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Day: February 28, 2009

Spurs, Aston Villa & The UEFA Cup

Much as it was unsurprising, it was still a fairly depressing spectacle. On Thursday night, Aston Villa and Spurs put out reserve teams for their UEFA Cup matches against CSKA Moscow and Shakhtar Donetsk, and they both paid a predictable price for it, crashing out of the competition. It was, as if it were needed, a further reminder that football long since ceased to be about winning matches or winning trophies. It’s hardly as if either club has been over-burdened with silverware of late. Villa and Spurs have mustered three cups between them over the last twenty years – two League Cups and one FA Cup. For clubs that, until the advent of the Premier League, were giants of the English game, it is a feeble total, but I wouldn’t expect to see anything doing anything about it any time soon. The two clubs had different reasons for their actions. Aston Villa remain in with an outstanding chance of playing Champions League football next season. Fourth place in the Premier League has taken on a mystical quality in this respect. It has become the holy grail of football, and Aston VIlla will considering 2008/09 to have been an outstanding success should they end the season above Arsenal, and in a way they will be right. In another, slightly more tangible way, however, it hasn’t been. They haven’t got a...

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The Non-League Primer

Many of the idiosyncracies of non-league football remain a mystery to those that don’t watch it very often. To the average viewer of Premier League football, the nature of the non-league game often seems as baffling as it would do if they turned up and the referee was nude. Right from before the kick-off, the conventions are different. Buying tickets in advance is not usually remotely necessary and tickets can be bought on the turnstiles, usually from a grumpy, middle-aged man who, quite conspicuously, doesn’t click a ticker or make any other token gesture towards knowing how many people there are in the ground in the first place. If the ground holds 6,000 people and there are only going to be 400 people turning up at most, it doesn’t really matter. All-ticket matches are almost unheard of and, indeed, if you turn up with fifteen minutes before kick off, you’ll have time to wolf a pint down and still get inside for kick-off. Once, through the gates, the array of other entertainment harks back to a simpler age. Small clubs, strapped for cash and needing to make the most of anybody that enters into the ground will be offered programmes and raffle tickets. Non-league programmes have improved vastly over the last twenty years or so, but a new host of problems have given editors a headache. With more and...

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