Why the ‘greatest footballer in the world’ is buried in an Egyptian war cemetery

January 30, 2018

“England 1 Scotland 5. Saturday, 31 March 1928. Wembley. Att: 80,868. The spartan, light-coloured gravestone looks like any other in Fayid War Cemetery. Just one of hundreds arranged into formal, regimented rows on an incongruous patch of land on the western shore of Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake. There, at the mid point of the Suez Canal, lie men who died after serving in the Second World War. Men such as Major AS Jackson. The conflict was over by the time Jackson was killed on 15 November 1946. His end came after he lost control of a truck near his base in the Suez Zone, suffering serious head injuries. The 41-year-old died before he reached hospital. …” The Set Pieces


VAR: Willian ‘dive’, Iheanacho goal – how does the system work?

January 19, 2018


“The video assistant referee (VAR) trial in competitive English football has faced its first major controversy. The decision not to overturn Willian’s yellow card for diving and award a penalty to Chelsea in their FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich on Wednesday, led to Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer calling the system a ‘shambles’. Just 24 hours earlier, the first VAR goal had been awarded – when Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho’s offside strike was overturned 67 seconds after originally being ruled out in their FA Cup win over Fleetwood. Then, the reaction was broadly positive. …” BBC (Video)


Swapping your soul for a soulless bowl – lamenting the loss of old stadia

December 29, 2017

“My interest in football lessens every time a traditional ground with personality is replaced by a faceless bowl. As Tottenham Hotspur prepare for their first match at Wembley Stadium, I thought as a football fan, I’d express my feelings towards clubs who make the move from their respective grounds. A part of my football soul dies when a club thinks it’s a sensible idea to move from their current ground and replace it with a faceless, uninspiring arena in order to modernise. …” Football Pink


In an Unforgiving Sport, They Minister to Hearts and Souls

December 21, 2017

“The work is done over a quiet cup of coffee, in the privacy of the physiotherapist’s room, or through a brief chat on the touchline after training. It might be no more than a quick text message or email, asking if everything is O.K. It is supposed to take just one day a week, but in reality it means being on call, 24/7, even years after the work has supposedly ended. It is entirely voluntary, and wholly unpaid. It can be sad and troubling: dealing with addictions and pain, fear and death. But it can be joyous, too: helping with births and marriages, healing wounds and building relationships. Most often, though, it is simply being there: a shoulder to cry on and an ear to bend, the one person in the relentless, ruthless environment of professional soccer who is not concerned with how well you are playing or how many goals you have scored. It is why many players, and so many teams, treasure the discreet presence of a club chaplain. …” NY Times


Ostersunds FK: Rise of Swedish club under English manager Graham Potter

December 14, 2017


“Rewind to July in Istanbul, and a little-known team from Sweden stand on the brink of history as the clock ticks down on the second leg of their Europa League qualifier against Turkish giants Galatasaray. With five minutes remaining, Ostersunds FK chairman Daniel Kindberg rises from his seat and makes his way down the steps of the Turk Telecom Arena to join his players in celebrating a 3-1 aggregate victory – the biggest result in the club’s history. Kindberg knew the players would have to handle the final whistle right, just as they had the 180 minutes of football that preceded it. …” BBC (Video)


Applause at the Draw, but Will Russia Keep Cheering?

December 3, 2017


“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis


Take It Easy: The Politics of Walking Football

December 3, 2017

“In February this year, the FA released a comprehensive set of rules and regulations – the ‘Laws of the Game’ – centered around the principles of no running, no over head-height kicks, and minimal contact – for Walking Football. First played in 2011 by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust to prevent the social isolation of older men and help them get more exercise, the popularity of the sport took off after a 2014 Barclays TV ad. Today there are nearly a thousand walking football clubs (WFCs) registered in the United Kingdom. A year ago, Chitra Ramaswamy, writing for the Guardian, somewhat prophetically connected the ever-growing sport to the increasing popularity of the ‘slow movement’. …” In Bed With Maradona


How Did a Tiny Swiss Company Quietly Secure Valuable World Cup TV Rights?

October 27, 2017


“LONDON — Investigations over the last few years by United States and Swiss law enforcement officials into corruption in global soccer have exposed dozens of people and companies that, according to prosecutors, conspired to illegally reap profits from broadcasting and sponsorship deals tied to the sport’s biggest events. One company never named in any of the charging documents, but referred to obliquely, is a little-known entity based in the canton of Zug in Switzerland: Mountrigi Management Group, a three-person operation that illustrates how some of the biggest deals at the top of the world’s most-popular sport were put together. …” NY Times


Savage Enthusiasm: A History of Football Fans

October 18, 2017


Savage Enthusiasm traces the evolution of the football fan from the sport’s earliest origins right up to the present day, exploring how football became the world’s most popular spectator sport, and why it became the undisputed game of the people. The book starts with football’s big bang in 1863 with the creation of Association football. Within ten years, the public was hooked and football was woven into the fabric of if not daily life, then certainly weekend life. Brown posits this rise to football simply being the best sport and supports this with scientific theory published in Nature in 1996 alongside his own rather more plausible explanation that it is its simplicity that accounts for its popularity. …” Football Pink, amazon


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)


The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup

October 8, 2017


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“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Gareth Southgate should switch England to a three-man defence

October 8, 2017

“It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast between performance and outcome than England’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday night. The narrow win, sealed by Harry Kane’s last-gasp goal, didn’t really mask an uninspiring performance from manager Gareth Southgate’s side. But ultimately it means England have qualified for next summer’s World Cup. Preparation starts now: The FA immediately announced home friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month, knowing those dates wouldn’t be needed for playoff matches, while Sunday’s trip to Lithuania effectively has become another friendly, a chance for experimentation. And experimentation is crucial if England have any chance of reaching the latter stages in Russia next year. …” ESPN


Harry Winks’ Dembele-esque skillset explains his value to England

October 3, 2017

“Being English and receiving one-to-one tuition from Mauricio Pochettino is virtually a guarantee of a senior international call-up these days with Harry Winks the latest player to benefit from the Argentine’s expertise. Should Winks debut for England against either Slovenia or Lithuania, it will mean that 14 of England’s last 29 debutants have been coached by Pochettino before their first call-up. Winks’ teammate Kieran Trippier became the latest to do so against France in June. …” Squawka


Book review: Preston North End – The Rise of the Invincibles by Michael Barrett and David Sque

January 4, 2017

“Ostensibly, this is the story of the 1888-89 unbeaten double-winning Preston North End team in comic book form. As it is, there’s enough reason right there to dive straight in. After all, there’s not a lot to dislike, especially given that the artist responsible for the illustrations is David Sque, who worked on Roy of the Rovers. But let’s take it up a notch. This graphic novel by Michael Barrett – born minutes away from Deepdale – tells not only the tale of the immortal 1888-89 season but also the rise of the professional game as we know it, and the growth of the cotton industry against the socio-economic backdrop of the rise of the working classes in northern England in the late Victorian era.” Football Pink


All Guns Blazing: The Sutton United Story

January 4, 2017

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“Matt Tubbs has been here before. The journeyman striker made his name with goals in FA Cup giant-killings for both Salisbury and Crawley Town before going on to enjoy a league career with the likes of Bournemouth and Portsmouth. Now he is back in that familiar role as the spearhead of an overachieving non-league side as his new club Sutton United prepare to take on one of his former teams, AFC Wimbledon, in the FA Cup third round. There may be an element of familiarity about it all for Tubbs, but there is no disguising his excitement as he sizes up the task facing Sutton in front of a sell-out 5,000-strong crowd at the Borough Sports Ground this Saturday.” the set pieces


How Hughton gave the ailing Seagulls the ‘Chris’ of life

December 27, 2016

“It was coming on Christmas two years ago when Sami Hyypia, the respected former Liverpool defender, walked in to the office of Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom and tendered his resignation as manager. Then, the Seagulls were suffering. For despite reaching the promotion play-offs in the previous Championship season (2013/14) – under Spanish coach Oscar Garcia – they were floundering in the relegation zone. And it presented as no surprise when Hyypia’s offer to prematurely part with the club was accepted by Bloom and the Brighton board.” Football Pink


The Illustrated History of Football: David Squires

December 23, 2016

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“You’re probably familiar with the genius illustrations of David Squires by now. His weekly comic strips in the Guardian are hilariously entertaining and he spoke to The Set Pieces for Vox in the Box earlier this year. David has a new book, The Illustrated History of Football, out on 3rd November. Having seen an advance copy we can assure you it’s brilliant, if a little disturbing in parts (look out for Rafa Benitez’s half-time team talk in the 2005 Champions League final). We’re delighted to present an exclusive strip from the book on Sergio Aguero’s last-minute title-sealing strike for Manchester City in 2012. Enjoy…” the set pieces, The Sunshine Room – Some drawings by David Squires, amazon


The Man Behind The Goal – Brian Glanville

December 15, 2016

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“What a delight to have these wonderful stories back in print. To say that Brian Glanville is the Dean of English football fiction is true enough, but much more needs to be added. Because it was Glanville who created the genre. His novels ‘The Dying of the Light’ and ‘The Rise of Gerry Logan’ stand out not only as superb evocations of the world of professional football, but also as remarkable works of art. Glanville’s artistry shines through these short stories. The prose is steely, terse, colourful, demotic… exactly what is needed to convey the down-to-earth atmosphere of football and footballers.” World Soccer


Tactical Analysis: England 2-2 Spain | Start of a transition for both teams

November 18, 2016

“England’s international friendly against Spain on the 15th November marked Gareth Southgate’s fourth game in charge of the Three Lions and a chance for Spain to make one more step towards regaining their identity as ‘La Furia Roja’. Despite incredible depths of talent within the two camps, both teams are looking to rebuild their confidence after disappointing stints at the European Championships over the summer, but this time without the old guard.” Outside of the Boot


England vs. Scotland: 10 memorable matches

November 18, 2016

“… England 2-3 Scotland, April 15th 1967. Wembley Stadium, London. Six years on from the roasting they received at the hands of the Auld Enemy, Scotland once again pitched up at Wembley with a strong team in this Home Championship game that doubled as a European Championship qualifier. This time, though, they were expected to struggle against ten of the English XI (Jimmy Greaves replacing Roger Hunt) that were crowned world champions on the same pitch less than a year earlier.” Football Pink


2016-17 FA Cup 1st Round – map and attendance list./+ the 3 FA Cup 1st Round first-timers (Merstham FC, Stamford AFC, Westfields FC).

November 2, 2016

“The map (click on image at the top of this post) shows all 80 clubs who have qualified for the 2016-17 FA Cup First Round Proper. Also on the map page is the 1st Round fixture list, and there is a list of the 80 clubs’ current home league average attendances. There were 736 clubs accepted into this season’s tournament. The 44 clubs from the Premier League (the 1st division) and the Football League Championship (the 2nd division) will join the competition in the 3rd Round (played in early January). The 1st Round and the 2nd Round are contested between all the clubs from the two lower leagues of the Football League (48 teams) – League One (3rd division) and League Two (4th division) – plus the 32 Non-League clubs who qualified through the preliminary and qualifying rounds (6 rounds).” Bill Sport’s Maps


Denis Kelleher: An ‘Unpredictable Irishman’

October 27, 2016

“Below the professonal ranks, Denis Kelleher was regarded as one of the finest footballers in Britain. In a remarkable life, the Irishman, capped eight times at amateur level, escaped from Nazi Germany, played for Great Britain at the Olympic Games, and became a folk hero at Barnet. Cian Manning tells his story.” Póg Mo Goal


Can Wales create more history with World Cup qualification?

September 6, 2016

“Later today, Wales will start their World Cup qualification campaign. For the Welsh faithful, it’ll be a strange feeling. No longer is history holding them back, no longer are they nearly men. Can the most successful Wales team in over half a century qualify for a World Cup? By the time the 2018 World Cup rolls along, it will be 60 years since Wales competed in their last one.” backpagefootball


Book Review: Bendelow and Kidd’s Dictionary Of Football

September 1, 2016

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The army of terms required to talk convincingly about football has been a great source of mirth over the years. As far back as the 1970s, footballers were depicted as alternating between being ‘over the moon’ or ‘sick as a parrot’ depending on their feelings at 5 o’clock on a Saturday while Ron Atkinson let loose a whole new phalanx of phrases during his co-commentating days alongside Clive Tyldesley – to the extent that ‘crowd scene’, ‘little eyebrows’ and the daddy of them all, ‘early doors’ started to gain common currency. Ian Bendelow and Jamie Kidd are the latest to draw attention to the sheer glorious illogicality of soccer phraseology. That they are merely the latest is the one criticism one might level at their eponymous Dictionary of Football, for this exercise was carried out in pretty much identical fashion in Leigh and Woodhouse’s Football Lexicon published in the early Noughties and re-republished for as wider audience by Faber & Faber in 2004.” thetwounfortunates, amazon


2018 World Cup qualifiers: Coleman ready for next adventure

September 1, 2016

“It is a scene every Welsh football fan will recognise: rewatching goals from Wales’ historic Euro 2016 campaign in an attempt to relive the euphoria of an unforgettable summer. The moment has passed, the rapturous celebrations fading from view, but still they cling to the memories. As does the man who masterminded it all.” BBC


The Beauty of Mediocrity

July 23, 2016

“Winning isn’t everything in football. As Evertonian and Sheffield student Alex Leonard explores, relationships with underachieving clubs are not only unexpectedly romantic but can teach you valuable life lessons too. An uncomfortable consensus of disgust led much of the Kop end to leave early. A slow grumbling stream of red and white headed for the exit. Yet despite the utterly woeful football on display, I felt compelled to stay, shivering in the bitter March evening.” Football Pink


Wales exceeded expectations at Euro 2016 – but must now deal with them

July 8, 2016

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“Commiserations to Wales, whose exhilarating Euro 2016 journey came to an end at the semi-final stage in Lyon, but congratulations to all concerned for lighting up the tournament – particularly from a British point of view – and showing what is possible when a team functions as a team and takes a strong mentality and deep reserves of self-belief out on to the pitch. This is not intended as veiled criticism of England, though some may read it that way, for the Welsh and the English narratives have been inextricably entwined in France. They were drawn in the same group, and though England won the head-to-head battle – just – they lost the war by finishing second to a team with two victories.” Guardian


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: England 1 – Iceland 2 | Tactically disciplined Iceland kicks England out of Europe.

July 1, 2016

“When England scored its first goal, the Icelandic players must have told ‘theta reddast’ to each other. It’s a common saying in Iceland and means everything is going to be fine. In the end it was all good for the small island nation. Iceland knocked England out of Euro 2016 and forced Roy Hodgson to retire after coming back from behind and taking the lead very early in the first half. Iceland put on a well-disciplined tactical display and with a hardworking and collective approach it managed to stifle England through some good space compression in the midfield.” Outside of the Boot


England absorbs more shame, failure with Euro 2016 ouster to Iceland

July 1, 2016

“For two years Roy Hodgson has been saying that England would be at its best when it faced a side that attacked it, when it could use its ace in forward areas to play on the counterattack. We’ll never find out if that was true. No side has attacked England since Switzerland did in the second half of the Euro 2016 qualifier in Basel in September 2014, when England, playing with uncharacteristic poise, won 2-0. Perhaps this side could have challenged Germany or France (although the defending against Iceland suggests not), but we’ll never know, because it failed in what seemed the most basic of tasks, beating a nation with a population of 330,000.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

England Loses
“England has now left Europe twice in four days, with the second departure allowing this writer some small sentiment of retributive justice for the stupidity of the first. After the unmitigated and unfolding disaster of Brexit, the English national football team was defeated 2-1 by Iceland yesterday in the European Football Championship. Iceland! That’s right. With a population of around 330,000, with a fair scattering of part-time players and a coach who also works as a dentist and a goalkeeper who is also a filmmaker, Iceland defeated England, the country who first formulated the game of association football in the nineteenth century and has the richest league in the world and most of the game’s best-paid players.” NYBook


Team England, the FA and the Great EPPP Gamble

July 1, 2016

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“As far as can be observed from social media, there were two responses to England being beaten by Iceland in Euro 2016. The first was blind fury, rage at overpaid footballers and incompetent coaches. The second, the more favourable one, was uncontrollable laughter prompted by the singular failure of technique, passing, shooting, crossing and, in some remarkable instances, controlling a ball. Both are equally valid but option two had the added frisson of the hilarity gleaned from seeing our Wayne tripping over footballs, the ground and his feet, on several occasions.” In Bed With Maradona


England 1 – Iceland 2

June 27, 2016

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“England suffered their worst humiliation since they were knocked out of the 1950 World Cup by USA in Brazil as Iceland shocked them in the last 16 of Euro 2016. Manager Roy Hodgson resigned after the abject embarrassment of losing to a nation ranked 34th in the world – and with a population of just 330,000 – despite taking the lead through Wayne Rooney’s fourth-minute penalty. Iceland equalised within a minute as England failed to deal with a trademark long throw and Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home from close range. England’s shameful performance was summed up by Iceland’s 18th-minute winner when goalkeeper Joe Hart was badly at fault – just as in the win over Wales – as he let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s shot through his hand.” BBC (Video)

Iceland’s toppling of England at Euro 2016 is a triumph for the little guys
“Takk fyrir Island. Thank you Iceland. Thank you for Gudmundur Benediktsson’s epic falsetto commentary, for bringing one-tenth of the population to France to take part in this odyssey, for making Cristiano Ronaldo uppity and reminding the rest of us of the essential valour of the little guy’s right to his aspirations, for competing so fearlessly to defeat England, for blowing our minds. Thank you for your co-manager’s other job in dentistry, your class and determination in searching for a first win at a major finals, your exemplary coaching system, your comradeship within the team, your inspired hothousing of young talent in a weather-beaten place. Thank you for showing us imaginative ways of doing things can bring extraordinary achievements.” Guardian


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR49T0J
“The dramatic end to the group stage couldn’t disguise the fact that, for the most part, this has been a slightly disappointing opening to the tournament, yielding just 1.92 goals per game and precious few games of real quality. No side won all three group games, while many of the less-fancied sides troubled their supposed betters. The suggestion is that this is a very open tournament, although there remains the possibility that one of the top sides will suddenly click into gear and surge through to success on July 10. The knockout bracket has yielded an unbalanced final 16, with powers France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England on one half, while Belgium and Portugal benefited from underperforming in the group stage by being given a more favorable rout to navigate on the road to the Stade de France.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Six things we’ve learned from the Euro 2016 group stages

June 23, 2016

“Fears that lowly ranked sides like Albania and Northern Ireland might dilute the quality of the competition have not materialised. Cynics might say the overall quality was so low that nobody noticed anyway, but the fact is that some of the more fancied teams – the likes of the Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine and Rumania – couldn’t make it past these minnows. The extended format has brought plenty of colour and amazing stories like Iceland’s success to the tournament, and have helped more than make up for the lack of excitement felt elsewhere. But UEFA also got very lucky. Groups E and F were clearly at an advantage, knowing just how many points were needed to advance ahead of other third-placed teams.” red bulletin


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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“The group stages of Euro 2016 have provided goals and controversies, outrageous skill and dreadful mistakes. With no team able to win every game, but only one side losing all three matches, the tournament has proved more competitive than anyone could have expected. After 36 matches, the action is only just hotting up, but having played three times each, we now have a decent idea about what shape the teams are in.” Daily Mail


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


Euro 2016: Russia given suspended disqualification

June 15, 2016

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“The Russians have also been fined 150,000 euros (£119,000) following violent scenes at the game against England in Marseille on Saturday. The suspended disqualification and fine relate only to incidents that happened inside the stadium. There were reports of minor disturbances between rival fans in Lille on Tuesday evening. Russia play Group B rivals Slovakia in the city on Wednesday, while England fans are congregating there before Thursday’s match against Wales in the nearby town of Lens.” BBC (Video)

Is Russia exporting a new breed of football hooligan?
“Violence has been part of Russian football for many years. Clashes inside stadiums and organised fights away from them are common. But this weekend’s mass disturbances in Marseille have thrust Russian hooliganism into the international spotlight. The Russian Football Union expressed regret over the fighting and Russia’s sports minister described those involved as a disgrace. But other senior officials have praised the hooligans openly as ‘real men’. Meanwhile the fans themselves seem largely unrepentant, even proud.” BBC (Video)


Euro 2016: England and Russia fans clash in third day of violence

June 12, 2016

“Two England supporters have been seriously injured in Marseille after violent clashes with rival fans in the hours leading up to England’s opening Euro 2016 group match against Russia. Police had to resuscitate one 51-year-old fan after he was repeatedly kicked in the head on Saturday, apparently by several Russian fans, leaving him unconscious. Witnesses claimed he had also been attacked with a small axe leaving his head bleeding ‘like a tap’, although the allegation could not be immediately verified.” Guardian (Video)

Russia and England Fans Clash Repeatedly at European Championships
“Fights broke out Saturday before and soon after Russia earned a 1-1 draw against England with a stoppage-time goal in a Group B match at the European Championships in Marseille, France. Fans of the two teams rioted before the game in Marseille’s Old Port district and briefly outside the nearby Stade Vélodrome in a third straight day of violence in the city. The police fired tear gas and water cannons at the fighting fans.” NY Times (Video)


This Is England: What Euro 2016 Means for a Country on the Brink

June 12, 2016

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“When Leicester City won the English Premier League in May, it was considered nothing less than a miracle. Nearly every story about the Foxes noted the 5,000-to-1 odds they were given of winning the title, and the list of likelier long-shot scenarios was as full of impossibilities as it was endless. Piers Morgan taking the reins at Arsenal, Elvis turning up alive, the discovery of the Loch Ness monster—all were deemed more probable by bookies than a Leicester championship, in most cases far more so, pushing the team’s feat into the realm of the supernatural.” New Republic (Video)


Defoe v Rashford & Wilshere v Noble: Is Hodgson’s England Euro 2016 squad right?

May 17, 2016

“Marcus Rashford instead of Jermain Defoe; Andros Townsend ahead of Theo Walcott; Jack Wilshere in, but no Mark Noble. So did Roy Hodgson get his provisional England Euro 2016 squad right? Opta statistics suggest an England squad based on data alone would have Watford’s Troy Deeney right in contention, with Bournemouth’s Steve Cook and Simon Francis competing to partner Manchester United’s Chris Smalling in the heart of defence. BBC Sport takes a look at the statistics around key England selection decisions.” BBC (Video)


Danny Is The Turnstile – Rayners Lane FC Vs Cockfosters FC, Middlesex Senior Charity Cup Semi-Final, The Tithe Farm Social Club, 21/04/16.

May 5, 2016

“I thought Rayners Lane was just a place on the far extremities of the Piccadilly line, not somewhere that unless I happened to fall asleep, and awoke post public dribbling or perhaps I was plucked from my bed by a great tornado with my small dog, and dropped on a witch with snazzy shoes, I would never have any reason to visit. As I step off the tube I realise I’m not in Finchley anymore.” Beautiful Game


Worth the Price of 92 Admissions: Entry Into a Stadium Fan Club

April 24, 2016

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“The list includes ramshackle old stadiums, scented and scarred with century-old reminders of English soccer’s storied past, but also the gleaming cathedrals that testify to the Premier League’s rich new present. The City Ground (Nottingham Forest) and the County Ground (Swindon Town). Elland Road and White Hart Lane, but also Villa Park and Craven Cottage. Turf Moor and Deepdale and Ashton Gate. And when the final whistle blows at Saturday’s match between Manchester City and Stoke City, Martin Weiler, a 61-year-old soccer fan with no affiliation to either team, will leave the Etihad Stadium having seen a match in every one of them. In doing so, he also will become eligible for membership in one of soccer’s most distinctive supporters groups: the 92 Club, a small and exclusive fellowship made up of individuals who have watched a competitive league or cup match at the stadium of each of the 92 clubs in England’s top four divisions, which includes some teams from Wales.” NY Times


The history of the FA Cup trophy

March 6, 2016

“The FA Cup is, without a doubt, a huge part of English football, and the history of the FA Cup trophy itself is a rich and colourful one. First held in the 1871-72 season, the FA Cup is the oldest football competiton in the world and provides a unique opportunity for smaller teams to face the top teams. The FA Cup Final is a huge sporting event and it has an iconic trophy to match.” Football Pink


Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

February 28, 2016

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“ANDREW BOULTON casts his sceptical gaze towards the heroism, hubris, horror and hilarity of statues in football. Spend any length of time in Nottingham’s Old Market Square and you will see what we will politely refer to as ‘sights’. Teenage skateboarders tumbling churlishly against the concrete, their drastically over-exposed underpants providing little genuine protection against pavement burns and pigeon sick. Maudlin office workers weeping quietly into jacket potatoes so enormous they could briefly be mistaken for human heads. I even once saw a man angrily thrashing a phone box with a fishing pole.” Football Pink


The limelight’s on Leicester, but what about Spurs?

February 17, 2016

“Yet another resolute display by Spurs saw them claim all three points against a solid Watford side and emerge as Leicester’s closest rivals in the race for the Premier league title. The win moves Spurs into second, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, but still 5 points behind the leaders Leicester. The match was a testament to the in – depth strength and quality that Spurs possess as Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to the side which dispatched of Norwich in midweek.” The Incompetent Football Fan


Foreign Players Rule: Discrimination in football?

February 7, 2016

“The club versus country debate has become a major discussion in modern football, and at the heart of the debate is foreign player rules. Foreign players generally increase the standard of clubs and the league as a whole, but reduce the number of domestic players receiving first-team football, potentially decreasing the quality of the national team. The vast majority of football leagues across the world limit the amount of foreign players allowed per club, with various rules from simple restrictions on numbers of non-domestic players to the Premier League’s home grown rule. But are these rules fair on the players? Are they even legal? Using my area of expertise, Mexico, as a base, I evaluate foreign player restrictions.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 power rankings: every team assessed before draw

December 10, 2015

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“The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris on Saturday and Jonathan Wilson looks at all the teams, putting France at No1 and Romania at No24” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The Outsiders, Part 5: AP Campionese

December 10, 2015

“‘And this is Campione d’Italia’, she’s the Italian comune in Switzerland, you know, she’s an Italian enclave and exclave surrounded by Switzerland but still in the Province of Como, Lombardia, in the Swiss canton of Ticino’. Introducing the small town of Campione d’Italia, is much like describing a distant relative at a very large family celebration. She’s both vaguely recognisable and completely unfamiliar. She has the same plump and contented face as aunty Giulia, yet she’s definitely got the nose of grandpa Müller.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 6: FC Andorra
“As countries go, there are few that can match the sheer stunning beauty of Andorra. Nestled firmly in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe in terms of size, its population could fit inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. It has a rich culture stretching back over a thousand years and is a constitutional monarchy with an official language of Catalan, though French and Spanish are widely spoken too.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 7: The New Saints
“Around the globe, football teams that have incorporated their sponsor’s name are common place. Of course, Red Bull have taken on teams in New York, Leipzig and Salzburg, aptly named the New York Red Bulls, RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg whilst Bayer Leverkusen in Germany have taken their founders’ name since their emergence in 1904, as did PSV Eindhoven in 1913. Hyundai have taken on two teams in South Korea, Jeonbuk and Ulsan whilst Toyota even got in on the act in Japan.” Football Pink


The Outsiders, Part 1: Berwick Rangers

November 30, 2015

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“As you approach from the south, staring wistfully out at the slate grey North Sea reflecting the equally slate grey sky over the sand dunes of Cheswick and Goswick, the quaint walled-town of Berwick-upon-Tweed – perched neatly atop the sloping banks of the famous River Tweed – slowly and neatly begins to frame this picturesque view of northernmost Northumberland. As the train lurches across the Robert Stephenson-designed Royal Border Bridge, leaving the villages of Tweedmouth and East Ord in its slipstream, one could easily be fooled into thinking you were entering another country. The shimmering, twinkling surface of the Tweed – that most renowned of salmon grounds – gives one a sense of a natural dividing line between England and Scotland. Indeed, throughout the centuries and the turbulent history between the two neighbours, it often has. However, since 1482, at the height of the Anglo-Scottish wars, Berwick has remained firmly under English control.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 2: FC Büsingen
“Surrounded by the Swiss: not something you hear very often, is it? In this case, we’re not referring to a rare military skirmish (those multi-functional Army knives can be very threatening under certain circumstances), rather the tiny German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein which is, as inferred, totally contained within the conventional borders of Switzerland. The town has been separated from the Motherland (or should that be Fatherland?) since 1805 and the time of the Napoleonic Wars when it switched from Austrian control to that of Württemberg, which itself became a part of the German Empire a year later before eventually becoming part of the modern Bundesrepublik Land of Badem-Württemberg we see today. The ties to Germany remain unbroken despite the result of a referendum in the town after the First World War, in which the inhabitants voted to become part of Switzerland, was ignored due mainly to the Swiss being unable to offer anything substantial in return.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 3: Derry City
“Derry, of all places in Britain and Ireland, seems ready made for the language of football, with a history that’s very much composed of two halves. You’ve those who see themselves as Irish on one side of the pitch, and those who see themselves as British on the other. Out of this strange, enforced marriage comes a place that’s cut from different cloth to anywhere else on both sides of the Irish Sea. Home of shirt factories and receptacle of the shared history between two islands, this is a city that has suffered, as described in Phil Coulter’s famous song ‘The Town I Love So Well.’ But, as in the poems of Seamus Heaney and the upbeat rhythms of The Undertones, the character of Derry is based on triumph over suffering, and in finding a voice and a position unique to itself.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 4: FC Vaduz
“William Cook, writing in the weekly conservative magazine The Spectator, describes Liechtenstein as ‘utterly ridiculous’. It is a tax haven that has more registered companies than people, In August 2009, the British government department HM Revenue & Customs agreed with Liechtenstein to start exchanging information. It is believed that up to 5,000 British investors have roughly £3billion deposited in accounts and trusts in the country. To put the size of the country into a British context, its population is similar to Milton Keynes. You’ll find something familiar with their national anthem, it is sung to the same tune as ‘God Save The Queen’. The capital of Liechtenstein is the sleepy town of Vaduz – the home of FC Vaduz.” Football Pink


Brighton, Northampton & McBurnie – things you may have missed

November 28, 2015

“The nights are drawing in, the shops are teeming with desperate bargain-hunters and children will shortly be disappointed by the quality of their advent calendar chocolate. We are nearly entering the final month of 2015 and, while the weather cools down, the Football League action heats up. Here are some of Saturday’s best bits.” BBC


1985/86 Week: After The Apocalypse – A Video Introduction

November 21, 2015

“The sense of decay had been growing around English football for a long time, in the run-up to the start of the 1985/86 season. Attendances had been falling year on year, hooliganism had become an increasingly visible problem, and a number of different clubs had found balancing their books a greater and greater challenge. During the first five months of 1985, however, the feeling had grown that this was more than just a malaise that would be put right. Crowd violence at matches had become increasingly visible as more and more matches were televised, with such incidents as full blown riots during matches between Luton Town and Millwall in the FA Cup and between Chelsea and Sunderland in the League Cup showing levels of violence that hadn’t been seen before in English grounds.” twohundredpercent (Video)


Football Weekly: Hungary qualify for Euro 2016 as England’s friendly with France goes ahead

November 18, 2015

“The podders reflect on the Euro 2016 playoffs and the rest of the international friendlies. Plus, Raúl retires, Paul Lambert heads to Blackburn Rovers and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink remains in high demand. On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo is joined by Jacob Steinberg, Michael Cox and John Ashdown to look back on the Euro 2016 qualifiers, with a bit of help from Jonathan Wilson, who was in Bosnia to see (or not) Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Dzecko and co in the fog, and then in Budapest to witness Hungary qualifying for their first major tournament in 30 years, and is now en route to Slovenia. Because that’s the sort of thing he does.” Guardian – Michael Cox, Jonathan Wilson, etc. (Video)


Dele Alli scores stunner as England beat France at Wembley

November 18, 2015

“Dele Alli enjoyed a stunning full debut as England beat France 2-0 on a night of tears, compassion and defiance at Wembley. The 19-year-old Tottenham midfielder found the top corner with a stunning 24-yard strike and played a key role in Wayne Rooney’s second-half volley. England’s ninth straight Wembley victory was an impressive one that came against a star-studded France side. But the real winner here at Wembley was football. Just four days after 129 people died in the Paris terror attacks, the France team and their English counterparts, as well as the home and away fans inside this famous stadium, stood shoulder to shoulder to send a defiant message to the terrorists who wreaked havoc in the French capital.” ESPN


Euro 2016 play-offs: How the ties stand – and who is through

November 16, 2015

“The 2016 European Championship play-offs are over halfway through, with Hungary becoming the 21st team to qualify for France. The Republic of Ireland and Sweden are among the six teams competing for the final three spots. How do the ties stand?” BBC


Euro 2016: Are Spain over their World Cup hangover?

November 16, 2015

“Despite a solid record in qualifying of nine wins from 10 games, European champions Spain are facing several dilemmas as they prepare for the defence of their title in France next summer. Veteran coach Vicente del Bosque faces selection problems in several areas, and there is also a more general concern over La Roja’s playing style as they continue to address the lingering hangover from last summer’s World Cup finals campaign, where they made a shock group-stage exit. Going into Friday’s friendly with England, these are the main issues.” BBC


Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Bellerin climbs, and Gimenez makes the cut

November 3, 2015

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016: Qualifiers for the tournament in France

October 14, 2015

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“The group stage of qualification for Euro 2016 is over and the make-up of next summer’s tournament is taking shape. There will be 24 teams competing in the finals. France were assured of a place as hosts, and a further 19 countries have qualified automatically – 18 by finishing either first or second in their group and one more as the highest third-placed finisher. There will also be four play-off ties to determine the final four teams competing in France – and we now know who will be competing in those ties.” BBC


The peaceful invasion that London feared – England vs. Germany, 1935

October 14, 2015

“The mid-1930s was a time of growing fear in Europe, indeed the world. Germany, in particular, was a major concern for the rest of the continent. In 1935, a number of events pointed the way towards the conflict that was World War Two. This was the year that the German air force, the Luftwaffe, was formed. A few days later, Adolf Hitler ignored the Versailles Treaty and announced that Germany would re-arm. And in September, the Nuremberg Laws, an anti-semitic doctrine that made it illegal for Jews and non-Jews to have any form of relationship, came into effect. The rest of the world was scared of Germany and its intentions.” Football Pink


The top ten fan owned clubs in English football

October 9, 2015

“An enticing concept has been quietly incubating within English football in recent years: supporter ownership of clubs. While it may be the norm in places such as Germany and Argentina for football fans to own their club, it’s still a fairly alien idea in the United Kingdom and most of the Commonwealth. The allure is obvious: football fans and club owners often disagree about how clubs should operate. Wealthy owners – often with minimal connection to the club’s community – tend to prioritise the pursuit of profit, and take financial risks that can destabilise or endanger clubs. Football fans, however, view their club as a community asset rather than as a business, and desire to be treated loyally as valued club members instead of as replaceable customers.” backpagefootball – Part 1 (Video), Part 2 (Video)


Graft, grit and Northern beauty

August 19, 2015

“Sir Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Don Revie, Sir Bobby Robson: it’s a long and impressive list, but far from an exhaustive one. The common thread that links them to one another? Yes, they are all British, but more specifically, they’re all from either the North East of England or Scotland. So what, I hear you mutter. … It’s my assertion that, as they did not inherit, at birth, the specific qualities and traits needed to stand out in the cutthroat world of football but must possess them in order to break into that sphere in the first place, then it must be their upbringing and the environment of their formative years that defined them. So, it is to the North East of England and Scotland that we must look for those ingredients that shaped the young men who would eventually become legends.” Foofball Pink


What has happened to England’s international support?

August 7, 2015

“Back in the 90s, when Britpop ruled the country, there was a charge of fantastic patriotism. Optimism was placed in a youthful, hopeful Tony Blair, my beloved Liverpool were embarking on a bout of abstinence-based detox of all things silver and support for England’s national team was riding the wave of an Italia 90 based revival. This often took ‘swarms’ (cough, cough) of Brits halfway across the world to watch their national team beat Macedonia, only to trek back again, and straight into work the next day. People, it was safe to say, were loving watching England.” backpagefootball