LONDON -- At a time when player conduct seems constantly to be under scrutiny, only the most eagle-eyed drivers would have spotted Jonathan Spector's SUV pulling up at West Ham's community facility beside the A13 flyover in east London on a gray Tuesday. The club hosted a coaching clinic for adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues, and the event rounded off with a kickabout with Spector and his manager, Avram Grant, before a Q&A in the clubhouse. Afterward Spector posed for photos and signed mementos for a queue that backed out the door. It only took an hour or so out of his afternoon, but he made the guests' day.
Christmas is a time for sharing, a time for caring and a time for firing your manager before the yawning jaws of relegation snap shut. Since the weather put paid to seven of the weekend's nine fixtures, let's have a look at who's in the danger zone:
This Premier League season is almost 10 games old, the first point at which it is really permissible to scan the table and suck your teeth as you read the names at the bottom. The last one you'll reach is West Ham United, which has taken six points from the first 27 available.
One is the kind of athlete you might design in a lab: tall, lean and muscular, with a seemingly inexhaustible arsenal of skills. The other is a throwback, a scrappy little player whose abilities are more difficult to pin down because they border on the metaphysical. At 6'1" and 172 pounds, Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo is soccer's Magic Johnson: a big man with skills usually associated with smaller players. At 5'7" and 148 pounds, Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks more like somebody's kid brother and plays like Pete Maravich, with an otherworldly touch that allows him to do the unthinkable with the ball.
To our knowledge, Roman Abramovich has never sung Oops!... I Did It Again at karaoke while wearing a Britney Spears wig. But it would be apt, since the Chelsea owner hastily and mistakenly sacked a manager for the third time in 17 months.
The Champions League final: dramatic, riveting, emotional. So many interwoven tales -- of heroism and euphoria, of loss and heartache. One hundred and twenty minutes of pulsating soccer followed by a heart-in-mouth penalty shootout to decide it all.
Eight weeks into the English Premier League season, Professor Limey is preparing his mid-semester reports on the class of 2007-08. José Mourinho's departure from Chelsea rocked the Casbah (and the footballing world), but has it severely dented the Blues' title chances? And what about the other challengers?
The soccer world was left spitting out its cornflakes when it switched on its TVs and radios on Thursday morning to hear the news that the Special One, José Mourinho, had left Chelsea. The enormity of the event was such that Mourinho's furrowed brow featured on the front page of most daily newspapers, and even provoked the British Prime Minister to comment.
You never know what might happen in soccer. Take the case of Avram Grant, the semi-obscure ex-coach of the Israeli national team who suddenly finds himself managing Chelsea FC, the richest collection of club soccer talent on the planet.