Archived entries for Football Column

Refugees are our Football Family

Refugees are our Football Family

Listeners to Radio 2 medium wave shortly after the 1989 FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough kicked-off will remember reports of fans streaming on the pitch in large numbers. First hand evidence from those who told the truth that day said more and more fans came over the fence, despite being pushed back. It was obvious something was wrong and over 25 years later any rational thinking would question how it was for so long accepted that the fans weren’t offered sanctuary, rather than being penned in further.

That incident is a reasonable parallel to scenes that have featured on the news for months now. Refugees have been fleeing to mainland Europe in large numbers on a daily basis. We regularly hear of large groups dying, suffocating in lorries and drowning in the sea, while there is filming of survivors sleeping in railway stations and then walking for miles with children on their back. From the traffic jams in Kent to the pictures of toddlers washed up on the shore via footage of the displaced being in being imprisoned in coiled razor wire in Hungary, the clues have been there for a while now. And in the last few weeks some in the people’s game have stood up to offer a helping hand as we see a humanitarian crisis of an enormous proportion unfold on TV screens every night. Continue reading…

Football Column – Concrete Jungle

Spurs at Bayern Munich

In the latest drip-drip of stories from Sky Sports News in the first week of the English Premier League season they announced this evening that Sunderland have opened a Fan Zone; in other words they have made use of a vast car park to put up a few large umbrellas and a big screen in which they can flog bland lager in plastic containers. Half way through a week that started with a live 12.45pm game decided by a lone own goal and will end with football on Friday evening due to drained police resources being diverted to a march by wannabe fascists the following day, EPL Week 1 is dragging like a shoot out midway through Season 2 of True Detective: overblown, unrealistic, fragments of flying glass flying at bleeding coppers and a bit boring. Continue reading…

Glenn Hoddle: A Touch of Genius

Glenn Hoddle by Lilly Allen

As a player Glenn Hoddle was the greatest English talent of his generation and as a manager he advanced the national side tactically and technically, as no one else has done. Since, he has revived the careers of previously discarded youths and brings insight to the game when allowed to be given his head in punditry, as he notably was when England failed to qualify of the European Championships against Steve Mclaren against Croatia. A fifty minute programme on Sky Sports was always going to be hard to do justice to both the career and the man, let alone featuring all the wonderful goals, the dummies, the nutmegs and amazing passes that were managed to be captured by the cameras where they were actually at grounds, but A Touch of Genius is a good effort. Continue reading…

Stay Beautiful

Christian Eriksen goal v Sheff Utd

Goals are the big commodity in football. A regular goal-scorer has governing bodies turning a blind-eye to 50% of their vicious stamps, once ethical clubs embrace biters and racists while others try to employ rapists still serving their sentence. The value of goals can turn the beautiful game ugly. But occasionally, as Christian Eriksen proved again last night, some goals can be so wonderful they take the game to a higher level.

It’s not uncommon to hear the cliché from a football pundit that all goals are worth the same – a lucky deflection from a goal-mouth scramble is just as valuable as a flowing team move with great skill; true in the same game, but in a sport that is thankfully not just all about cold facts, the people’s game allows us to subjective discuss and judge great goals, reviving memories of a kind only sport can bring while breathing life into post-match pub conversations or long away trips back home.

The broader understanding of the game takes in much more than numbers. In fact, most stats tweeted about football on a daily basis are meaningless and have little significant context, not accounting for things better assessed with an appreciation on everything happening on a pitch at the time; limited touches on a ball don’t value the positional play off the ball while a percentage of successful final balls don’t appreciate the skill of playing balls into dangerous areas for attacking players who may not always be good enough to being in the right place at the right time.

Another stat that doesn’t always tell the full story is an individual player’s goal tally. A player may begin as a wide player before flourishing centrally under a great manager in England, boosting their scoring charts as a flat-track bully, in between less spectacular spells on the continent, only to later cash in with the MSL and then from a very generous TV broadcaster. Meanwhile, other wide players may have a track record of affecting big games with decisive moments late in matches, yet end up languishing in the reserves due to the dubious judgement of the next man coming through the managerial door.

There is no formula to weighting goals when evaluating their value. But there should be no doubt Christian Eriksen’s second goal for Tottenham Hotspur last night in the dying minutes of the League Cup Semi-Final second leg at Sheffield United was truly great. Continue reading…

Gordon is a Moron

English professional football has a mix of talents in the game. But the consistent talent of Gordon Taylor to undermine both the profession and trade unions at same time is unique. Continue reading…

New Year’s Day

New Years Day Spurs 5  Chelsea 3

The unpredictable nature of  football meant the New Year got off to a great start. Against the odds and the cynical predictions of players turned pundits, Spurs fans went through the second day of 2015 with a Ready Brek glow and an instinctive smile, while Jose Mourinho continued to turn himself into a caricature, with even once fawning journalists now talking about his usual deflection tactics, as his scapegoating of the media and the officials no longer hide his own failings as well as he thinks.

At an event in East London two weeks ago, Greatcoats for Goalposts, which reflected on the significance of the football inspired truce during the First World War, one hundred years on, the writer David Goldblatt noted that football is one of the few remaining areas that regularly brings masses of ordinary people together. It’s true. The Unions have largely been dispersed and working man’s clubs now only have a broad reach when Channel 5 show re-reuns of Chas and Dave specials from the early eighties, but the people’s game still attracts hundreds of thousands of people into football grounds every week.

On New Year’s Day every English Premier League club played, Gary Lineker trumpeted the best Match of the Day of the season “by a distance” and the beautiful game captured the imagination again. Nowhere more so was this the case than at White Hart Lane. An old ground, built not at an out-of-town shopping complex, but in amongst residential terraced homes, schools, community centres and small shops. The stadium still holds over thirty-six-thousand in the all-seated age without losing the wonderful night-game atmosphere that comes from the stands close to the touchline and the home team playing as their tradition and history demands, as was the case on Thursday evening. Continue reading…

Mega Bottle Ride

A Football Column following on from Emmanuel Adebayor’s comments deflecting Tottenham Hotspur’s poor home performances onto the atmosphere at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham’s fourth home defeat from just six Premier League games has been followed by more excuses, with Emmanuel Adebayor claiming that the pressure of playing at home is too much for the players. Once again, as a profession, football is unique when a well remunerated failing performer looks first to blame the paying customer for their own shortcomings. Continue reading…

Football Ticket Prices & Empty Seats

England empty seats at Wembley Stadium

Football analysis can become awash with meaningless stats. Players can play great balls into dangerous areas or even clever reverse passes, but if players aren’t making the right runs, to a one-dimensional blogger it’s a misplaced pass. Likewise, a player’s movement and runs could be constantly causing problems to the opposition, taking players away that creates space for others, yet the I-pad coach is more concerned with touches on the ball, which in turn leads to bad decisions, that only the statto that can’t see the bigger picture defends. Andre Villas-Boas’ withdrawal of Aaron Lennon at home to Manchester United last season, Spurs’ most dangerous player on the day, is a case in point. Much more significant football stats were released this week though, with the BBC’s Price of Football Study. Continue reading…

Camus, Clough & Counter Culture

Camus, Clough & Counter Culture

The independent football fan in the UK first began to have a voice and a community in the mid-eighties with the emergence of club football fanzines, following in the tradition of music DIY fan publications. The fanzine was an outlet of thought for the masses that were then the life blood of clubs, but were rarely heard other than for 90 minutes on the terraces.  Fanzines brought together the solidarity of the cause of following a club (usually through thin and thinner), humour and popular culture. Continue reading…

Independence Day

Scotland in Roy of the Rovers

The football comic strip released in the style of a beautiful A4 annual, ‘You Are The Ref 3‘ was released to coincide with the World Cup in the summer, giving an international flavour to the iconic drawings from illustrator Paul Trevillion (Roy of the Rovers) that accompany Keith Hackett’s refereeing dilemmas. Apart from being pre-spray it is contemporary in every other way, with great artistic impressions of modern players and a sidebar with answers to the queries about the laws of the game.

Amongst the cartoons of today’s superstars (and Mesut Ozil) there is also the face of the occasional legend from yesteryear: Beckbenbuer (West Germany), Eusabio (Portugal), Pele (Brazil), Cruyff (Netherlands), Bobby Moore (England) and Sylvester Stallone (Allied Forces). All players, apart from the novelty of Stallone, whose teams were in the World Cup. For anyone who remembers the cartoon strip from years gone by it is easy to remember back to older columns where, for example, Steve Archibald, Mark Hughes and Pat Jennings featured, as they did for club and county. While none of their nations qualified in 2014, for football fans, it has always been easy to understand that within the United Kingdom there were different countries.

So, as the Scottish Referendum has taken most of the news coverage in the fortnight (suddenly, despite being on the agenda for over a year), the fear being whipped up against the idea that a nation, a once famous footballing nation no less, shouldn’t be given its own independence, appears illogical. It is an arrogance that has come from left, right and down the centre and may be an example of one area where football is centuries ahead of the political class.
Continue reading…



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