Archived entries for Football

Something Changed

Last week the Champions League semi final second legs threw up a couple of shocks that perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprising. Firstly, there was evidence last year that Barcelona didn’t have enough depth in a squad that showed signs of tiredness towards the end of the season, and sometimes struggled to break teams down that were intent on putting all their men behind the ball. An example of this was in their last 16 match against Arsenal, when despite dominating for the best part of 180 minutes, they were nearly knocked out by a team that didn’t have a shot on target in the second leg as Nicklas Bendtner found himself in a one-on-one in the dying minutes. Meanwhile, the second thing that took the football world aback was a £50m striker scoring a goal. Continue reading…

Short Term Parking

With news that Harry Redknapp seems to have been overlooked for the England job, Author and Tottenham fan Adam Powley looks at the positives and negatives of what always looked a short-term project at White Hart Lane.

It’s the fag end of the football season and once again Tottenham Hotspur appear to be at a crossroads. It is a situation as reliable as hosepipe bans in the middle of a monsoon. And yet again the full picture is hard to discern.

From a position of being the favourite side of neutrals and poised to genuinely threaten a title challenge, Spurs are stumbling towards the finish line, seemingly rudderless, bereft of form, and with the whiff of mutiny in the ranks. Judging by the deluge of comment online, blame lies entirely with the manager once destined for the England job but now seemingly out of the running. I’m not so sure it is all down to him, though. And precedent suggests the situation is more complex than to reduce it to the faults of one individual. Continue reading…

GB Football Team: Tug of War

In Tom Bodell’s latest piece on the GB Football Team he looks at the tug-of-war developing over the selection of players.

The Olympic Games are not far off now and suddenly the prospect of a Team GB competing in the football seems a lot more real. Yesterday, 24th April, saw Stuart Pearce & Hope Powell’s charges take a large step towards kick off with the respective groups being drawn. Last week saw Pearce whittle his pool of players down to 80, and in three weeks time we will know exactly who will be representing these Isles this summer. Continue reading…

Members Only

On Sunday evening the PFA handed out their annual awards, a ceremony that used to take place in the last weekend in March in London, the same weekend as the League Cup Final. The conclusion of the England’s second domestic cup competition is now a month earlier, but while the PFA’s night of recognition is now a few weeks later, some of the nominees and winners reflect only a partial part of the season, so early is the voting.

Like a cliché, this season has been one of two halves, and players that have come to the Premier League in January and flourished, notably Nikica Jelavic at Everton and Papiss Cisse at Newcastle, had no chance of getting a look in the Premier League team of the Season, although players that have faded since Christmas, like David Silva and Gareth Bale, do make the team. One player who has particularly found form since a move in January is Steven Pienaar, who back at Everton is trusted by his Manager, and is effectively using the space he has given, as notably demonstrated with a beautiful equalizing goal at Old Trafford on Sunday that may prove decisive in the title race.

And the PFA Awards themselves, though not as irrelevant as player ratings in newspapers that may well have been given by a hack who has probably spent most of the game tidying up a pre-written match report, or a man-of-the-match award that has been voted for by armchair fans who could have texted their choice before any significant incident had taken place, do often deliver results that produce some degree of bemusement. Continue reading…

Three Lions on a Shirt

England fan and academic Mark Perryman writes about how the England shirt could be the most appropriate national dress of an inclusive, progressive society and how a public holiday on St George’s Day, an English National Anthem and an England Football Team in the Olympics would all also be welcome.

Footballing Identity

‘Fuck off you racist, gypo cunts.’  Bulgaria vs England, 2 September 2011

It’s around the 70th minute in England’s well-deserved 3-0 victory over Bulgaria at Sofia’s Stadion Vasil Levski stadium. Tiresome and predictable, a bunch of the locals, wannabe hooligans, lose interest in their side going down to a heavyish defeat and resort instead to winding up our players. Not the catcalls and banter we’re more used to back home but richly offensive monkey grunts and gestures. In a split second the enjoyment of an England win turns to a collective fury at the way the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and debutant Chris Smalling are being singled out for abuse simply because of the colour of their skins.

This is an angry English, mainly white, mob, pumped up with Three Lions on our chest patriotism yet knowing precisely the nature of the offence being committed against our own is racism. Of course the contradictions in that anger matter: the anti-Roma prejudice, the sexism and the physical violence which would surely have erupted if the segregation between us and them hadn’t been maintained. But the reality of that anger directed at others’ racism should not be lightly discounted either. Continue reading…

Underneath the Arch

Much has been made about the FA Cup being marginalised this season due to the venue of the semi-finals, and the particularly bizarre kick-off time of the second semi between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea yesterday. But until 1989 the semi-finals kicked-off at 3pm on Saturdays, the same time as other League games, and with no live television coverage.

The events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989 were heard in intermittent reports on BBC Radio 2 Medium Wave and on breaking news on Grandstand by people tuning to hear updates about a big match. That day the complacency and arrogance of ignoring the previous incidents at the Leppings Lane end in 1981 FA Cup Semi-Final cost 96 lives, and was compounded by lies, denials and “misplaced evidence” by the police, and smears by News International’s The Sun.

Last summer shed a light on later collusions between News International and police forces, but evidence of how their earlier propaganda worked was heard from large pockets of Chelsea fans around Wembley yesterday, who disrespected the “moments silence” for the Hillsborough victims and Piermario Morosini, who lost his life on Saturday while playing for Livorno. The apt response from Tottenham fans, who booed the Chelsea fans and were united in calling them wankers after the referee gave up on the Silence, was the real human element that the organizers at Wembley, who try to manufacturer atmosphere, could never dream of capturing. Continue reading…

Pressure Drop

Before the weekend Roberto Mancini publicly said that the title race would be over if Manchester United were to beat Queens Park Rangers at home as expected, and Manchester City would then go on to lose at The Emirates later in the day. The look of City’s play suggested their players believed it was fait accompli even before they had kicked-off, with an abject performance that had all the ambition in their approach of a mid-table team with nothing to play for, combined with an indiscipline more befitting a team fighting relegation. City have looked vulnerable to pressure at times this season, and they have recently heaped much of it upon themselves. Continue reading…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ahead of Milan hosting Barcelona, Il Capocannoniere profiles Zlatan Ibrahimovic. (Exclusive illustration by Lilly Allen).

“Zlatan. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively have to win the league title, accept no substitutes.”

Of course I’m paraphrasing Samuel L Jackson’s character from Jackie Brown, but you can imagine a number of top coaches in European football would go along with this sentiment. Every season since 2003-04 the team that Zlatan has played for has finished top of their league, one with Ajax, two at Juventus (both subsequently revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal), three at Inter, one in his only season with Barcelona and then last season for Milan. This season Milan lead the way again in Serie A this season and it looks likely that Ibra’s team will finish top for a phenomenal ninth consecutive season. Continue reading…

Euro Football Round-up/CL QF Preview 27 Mar 12

Last Tuesday was a record breaking day for Lionel Messi. Barcelona beat Granada 5-3 at the Nou Camp, as Messi hit a hat-trick to make him Barcelona’s record all time goalscorer. Goals 232, 233 and 234 equalled then beat Cesar Rodriguez’ 57 year old record. Messi continues to break and set new records and standards of excellence every time he steps foot on the pitch. As Madrid only struggled to a 1-1 draw away to relegation threatened Villareal this win also moved Barca to within 6 points of the La Liga leaders. One stat that has gone relatively unmentioned is that whilst Messi was breaking the record, Granada were becoming the first away side to score three at the Nou Camp this season. Continue reading…

Play It

At the moment ITV4 are showing re-runs of their old football highlights flagship, The Big Match, from the second–half of the 1982-83 Season. The ITV programme, produced and broadcast by region, that season had the prime Saturday evening slot with the BBC’s Match of the Day shown on Sunday afternoons. Aside from the nostalgia, it is interesting viewing, a small piece in the game’s history from an English perspective and a thin line on a wallchart we can look back to, to see how the game has progressed.

Not that it’s all change. The clocks go forward, the clocks go back, and Hansen and Lawrenson are still together on our screens nearly thirty seasons later, Martin Tyler commentates on the biggest games in the North and there is still a lack of clarity in the game on the interpretation of the Offside Law and no technology to help and see if the whole of the ball is over the whole of the line. Continue reading…



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