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Month: November 2007

Back Of The Net

It’s Friday night, and it’s the Second Round of the FA Cup. I’m watching the match between Horsham and Swansea City as we speak, so here are some choice highlights of other stories that have grabbed my attention. – The Guardian’s “Six Of The Best” series takes a look at commentators, which has reminded me that this little blog is long overdue some mournful reminiscing about Barry Davies. – Gramsci’s Kingdom on the challenges facing Italy’s ultras. – The Baker & Kelly Website has been expanded (and about time, might I add). – Hobo Tread goes to York for the First Round of the FA Cup. – Oh bloody hell. How can this end well? – Alyson Rudd of The Times looks at Liverpool...

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The Long & Winding Road

I’m having a rare night off tonight, to refresh my frazzled batteries. So, I’m giving this place over the good people at Sportsfreak for their analysis of the current travails of the New Zealand football team. They could be set to make the World Cup Finals for the first time in nearly three decades. On the other side of the world from Europe, twelve hours before a night of European Championship qualification (or otherwise), New Zealand virtually guaranteed themselves passage through to the next round of qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup by knocking off fellow regional heavyweights Vanuatu. That’s right – the much maligned Oceania confederation is a good two years ahead of the rest of the world. Oceania has always been the ugly kid sister of the FIFA family. So much so that our dear friends over the other side of the Tasman Sea decided that it was way too lowly for them, and felt the Sheilaroos were best served by taking their toys and playing with their new friends in Asia. So now the ugly kid sister is even smaller. But it has always been a difficult group from which to qualify, largely because there is no continuity of matches of a similar standard. New Zealand have only qualified for the World Cup once before (in 1982), and in doing so set the world record...

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Schadenfreude Tuesday

I kind of meant to watch the Champions League football on ITV1 last night but, you know, “Spooks” was on BBC1 and… does anyone really care about these seemingly interminable group matches that act as wall-to-wall televisual filler between August and Christmas? I ask the question in all seriousness. Sometimes, something that I have previously written on here nestles in my head and leaves me thinking for several days and, over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about the supposed “death” of international football. Vastly overstated, if you ask me. The Champions League is supposed to the pinnacle of club football (it isn’t, by the way – in terms of quality you’re much better off checking out the Copa Libertadores when that starts in the new year if it’s quality and competition that you’re after), and my patience has been worn thin by week after week mismatched matches involving English clubs, often not playing very well, yet still managing to overcome plucky European clubs with about a tenth of their resources. It’s true to say that, in Italy, a sizeable proportion of the population (I’ve seen the figure of 70% quoted) support one of Inter, Milan or Juventus, no matter who else they go and watch. The figures are nothing like that high is England for Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool (no matter how much...

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The Runners And Riders

Finally, I’ve managed to find a spare hour to write this. First and foremost, I should mention that, in my humble opinion, none of those listed below are capable of winning the World Cup on their own, and nor do I think that their appointments will count for anything unless there is a top to bottom shake down in English football, starting with replacing the FA (all of them – every single one of them) with someone that is at least accountable, right down to changing the culture of the game to try persuade more young players to go abroad and get experience if they can’t get a first team place in this country. There is no reason whatsoever why the Richest Football League In The World can’t do this. Someone should probably remind the clubs of the Premier League that it was England’s performance in the 1990 World Cup which kick-started the resurgence of interest in the game that they are still feeling the benefits of now. Club football, by its very nature, cannot offer the shared experience of international football (no matter how much three of four clubs try to dominate it) – 11m people watched England-Croatia last Wednesday, a figure that compares favourably with the Champions League Final, which is, of course, the biggest match that club football can offer. Don’t think that advertisers don’t notice...

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Baker & Kelly

My much-postponed look at the runners and riders for the vacant England job will follow tomorrow (unless something vitally important happens overnight, which is, frankly, unlikely). For now, here’s a bit more Baker & Kelly from 2002. Part...

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