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Day: May 11, 2010

Match Of The Midweek 1: Nottingham Forest 3-4 Blackpool

It’s all back to The City Ground, then, for the second leg of the Championship play-off, and the people of Nottingham clearly have better thing to do than worry about who will or won’t be forming the next government this evening. They’ve got Blackpool to worry about. Their trip to the seaside at the weekend was some distance from what one might describe as “the Premier League experience”. The travelling supporters were housed in a temporary, roofless stand while the two teams played out a high tempo match on a bumpy pitch with a high wind swirling around. This evening, though, they’re back on home turf and it feels rather as if everything is back under their control. The City Ground is, after all, a Premier League ground in most respects. Only the Main Stand feels like a throwback, and that was only built in 1965. Sitting opposite it, The Brian Clough Stand was opened in 1980 but it was a prototype for the steel and glass that we take for granted today and certainly wouldn’t look out of place mixing it amongst the best. The current team, however, may be a slightly different matter. They finished third in the table but didn’t often look like seriously troubling Newcastle United or West Bromwich Albion for one of the automatic promotion places, and in the first leg of this tie...

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Memories Of The UEFA Cup

When I was growing up in the 1970s, it was always the UEFA Cup, of the three European club competitions, which caught my imagination. This was mainly, but not exclusively, because my team at the time, Tottenham, were winners, beaten semi-finalists and beaten finalists during my first three years following the game. It was never properly explained to me why the unlamented Cup Winners’ Cup remained officially regarded as Europe’s second tournament behind the old-fashioned Champions’ Cup (the historical reasons I’ll touch on below). It wasn’t just in England that some dippy teams won the Cup. West Ham summed up for me all that was wrong with the Cup Winners’ Cup. The Hammers simply not very good in 1975/6, the season they got to the Cup Winners’ Cup final. They finished in the bottom six that year and the next, and were relegated in 1977/8. And when they got back to the competition in 1980/81, their first round opponents were Castilla – Real Madrid’s reserves. The Champions’ Cup during the first half of the 70s was just that bit beyond the English champions. And if the English champions (or Celtic) weren’t involved, neither was Sportsnight, then the home of European ties, with the distorted commentaries, loud horns in the crowd and that “continental” match ball with the black pentagons, which was simply exotic compared to the all-white English ball....

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The Bradford Fire Revisited

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bradford Fire. In view of this, we are this morning republishing an article that first appeared on this site in May 2007. Perhaps it’s the extremely close proximity that it had to Heysel. Perhaps it was because it was dwarfed by Hillsborough, just four years later or by the Heysel Stadium disasaster, which came just two and a half weeks after it. Perhaps it was just because it occurred at a match between two of English football’s less glamorous clubs, but the Bradford Fire feels like one of British football’s hidden tragedies. Yet the events of Valley Parade on the 11th of May 1985 were, effectively, the beginning of the series of events that culminated in where we are today in terms of stadium safety and design. You have to think very hard about it, but the simple fact of the matter is that the majority of English football stadia were anything like what would be described, by modern standards, as “safe” in the early 1980s. You can count on the fingers of both hands the number of new stands that had been built in the decade prior to 1985, and no team had moved into a new stadium in thirty years. The only significant development in crowd control in that thirty year period were the fences that went up around the...

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