Month: August 2008

Match Of The Week – Shoreham 1-3 Kingstonian

Middle Road, Shoreham, was not the scene of one of our greatest triumphs last season. We turned up there at the start of last season for Shoreham’s FA Cup match against Horley Town and, at the end of the half-time break, whilst waiting for a drink at the bar, my eyes were drawn towards a bottle of sambuca behind the bar. I asked for two shots of it, but the barman didn’t really understand what to do with it, and gave me two large glasses of it instead. We watched the second half with one hand over our eyes and staggered home afterwards smelling vaguely of aniseed. We’re a year older and a year wiser now, though. We get to Middle Road fifteen minutes before kick off and settle for a pint instead. This is a big day for Shoreham FC – probably their biggest of the season. Crowds for their home matches rarely stretch to three figures, but their normal opposition isn’t usually of the calibre of today’s opposition, Kingstonian. The Ks are a division above them in the Ryman League Division One, but are a world away in terms of organisation. Whilst Middle Road has a Portakabin for a bar, a tiny stand and the feel of an afternoon barbecue, Kingstonian share Kingsmeadow with AFC Wimbledon. They’ve brought a reasonably large (and quite noisy) away support with...

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A Rich Tapestry

It’s the Preliminary Round of The FA Cup this afternoon, which sees 332 teams taking part for a place in the First Qualifying Round of the competition. There are, as ever, some names that everyone remembers from some point in the past if you jog their memories hard enough. The ludicrously-named FC Halifax Town, who formed during the summer when Halifax Town AFC went into liquidation, play their first ever match in the competition against Silsden, as do Nuneaton Town, who formed after the closure of Nuneaton Borough during the summer. Both of these clubs have caused the occasional upset in the past. The original Halifax Town beat Manchester City 1-0 in 1980, whilst those of you with shorter memories will remember Nuneaton Borough’s last minute penalty to earn a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough in the Third Round in 2006. They’re not the only clubs taking part at this stage with a serious FA Cup pedigree. Aylesbury United are still homeless – they’re ground-sharing with local rivals Chesham United this season while the arguments continue over whether they can find a new site within Aylesbury itself – but in better times, they knocked out Southend United & Northampton Town, and featured in a Third Round match against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road . Chasetown, also of the Southern League, held Oldham Athletic to a 1-1 draw three years...

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What To Do About The League Cup?

It’s the end of August. This means, of course, that it’s time for our annual dissection of what is wrong with the League Cup. This year’s Second Round has already been played, and it has already provided a couple of surprises, including Northampton Town beating Bolton Wanderers and Rotherham United knocking out Wolverhampton Wanderers on penalties at Don Valley Stadium. One can’t help but suspect, however, that supporters of those bigger clubs won’t be too bothered about these results should their teams win at the weekend. That is the sad truth of the League Cup at the moment. It used to be that the biggest clubs didn’t care much for it. Now, the fact of the matter is that no-one really cares much about it, and the proof is in the half-hearted attendances posted this week. The crowd of just over 19,000 at the match between Coventry City and Newcastle United was the biggest of the round, but this was the exception rather than the rule. The crowd for the match between Wigan Athletic and Notts County was 4,100. Less than 3,500 people saw Hartlepool United beat West Bromwich Albion out of the competition. Maybe no-one cares about the League Cup at all. The bitter irony is that the biggest clubs, in spite of their not caring about the League Cup, still have the best chance of winning it....

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In Praise Of… Matthew Le Tissier

As I pondered the smoking ruins of England’s match against the Czech Republic last week, my mind turned back to Matthew Le Tissier. Matthew (and it seems somewhat wrong to reduce his first name to the monosyllable of merely “Matt”) was the great lost English talent of the last thirty years in some respects, but in others he fulfilled much that many other, more “successful” players never did. It’s not all about trophies and medals, you know. Matthew, you see, was different. He was utterly unlike any other English players of his era. His style of play was languid to the point of appearing lazy to his critics, and it cost him dear in a woefully short England career, during which he was never able to amply demonstrate his talent. That talent was so unique as to appear almost other-worldly. It was almost as if coaches were unable to grasp that he played football differently to everyone else, and were scared to take a chance on him. We could do with a player of such differentness now. Measured in purely empirical terms, he could have achieved so much more. He won no major trophies in career, and never managed to play in a domestic cup final. Yet to judge players by the number of trophies that they have won alone is no accurate gauge of their ability. Le Tissier’s...

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The Managerial Merry-Go-Round Grinds Into Gear

It usually takes approximately three matches before the rumour mill starts to rotate, so it is that time again. Already, there is talk that Alan Curbishley is going to be kicked out from West Ham United, and that Harry Redknapp is going to make a “surprise” return to the East End to take over there. Lower down the football pyramid, the knives are also out for Stevenage Borough’s Graham Westley after the pre-season Conference favourites picked up just two points from their opening five matches Westley has been in charge of Stevenage for, you guessed it, five matches. Following Saturday’s defeat at Fulham, there has even been talk that Arsene Wenger may be running out of support at Arsenal. There are differing reasons for the difficulties that all of the above are facing. Curbishley is apparently likely to be the loser in a “clash of personalities” behind the scenes at Upton Park, though that particular “clash” is most likely to have been brought about by pressures on the club owners as a result of the current global financial situation. Westley is a person that divides opinion within non-league football, and is always likely to have a considerable number of critics should he run into difficulties. Wenger is feeling the strain because of circumstances that are beyond his control. Arsenal have under-performed over the last couple of years or so,...

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