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3/3/13 11:27 am

Ray Wilkins urges Chelsea to extend Frank Lampard's contract

Chelsea's former assistant manager Ray Wilkins has urged the club to offer midfielder Frank Lampard a new deal.

Lampard, 34, has been with the Blues since 2001 but his current contract expires at the end of the season.

"Frank has to stay. I can't see why this situation is happening," Wilkins told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek.

"He has done more than a job for Chelsea this season and will continue to do so with his fitness level and enthusiasm for the game."

Lampard joined Chelsea for £11m from West Ham in June 2001 and has scored 199 times, including 13 goals this campaign, in 593 appearances for the club.

However, his future remains uncertain and he has been linked with a move to teams in America, China and the Middle East.

But Wilkins, who played 197 times for Chelsea and was the club's assistant manager in 2009-10 when they won the Premier League and FA Cup double, thinks Lampard should be offered another deal, despite his age.

"You look at [Manchester United's] Ryan Giggs being offered another year at the age of 39 and there's a manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] who knows how to handle the senior professionals," added Wilkins.

Lampard, capped 94 times by England, has won three Premier League titles, a Champions League medal, the FA Cup four times and the League Cup twice during his spell with Chelsea.

The future of Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has also been questioned this week after he criticised the club's fans and said it was a "massive mistake" to have the word 'interim' inserted into his job title.

There was speculation he would be replaced before his contract ends in the summer, although Wilkins thought this would not happen.

"I honestly believe Rafa will be there until the end of the season and I don't think they would change anything now," said Wilkins.

"When any manager goes to Chelsea they know what they are walking into."


2/8/13 11:44 am - LAMPARD!!!!!!

Lampard talks make perfect sense for Chelsea by Phil Lythell

The rumours that Chelsea are willing to open talks with Frank Lampard has seen social media platforms ablaze with discussion over the veteran potentially extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Ever since the news was broken by Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail, tongues have been wagging and keyboards clicking, though it must be emphasised that there were no attributed quotes in the story and the club itself have followed their usual party line of not commenting on speculation regarding transfers or contract negotiations.

Nevertheless, it has seen a debate rage over the reasons behind this apparent change of heart by the Blues hierarchy just weeks after the player was informed that he would not be offered a new deal and could search for employment elsewhere. The most visible of those debates has been whether the decision is being based on the player's practical contributions to the team or is just a sentimental move designed to curry favour with disgruntled supporters as well as rewarding a true Chelsea legend for everything he has given the club.

On the surface it appears to be bit of both.

Lampard's goal return this season has been little short of spectacular yet again. His strike at Newcastle ensured that he was only the second player after Alan Shearer to score 10 goals in 10 different Premier League campaigns.

In fact, he supersedes the former England captain in that he has managed that feat in consecutive campaigns and therefore is the only player ever to have accomplished that feat. Those 10 goals have come in just 17 matches and that tally could have been even greater but for the injury that saw him miss seven weeks of action before making his comeback in the FIFA Club World Cup.

In all he has 15 goals in all competitions for Chelsea and England including that sumptuous controlled finish Wednesday against Brazil, proof the 34-year-old has lost none of his sharpness at the business end of the field.

Some will argue that goals are not everything and it is true that Lampard is not quite the force that he was few years ago. He is yet to provide a single assist in the Premier League this season, a far cry from the 17 he accumulated in the title-winning 2009-10 campaign – when he scored an astonishing 22 league goals – and he has been usurped as the fulcrum of Chelsea's attacking play by the magical Juan Mata.

Yet much of that can be attributed to a change of system that requires him to play much deeper. He is still able to make his trademark late runs into the penalty area but his new role sees him prompting the play in the final third far less than in previous years.

In addition, it has to be admitted that his switch to a more defensive position has not been an unqualified success. Lampard looks to be the perfect foil to David Luiz or John Obi Mikel in the double pivot, less so when partnered with Ramires as neither find the holding role to be a natural fit. When placed alongside Luiz or Mikel, he has more license to concentrate on switching the play; with Ramires, the two have struggled to work effectively in tandem.

The benefit of having Lampard play in that position is that his vision remains exceptional and he is able to play intelligent angled passes quickly to his more advanced teammates. He may not be getting the assists next to his name but he is still playing his part in goal-scoring moves.

Even if his powers are on the wane, there remains a compelling argument to keep Lampard on the payroll. Politically, it makes sense for the Chelsea board to bow to the supporters' demands and give their hero a new contract. The high of winning the Champions League has been tempered by some poor transfer dealing and the rash sacking of fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo, with public enemy No. 1 Rafael Benitez stepping into the breach.

There has been vocal revolt at this turn of events and Roman Abramovich is seeing his judgement being criticised openly by supporters for the first time in almost a decade as the owner. It is unlikely Abramovich makes too many decisions based upon cultivating his popularity, though no dictator can survive without a considerable power base.

On a less Machiavellian note, retaining Lampard would do wonders for the public image of Chelsea FC. The England international is universally popular among the media and now even receives grudging praise from rival clubs' fans that previously regarded him as overrated and excelling solely due to the raft of talented players around him.

He is eloquent, intelligent and is no longer associated with the wag culture that turned many people against the so-called "Golden Generation" in the first decade of this century. In much the same way that Sir Bobby Charlton is the embodiment of Manchester United, Frank Lampard is the perfect ambassador for Chelsea – infinitely more so than John Terry - and is somebody who is widely appreciated not just nationally but globally, even if he lacks the stage-managed charm and fashion savvy of David Beckham.

Lampard is also worth keeping around to hold up as an example for the youngsters at Chelsea to follow. Every manager who has ever worked with him has cited his peerless professionalism as one of his key attributes.

He has put in extra hours on the training ground since his teenage days, never resting on his laurels, determined to make the most of each and every ounce of his talent. That attitude will not fade as the years go by and for trainees and young professionals watching him train with the same enthusiasm every single day can only be a positive influence.

And even if it is solely based on sentiment, so what? If anybody has deserved a luxury contract it is Frank Lampard. He has been the driving force during the most successful period of Chelsea's history and has justified every single penny that has been spent on him.

After all, can you put a price on the two goals he scored April 30, 2005 at Bolton that brought the title to Stamford Bridge for the first time in 50 years? Or the goal at Liverpool in 2010 that put Chelsea on the verge of another championship? Or the penalty against the same opposition in the semifinal of the Champions League just days after his mother passed away?

The list could go on forever but the point has been made. Lampard represents the best £11m the club has ever spent.

But there could be another reason that Abramovich has reportedly changed his mind and that could be upon the wishes of a prospective manager. It would make sense that any discussions with potential appointments would include the issue of the playing staff and the personnel that that person might desire to be as successful as possible. And we all know the name of the manager who told Lampard that he was the best player in the world and has subsequently told everyone else that he is the best professional he has ever worked with.

A certain Jose Mourinho.

Could it be that the texts that have supposedly been exchanged of late between the billionaire and the "Special One" have concerned a possible return to Chelsea and the retention of Lampard's services? Fanciful perhaps, but stranger things have happened in football.

1/16/13 10:04 am - freedom

Aaron Swartz was a good man.

12/17/12 08:39 pm - knocking on heaven's door (bob dylan)

Mysticism, Internet fuel Mexico's Maya "Armageddon" fears
By Gabriel Stargardter | Reuters – 4 hours ago.

CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico (Reuters) - A few words by an American scholar, a crumbling Mexican monument and the love of a good yarn were all it took to spawn the belief that the world could end this week.

December 21 marks the end of an age in a 5,125 year-old Maya calendar, an event that is variously interpreted as the end of days, the start of a new era or just a good excuse for a party.

Thousands of New Age mystics, spiritual adventurers and canny businessmen are converging on ancient ruins in southern Mexico and Guatemala to find out what will happen.

"No one knows what it will look like on the other side," said Michael DiMartino, 46, a long-haired American who is organizing one of the biggest December 21 celebrations at the Maya temple site of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula.

It is not the world but "the way we perceive it" that will end, said DiMartino, who pledged his event at ground zero for 2012 acolytes will be a "distilling down of various perspectives into a unified intention for positive transformation, evolution and co-creation of a new way of being."

A mash-up of academic speculation and existential angst seasoned with elements from several world religions, the 2012 phenomenon has been fueled by Hollywood movies and computer games, and relentlessly disseminated by Internet doom-mongers.

Mass hysteria in a Russian prison, a Chinese man building survival pods for doomsday and UFO lovers seeking refuge with aliens in a French mountain village are just some of the reports that have sprung up in the final countdown to December 21.

Robert Bast, a New Zealander living in Melbourne who wrote a book called "Survive 2012" on how to cope with the possible catastrophe, believes the Maya may have sent out a warning.

"The most likely thing for me is a solar storm, but that's not going to kill you straight away. It's more of a long term disaster," said Bast, 47, noting a flu pandemic could also strike the planet. "I feel the world isn't as safe as we think it is. The last couple of generations have had it very cozy."

When dawn breaks on Friday, according to the Maya Long Count calendar, it marks the end of the 13th bak'tun - an epoch lasting some 400 years - and the beginning of the 14th.

This fact would probably have languished in academic obscurity had not a young Maya expert named Michael Coe written in the 1960s that to the ancient Mesoamerican culture the date could herald an "Armageddon" to cleanse humanity.

Since then, the cult of 2012 has snowballed.

Among the sun-bleached pyramids, shaded mangroves and deep cenotes of the Maya heartland, there are hopes December 21 will bring a spiritual re-birth.

Nobody seems quite sure what to expect on Friday, but it has not stopped people getting their hopes up.

"This is the Arab Spring of the spiritual movement," said Geoffrey Ocean Dreyer, a 52-year-old U.S. musician wearing a sombrero and mardi gras beads. "We're going to create world peace. We're going to Jerusalem and we're going to rebuild Solomon's temple."


The words of Coe, a highly respected Maya scholar, were published in 1966 at the height of the Cold War, stirring fears in a world haunted by the prospect of nuclear holocaust.

Coe could not be reached for comment for this article, but friends and academics who know him insist he never meant to inspire a vision of apocalypse when he committed them to paper.

Stephen Houston, a Maya expert at Brown University in Rhode Island and student of Coe's, said too much has been read into the end of the 13th bak'tun, which was little more than a "dull mathematical declaration" used to bracket dates.

"I see it all as an expression of present day anxiety and not much more than that," Houston said.

Few remaining inscriptions refer to the event, and the best known one is part of a monument recovered from a Maya site in Tabasco state called Tortuguero - much of which was torn down in the 1960s to make way for the construction of a cement factory.

Still, the mix of religion, ancient inscriptions and media-driven speculation about impending doom remains potent.

"I got an email the other day from a mother who was contemplating taking her own life, because she didn't know what was really going to happen, she didn't want her children to live through this ordeal," said David Stuart, a Maya expert at the University of Texas. "We can dismiss it as a kooky idea, which it is, but they're still ideas and they still have power."

U.S. space agency NASA has sought to allay fears of impending catastrophe, noting that "our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012."

Nothing has given the 2012 theories more oxygen in the run-up to the big day than the Internet, noted John Hoopes, a Maya anthropologist at the University of Kansas.

"Computers come straight out of the same people who were smoking pot and protesting at Berkeley and Stanford," he said, referring to U.S. student movements in the 1960s.

"This Maya calendar stuff has been part of hacktivism lore for 40 years, since the beginning, and with every significant change in computer technology, it's gotten another boost."

Many of those gathering in Chichen Itza praised the Internet as a discussion forum and organizing tool for New Age events.

"We don't need leaders now we have the Internet," said Muggy Burton, 66, who had traveled to Mexico from Canada with her 15-year-old, blue-haired granddaughter, Talis Hardy.

The two, who communicate with each other by whistling, plan to live in Mexico for six months, according to Burton, who is going to homeschool Hardy. "It's the end of the world for her, and the beginning of a new one," she added.


Mexico's federal government is not officially marking the phenomenon, but the country's tourism agency has launched a "Mundo Maya 2012" website with a countdown to December 21.

Up to 200,000 people are expected to descend on Chichen Itza alone for the night of December 20.

Among modern descendants of the Maya, the idea it could all come to an end on Friday generally raises a wry smile - but they are happy to play along if it makes money.

"It's a psychic epidemic," said Miguel Coral, 56, a cigar salesman in Merida, a colonial town and capital of Yucatan state. "It's all about business, but that's fine. It helps our country. I think it's excellent we've exported this idea."

Nearby, workers built a pyramid of spray-painted polystyrene blocks for the opening of the town's Maya festival.

"If people who believe in this joke want to come, let them," said Jose May, a Merida tourism official of Maya descent. "Nobody here believes that. Those people were sold an idea."

Hazy rumors have helped feed the sense of anticipation.

A few hours' drive south of Merida in the remote Maya town of Xul, which means "the end," media reports began circulating as early as 2008 that a group of Italians were readying themselves for impending doom by building apocalypse-proof bunkers.

Today, the settlement dubbed the "end of the world resort" is open for business as "Eco Spa Las Aguilas."

"There's no truth in it," said deputy manager Andrea Podesta, 45, referring to speculation it was a cult.

"Some people came here, took some hidden photos, and published some very unpleasant articles about us," he added, noting the glistening new spa was booked up well into 2013.

Inside, a group of elderly Italians, mostly dressed in white, were watching the path of an asteroid on a giant screen. A black-and-white image of Christ's face hung from the wall and a large stone statue of a robed woman greeted visitors.

Whatever lies in store for the planet, even Maya academics who have fought to play down the hype surrounding the passing of another 24 hours feel there could still be some surprises.

"I think there may be some mischief on December 21 because the whole world is watching," said Hoopes in Kansas, citing rumors hacktivist group Anonymous was planning a stunt. "It's a very fertile opportunity for a tremendous prank."

11/10/12 12:43 am

i'm too young for this life
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