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Month: February 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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Shit Shot Mungo – Episode 4

Well, yes. It’s Thursday night, so it’s time for a break from all this depressing stuff about football clubs going bust and time for another episode of “Shit Shot Mungo”, the cartoon which features everybody’s favourite incompetent Scottish footballer (insert your own jokes here). This week, in the light of Heart of Clackmannanshire’s 2-0 home defeat by 73rd Lanark, local hack Fleetwood MacAlbatross has some harsh words for The Clackers’ manager, Henny Jings. Meanwhile, Mungo demonstrates his own trademark style of training. Artwork courtesy of Ted “The Neck” Carter. Molto...

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And This Week’s Crisis Club Is… Darlington

The most surprising thing about Darlington’s announcement of insolvency today is twofold. Firstly, it’s surprising that they are the first Football League club to have sunk this far this season. After all, it is almost March. Secondly, it’s surprising that it is Darlington that managed to get to the insolvency practitioners first. There have been plenty of clubs (for reasons that we have been into on here before, Southampton spring immediately to mind) that have looked like they are sailing close to the wind, but Darlo have pipped them all to the post. The question now for the League Two club is whether this is the beginning of the end or an opportunity to build a new beginning on a more sustainable basis. The announcement was made this afternoon, ironically only a day after a new sponsorship deal was announced with local newspaper, The Northern Echo. The club is said to be £5m in debt and losing money hand over fist with crowds having fallen this season in spite of the fact that they were pushing hard for a place in the League Two play-offs. The automatic ten point deduction from the Football League is a massive blow to them, but even this wouldn’t run their season. It would drop them from seventh place, in the play-off places and with a decent chance of winning automatic promotion, to twelfth...

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The 20 “Most Important” Football Clubs In The World

It doesn’t do any of us any harm to occasionally remind ourselves of the sheer blustering pomposity of the biggest clubs in football. Tonight’s ambassadors for “giving the fans what they want” (as ever, a thin mask for “making more money for ourselves”) are Milan, who had some very important opinions to give on the subject of a European Super League. “”I still believe a European league will be an unavoidable step, though it may take more time than expected,” said the Milan director Umberto Gandini. “Between the 50 most important continental clubs, none would give up playing in their respective countries”. Disregarding the increasingly popular opinion that perhaps the “most important” clubs should perhaps be expelled from all other competitions, packed onto a space shuttle with anyone that likes the idea of Milan playing Manchester United every week for the rest of eternity and sent to Jupiter so that they can get on with it there without inflicting it upon the rest of us, the use of the phrase “most important” which is the giveaway. The winding up of G14 and subsequent inclusion of the biggest clubs into the European Clubs Association was supposed to put an end to all of this, but it was simplistic to assume that the more atavistic tendencies of the biggest clubs would vanish merely because Michel Platini invited them for tea and...

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