Early Doors

Pre-season perfection

Early Doors

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Real Madrid might be the biggest, brashest, self-promotingest club on planet
football, but they seem to be the only major team capable of conducting a sensible

This weekend, while Manchester United take on a Malaysian
XI, City are in South Africa
and Chelsea in Seattle, Real will be training at their Irish
hotel retreat ahead of a kickabout against Shamrock Rovers on Monday.

It might not have the glamour of a trip to the Far East, but
the Carton House Hotel in County Kildare has offered Real the chance to erect
some blue screens to keep out prying eyes and get down to some serious

The hotel is near the town of Maynooth, which is known as an educational
centre for Catholic priests, and would have been the perfect base for Wayne
Rooney, who has said he would have become a man of the cloth if he had not
played football.

Rooney said: "I haven't
a clue what else I could have done. I wasn't
really the best in school. I always enjoyed RE - so maybe a priest."

United will be sweating through a night-time low of 25
degrees Celsius in Kuala Lumpur
while spending most of their time signing autographs, smiling blankly at
sponsors' promotional events and
getting mobbed at airports.

Real, on the other hand, will be enjoying the mild weather
and enjoying the hotel's spa
facilities that, Cristiano Ronaldo might like to know, include the 'Green Science Skin Renewing Facial with Perfecting
Plant Peel', available for just 135

Defender Michel Salgado said: "They are perfect conditions
for our pre-season. The weather is really nice to work in. We were training in Madrid in 40 degrees so I think Ireland is perfect."

If you would like to join Real in luxury at the Carton House
, there are still rooms available for Sunday night, starting at 110 euros.
Who knows, you might even see Ronaldo emerging, zen-like, from his chakra balancing

- - -

Anglo-French relations took a dive yesterday, as a Ligue
1 side cancelled a pre-season trip to England on the grounds that we
spend all our time rolling around in filth with pigs. Or something like that.

Nancy had been due to play friendlies
against West Brom and Crystal Palace - clubs coincidentally based in Britain's
two swine flu hot spots, the West Midlands and London.

However, with Britain
suffering more cases than any country outside Mexico
and the USA, Nancy have decided to
stay at home.

A club statement said: "The Nancy staff have judged it reasonable not to
take the slightest risk a week before the start of the Ligue 1 championship."

As ED fights off the urge to make a 'Nancy boys'
joke, it is worth pointing out that France
actually leads England
4-1 in swine flu-affected footballers.

While an unnamed quartet of Monaco players have been diagnosed
with the virus, we have just Micah Richards - who initially thought it was just
a really bad hangover ("I
thought it was a really bad chest infection, or maybe alcohol poisoning.")

Britain and France seem to be on the brink of a new cultural
conflict, what with Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy battling it out to be
Barack Obama's new best mate (score
one for Sarko), and an absurd 'race' row surrounding cyclist Mark Cavendish.

The Manxman is making the Tour de France field look a little
bit silly (although not as silly as the tight shorts do) by cruising to victory
in every sprint.

Cavendish's other
crime - apart from those stupid green glasses - is to have been overheard
allegedly saying "F****** Frenchies" while waiting for a delayed

Whether that is racism or mere Brit-abroad intolerance is
not for Early Doors to say (well, actually it is - it's
obviously not racism; nationalism maybe...), but Cav may need to watch out for mischievous
French youths trying to shove sticks between his spokes on the road from
Tonnerre to Vittel today.

Early Doors's EPO-enhanced
buddy Blazin' Saddles has more on the
rubbish race row.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On July 2, Chelsea said this: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm it has completely
rejected an offer from Manchester City for John Terry ... We would
like to make clear, and will not do so again, that John is not for sale."

Only chief executive Peter Kenyon could not help himself,
and yesterday did do so again, saying: "He's not
available at any price. He's
got a three-year contract. He's told
us he doesn't want to go and we don't want him to go. End of story."

None of this increasingly desperate bleating can obscure the
fact that what Chelsea
desperately need is for Terry to say something.

He had the perfect opportunity as he posed for pictures at
the launch of the club's new
sponsorship, but continued his mute summer.

What are the chances it really is 'end
of story'?

have revealed the buy-out clauses they have inserted in Kaka and Cristiano
Ronaldo's contracts... (adopt Dr
Evil voice)... one billion euros. Please, City. Do it. Go on, just do it.

The second Ashes Test at Lord's
starts today. England v Australia:
follow all the action here.

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