FIFA 12 – Review (PS3)

It often gets to the stage with sports games that they become merely annual roster updates, with a huge list of supposed gameplay changes that in actuality make little or no difference at all. However for the first time in a long time FIFA 12 bucks that trend.

This year gamers are treated to a full physics engine that means the end of canned animations for players on the pitch. While that may not sound like a big deal it means that every time two players are involved in a scuffle for the ball the result will be different.

Rather than one player entering into a pre-determined ‘ball winning’ animation and the other a pre-determined ‘losing ball’ animation you get a natural clash and outcome, as you would at a real game. Of course there are still a few teething issues – the occasional pile up of players on the ground as they trip over each other being at the comedy end of the scale – but overall this new feature adds so much more to the game.

As has become expected in recent years the gameplay of FIFA is second to none. You will really feel like you are involved in a real game of football – especially against human opponents locally or online. The AI is a little too good for my liking 😆 but most of my time is spent online anyway.

Last year the main draw online was Ultimate Team, a sort of fantasy football where you build a roster of players and control transfers etc. This remains in FIFA 12 but personally I feel it’s been eclipsed by the awesome new Head To Head league mode. This sees you needing a required amount of points in 10 online games to progress up through the leagues. As you move up through the 10 leagues you need more points to stay in that division and face better players that match your skill level. It is extremely addictive, so be warned.

Have no doubt, FIFA 12 is the ultimate football package both offline and online. There is something here for everyone and if you have any interest in football, this is the game for you. The new physics based gameplay means this title is a genuine step forward for the genre.

Rating: 10/10

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PES2011 v FIFA 11 (PS3)


The perennial battle for football dominance in the gaming marketplace has kicked off with both FIFA and PES releasing their latest iterations last month.

Regular readers of my blog will know that after a decade of PES I switched to FIFA last year and have not regretted the decision.

So how do the two compare this year? Here’s a breakdown of areas so we can see them side by side:


                                                                                    PES 2011 really does shine graphically.

Graphically PES takes this one. While FIFA11 is an improvement on last year’s FIFA title, Pro Evolution definitely trumps it in the looks department.


A fairly even one here, with both games giving you the ability to slide or block tackle and both games doing it well.


                                                                                   FIFA 11’s numerous goal celebrations always raise a smile… for the scorer at least.

Both games have similar shooting mechanics and it’s possible to score some great goals in both games. I feel FIFA’s shooting has been refined nicely and PES’ has been improved on since the last game.


FIFA11 starts to come into its own as you delve into the deeper gameplay aspects. Passing is superb and you truly do have full control over where the ball goes. In PES they have finally introduced a power bar for through balls and given you more control but it doesn’t quite match up to FIFA’s freedom.


Sadly AI is where PES falls down completely. Players not making runs (or worse starting one then stopping just as you’ve passed it to them) and defenders standing redundant as attackers breeze past are just two of the problems. The goalkeepers in particular are still a bit unpredictable and while FIFA’s AI isn’t perfect it is certainly believable.



                                                                                FIFA retains it’s title as king of the football games for another year.

Overall then FIFA11 just feels like a better game, the range of freedom is too great to dismiss. It’s not perfect but it is one of the best football games I’ve ever played. PES 2011 is the game 2008 should’ve been. This is essentially the first proper ‘next gen’ PES. An overhaul was needed and that’s what PES got – now they need to tweak the formula. I suspect next year will be the closest battle between these two for a while but currently FIFA retains the crown as king of the football games.


PES 2011 – 7/10
FIFA 11 – 9/10

So big strides forward this year for PES but not enough to close the gap completely on FIFA. Next year should certainly be interesting though, especially if PES continues to improve over the next 12 months.

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PES 2011: Bouncebackability?

After a few years of disappointment, with titles recycling the same animations and commentary, I switched from PES to FIFA.

I documented the change at the time in several blogs, here and here. It was not a switch made with a light heart – after a decade with PES I’d lost heart and FIFA had essentially caught up.

Looking at the latest released gameplay trailer for PES 2011 it seems a lot of the problems I’d had with the game have now been rectified. Check it out:

The issues I had with the game were as follows:

– The computer deciding where I should pass instead of letting me do what I want.

– No control over the through balls.

– Poor, poor goalkeeper AI (repeatedly just pushing the ball into the path of the oncoming striker etc.)

– Bad referee AI

– same animations as last few versions

– The commentary

If they can fix these then perhaps a return to former glories is on the cards.

Now until we have a chance to actually play it I’ll be reserving judgement but the intial signs are very promising and with rumours of an online Master League (Linkage) also making an appearance might my defection to EA’s juggernaught be short lived?

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England’s 2010 World Cup Debacle Or ‘When Will We Stop Believing We’re Good Enough To Win The World Cup?’

Where to start? As the dust settles on the day after England’s humiliating 4-1 drubbing by an impressive Germany side, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that this is the worst tournament performance I can remember England ever having.

Having been spoilt by a superb domestic season in which my club, Millwall, were involved in a thrilling promotion race that culminated in a playoff victory at Wembley the World Cup has not provided a great deal in the way of entertainment.

And not just from an England perspective – so far only Argentina and Holland have consistently performed at anything like the level expected at a tournament this big.

To be fair Germany were good yesterday but England were so poor it just wasn’t funny. Apart from the ten minute spell after Matthew Upson’s goal we looked like a team lost.

The defence were pulled all over the place, leaving school boy-esque gaps at the back which the German attack exploited ruthlessly. I appreciate it’s at a completely different level but I have not seen defending that poor at club level for years.

You want to see players hassling the opposition – at Millwall we know we don’t have the best players but the most basic of demands is to close the opposing players down quickly and to chase after every ball.

England gave teams too much space and essentially the time to hurt us.

The players looked nervous and like rabbits caught in the headlights from the word go. Why? Fear of failure? From the opening match the passing was sloppy and we gave away possession far too easily. Nerves need to be settled and at some stage you have to look at the captain and manager.

To be fair to Capello once they are on the pitch there isn’t a great deal he can do but who was leading the team? I mean really? Gerrard? Terry?

At The Den we have three or four players, one of which is the captain Paul Robinson, who you see shouting encouragement, or giving struggling teammates a kick up the arse, to get them going.

Perhaps it was just the camera work on the BBC but other than David James (and keepers always shout at the defence when they concede) I saw no agression – no fight. They looked resigned to defeat and slumped further with every goal.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Millwall players aren’t earning millions each year but they certainly seem to actually care and the victories seem to mean much more.

Paul Robinson’s pre-playoff final speech sums it up:

“We’re playing for the people who hate their jobs, who’d love our lives,” said Robinson. “Let’s give them something special.”

Paul Robinson: What you want from a captain.

Can you really imagine an England player coming out with that? Or if they did actually meaning it?

That for me is why Millwall will always come above England – because I know that week in week out it really matters to most of the domestic players.

I will always support England whenever they play but the sooner this country wakes up to the fact that our glory days are behind us the better. England may well go on to win a major tournament but realistically we are a team who should be looking to get beyond the group stage and take it from there.

Now I can kick back and watch some decent international teams play before turning my attention to the forthcoming NPower Championship season.

It might not be glamourous but it’s real and I love it.

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The Damned Utd – Review (Film)

The Damned Utd is based on the novel of the same name which, though fictional, tells the story of Brian Clough’s short reign as Leeds Utd manager in the 1970’s.

I enjoyed the film a lot and the way they handled both showing archive footage and creating their own was really clever.

The problem I have is that the film contains ‘real people’ (Brian Clough/Don Revie/Peter Taylor) but puts them in fictional scenarios in real life events.

It’s confusing for instance to see Clough go back on his word to manage Brighton and take the Leeds job when in reality “Brian Clough did not accept the job at Leeds United whilst on holiday in Majorca after accepting the Brighton & Hove Albion Job. He left in October 1973 and went on to manage Brighton for 32 games with little success, finishing 19th in the old Third Division and losing to non-league Walton & Hersham 4-0 in the FA Cup.” (Wikipedia, link at bottom of review)

And that kind of ruined The Damned Utd a little bit for me, which is a shame because it’s a wonderful effort from all involved.

The three main actors Michael Sheen (Clough), Timothy Spall (Peter Taylor) and Colm Meany (as genius as ever in his role as Don Revie) put in stunning performances and make the entire thing so believable at times it was almost like watching a documentary.

And maybe that’s where the problem lies with regards to the factual issues.

The Damned Utd makes you believe all this happened by pretending to be a historically accurate film (or at least not properly mentioning it’s a work of fiction) and it stings a little to find out the story has been spun to fit in with the direction of the novel/film.

Definitely worth seeing as an entertaining film but, regardless of the impression it gives, bear in mind a lot of what you’re watching didn’t actually happen – or at least didn’t happen in that context.

Rating: 8/10


For more info on the inaccuracies of the film see here.

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Football Season Preview 2009/10


So we’re warming up for the new football season here in the UK, with teams across the country getting in some pre-season friendlies and generally trying to get fit again.

Millwall have the potential hangover of a playoff final defeat lingering but the signs seem good so far in pre-season.

One problem we will have is with our defence depending on how the next few days/weeks pan out.

Zak Whitbread

With our captain Paul Robinson and right back Danny Senda both injured it doesn’t help that Zak Whitbread wants a transfer (not takers so far though) as it effectively leaves us with 4 or 5 defenders to fill 4 positions… which just isn’t enough. Hopefully we may sign a few more players before the season starts on Saturday.

And it’s a tough game, Southampton away – one of the ‘big three’ (Southampton, Norwich, Charlton) who were relegated from the Championship last year.

MK Dons

Add in Leeds, MK Dons, Tranmere and Oldham (amongst others) and League One is shaping up to be very competetive indeed.

I’m tipping Leeds and MK Dons for automatic and hoping we can make the playoffs again and maybe win it this time.

In the Championship it’s all about Newcastle – either they are tipped for the title or generally being laughed at. 🙂 I don’t think they will get automatic but they have enough strength in depth to make the playoffs… depending on who they put in charge.


For the other teams that came down I expect West Brom will be up there and for Middlesbrough I think it hinges on the impact of Alves and new signing Leroy Lita. If those two fire there is no reason they can’t push for promotion straight back up.

Reading and Derby will both be dangerous and it’ll be interesting to see what Roy Keane gets out of the players at Ipswich.

In the Premier League the apparent loss of Alonso at Liverpool will really hurt their title chances despite the threat of Gerrard and Torres.


Manchester United will have to work extra hard to retain the title, although the shrewd signing of Michael Owen could tip the balance in their favour if he stays fit. Chelsea‘s new coach has a lot of work to do but has the squad to push even harder for the title in 2010, along with that elusive Champions League trophy.

You can never write off Arsenal but their 4th place is really under threat from the likes of Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City and even Spurs.

I suspect Hull have had their time in the Premier League unless Jimmy Bullard returns in top form and I’d tip Burnley (as much as I’d love them to stay up) and Wolves or Wigan to join them in the drop – but there will be plenty of teams dragged into the fight.

Jimmy Bullard

Down in League Two it seems to be another competitive, tight league and I suspect you’ll be looking at three from Barnet, Bournemouth, Dagenham & Redbridge, Crewe, Rotherham, and Bradford for the promotion places but I expect Northampton and Port Vale to also be strong.


Grimsby need a change of fortunes to avoid being sucked out of the league along with Shrewsbury who have been treading water in League Two of late.

It’ll be interesting to see if Burton and Torquay can survive, with the latter looking more likely.


It’s looking like a great season ahead in all the leagues and I’ll be keeping an interested eye on everything that’s going on as the season progresses.

10 Ideas To Fix Football…

As someone that watches a lot of football, both live at a lower level and televised at Premier League/Champions League level I feel that the game as a spectacle is becoming less about skill and attacking football and more about time wasting and cheating.

I know not all of the ideas below could be implemented but I feel they would certainly improve the game overall.

1) Every player to get a standard wage.

£500 a week in league two, £750 a week in league one, £1000 a week in the championship and £2000 a week in the premiership. That goes for every team and every player. The players wages would then be supplemented by win bonuses or goal/clean sheet bonuses – which can be as high as the clubs want.

This would mean the English league would still be able to attract top players to come here from abroad but that the players would have a vested interest in winning games and helping the team in the most effective way possible.

You play badly you get paid badly – bet Robinho would pull his finger out if he thought he wasn’t going to get all that cash.

Surely something like this HAS to be the way forward – I see no problem with players being paid extortionate amounts but only if they are earning their money.

2) If a player goes down injured and the referee hasn’t awarded a free kick but then stops play, the opposition get a free kick.

There are not many instances where a player is so badly injured they cannot continue or wait until the next break in play. I don’t recall seeing many in my two decades of watching football.

This would stop the now commonplace feigning injury to get play stopped – usually when the opposition are just about to mount an attack.

And none of this kicking the ball back to the defending team either. The opposition should take the kick as they would any other attacking free kick.

I can almost guarantee this would stop this nonsense of pretending you’re seriously injury when, quite frankly, you could sit/lay there as play continues and receive treatment the next time the ball goes out of play.

I’m not doubting that players do take a knock but it’s the fact the referee feels the need to stop play, usually denying the opposition a chance of scoring, that annoys me.

To add insult to injury upon play resuming with a drop kick the attacking team are expecting to return the ball to the defending team! I’m sorry why is this again?

3) Abolish youth teams for league clubs.

Now this is a controversial one but in the current climate the premier league teams just nick the lower leagues best youth players and then pay a nominal fee after a tribunal.

So my proposal is this.

Set up a proper system of leagues for UK schools similar to US colleges.

Youth players stay at their school teams until they are 16 (school leaving age) when they are entered into the annual draft if they wish to pursue a career in football.

Basically the league teams then pick players in draft fashion, up to 5 players per team over 5 rounds of picks.

So you would start with the teams coming up from the conference and then work your way through the leagues backwards from the previous years final positions (so that the Premiership winners pick last each round).

The players then sign a two year contract, without get out clauses, and move to that club.

If they are not good/fit enough for the first team they play in the reserves.

At the end of the two years the club they sign for has the option of extending the players contract for a further year or releasing them.

If they exercise their option at the end of that third year if the club and player cannot agree on a new contract the player becomes a free agent and can move to whichever club he wants.

I think this would spread the young talents across the leagues nicely and a minimum two year commitment with a third year option for the club would stop the players jumping ship too soon.

They really would have to prove themselves at the lower level to make the move to the higher leagues.

This plan would obviously involve a huge huge investment in grass roots football at schools in the UK so would never happen but I can dream 😀

4) Reduce ticket prices


Ticket prices in the UK are a joke.

It is extortionate some of the prices that clubs, especially in the upper league charge their fans.

I’m not saying the league should control ticket prices but I feel there is a moderate solution.

Make one stand of the ground a standing terrace with minor amenities (ie very basic toilets and refreshments) and cap tickets at £15 per match.

Make it first come first served, maximum of four tickets per person and watch it fill up. Especially at some of the lower league grounds.

This will again never happen as the clubs are out to make money but I think it’s a nice idea.

I would rather have 18,000 fans at Millwall who have paid £12 a ticket than 9,000 who have paid £24 a ticket.

5) Get rid of penalties.

Let’s be honest here folks penalty shootouts are a bit rubbish.

So, I think a better idea would be to start extra time as normal and then once you get to 10 minutes the next time the ball goes out of the play each team have to withdraw 2 players. And again 10 minutes later.

Makes no difference if you’ve had players sent off – in fact it would make the team with less players go for it more before they are completely outnumbered! Or worse still the opposition are left with an empty net to take the win.

First goal wins it, which could be when it’s 11 v 11 or 5 v 5 – someone will score eventually to settle the game.

Obviously if it gets to the stage where it’s just the keepers that could be interesting 😀

6) Introduce new technology immediately into games.

Within 10 seconds of a decision we can see a replay on TV – football should adopt a similar style to rugby in that if the officials are unsure on whether the ball has crossed the line etc he should signal to a fifth official watching coverage on TV who can confirm.

Play continues unless the fifth official decides it’s a goal in which case play is stopped and a goal awarded, if it’s not a goal play continues seamlessly.

Likewise with fouls, handball etc although this would be less problematic as play would’ve stopped anyway.

Referees do a tough job but that doesn’t mean they are the most important people at a game – take away some of the power that current rests on just one head (9 out of 10 times the linesman just agrees with whatever the ref says).

Which leads me nicely on to…

7) Retrospective bannings.

I’m not worried about hurting refs feelings. I couldn’t care less if they feel undermined.

If my star forward is injured for 9 months through a horror tackle why on earth shouldn’t the guy who’s put him out face a lengthy ban? Oh because the ref booked him during the game so we can’t change that decision.


This should come in immediately, allowing the authorities to upgrade yellow cards to red cards and vice versa.

8 ) Allow challenges on the goalkeeper at set pieces.

Keepers ball!

Now I’m not talking about a forward charging the keeper over the goal line or anything but something else I’ve noticed over the last few years is a huge increase in free kicks awarded to the keeper when a bunch of players go for the ball and he doesn’t get it.

I don’t think you can award a free kick for a keeper not catching/punching a ball can you? Well someone should let the refs we get know.

It’s ridiculous, the keeper is there to stand tall – the colossus at the back ready to defend the goal. Not wilt as the ball comes in because someone is “standing a bit near him.”

Let’s get a bit more of the hustle and bustle back in games – I’m not talking reckless, dangerous challenges or elbows but this is a contact sport so let’s referee it as such.

9) Do not pay players to play for England

I’m more of a club man myself but there is no question playing for your country should be an issue of pride not price.

If the players do well enough they will make money from sponsorship etc.

Playing for England should be about representing the masses of the country, making people proud – not about how much you’ll get if you make it past the quarter finals.

10) Make the FA Cup exciting again

First off all the league teams come in at the first round proper – forget all this third round nonsense. Let’s at least give smaller teams a chance of a giant-killing.

Revenue should be split by league. 50/50 if you’re in the same league, 75/25 is favour of the lower team if you’re in different leagues. Doesn’t matter who’s home or who is away.

No teams can switch ties to the bigger sides ground. It’s played as it’s drawn.

NO REPLAYS – soooooo boring, let’s get all the ties decided over that one weekend.

Stop hosting the semi finals at Wembley – it should be special to play there. 2 teams in each competition should play there not 4 teams.

And this last one is a bit controversial – take away the fourth place Champions League qualification in the Premiership and give it to the FA Cup Winners.


So there you have it, my outlandish (or are they? 😆 ) ideas for improving football in the UK.

Would love to hear what people think or if you have any ideas you would suggest?