Ronaldinho Biography

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira is a famous Brazilian football player who is better known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho. His name Ronaldinho was used to distinguish him from a fellow Brazilian football celebrity whose name is also Ronaldo. Gaúcho was used when the existing Ronaldo was also known as Ronaldinho.

He was born on March 21, 1980 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He is the youngest among the three siblings. Miguelina, his mother, was a sales woman who soon decided to take up nursing. João, his father was a worker in the shipyard and a football player for Cruzeiro. He died due to a heart attack when Ronaldinho was at the age of 8. Ronaldinho’s brother Roberto was also a professional football player for Grêmio. But his career ended too soon due to his injuries. And now he manages Ronaldinho. His sister, Deisi, is his press manager.

During Ronaldinho’s childhood days, his interest in football was already evident. He started playing futsal and beach football which later lead into his passion for a more established football game. His character as a football player developed in his early years.

His career as a skilled football player started when he joined the youth team in Porto Alegre club Grêmio. His extraordinary ball control and capability to score was rapidly displayed which lead him to fame. Many clubs from all over the world attempted to get him to be part of their teams. Eventually Ronaldinho signed a 5-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain which he joined at the start of the new season.

During his years with PSG, there were still much larger offers from different clubs, but he opted to stay with the team. But after some time he decided to leave the team after their many unsuccessful attempts to qualify for any European competitions. This caused a bidding war among the many clubs. Finally, the bidding ended up with FC Barcelona as the winning club for Ronaldinho’s services. They acquired him for £18 million. He was a very high paid player in Barcelona. He has had his terrible times in his career but his many achievements was far more overflowing than that. He had also joined the Brazilan National team.

Ronaldinho is one of the most successful football players in the world. He had so many achievements in his arena which includes the FIFA World Player of the Year wherein he was awarded in 2 consecutive years (2004-2005), the European Footballer of the Year award and the FIFPro World Player of the Year award which was also awarded to him in 2 successive years (2005-2006).

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Hablan los protagonistas tras el trabajado triunfo frente al Villarreal CF



Julen Lopetegui, Lucas Ocampos, Papu Gómez y Fernando Reges atienden a los medios del Sevilla FC para valorar la victoria frente al submarino amarillo en el Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.

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Valencia vs Barcelona 12-15-07

Valencia: Canizares, Miguel, Marchena, Helguera, Moretti, Mantoro, Albelda, Joaquin, Arizmendi, Morientes and Silva

Barcelona: Valdes, Puyol, Marquez, Milito, Abidal, Xavi, Toure, Inietsa, Gudjohnsen, Messi and Etoo

Chance for Eidur Gudjohnsen in 30 seconds but he could not find Samuel Etoo as his first touch was not very precise.

Bad first touch by Etoo as Messi found him with only Canizares to beat but he fluffed it in the 3rd minute.

Good chance for Yaya Toure from a corner kick but his header was straight at Canizares and he palms it over in the 9th minute.

Fantastic goal by Etoo, as he skips past the challenge of Marchena and Mantoro; and rifled the shot past Canizares in the 13th minute.

Another chance for Etoo as Puyol won a header and it fell kindly towards Etoo but his header was straight at Canizares in the 21st minute.

Absolutely brilliant 2nd goal for Barcelona as they passed and moved the ball between 6 players, it finally came to Etoo, he passed to Iniesta who passed it to Messi back to Etoo and its 2-0 in the 26th minute.

Another fantastic piece of football from Barcelona, started by Gudjohnsen, continued by Messi to Etoo then to Iniesta, whose cross was just missed by Messi to make it 3-0 in the 31st minute.

First attempt of any note by Valencia in the 33rd minute as Arizmendi cut inside Puyol but his shot was well over.

Another chance for Etoo, as he makes a great run behind the Valencia defence but Marchena was able to stick out a leg to prevent Etoo’s hattrick in the 36th minute.

Morientes has to come off injured for Vicente in the 39th minute.

Etoo is at it again, this time he went through 2 defenders and was just about to release the trigger when a desperate lunge by Marchena stopped him from making it 3 in the 42nd minute.

Lionel Messi is off due to an injury that may be muscular in the 43rd minute replaced by Giovanni.

Half Time

Valencia 0 Barcelona 2

As poor a performance as Valencia have given all season and they have been dire this season to be fair. Barcelona were so superior with Etoo being on supreme form, it was embarrassing.

It was just too easy for Barcelona and some of their players did not have to break sweat. The only downside for them is that Messi went off injured and may miss the big clash next week against arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Valencia can surely not play worse than they have in the 1st half.

Etoo has another chance in the 47th minute after he skipped past a challenge and his shot was straight at Canizares though.

Good defending by Milito to stop Joaquin from putting a cross and the resulting throw-in was hit by David Silva that Valdes saved with difficulty in the 51st minute.

Great shot by Giovanni but it was saved by Canizares in the 53rd minute.

Its 3 -0 with another piece of good passing involving Xavi and Giovanni, who passed unselfishly to Gudjohnsen to just tap home in the 61st minute.

Chance for Valencia from a Vicente free kick and again Valdes fumbles the ball over the crossbar in the 65th minute.

Deco is on for Toure and Mata is on for Joaquin in the 65th minute.

Etoo comes off for Bojan Krkic in the 67th minute.

Lomban is on for Moretti in the 71st minute.

Chance for Giovanni to make it 4 but as he collceted a pass from Xavi in the 73rd minute but his shot was well wide.

It really should have been 4 as Barcelona started a move from their own half with Deco, who gave the ball to Giovanni and his cross field pass was well controlled by Gudjohnsen; he skipped past 2 challenges, passed a cute ball to Xavi, he went round Canizares, crossed to Giovanni but his weak shot was cleared off the line by Miguel in the 76th minute.

Nice shot by Bojan as he controlled a pass from Xavi well on his chest but was straight to Canizares in the 80th minute.

Half chance for Vicente in the 81st minute as Marquez was very sloppy with his pass out and it went straight to Villa and he passed to Vicente but the angle was too acute for him to score from.

Free kick in a dangerous position for Valencia, in the 90th minute, taken by Vicente, but clawed to relative safety by Victor Valdes.

Full Time

Valencia 0 Barcelona 3

It was too comfortable in the end for Barcelona as Valencia were just marginally better in the 2nd half but still nowhere good enough at the highest level.

There were a lot of good performances from Barcelona players with Gudjohnsen, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Toure, Deco, Giovanni, Abidal and especially Etoo all in top form.

The only players that came out with any credit for Valencia are possibly Canizares and Miguel, the rest were awful.

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FC Barcelona – The Cruyff Years

Johan Cruyff is a legendary football player known the world over for his aggressive and intelligent style of play. Though he had success in his earlier years, it is when he joined FC Barcelona in 1973 that his star really began to shine.

Cruyff began his career in his home country of the Netherlands playing for AFC Ajax. There he led the team to many victories and memorable performances, but was eventually sold to FC Barcelona for a hefty sum. Cruyff wasted no time winning over the Barcelona fans, stating to the press that he chose Barcelona over their rivals Real Madrid because he didn’t want to play for a team associated with former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. He even named his son Jordi, a traditional Catalan (the region of Spain in which Barcelona is found) name.

Cruyff’s years playing for FC Barcelona were truly memorable and made him an icon. In his first year with the team, he helped them win La Liga for the first time in fourteen years (beating Real Madrid on their own turf along the way) and was also named European Footballer of the Year. It was during this time that he also scored one of his most memorable goals, called «The Phantom Goal» or «Le but d’imposible de Cruyff» (The Impossible Goal of Cruyff). In a match against Atlético Madrid, the football was already past the far goal post and was at about neck height when Cruyff leapt into the air, twisting so that he was facing away from the goal and kicked the ball into the goal with his right heel. This move among others propelled him to godlike status in the eyes of football fans.

Cruyff then spent many years away from FC Barcelona as a player and manager, until finally returning to the club as manager in 1988. When he returned to Barcelona, Cruyff brought with him the so-called «Dream Team». This elite squad was composed of Spaniards Jon Andoni Goikoetxea, Jose Mari Bakero, Josep Guardiola, Txiki Beguiristain, along with international stars Romanian Gheorghe Hagi, Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov, Dane Michael Laudrup, Brazilian Romario, and Dutchman Ronald Koeman.

Under Cruyff’s direction, the Dream Team went on to win four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994. They won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989 and the European Cup in 1992 at Wembley Stadium with a famous free kick goal courtesy of Ronald Koeman. In 1990, the Dream Team won a Copa del Rey, the European Super Cup in ’92, and three Supercopa de Espana.

Cruyff remains FC Barcelona’s most successful manager to date, with eleven trophies to his name. He also has the distinction of being the club’s longest serving manager. He continues to be an advisor for FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta, whom he openly endorsed during the elections. To this day, he is still revered by FC Barcelona fans, who call him «El Salvador» (The Saviour) for his successful run as both player and coach at the club.

Camisetas Suecia Un jugador muere por un golpe en un partido de fútbol. EFE. Javier Tebas acompaña la cena de Nochebuena de Cruz Blanca Huesca.

El primer día de Gonzalo Montiel en el Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán



Nuestras cámaras siguieron al jugador argentino en su llegada a Nervión para vestirse con los colores del Sevilla FC.

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Camisetas Nigeria Un jugador muere por un golpe en un partido de fútbol. EFE. Javier Tebas acompaña la cena de Nochebuena de Cruz Blanca Huesca.

What Chance Does FC Barcelona Have Of Winning The Spanish League?

With an away victory against Real Betis on Saturday night and a clash between Real Madrid and Sevilla on Sunday resulting in a victory for Madrid, the most important question for many Barcelona fans is whether their team has what it takes to finish the season with the 2007 La Liga title.

Prior to this weekend, May 5th and 6th, FC Barcelona was in top position with Sevilla just one point behind and Real Madrid trailing two points. While Barcelona’s victory at least gave room to breath a little, the result they were hoping for between their two closest rivals was a draw. Instead Madrid moved up into second place although they still remain two points behind Barcelona. That margin is too close for comfort and the fight looks like it will go on right to the end.

Barcelona’s form has been rather patchy at some points during the current season, including a period when a run of five matches saw them score one goal in each, drawing four times and winning just once; and one of the lowest points in the domestic calendar must surely have been in January when fellow Barcelona team RCD Espanyol beat Barcelona 3-1 at the Estadi Olimpic.

The team definitely lacked something when Lionel Messi was out of action through injury and perhaps Ronaldinho’s lack of form at times is due to the immense pressure there must be on all the players. And so, back to that big question; does Barcelona have what it takes to win this year’s Spanish League title?

Whatever the answer, it’s not going to be easy to do. As winners of both the Spanish League and Champions League titles in 2006 the pressure has been on the repeat their performance and after being knocked out of the UEFA competition the focus has been purely domestic. With clear focus, determination, hard work and a little luck the team does have what it takes to hold on to the title for another year, but if they make anything more than the smallest mistake then their ambitions will be thwarted.

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? "El Partido", especial El Gran Derbi ?



? Especial de «El Partido», siguiendo la actualidad de última hora sobre El Gran Derbi. ??

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Creditable or Calamitous? Reflections of a Derby Fan on a Season That Promised Promotion

As this 2014-15 Championship season races toward its conclusion, it’s hard to determine whether it represents success or failure for Derby County Football Club. Perhaps any individual assessment depends on one’s glass being generally half-full, or half-empty. As a Rams fan exiled in the Middle East, but able to see many of their games live or recorded in full afterwards, I haven’t made up my own mind on the matter just yet. This article is intended as a means toward that end.

Last season ended in play-off heartbreak. Derby were, of the play-off quartet, comfortably the form side going into the end-of-season event, and swept aside sixth-placed Brighton 6-2 over two legs. In the other semi-final, a dangerous Wigan side, who had earlier defeated eventual Premier League champions Manchester City in an astonishing FA Cup result, were edged out 2-1 by QPR, whose own form had been anything but convincing during the second half of the season. Derby controlled the Wembley final, and seemed almost certain to win when Rangers were reduced to ten men for a professional foul early in the second half; however, not for the first play-off final in their history, the Rams were defeated by a late winner, the product of two substandard pieces of defending and a wonderful finish by Bobby Zamora.

Such was Derby’s style and momentum, so impressive their individual performances – midfield starlet Will Hughes and prolific target man Chris Martin the most prominent among them – that the bookmakers installed the Rams as pre-season favourites this time around. Prospects were boosted still further when George Thorne, composed loan signing and Wembley man of the match, was signed permanently during the summer. Within days, however, Thorne – already no stranger to injuries in his short career – was ruled out for most of the season after damaging his knee in a friendly against Zenit St Petersburg. Appearing not to trust a whole season’s work to his natural replacement, the experienced John Eustace, Steve McClaren was delighted when the club’s player recruitment team snapped up Omar Mascarell, a stylish holding midfielder on the periphery of Real Madrid’s squad. It appeared to be a real coup, although all parties recognised that the Spaniard would need time to adapt to the greater speed and physicality of the Championship.

The season began with a 1-0 win over newly promoted Rotherham United, courtesy of a fine late strike from Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick; a victory earned, in no small part, by the exciting contribution of new full-back Cyrus Christie, acquired from Coventry City to replace the solid, but now departed Liverpool loanee, Andre Wisdom. Christie’s defending was at least adequate (if not as impregnable as his predecessor), but it was the newcomer’s marauding runs that led many fans to feel hopeful that, far from the position being weakened, Derby might attain to greater attacking impetus from defence this season.

Of more concern, with Eustace out of favour, was the decision to play Hughes in the team’s apparently non-negotiable holding midfield role. While the player was undoubtedly good enough to play there, it was clear that neither of the more advanced players – Bryson, who many had expected to begin the season playing his football for a Premier League team, and Hendrick – could do exactly what Hughes was capable of further up the field. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the slight Hughes was not as comfortable with the physical side of the position as either the stocky Thorne or the guileful Eustace, and found himself almost sharing the position with substitute Mascarell from very early in the season. The Spaniard’s passing and energy did much to compensate for the evident weaknesses that many had predicted in his game: opponents gave him little time on the ball, and he quickly found himself on the receiving end of some rather combative challenges.

There were warning signs for Derby in a spirited but disjointed second league match at Sheffield Wednesday, which ended goalless. A first defeat followed in the next match, as stylish Charlton outplayed their more fancied guests, winning 3-2 and leaving many to wonder when the Rams would hit the performance levels of the previous season. They were encouraged by a merciless second-half display against Fulham, as Derby pummelled the plummeting Cottagers 5-1. Welcome to the Championship.

The Rams then embarked on an unbeaten run that spanned twelve games, including wins against expansive Bournemouth (2-0), Blackburn (3-2), Bolton (2-0) and Reading (3-0) (the latter three away from home); and resilient draws against early leaders and local rivals Nottingham Forest (1-1), and Cardiff (2-2) at home, a match in which the Rams had trailed by two goals. Derby’s comeback that day was begun by a debut goal from a new season-long loan signing from Liverpool: the fleet-footed and direct Jordon Ibe, whose contribution, with hindsight, seems as significant in Derby’s fortunes as was his premature return to Anfield in January.

That unbeaten run was curtailed by dogged Wigan, who belied their poor early season form by coming from behind to win 2-1 at the iPro Stadium. Derby then played two games in West London, hitting Fulham for five again (this time in the League Cup) before once again throwing away a lead against Brentford who, it seems, have never looked back since their last-minute win that day, courtesy of a fine goal from Stuart Dallas.

Derby needed to find their form – and find it they did, deservedly seeing off Huddersfield 3-2, before arguably their finest performance of the season in the annihilation of Wolves, 5-0 at the iPro. In the next match, Craig Bryson, who had so far struggled to reproduce his high standards of the two preceding seasons, scored a beauty to edge out Watford on their own turf. Suddenly Derby looked ready to seize their opportunity and run away with the league, just as their East Midlands rivals from Leicester had done the previous year.

It wasn’t to be so straightforward, unfortunately. The Rams went into their away match at Leeds, a team Derby had beaten for fun in recent seasons, seemingly unprepared for the grit and graft that would be needed to return with the points. They were outfought, and defeated, 0-2. But Steve McClaren prided himself on a team that could bounce back from disappointment, and Derby erupted out of the blocks against Brighton, winning the game with three first-half goals. In the opposing eleven that day was loanee Darren Bent, a wily, seasoned striker unable to convince then manager Paul Lambert of his right to a place in the Aston Villa side. Derby fans would be glad to see more of the discarded Bent very soon.

The following week, Derby were conquered at the summit by Middlesbrough, after a dour display in the North East demonstrated the worst they were capable of; Boro were organised and clinical, and undid Derby in their first attack, with former Rams loanee Patrick Bamford celebrating his opener gleefully – much to the annoyance of Derby fans, who had always had to overlook his affinity for their hated rivals, Forest. The Rams showed more fight and no little skill against a tidy and pressurising Norwich City side a week later, but were fairly denied a win when they conceded another late goal. The pattern of the previous season, in which Derby had become famed for their indefatigable spirit and late goalscoring, seemed to be shifting in the other direction.

The Rams began the festive period with a thumping win, 4-0 in the Birmingham snow. That was backed up with a revenge reversal of their 2-0 defeat at Leeds, and an excellent 1-0 win at Ipswich. John Eustace, hardly a fixture in the team, was immense in front of the back four, but his late dismissal and injury – from which he has yet to return despite two operations – would lead the Rams into the East Midlands derby once again relying on the unconvincing Mascarell. Even Forest fans approached the match fearfully. Their side had lost the previous season’s fixture 5-0, and the early season pacesetters now found themselves on a run of eight games without a win. Derby, fortuitously ahead but easily the better team before the break, gave a sickening validation of the phrase «game of two halves», and Forest exulted in a deserved shock win that would prolong the tenure of manager Stuart Pearce for a few more weeks. (This represented a bright side for many Rams fans, who were convinced their rivals’ progress would remain stagnant with the former England legend at the helm). Stunned at forfeiting local bragging rights, Derby fans demanded better, and were rewarded with three straight wins against Blackburn, Cardiff and Bolton.

The January transfer window had brought Bent in without a recall clause for his parent club, as well as Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, and Hull City’s Tom Ince, who made an instant impact with a fabulous brace in the 4-1 destruction of Bolton. Leeds United captain Stephen Warnock, still not fit after being injured in the Rams’ 2-0 win over his side, came in to «add experience» to the squad, and presumably to spur the unspectacular Craig Forsyth to higher performance levels. An interesting further addition was the Spaniard Raul Albentosa, who Derby’s recruitment team appeared to have been stalking for some time, and who arrived in Derby having bought out his own contract with La Liga team Eibar, for whom he had offered some impressive performances throughout the season. Unfortunately, a niggling injury would delay Albentosa’s league debut for over a month.

Ince found the net again in an encouraging 2-2 midweek draw at top-of-the-table Bournemouth, where the most significant moment of the match would prove the early replacement of nineteen-goal Chris Martin. He would not return for eleven games; suddenly Bent’s loan signing seemed very important indeed, although a slightly different system of attack was needed to accommodate the latter’s style. The Rams approached the following midweek match at struggling Rotherham knowing that a win would take them back to the summit. Yet, once again, they failed to take their chance, with only a spirited fightback earning them a 3-3 draw, having trailed 1-3. Inspired by the return of George Thorne after seven months on the sidelines, Derby then won back-to-back home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, and found themselves on top of the league for the third time this season. Despite having repeatedly failed to press home the advantages they had gained, the bookies still made McClaren’s dangerous Derby side favourites for the title. They were to be proved emphatically wrong.

What followed resembles the stuff of nightmares for Derby fans. It began with a lacklustre defeat at Fulham, in which now pivotal loan signing Bent limped off, forcing the industrious and vastly improved Johnny Russell to assume a central striking role that he would retain for the next four games, without once finding the net. In addition, Thorne was again out of action, replaced in West London by the still-misfiring Mascarell. Typically, after the Fulham defeat, McClaren demanded a response. He got one, but not a result; the Rams battered Brighton but somehow contrived to lose the match 0-2. The focus intensified on Derby’s defence, arguably culpable for both goals. A performance and a win were needed when Birmingham came to the iPro, and the Rams picked them off easily, strolling toward a 2-0 victory as the match entered the third of four added second-half minutes. A few hearts were aflutter when the unspectacular Blues won, and converted, a penalty; Rams fans redoubled their whistling for full-time, the match length having already surpassed the additional time indicated. Nevertheless, a team with pretensions of winning promotion would surely be able to see the game out. Birmingham equalised in the seventh minute of injury time. The day ended with four teams on 66 points, separated by goal difference. Derby were still «in the mix», but nobody was quite sure how they were going to stay there on current form. And the games were only getting harder.

Derby went to resurgent Norwich the following Saturday with assistant Paul Simpson vowing that it was time to «win ugly» if necessary. Realistically, most Derby fans would have taken a draw, and when debutant Jamie Hanson’s corner was spilled into his own net by England goalkeeper John Ruddy, that’s exactly what they got. Hanson retained his place for the crucial midweek home match against Middlesbrough. Derby were toothless, loanee Lingard missing the best chance to fall to a white shirt. Once again, Boro were resolute; once again, it was Patrick Bamford, object of fear and loathing in Derby, who settled the match with an excellent finish. Derby were rocking.

The final game before the latest international break would take them to Wolves, hapless victims of the Rams’ finest moment of the season to date. McClaren and Simpson warned that the returns of Thorne and Martin may not be risked before the international break, but Bent was back to take his place at the centre of a truly astonishing refereeing controversy. Through on goal, the returning striker was fouled by Wolves captain and last man Danny Batth. Ince swept the ball into the net. The referee, who had already whistled for the foul, disallowed the goal and awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Rams fans watched in horror as the official, smiling sickeningly, refused to find any card in his pocket for the offender, much less the red one he clearly deserved. In some sort of grotesque tribute to John Ruddy, the normally reliable Lee Grant punched the ball into his own net to help Wolves wrap up a 2-0 win and move to within two points of Derby, who were slipping further from automatic promotion with every match. Fans picked the team apart, looking for an XI who could win the next match at home to high-flying Watford, thereby dragging the Rams’ promotion wagon back on track. Full-backs came under fire most of all, and here it was difficult to make a case for the defence. Left-back Forsyth, far superior defensively than in attack (perhaps surprisingly for a former midfielder), had compounded the injustice at Wolves by facilitating their first goal, inexplicably passing the ball to an opponent in a dangerous position. It was by no means the first time the Scotsman’s distribution had been found wanting during the season.

On the other side, Cyrus Christie was a nerve-shredded shadow of his early-season self. His first-half gift to Watford’s Vydra was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by a Bent penalty, as the Rams’ opponents were reduced to ten men. Christie would not re-emerge after the break. Sadly, nor would George Thorne, attempting his second comeback of the season but lasting little more than twenty minutes. Once again, Derby contrived to throw away a winning position; Watford celebrated their 2-2 draw with delight, strengthening their own push for automatic promotion, while Derby retained their play-off place only on goal difference. The solitary silver lining seemed now to be the brief substitute appearance of Chris Martin, to whose absence so many had attributed the Rams’ slump.

On Easter Monday, with over four thousand Rams fans roaring them on, Derby finally picked up their first win in eight matches, as the talismanic Martin came off the bench to sweep them ahead at lowly Wigan. A typically opportunistic strike from Bent wrapped up the victory, leaving the Rams fascinatingly poised before the following weekend’s home match with Brentford. On paper, it seems the most difficult of the Rams’ remaining five fixtures, of which three are to be played at the iPro. However, with second-placed Norwich already five points ahead, and Watford and Middlesbrough much better placed to take advantage of any slip by the Canaries or leaders Bournemouth, only the most optimistic of Derby fans could reasonably expect automatic promotion at this stage. On the contrary, with Wolves in the best form of the current play-off place occupants, and Brentford able to overhaul the Rams with a win in their head-to-head, Derby still face a fierce battle to ensure their own place in the end-of-season competition that has already caused them so much heartache.

How has it come to this? And does the season represent a success or a failure for the Rams?

On reflection, it is important to consider the weight of expectation that has hung over the team all season. It is true that Derby were formidable during the latter part of the 2013-14 season, playing some scintillating football, and with an embarrassment of (injury-free) riches among their playing personnel. Yet arguably only Hughes and Russell have improved on their performances of the previous season; the immaculate Thorne has managed only three starts; Martin’s contribution has been blunted by the disastrous timing and duration of his injury; and the likes of Hendrick and Bryson have failed by some distance to match their performance levels of the previous season. Some loan signings have contributed much – particularly Ibe – while others have offered mixed fortunes: the injury-hit but prolific Bent; the frequently fantastic but oft-frustrating Ince, whose ball retention has been disappointing but who has scored some wonderful goals; and Mascarell, possessing all the vision and passing prowess one would expect of a Madrid graduate, but without ever providing a satisfactory solution for the role he was brought in to play.

Most attention has centred around the defence. In stark contrast to last season, during which the names of Andre Wisdom, Richard Keogh, Jake Buxton and Craig Forsyth seldom left the team sheet, McClaren has constantly tinkered with his defensive personnel this time around. Some fans have shown little patience with captain Keogh – possibly something of a hangover from his Wembley shocker – but in reality, the full-backs have proved a weaker link for most of the season. Christie, especially, seems particularly low on confidence, while the more self-assured Forsyth perhaps remains optimistic that his own form is solid enough and will improve still further; however, those who have endured his substandard performances throughout the season will likely have been glad of Warnock’s competent league debut at left-back in the victory at Wigan.

Another bone of contention relates to formation. While Derby have been more than a little unfortunate to experience long-term injuries to three holding midfield players (Thorne, Eustace and Mascarell), the lack of alternative playing styles and formations have also been mooted by fans as sources of frustration and failure to overturn teams that have set up defensively against the Rams and gained their rewards by doing so. The recent switch, through necessity, to a 4-2-3-1 has only added weight to this argument, not least because the defensive contribution of Mascarell has been questionable all season, and has almost certainly exacerbated any problems among the defence personnel. The use of Chris Martin behind Darren Bent has been used only fleetingly (albeit injuries have undoubtedly reduced the scope for this), while there is also a strong case for positioning the incisive passing of Hughes behind the front man, a move that has not been tried at all. This is not to suggest that the fans know better than McClaren; yet fans are certainly in a position to recognise what has not been working for long periods of the season. Managers, like players, can be «lucky» – not just in what they and their teams do, but in how they are perceived. Most things McClaren touched last season turned to gold. Such has been the man’s redemption since his ignominious England denouement, perhaps supporters had become over-confident in his ability. His true managerial performance, perhaps, lies somewhere between those two extremes of appraisal.

The mantra from the club, and the local press, remains that a Derby side returning to their best form are capable of ensnaring a promotion place this season. Some will fear that the likes of Will Hughes will be heading to the Premier League very soon, irrespective of how the Rams fare from now until the end of May.

It is never an easy ride being a Derby fan; one cannot sit back and get comfortable.

Derby have never been about coasting, but the rollercoaster.

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Travel: The Closest Way to Reach God

On Sunday (November 14, 2010) I visited two of my favorite temples in Chennai – The Satyanarayana Temple and the Chennai branch of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, both located at T.Nagar, Chennai’s marketing hub.

The Satyanarayana Temple is one of its kind in Chennai. The presiding deity is Lord Satyanarayana. The other deities are Lord Hanuman, Lord Venkateswara, Lord Narasimha (The Lion God), Goddess Mahalakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Lord Hayagriva (the God of Learning), Andal (The devotee who later merged with the God), Lord Rama with his family and Sudarshana. I visited this temple after almost 6 months to thank him for blessing me with a child (my girl).

I then visited the Chennai Branch of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) and sought the blessings of the Lord Balaji, with his consort (Goddess Padmavathi). I suppose it was God’s calling and I decided to make a visit to Tirupati (the richest Hindu temple) the next day (November 15, 2010).

The day started with a rude wake up at 4.00 AM as I had to reach the boarding point at 5.00 PM. I bathed, refreshed and reached my boarding point at T.Nagar in 15, a record of sorts as you travel faster by foot in the area (which is incidentally the heart of Chennai’s marketing activity). Normally you travel this area by foot in 30 minutes and by vehicle in an hour (four times that time during peak festive season).

For the uninitiated, Chennai is located in the southern most state of Tamil Nadu, while Tirupati is located in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

I boarded the Tempo Traveller along with 11 others (excluding driver). One set of 6 passengers, comprising two families (husband, wife and son) were from the Indian state of Rajasthan who have come on a tour down south India and the second family of 5 members were from Chennai, who were going on a family function. One of their relatives’ child hair was being offered, as it is their family deity.

I was seated next to the driver. The previous day (Sunday night) I had watched EPL and went to bed at 00.30 hours happy to see our main rivals Chelsea trailing 0-2 at home to Sunderland (I support Manchester United in the EPL, Barcelona at La Liga and Brazil in the international level). I, therefore, had plans to catch up with my lost sleep.

Right from the moment I boarded the bus and the journey started, I daresay sleep was the last thing on the moment. It was drizzling a bit. But the thing that shook me up was the way the vehicle was being driven.

I remembered the Priest and driver joke, where the driver goes to Heaven and the Priest is stranded in Hell. I certainly support the Driver for his claim to Heaven, after seeing my driver. He struck the fear of God and I chanted all the prayers that came to my mind.

There are a few common factors in the culturally diverse country of India – passion for cricket, craze for film and sports personalities, rash driving, lack of cleanliness and orderliness.

The vehicle was being driven across the National Highways NH 205 (which connects Chennai in Tamil Nadu with Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh). The speed limit shown was 40 kms. When I saw the speedometer (as I was sitting opposite the driver), it showed a mere 90 kms. It was not that our driver was rash, others were driving faster almost 100 kms on either side of the road.

There were a couple of sad things that I saw during the course of my journey – one a dog having been hit by a speeding vehicle and bled to death, its orphan puppy running aimlessly across the road. In another incident I saw a pup crushed, only body remains and its sibling sitting next to it.

In several areas across the 152 kms stretch, only one big vehicle and a two vehicle could pass. But all the vehicles were jostling and claiming I am right by honking and riding fast. In almost 3 places, my blood froze and heart skipped a beat. The driver on either side were rushing as if to hit and run or straight forward collision, was the option.

There are a few things I prefer during my road-rail travel – the greenery and the beautifully lined trees, the opportunity to interact with fellow passengers and learn about them and good sleep.

Sleep was deprived in the first half of the journey. However, when I turned back, I saw fellow passengers dozing off peacefully, unaware of the risk of the drive. How I envied them! I enjoyed the greenery and saw countryside life at its most beautiful and colourful.

After almost 3 hours of drive, we reached Tirupati (the lower part) where we had our breakfast. After the breakfast our guide joined us for the journey and I was given a break from directly witnessing the perils of driving. I moved the last seat on the vehicle.

The second half of the onward journey was spent interacting with fellow passengers from Chennai and enjoying the natural scenery, which was breathtaking. Tirupati, is located on the Seven Hills and the climate was wonderful for a drive – cool, drizzling a bit. The mist surrounding the hills only enhanced the natural beauty. The second part of 25 kms passed through deep curves, blind turns and hairpin bends. But from the way the vehicle was jerking I fathomed that the driver was riding at double the prescribed speed limit.

Once we reached Tirupati, we waited for the South Indian family to complete tonsuring the head of the child of their relative. This hour’s delay set our program back by 3-4 hours. We entered into the cage, where we waited our turn to book the ticket and have the Seegra Darshan. The queue started moving slowly. Our cage of almost 200 was easily the most unruly. The cages of pilgrims on either side were quite orderly and well behaved. We were given free food inside the cage which helped as we had our dinner only at 7.30 PM. The funny thing was while we in the Rs.300 ticket waited for 4 hours and the Rs.50 ticket pilgrims waited for 6-7 hours, the devotees who paid nothing waited only for an hour.

We had a darshan of Lord Balaji by 4.30 PM for a span of 10 seconds. I certainly considered myself lucky to be in the presence of the Lord for the normal duration is 2-3 seconds. As it was raining steadily, we awaited our turn to collect our sample of the world famous Tirupati Laddoos. We then returned to our bus and started on our return journey.

We reached the lower Tirupati by 8.00 PM, had our dinner and went to Tiruchanur to seek the blessings of Goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Balaji. The darshan here was faster and better, finished in almost a jiffy (5-10 minutes).

We started back to Chennai, which was mostly passed off peacefully and I reached home by 00.30 hours the next day (November 16, 2010).

On reaching home, I was informed that the new job which was pending was through and I was expected to join in a day or two.

I have known my friends and relatives, who planned meticulously for months together but still could not make the trip to Tirupati, unless the Lord himself desires. I agree with this view point. My desire and plan was put into action and I was able to seek the blessings of the Divine Lord in a matter of 1-2 days. Recently one of my friends who had completed his interview successfully was waiting for joining the new job. After his trip to Tirupati, things moved at a feverish pace and he joined as soon as he returned.

«Man proposes, God disposes». This is true of all religions. God is the Supreme Power and however, much science and technology advances, we cannot match his power and will. We cannot stop death, can postpone it for sometime only.

I kept the title of this article on two counts: One, because of the way the vehicle was driven on all sides, I spent more time thinking about God and seeking his pardon and blessings. Two, the darshan itself was wonderful and well wait the pain and trouble.

http://www.tirumala.org provides you all the information about Tirupati.

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