What to expect from England vs. Republic of Ireland

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Okay, so it doesn’t take a great historian to know that England and the Republic of Ireland have had some differences in the past. Political, cultural and religious differences have existed for hundreds of years.

But all that is set to be put to one side on Wednesday at Wembley, as the two nations met for the first time in over 18 years to play soccer.

Last time England played Ireland, the game in Dublin on February 15 1995 was abandoned after just 27 minutes after English fans rioted at Lansdowne Road.

This morning, in an email via the FA and in conjunction with FIFA, England manager Roy Hodgson has urged English supporters to remain respectful of the Irish fans and players ahead of tomorrow’s friendly game at Wembley Stadium.

But all that aside, what should we expect from Wednesday’s friendly?

It will be a good spectacle, as Ashley Cole will captain England as he earns his 100th cap for the Three Lions. While LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane will captain the Emerald Isle. Both the English and Irish FA must be commended for putting this friendly on, it will help ease any lingering worries fans and organizers have about hosting future games. Hopefully.

The game itself will see plenty of fringe players given an opportunity, with Hodgson likely to field plenty of youngsters in the starting lineup. The most intriguing factor for England will be the central defensive partnership, with Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill likely to be given the nod.

While Ireland will be using the game as preparation for a key World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands on June 7. Giovanni Trapattoni is under intense pressure after Ireland’s poor showing at Euro 2012, but is confident his side can make the World Cup in Brazil next summer.

So will a match up between these two teams ever be a friendly? Nope.

But it should be a great game, in a packed stadium between players who face each other week in, week out in the EPL. That will add an extra spice to the game. Only four of Ireland’s 23 man squad don’t play their domestic soccer in England.

England should win, but Hodgson and England’s fans will be looking to the likes of Wayne Rooney, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Hart to show just how good they really are. Next week they head to Rio to play Brazil, that will be the big test as to whether Hodgson’s men are ready for the fall qualifiers which will seal their World Cup fate.

Let’s hope all the action between England and Ireland happens on the pitch on Wednesday, not off it. Sadly, that wasn’t the case the last time these two teams met in 1995.

Fingers crossed.

Official Klopp merchandise you need to see

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Liverpool have gone all out with the Jurgen Klopp themed merchandise and you have to applaud the Anfield outfit for the speed at which it was available.

On the same day that Klopp was unveiled in the Centenary Stand at Anfield — check out my behind-the-scenes observations from a special day on Merseyside — the club shop was already offering mugs, t-shirts and mouse mats with Klopp’s cartoon image on them.

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The best was perhaps this shirt in the first picture below, as the slogan simply reads “The Normal One” as that was how Klopp announced himself in his first press conference as Liverpool boss when asked for a comparison to Jose Mourinho’s infamous “Special One” tag on his opening day as a Premier League manager.

Optimism levels around Klopp’s arrival at Anfield are going through the roof, and the 48-year-old former Borussia Dortmund coach certainly said all the right things during his unveiling.

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Take a peek at the merchandise below to see what’s on offer as the German coach tries to bring in a new era of success at Anfield. And hey, if it he doesn’t bring success on the pitch, surely income from merchandise sales will get a boost…

Beckham on plans for MLS in Miami, stadium talks continue

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David Beckham is hoping for his Major League Soccer franchise to be run just like the club he supports: Manchester United.

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Beckham, 40, is still working on finalizing a stadium for his MLS team to play in, more on that below, but he has been speaking about his dream of becoming an owner and has earmarked the 2018 MLS season as when his franchise will arrive on the scene.

Beckham spoke to the Daily Star in the UK about his vision for the MLS club, and says the team he came up through the ranks with and played for professional for 12-years is the benchmark.

“We want the club to be run professionally — everything needs to be run like a club like Manchester United,” Beckham said. “You have to look at it like that. Luckily, I’ve had a little bit of experience in that and I definitely will be a demanding owner. I want the team to be successful and the club to be successful, so I think I have to be demanding.”

The former United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder also spoke about the lengthy delays with the stadium deal and how “dealing with the political side of things in Miami has been a lot more difficult” than he expected.

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In fact, a source has told ProSoccerTalk that the proposed stadium site for Beckham’s franchise, directly next to Major League Baseball franchise Miami Marlins’ home, Marlins Park, in Little Havana, is still some way from being signed off on as many restrictions will be placed on Beckham and his ownership group before the first shovel hits the ground. Beckham himself said in his latest update that in six weeks time he hopes to name the stadium site.

However the source confirmed that any stadium announcement deal could be someway off as Beckham’s ownership group – which includes PR tycoon, agent and close friend Simon Fuller, plus Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure – still haven’t hammered out many of the specifics of a stadium deal with the City of Miami, while negotiations with the Marlins are also expected to take months before any stadium deal can be confirmed. The source added that the Marlins are positive about turning derelict land opposite their current Marlins Park home into an MLS stadium, but there are several conditions which have to be met in order for the stadium to be given the green light by the MLB franchise. These conditions include no MLS games conflicting with Marlins games, sponsorship deals not conflicting with those the Marlins have on the outside of their stadium and various other facets including transportation links and infrastructure.

Beckham's plans for an MLS stadium in downtown Miami had to be shelved.
Beckham’s initial plans for an MLS stadium in downtown Miami had to be shelved.

The source goes on to note that several high-ranking City officials and business operators in and around Miami Dade County still feel unease towards Beckham and the razzmatazz surrounding his initial stadium plan to house his MLS team on a prime waterfront location in Downtown Miami (see photo, above) next to the Miami Heat’s American Airlines arena. Beckham has since accepted that his opening stadium plan was “cheeky” but many business leaders had their noses put out of joint and many are making it increasingly difficult for a stadium deal to get over the line for the former LA Galaxy star.

In terms of the specifics surrounding a potential new home for what will now, given the delays, surely become MLS’ 24th franchise in either 2018 or 2019, the location picked is just over two miles from Downtown Miami with good links via public transport and roads. It is in a neighborhood which has a tough past but is on the up as rap star Pitbull has just built a huge academy (Sports Leaders and Management Charter Middle/High School) offering opportunities for education to underprivileged children in the Little Havana community. Along with Marlins Park, the addition of an MLS franchise would undoubtedly bring plenty of jobs into the area and help boost the economy further.

Beckham’s dream of owning a team in Miami is edging closer to realization but it seems like it’s still some way off having a stadium to call home.