Month: August 2009

The FA Cup 2009/10: Worthing 4-0 Raynes Park Vale

As the new season sleepwalks into life the FA Cup has, before August is even finished, already reached its second round. The names in the Preliminary Round of the competition start to have a familiar feel to them. They’re the little clubs up the road that most of us don’t visit that often. Worthing Football Club are in Division One South of the Ryman League. They have been in or around the play-off positions in that league for the last couple of seasons, but this season hasn’t started very well for them. They have just a single 1-0 win against Sittingbourne to show for their four league matches so far and are sitting closer to the relegation places at this early stage than they might find comfortable. Their opposition today is Raynes Park Vale, of the Combined Counties League. They play their home matches in front of around forty-five people at the Prince George Playing Fields, which had been a proposed site for an academy for Wimbledon Football Club during the 1990s. They have already played two matches in this year’s competition, beating Farnham Town after a replay in the Extra Preliminary Round. In blue shirts, blue shorts and yellow socks, they look at first glance as if they may be paying a tribute to the Chelsea team that won the competition in 1970. This, though, is where the...

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Bournemouth’s Transfer Embargo Continues

AFC Bournemouth overcame a seventeen point deduction to stay in League Two but, as Mark Murphy writes, their problems didn’t finish there. It could be argued that the greatest condemnation of the Football League’s “Fit and Proper Person” test was that Ken Bates could pass it. This, however, may no longer be the case – not because of anything Bates himself has done, but because of the serial mismanagement of AFC Bournemouth’s affairs last season – which has emerged from the Football League’s explanation for maintaining the strictest possible transfer embargo on the South Coast club. Current Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell issued a statement three days after meeting league officials at their Preston HQ this week to discuss the embargo’s future. While Notts County can add the equivalent of a small country’s Gross Domestic Product to their salary bill apparently without breaching League Two’s salary cap, Bournemouth cannot currently even loan a player from another club. Football League regulations allow these two contrasting circumstances to apply, despite what is supposed to be a ‘level playing field’ because of the mismanagement skills of gentlemen called Alastair Saverimutto and Paul Baker. Sol Campbell’s £40,000-per-week keeps Notts’ salary bill below 60% of turnover because their new owners, Middle East consortium Munto Finance, are paying Campbell’s wages outside of the club’s actual turnover, even though the financiers behind Munto are yet to be...

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Brian Little – Slow Decline Or Varied Career?

If you watch a match this afternoon, take a moment if possible to look into the eyes of your manager. If your team is winning you may think that you see happiness, but it’s not. It’s relief and respite. If your team is losing or drawing you may just get to see a haunted soul. Ironically, given that it is statistically likely that most managers will lose as many games as they win, the life of the football manager is one of surviving from one match to the next. In the most extreme circumstances, one match can lose a manager his job and, in select cases, destroy his reputation. Managers in the Premier League are the top of their game. At the prime of their game, and it’s a long way down. Even some of the most established Premier League managers will be more than aware that their reputations will only last for as along as their teams can keep their heads above water. It is an insecure profession and, since all managers have been players at some point, they know it. It is, therefore, likely that some older managers may have shivered yesterday when a minor announcement appeared, almost as a footnote at the bottom the sports news. Gainsborough Trinity, of the Blue Square North, have hired Brian Little as their manager. Little’s managerial career has become a...

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Geoff Sheard: Newcastle’s Knight In Shining Armour?

Geoff Sheard is sniffing around at Newcastle United, but Mark Murphy is less than convinced that he is the right man to lead Newcastle United to a bright, new dawn. The list of potential bidders since Mike Ashley first considered selling Newcastle (about two weeks after buying it, some reports would have had you believe) could fill its own page Yellow Pages. Inter-Media Partners, Anil Ambani, Nasser Al-Kharafi, Clark Hunt, Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, Profitable Group, Freddie Shepherd and even “some Nigerians that don’t exist”. Ordinarily at this point I’d be saying I made those last three up. But I didn’t. Not even ”Freddie Shepherd”.  Some have remarked that the hoax bids for Newcastle this summer have had more credibility than the real ones, and looking at that list it’s hard to disagree. Although, even the most gullible saw through The “Profitable” Group bidding for a club with an overdraft the size of a medium-sized American city’s budget deficit. So, what to make of the latest new bidder, then? Lancastrian “businessman” Geoff Sheard is fronting an “American-backed” consortium., and what Sheard doesn’t know about protracted bids for Football League Championship clubs isn’t worth knowing.  He has a wealth of experience from his go at Sheffield Wednesday. For all his wealth of knowledge, he didn’t have a wealth of, well, wealth. Which is why the Wednesday saga pretty much wrote...

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Villa’s European Adventure Ends Early

August comes to an end on Monday, and this year it will have outlived Aston Villa’s time in the 2008/09 Europa League by four days. Villa beat Rapid Vienna 2-1 at Villa Park last night, drawing 2-2 over the two legs and exiting the competition on away goals. One suspects that the inquest into the defeat is unlikely to be a very long one. The claret and blue quartier of Birmingham don’t seem to have been terribly enthused by the match, for one thing. Just over 22,000 people were all that the club could summon to turn out to watch the match. Aston Villa’s relationship with European football is certainly a peculiar one. Martin O’Neill’s decision to send a virtual reserve team into their quarter-final match in last year’s UEFA Cup against CSKA Moscow resulted in their elimination from the competition, the start of a slump in the Premier League that would go on to cost them dearly in the Premier League and cause some to wonder about his managerial abilities. Of course, one could argue that earning a place in the Champions League was his priority at the time but that particular decision can’t really be concluded to have had the desired result, considering that Arsenal ended up easing into the fourth Champions League place at a canter, although, of course, hindsight has twenty/twenty vision. Villa’s early elimination...

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