Archived entries for Football

Glory Nights: Basel April 2013

Two weeks ago Hull City fans travelled to Huddersfield in a “bubble” imposed by West Yorkshire Police, an act from an authority that demonizes football fans through the restriction of movement, not dissimilar to the aim of the Football Spectators Act proposed by the Thatcher Government, whose reputation is currently being reinvented by rose-tinted recollections in the popular press in the past week; the polar opposite, for those lucky enough to have the opportunity, is to travel independently following your football club in Europe, venturing freely in a new city, before later socializing and joining a wider community in the stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Basel this week was a trip typical of the exciting European nights told in Glory Nights: Wankdorf to Wembley, with ticketing complications, a less than linear journey, friendly locals, cultural highlights and of course, drama only sport can deliver.

The English Premier League table doesn’t lie but the final tables in both the 2005-06 and last season stretched credibility when Spurs finished below Arsenal twice, despite looking much the better side for most of both terms, technically assured and in control of games in 05/06 and fluent, expansive and at times breathtaking in the last campaign. Points dropped through late goals were punished by a final day illness in 2006 and tactical errors in the final straight in 2012 allowed a West Brom goalkeeping performance so bad it defies belief, to have the final say. Ultimately those league placings twice cost Spurs Champions League Football, but strange how things work out; while the luck hasn’t been apparent on the pitch Tottenham’s European draws since 2006 have included a fixture at Sevilla that coincided with the city’s Semma Santa Festival, a tie against Hearts during the Edinburgh Festival, journeys to Belgium and Germany when the Christmas markets stalls were out and a trip to Udinese at the best time of the year to visit nearby Venice.

Spurs fans have had some great cultural bonuses in the last few years and coinciding with the Europa League Quarter-Final second leg, the city of Basel is currently hosting a Picasso retrospective built exclusively from the city’s public and private collections. Who knew? In the Kunstmusuem (a venue best spelt rather than pronounced when asking for directions), the exhibition shows Picasso the young talent, the storyteller, the freedom fighter and the master through etchings, sketches, portraits and layered paintings that show his versatility in styles through the ages. Continue reading…

Blinkered

At half-time during the Saturday lunch-time kick-off at the Stadium of Light between Sunderland and Manchester United, Sky Sports briefly showed some African dancing in the centre circle, not just a novel alternative from the old days when a brass band came on to play, but taking place, as Sky explained, due to Sunderland’s first ‘Nelson Mandela Day’. Suddenly, a club that had been playing largely dour football for much of the season seemingly based on the organisation and motivation techniques of Martin O’Neill, aroused positive interest in the split second of that news.

Sporting and artistic boycotts of an Apartheid South Africa previously raised the profile of Mandela when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island and were a key instrument in change, arguably more so than economic sanctions; Sunderland’s recent partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to pursue social justice, was a positive reminder of the part sport, and popular culture, plays in shaping a wider society.

So, the announcement last night, the day after SAFC’s very own Mandela Day, that self-confessed fascist Paolo Di Canio was the club’s new Manager, to replace O’Neill, who had been relieved of his duties the previous evening, was particularly bizarre. Continue reading…

The FA’s management of expectations

Tomorrow England play Brazil at Wembley to kick-off the FA’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman argues that it is the perfect time to lower our expectations of England’s chances.

England v Brazil, friendly or no friendly, is a tasty international fixture to mark the start of the Football Association’s 150th birthday celebrations. It will be a feast of free-flowing football, and England. Never mind, with the other home opponents lined up so far – the Republic of Ireland (last qualified for a World Cup in 2002, at Euro 2012 failed to win a single game) and Scotland (last qualified for any tournament, 1998) – England fans should be able to look forward to some home victories to savour. Although what exactly the players, manager and coaches will learn by playing such relatively lowly opposition is anyone’s guess. These opponents have been chosen to put bottoms on seats, and stir up memories of old, and more recent rivalries, but never mind the quality of the football. Continue reading…

I am The Secret Footballer

I am The Secret Footballer

Of all the many football books that have been released over the years the magic ingredient from someone inside the game is always insight, from Steve Claridge’s training sessions in Tales From The Boot Camp where Harry Redknapp was fixing the stopwatch to win a bet with his player to Martin Peters retelling in his autobiography how he was once asked play at right-back for Norwich as he was the only player intelligent enough to exploit the space available that day.

Every morsel of the previously unknown can become interesting, including the reasoning of Glenn Hoddle’s choice of Kenny G to ease the nerves of his players ahead of them finding out if they made the cut for the 1998 World Cup in his diary to the revelation that Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street was Roy Keane’s favourite song in the Appendix of his own autobiography.

From the little observations within the dressing room environment to the tactics on a matchday, via some cracking anecdotes about nights out and trips abroad, I am The Secret Footballer has insight aplenty. And in addition to the detail, the Secret Footballer has a knack of constantly hitting the nail on the head like Lionel Messi does of finding the net. Continue reading…

150 Years of FA

As the FA Cup dominates the weekend football in England, Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman suggest how the Football Association could improve in their 150th year.

On 26 October 1863 the great and the good of nineteenth century English Football gathered at the Freemasons’ Arms in Covent Garden to codify their sport. The rest is history, as will be frequently pointed out over the next twelve months as the organisation founded in this Central London pub, The Football Association, loudly celebrates its 150th anniversary year. Particularly in the high-profile Wembley friendlies against Brazil, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. Not that there’s anything resembling friendliness in any footballing encounter with the latter.

Following England’s most recent hapless exit from a World Cup in 201 it was pointed out by Matt Scott here that in Germany at the time there were 34,790 Uefa B, A and Pro qualified coaches, in Spain 23,995 and Italy 29,420. England? In comparison a paltry 2769. The figures tell us all that we should need to know about the FA’s inability to act as a governing body, indeed arguably the FA as it celebrates its longevity will also be revealing itself as the sole FA in the world incapable of governing its own sport. Continue reading…

VSP’s 2012 Tottenham Hotspur Books

Ahead of Christmas, the independent sports publisher, Vision Sports Publishing have released a couple of books about Tottenham Hotspur that are tailor made for fans with an interest in immersing themselves in the history of the club.

The Glory Glory Nights by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley is a genuine thing of beauty. An update of a book that had press cuttings, brief match summaries and facts from every European tie up until English clubs were expelled from Europe in the mid-eighties, it now comprehensively covers the first fifty years of the club’s European exploits with stunning photographs, insightful interviews, and most importantly, context across six decades. Continue reading…

Cosmic Trigger Happy

What a strange club Chelsea are. Their whole history is defined by the nine-and-a-half years of their current owner, which now consists of nine managers and counting in which they have won a few trophies but few friends.

Roman Abramovich’s ambition has always been to align attractive football with European dominance. But his methods of aggressive headhunting have failed him. He brought in Peter Kenyon from Manchester United as a Chief Executive, poached Tottenham Hotspur’s Director of Football, Frank Arnesen, and later tried to buy Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand, with a hostile approach that makes it highly probable he also went for Arsenal’s stadium before setting his sights on Earls Court. Continue reading…

Football Books – Christmas 2012

Mark Perryman, co-founder of Philosophy Football, on a batch of football books for Christmas.

Twenty years on from the 1992 publication of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch it might be assumed that there wouldn’t be any subjects football-wise remaining to write a half-decent book about. It’s true there’s a lot of dross (personally I avoid almost all ghost-written player biographies like the plague) but there’s also enough fine writers – some new, some vintage – to still provide a literary football sparkle. Continue reading…

Wonderful World of Purchase Power

Last Wednesday, the German double winners, Borussia Dortmund, came to the reigning English League champions, Manchester City, and played them off their own park. Only an excellent individual display by goalkeeper Joe Hart kept City alive before a late debatable penalty salvaged a point that kept them off the bottom of a competitive Champions League group. Though a high quality group, with City as strong as they have been in their mixed history, the match wasn’t seen by a full house, with empty sky blue seats visible to the watching millions on TV around the world.

City are not alone. Arsenal also failed to sell out their first home Champions League group game of the season last week, and Tottenham Hotspur, who have tens of thousands on their season ticket holder waiting list, had thousands of empty seats when SS Lazio visited in the Europa League last month. Meanwhile, ahead the kick-off in Tottenham’s last league game against Aston Villa on Sunday, the PA announcer told White Hart Lane all “true Spurs fans” would buy the monthly magazine in addition to a matchday programme. There’s a recession on yet the attitude of most English clubs continues to treat its fans with contempt, as a cash cow that can continually be milked. Continue reading…

It’s About Time

The decision by the Premier League to select Chris Foy as a referee for a fourth division game this weekend (League Two in new money) after he officiated in a home game Manchester United lost, is a demotion that highlights the pressure put on officials at certain grounds. Foy could arguably have given United a penalty against Spurs on Saturday for shirt pulling that was nowhere near as bad as happens in penalty boxes every week, yet that, and the failure to add enough time on for United to win the game (and considering Van Persie’s miss on the day we could still be playing now), seems to have induced a punishment the Premier League say is coincidental.

That the United Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was even complaining about a referee decision considering the fortuitous history his side has had in the same fixture over the last ten years in particular due to refereeing, is somewhat laughable. When Howard Webb gave a United a game-changing penalty that never was when Spurs were 2-0 up in the second half at Old Trafford in 2009 he wasn’t demoted three divisions, nor was Mark Clatternberg, either when he failed to give Spurs a deserved winner after failing to see Pedro Mendes had clearly scored in the final minute of the game in 2005, or in 2010 when he allowed a United goal when the ball seemed to be dead. Continue reading…



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