Month: September 2006

An Incontinent Blatter

Everyone’s favourite interventionist autocrat has been up to his old tricks again. This time, good old Sepp Blatter has been whining that penalty shootouts are no way to finish a World Cup, and that we can look forward to changes in time for South Africa 2010. Blatter has gone on record as saying that he favours reducing the number of players on the pitch, although replays are also still being considered. So, again, the greatest football tournament in the world is to be used as an experimental guinea pig. Blatter, of course, is the man that gave the world the Golden Goal and it’s idiot younger brother, the Silver Goal. You’ll forgive me if my excitement at whatever new bauble he decides to add to the end of these matches is somewhat tempered. There is a case for replacing penalty shootouts, of course. They are kind of, well, repetitive. Whilst Chris Waddle’s tortured face is etched into the mind of the England supporter, I can scarcely remember who missed for England against Portugal in Germany earlier this year. Lampard, Gerrard, ummm… Downing? First, a quick history lesson. Penalty shootouts weren’t actually introduced until 1982. Until then, FIFA had scheduled replay dates, but they were only very seldom required to use them. In 1974 and 1978, the finals were the only matches that even required replay dates. I’d hazard a...

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The Under-Achievers

It’s six weeks since the new season started, and I have to say that the sunny optimism has worn off. A fourth defeat in a row (albeit a very unfortunate one) yesterday means that St Albans are now in freefall towards the Nationwide Conference relegation zone, but at least we had the advantage of low expectations to begin with. Others haven’t had that small consolation. In all four divisions of the Football League, there are a clubs whose supporters must be scratching their heads and wondering where it is all going wrong. One of the great things about English football is it’s balance between permanence and fluidity. Considering the slipshod way that many football clubs are run, it’s little short of a miracle that only a handful of League clubs have ever gone bust yet, at the same time, the opportunity is there for a team to improve itself indefinitely. Fifteen years ago, Wigan Athletic were in danger of dropping out of the League altogether. Now, thanks in no small part to Dave Whelan and his JJB Sports chain, they’re a Premiership football club. There is just enough upward and downward mobility to ensure that most clubs can feel safe and secure, but not too safe and secure. This season, there is a team in each division that I would consider to be massively under-achieving. In the Premiership, I...

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On The Hour, Every Hour

I’m starting to think that I may be a curse on some of these managers. Earlier on in the season, I took a little time to have a look at how Niall Quinn was getting on at Sunderland (considering their upturn under Roy Keane, Quinn must now qualify as one of the worst managers in the history of English football), and now it’s Kevin Blackwell’s turn – booted out of Elland Road by Captain Birdseye with Dirty Leeds almost propping up The Championship and looking like a decent punt to be relegated. In a way, he’s been a victim of his own (relative success). Leeds weren’t expected to do anything last season, but did very well to make the play-off final, although they were utterly outplayed by Watford at The Millenium Stadium and were, eventually, well beaten. This raised the bar of expectation at Elland Road, but the reality of the situation is that no more money was available to buy any players. Their start to the season has been quite dreadful, but this has only been amplified by the fact that their supporters expect another go at the play-offs this season. The issue of admission fees has also started to appear on the agenda there as well – it’s entirely plausible to argue that Blackwell has been offered by Harold Shipman as a sacrificial lamb to deflect criticism...

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All Bunged Up

Due to my shift patterns at work, I’ve not been able to update this week, when I had intended to. I had hoped to round up all of last weekend’s excitement and a quick look at the midweek fixtures this evening, but the fact of the matter is that it all really pales in comparison with tonight’s “Panorama” investigation into bungs in football. All in all, the programme was a bit of a disappointment, but it was always going to be considering the hype that had preceded it. We were told that there would be 6-8 Premiership managers collared, and that the revelations would “rock the game to its’ foundations”. But was this ever going to happen? Well, maybe. Suspiciously large amounts of the end of the programme looked as if they’d been hacked to pieces at the hands of an over-cautious editor, but let’s have a quick look at what they did get. Well, Sam Allardyce was the focus of the lion’s share of the programme, and both he and the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside have some serious questions to answer. The issue of a manager’s son being an agent is one that has been covered before (cf: Alex Ferguson and his son), but the extent to which everybody at Bolton appeared to have their snouts in the trough was amazing, to the extent of bypassing the FA’s...

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Dirty, Dirty Leeds

Tonight at Elland Road, Leeds United play Sunderland in the Championship (for the sake of avoiding confusion, I will be reverting to these competitions current names, rather than using their old ones). It is, in it’s own peculiar way, a significant match. Have Sunderland really turned the corner under the tutelage of Roy Keane? And as for Leeds… well, they were lovable for a while. Allow me to explain. For the last few years, Leeds have had a surge in popularity. They were the anti-Manchester United. They seemed to have no great plans towards world domination, and they found themselves in the semi-finals of the European Cup and almost winning the Premiership a couple of times. They did it, of course, using a somewhat extraordinarily profilgate financial policy which, when it fell it apart (as it was always inevitably going to), led to the resignation of all concerned and an extremely sudden fall from grace. And then… Ken Bates. Those with so much as a cursory knowledge of football will be fully aware that there are plenty of rogues involved in football, but few come close to Ken Bates. From his shady background in property development, through the purchase of Chelsea, his desire to put an electric fence up around Stamford Bridge, and the (what would have been, had it it not been for the timely intervention of a...

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