Day: May 21, 2010

Watford Football Club: Safe, For 364 Days

While much focus has been on the foot of the Premier League, with the continuing financial travails of relegated Hull and Portsmouth and damn-near relegated West Ham, the foot of the Championship has seen its own three-horse mini-race to financial oblivion. Damn-near relegated Crystal Palace remain favourites, despite a late run from relegated Sheffield Wednesday who have had a week of internal warfare to match anything that clubs such as Southampton and Liverpool could offer. And Watford are now bringing up the rear, “saved” from administration by major shareholder Lord Michael Ashcroft, who has put the club on the road to recovery. For 364 days at least. When this column last looked at Watford’s off-field problems, club legend Graham Taylor was busy muttering “do I not like that” at the boardroom politics of the club, particularly those of chairman Jimmy Russo and his brother Vinny. The Russo brothers have been long-standing financial supporters of the club and major club shareholders (29%) and equally long-standing sources and focuses of antagonism. It was this mix which led to Watford Leisure’s farcical AGM just before last Christmas. The Russos had, via their “Valley Green Salads” company, kept Watford going throughout 2009 with a series of loans so frequent they were given their own names (“the January Loan”, “the July Loan,” “the August Loan,” and so on).  By December, these had totalled £4.93m....

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World Cup Preview: Group F

The 2010 World Cup kicks off in just three weeks time, so by this point the majority of football fans everywhere are only using products made by official tournament sponsors and eating impala for breakfast. Our intrepid Wikipedia monkey Dotmund has once again put his vuvuzela aside for just long enough to take a look at another of this summer’s groups. Today we find out about the reigning champions, a South American dark horse, a team from a very long way away and a European team who have only ever been in the World Cup before in disguise.

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World Cup Tales: The Battle Of Santiago, 1962

We hear a lot about the decline and fall of western civilization these days, but moral outrage at the behaviour of footballers is nothing new and, indeed, players at the World Cup finals this summer will have to go a long way to outdo the most serious incidents of player-on-player violence in the history of the tournament, many of which considerably predate the coming of colour television, to say the least. In this respect, the group match between Chile and Italy at the 1962 World Cup finals probably remains the most infamous example of a World Cup match that became something else. It wasn’t the first – three players, for example, were sent off during a quarter-final match between Hungary and Brazil at the 1954 tournament in Switzerland – but, even now, it sets the high water mark for outright violence on the pitch during what is supposed to be football’s showpiece tournament. The second-hand nature of what went on during “The Battle Of Santiago” was evident from the moniker that the match subsequently acquired. The 1954 match between Hungary and Brazil had earnt the nickname of “The Battle Of Berne”, and prior even to that a match at the 1938 finals between Brazil and Czechoslovakia had earnt itself the nickname of “The Battle Of Bordeaux” after becoming the first match in the history of the tournament to see...

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