Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Ball Is Round - A Global History of Football. By Andrew Goldblatt

This is about as comprehensive a history of football that I've read. It's a touch scholarly in tone - but that's ok because each page usually has one or two football facts that fire the imagination and thrill to the core if, like me, you are moved by such things.

Read this and that part of your brain that deals with football will become engorged with football facts and will grow distended and you will have to buy a new hat or perhaps even a mortar board for your misshapen head - (if your hat is a baseball cap then you have no need to worry - just stick to whatever Premiership player's biog. is coming next and your head, and all that there in is, will stay exactly the same.)

It is a very very good book.

We Don't Know What We Are Doing. - Adrian Chiles

Imagine a middle aged man sitting in the Hawthorns on a Saturday afternoon in February, and there under a low, cold, grey sky this man, whilst watching his team putting in a mediocre performance, finds himself quietly gripped by a mild existential crisis.

"Why Am I Doing This?" he asks himself.

And his answer is ... Well I'm not sure really - but the book Adrian Chiles wrote to try to answer his own question is highly entertaining.

It is also incredibly dour. How a book about football in the 21st Century can include a reference to German civilians drowning in the Baltic as they fled the Soviets I'm not sure. Read the book and you'll see how Chiles manages to include such a bleak detour - one of many in a book about football which of course is essentially a leisure activity.

For me the most memorable image from the book comes from his description of his watching West Brom. fall to another painful defeat on a TV in the Match of the Day office in the BBC Studios on a Sunday afternoon. It's strange to think that I was probably at home - reading the Sunday papers and idly wondering whether I could be bothered with watching Man City or whoever on MOTD2 that night - and as I was thinking this - the show's host was tucked away in an office in West London slowly falling out of love with life.

'Tis a good book - and I don't think you really need to be a West Brom fan to get a lot out of it.

Monday, 26 November 2007

This is the funniest thing I have seen at a football match

Adrian Chiles. We Don't Know What We Are Doing

Another quote:

this from the bloke who organises the Baggies coaches

"In about 1990 we played Newcastle at home midweek and we lost 5-1. Then we were playing Ipswich on the Saturday and I had so many cancellations I started to getting really, like, shirty with them. And when I was on the way to Ipswich I was thinking I'd just love to come here and win and that lot would have missed it. But we didn't, we lost 3-1."

...and here is a WBA related clip. They sing the Lord is my Shepherd a lot. (and there was me thinking they are a well and truly forsaken team)

Very Odd but quite cool

MyFC/Ebbsfleet stuff from last week

Thanks To B.T. being a little useless I was off line for a couple of days last week- but here is some of the stuff that I found about MYFC/Ebbsfleet which I thought worth posting

Here's a blogger's take on the project.
Here's a match report from last weeks mid-week John Ullman Kent Senior Cup match. From the official site
And here is another match report from the same match. (..according to this paper the Ramsgate manager was not there -so his brother stepped in - first time I've ever heard of that)
Ramsgate's website has a good match report. 'Tis a nice website ( and you should click on the HomePage just to see the brilliant advert which reads: "SEE RICKY (Hatton) IN VEGAS - at Southwood")
From last week but here's another blogger's take on the project.
Here's another (nicely laid out) blog from last week.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Roger Godsiff's Early Day Motion

This is the Early Day Motion by MP Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small
Heath) in the House of Commons today.


"That this House congratulates Croatia and Russia on qualifying for the European Football Championships from Group E; acknowledges that the Croatian team which beat England were far superior in technical ability, skill and commitment than the insipid and inept England team; notes that £747 million was spent on the new Wembley Stadium but the match was played on a surface similar to those used by Sunday footballers on council pitches; thanks the efforts of the Israeli and part-time players of Andorra in trying to help England by doing their very best against Russia; commiserates with the fans who have spent large amounts of their hard earned money following England during these championships; believes that the over-paid, over-pampered and over-hyped English prima donnas from the Premiership who took the field against Croatia disgraced the England shirt once worn by legends such as Stanley Matthews, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton; and recognises that they will no doubt be consoled by the thought that while they are watching the European Championships from their luxurious holiday destinations their celebrity lifestyles will be protected by them still receiving their vastly inflated wages, provided by Sky and Setanta television money, from clubs in a Premiership League which is nothing more than a money making machine for players, agents and entrepreneurial club owners which does very little for promoting the well-being of football in England either at the grass roots or international level."

...I thought Beckham and Crouch did pretty well myself - but it made me laugh.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Monday, 19 November 2007

Ebbsfleet. My Football Club. Round Up.

Here's some of the Stories from today about Ebbsfleet. It's not comprehensive but I hope its useful

We are nerds according to the Mail
The Sunday Times reckons that this means football is now part of the 21st century -(surely it was before - or at least the bits that were played in the last seven or so years)
This columnist from the Times is really against the idea.
This blogger puts up a pretty good defence of the whole idea.
I'm not sure if I posted this yesterday - it's from the Independent and , I think because they ran the story first, they seem to run more articles than anyone else.
This person has been inspired by the idea to suggest that Gurnsey should do something similar.
This is a match report from the Oxford game from a Kent news website.
This is an article from an Oxford Newspaper about the game last Saturday.
This blog just gives an overview of the whole idea - but it's from Malaysia so I thought I'd link to it.
This article is from the Telegraph

Adrian Chiles -We Don't Know What We Are Doing.

I am currently reading Adrian Chiles' "We Don't Know What We Are Doing" which is a study of obsession with Chiles trying to make sense of his, and others, dedication to West Bromwich Albion. I'll write what I think about the book when I finish it- (though I'm at pg 149 and so far Cress says yes).

What I'm going to do is write a few posts about the book as I read it quoting some bits that I liked and then follow it up with a YouTube Video that will have something to do with West Bromwich - but maybe not the club.


I need to give a bit of context for the first quote. Chiles' knows the man who usually plays WBA's mascot Baggie Bird and when this man says he cannot make the WBA - Pompey game Chile' volunteers to don the suit.

"Before the toss of the coin we line up for a photo. The Portsmouth Captain is Dejan Stefanovic, a Serb. Because my mum's from Croatia, I can speak Serbo-Croat, in which language Baggie Bird now says to him, ' Hello Dejan. Best of luck.' He looks at me, a little alarmed. I suspect he thinks he might be losing his marbles. (.......) he doesn't reply"

Phil Lynott was born In West Bromwich, which I did not know when I woke this morning - so I'm going to post Thin Lizzy doing Whiskey In The Jar.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Ebbsfleet MyFootballClub, Today's Stories.

I'm not totally sure about whether to do this -it feels like I'm cheating on Pompey - but as I am one of the shareholders in Ebbsfleet I will try to keep up to date with the news stories about Ebbsfleet (assuming the deal goes through) by posting links to the stories.

These are mostly from today I think

This is nice thread from the Ebbsfleet Chatroom
which shows where some of the Ebbsfleet fan's heads are at.
This is the man behind it all's take on the first match.
A rather cynical piece about the first game and the whole project by the Observer.
The Telegraph are also keen to focus on the disaffected Ebbsfleet fans
This is an optimistic piece about the whole project in the Independent on Sunday where the journalist keeps asking himself questions. Why? I don't know. Did I like it? Not sure. Some good facts about other similar projects at the end of the piece.

...and these are mostly from earlier in the week

A piece from the day of the announcement of the proposed take over from the Independent
and this is another one -they are sort of crowing about the fact they got the story first I think.
This from last Thursday is from Time Magazine no less. (I've been posting links to stories about Pompey in one of my other blogs for a few months now and I've never linked to Time Magazine before). I have however posted links to AP many a time and this is by them.
This is from the South Devon Press. The writer thinks the idea is flawed and he finishes with the line "Put their money where their mouse is" which , whilst not making sense in the context of his argument, is a cracking line.

Northern Ireland Against Denmark and Flower of Scotland

Considering that there was no team playing that I care about- yesterday was pretty exciting.

Despite beating Denmark 2-1 it is very unlikely that Northern Ireland will be going to Euro 08 next year (they have to beat Spain and hope Latvia beat Sweden). This is a shame because I'd happily listen to more commentary- with mad laughter, like this:

Some Observations.

1. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland had fantastic qualifying campaigns - (despite having to change managers) - but won't be going to Austria/Switzerland (short of a miracle in Northern Ireland's case) whereas England had a terrible campaign and are still in with a good chance. I'm pretty sure that if Scotland were in England's group they would have qualified, and so may have Northern Ireland.

2. Scotland are out because of the initial draw - (and the Belarus result). They have their best team for a generation and then get drawn in the same group as both of the last World Cup finalists. If they had been better seeded then this would not have happened but their poor seeding meant that they were still hamstrung by the legacy of Bertie Vogts. That is behind them now.

3. Lots of people in England are whining about how the amount of foreign players in the Premiership somehow undermines the national team.. This is rank nonsense - England have failed to qualify before when there were hardly any foreign players in the Premiership. More importantly- whilst England have better players than Scotland and Northern Ireland- those two countries, both of whom have a number of Premiership players, know how to play as a team - there ain't one self important gadabout amongst them - and it's that that nearly got them to the finals. If England could show the team spirit, work ethic and ambition of either Scotland or Northern Ireland then they could win in Austria and Switzerland.

...and England should get rid of their dirge like National Anthem- it just cannot compete with something like this:

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Russia hijack the Times. Boca Fans Graveyard. English Aggression and Man City.

The Times ran some silly campaign for English fans to send messages of support to Israel ahead of Saturday's Israel - Russia game. It seems that Russian fans hi-jacked the initiative (if that's the right word) and here are some of their charming e-mails.

The Guardian have run this article about Boca fans who now have their own graveyard.

The Telegraph argue that the English habit of getting stuck in is what has held us back as a team. Not sure I totally agree - they give the example of Barton - who has only played once for England (I think). What he has in common with the England players is not a desire to get stuck in but an over inflated sense of his importance in the great scheme of things.

Walt Disney may be interested in buying Derby (insert your own jokes)

Good piece in the Independent about Erikkson and Man City

Monday, 12 November 2007

Results That Seem Unlikely Today

Ipswich 6 Manchester United 0 (March 1980)

It may seem unlikely today but this was when Ipswich were probably at their best under Bobby Robson. I don't think they won any trophies in that season- but they had won the F.A. cup in 1978 and would win the Uefa Cup in 1981. I guess what was better about English football in those days was that it was possible for clubs like Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Villa (and maybe even Watford) to challenge at the very highest level- usually as a result of having very good managers.

Part One

Part Two

This is About As Good as it Gets

...until this season maybe.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Fergie, Leeds, Manager's Loyalty, Racism, Pele in Sheffield, Beckham in US

A look back at Fergie's 21 years from the Times (with some nice YouTube Videos)
This is also from the Times - 50 reasons why Leeds are Leeds, and it's funny enough, but like most non-Leeds's fans-I just don't like them.
Here's sports writer Gabriele Marcotti in the Times on manager's loyalty, racism and the church of Maradona.
The Guardian's Fiver used Fergie's 21st anniversary as an excuse to have a go at him in a quite unpleasant way that I guess they thought was funny.
Here's the Telegraph's daily round up thingy.
Here's Pele on Beckham from ESPN.
A piece in the Telegraph about Staines FC who are playing in the FA cup this weekend. Their nickname is the Linos- because Staines was once a major manufacturer of linoleum.
Good piece from the Independent about how well Juan Pablo Angel is doing in the MLS
...and a short piece here about Pele going to Sheffield for the "Sheffield invented the game" celebration. (A claim more suited for Cambridge in my opinion)

Gerrard Shocker

All sorts of reasons have been posited as to why England probably will not be going to Euro 08 - but I'm going to blame MacClaren because of his selection of Robinson, of Lescott and also of Gerrard.
Gerrard's form has dipped recently- and even though England beat Estonia last Saturday this video shows that Gerrard probably needs a rest or a good slagging or whatever it is that managers do to get players to play better.

Couple Of Berbatov Clips

Seeing as he is in the news again today here is a very silly interview with Berbatov in his homeland

..and this is what he does best

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Various Stories-Bad Managers. BBC Deal. Football Rich List. Fergie

The Guardian have a list of six managers that they thought were really bad. (Only six?)

This is from the Telegraph and is about the BBC/Sky Deal for the Championship.- What I don't understand is this. TV has developed over the last twenty years with the launching of hundreds of channels and in some ways is more fragmented-whilst at the same time football coverage had become more and more about the big clubs and has become very rigid. (It's amazing how many papers write pretty much the same articles about the same subject every day). Now of course there are millions of people all over the country interested in the big 4 clubs- but there are also millions of people who are interested in their local clubs and whilst the local press and local radio know this- it seems that Telly coverage is always moving away from developing this local interest.
Surely- with the way Telly has developed over the last twenty years there is a space for detailed coverage and discussion about local football-for local audiences -which would be funded by advertising for local businesses. It won't be the big money spinner that the Premiership is- but why should it be- it is taking place at a lower level.

..and there endeth my business plan for the day.

..enough of the bottom feeders - here is the Football Rich List- from the Telegraph- (though originally from 4-4-2 I think)

This is James Lawton on Alex Ferguson's 21 years at Man Utd in the Independent.

Silly piece in the Mail about daft goal celebrations.

Monday, 5 November 2007

With Chris Hutchings being sacked is my list of the 10 managers who I reckon may have had the least impact in the Premiership.

It's not a definitive list- and by least impact I mean good or bad- getting your team relegated means that you did have some influence.

So here are the Nomarks

1. Chris Hutchings.
Wigan 2007/8 Season. Never really had a chance to make an impact.

2. Phil Neal.
Coventry. Sacked in 1995- he did lead the club to mid-table security in the previous season- but as the club slid down the table he was shown the door.

3. David Pleat.
Sheffield Wednesday. Sacked 1997. He did manage to win Manager of the Month- but other than that nothing much happened. Relegation became an issue and was he sacked before it happened.

4. Danny Wilson.
Sheffield Wednesday. Sacked 2000. A nice bloke by all accounts but took Wednesday nowhere. Strangely David Blunkett lead the calls for his sacking.

5. Steve Wigley.
Southampton. Sacked 2004 (after 14 matches in charge). He made virtually no difference to anything.


At all.

6. Paul Sturrock
Southampton. Sacked 2004. (after less than 6 months in charge- 2 of which were June and July). Another victim of the stable chairmanship of Rupert Lowe.

7. Stuart Grey
Southampton. Sacked 2001. (after less than 3 months in charge). Posh people should not really be chairman of football clubs. Or maybe they should as long as it's Southampton.

8. David O'Leary
Aston Villa. Sacked 2006. I imagine it was difficult to have too much of an impact in any club owned by Doug Ellis but O'Leary had a go- went on to achieve virtually nothing of note and then began to have a go at the fans.

9. Roy McFarland
Bolton. Sacked 1996. Really unable to make a mark- which is a shame because he was a great player.

10. Christian Gross
Spurs. Sacked 1998. He made little impact- chairman Alan Sugar blamed the press-and then sacked him.

Of course it is often the case that is not the manager's fault at how ineffectual they are- this table is as much a list of the strange work undertaken by chairman. From the evidence above it seems that unless Wigan's chairman makes a truly remarkable appointment- they are doomed.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Hibs Fans Singing Sunshine On Leith

A couple of years ago I saw the Proclaimers at the Junction - a smallish, though most excellent, venue in Cambridge. (It was the first gig I saw in Cambridge). They were good that night- I'd guess that there were about 700-800 fans in the audience and it was good to know that the band still had a fan base- were still selling records and were still writing good songs. It seemed to me that they had found a level which was enough to sustain them in their career. It was the least they deserve.

(North of the border they have always been a massive band)

Two years later and they played again in Cambridge - this time at the much larger Corn Exchange- which they had almost sold out to an excited and at times euphoric audience.

The obvious reason why their stock had climbed over the last couple of years was because one of their songs, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), had been re- released as a charity single and had been to number one. But I don't think that was the only reason they were able to get such a large crowd at the Corn Exchange. All of their LPs are worth listening to- each one having songs that are articulate and personal reflections on love, sex or religion - and there are other songs that display a very articulate anger about hypocrisy, class or the fact that Scotland is part of the U.K. Many of these songs really get under the skin- and as such the twins have quite an intense relationship with a lot of their fans- a relationship that has quite rightly grown again over the last couple of years

Now if you mix that intensity with football and you get scenes like this:

Bloody marvellous say I.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Marcus Evans Takeover at Ipswich Town F.C.

Here are some links on the subject-and if you want to read what I think then scroll down:

Who is Marcus Evans from Money Week
Who is Marcus Evans from Wikipedia
This, I think, is the official website for one of his companies
The story reported in the East Anglia Daily Times
as is this story
The story reported in the Daily Mail
This article is from This is Money
..and I think that story is pretty much a reworking of the story from The Official Clubsite

As I have said elsewhere on this blog- I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Ipswich Town FC since going to school near there in the late seventies/early eighties and now I've moved back to East Anglia I've been to watch them a few times.

I guess today could feature large in the not inconsequential history of the club as it has been announced that businessman Marcus Evans has bought the club. I don't know how this story will pan out -but the fact that Evans is successful, a bit reclusive and shadowy (as in private) means that there may be the kind of moral indignation that some journo's (especially those from the Guardian and those who have been refused access) and some fans (usually those from rival clubs) like to show. I'm not sure how Ipswich fans will feel about it- the club is doing rather well- a young team- the product of what is a really good scouting system (particularly in the Republic of Ireland). They are very well organised and could quite easily make the play-offs this season. Something like this could destabalise what has been built up.

However ITFC do have massive debts- a result of getting carried away last time they were in the Premiership (and something that resulted in them in having to flog off all the young players that had come up through the club). It would be nice to see Evans allowing the club to continue to develop the way it has over the last year or so- with his money being used to support what Magilton has being doing rather than replacing it.

So here are two predictions- it's the Summer of 2010 and Ipswich have just finished in a decent mid-table position in the Premiership- the only blip being two humiliating defeats by Pompey- and the Republic of Ireland-with a team built around a number of decent young Ipswich players are about to do rather well in the World Cup.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Five Players I wish I'd seen play live

These are in no particular order.

Johan Cruyff.

I started to become obsessed with football during the 1974 World Cup. My seventh birthday was on the day of the final-and my birthday party revolved around watching the game. From that point until I was about 13 or 14- the only team that I really supported was the Dutch national team- though that support really only consisted of watching them lose in the final again in 1978 and having a Dutch Subbuteo team.

Anyway here's a video.

Brilliant Orange is the best book I've ever read about Dutch football-(and is probably one of the best books I've read about football).

George Best

I remember seeing him on the telly towards the end of his career when he was at Fulham- (I can clearly remember seeing the match when he and Rodney Marsh, who was his own team mate, starting tackling each other). However the only time I saw him in a football ground was towards the end of his life when he was a regular visitor to Fratton Park. One of the times I have felt most proud about being a Pompey fan was when, after he died, instead of a minute's silence the fans at Fratton Park spontaneously started to give him a minute's round of applause and started singing his name.


Of all the people on this list- Garrincha is probably the player I would have most liked to have seen. I guess my interest really started after reading the chapter on Garrincha in Alex Bellos' book- Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life. My impression is that he was every bit as important as Pele in laying the foundations of everything that the Brazilian team was and still is today.

Stanley Matthews.

The main reason why I've included him is because my Grandad told me about 740 million times what a good player he was and my Grandad was a great bloke who knew more about football than anyone else I know.

His biography The Way It Was: My Autobiography is a good read. It's certainly better than Ashley Cole's.

Jimmy Dickinson.

Probably the best player ever to play for Pompey- you can find a short biography here. The footage is not brilliant- but the song is fantastic- much better than most of the music people put on YouTube clips.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Great British Losers, the sacking of Jol, Holloway, Liverpool's problems.

This has nothing much to do with football- it's a list of the 50 biggest British Losers in Sport from the Times.
The main story of the day is the sacking of Jol- and here is a good piece on that subject from the Times
..and this is from the Guardian on the same subject.
This is the Telegraph's round up of what papers are saying on the subject
..and this is what the Telegraph thinks.
And this is what one of their fan's thought after Spurs lost against Newcastle.

Here is what else I read and liked today...

A piece from the Times about the sanitising of the game
Also from the Times- an article about Fergie's legacy
This is from the Guardian- Liverpool's owners expect Benitez to win the Premiership. I cannot see that happening so I guess his future is not looking too bright. This is also about Liverpool's problems.
This is about Plymouth and Sylvan Ebanks Blake- who was named after a horse and who had never heard of Plymouth
...and here is Ian Holloway's weekly column from the BBC

...and this-from the West Ham (sort of) chairman is just daft.

From an e-mail sent to me by a Spurs supporting mate.

I don't think he wrote it-and it was written after last Monday's match against Newcastle and prior to the sacking of Jol. It made I laugh

"Pointless Dawson. Abyssmal first touch. Abominable awareness. Sloppy, sloppy marking. Where's his attention?

Pointless Chimbonda. Ooh, it's on his left foot! Better manoeuvre it onto his right foot, because he can't kick with his left! Ever. Tappy, tappy, manouevre, manouevre. That's it. Complete player, he. Well, half of him.

Pointless Malbranque. Huff and puff, dart and dash. Storm in a teacup. Ineffectual. Touch, tap, accelerate.... then lose it. Track back. Get shunted aside. No presence. No point.

Pointless Tainio. Kick and clatter, punt and pass. But pass to whom, to where and to what end? Run forward, run back. Look busy, do little. Pointless.

Pointless Jenas. Has everything going for him: young, tall, athletic. Should be great by now. Bottles it. Rises to the occasion about as frequently as the ice-caps melt. That should be soon, allegedly. Don't count on it. Greenland will turn tropical first.

Pointless Zokora. Stretch and strain, leap and lunge. Drive headlong into a cul-de-sac. If he rode a bike like he plays football, every time he braked he'd plunge over the front wheel. Used to be a good player, so they say. Must've been a while back now. Lost in the mists of time.

Pointless Lennon. Quick, quick, run, run. No control. Kick like a girl. Has been sussed. Stuck in time, frozen in development. Speed not enough now. What for those chunky little legs if they can't thump the damn ball into the net once in a while? What for that pace without craft? Just a sprinter with a ball.

Pointless Bent. Pointless, despite pointless service from pointless Jenas and pointless Zokora et al. Conjure something from nothing, lad! Deliver us a £16.5 million wondergoal! Hell, no! Just run aimlessly around and get coralled into corners.

Pointless Keane. Flick, blame, shout. Over-complicate. But don't do the simple thing. Ooh noo! Not. The. Simple. Thing.

Pointless Berbatov. A Rolls-Royce engine stuck in a Ford Fiesta. By which I mean Spurs are the Fiesta. The engine can really move but the chassis can't. Class of his own. No wonder he's pissed off. Realises he's in a pub team. He's painting Rembrandts and the rest are drawing matchstick men. Even the coach. That's what makes him really sad. Really really. And us. He knows it's hopeless. So do we. And pointless.

Pointless Spurs. How deep does the sickness go? How can a club have parts that are greater than the whole? Most of these pointless players are - in reality or potentially - good, or at least not all bad. But, as a team, they suck. They don't just suck, they blow. Then they suck some more.

Is there a Midas touch in reverse operating at White Hart Lane? Does everything that's gold turn to base metal? If not, why doesn't Jenas grow, Lennon ripen, Dawson mature, Zokora develop? Why must Kaboul's exuberance be his undoing - and that of Spurs? What corrosion is eating away at the fabric of players' confidences and abilities? And why are their reactions so slow, their movements so languid? Why is their thinking so sluggish? So often the simple ball forward into space is withheld. The moment passes and, inevitably, momentum is lost: the ball goes sideways or backwards. So often we lose out in 50-50 challenges, or even challenges that are 60-40 in favour. So often our players get caught in possession. Does Time move in slow-motion for a Spurs player? While he's got his foot over the ball - either pretending he's Colossus or else totally perplexed over what to do with it - some whippet from the other side nabs it.

Pointless: another game which illustrates the redundancy and sheer incompetence of the current coaching team. We aren't even treading water: we're sinking.

Oh, and pointless putting Cerny in goal until he's equipped with a proper defence. It wasn't his fault he let in three. No wonder Robinson looks a nervous wreck."

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Rochdale-not very good, God, Irish spin their own failure and the origins of football.

Rochdale are officially the least successful club in the history of English League football. From the Telegraph.
This is pure spin- also from the Telegraph- the FAI are eschewing all responsibility and are passing the buck over selecting their next manager- and are then patting themselves on the back over their decision making.
Cracking article this-from the Independent about the role of religion in the formation of a number of football clubs.
..and talking of origins-this from the Telegraph is about the 150th anniversary of Sheffield FC-officially the oldest club in the world. The article mentions the Cambridge University Team-which formed a year before Sheffield- so they are really the oldest club in the world and, in case you are interested, the plaque to commemorate this fact is pretty close to my house. Here's a BBC Cambridge report on the subject - (of Cambridge Uni. being the oldest club - not it happening close to my house)

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year ShortList

Up Pompey by Chuck Culpepper has made the William Hill Sports Book of the Year short list.

You can see the long and short lists here

Could be a nice footnote to what is starting to look like Pompey's best season ever.

Russia England Match Reports.

I'm doing this to let off steam really but here is a round up of what the newspapers thought about England's defeat in Russia

This is the Times Report- there are links on the page to other articles reflecting on England's defeat.
Here's the Guardian's report.
Also from The Guardian- this is what Hiddink thought (and I think he's right about Lescott)
The Telegraph has round up of what the tabloids think- with useful links to the Sun and the Mirror.
Their match report is here.
The Independent says this.

If Russia do beat Israel the I suppose there is some solace in that the dull feeling I get when watching England failing to live up to expectations happened yesterday- and I won't have to experience it next summer.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

England Managers-by Brian Glanville. Book Review.

Brian Glanville's view of each England manager from Walter Winterbottom to Steve MacClaren.

This was a enjoyable book by a man with over half a century of experience writing about the game. In it you will get Glanville's measure of the various men who have held this difficult and quite strange job.

Briefly stated he argues that:

Walter Winterbottom held the job when the F.A. could almost be regarded as a branch of the civil service and that you could almost view Winterbottom as a bureaucrat- secure in his job despite mediocre results. Also that he suffered the loss of key players in the Munich aircrash, was compromised by in-fighting at the F.A. and was still, at least formally, expected to produce results despite the existence of the F.A. selection committee.

Sir Alf Ramsey was clearly successful as a manger- but as a man he was always keen to distance himself from his working class background in Dagenham- and who ended his days unhappily in a modest house in Ipswich.

Don Revie- was thin skinned, deeply superstitious, possibly a cheat and whose main motivation seemed to be money.

Ron Greenwood's biggest influence on the national team probably came in the sixties when his West Ham team produced Hurst, Peters and Moore who would be key players in the team that won the World Cup. By the time he becomes England manager he is past his prime.

Bobby Robson is a manager who rode his luck only to find it failing him at key moments (Maradona's handball and penalty defeat by Germany). He also had a troubled relationship with the press- as did....

Graham Taylor, a poor manager who was out of his depth.

(In defence of these two managers the eighties and ninties saw a loutish, ill mannered style of football journalism establish itself. If you study it I'm pretty sure that you can trace the origins of the "footy" fans' habit of booing England players-like Lampard, Heskey and Hargreaves- back to this style of half witted journalism.)

Terry Venables, who unlike Ramsey never seemed embarrassed about his Dagenham roots, got the job too late. A bright, creative man but he was distracted by questionable business dealings.

Glen Hoodle undermined his own abilities with his awkward relationship with the players. (Strangely Glanville feels that the problem with Hoddle's use of a faith healer was that the players were too conservative to accept it-rather than the more orthodox view that it is rather odd for the England manager to be using a faith healer)

Kevin Keegan at times had the ability to transcend his limitations- but ultimately proved to be feeble and was prone to being over emotional.

Eriksson handled the pressure well and was unfortunate with injuries to key players at key moments. He was also totally irresponsible in his behaviour of the pitch and was the beneficiary of a ridiculous contract.

Steve MacClaren- Wretched- a man who scribbles notes on the sidelines while the team play awfully on the pitch.

This book was written before MacClaren's England beat Russia 3-0- a game shaped in part by the selection of Heskey- which I'm sure only happened because of injuries and suspensions. Since then MacClaren's fortunes have been on the rise and he now has a chance to save his job, his reputation and maybe his career. Glanville points out the role that luck plays in the job- and maybe a few more strokes of luck, like the one that saw the Heskey selection, might mean that England manage to get to the later stages of the Euro 08 finals despite the fact that job did once seem to be a little way beyond MacClaren's abilities.

I do have a couple of reservations about this book. Glanville is a journalist and his skill is writing pithy and engaging assessments of managers, players and matches for newspapers and this is how this book reads- a series of succinct insights- often very accurately made- but made at the expense of any overarching narrative. At times I found it difficult to follow the line of his arguments obscured as it was by a list of rapidly made observations made about players, matches and opposition managers. I felt that the book could have probably been edited a little bitter.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Euro 08 Previews, Bobby Robson, 50 Greatest Transfers.

The European Cup is still a year away- but this article is a pretty good preview focusing on the host nations Austria and Switzerland. (Guardian)
Also looking forward to Euro 08 here's a good article about the recent success of the Romanian national team. (Guardian)
It looks like Northern Ireland will not be going to Euro 08. This article, from the Independent, looks at why.
As a preview to the England Russia game this article from the Telegraph looks at previous crunch matches that England have faced. It's by Henry Winter- who writes like an ITV football commentator commentates- never knowingly understated and just jam packed and rammed solid with hyperbole- which, depending on my mood, I either find entertaining or irritating .
Here's a respectful article about Bobby Robson in the Telegraph
The Times suggest that these may be the 50 greatest transfers ever.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Ipswich V. Preston


Because Pompey were playing on the Sunday I decided to take the opportunity to use the Saturday afternoon to go and watch the Ipswich Preston match with a mate.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ipswich, I suppose it comes from when, as a kid, I was sent to a military boarding school ten miles south of the town. I was there in the late seventies and early eighties and during that period Ipswich had a fantastic team and a fantastic manager.

But it’s not just the team that I’ve a soft spot for- I also like the town. The reason why is because the school I went to was Edwardian in outlook- a grim, cold, backward sort of place. So I looked forward to trips into Ipswich- which was the nearest town- with the same enthusiasm that I might have today for a trip to Dublin or New York, and odd as it may sound I’ve never quite lost that feeling.

I’ve been to see Ipswich a few times over the last couple of years and I thought this was their best performance. It was not a particularly entertaining game– but that was because for about 80 minutes Ipswich played with a structure and a discipline that gave them total control. From where I was sitting- very high in the Greene King Stand I had a great view of how Ipswich kept their shape in a way to constantly dictate the pattern of the game. Preston on the other hand looked clueless and totally out of their depth when confronted by such a professional performance. So it was no surprise that Ipswich took a two goal lead.

I was impressed with the way Ipswich played-though from what other fans said they are not like this away from home, but based on this performance I could see no reason why a team that plays with such professional diligence wouldn’t make the play-offs. But what about after that- could they cope with promotion?

I think the answer came in the last five minutes. Preston brought on Neil Mellor and suddenly the whole game changed. Mellor is a Premiership quality player though problems with his weight and with injuries has seen him drop down a division.

Here’s a video of what he was capable of.

He instantly transformed the game, he took up positions in between the Ipswich defenders in a way that forced them to adapt to what he was doing- and he could drop deep-and in doing so hit one fantastic pass out to the wing- a real flash of Premiership quality. In the end he won a somewhat dubious penalty- which he scored. You were left wondering why Preston did not bring him on earlier.

And that will be Ipswich’s problem – being well organised and professional in the way they play could possibly take them out of this division - but I don’t yet think they can cope with the kind of quality that Mellor showed in the last few minutes of the game , which is exactly what they will find week in, week out in the Premiership

Click on the picture of Paul Mariner to see Ipswich in their prime beat Man Utd 6-0

What I thought about Pompey V. Fulham.

Benjy's goal

Here’s a few thought’s about Pompey’s performance in last Sunday’s game.

1. The atmosphere amongst the Pompey fans was great as usual- but there did seem to be the kind of buzz that I last felt when we got promoted.
2. It was a great defensive performance in the first half – Fulham were working hard but James and the back four were able to deal with them.
3. However in the first half the Pompey midfield were not really clicking- there was a lack of ambition and imagination in the passing, and there were too many miss-hit passes. The wide men- particularly Utaka seemed reluctant to push forward- probably nervous about exposing the full backs after last week’s 4 conceded goals.
4. Which meant that in the first half Benjy was isolated - I remember one time when he received the ball whilst being marked by 4 Fulham players.
5. So in the first half with the exception of Utaka’s counter attacking break away run (…and what a goal that we have been) a Pompey goal seemed to be unlikely – at half time I thought we were looking at a 0-0 draw.
6. But – in the second half the Pompey midfield started to play with the verve and swagger of a team that had just scored 7 goals in 1 game.
7. The fact that Benjy’s goal was deflected takes nothing away from how good it was. He took the goal with the immense confidence of a top quality player who is at the peak of his game. Davis’ pass wasn’t bad either
8. Having our left back score in two consecutive games means that we are now a bit like the great Ajax team of the early seventies. ( I just wanted to type that)
9. 2-0 was a fair result- but it should have been 3-0 and I don’t think Fulham would have many complaints if it had been 4-0.

I think a lot of people are saying that this is the best Pompey team for half a century- and with this defensive performance ( my MotM was Distin- he was immense) and with the flashes of attacking brilliance in the second half I can see why.

My journey back to Cambridge after the match was awful (though the fact that the phrase “replacement bus service” fills me with an awful chill dread probably indicates how easy my life probably is). To alleviate the boredom I got chatting to a 15 year old Fulham fan, also from Cambridge – who wished Fulham could defend half as well as Pompey had- otherwise they might be relegated. I hope they do stay up- I like Craven Cottage- especially the walk there along the Thames- and it is an away fixture that always feels like we are at home.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Last Time Pompey Got Seven

..we won the League

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

There Is Something Smart At Work Here

I think this blog is rather good - a chance to hear a load of themes from old T.V. football shows. Check the other 200% sites listed on the right of the linked page for some more brilliant football music.

Listening to the Big Match theme I can almost smell the Sunday roast.


I found this in an old annual I picked up in a second hand book shop. Shin pads made out of breeze blocks.