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Month: April 2009

Shit Shot Mungo: Episode 13

It’s time for your weekly dose of Mungo. This week, with the Scottish giants perilously close to being relegated, the club’s eccentric, magnet magnate chairman takes radical action which may not prove to be as successful as he would hope. Scribbling, as ever, is by the effervescent Dotmund, and you can embiggenate it here. For the record, I will be fiddling with the code on here tonight in advance of a completely new look for the start of next season, so you may find that it occasionally looks a bit strange here. I will try and keep the upset...

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In Praise Of… Play-Offs

It’s almost that time of year again. The non-league end of season play-offs started last night with wins for Hampton & Richmond Borough and Eastleigh in the Blue Square South, and tonight the clubs of the Blue Square North do battle in the first part of their end of season mini-tournament. The Football League ends this weekend, and there is a sizeable group of people that now count the Championship Play-Off final at the end of May as being a more important match than the FA Cup Final. There remains, however, a minority of people that continue to regard the end of season play-offs as being a sop to money and exhibitionism which overlooks the performance of clubs throughout the course of a season. People are right to be wary of anything that compromises the sanctity of league football, but they are looking in the wrong place when they criticise play-offs. Firstly, end of season play-off matches are nothing like a recent invention. Between 1893 and 1899 they were used between what were then the two divisions of the Football League before being scrapped in favour of automatic promotion and relegation. They weren’t called anything as vulgar as “play-offs”, of course. They were called “test matches”, and were played at first by the bottom three teams in Division One and the top three team in Division Two in a...

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Match Of The Week: FC Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea

So, it’s a Champions League semi-final and this isn’t merely Barcelona versus Chelsea. It’s “Mas que un club” versus Chelsea, Catalunya versus Chelsea and Europe versus the Premier League. Has it come to this? Are Barcelona the only continental club that can take on the swagger of the Premier League and give them a game? It certainly seems so, though Milan will probably be back in this competition next season. Part of Barcelona’s continuing ability to stay roughly in touch with the top Premier League clubs is down to the Spanish television deal which allows them to sell their rights without any collective bargaining, but it’s also in part down to the sheer scale of the club. Everything about Barcelona is massive. The Camp Nou is the biggest football stadium in Europe, holding over 98,000 people, and it’s due to be expanded to hold 110,000 people soon. It may be an optical illusion, but even the pitch looks huge, with the players dwarfed by everything surrounding them. The noise, the colour, the crackling tension – on a night like this, it’s a full sensory overload. In their two previous Champions League matches, they have been 4-0 up at half-time. The expectations are as massive as the Camp Nou itself, and it is this level of expectation that might be Barcelona’s achilles heel. Their results for this season make for...

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Newcastle On The Precipice

When you don’t pay much attention to the Premier League, it becomes pretty easy for it to become a noise in the background. True enough, it’s a shrill, shrieking noise – the sound of a child in a supermarket after its mother has bought Ready Brek rather than Coco Pops – but it soon becomes little more than a drone in the background. I’m told that this is what tinnitus is like. I mention this now because until this evening I had no idea how properly bad Newcastle United are at the moment. You read about it in passing and snigger to yourself at the idea of Alan Shearer, with no managerial experience whatsoever, taking charge of a club in freefall and running the risk of becoming possibly the first ever Newcastle manager to manage no wins whatsoever during his time in charge at St James Park. You look down the team sheet, and it doesn’t look so bad on paper. Shay Given might have gone, but Steve Harper had always been a reasonable deputy in goal, Damien Duff has always seemed like a lively enough kind of player and Michael Owen may have lost a couple of yards in pace but should have gained at least half a yard in wiliness. You look at Hull City, who may have been in a state of civil war since before...

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Match Of The Week – AFC Wimbledon 3-0 St Albans City

In the morning came the doubts and the what ifs. What if half-time comes and Hampton are five up at Maidenhead? However unlikely it seemed, there was no mathematical certainty to Wimbledon’s promotion into the BSP until five o’clock but, back in the real world, everyone knows that the game is already up. On a bright, sunny spring afternoon, they come to see the coronation, and they come – not for the first time this season – in extraordinary numbers. The crowd is an all-ticket 4,722 and tickets had sold out several days ago. Take a moment to consider that. The regional sixth division of English football, almost 5,000 people (had Kingsmeadow been able to hold more people, it would have been higher) have turned out. Extraordinary, by any standards, and a testament to the pulling power of this remarkable football club and the strength in depth of English football. St Albans City are the foils for this, and they play the part to perfection. Although the championship is not mathematically certain, they still form a guard of honour for Wimbledon as the team takes to the pitch and then, after showing some resistance in the first half, eventually roll over and allowed their bellies to be tickled. The exception to this rule is the Saints’ goalkeeper Paul Bastock. The best goalkeeper that I have seen at Clarence Park...

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