What started as a drunken idea in a bar has morphed into this - a fantasy football podcast from me and my mates. The goal: make an interesting and entertaining fantasy podcast that might help you do alright, but hopefully not as well as me. We've heard what's out there, and we reckon we might be able to do just as well as those other duffers, maybe even better.

There's also some FC Tokyo stuff on here, but I now blog on all things Gasmen at On the Gas (click on link below).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FC Tokyo 1-1 Niigata: J1 Week 27

With games running out fast, and our position still very precarious, The Gasmen returned to Ajinomoto Stadium for the first time in almost a month to face Niigata in Week 27. We had moved out of the relegation zone following our 3-0 win over Shonan at Kokuritsu in Week 25, but the team was coming off the previous weekend's horrendous collapse away at Sendai, where we crashed to a 3-2 loss after leading 2-1 with four minutes remaining. Couple that with Niigata's stunning 4-1 win at home against leaders Nagoya last time out, and the signs were looking pretty grim for Tokyo...

There was some good news at the selection table, however, with Yohei Kajiyama and Naotake Hanyu both fit to start, and more pleasingly, Takuji Yonemoto was named in the squad for the first time this season after completing his rehabilitation from pre-season knee surgery. Yone's return - even though he was named on the bench and didn't come on - was a welcome boost for the supporters, and meant that our squad was basically at full strength, as shown by some of the names on the bench: Otake, Kim (who was squeezed out after Morishige returned to centre-half following Casual's return), Ricardinho (replaced by Roswell) and Matsushita (who has been a disappointment but would hopefully be fired-up to face his former side). A decent crowd of 23,047 were in (bolstered by a good turn-up of visiting fans) as the visitors kicked things off.

Tokyo made a bright start and should have gone ahead in the third minute: Tokunaga played a nice ball over the top for Ishikawa, and Nao crossed from the byline for Oguro, who rose but powered his free header wide of the near post. Hokuto then forced a low save out of the keeper before a bullet header from Morishige from Nao's corner was kept out at full stretch by the East Exit. Ishikawa himself shot high and wide, and there was another chance for Hokuto cutting in from the left, but Tokyo couldn't make their chances count.

The visitors came more into the game as the half went on, enjoying plenty of possession but never really looking that threatening, until, as stoppage-time loomed, a Niigata throw-in was passed to Marcio Richardes, who surged forward and went down under Tokunaga's challenge at the top of the D. Great time to score, and all that, and the little Brazilian dusted himself off and curled the free kick through the top of Gonda's wall and past his despairing dive, giving Albirex a halftime lead.

The Gasmen could easily have been rocked by that late dagger, but we also started the second half on the front foot, and Ishikawa looked certain to level things up when Kajiyama's brilliant pass (after good link-up play from Hirayama) found him totally unmarked inside the area, but Nao was unable to hit the target and his shot flashed across the face of goal. Hanyu hadn't had much of an impact and was replaced by Rica just ten minutes after the restart, and then five minutes later, the course of the game changed for the better. Casual sent an innocuous-looking high ball up to Hirayama in the box, just as the big man was set to rise to head (with his back to goal) he was head-locked and pulled to the floor by a defender and the ref blew for a PENALTY TO TOKYO! Seen 'em given, seen 'em not, to be fair to Sota he didn't go down theatrically or anything, and by the letter of the law the ref got it right. Rare as hen's teeth, penaks in our favour, and, after a couple of minutes of Niigata players arguing their case, hopelessly of course, with the ref, Casual stepped up and drove the ball into the corner to the keeper's right. He guessed the right way, did the East Exit, but Tokyo were level and now had 30 minutes to find a winner.

And bugger me if we didn't waste about six chances to bag said winner. Hirayama had the first, and the best, after incisive play from Rica and Casual saw the ball break to him six yards out, but Higashiguchi flung out a hand and got lucky, as the ball went out for a corner. It was Oguro in particular, though, who was guilty of wasting two very good chances to atone for his first half miss, the second of those was eerily similar as he headed wide of the near post from Mukuhara's low cross.

Okuma sent on Matsushita for Ishikawa in the 84th minute, and then Otake for Oguro four minutes later as The Gasmen continued to push for the win, but our chances had dried up. In stoppage-time Mukuhara was booked for a clumsy challenge 25 yards out and Richardes tried another curler that Gonda held safely, and as he punted out of his box we thought it was our final chance to go forward. Unfortunately that little bugger Richardes latched onto the ball and, after eluding Hirayama and Kajiyama, played a long ball of his own forward to their fullback Sakai, who would never have touched the ball but for a misjudgement from Rica. Sakai dribbled into the box but his touch was heavy, and, with Morishige coming across to cover he went down like he'd been shot after a touch on the shoulder from Rica (not a push or a pullback), and this time the ref got it horribly wrong and gave a penalty to Niigata. He also gave Rica a second yellow, but that was academic as the pen was going to be the last kick of the game, and we were going to lose, and I was going to jump off the footbridge on my way back to the station....

And then GONDA SAVED IT! Gonda saved it! A poor pen from Richardes, but kudos to the big man for guessing the right way, and salvaging a point for us on a day we deserved all three but at the death looked like we'd get none. So it was a positive lap of honour for the players, and there were some good contributions worth cheering, especially from Casual, Hokuto, Konno and, to be fair, Tokunaga, who probably had his best game in central midfield all season (anything to do with Yone now breathing down his back for his spot?!). On another day Oguro could've had a hat-trick, and we'll definitely need some goals from him in the coming weeks, as we sit just two points ahead of Kobe (who are in the relegation zone), and our next five games are against top-half teams.

We can worry about what lies ahead on the weekend, but for now, praise Gonda, coz Gonda Saves!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

LMS Fantasy Podcast Episode 5

It was a pleasure to welcome L.M.S. legend Steve King into the lounge room to record Episode 5 of the Fantasy Pod. He's flying high so far this season, so he was more than happy to let me know where it's gone right for him after years and years of it going oh so horribly wrong. He also lets us in on an amazing secret that may go someway towards explaining his lack of success over the years.

It was the first two-man podcast we've attempted, but any worries about how it might go were put to rest as we blabbed on for about 55 minutes, covering the secrets to Steve's early-season success, all you need to know from Week 8 and an in-depth preview of Week 9, where we might have found a differential* or two for you. We finish up by covering the standings in the L.M.S. head-to-head and main league, which, for those of you listening who aren't in the league, you can find here (H2H) http://fantasy.premierleague.com/M/table.mc?id=13046 and here (Main League) http://fantasy.premierleague.com/M/table.mc?id=12534

Highlights of Episode 5 include:
  • the first Colchester United anecdote in a fantasy podcast, ever;
  • Steve's fondness for the term "showed up" (I think he's trying to make it the new "got up");
  • the dog returning from his evening walk;
  • the mrs rattling around in the background making dinner;
  • Steve's bombshell at the 53-or-so minute mark

* - Copyright FourFourTwo

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Special LMS Podcast - John W. Henry in Profile

On this, a momentous day for Liverpool fans following Justice Floyd's ruling in the High Court that the board was entitled to go against Dumb & Dumber's wishes in approving the club's sale to N.E.S.V., here is a profile of N.E.S.V. frontman John W. Henry by L.M.S. member Pete MacInnis. This was actually recorded on October 6th for our Fantasy Podcast, but didn't make the final cut as it wasn't fantasy-related. There were also lengthy profiles of H&G, but those numptys are history so that was cut as well and is not relevant now in this new era for all Reds fans.

Pete is a die-hard Red Sox and Reds fan, so was the perfect guy to ask about how this man has worked his way to the top in business, in U.S. sport, and now to the position of owner of The Greatest Football Club in the World (TM).

Things get a little controversial when Pete intimates that our two best players may be off either in January or next summer under Henry's watch, but he does back it up with relevant examples from the Red Sox, and the general mood of things is that Henry and N.E.S.V. worked wonders on the Red Sox, and all Reds everywhere should be optimistic for what the future holds.

A couple of quick corrections: NESN, the network that N.E.S.V. owns to broadcast Red Sox games (amongst other sports) does not show any New England Patriots (NFL) games, and Pete mentions that Henry owned the Florida Marlins in 1999; he actually owned them for four seasons, selling the season before the team won the 2003 World Series.

Easy to listen to below, this Podcast is also available at http://www.archive.org/details/JohnW.HenryForLfc Hope this proves insightful, and thanks again to Pete for his research.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LMS Fantasy Podcast Episode 4

No need for Takeshi to nick the official Prem music anymore, coz the LMS Fantasy Podcast now has theme music! Pete strummed his guts out and we're quite pleased with the results here in the Ivory Tower.

Anyways, it felt a bit strange podding without the Monsieur, but Pete and Kesh both enjoyed triumphant returns to the living room on Episode 4. We covered Gameweeks 6 & 7, transfers that we've made so far and the LMS H2H and League standings.

No rapist jokes this time. Unfortunately.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FC Tokyo 3 Shonan Bellmare 0

20,508 made it to the ageing but 'holy' (at least according to one FCT blogger) Kokuritsu stadium on a warm October afternoon for this one. There are few expressions more cliched that "must win game" in football, but that really was the general pre-match feeling of followers of the Gasmen prior to kick off. One banner in the home end read "We believe in you Tokyo", but such confidence seemed to be baseless when the last six games were taken into consideration (1 point), or indeed when pondering on the club's home form (1 win all season, in the dim and distant March). Nevertheless there was a determination amongst the fans to get right behind the team, and a realisation that against the weakest team in the division, it was now or never to find some form.

It was however, largely the same old story for the larger part of the first half, i.e. the lion's share of possession for Tokyo, but a mysterious force field around the opposition's 18-yard box which our out of form attack rarely seemed like having the ability to penetrate. Indeed, it was the lime greens from Hiratsuka who created the clearest-cut opportunities in the first third of the match, forcing a fine left handed save from Gonda and rattling the crossbar in just two of these occasions. The feeling then, when Oguro hooked in Konno's header down from a corner in the 38th minute, was one of unexpected relief. Indeed it seemed to take the home fans at the other end of the ground a few moments to register that we had actually scored. That feeling, though, soon gave way to something more joyous as a dispirited Shonan defence failed to keep up with Ricardinho's sprint down the left, and from his cross Hirayama laid it off for Ishikawa to smash it high into the onion bag. Suddenly a two goal lead in a matter of minutes and a much happier National Stadium.

The second half kicked of with Tokyo trying to extend the lead, but when that spurt of pressure tailed off Bellmare came right back into it, forcing at least 3 quality saves from the newly selected Japanese international Gonda, in front of a doubtless impressed Zaccheroni. Frustration was settling in amongst the home support, with Ricardinho having opportunities to get behind the Bellmare defence but looking horribly ineffectual. It was, then, another nice surprise to see him find a burst of pace from somewhere, followed by a lovely curling shot from outside the area that nestled in the net behind the keeper's outstretched left arm. At last, 84 minutes in we could all relax and down the Malts Premium a bit quicker.

In the aftermath, we should be able to take a lot of positives from this despite the fact that the opposition was clearly the worst in the league and our goalkeeper was MOTM. Confidence, confidence, confidence. It is an over-used word in football, and I have just used it three times. But hopefully our previously misfiring attack will take heart from the goals and the defence will be able to build on a scrambled clean sheet. The next two matches are absolute monsters; away to Sendai and home to Albirex, before a tough-looking set of games against the higher echelons of the league.

Mon' the Gas!

Tokyo Bairn

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ten Games Left..... Will FC Tokyo Sink or Swim?

When I wrote The Sorry State of FC Tokyo back in late August, following the insipid home loss to Hiroshima, things looked bleak, but not hopeless, for the Gasmen. We sat in 14th after 20 games, three points out of the drop zone, with a winnable game coming up away at Kobe. I raised the "R" word, but mainly to put the wind up those Tokyo fans who felt we were too good to go down.

Now, just five weeks later, the Ajinomoto Stadium faithful are facing an out-and-out crisis, as the point we eeked out at Kobe is the only one we have to show for the four games since my post (and the last six league games in total). The almost-unthinkable is now a very real prospect for Tokyo fans, as in those four games we slid two spots and now occupy the third relegation spot, with ten games to go.

I can't recall a case of a J League club's fans clamoring for a manager's head, and there certainly wasn't one in the home end of Aji Sta (it's just not part of fan culture here), but something had to be done and the club finally acted after our away loss to Iwata on the 18th of September (Matchday 23), ending the Jofuku era with a whimper rather than a bang. Whether he'd lost the dressingroom, run out of ideas or was just tactically naive is up for debate, but despite calling for his head on my twitter account after the Iwata loss, I still felt sorry for the man who led us to 5th and a Cup last season. I'm usually against getting shot of managers mid-season (or at all really - I still wish Rafa Benitez had survived the chaos and media character-assassinations he/we suffered through at Liverpool last season), but Jofuku had run his race and had shown no signs of getting his head round how to stop our decline. So Kiyoshi Okuma, the man who took Tokyo Gas FC into J2, got us promoted in our first season and then guided us to two mid-table J1 finishes, was brought back to the fold with a simple mission: keep us up.

Despite our hopes that the new-manager-leads-to-improved-performance myth might actually turn out to be true in our case, "Okuma Tokyo II" began with another poor performance, and a 1-0 loss to our usual whipping boys, Omiya, a result that took Ardija six points clear of us. Perhaps it was down to the short amount of time the new boss had to work with the players, but there was very little difference in tactics to how we'd set-up and played under Jofuku, and with Kajiyama and Hanyu both out injured, there was zero creativity in central midfield, where Tokunaga (a converted fullback) and Morishige (a centre-half) both played in holding roles (yes, Liverpool fans, think Poulsen and Lucas creativity-wise).

With Sendai stunning Yokohama and also going six points clear of us, thanks to a goal from a player we stupidly (in hindsight) loaned to them, Shingo Akamine, our only target for the time being has to be Kobe, in 15th, who we trail by two points. Sure, it's hard to see where wins (or even goals) are going to come in the run-in, but the next four games have to be where we turn things around, starting on Sunday (Oct. 3) at home against cellar-dwellers Shonan. I say the next four games, because have a look at who Kobe have got coming up: home v Kawasaki (6th), away at Yokohama (7th), home v Nagoya (top), away at Gamba Osaka (3rd). Contrast that horror run with our next four fixtures: home v Shonan (bottom), away at Sendai (13th), home v Niigata (9th), away at Shimizu (5th), and on paper at least we have a better shot at a couple of wins that could get us out of the drop zone and breathing a little easier.

So to Sunday then, and the XI that will firstly score our first home league goal in five games, and then, beat Shonan. Obviously Gonda will be in goal, and hopefully buoyed by his selection in the Japan squad for two friendlies later this month, Konno and Kim will be the centre backs, and Mukuhara and Hokuto will be the full backs. In midfield, I'm praying Hanyu will be fit, and even an hour from him would be miles better than anything Tokunaga or Morishige could provide going forward. If we have Roswell back then I'd keep Morishige and dump Tokunaga out the team, he's been an absolute disaster in central midfield. Morishige hasn't been much better, but he provides more energy and takes better care of the ball than Tokunaga, and is always a chance to get his head on set-pieces. Speaking of disasters, Ricardinho has been a massive flop, he's yet to score a league goal for us and hasn't really ever looked like getting one, and he may be better off coming on as a sub in the last half-hour of games when the opposition have started to tire. With that in mind, I'd dump Rica for Otake on the left. Ironically Otake has always seemed to have a bigger impact on games when he's used as a sub, but I think we need his creativity and set-piece delivery from the start. Ishikawa will be on the right and I suppose it'll be Hirayama and Oguro up-front, although there are no J League defences shuddering at the thought of facing that pairing anymore.

We need someone to spark us back into life, and I feel that Hanyu and Otake can both provide the touch of brilliance that we'll need to unlock the Shonan defence. Again, fingers crossed that Hanyu will be fit. A win is an absolute necessity, and once we've got one, confidence should return and safety will look more likely.