are all on the sidelines, leaving newcomer Sebastian Rode to marshall the central midfield along with newly-Christened midfield presence and team captain Philip Lahm.

Who Pep Guardiola lines up as the third midfielder is something of a mystery. Will it be Mario Götze or Pierre Emilie Hjolberg, the son of Mehmet Scholl? Will David Alaba line up in the midfield while Juan Bernat takes the left flank? Only Pep Guardiola knows. We shall have to wait and see. One thing is for certian. Star striker Robert Lewandowski will be there with bells on looking to knock in a fist full of goals for his new team to remind them why they gave him the covetted number 9 after poaching him from Borussia Dortmund.

For Wolfsburg, it will be more of the same this season as they try to rediscover the form that made them Bundesliga champions not so long ago. With the ageless former Bayern man Ivica Olic making his tireless runs in the attack, the Wolves will be trying to play the role of usurper this Friday evening. The Wolves have not been without their own drama and intrigues, however, as Swiss International goalkeeper Diego Benaglio has hung up his boots as far as international duty is concerned. Now he can focus on the task at hand; repelling the Bavarian assault.

In the end, dear readers, I believe it will be no secret to any fan of this publication what we expect and know to be the end result of this debut match of the 2014-2015 Bundesliga Campaign. I predict a resounding Bayern victory at the Allianz Arena, to the delight of the 69,000 joyous fans who will flock to the stadium in droves to cheer on their triumphant team to the tune of a 4 – 0 victory, with Robert Lewandowski leading the way with a hat-trick.

That’s just Lewa being Lewa, dear readers, and you can take that to the bank.

FC Bayern 4 – 0 VfL Wolfsburg

Can I promise you total coverage this season as I did a few season ago? I wish I could, dear readers. Democracy never sleeps, and without Your Humble Narrator to provide timely maintenance and lubrication to the wheels of democracy, the gears of the democratic process might grind and seize. I can promise you, however, that whenever their is a Bundesliga goal, a Bayern victory or a memorable moment, somewhere, Your Humble Narrator will be watching and thinking of all of you.

That’s all for today, dear readers. Be sure to come back soon to hear more specualation, analysis and predictions on all of the Bundesliga action here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog…..


Controversy in Sinsheim – Kießling’s Phantom Goal puts asterisk next to Hoffenheim – Leverkusen result

Though we rarely do in-depth reviews of singular games, dear readers, the events which occurred in the match between Hoffenheim and Leverkusen are worthy not only of some attention, but of a detailed explanation of the Laws of the Game and the responsibilities of the Officiating team.

First off, let’s set the stage. Leverkusen went into the half leading the game 1 – 0 against Hoffenheim.  On the 70th minute from a Leverkusen corner, Stefan Kießling heads in a goal at the near post…. or does he? At first, Your Humble Narrator thought it was a goal, as did the commentator of the game. But, let’s take a closer look at the replay, shall we?

The ball, after being headed by Kießling, crosses the goal line outside the post and slips THROUGH the side netting, falling into the back of the net. The referee signals a goal. The referee’s assistant, who is on the opposite side of the pitch, also signals a goal, given he does not have an angle of sight to have allowed him to see the difference.

Play is resumed. About a minute later, the Hoffenheim ground staff approaches the referee to indicate that the net has a hole in it, and that the ball traveled through the hole. Here is where things get complicated. According to FIFA’s Laws of the game, once the referee has resumed play, he CANNOT change any call he has made previous to the restart.

In other words, had the referee consulted with the grounds staff, noticed the hole, and confirmed the ball had traveled through it, he CAN call back the play, if and only if he has not resumed play. Once he HAS resumed play, however, the laws of the game FORBID the official from changing their ruling. This is to protect referees from excessive harassment from players regarding controversial plays. Once the whistle is blown and play is resumed, what Your Humble Narrator refers to as “Law 19” takes hold.

Law 19 is not one of FIFA’s laws, dear readers, as FIFA proscribes but 17 laws to govern the Beautiful Game, but is in the category of “conventional footy wisdom” that players, managers and referees acquire and abide by as they become experienced with the ins and outs of the game. What is Law 19, you ask? In my own words: “Shit happens. Get on with it. The show must go on.”

Now, Law 19 notwithstanding, as a licensed soccer referee, I can tell you that this is a nightmare scenario for any ref, and Dr. Felix Brych, who was the match official in charge of this match, was most definitely living a nightmare after this occurred. We’ve all been there, and at the level of FIFA sanction, I am certain Dr. Brych has been don this same ready many, many times.

I can’t speak for everywhere, but in the province of Ontario in the country of Canada where I live, they prepared us for exactly this type of situation from the very first training session you take on your road to becoming a licensed match official. The GOLDEN RULE that they drill into you is this; it does not matter if it takes you ten minutes to restart play. It doesn’t matter who you ask, how long you ask, or what you ask to make your final decision. It is ALWAYS better to take the time, talk to your assistants, and do whatever you can to ensure that you make the right call before you restart play because, once you restart play, you cannot reverse your decision.

Now, with the game at 2 – 0 for Leverkusen, presumably, had the match ended at that score, there may have been an attitude of “Well, the goal didn’t change the outcome of the match, so it’s really of no consequence in the bigger picture.” Citing my own refereeing experience, I can assure you 99 times out of 100, the calls even themselves out over the course of a match.

Oh, but not so fast, my dear readers. Hoffenheim are awarded a penalty on the 82nd minute. Bernd Leno saves, with a tense goal mouth scramble that follows and is cleared. So there is a bit less controversy now, right? Hoffenheim got their chance to pull the goal back, they missed. All is well, no? Well, not quite. Sven Shipplock comes on and nods a header through Bernd Leno that Leno probably should have saved. 2 – 1 Leverkusen, which is how the score ends.

Oh, and let’s not forget the goal that Hoffenheim scored that was called back for offside…. that wasn’t offside. Ironically enough, the poor offside call was made by the same assistant referee whose responsibility it was to check the defective netting which Kießling’s header slipped through. Did I say this was a nightmare for the officials? I stand corrected. This is a nightmare cubed. This is the nightmare that makes the rest of your refereeing nightmares seem like wet dreams filled with super model and porn stars all clamouring to satisfy your every fantasy.

Now, in fairness to Bernd Leno, the Leverkusen goalkeeper, the whistle had been blown a good second before the pass that led to the goal was struck. Bernd Leno did not offer a save at the shot. Would he have saved it had the whistle not been blown? It’s hard to say, but he WAS in the best possible position to offer a save. All things being equal, I give Leno a 33% – 50% chance of making the save had the play not been blown dead for offside, but I digress….

The plots in this game are thicker than cold pea soup, dear readers. Allow me to use my experience as a footy fan, licensed match official, and student of the beautiful game to explain the various dynamics, scenarios and technicalities which surround this controversial match as best as I am able for you, my dear readers.

Now, as a match official, I am loathe to critique other referees at any level for two very simple reasons. First off, it is in poor taste. I am of the opinion that, rather than criticize someone else, you should strive to do better than they have in similar circumstance and failing that, you should keep your criticisms to yourself. Secondly, and most importantly, I know first hand that being a soccer referee is INCREDIBLY difficult. Being a GOOD soccer referee is even MORE difficult.

I would argue it is far more difficult to officiate than to play simply because players are allowed to make mistakes. Referees are not. Not in the eyes of the public, not in the eyes of the teams, the players, the fans or, most importantly, in the eyes of other referees, themselves or the dreaded referee assessor who dissects your performance and illustrates in great detail your every fault, error and oversight.

Now, in the eyes of FIFA, they are very understanding of the plight of the match official, and they understand that no referee ever has or will referee a perfect game. Indeed, if you read over the Laws of the Game, nearly all of the laws which are subject to any form of interpretation are prefaced by the seven words that all match officials live and die by.

“If, in the opinion of the referee…”

You don’t need to be a lawyer to realize that these seven simply words are essentially FIFA’s way of standing behind their referees. It does not matter, according to the laws of the game, whether a player ACTUALLY tripped an opponent. It does not matter if there was contact on the play or if a player took a dive. What matters is simply the OPINION OF THE REFEREE. Referees are protected even further by the laws of the game when some fouls are listed as “Trips or ATTEMPTS to trip”, “Strikes or ATTEMPTS to strike”.

So, given that the laws of the game state that if, IN MY OPINION as a referee, while serving as the match official in a game, a player ATTEMPTS to trip an opponent, I am fully within my rights and responsibilities to call a foul.

Does it matter if the player ACTUALLY tripped the opponent? No, it does not.

Does it matter that the player INTENDED to trip the opponent? No, it does not.

Does it matter if everyone, INCLUDING THE PLAYER WHO WAS TRIPPED, is over the opinion that he accidentally tried to jump over the players leg and tripped himself?

No, it does not.

Regardless of the actual facts or the professions of the players involved, the opinion of the referee is all that matters with regards to the game (s)he is officiating. The referee is the ultimate authority, (s)he is the only authority with regards to the match that they officiate.

I assure you, dear readers, that if I had a nickel for every lie, deception, false claim or protestation made to me in a mere year and a half as a part-time soccer referee attempting to sway my judgment, I would not only own and occupy Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, but I would place an offer to purchase, lock, stock and barrel, the entire province/state of Bavaria that was so incredibly lucrative, the German government simply could not refuse it.

In return for all this power, however, there are some basic responsibilities which are demanded of the officiating team. One of those is the fact that prior to the match, the field of play MUST be inspected by the officiating team and verified to conform with the laws of the game as specified for that particular competition, which are explicit in their descriptions of what is and is not acceptable.

Though some league have minor variations, it is quite explicitly explained that the netting of both goals MUST be inspected to ensure they are properly affixed to the goal posts and are in good repair, leaving no gaps or defects which might lead to a ball passing over, under or through the netting, both prior to the start of the first and the second halves of the game.

I do not think, given the context of this post, dear readers, I need to explain why this is stipulated. Now, in my opinion, dear readers, this is where the fine point with regards to the laws of the game, and ultimate culpability for the phantom goal lies.

In my opinion, if the side netting of the goal, which bared but a single broken strand to allow the Kießling header to sneak into the net and lead to the awarding of a bad goal, WAS ALREADY BROKEN PRIOR TO THE HEADER which slipped through it, then the fault surely lies with the officiating team.

If, however, the side netting was NOT torn prior to the Kießling header, and the power of the header burst a weak seam in the netting, then the blame cannot be affixed to the referee’s assistant nor to the referee as defective equipment led to the missed call.

“But – but – but the ref shoulda seen it!” you will exclaim from the peanut gallery, with the usual assumption of non-referees that we referees are supposed to be omniscient and immune to reasonable restrictions known as “human error”.

My counter argument is simple; It is not the referees responsibility to stress-test equipment, up to and including the netting affixed to the goals. It is the home team’s responsibility, luckily for Dr. Brych and his officiating team, (in this instance that is the injured party Hoffenheim), to ensure the field of play conforms to the standards as set out by the league. If the field crew did not notice any weakness or defect in the netting prior to the match, then why should the referee be any different?

After all, the grounds crew are (presumably) who specialize in the care of the field of play and in ensuring it conforms to the standards set forth by the league. The referee is not a groundskeeper. Referees, under no circumstances, are to repair ANYTHING on the field of play because that is not their area of expertise. That is not their job nor their responsibility.

What IS their responsibility is that if they notice an issue with the field of play, they are to inform the home team, and the home team is responsible for making the field of play conform to the standards of the league or else the match is not to be played. It is to be rescheduled or forfeited, based on the rules and standards of the league in which the match is to be blamed.

Sorry, dear overly-critical fan who loves to blame the referee from the peanut gallery in an exercise of Schadenfreude, a German word which represents the act of taking joy in the hardships and miseries of others. Not the referee’s job, not the referee’s responsibility. That’s a Hoffenheim employees mistake. That’s his mistake, not Dr. Brych’s nor his assistants. Nice try, though! (coughcoughassholecoughcough)

Now, as a referee, I will break the unspoken law of Omerta (or “Code of silence”) to confide this much in you, dear readers. We referees know when we miss calls or make the wrong call. We know before players do, before the fans do, and before the managers do. It’s part of the explicitly sharp instincts and intuition you must develop if you want to stand in the hot spot and wear the coveted “White patch” which signifies FIFA accreditation, the highest level of refereeing accomplishment in FIFA’s infrastructure.

As they say in show business, however, the show much go on, and REGARDLESS of how awful a call we may make, how blatant a foul we miss, or how MANY of them we make or miss in one game, we are taught from the beginning, when most of us are still adolescents, that we must continue officiating the match as though we are infallible and we have not, can not, do not and will not make mistakes. Much like how your grandmother never passes wind, even when she is the only one in the room and both her own ears and nose betray her, it simply does not happen and that is the assumption which we are expected to operate under.

There is a line which I was taught by a man who has over 50 years experience as a match official, and whose knowledge and experience in the beautiful game are so extensive, they are beyond argument or reproach. “When a player trots by me and says “You really blew that call ref,” I look him dead in the eye and say “If you think that’s bad, wait to you see how I call the second half.” And I’ll let you in on a little secret, dear readers. That line works. I know. I use it frequently. Simply because, it doesn’t matter if I “blow the call”. I am the referee! What are the seven golden rules?

“If, in the opinion of the referee….”

As the referee, my opinion is the only one that matters, and my opinion cannot be wrong. It’s mine. It’s only wrong if I say it’s wrong. If you, as an outsider, want YOUR opinion to be the one that matters, you take the referee training courses. You work your way up the ranks. You earn the white patch. Then, YOU will be the opinion that matters, and YOU will enjoy the privilege of an infallible opinion for roughly 90 minutes at a time. Until then, I hate to break it to your, but your opinion means absolutely nothing. If you want to be right, at least in the context of the match, you’re going to have to agree with the referee.

That is the Law as per FIFA, and it’s not going to change any time soon, dear readers, because if it does, no one in their right mind will ever officiate again and you can’t play the game without referees. (Or goalkeepers, as per the Laws of the Game, but I digress….)

If you insist that this is ludicrous, allow me to explain why this, the infallibility of the match official, is an integral part of the laws of the game and that without it, most matches would be doomed to descend into chaos and turmoil.

THE SECOND that you, as the match official, establish that you have made a mistake, that tiny inch of ground that you have conceded to the players will soon turn into a light year of problems. Every second of the rest of that match will be an agony of scorn, derision and an endless and incessant petition from every and any player manager and fan to pounce on that weakness and exploit it.

You have established that your almighty opinion, which is the ONLY authority in the match, is negotiable. And you will be astounded at the aggressive negotiating tactics players and managers will employ to try to “negotiate” a favourable decision from you, the now puppet referee. You have, and will utterly and irrevocably lose control of the match and even the best and most well trained, experienced and well-prepared match officials will ever get that control back before the match is over.

The second the match official loses control of the game, he is no longer fit to execute his primary duty as an official, which is to protect the players safety. Once you are held in contempt by the player, you are no longer respected and your decisions are not heeded. If the player does not heed your decisions or respect your authority, he will challenge it, not by punishing you, but by taking liberties with the opposing team. Those liberties, if they do not result in an injury, will most certainly result in what safety specialists and professionals refer to as a “Near miss”; an instance which, although it did not result in an injury or fatality, easily could have given a minute change to the circumstances of the incident.

As much as a match official trains themselves in mental and emotional toughness and acuity, we are not robots. We do have feelings, and we do genuinely regret our mistakes. The temptation to give “A make-up call” is ever-present when you know you have made a bad decision in a match and you must constantly fight against it once it happens. This becomes a distraction which makes it difficult to give the game the attention that it requires, and the results on the pitch deteriorate quickly if you do not recover your focus and put your emotions aside.

In my experience, wherein I have made more bad or non-calls than I could ever possibly count in a single match, let alone over my entire career, I have come to see that, over the course of a full game, the bad calls, missed calls and questionable calls always even out in the end.

A casual observer, a pundit, a professional soccer analyst or even a professional football player or manager may not SEE that, as not all bad calls or non-calls are exceedingly visible or easy to identify, but any other match official who is worth his salt would likely agree. It all comes out in the wash. There is simply too much that happens over the course of a match to state definitively that one mistake, one contentious call or non-call, no matter how big or how small, determines the outcome of the game.

There is but one universal truth in football and it is this; the players on the field dictate the outcome of the game. 100% of the time, the players on the field dictate the outcome of the game. As a match official, this is at the heart of what we, between one another, refer to as “Law 18”. FIFA’s has 17 Laws that govern the game, and we frequently refer to Law 18 as “the law of common sense”. The golden rule of this law is as stated above. “Always remember that the players on the field dictate the outcome of the match.”

Do not be fooled by the players, the fans, the managers, the pundits, the professionals, the peanut gallery, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, the arm chair quarterback, the evangelists, your mother, your uncle Bob or your preacher into thinking that THE REFEREE dictates the outcome of the match! The referee does not get paid to dictate the outcome of the match! The referee gets paid to get blamed for the results!

Don’t laugh!

It’s a fact!

It’s a fact you learn after your first match, I assure, and after nearly every match thereafter. Some matches, more people blame you than others, but inevitably, the game is never lost because the goalkeeper didn’t make a save. The game is never lost because the defender didn’t mark his man! The game is not lost because the player strayed offside to try to score a goal that he couldn’t score from an offside position! That would be LUDICROUS! RIDICULOUS! OBSCENITY AND PROFANITY! Never, never NEVER! Never in a million years did the PLAYERS ON THE PITCH dictate the outcome of the match!

“It’s all the ref’s fault, coach! I swear I was onside, I SWEAR I was.”

“That ball NEVER crossed the line, ref, I SWEAR it didn’t.”

Bollocks. Lies and deceit. Nonsense, blasphemy and heresy. Shame on you poor losers for your blatant lack of sportsmanship. The match official doesn’t try to rob you of your victory, so why should you blame him for your defeat? Because you’re a sore loser and you lack character, that’s why. Plain and simple.

Grow up.

Did the REFEREE make the defender go in, studs up, from behind, on the last man when he was clear on goal?

No. He did not.

Did the referee push the attacking player past the second last defender before the ball was played forward, making him offside?

No, he did not.

Did the referee make the goalkeeper stray a bit too far off his line, or prevent him from getting to the ball a second earlier?


AND EVEN IF HE DID, THE REFEREE IS CONSIDERED PART OF THE FIELD! IT’S IN THE LAWS OF THE GAME! A ball that bounces off the referee is the same as a ball that bounces off the grass.

That’s the Law!

We know the laws! That’s our job!

Do you? Chances are pretty good that if you THINK you do, YOU DON’T! So quit kidding yourself! You’re certainly not fooling any referees out there, I’ll tell you that much. You might fool your friends, but you won’t fool the ref, and if you do, shame on you for subverting the laws of the game for your own selfish desires, because that is contrary to the spirit of the game, which is what the laws of the game are supposed to uphold. Even if you do get away with this heinous crime, you are still a criminal by virtue of action if not by virtue of indictment, and shame on you for bringing disrepute to the beautiful game.

“but-but-but-but what about that bullshit penalty ref?”


NO! He did not, can not, will not and never has.

The ONLY truth in football is that 99.9999999999% of the time, the players dictate the outcome of the match with their play on the field.
The other minute percent of the time, the referees he made an honest mistake at the ABSOLUTE LAST SECOND of the game where nothing could be done to alter it, and in those rare instances, I can only say that despite the illusion of infallibility, we refs make numerous mistakes over the course of EVERY game, but even on the worst of games, we will ALWAYS make less mistakes than the players because the only we a ref can make a mistake is if the player makes one first and we misjudge it. So, at our ABSOLUTE WORST, we are just as bad, for a tiny moment, as one of the players.

Most of us can live with that and those of us that can’t don’t do it for very long, which is why it is so hard to find good referees. Because refereeing is EXTREMELY hard, not SOME of the time, but ALL of the time. If it as easy, everyone would do it. So when those with the courage, conviction and talent TO do it make a tiny mistake, regardless of the end result of that mistake, be classy, dear readers.

Do the right thing. Refer to Law 19, Your Humble Narrators personal addition to FIFA’s Laws of the game, over and above the “Secret” law 18 that we referees share. The law of inevitability. The law of Life that none of us can prevent and all of us must deal with over and over and over again in our lives, both on the pitch and off it.

“Shit happens. Get on with it. The show must go on.”

The match official is not a God, dear readers. (S)he is not infallible, though we are instructed to operate under the presumption that we are while we are executing our duties on the pitch. The match official is not your enemy or you friend.

The match official is an observer. The match official is a guardian, a protector. That’s why we are there. To protect you. ALL of you. The player. The manager. The fan in the stands. Our PRIMARY CONCERN is ALWAYS your safety. After the players, we protect the coaches and the staff on the sidelines. After the coaches and staff, we protect the fans. Most of us, we protect the game, the beautiful game that we love. We protect it’s reputation and the spirit of sportsmanship that it represents.

Where else do Muslims, Christians and Jews embrace each other as brothers and sisters, regardless of the politics and policies of their personal lives, their nations or their cities?

Where else do nations with histories of violence, intolerance and genocide come together to compete with one another, stand side by side and show the universal human sign of respect by shaking each others hands. Every minute of every day all across this planet, people who, in other circumstances, might absolutely despise one another come together on a field, be it grass, dirt or cement, come together to share their passion for the beautiful game.

They play in rain, sleet and snow. They play in blistering heat and in freezing cold. The young and the old. The rich and the poor. They play in their cleats, their running shoes, their bare feet. They play.

Miracles happen every day, dear readers, and you would be astounded how often they happen on the soccer pitch. And every time I think that I have seen too much intolerance and poor sportsmanship to keep on acting as a guardian of the spirit of the beautiful game and it’s laws, I witness people, young people, old people come together and do things that would melt your heart, and I fall in love with the game all over again.

And despite all the nights when I come home drenched in sweat, fresh off of an earful of spite and hatred and intolerance, the slings and arrows of the defeated who, as always, need to do their utmost to make me miserable as the price of their defeat, as if the $15 the match put into my pocket is justification to be made into human toilet paper, I am honoured and privileged to count myself amongst those who have been entrusted to protect the spirit of the beautiful game and those who play it.

Now, despite the controversy regarding the goal that the match official, Dr. Felix Brych awarded, according to FIFA’s laws of the game, once he blew his whistle to resume play after the goal, it was no longer in his power to call it back. I can assure you however, dear readers, that no one is more upset and disappointed about it than he is.

If my word isn’t good enough to convince you, then fast forward to the 82nd minute of the match and look at the foul which the good doctor deemed worthy of a penalty kick. The penalty he awarded was soft. It was very soft. It was what some fans might call a make-up call. A weighting of his judgment in favour of the team he could not help but feel he had wronged by not spotting the ball going to the left of the goal post rather than the right, even though Dr. Brych was in nearly perfect position for the corner.

Dr. Brych was Behind and Wide of the play, at the top of the penalty area opposite his assistant with a clear view of the kick taker and the majority of the players on the pitch and ideally positioned to be facing the direction in which the play was headed. The corner did, however, get taken faster than he expected as he was in motion when it was struck, whereas in ideal circumstances, an official would normally be stationary at the time of the kick.

Though on instant replay, it may look as though he blew the call, most observers take for granted exactly how quickly the ball moves. Given the angle at which the ball was struck and where he was standing, the ball would have been, at best, a blur of white obstructed by the body of the goal-scorer. Given that the goal post is also white and the ball is moving at high speed, Dr. Brych had to rely on secondary indicators to determine the trajectory of the ball.

The net bulges. The ball is inside the net. Goal. He looks to his assistant, who like himself turns to make a sprint towards the center line, so he does what he has been trained to do and what he has done countless times before. He blows his whistle and trots towards the center circle, pointing to the spot for a restart in play. Did he make the right call?

I have a better question. Would you have done better in his place?

Prior to reading this article, were you aware of ANY of the determinant factors involved?

The proper signal for a goal? The responsibilities of the match official? Of the ground staff? Did you know the officiating team is supposed to check the netting not once, but twice? Did you know whose job it was to repair it? Were you even aware of what the laws of the game were, or did you, in you ignorance, refer to them as “The rules”. Football doesn’t have rules. It has laws.

Now you know.

You know that, of the THOUSANDS of tiny little details which the referee is responsible for DURING the match, a single little torn thread, less than an inch across, could make Dr. Felix Brych, a FIFA level referee, the object of more scorn and disdain than he is duly deserving of from thousands if not millions of football fans, from their comfortable seats in the peanut gallery.

As for the soft penalty kick, since most fans ignorance is best on display when it comes to the awarding of penalties, allow me to explain why the penalty he awarded was soft and, indeed, is likely the only part of that match that a FIFA assessor might legitimately be displeased with.

Firstly, the ball was won, and cleanly, by the defender. Once possession of the ball has been claimed by the defender, the onus is on the player who lost the ball to avoid contact with the player who has won it, not the other way around. One of the key factors in determining a foul is in asking the question “Who initiated contact?” The player who initiates contact should ALMOST never be awarded a foul, and the circumstances where they are to be awarded a foul are rare and exceptional.

Secondly, the contact between the two players took place JUST outside the box, the momentum of the players carrying them into it after the contact for which the foul was called had taken place. After most stoppages of play, play is to be restarted where the offense took place. Since the contact took place just outside the box the restart should have been a free kick at the edge of the box.

Granted, the contact took place mere inches outside the box, but referees at all levels are expected to be able to differentiate fractions of an inch from 30 + meters away; it’s part of the job and you would be surprised how good you get at it when you practice. Shifts as the referee’s assistant (commonly referred to as a linesman) are excellent practice at judging inches, and fractions thereof, from up to 60 meters away. If you`ve got good eyes and strong concentration, it’s not as hard as you think.

Now, there is a precedent in the Bundesliga where a match was replayed due to a goal which had been awarded in error between Bayern and Nürnberg back in the late 1970s. But, hold on a second here. If they DO replay the match, is it fair to Leverkusen, who would lose a well-earned 1 – 0 lead at half-time prior to the genesis of all this controversy, because of a defect in the nets that Hoffenheim provided for the match?

I really don’t know, dear readers. There are a lot of grey areas in this scenario, but there are a few things I can tell you for certain.

Firstly, that the Laws of the Game state that once the match official blows the final whistle, the match is over and the results are final. Individual leagues and competitions are permitted to have appendixes which modify or adjust the Laws of the game and/or expand upon them. The guiding principle within FIFA, however, is that final results are just that; final.

You do not castrate the match official by second-guessing his or her decisions, regardless of how ludicrous, negligent or (from an outside perspective) heinous and questionable they may be or the implications of the result simply because of the precedent it would set.

If ONE result is subject to appeal and over-turning after the fact, then EVERY result is subject to appeal and over-turning after the fact. There is enough complaining, petitioning, and controversy in football already. Not only would such an over-turning of the result constitute a vote of no-confidence in Dr. Felix Byrch and be a serious blow to his officiating career, but it would send a frightening message to all footy refs around the globe that they were disposable heroes to be discarded the moment they make a mistake. I assure you, dear readers, if that were the attitude that FIFA would take, then they would be out of referees within five years.

The one thing that makes all the training, all the grief, the stress, the death threats and insults, the mixed messages from instructors and scathing assessments, the money spent on travel, uniform and equipment and the meager, meager pay cheques worth while to footy referees everywhere is the fact that FIFA does their officials one simple courtesy; they respect our autonomy and they stand behind our decisions made on the pitch, regardless of how ludicrous they may be. (My thoughts stray to a certain Women’s World Cup match and an absolutely ludicrous call against a goalkeeper for handling the ball for more than six seconds.)

If THAT decision was not over-turned and that game not replayed, then will they really replay an early season match that, in the grander scheme of things, will not be definitive in determining the fate of either Hoffenheim OR Leverkusen’s season? If I had to make a wager, I would wager quite definitely in the negative. Though I feel for the Hoffenheim fans, just as I feel for the players who have, rightly or wrongly, perceived themselves victimized by any and every one of my free kicks, goal kicks, corner kicks, throw ins, kick ins, penalty kicks, off sides and goals I have ever awarded, called back, or not called at all, there is a “Law 19” in FIFA’s Laws of the Game that is not in the book and is as applicable to referees, players, managers and fans that I am willing to share with you all and it is this.

Shit happens. You have a better chance at success, both in the immediate future, the long term and everywhere in between if you follow the advice of some of the sagest football minds I have ever met, be they players, coaches or referees. “Get on with it”. You have a better chance of success if you leave it in the past and move on.

My sincerest sympathies to 1899 Hoffenheim, Koen Casteels the Hoffenheim goalkeeper, Hoffenheim fans and their ownership group. I truly wish that I, or anyone else, could help you in your hour of need, but sadly enough, you’re going to have to help yourself. For instructions on how to do so, please refer to Law 19 as stated above.

DAS BOOT! – Match Day 9 – Friday Fix

Long time no see, dear readers. Is it just me, or do the international breaks seem to last forever? Just when we seem to get a thirst for the Bundesliga action, and for those of us in North America, grow accustomed to waking up at the crack of dawn to watch footy on the weekends, it seems our favorites leagues always have to take a back seat for some qualification matches.

For most European footy fans, I am certain the international break contained a minimal amount of heartache, with most European footy super powers booking their ticket to Brazil for 2014. Can you believe the World Cup will commence at the end of this season? I know I barely can, dear readers. Let us focus on some more immediate matters however, and take a peek at the match which commences in just a few hours here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog…..


Our Friday Fixture this weekend will see Bayer Leverkusen visit Hoffenheim looking to capitalize on an inconsistent start from the Sinsheim squad. Leverkusen currently sit, as ever, in third place in the league. In truth, dear readers, Leverkusen seem to spend so much time in third in the league that you can nearly take it for granted. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, sit in the middle of the pack at tenth place, and need to get their affairs in order if they expect to turn their season around.

This match is a tale of two very different clubs, with Hoffenheim having become a model of inconsistency after their Cinderella run came just short of a championship a few seasons ago. Leverkusen, on the other hand, have been Steady Eddie in the Bundesliga; a consistently dangerous side that combines sound defensive play with a potent attack that features pace and finesse on the flanks with the Bundesliga’s most consistent and dangerous striker over the past three or four seasons a stable fixture through the middle, Stefan Kießling.

Indeed, Kießling’s form has led to his being included in the German national squad once again, despite being so often over-looked in favour of sexier players like Mario Gomez and André Schürrle, who’s youth and/or prestige seem to give them more clout with German boss Jogi Löw. In fact, it is likely only due to an injury to Mario Gomez which will see him out of action for the next two months that led to Kießling’s recall to the national team in the first place.

Never to be confused as a speedster, the lanky Kießling is nevertheless one of the most consistent goal-getters in the league, a fact that Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia doesn’t seem to be complaining about. With Korean prodigy Heung Min Son flourishing on the left flank and the pacy Sidney Sam playing play-maker on the other while Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok sits on the bench, ready to nod in goals when given the chance, the Leverkusen attack may not be as flashy and as sexy as the likes of Dortmund, Bayern, or even Hannover with their plethora of goal-getters, but Leverkusen do consistently score enough goals to get points out of more matches than not, and they all look the same on the scoreboard.

For Hoffenheim, there is only one guarantee in their matches; there is bound to be goals, and lots of them. Their most meager offensive performance saw them knock in a single goal against Wolfsburg in a 2 – 1 loss, while their best display was a 5 – 1 drubbing of Hamburger SV, known to fans of this publication as the HSV virus, a moniker granted due to their unerring ability to under-achieve match after match, season after season. For those of our readership who enjoy recreational gambling, this makes them an absolute nightmare to bet on.

French Striker Anthony Modeste has a less-than-modest six  goals in eight matches thus far in his first Bundeslga season with Hoffenheim.

If you are a betting (wo)man, then by all means, dear readers, take the over 2.5 goals scored in this match. I would even venture to wager on the over 3.5 goals if you can find it, for when Hoffenheim don’t score boatloads of goals, they seem to concede them. In only two of their eight matches, Hoffenheim have kept the opposition to a single goal. They haven’t a single clean sheet to their name thus far, and they coughed up SIX goals to VfB Stuttgart, who are a far cry from an offensive powerhouse.

With two wins, two losses, and four draws thus far, it is fitting that Hoffenheim lie smack dab in the middle of the table. The bulk of their offense has come from three key figures in their squad; newcomer to the squad Anthony Modeste (a French striker), young German striking talent Kevin Volland, and Brazilian midfield dynamo Roberto Firmino. All told, those three have combined to score 16 of Hoffenheim’s 20 goals this season.They will most certainly be marked men in this fixture as former defender and current Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia will have surely told his lads to contain them as best they can.

Sami Hyypia, left, giving instruction to his attacking players during training.

With the porous Hoffenheim defense and relatively unproven young Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels between the wickets for Hoffenheim, Leverkusen will hope to have a field day in the attacking third. Look for Heung Min Son in particular to make his mark on this match if he is able and knock in a goal or two for his new club. Though recent history suggests that Hoffenheim manage to score at least one goal in all their matches thus far, they have yet to face a defensive juggernaut of the caliber of Leverkusen in this young season.

Still, let’s give the Hof the benefit of the doubt and say they manage to get a least one goal past Bernd Leno. After all, who would want to disappoint the Hof?


Hoffenheim 1 – 4 Leverkusen

Come back soon while we review the result of this match and preview the many fixtures to come this weekend here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog…..


DAS BOOT! – Match Day 6 – Three games you don’t want to miss

Welcome back, dear readers. Long time no see. With the Friday Fixture off and running the action is quick underway in the Bundesliga as Match Day 6 kicks off with Borussia Dortmund atop the table with a perfect 15 points, Bayern close behind with 13 points thanks a draw with Freiburg on match day 4, Leverkusen are in third place on 12 points, while Hannover are up on Mainz on goal differential to round out the top of the table heading into the games. Let’s take a look at the three most exciting matches coming up this weekend here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog……


Your Humble Narrator, at Säbener straß, FC Bayern HQ

The Battle of the Boas


How long ago was this photo taken, when the two Boatengs playing for the Old Lady Hertha Berlin, who was then dominant in the league and led by German defender Arne Friedrich? Long enough, dear readers, to be a distant memory. The most intriguing storyline that develops with the return of Prince to the Bundesliga is the next chapter in the tale of the Boateng brothers. Once teammates long ago, their careers were so similar, and yet a schism led them down two very different paths.

Prince, the more offensively minded, chose to play for Ghana in international competition, paying homage to his blood. Jerome, the more defensively minded, chose to play for his land of birth, Germany. Prince decided he would leave the Bundesliga. Jerome stuck around a while longer before leaving. Prince went to Italy. Jerome went to England. The dichotomy that developed between the once inseparable and iconic brothers was vast and noticeable.

Now, the real question is, is their room enough in the Bundesliga for the two of them? Prince, eternally the outspoken “Bad Boy” of the Boateng brothers has landed firmly in his brother’s pond on the tails of his brother’s resounding success, and has chosen to wear the number 9 for Bayern rivals Schalke. If the signing of Neuer didn’t create enough animosity already between the two sides, then the signing of Prince Boateng throws yet another catalyst into the reaction. In the late Saturday match, be sure to catch all the fireworks when they set the Veltins Arena on it’s head when Die Bayern show up.

Expect thunderous chants and whistles from the fans, hard challenges and a high pressing Schalke attack looking to humble their opposition while Bayern will wait for their charges to make their plays before striking back with lethal efficiency, testing the once stingy Schalke defense for all the weaknesses they can find. Whether it’s Schalke or Bayern or both who walk away with points, one thing is for certain. Expect a lot of excitement when the brothers Boateng face off once again, likely shoulder to shoulder, in the battle of Royal Blue against the Kings in Red.

Battle of the Basement

For Shame

In a tale of sadness and woe, the Northern Derby is on as Werder Bremen take a trip west to visit the Red Shorts of Hamburger SV. Though both these sides are traditional power houses, or at least challengers, both clubs find themselves scrambling just to stay up in the Bundesliga. Though Schadenfreude is at times fashionable, dear readers, it is far more than a simple desire to see others fail that makes this match intriguing. A look up and down these rosters will leave any Bundesliga fan scratching their head and saying “What’s wrong here?”

Neither Bremen or Hamburg are bereft of talent. Rafael van der Vaart has returned to Hamburg, will he not help them score the odd goal? Bremen are still the owners of some solid young talent. Mehmet Ekici, Eljero Elia. Surely this team is better than a 6 point start, isn’t it? These teams have both been something of a train wreck, staggering and stumbling over the past two to three seasons until thudding into what long time readers of this publication will know we call “The Bunkster Bowl”, a battle of two bottom of the table sides desperate for the scraps of points they can scrounge from one another.

That it has come to this for these two squads is mind boggling. Though they still have some talented footballer, both these squads seem to do things that good football teams overcome avoid they have good chemistry. They concede late goals. They lose on the road. They have strong home showings, but cannot assert themselves against superior opposition nor can they stay in games when they are not in front of their own fans. These teams lack heart, dear readers. They are tin men in a real world and though Bremen show a glimmer of promise with a core of great young talent, Hamburg really need a dynamic force added to their squad if they want to have the fighting spirit to keep their distinction as the only team not to get relegated from the top flight. I smell a Bremen victory here, but I could be wrong! You’ll have to be watching if you want to find out!

Turkish Delight besieges Fort Hannover

In a game which should be surprisingly exciting, especially for long-time Bundeliga fans, will be the match between Hannover 96 and Augsburg. Hannover have really pulled it together in the past 5 years since the tragic death of then goalkeeper Robert Enke. This season, their home has been a fortress, taking all nine points in their three home games thus far, and they will be looking for three more when Augsburg come to town. Augsburg have surprised many with their performance thus far, led by a Bundesliga veteran who left us so long ago, Turk international Halil ALtintop.

The pacier of the twin brothers Hamit and Halil, Halil spent many seasons in the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt and Schalke 04. He spent many seasons tearing through the attacking third with the ball at his feet before laying off goals or knocking them in. Unlike last season’s acquisition of another old Bundesliga hand Aristide Bancé, the acquisition of this Turkish Delight has been sweet indeed for Augsburg. Sweet enough to put them in sixth place going into Match Day 6, with a chance to leap frog a place or two with a victory.

Breaking into the Fortress of the Reds will be no easy task, as Hannover have been lights out at home thus far this season. Desipte losing Konstatin Rausch to Stuttgart, the Reds are still anchored by German International Ron-Robert Zieler in goal, still have a deadly trio in attack of Artur Sobiech, Didier Ya Konan and Mame Biram Diouf and standout Japanese full back Hiroki Sakai. With the Hungarian left-footer Szabolcs Hustzi still knocking in goals off that deadly left boot, Hannover have a smattering of attacking options in their arsenal that all like to fill the onion bag.

In truth, the only real test the reds have left to prove in order to show they are now a consistent Bundesliga powerhouse is to begin winning games, or at least stealing points, away from home. Though a visit from Augsburg is not going to tell us that one way or the other, a match against a hot home team with a plethora of attacking options will not only show us whether or not Augsburg can defend against top tier Bundesliga competition, but it will tell us if they can show up on the road, as well as whether or not they are a “Big game” player, or if they will simply impress against the lesser lights and get lost against the real heavyweights.

The only way to know is to watch the match, dear readers! If the Northern Derby isn’t your thing (at least it’s early days and it won’t be snowing, dear readers!), then you should most definitely tune in at Hannover and watch one of the leagues best offenses run riot at home against a scrappy Augsburg.

That’s it for today, dear readers! If you’re quick, you might be able to catch the start of the match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bundesliga newcomers Eintracht Braunschweig. Though Braunschweig are a scrappy side, and they have a cute logo, it’s been pretty clear thus far that they are outmatched in the top flight, and a demolition job at the hands of the Foals will be just what the doctor ordered for a BMG squad that has really been feeling the heat thanks to some shaky play from stud young goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, a visit from a minnow should be a great opportunity to push the reset button and start fresh with a win.

The Bundesliga is Back, dear readers. Thanks again for joining me. Now go watch some footy and come back soon for more of the top stories from the Bundesliga here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog…..


Happy Canada Day, Eh

The Boys are Back – Top 5 Storylines after the first 5 matches of the 2014 Bundesliga Campaign

Long time no read, dear readers. Your Humble Narrator returns to regale you with tales from the land of Beer and Fußball and get you caught up on all the ins and outs of Germany’s top flight football league, the Bundesliga. Where do we begin? Berlin and Braunschweig are up, Cologne and Kaiserslautern are down.

Last we spoke, dear readers, Bayern were on the precipice of their Treble victory and we exercised caution in predicting grand improvements at Bayern with Pep Guardiola in charge. Now, with the months having flown by us, we are now staring at a new season that is already 5 matches old and there are a plethora of great story lines which have emerged in the first month of competition.

So, let’s dive right in and take a look at the five most interesting talking points of the new season after five matches here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog…..


The Prince Returns

The biggest surprise thus far for me, dear readers, has to be the return to the Bundesliga of Kevin Prince Boateng. The brother of Bayern defender Jerome not only left AC Milan for Gelsenkirchen, but was glowing about the move in his return. Prince was all smiles for the cameras stating that he is happy to be back in Germany, back in the best league in the world which he confesses he has followed closely in the four years he has spent away from German football. After leaving Dortmund so many years ago, Prince returns to their rivals, the Royal Blues of Schalke and instantly becomes a fan favorite and key player to the squad.

The move by Boateng does not necessarily surprise me. Entering the prime of his career and both lauded for his impressive physicality and criticized for the lack of silkiness to compliment it, he is a force in the midfield regardless of the criticisms levied against him. It was clear to me that Prince needed to make changes in his career to re-define himself in the eyes of his critics and really make his mark on world football.

My surprise, dear readers, comes not that he has returned to the Bundesliga, but that he has joined Schalke, dread rivals of his former employer Dortmund and a club which has had some rocky moments that have threatened their place as a German football superpower in the past few seasons. Not only does prince reurn in Royal Blue, but he also come back wearing the number 9, the number often reserved for the offensive leader and goal producer of a team. Entrusting Prince Boateng to take the reins of a Schalke offense that has lacked in consistency over the past few seasons is a great leap of faith by the club. Luckily for Schalke, that leap of faith has paid dividends for the club thus far with Prince scoring in his first game in a Schalke uniform and dedicating it to both his girlfriend and the fans.

Playing as an attacking player will allow Prince to prove that he is more than just “A great physical specimen” as he was labelled by popular media during his time with Milan, but that he can score and create goals with the best of them in top flight competition. With their Champions League campaign underway and Prince in the starting eleven, Schalke are clearly more than willing to give him that opportunity.

Prince has become the new face of a franchise which has lacked a poster boy since losing Manuel Neuer to rivals Bayern a few seasons ago. The doubts about Huntelaar’s commitment to the club and his reduced goal output last season left the team wanting for a stronger leader on the pitch, especially one who could knock in goals. On top of making things happen in the attacking third, Boateng will also likely provide some support and tutelage to Schalke star Julian Draxler.

Though Draxler’s talent speaks for itself, having a more established and well-traveled Prince on their team will help a great deal in the dressing room and gives the squad an unquestioned leader to turn to when doubts or signs of inconsistency rear their heads. With the acquisition of the Prince, the Royal Blues of Schalke will be hoping for a return to the Bundesliga Throne Room and establish themselves as a consistent threat to top the table and claim the ultimate prize; the Bundesliga silverware.

New Faces at Dortmund keep BVB on top of the table

Most Dortmund fans were horrified, aggrieved and enraged to learn that their talisman midfielder Mario Götze would be making way to FC Bayern during the most recent transfer window. Dortmund, being the crafty and resourceful talent scouts that they are, were quick to replace Götze with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, brought in pacy striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well as Greek defender Sokratis to put a few new tools in the shed to replace the old ones.

Many people were under the impression that Götze was irreplaceable, calling him Judas and dreading the results. Most of these people were likely wrong. Mkhitarayan and Aubameyang came in guns a-blazing and have kept the fire burning strong for Dortmund. The two have scored 8 goals between them in five matches thus far; good enough to put Dortmund atop the league with 5 victories and 15 points thus far.

The BVB faithful have been quick to embrace their new signings, dubbing them “Micki” and “Spiderman” respectively. The abbreviation of Mkhitarayan to Micki is obvious. Where “Spiderman” came from, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mystery. So dubbed by the media, I can only assume it is the result of the fact that his surname can easily be sung into the classic tune “Here’s comes the Spiderman” as “Here comes Aubameyang”. Whatever the reasons, he and Micki have taken the Bundesliga by storm and are leaving Dortmund fans saying “Mario who?”

Back atop the Bundesliga with an early 2 point lead on reigning champions Bayern, the affable Jürgen Klopp and his charges are learning that there is life after Götze and that it’s nowhere near as grim as some had feared it might be. With a deep squad and a style of football that is both exciting and effective, Dortmund are a serious threat to not only win the league this season, but go deep in the DFB Pokal and Champions League competitions this season thanks largely to the acquisition of “Micki” and “Spiderman”.

The Old Lady has some Kick

After a yo-yo campaign the past few years which saw Hertha relegated, return to the top flight and get relegated again, Berlin fans decided last year that they would not repeat their same error a second time. The storied franchise has looked like a new man (or should I say men? Or a new lady? Anyhow…) this season and look like the end to their yo-yo campaign is nigh.

Berlin stormed out the gate with a thunderous 6 – 2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt at home to kick off the season. Not only is the victory an excellent way to start back into the top flight, but Berlin did what they found so difficult to do since their last Bundesliga campaign; they scored goals, and a lot of them. Despite the fact that the Old Lady cooled off a touch and has a record of 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw thus far, that is still good enough for 8th place overall on 7 points, ahead of Schalke 04 on goal differential.

To be in the top half of the table must be a wonderful feeling for the Berlin outfit. Given that they have experienced first-hand the joys of a “yo-yo club” by bouncing in and out of the top flight, I get the sneaking suspicion that Hertha BSC will be in the Bundesliga for longer than just the next 10 months, dear readers. The Old Lady is back, and she’s not handing out sweets and babysitting. She’s kicking footballs and taking the names of teams she’s gotten the better of. She may not be a top table finisher like she once was this season, but I have a sneaking suspicion she will spend most of the season free of the relegation zone.

Rising Son in Leverkusen

Bundesliga fans know that Germany’s top flight has become a popular place for talented young Asian footballers to come and ply their trade on the way to greatness. Few of these players has been as exciting as Heung Min Son of South Korea. Leaving Korea for Hambuger SV at the ripe age of 18 a few season ago, Son worked tirelessly to adapt to a new culture, a new style of football, a new language, and a new world of expectations with a chaotic and turbulent Hamburg side. It was a wild ride for the young Son, but he handled himself with poise and unquestioned work ethic and dedication to improve that endeared him to teammates and opponents alike.

Indeed, during all the doom and gloom that has threatened to derail Hamburg’s distinction as the sole Bundesliga side never to be relegated from the top flight, Son was the sole bright light, shining in the attacking third, often playing in a world of his own trying to take the team on his back and save it from itself. Though some may say he was long in grooming, all things considered, the young Korean responded beautifully to the challenge. Despite Hamburg’s lack of success, everyone in Germany watched the young Son eagerly, hoping to catch a moment of the brilliance waiting the break out.

Ironically, Son’s fortunes changed on the back of the usual chaos that surrounds a change in address of the Special One, Jose Murinho. When Mourinho moved on from Real to take charge of English club Chelsea, he quickly swooped in and stole the pacey left-footed André Schürrle away from Leverkusen to keep fellow German Marko Marin from getting homesick on the training ground. With a bag full of money and a hole in their starting eleven, Leverkusen wasted no time in contacting the Hamburgers and stealing their Son-shine away. Moving from a vexing under-achiever lacking in identity like Hamburg to Rudi Völler’s constantly competitive Leverkusen, its a rags-to-riches story for the young Korean that sees him center stage in one of the most exciting attacks in the Bundesliga.

Playing the left attacking midfield role that was vacated by Schürrle, Son now plays alongside the Bundesliga’s top scorer last season and a man who some may argue is the most consistent goal threat in the Bundesliga over the past five seasons, Stefan Kießling. With Kießling as his new mentor and under the watchful tutelage of German goal-scoring legend Rudi Völler, one can only expect that not only will Son develop better pace, stamina and showcase his dribbling abilities along the flank, but that over time, his nose for goal will only get stronger when surrounded by such a wealth of class and finesse in the danger area.

With Leverkusen being a side who has been continually plagued by the rigours of Champions League play, where they consistently qualify, but stumble before over being relegated to the Europa League competition, Son will definitely have a lot of football to look forward to as the season wears on. Whether he can help be the catalyst that helps Leverkusen succeed in their bogey competition or not remains to be seen, but for Leverkusen the Son still rises tomorrow after the loss of Schürrle thanks to a nice ray of sunshine from Korea by way of Hamburg.

What about Bayern?

After a treble winning season where they changed coaches, the only question to ask at Bayern is is it business as usual with Pep Guardiola in charge or not? The passionate fan, high on the thrill of victory and fueled by the adrenaline-induced illusion of invulnerability will say this means Bayern are unbeatable and will dominate European football for years to come. Those of us who reserve judgment until we are clear-headed and rational tend to be more cautious in our predictions.

As for Your Humble Narrator, I can only say, dear readers, that the road towards achieving a repeat treble (for, at Bayern, the standard can be set no lower) will be trebly difficult this time around as it was last season. To place such expectations on an incumbent manager, regardless of who he is, is unreasonable. Oh, but hark, sayeth the devout fan, “We are talking about Pep Guardiola.” Yes. We are. And though I do not wish to take anything away from Pep Guardiola, neither do I want to forget nor ignore the fact that it was Jupp Heyneckes who transformed this team from a team with the POTENTIAL to win it all into a team that DID win it all, that it took him two seasons to do so, and that the shoes he leaves behind are mightily difficult to fill.

As great a coach as Pep Guardiola may or may not be (for depending on who you ask you will get either glowing or scathing reports of the man’s abilities; just ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic), he is still a new coach who must earn the trust, and respect of his players and guide to a new level of greatness. And we are talking about one of the most talent-laden football squads in the world. Add to this the fact that they just WON everything there is to win, and if this man was anyone other than the most coveted coach in world football, then surely, the players would have a hard time coming on board and listening to his ideas.

Luckily, not only does Guardiola have the reputation to get the benefit of the doubt from even the most skeptical player, but he took great pains to learn German and “earn the right”, in the eyes of fans, board members and players, to say that he is not taking anything for granted at Bayern. Some other managers might have too much ego to dedicate such time and effort into accepting a new position, preferring to traipse in on a whim, loudly declare their own brilliance, get their hands dirty, make a whole mess of changes, put a squad on the pitch, hope for the best, and regardless of whether he is successful or not, disappear into a cloud of smoke, mirrors and flashing paparazzi 18 months later saying “I did what I could, it is time for something new” before landing somewhere new hoping to do it all over again. *coughcoughJoseMourinhocoughcoughTeamKillercoughcough

As for Pep Guardiola, I have always been skeptical of the Spaniard’s reputed messianic influence, and though I was happy to have him for all the obvious reasons, my stance prior to this campaign was and is that I would have been happy to keep Jupp Heynckes at the helm this season, but what it done cannot be undone and, for better or for worse, this is Guardiola’s Bayern now. Pep not only inherits one of the best squads in the world to manage, but the one player he insisted on bringing in is his, with the brilliant young Spaniard Thiago Alacantra now wearing the number 6 for the Bavarians.

The transition into the Guardiola system seems to have been rather seamless thus far, with the combination plays and quick passing really suiting the tight-knit chemistry amongst the squad. It has allowed players like Müller, Ribéry and Robben to wreak havoc when straying from their positions to attack the seams created by the combination passes and dangerous runs that make the Guardiola style of football a veritable marking nightmare for any team who doesn’t subscribe to the footballing philosophy that man-marking is suicide.

Indeed, with the way Bayern players have combined, popping in and out of the play to pick up balls, lay them off and confuse opposition defenses, Bayern seem to be reaching a natural climax to their footballing potential as a squad. The competition, however has barely begun, and though Bayern DID lose the German Super Cup to Borussia Dortmund and drew one of their opening matches, Guardiola was still in the experimental phase of management, giving all his players a chance on the pitch to see exactly what kind of tools he has in the shed and to watch them all in action.

As a result, early performances have been a tad short of flawless, which despite the sky-high expectations at the club is forgivable even for the divinely anointed Guardiola. With the squad being frequently rotated until recent injuries forced his hand in the midfield, Bayern plyers seem to be content to take their turns on the substitute’s bench. Though they trail Dortmund by two points thus far, Bayern are still going strong and should be in the thick of it for the league title all season long.

With no signs of rust in the Champions League, and the best yet to come from Marquee signing Mario Götze, who continues to struggle with injuries in his debut campaign in Munich, things are looking pretty good for the reigning treble winners under Pep Guardiola on all fronts….. for now. But there is plenty of football left to come, dear readers. If games were won on paper, then they wouldn’t play them at all, but in sports as in life, you never know what can happen.

Despite my kinship with the Bayern faithful, I am a fan of the game, and with a strong and revitalized Dortmund squad, bitter with defeat and eager to usurp Bayern as top dogs in Germany, the “slow and steady” Leverkusen hoping to finally make some noise and be more than third best both in the league and Champions League competition, a Schalke side who has a new Prince to lead them in their bitter rivalry against both Bayern AND Dortmund, who shared center stage in London while they watched angrily from home, a resurgent Berlin, Hannover continuing to impress at home but stumble away from it, Bremen and Hamburg stagnating to the disgust of their loyal fans, newcomers Braunschweig getting the snot kicked out of themselves while Bayern are all ho-hum, business as usual as they continue to score goals in bunches and dominate games.


The Bundesliga is back. Life is good. All is right in the world.

And so, as all my dear, dear readers know, with the return of football comes the return of Your Humble Narrator, here to enjoy all the best that German footy has to offer and share reviews, previews, observations, speculations and predictions from my own unique Canadian perspective here on Everyone’s Favorite German Footy Blog, DAS BOOT!

Now a proud contributor with”Fussball, Eh?” German Footy. Canadian Content.

Come back soon for our preview of Match Day 6, as we point out the key story lines in the games you won’t want to miss in this weekend’s Bundesliga action.

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