Grounds for closer inspection, part 1: Sevilla and Real Betis

February 27, 2018


“In the first of a new series, JAMES EVANS examines the evolution of pairs of stadiums across the world; starting with the Spanish city of Seville and its two clubs – Sevilla and Real Betis. …” Football Pink, Grounds for closer inspection, part 2: Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle, Grounds for closer inspection, part 3: Barcelona and Real Madrid


The Inverted Sheepdog

February 27, 2018

“I’m standing just outside the Barcelona dressing-room door at Wembley, about an hour after Manchester United have been defeated 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final. The dancing, singing and beer-drinking in the Catalan dressing-room have only just died down. I’ve been charged with interviewing two of the winning players, with the trophy, for the final Champions League Weekly television programme of the season and there is a desperate need for a player to emerge from the fiesta. Getting them agree to the damn request is another thing again. …” The Blizzard (2012)


Introducing FlickForKicks – Table Football for a new (and old) generation Skip to entry content

February 27, 2018

“In 1946, Peter Adolph applied for a patent for a table football game that would go on to become the most recognisable across the world. We’re talking about Subbuteo of course; the game that could be found in most football fanatics’ households and which today is going through another renaissance, with fathers passing down their much loved sets to their children. There is, however, room in the market for a new type of bespoke table top soccer that draws its inspiration from Adolph’s original creation. The company is called FlickForKicks and is the birth child of Gareth Christie, a self-confessed Subbuteo fanatic who has drawn inspiration from his love of the game to produce his highly acclaimed bespoke tables for both young and old. …” Football Pink


World Cup 2018: Hats off to debutants Panama, as England await

February 22, 2018


“In the protracted campaign for World Cup qualification, a little luck can go a long way. Panama are one of only two teams that will make their debuts in the finals this year – the other is Iceland – but unlike the men from the very margin of Europe, virtually nothing is known about the Central Americans. Which is partly because they haven’t done a great deal in the past century. But they did knock out the Americans to get to Russia, albeit not without a touch of controversy and good fortune. …” Football Pink


Stadium row highlights the depressing state of Rio football

February 22, 2018

“The big news should have been the magnificent goal that Vinicius Junior scored for Flamengo in the Rio de Janeiro derby against Botafogo. Cutting in from the left onto his stronger right foot, he curled a superb shot into the far top corner, clinching a 3-1 win for his side. It was an indication of the quality of a 17-year-old who is already bound for Europe. Real Madrid caused a splash last year when they agreed to pay an astonishing 45 million Euros for such an unproven talent. Still with Flamengo, Vinicius is having to grow up in public. He is, understandably, very raw. …” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


Disjointed, vulnerable and slow: Barça exposed by Chelsea’s tactical rigour

February 22, 2018

“The first leg, you suspect, went just as Antonio Conte would have wanted it to go – apart from the bit about not playing a square ball across your penalty area to Andrés Iniesta with 15 minutes of a Champions League match remaining. But that is the problem with great tactical plans: they always rely, ultimately, on that most fallible of species: humans. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The ‘Two Worlds’ of the Champions League Keep Drifting Apart

February 22, 2018


Sadio Mané and Liverpool put five goals past F.C. Porto last week.
“As he readied his players to face Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League last week, F.C. Basel Coach Raphaël Wicky realized he had a problem. Ordinarily, Wicky would dedicate one training session shortly before a game to a shadow match: On one side, his likely starting team, and on the other, 11 squad members slotted in to simulate Basel’s forthcoming opponent. They would line up in the same system, adopt the same style, play in the same patterns. The aim of the exercise is to familiarize the first team with the challenge that lies in wait. …” NY Times


Great Goals That Weren’t: Diego Maradona vs England (1980)

February 22, 2018

“Barry Davies said it best. Four minutes after Diego Maradona had broken the deadlock by punching the ball into England’s net in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, the Argentinian genius collected possession in his own half, dribbled past five opponents (including goalkeeper Peter Shilton) and gave his country a 2-0 lead which would prove unassailable. …” The Set Pieces (Video)


FA Cup: Wigan win over Manchester City better than 2013 final – Kevin Kilbane

February 22, 2018

“Wigan’s win over Manchester City was an amazing game to witness and it has to go down as one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time. When the Latics beat City in the 2013 final it was a big enough upset, but that was when they were a top-flight club, not in League One as they are now. Then you consider the level Pep Guardiola’s side have been performing at all season, how far clear they are at the top of the Premier League, and that they were trying to do the Quadruple. …” BBC (Video)


Defensive Errors Analysis: Who Makes You Make Mistakes?

February 22, 2018

“Opta’s defensive errors are a statistic which has been discussed with regards to Liverpool countless times over the years. Between 2012/13 and 2015/16, the Reds made between 29 and 42 every season, and were ranked either third or first every year for most errors in the Premier League. When’s the parade, eh? Jürgen Klopp has overseen a sizeable improvement in his two full seasons at the club. …” Tomkins Times


Jesus Navas on Sevilla return, beating anxiety at Man City & life under Guardiola

February 22, 2018

“Jesus Navas had been away for four years. After returning to Seville, he was walking down the street, reacquainting himself with his home town. Suddenly, two men snuck up on him from behind, threw a sack over his head and bundled him into the boot of a waiting BMW. From there he was driven to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, then thrust out of the car, blinking into the Andalusian sun. …” The Set Pieces


From Marseille to Leeds United, what’s the future for football’s fallen giants?

February 13, 2018


Leeds take on Bayern Munich in the 1975 European Cup final
“‘Give your blood!’ demands a banner behind a goal. But on a chilly Mediterranean winter night, Olympique Marseille’s Stade Velodrome (capacity: 67,000) is scarcely half-full for the game against Troyes. ‘OM’, as Marseille are popularly known, were European champions in 1993. (Their triumph was later tarnished when they were stripped of their French league title that year because of match-fixing, but few locals worry about that.) These days, though, OM have been left behind by their hated rivals, Qatari-funded Paris Saint-Germain. This month, while PSG meet Real Madrid in the Champions League, Marseille face little Braga of Portugal in the unglamorous Europa League. …” FT – Simon Kuper


Mourinho’s Pogba problem deepens after Benítez overcomes his old foe

February 13, 2018

“The end was chaotic, Newcastle camped in their box with every block and clearance being roared to the rafters, but the tension of that final minute of injury time, and the similarly desperate scramble at around 80 minutes, should not allow the narrative to take hold that Manchester United were unlucky to lose. Rather they were desperately drab, short of inspiration, their forward line a strange bodge job of sparkly parts that do not really go together. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Graham Potter: ‘I’ve shown there’s another path for English managers’

February 13, 2018

“‘It’s a different kind of cold,’ Graham Potter says as darkness spreads across Östersund and the temperature plummets to -20C. The inspirational manager of Östersund, who will reach the next stage of an incredible story when they host Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League tie on Thursday, laughs when I say it’s hard to believe. I’ve felt colder on a wet February afternoon in Birmingham, not far from his old home in Solihull, than I do in this small town in remote northern Sweden. …” Guardian


Massimiliano Allegri, Mauricio Pochettino and an Italian tale that has taken Juventus to new heights

February 13, 2018


“Shortly after a power struggle at AC Milan between Barbara Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani ended with his dismissal, Massimiliano Allegri boarded a plane to London. He took in some Premier League games, ate at Novikov, learned a bit of English. It was time to broaden his horizons. Prepare for the next chapter of his career.  …” Independent


Gute Woche/ Schlechte Woche Matchday 22 Edition

February 13, 2018

“After the midweek DFB Pokal quarter-finals were decided, it was back to Bundesliga action this weekend with nine mouth-watering clashes to savour. Bayern overcame Schalke in the big game on Saturday, but there was disappointment for Leverkusen. The usual suspects at the bottom continued to struggle. We had a triple-Doppelpack, more goalkeeping chaos, the return of a legend, soaring eagles and goals aplenty. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 22? …” Bundesliga Fanatic


Haifa – A tale of two clubs

February 13, 2018

“It’s a cold Saturday afternoon in the Northern Israel city of Haifa, a passing Mediterranean storm has just drenched those who were braving the elements with a stroll on the windswept boardwalk. The beachfront is deserted at this time of year, the cafes and restaurants that are alive during summer have the hatches well and truly battened down and save for a few surfers who are reveling in the rough conditions it is safe to assume that the city’s population have stayed indoors thinking of the upcoming spring. …” backpagefootball


Tactical fouling is spoiling football – time for the rulemakers to stamp it out

February 9, 2018


“Football is often considered conservative with its rule changes, but in recent decades there have been various subtle but crucial alterations to the Laws of the Game, which are often overlooked. The back-pass law in the early 1990s, for example, forced goalkeepers and defenders to become more technically skilled, encouraging passing football. Stricter tackling laws, meanwhile, protected attackers from brutal challenges. …” ESPN – Michael Cox


St Étienne’s unlikely band of misfits may keep them in Ligue 1

February 9, 2018

“Three months have passed since Lyon visited the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and destroyed St Étienne 5-0, a mauling that will go down as one of the worst defeats in the club’s 99-year history. Ôscar Garcia, who was only appointed manager in the summer but had clashed with the board over transfer targets, resigned soon after the defeat – and the man brought in to replace him, Julien Sablé, proved to be a disastrous appointment. …” Guardian


Ruben Bover, the Barnet midfielder who learned from Thierry Henry in MLS

February 9, 2018

“Not many footballers get the chance to play in three different countries, win multiple league titles and line up alongside World Cup and Champions League medalists before the age of 25, but Barnet’s Ruben Bover is one of them. The Spanish midfielder has already played in his native country, England and the US, where he won several trophies and was able to call Raul and Thierry Henry his friends and teammates. Bover was born in the Balearics and came through Real Mallorca’s academy when the club were knocking on the door of the UEFA Cup places in La Liga. Yet even as a teenager he was drawn to the English game and tantalised by the prospect of playing abroad. …” The Set Pieces


Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness

February 9, 2018


“Not many football fans outside Birmingham will have heard of Paul Tait, who enjoyed a long and yet largely undistinguished career in some of the more inglorious reaches of the Football League. And indeed, if you have heard of him at all, it is for one of his two notable claims to fame. In the 103rd minute of the Auto Windscreens Shield final in April 1995, Tait scored a glancing header to win the game for Birmingham against Carlisle: the first ever golden goal scored at Wembley Stadium. …” Independent (Video)


Saudi Stars Arrive in Spain, With One Eye on Russia

February 9, 2018

“VILLAREAL, Spain — After the website had crashed, but before the falcon arrived, Salem al-Dawsari was introduced by his new club. Inside the Estadio de la Cerámica, the banana-yellow-skinned home of the Spanish team Villarreal, a few dozen journalists had arrived to view Dawsari, a midfielder who had become something of a curiosity in the Spanish news media. For one, Dawsari was among the first players from Saudi Arabia to sign for a team in La Liga, Spanish soccer’s top league. But that was only part of the story. …” NY Times


The Resurrection of Nicklas Bendtner

February 9, 2018

“Whilst Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner has all but disappeared from our collective footballing consciousness in recent years, there was once a time in which the former Arsenal man could seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of the Emirates faithful. The lofty centre-forward, who continues to ply his trade among the wider European game as an active and determined 29-year-old, previously excited Danish and Gunners fans alike with his confident persona and burgeoning potential to thrive among the English top-flight. …” Outside of the Boot


Pochettino puts team before individuals in Tottenham’s tenacious attack

February 4, 2018


“‘It is an art in itself to compose a starting team,’ the legendary pioneer of Total Football, Rinus Michels, once said. ‘Finding the balance between creative players and those with destructive powers — and between defence, construction and attack.’ Michels mastered the art and the process of building a great team rather than simply gathering great individuals. It remains the most fundamental test of managerial quality. …” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video), Spurs have done everything right: if they cannot succeed, who can? Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Arsenal Is in Crisis, but a Signing Changes the Mood

February 4, 2018

“On Tuesday evening, Arsenal suffered another one of those indignities that tend to pockmark its seasons. This time, the humiliation came in the driving rain of South Wales and at the hands of Swansea City: facing a team at the bottom of the Premier League table, Arsenal dominated the game, monopolized possession and then went and lost anyway, 3-1. For Arsenal’s fans, these defeats have become wearily familiar in the last decade or so, as Arsène Wenger’s two-decade reign at the club has drifted into a sort of managed decline. They have turned Arsenal into a place hard-wired to treat every disappointment as an existential crisis. …” NY Times


‘We weren’t even allowed swap jerseys!’ – when Shelbourne battled Barcelona at the Nou Camp

February 4, 2018

“A COFFIN STOOD stiff and isolated in the bowels of the Nou Camp as 11 Irishmen shuffled past in quiet disbelief. On their way through the famous corridors on a mild October evening en route to the away dressing room, the cohort of Shelbourne players passed by a museum, a dentist, a morgue and, puzzlingly, the most idyllic of chapels inside of which sat a wooden box. They were 1,300 miles away from Tolka Park, situated snug in-between endless rows of brick houses on Richmond Road in Drumcondra, but it felt so much more. This was a different planet altogether. …” the42


Geoff Cameron’s Car-Pool Confessional

February 4, 2018


“STOKE-ON-TRENT, England — Rain predictably pelted the windshield on the nearly 40-mile journey down the dark motorway back to his home on the outskirts of Manchester, but Geoff Cameron wasn’t about to let a soaking interrupt him. Not after all these years here. Even after playing a full 90 minutes for the second time in three days, and even after the most damaging league defeat in his six seasons as a Stoke City player, Cameron had plenty to say. Over the course of the next hour, after some expletive-laden venting in the wake of a costly 1-0 home loss to Newcastle United, he invited questions on a number of subjects: Stoke’s increasingly dire predicament in the Premier League, his brush with political controversy last year and the challenges of life as an American abroad. …” NY Times


Racing to the bottom – RC Paris and the failed quest for glory

February 4, 2018

“Fast cars, fast planes and deadly weapons all led one French business magnate to football, and his dream of elevating a small club to the pinnacle of the sport, as MARK GODFREY explains. As egotistical multimillionaire French businessmen with an interest in sport go, Bernard Tapie pretty much broke the mould. The former owner of Olympique Marseille, famous for buying the club unprecedented glamour and success in the early nineties – including the 1993 Champions League – saw it all come crashing down around him after the match-fixing scandal which resulted in OM being relegated from Ligue 1 as punishment. …” Football Pink


Different Class: Football, fashion and funk – the story of Laurie Cunningham

February 4, 2018

“English football history is not short of players who never fulfilled their potential – but few careers were so starkly affected by the world around them as Laurie Cunningham’s. Different Class opens with Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech decrying Commonwealth immigration – and you get much deeper political analysis than in most footballer biographies. Dermot Kavanagh, the sports picture editor at the Sunday Times, is even more interested in the north London fashion and music trends of the time – so there are eight pages dedicated to the ‘Gatsby Look’ (as modelled on the cover), and we learn the best place to buy speakers in late 1970s Islington. …” WSC, amazon