Football Book Review: Behind the Curtain by Jonathan Wilson

January 11, 2013

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“In this book, Wilson tackles the perennial question of why Eastern European football isn’t very competitive with Western European, both at the club and national levels. Some things have changed since its publication in 2006, but, in general, the nations discussed—Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, the Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia—are still in the situation he describes. At 300 pages, it is not an in-depth history of football in any of these countries, not by any means, but it gives the reader an overview of football during the communist era and in the first fifteen years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the title suggests, it’s a travelogue. He discusses matches he’s seen and people he’s interviewed as a football journalist and puts them into the greater historical context.” Bundesliga Fanatic

“When Jonathan Wilson entered Partizan stadium in Belgrade, he was frisked so efficiently that the police even took his Lemsip. That didn’t diminish his passion for the former Yugoslavia, an obsession that he blames on cold war spy movies and childhood holidays in Montenegro. Since then, he has huddled in brutalist football grounds from Slovenia to Azerbaijan, Sofia to St Petersburg, watching innumerable matches while working as a correspondent for a now-defunct website and the Financial Times. Behind the Curtain recounts his travels and gives a little footballing history of each country, focusing on prominent clubs or memorable incidents. Wilson obviously retains a particular affinity with the Serbs: he writes an unusually sensitive character sketch of Sinisa Mihajlovic, one of the most reviled men in European football, and even admits a sneaking warmth for the Delije, the hooligans closely associated with Arkan.” Guardian

“It was Christmas Eve and all through the house, nothing was stirring – because everyone had eaten too much barszcz, carp and cake during Wigilia dinner. When the time came to look under the Christmas tree for presents, little Decoy’s eyes lit up, as he saw what Santa Claus had brought. Mikołaj knew that Decoy liked reading books and also liked football, so it was a pleasant surprise to see books about football wrapped up neatly. One of the books received was ‘Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football’ by Jonathan Wilson. Wilson is a football journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated and the UK-based newspapers The Independent and The Guardian. He specialises in writing about football tactics and also football based in ‘Eastern’ Europe – i.e. those countries lying behind the Iron Curtain before 1989/90. His articles analysing tactical nuances on the Guardian website prove particularly popular with readers there.” Polandian

8/26/2012 – Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football – amazon


The Champions League’s Effect On Lower League Attendances

January 11, 2013

“Furthering the figures I had for Oldham and Brentford the other week, I wanted to extend the figures out to cover a larger number of teams. After a lot of weighing up either way and looking at the numbers, I elected to avoid teams that had been in Tier 2 in my timespan (because the figures would end up being skewed by the visits of ‘bigger’ teams – there’s already an element of that with Leeds, Norwich and Southampton having toured League One, but it would really fill out the spaces if I included Championship teams).” From Inside Right?


How have Spanish players contributed to Swansea’s success this season?

January 11, 2013

“Neighbouring England, in the west is a small country called Spain. Wait, that’s not quite right. It’s Wales. With a look at the Swansea team sheet that could be a warranted mistake. There is yet another evolution taking place in South Wales: with Brendan Rodgers’ legacy a platform that has seemingly been neglected to build upon, Michael Laudrup is stamping his authority on the team and club as a whole. Swansea are even more exciting, effervescent and ambitious than ever before.” Think Football


PSG, Lyon, Marseille lead Ligue 1 fight

January 11, 2013

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Lucas Moura
“Last season in Ligue Un, Paris Saint-Germain began as clear favourites. Spending half the money in the world will have that effect. But as it turned out, the well-drilled, tight-knit club in Montpellier proved superior; their small squad’s morale had an alchemic effect on players such as John Utaka, while at the same time Olivier Giroud and Younes Belhanda were revelatory. Montpellier deserved their title but without them — and without Giroud — the standard in Ligue Un meant that this season, few predicted anything other than a PSG victory. Given they had signed Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it was safe to assume that their quality, regardless of form, would carry them to the title if the remainder of the league remained as poor.” ESPN


Will Man City take a negative approach (again) vs. Arsenal?

January 11, 2013

“Recent matches between the Premier League’s big clubs have often been goalfests, but Manchester City’s trips to Arsenal in recent seasons have been dreadfully dull. Roberto Mancini has always played remarkably defensive football, and his side haven’t registered a goal in three attempts at the Emirates. The 0-0 draw in April 2010 is a contender for the most underwhelming Premier League game of recent years: Arsenal’s title challenge had collapsed dramatically and motivation had vanished, while City made no attempt to win the game. Mancini was content to play out a goalless draw, confident his side would defeat Tottenham to secure a Champions League place — although that plan eventually backfired.” ESPN – Michael Cox


High-five: No Messi, no problem

January 11, 2013

“Barcelona achieved a solid 5-0 win against Cordoba Thursday in the return leg of the Last 16 round of the Copa Del Rey. David Villa and Alexis Sanchez (braces) and Thiago scored for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 63 percent of possession and attempted 20 shots, 12 on target and one that hit the post. The Blaugranas qualified for the quarterfinals, where Malaga awaits, with an aggregate 7-0 victory.” ESPN