Day: May 16, 2011

Dutch Treat in South Wales: Swansea & Total Football

In general, the phrase “total football” rolls off the tongue as easily as “fiery Welshman Craig Bellamy” and often conjures images of marauding fullbacks flying to spaces ludicrously-high up the pitch in an orange blur, engaging in a intricately-woven passing game wearing spiked wooden clogs. Holland’s approach to the game, crafted on the Ajax training grounds beginning in the mid 1950s and played to perfection on European stages in the 1970s, remains an innovation of admiration to football aficionados of the beautiful game. It has been exported across Europe’s leagues, from Rinus Michels of Ajax to Johan Cruyff’s influence over the playing culture still employed to the present day at Barcelona. Arsene Wenger’s Français-Anglais application in North London is a somewhat related variant while over in Wales, Brendan Rodgers has used the totaalvoetbal concept this Championship season to bring Swansea City to the cusp of Premiership promotion. Swansea City? For a club whose crest includes a stylized representation of an elegant bird, though, it feels somewhat appropriate Rodgers and Swansea would be the ugly ducklings in the rather regal family tree that is Total Football. Generally the preserve of the elite, this approach to the game requires intensive training involving teaching players to play in space rather than defined positions on the pitch and a fair amount of ego-swallowing on the part of some players who are compelled to defend their own goal rather than attack the opposition’s goal mouth. Shifting players’ expected...

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The Twohundredpercent Play-Off Jamboree: Swansea City 3-1 Nottingham Forest (3-1 Agg)

Thirty years ago, the football world was a very different place. What we now take to be the Premier League was still the First Division of the Football League, three points for a win were just about to be introduced as Aston Villa won their first league championship since 1910, having fielded just fourteen players all season, and Nottingham Forest had surrendered their name as the champions of Europe after two years with a 2-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of CSKA Sofia in the First Round of the European Cup the previous September, but still finished the season in a creditable seventh place in the table. Much has come and gone over the course of the intervening three decades, though, and Forest find themselves in the play-offs for a place in the Premier League. Swansea City, meanwhile, were heading for the promised land in 1981. The BBC’s Match Of The Day cameras were at Deepdale on the last day of the season to see John Toshack’s team win 3-1 against Preston North End and win promotion to the First Division for the first time on goal difference above Blackburn Rovers, relegating Preston at the same time. They were to last just two seasons in the top flight and by 1986 was back in the Fourth Division, but that team, a team of experience and flair, has come to...

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A Continuing War Of Words At Port Vale

There’s  no close season in the financial trials and tribulations of modern English football, as Port Vale and Plymouth fans are discovering. June will see, if not the end, then the beginning of the end of the clubs’  respective takeover sagas. There will be new dawns, lessons learned and an outspoken determination not to let “things” happen this way again. And if the tales so far are a guide, most of what will be said will be bollocks. Over the next few days, Plymouth will come under the Mark Murphy glare. But first, you can’t beat a bit of Burslem… It takes some doing to make Mo Chaudry into the good guy but at Port Vale, Chaudry is the future. The “motivational speaker” (oh, and property investor) has motivated Vale fans to almost total opposition to self-styled supporters group Valiant 2001, who have been in charge since 2003. And, if he and his unremitting hype are to be believed, V2001’s reign is coming to an end. Chaudry has had help; partly from local businessman and genuine life-long Valiant Mark Sims, a voice of near-reason; but mostly from Vale’s board, who have looked increasingly desperate to cling to power. Yet real progress has been made. Predictably, it has been away from the main protagonists. Less predictably, it has come from some 130 miles away, in London. The local Sentinel newspaper...

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