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Day: May 27, 2011

Barcelona vs Manchester United: A Preview, Of Sorts

Tomorrow evening at Wembley, in front of what will probably be described as “a world-wide television audience of seventeen billion people”, Manchester United play Barcelona in the final of the 2011 UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium. It is, one could be forgiven for thinking, the final that would have topped the governing body’s wish list at the start of the season. It is, however, also something quite different to that. This match is a clash of cultures, a coming together of shared histories and, possibly most curiously of all, a juxtaposition of two perceptions of teams that couldn’t be much more different to what it is. A swift look at the top of the Spanish league tables confirms what was surely a certainty from the very start of the season. Barcelona ended the season as the champions of Spain, with thirty wins from thirty-eight matches and ninety-six points. Yet, although they won the league with a degree of comfort, the gap between themselves and second placed Real Madrid was just four points. Their style of play, their sense of élan and grace, has earned them almost unprecedented plaudits in the press. They are talked of in some quarters as being possibly the greatest team in the entire history of European club football. The league table, however, suggests that it might not necessarily be quite that clear cut. In...

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Cautious Reasons For Optimism At St Albans

It has been a wretched season for St Albans City. Twenty-five years at the sixth level of the English pyramid -one of which, the 2006/07 season had been spent a division higher in the Blue Square Premier – came to a crashing halt this season in a fog of humiliation, as they were docked ten points for financial irregularities and finished well adrift at the foot of the Blue Square South. As some noted at the time, even that points deduction proved to be a red herring. The final league table confirmed that, even without it, they would have finished bottom of the table anyway. All of this felt a long way away from the scenes at The Dripping Pan in Lewes at the end of April 1986, when City, needing a big win to guarantee their promotion from Division One of the Isthmian League, scooted to a 7-1 win. They had spent the previous twelve years playing at this level. In a non-league culture that still seemed to treat the concepts of promotion and relegation as faintly dishonorable and at a club that that had a long history in that division, being one of the first clubs to be relegated from its top division in 1974 had hurt. A further relegation, again on the introduction of a new basement division had followed. This particular embarassment, however, had been quickly set...

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