Day: April 28, 2008

Tuesday Night Fever

The Premier League has two weeks to play and the Football League finishes next weekend, but for the semi-professional clubs that make up the sprawling pyramid of the non-league game, the normal league season has already ended and the play-offs are about to start. First introduced in 2004, the non-league play-off system has been highly successful, pushing up crowds towards the end of the season, increasing mobility between divisions (many divisions only promoted their champions beforehand, most now promote two now) and provide a useful little cash bonus for clubs hosting matches at the end of each season. The play-offs start this week, with matches being played on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll be using the sponsors’ names this evening, for once. The Blue Square Premier: The BSP plays it slightly differently to the other leagues, in that the semi-finals of its play-offs are played over two legs, rather than as one-off matches. The matches are to be played on Thursday and Friday night of this week, and Monday and Tuesday of next week, with the final to be played at Wembley on Sunday 18th May, with a place in the Football League at stake. The first match is between Burton Albion and Cambridge United. Since appointing Nigel Clough as their manager in 1998, Burton have made steady progress up the non-league...

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The Hype Factory

Such, it would appear, is the level of antipathy between Manchester United and Chelsea at the moment that the Manchester United players are now incapable of warming down on the pitch after a match at Stamford Bridge without some sort of fight breaking out. The arguments over who did what to whom and who threw the first punch aren’t particularly edifying, and took the gloss off what was otherwise a Good Day At The Office for Chelsea, who are continuing to chip away at Manchester United’s lead at the top of the Premier League Table. On the pitch, it was all surprisingly entertaining stuff (although the BBC’s Jonathan Pearce did himself and the journalistic reputation of the corporation no harm by claiming that a global audience of a billion people were watching – a claim that seems far fetched to say the least), with Chelsea deserving to win the match in spite of not playing terribly well. It was a bad day for United, and in particular for their reputation for being terrible, terrible losers. Alex Ferguson’s claim that the absolute stonewall penalty that won the match shouldn’t have been awarded (it’s hardly as if United concede a penalty every week now, is it?) and Rio Ferdinand apparently accidentally kicking a female steward in the tunnel after the match were, if nothing else, symbolic of the way that the...

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