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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…

The Snowden Files


In the final week of 2014 North Korea’s internet and 3G mobile network came to a standstill. Before their official news agency released racist outrage against the US President, we can imagine an image of their own leader taking off his khaki cap as he got down to reboot a router before speaking to a call centre handler in another country, suspiciously called Kim, who asked him if he tried turning it off and on again. Eventually the penny must have dropped. To the delight of the rest of the free world, Barack Obama had appeared to deliver on his promise and flexed a muscle against the censorship of satire.

The official US response against the hacking of Sony Pictures came with sanctions but there should be little doubt how much control they have in the world of telecommunications, as every reader of Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files will know. The book will also explain to anyone who in the last week has had a fear that their private emails, online chats, SMS message and calls may suddenly become accessible to the secret services with further surveillance laws to be introduced following the horrific terror attacks in Paris this month, that this already the case, unless they are already encrypting their communications.

It was the realisation of this, between 2009 and 2012, coupled with the fact that workers at these agencies were looking at and circulating private images of ordinary citizens for their own titillation, which spurred the right-leaning Republic libertarian Edward Snowden, an IT contractor who worked for America’s National Security Agency (NSA), to reveal the secrets of the secret services. 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…

Books of 2014

From Cooking to American Crime novels, via Cycling, the Revolution and the retelling of ancient Italian stories for children, Mark Perryman recommends his Books of 2014 as contenders for late Christmas presents.

101 Damnations - Books of 2014


Bah! Humbug? Well, not exactly but in a world of not much peace and plenty of ill-will what do you buy for those in your life clinging on to the ideal that the point is to change it? Here’s my top ten, not guaranteed to cheer them up mind. Continue reading…

The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game

The Secret Footballer Guide to the Modern Game


The third book from The Secret Football takes a different approach from his first two, almost deliberately light, seemingly designed as a stocking filling with a mixture of short bursts of gossip, analysis and opinion. Continue reading…

Sports Books 2014 Q4

Taking Our Ball Back cover

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football picks out the best final batch of sports books 2014.

I’m sorry but you won’t find here the just-in-time-for Christmas sports autobiography blockbusters. With just enough manufactured controversy to ensure blanket coverage when they are launched. even a skim read will reveal that on the contrary they tell the reader very little they didn’t either know or suspect already.

Instead I would recommend a weighty volume of this sort, A Companion to Sport edited by David Andrews and Ben Carrington. The range of coverage, from Monty Panesar to football’s 2010 World Cup, is matched by the variety of insights, sport as a contested space being the overarching theme. As an academic book scandalously expensive, but any well-stocked library. should have a copy. 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…



Juliet Kidd’s first piece for The Substantive looks at the film Nightcrawler.

Director Dan Gilroy has taken all the bits of LA we never see and simply turned the lights off, creating a further sense of disorientation that mimics the personality of Lou Bloom.

Lou is a loner in his late 30s. His appearance is thin, beige and greasy and there’s an odd intensity about his personality. We see him easily inspired by freelance cameraman taking footage of a bloodied car crash and thats where his obsession starts. Continue reading…

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